Director: Walter Hill
Writers: Walter Hill and Mae Woods
Cast: Richard Jordan, Jon Polito, Richard Herd, John Capodice, Rutanya Alda, Marg Helgenberger, John Kassir, and Judy Jean Berns
Composer: Steve Bartek
Air Date: 8/14/1991
An unemployed, alcoholic journalist known as Charles McKenzie (Richard Jordan) meets a loose woman named Vicki (Marg Helgenberger) and subsequently turns his life around. Charlie later secures a tentative job position as a reporter, though ultimately fails to get the inside scoop on any relevant crime stories. However, an apparent breakthrough occurs when a slovenly restaurant proprietor murders his wife with Charlie in earshot.
Though not as awful as season three’s other duds, “Deadline” lacks a compelling narrative to compensate for its predictable twist ending. Fans of serious horror should avoid this entry because of its weak character development and poor pacing, whereas Tales from the Crypt enthusiasts may also find “Deadline” to be a disappointing experience with no scare factor whatsoever.
Richard Jordan, Jon Polito, and Marg Helgenberger gave considerably solid performances despite the lousy material they were forced to work with. It should be noted that not a single character comes across as likable or relatable at any point in the narrative, yet the aforementioned actors brought a certain realism to their roles that sometimes feels absent in the more cartoonish Tales from the Crypt offerings.
While Walter Hill’s atmospheric direction could have been utilized for an excellent film noir piece, much of his talent was instead wasted on numerous sequences detailing Charlie’s drunken interactions with his shallow girlfriend and more compassionate yet equally uninteresting bartender. In fact, almost nothing exciting or noteworthy happens prior to the climactic scene, resulting in a rushed ending without the supporting tension of a suspenseful background story. At the very least, a shorter runtime might have allowed the finale to deliver a stronger impact since viewers would be less likely to tune out after sitting through nearly twenty minutes of superfluous padding.
For all its flaws, this otherwise forgettable installment excels in its portrayal of human nature’s ugly side. The gritty consequences of adultery, jealously, and rage are depicted without the campy nonsense of most Tales from the Crypt episodes, which gave the actors tremendous freedom to explore the darkness within their characters.
“Deadline” contains the potential for a decent murder story. Unfortunately, sloppy editing and boring plot elements hamper the quality of what could have been a fascinating crime piece.
Overall Quality: 4/10
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