With Michael Anthony Hall, Jenny Wright, Jeff Kober, Glynn Turman
Directed by Richard Tuggle
Written by Tony Kayden
The teen movie is Hollywood's black hole. It swallows up rising actors and directors. It appeals to young and old beyond its horizon of unmissable event, always hungry for fresh blood. The number of bodies is staggering.
Consider Francis Ford Coppola. After orchestrating irrefutable classics like The conversation, Apocalypse now, and the Godfather sagas, he boldly tackles the adolescent genre with The foreigners - and just as boldly fell on his face. Standing on his own two feet again, he summarily slapped the dust off his panties and tripped over Rumble Fish (a.k.a The godson). Although her second jaunt into the world of teenage angst was a dangerously brooding play with heartbreakingly beautiful moments, she lacked the constant genius of her earlier works.
But where Coppola has, for the most part, survived his fall from grace, the little mortals have been far less fortunate.
Consider Richard Tuggle. After appearing from nowhere in the screenplay by Clint Eastwood Escape from Alcatraz - his first film, mind you - he quickly wrote and directed Tightrope, one of Eastwood's best films.
Word spread faster in Hollywood than the bushfire in the desert, and the word was out: Richard Tuggle is hot.
But "hot" is a relative term. In an industry where the accounting records are long and the memories short, you are as hot as your last movie. After Off-limitsRichard Tuggle is about as hot as a political prisoner in a Siberian gulag.
His problems start with his choice of material. Having written his first two feature films himself, he's working here from a screenplay by Tony Kayden, a veteran writer for TV Movie of the Week with credits like Fugitive family and Murder in ambush. The story is about a Midwestern hick (Anthony Michael Hall of Sixteen candles and The breakfast club) who comes to the big city (Los Angeles) and finds himself on the run after being accused of a crime he did not commit (the murder of his brother). It's shocking with a plot and silly dialogue meant to convince us that Hall really is a Midwestern hick and co-star Jenny Wright (St. Elmo's fire) is truly an urban punk rocker.
Not having written this trip himself, Tuggle struggles in foreign territory. The steering is sluggish all over, like he doesn't care.
The end of the film is downright sloppy. One sequence is particularly incongruous - after spending most of the movie hunting down Hall on suspicion of murder, Police Lt. Delgado (Glynn Turman) suddenly flips about by declaring that Hall is now "out there on his own" and needs their help. But it wasn't until the next scene that Delgado got the evidence to prove Hall's innocence.
It looks like someone has fallen asleep in the editing room.
Off-limits is the worst in cinema. Watch Tuggle fall into teen movie miasma - after showing such a big promise with Tightrope - is not a pleasant experience.
While Hollywood directors are not known for their asceticism (there is no Saint Francis of Azusa), one certainly wished that Tuggle had fought for art and left his wallet behind. He manages to pay the bills with this one, no doubt, but forgets to pay attention - to his audience or his craft.
Bottom line: If you're in the mood for some smart entertainment, Off-limits is out of the question.