Ray (Armand Assante) is a formerly viscous ex-con who has just gotten out of prison and is now determined to go straight and live on the right side of the law. After spending nearly a decade behind bars, all he wants to do is to reunite with his girlfriend, Lacy (Marcia Gay Harden), and make her his wife. However, there’s a problem. While Ray was locked up, Lacy moved on. She’s now engaged to Elliott (Sam Neill), a liberal attorney who, unlike Ray, is a pacifist. Even though Lacy is still attracted to Ray, she does not want to get back together with him.
Unfortunately, there’s a second problem. Ray may have gone straight but his former criminal associates don’t believe him. They want Ray to help them pull off a major crime and when Ray says that is no longer his thing, they react by kidnapping Lacy. If Ray ever wants to see Lacy again, he’s now got to return to his life of crime.
There’s also a third problem. Ray may be an experienced criminal but Elliott insists on tagging along with him while he’s following the kidnappers’s orders. So now, Ray not only has to commit several crimes but he has to do it with an inexperienced partner who doesn’t even believe in firing guns!
Fever is one of those HBO films that used to show up all the time on cable in the 90s. I watched it a few times back in the day, just because I was a teenage boy and the movie featured a good deal of nudity. Even at that time, though, I thought it was a slow and frequently boring movie. Rewatching it for this review, I was shocked to discover that it was even slower than I remembered. It seems like it takes forever for Ray and Elliott to finally team up and for the movie to get going. Though the plot description may make it sound like a buddy comedy, it’s actually a very tough and grim picture. Armand Assante and Sam Neill are not actors known for their light touch and they both give very serious and gritty performances. Unfortunately, the film’s pace never really matched the intensity of its stars and the film’s storyline isn’t strong enough to hold up under scrutiny. Once you start to wonder if Ray would really let Elliott tag along with him, the movie itself falls apart.
Armand Assante is a good actor who rarely seems to appear in good films. Fever is a good example of that. Assante gives an excellent and complex performance (and both Sam Neill and Marcia Gay Harden are pretty good too) but Fever itself never really clicks.