Olive Films Blu-ray Review: The Mean Season (1985)

Given a crisp transfer to high-definition Blu-ray from Olive Films that fills your speakers with the machine gunfire sounds of newspaper presses operating at full power, 1985's all-but-forgotten thriller The Mean Season opens with the first of multiple jolts designed to keep your nerves on edge until it builds its plotline just enough to stop relying on cheap theatrics to hold your attention.

An ambitious albeit weak star-studded thriller, unfortunately The Mean Season never quite maintains the credibility it only temporarily managed to achieve.

Leaving us scratching our heads as we watch Kurt Russell's intrepid yet burned out reporter shout top secret information with the police in the middle of a very crowded hallway or his schoolteacher girlfriend (Mariel Hemingway) decide to use a "shame on you" approach with an serial killer over the phone, The Mean Season often comes across like a newspaper movie spoof.

Best appreciated as an atmospheric thriller, the otherwise sloppy Season derives more than a little of its suspense from the film's sweat-inducing setting of Miami in the eponymous "mean season" of hurricanes and power outages alluded to in In the Heat of the Summer novelist John Katzenbach's original source material.

And while filmmaker Phillip Borsos's effort wasn't nearly as effective as the director's Disney release One Magic Christmas which opened later that same year, sadly it also wasn't as memorable as another ambient Katzenbach adaptation via Just Cause which premiered a decade later.

Featuring a downright eerie, largely old-fashioned Saturday night drive-in style villainous turn by Richard Jordan as the film's mostly unseen murderer (dubbed "the numbers killer") who makes a habit out of phoning Kurt Russell with inside information to help control the narrative – Jordan shocks us even more than the bass-thumping beginning, given that he's as violently soft-spoken as the printing presses were startlingly loud.

Although Hemingway is given little to do other than nag, she still comes off livelier than Russell, who, predictably turns into an action hero in the final act. And while the agreeable Russell still tries his best, he isn't supported by Leon Piedmont's screenplay, which fails to capitalize on the crime reporter's intellect, especially when you realize that that was purported to be the reason that Jordan had zeroed in on him all along.

Sadly, watching Russell turn into a running, diving, fighting hero is arguably less exciting than it might've been watching the two engage in a mental chess game.

And this is a particular waste given the ample support provided by Andy Garcia as a police officer with whom Russell regularly works as well as a handful of other supporting players that could've been better served as potential inside men or women to effectively deliver on the many twists and turns promised by the genre.

A lackluster tale of '80s suspense, Borsos's film is elevated by Richard Jordan in the type of role that filmmakers eventually discovered was best pushed to the forefront of suspense via John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire or Kieffer Sutherland in Phone Booth.

Less of a full scale hurricane than a turbulent showdown of half baked ideas and hot air, The Mean Season may play moderately well as a late night B-movie sure to make you jump at the sound of the phone. But while Olive manages to deliver a technically superb Blu-ray, ultimately there's not much about the feature presentation worthy enough to recommend you to bring it on home.

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