The Blackout (1997) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's comments in white

The Blackout (1997) is another of Abel Ferrara's films, complete with his usual photographic pyrotechnics, and with his usual lost soul seeking redemption, but this film isn't even close to interesting. It had a European release, but went straight to Vid in America. It stars Matthew Modine as a famous actor who is addicted to booze and drugs. He comes to Miami to try and patch things up with his beautiful girlfriend, Annie (Béatrice Dalle), but she has lost interest in him. She is acting in a video film for nightclub owner/wannabe porn king Dennis Hopper. He meets a waitress, also named Annie (Sarah Lassez), and takes her to meet Hopper.

Cut to 18 months in the future. Modine is living in New York with Claudia Schiffer, and celebrating 12 months of sobriety, but his nightmares of what happened at the end of his Florida stay haunt him. He is afraid he has murdered Dalle in his blackout, and returns to Florida to find her.

Throughout the film, Ferrara has inserted very grainy video footage, which I found totally distracting. I think he attempted to show 1st person POV in this film, but it was hard to follow, and the ending was telegraphed at about the half way point. I applaud Ferrara, and anyone else who is daring enough to try radical ideas, but this is one I could easily have missed.


Beatrice Dalle showed her breasts in various multi-cut, dissolved, dark shots in a sex scene

Two hookers did a long a sleazy topless scene with Modine and Hopper.

Lassez has a long full-frontal at the very end of the film. It is dark and completely gratuitous, but is still nice to look at.

 Scoopy's comments in yellow

I guess Tuna's C- must be the correct rating. I hate the friggin' thing enough to give it an E, but I guess some people may think it is a sexy noir thriller or something. I don't know. It does have a lot of flesh, and it's technically excellent, so I guess we have to rate it a C- as an erotic thriller, although I don't know what it is supposed to be. I think it is meant to be some kind of psychological examination of guilt, kind of a hip guttersnipe version of Hitchcock. I do know that it never got a theatrical release in the USA, and it took more than three years to get it to home video, so I'm not the only one who thought it was a weak offering.

Of all the movies that are supposed to have a "surprise" at the end, this must take the trophy as the least surprising.

Here's the set-up. Modine plays a famous actor who is a chronic alcoholic and drug abuser. He went on an especially bad binge out of anger and frustration when his girlfriend got an abortion without telling him. It's obvious that he was obsessive about her, and she didn't love him at all. When he wakes up, he seems to be missing a day of his life, and his girlfriend has disappeared. He is afraid, based on his mood at the time, her disappearance, and his nightmares, that he killed her.

On the very night when he had a blackout, he had a one-night stand with another woman, a waitress who was awed by her chance to fuck a star. His friend (Dennis Hopper) is making some kind of documentary porn film, and thought it would be dramatic to take that waitress and dress her up in a wig to make her look like the girlfriend, then film Modine's reactions. To make things even stranger, the waitress has the same name as the girlfriend. She even has it on her name tag!

OK, now how surprised do you think you will be by the ending? Do you think you can figure out what really happened that night? I had it in - oh, a second, give or take, after Hopper put the wig on the waitress, and at that time nobody was even dead yet! Then I had to watch the remaining however many minutes before the film finally revealed the obvious - the girlfriend only fled to escape his obsession, and he killed the other chick in a drug-induced haze, probably not even knowing she was only the other chick. 

DVD info from Amazon.

  • Widescreen anamorphic, 1.85:1, plus a full screen version. Visual quality is excellent.

  • no meaningful features

Hopper filmed it, then covered it all up. At then end, Hopper goes on a long angry rant about what a piece of crap Modine is, while failing to notice that his filming and covering up the murder while completely in control doesn't exactly give him the moral high ground over a guy who killed a woman by accident when he wasn't in control!

In other words, if you take Hopper's speech and apply it to the film, it might be more appropriate.

Abel Ferrara has made some fairly good, albeit bleak films, like Bad Lieutenant and New Rose Hotel, and some really, really, really bad films like Fear City. This particular one is visually impressive in many ways, is probably his best technical achievement, and has its own unique aesthetic sense, but is otherwise in the Fear City category.

It is sleazy. The characters are unbelievable. The plot is telegraphed. It tries too hard to be arty. It condemns every nook and cranny of human nature. In other words, it is very much a piece of pseudo-arty Eurotrash, except that Ferrara happens to be an American. 

The Critics Vote

  • no reviews online

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 4.2 
  • With their dollars ... no theatrical release in the USA. it took three years to get it to video and DVD.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, we agree this film is technically a C- in our rating system, but is a detestable film.

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