So many contemporary thrillers pride themselves on their labyrinthine plots that when a relatively straightforward film like Twilight comes along, it looks simple by comparison. But the classic noirs of the '40s, complex as they are, rarely rely on the "big plot twist" to carry the movie. Surprises are only effective once; characters are what ensure that movies like Laura and Double Indemnity can be enjoyed again and again. That said, Twilight, directed by Robert Benton, features great, old-fashioned characters, and if the movie isn't as flashy as, say, L.A. Confidential, it nevertheless proves a refreshing return to the short-and-sweet days of yore. Paul Newman plays a retired detective enlisted by his ailing-movie-star friend Gene Hackman to deal with a mysterious matter of blackmail. Immediately, Newman finds himself caught in the middle of a cover-up that may inculpate those he trusts most. With a tight script, top-tier cast, old-school score, and sharp dialogue courtesy of Benton and novelist Richard Russo (continuing the successful working relationship initiated with Benton's adaptation of his Nobody's Fool), Twilight has all the makings of a classic, albeit an understated one. It does have one twist of its own, of a sort: Every character, including Susan Sarandon as Hackman's wife and James Garner as Newman's aging "clean-up man" pal, is sympathetic, even when the bullets start flying. Twilight's dead-on cast makes even the most familiar twists and turns riveting entertainment.
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