Nick Knight (1989)

Nick Knight is a cop, but secretly he is also a vampire. For obvious reasons he only works the night shift. And he insists on working alone, without a partner. His boss is OK with these eccentricities, as long as Nick delivers results – which he usually does. But now there is a killer on the loose who drains his victims of blood, and there are difficult questions coming from the press and the mayor.

 

Most people might know the Nick Knight character from the TV-show Forever Knight, which was spun off from this made-for-TV film. I had seen bits and pieces of the show on the telly over the years, but only heard about the film a couple of years ago. The TV-show is sometimes mentioned as the father (or grandfather) of shows like Angel and Moonlight, which makes this film an interesting object of contemplation as well.

Because in this film you have all the core elements of this niche sub-genre: the self-loathing vampire detective. He is always forced to change his identity or to move to a different town every decade or so in order to avoid people noticing that he does not age. And while he is repenting the sins of the past, he is busy trying to use his powers to do some good deeds. The fact that he does not age not only means that he is forced to live this vagrant life-style, it also means being forced to see loved ones grow old and die; and for good measure there is a doomed relationship/love that might mean danger for one or both of the people in question. Because of the self-loathing, and because of the desire to lead a normal life, the vampire is constantly looking/hoping for a cure. And of course there are ghosts from the past as well…

 

 

I may have stated this in another review before (, I am not sure), butI am really growing tired of the “self-loathing” vampire hero. This self-loathing is also a problem in this film – it is not as prominent as in other films/shows, but it is always there and it is dealt with pretty heavy-handedly. Also, Nick’s vampirism is talked about as an “addiction” to blood and the film therefore uses a lot of drug-related clichés. There is even an intervention-like scene.

 

Apart from the vampirism, this film follows typical 1980s cop film conventions. You have the boss who grows tired of never knowing what his men are doing and who is always being pestered by the mayor. You have the slightly creepy, slightly goofy partner. The prickly pathologist who does not play too well with the cops. And of course the pretty blonde damsel in distress. In this case – archaeologist Alyce Hunter – she is of the glasses-wearing variety. I’m sure you know that very popular ’80s/’90s trope: films where the filmmakers think making a young woman wear glasses and carrying a book around will make her look convincing as a scientist or an academic; yet at the same time, the character apparently yearns for a man to take her away from all these books and rip her glasses off her face and make her feel like a real woman, because surely an academic career cannot be satisfying but is simply a self-built cage…

The 1980s cop genre tropes mentioned above have been the stuff of parodies for decades now, so it will come as no surprise if I tell you that this film has not aged particularly well. The film has a number of nice stylistic elements (including Nick’s Cadillac) as well as interesting set design ideas and well-chosen locations. But that does not help much in a case such as this.

 

The acting in this film is not bad, but in a film so constricted by conventions and clichés nobody is getting a chance to show anything special. John Kapelos (as Nick’s partner) and Robert Harper (as the pathologist) might be the best one of the bunch. The baddies in this film fall completely flat. Which leaves us with the two leads. Laura Johnson as Alyce does not do anything more or less than her restricted, stereotypical role asks of her. Rick Springfield, meanwhile, playing Nick, is rather good when he is jovial or is in cop mode. But scenes of an emotional nature, including the many scenes of self-loathing and self-doubt, clearly bring him to the very edge of his acting capabilities. The writing certainly did not help, mind you. This is never more evident than in a scene in which there is supposed to be quite a lot of chemistry and sexual tension between Alyce and Nick. There is no set-up for this scene. Nothing that has happened in the film so far would indicate or justify that such a tension exists. This scene is not earned and consequently it cannot work. It is the most awkward piece of acting imaginable, and the scene is further weighed down by stupid dialogue. The actors never stood a chance in that scene.

 

The criminal case Nick is investigating is quite interesting in its premise, but the execution is lacking. For example, the first part of the third-act-reveal is botched by relegating the case to a side-show in Nick’s life – more could and should have been done with this. Such as it is, the film limps along until it finishes with a rather lame showdown.

One of the film’s most annoying features is its aggressively intrusive 1980s soundtrack, which comes back to haunt you again and again, AND IS WAY TOO LOUD THROUGHOUT.

 

I would rate Nick Knight at 4.5 to 5.0 out of 10. Not really awful; but I have to add this: I paid 4.- Euros for the DVD and after watching the film I felt I had paid way too much – make of that what you will.

While I regard this film as mediocre, I guess it would have appeared a bit more solid in 1989. And even if a number of things have been botched, there are enough interesting elements in here that were worth salvaging, so creating the TV-show out of this film’s ashes was certainly a valid idea. ((But I do not know the series well enough, so I’ll have to defer judgement on that show until I have seen it.))

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s