There were several film adaptations of Jim Thompson novels made in the decade of SUVs and grunge, like The Grifters and Coup de Torchon (both of which are excellent, even though Coup was not actually made in the 90's), but today I'm recommending After Dark My Sweet, a film that Roger Ebert included in his Overlooked Film Festival.
In it a former boxing star/current nutso named Kevin “Kid” Collins stumbles into a bar on the outskirts of a wealthy suburb. He's just a polite but odd man wandering aimlessly until two very different people take an interest in him. The first is the caustic beauty Fay Anderson who offers him a job fixing her house and perhaps more… The second is a local doctor who feels that Collins must go back to the asylum he escaped from.
Of course, you can guess which situation he finds more alluring, and his fate is sealed. See: Fay has this friend, Uncle Bud, who's had an idea brewing for a few months and now, with the arrival of Collins, this empty, stupid plan to get rich can finally be put into action. What follows is a botched kidnapping and back stabbing galore. The plot is, obviously, very Thompsonion with bad news people battling ennui and their own demons with acts of desperate daring, only to fail at even the criminal life.
Rachel Ward is ideally cast as the femme fatale. With her bony face and wild eyes, she manages to create a believable portrait of a woman unhinged. She doesn't seem like the stereotypical Hollywood version of a femme fatale, but a real life mean and crooked woman with no morals. And Bruce Dern! He is magnificent as Uncle Bud, so naturally and cowardly evil that I guarantee you will be a fan of his even if this is the only film you ever see him in.
I'd love to say this is a flawless film, but it's not. Jason Patric is the weak link. Many disagree and I do admit, he's not half as bad as you might expect when he first flutters his eyelashes and gimps into frame. In fact, at times he's quite good–but it's a tough role, and he falls a bit short of portraying all the depth and complexities of this character (though perhaps he fell far shorter on Broadway as Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, if the clip I saw from On Stage is any indication–but we all know how lousy that show makes everything look.) But I don't want to be too harsh on the man that played Haim's big brother in The Lost Boys. He does a fine job…
I first saw this movie years ago and it always kind of stuck with me. On second viewing we liked it even more.