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The story of two newlyweds who move to the suburbs to try and build a family is one of the rare John Hughes films that didn’t quite find its mark with audiences, mostly because it wasn’t about angsty teenagers dealing with high school heartbreak. Hughes shifts to the next stage, with his still young cast having careers and learning to be adults. Bacon stars as Jake Briggs, recently married to Kristy (Elizbeth McGovern), his adoring but arguably more mature wife. As the title suggests, they want to have a baby, but it’s not as simple as it sounds (tight undies don’t help). With some great support from playboy Alec Baldwin and a host of Hughes regulars, Bacon shines as a man coming to terms with mounting responsibility while struggling to let go of his youthful ways. Funny and surprisingly touching, this forgotten film is one of Bacon’s best performances.
Bacon plays Nick Chapman, a film student who makes an award-winning short film. Thinking his career is set, he discovers that the Hollywood machine not what he thinks it is. From mistrustful studio execs to quirky agents (Martin Short in an uncredited cameo), he soon learns that making a movie is less about the art and more about the rewrites. While he adamantly refuses at first to compromise is movie, he makes concession after concession as he is swallowed up by the system. Directed by Christopher Guest, who is known for his acting and writing as well, The Big Picture is a sharp and satirical look at filmmaking and the compromises the visionaries behind the process face. Young, fresh-faced Bacon plays the naive filmmaker with a lot of enthusiasm, his natural charm and good looks making it easy to watch.
When a young, ambitious lawyer successfully defends a man from murder charges, he is shocked to learn that the same crime happens again. The same man hires the lawyer again, though this time he thinks the man is guilty. Gary Oldman plays Ben Chase, the attorney and Bacon, Martin Thiel, the slippery, wealthy playboy who may or may not be what Chase thinks he is. It’s a game of cat and mouse, directed by Martin Cambell (Goldeneye, Casino Royale), that plays a lot with the tropes of the genre that feel especially old nowadays, but it’s the performances that keep this one on target. The clever interplay between the characters is a lot of fun, with Bacon surprisingly creepy. While the film doesn’t quite deliver the suspense it intends, and it eventually becomes predictable, it’s saved by a terrific cast and some great dialogue.
Long before there was Premium Rush with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kevin Bacon was riding the roads as a bike messenger, too. Bacon plays Jack Casey, a commodities broker who loses it all on a bad day of trading, including his family’s nest egg. He gives up the high pressure life and finds a job as a bike messenger where he meets Terri (Jami Gertz), a fellow rider who gets mixed up with a smalltime drug dealer using her as a runner. Written and directed by Thomas Michael Donnelly (who was himself a bike messenger at one time), Quicksilver is a fast-paced thriller with some unexpected emotional moments, even if the plot doesn’t allow for them to be as impactful as they should. Bacon trained for months to ride and performed much of the actual riding. He makes Casey a complex character, getting us easily invested in his story and relationship with Terri. While there are some weaker moments when the script deviates from the drama in order to make it more a heavily stylized action movie, Bacon and Gertz are great together, the story compelling and the direction strong. Quicksilver is a fun ride.
Bacon plays Henri Young, a man who is sent to prison for stealing five dollars. He ends up in California’s Alcatraz, confined to solitary with no heat, no light, and no toilet for more than three years, tortured by the assistant warden (Gary Oldman). When he’s finally released, he immediately kills another inmate and is put on trial. His attorney is James Stamphill (Christian Slater) who claims that Alcatraz itself is the real criminal. Bacon and Oldman, paired again after working together on Criminal Law (see above), are the real draw here in this often harrowing character-driven film. Directed by Marc Rocco (in his final directorial effort), Murder in the First is a taut thriller but also a terrifying story of abuse. While claiming to be true, it is largely fictional, but no less compelling. The prison accounts for most of the story, but it is the gripping courtroom moments that make this most memorable. Bacon, in what might be his greatest performance, is the whole show, in a role that haunts long after it’s over.