I first read about A Flash of Green in Barry Gifford’s fun read The Devil Thumbs a Ride, a tribute to all the pulp/noir films he loves. He doesn’t say much about the film, mostly focused on Richard Jordan’s performance in that and two other movies (The Friends of Eddie Coyle and The Mean Season). However, something about A Flash of Green caught my immediate interest. Only available on VHS, I decided not to order it and over time forgot the title. Then, browsing the back of the instant streaming Netflix catalog, I found it. Only available to watch online (still not on DVD) I was ecstatic to watch this movie I knew little of. And now after seeing it four or five times I can say that it is one of my favorites.
The movie, based on a book by crime writer John D. Macdonald (Cape Fear), tells the story of a community’s battle in a Florida town over a piece of land and the reporter (played by Ed Harris) stuck in between the two warring sides. He sympathizes with the nature conservationalists, in love with the wife of his deceased best friend who organizes and pioneers a campaign to stop the construction. On the other hand, he secretly works for his childhood friend (Richard Jordan), a county commissioner with plans to be governor. Jordan is charming and sly, dealing with the companies to build developments on the land and using Harris to dig up dirt on the opposition.
This is not a thriller in conventional terms. The pace is slow and beautifully so. Director Victor Nunez creates a world, a tone with picture and music, and characters that feel more true than any I’ve ever encountered. When showing the movie to my father, he remarked that all of the houses in the film looked like real homes, not Hollywood sets, and the people too who do not reek of the glitz and glamour.
Ed Harris, who I believe to be one of our greatest actors, delivers a complex mysterious performance. It is quite impressive how subtle yet effective he is in the role and the rest of the cast follows him.
I feel that Nunez made an American masterpiece with A Flash of Green. This forgotten under-appreciated film is a treasure of great storytelling and a film that will always remain close to me.