Sunday, March 27, 2011
Movies lost and found Pt. 2: RAINY DAY FRIENDS (1986)
More than ten years after THE PYRAMID was released (then unreleased), Gary Kent made his second feature film RAINY DAY FRIENDS (also known as L.A. BAD). It stars the very underrated actor Esai Morales (La Bamba, NYPD Blue) as a young petty thief named Neekos who lives in the Barrio of east L.A. and spends his time smoking grass and stealing car stereos. One day he's almost caught by some cops when he hides underneath a pickup truck, gets his leg caught on some loose wire hanging out of the back and to his horror, the driver takes off with him in tow, dragging him along the highway. He lands himself in the hospital and X-rays show that he has more than a leg injury to worry about: he also has lung cancer. In denial, defiant and angry, he makes for a difficult and unruly patient. He steals painkillers, smokes his own dope freely and graffitis his hospital room wall.
A sympathetic cancer specialist with a sense of humour (Janice Rule) is the only one willing to put up with him. The surly head nurse (Carrie Snodgrass) is eager to kick him out, especially when it becomes a possibility that he's an illegal alien.
An older counterpart to the wily sick youth is Jack (Chuck Bail) a wealthy lawyer also battling cancer. Neekos and Jack become an unlikely set of allies who battle the cold and inhumane bureaucracy in the hospital. They even manage to ditch the grounds to get into trouble on the streets.
RAINY DAY FRIENDS is a sweet and warm film, almost a little too sentimental but extremely likeable and entertaining. Morales carries the film with a commanding performance. His character is somewhat reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's McMurphy in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST, both characters are rebels who have a sarcastic and wild wit that mask deep pain and fear.
Bail is exceptional as the cantankerous old man who takes a liking to Neekos. A solid supporting cast includes Leila Goldoni as Jack's caring wife, Tomi Barrett as a committed social worker and John Phillip Law as a hospital bureaucrat.
The film is a little contrived at times and the ending is too rushed, pat and predictable (although the last line of dialogue is a keeper) but I did invest some care into these characters and their situations. Some nice editing and cinematography that captures the gritty reality of the Barrio add to a pleasant mixture.