July 29, 1985 12:00 PM

Few films so thoroughly eschew commerciality or challenge audiences to such an unflinching exploration of the human psyche. Ed (Alamo Bay) Harris stars as a newspaper reporter in a small Florida town in 1961. Harris’ professional life is a string of stultifying committee meetings and horrible highway accidents. He is dull-eyed, mechanical, the truly detached observer. Harris’ personal life is lonely and painful. His wife is incapacitated in a hospital. He harbors an unrequited passion for his widowed friend, played affectingly by Blair (TV’s Kennedy) Brown. Harris presents an easy target for Richard (The Mean Season) Jordan, the manipulative county commissioner who wants to rig an environmentally disastrous real estate deal. Jordan bribes Harris to spy on the conservation group organized by Brown. Floating in amoral inertia, Harris capitulates with little hesitation. His journalism skills give him a knack for prying into people’s lives. But when his betrayals touch off rampant blackmail, nervous breakdowns and, inevitably, violence, he faces a more penetrating challenge of conscience. Combining reticence with expressive physicality, Harris infuses his character with an all too palpable tension. Jordan delivers as a small-time politician obsessed by his own delusions. Director-screenwriter Victor Nuñez shows a commanding hand in his casting and evocative cinematography—he captures a fleeting tropical light that induces a deceptive ennui. Nuñez’ film never sinks into the B-movie melodrama of the similar The Mean Season, though it feels too contemporary and sputters at the end. Even so, A Flash of Green is a visceral, gritty tale of one man’s fall from grace. (No rating)

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