The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
"The January Man" is worth study as a film that fails to find its tone. It's all over the map. It wants to be zany but violent, satirical but slapstick, romantic but cynical. It wants some of its actors to rant and rave like amateur tragedians, and others to reach for subtle nuances. And it wants all of these things to happen at the same time.
Sometimes they do. One of the peculiarities of the film is that nice little touches sometimes occur in the middle of scenes so bad you want to groan. This is not the sort of movie that inspires books about how it was made, but I imagine a good book - and even a good movie - could be based on whatever in the world they thought they were doing when they made "The January Man." The key is perhaps in the screenplay credit: John Patrick Shanley.
This is the man who wrote "Moonstruck," a film that aspired to be comic and touching at the same time, and succeeded. No doubt he had "The January Man" squirreled away in the back of a drawer and dusted if off when he got his Oscar. It serves as evidence that he didn't write great screenplays to begin with, but worked his way up to them by many stages, of which "The January Man" must have been a very, very early one.
The film involves the search for a serial killer who is terrorizing Manhattan. The city's mayor (Rod Steiger, foaming at the mouth) demands that the killings stop. So the mayor's chief assistant (Harvey Keitel) calls on his brother (Kevin Kline), who was a brilliant but nonconformist cop until he got kicked off the force and became a fireman instead. Kline agrees to return to the force and handle the case, but only in return for a dinner date with Keitel's wife (Susan Sarandon), who Kline has always been in love with - although before long that changes, when he sets eyes on the mayor's daughter (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio).