Tomorrow Never Comes

Director: Peter Collinson                      
Oliver Reed, Susan George, Raymond Burr

I've got to admit that Tomorrow Never Comes has a cast that's both memorable and once in a lifetime. Not only does the movie include Oliver Reed, Susan George, and Raymond Burr, but John Ireland and Donald Pleasence also make appearances. It's clear that the Canadian/British team behind this tax shelter co-production did make some plans from the movie's conception to give it some marketable features (unlike the Canadian so-called "films" of today); pity that the plans didn't go beyond the casting, and work on giving the audience other pleasing factors such as likable characters, strong direction, and a story that not only makes sense, but makes a point as well. I don't see any tomorrow for this movie, so don't count on it ever being released on any new media formats (at least, in North America - it somehow wangled a DVD release in England.)

It doesn't get off to an auspicious start thanks to the song playing over the opening credits that's not only incredibly trite ("Sitting on a balcony / I look but there's no you to see For the Sammy Snyders Fan Club ( / Alone am I / Every day and every place / I close my eyes and see your face / Alone am I" etc.), but doesn't really have anything to do with the story. It centers around Frank (Stephen McHattie), a young man who we see in the beginning of the movie returning to his home town after his out of town job ended several months early. After saying hello to a boy who played the freaky kid in the legendary horror cheapie The Pit, he goes looking for his girlfriend Janie (George), though is mystified when he goes to her apartment and finds someone else living there.

He keeps asking around for her, and finally not only find her, but a nasty surprise - she now works at a fancy resort, and this job and her fancy digs have been provided by a sugar daddy. This news, plus a very serious injury to his head he received the night before, doesn't exactly put him in an accepting mood, and after a nosy police officer The battered and bloody Frank mulls over Jaine's offer of a little S and M comes snooping around Janie's digs, an accident soon results in Frank creating a hostage situation. At the same time across town, police officer Jim (Reed), spending his last day on the force before moving to a small town, gets wind of the situation and decides to take charge in order to resolve the situation in a peaceful way that conforms to his beliefs...I think. There's never really explanation as to why this very unemotional man would bother going out on his last day on a dangerous assignment in very hot weather, especially when most of the other cops seem to despise him. The only life Reed puts into this character is when he darts his eyes side to side, as if he's looking for his cue cards, or when he practically insults his fellow cops when they give him a going-away present.

It's not just Reed's character that's unlikable - there's nobody to be found in this movie that you could possibly give a damn about. Certainly Frank is not supposed to be a likable character, of course, but neither is he a compelling one. McHattie tries to come off like a third rate Al Pacino, possibly in an attempt to remind viewers of Dog Day Afternoon, but instead he comes across as a third rate Sylvester Stallone with his mumbling and posturing. He does have one excellent scene when he fires off one furious question after another to Jaine at the speed of a machine gun, the intensity of the scene building more and more with each outburst until you think there will be an explosion.

It's a riveting scene as well as well acted, and McHattie becomes the best actor in the movie because of it, though also by default. Everyone else has little to do; Susan George spends the movie whimpering and blubbering; Donald Pleasence wanders in and out of the movie mostly at random, Donald Pleasence arrives on set, to make a few extra bucks during one of his lunch breaks from "Halloween" his non-sequiter sounding dialogue enunciated like he has a bite of a sandwich in his mouth; John Ireland appears a couple of times just to gnash his teeth; Raymond Burr appears for a few seconds in the first ten minutes, then doesn't appear again until the last twenty minutes. Though Reed is the central figure of the movie, and everything revolves around him, he actually doesn't do that much. In fact, he doesn't really need to be there; the few things he does during the hostage taking could be divided among the other characters. The only reason why I think Reed (who still had some prominence back then) took this particular role is that his character drinks a beer the night before the hostage taking, and then later slams down a few cool ones during the crisis. ("You mean I'll not only drink beer, but get paid to do it?!? Where do I sign?")

If you think there's something wrong there, you're absolutely right. I'm no policeman, nor do I know anyone who's a policeman, but I still know that a policeman is not supposed to drink while on duty. I also know that when putting a bead on your adversary, a For some reason, Oliver Reed kept blowing this scene over and over during the shoot policeman should hide behind something solid instead of standing right out in the open. Policemen in real life also frown upon the idea of sending children as couriers between them and hostage takers, and getting in gigantic arguments and shoving matches, especially when both the public and the media are watching them closely. Also, I think even children would know that a hostage crisis would be handled by the supervisor of a S.W.A.T. team and his men, instead of a lowly cop. Getting trivial details of police work wrong can be excused, but the cluelessness this movie has when it comes to major police procedures is staggering.

Not only does the movie make major boners when it comes to police procedures, but there are some real obvious mistakes elsewhere in the movie. They include the scene where Jaine tells Frank there's no water available despite the fact she took a shower not long ago, and the earlier scene when the policeman gets the maid to stay outside before he enters Jaine's residence, then a few minutes later inside, we suddenly see Frank grab this maid from one of the rooms in the residence. Poor direction, (such as underlighting the inside of the house, making it hard to see Jaine and Frank in the house when the shades are drawn) gives the movie a constant feeling of confusion, but the worst thing about it is that it never gives the movie any sense of tension or desperation, despite the subject matter. Every new crisis falls flat, at least when they are not ludicrously scored with bursts of "happy" music. The ending is especially infuriating, because there is absolutely no real consequence after everything is over - it just ends, with no point and no message.

There is one interesting oddity in the direction, at least in the opening fifteen minutes. During this brief time, there seems to be a conscious decision by the director to have some fun with the material, even if its at the expense of a serious treatment. Seeing her about to faint, Frank thoughfully props up Jaine with his gun We are treated to the sight of a splattered corpse of a guy who fell from a ferris wheel (despite this having nothing to do with the rest of the movie), some gratuitous nudity provided by the female tenant of Jaine's old apartment when Frank enters, and some odd cursing at Frank by the boyfriend of this woman, who tells Frank to get out of the "Goldarned room, idiot face!" and subsequently yells at him "None of your flaming business!" and other restrained insults. (There's plenty of very salty language later in the movie, incidentally.) Maybe all of this stuff is silly, but had the director made the other 94 minutes of this overlong 109 minute bore with the same attitude, it would have been more entertaining than this present version's otherwise serious tone.

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See also: Baker County U.S.A., Road Ends, Sunday In The Country