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‘The Boost’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
December 23, 1988

"The Boost," starring James Woods and Sean Young, has a message.

It says that drugs are bad.

Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad. Bad.

And so what if they are? Does that mean that we have to take this endless, turgid, '50s-style melodrama seriously?

What kind of idea was it to have James Woods star in a movie about cocaine? He mugs, screams, waves his arms in the air, he bugs his eyes. He looks in every way like a man drowning in an inch of water. And this is even before he loads up.

The film was directed by Harold Becker (who worked with Woods in "The Onion Field" and "The Black Marble) from Darryl Ponicsan's script, and if there is an ounce of genuine life experience in it, it's buried under a ton of movie cliche's. Lenny and Linda Brown are its main characters, and they're very much in love. Lenny's a salesman with a true gift for the pitch. Problem is, he pushes too hard. He's not satisfied just to make the sale, he wants them to love him, too.

The other problem is that he's not very lovable, especially to himself. This is the psychological insight of "The Boost": that people get involved with drugs because their values are all askew and they don't love themselves. Jot this down: Fame and money aren't fulfilling. Love is important. Linda loves Lenny, but he can't accept it. He practically walks up to people on the street and says, "Can you believe a guy like me could snare a great-looking girl like this? Huh? Huh!?"

No, we can't believe it.

Young is alternately saccharine and catatonic, but she has to read lines like, "As long as we have each other we don't need anything else" and "I'm not gonna SIT here and watch you KILL yourself," so it's hard to know how she could have been anything close to credible.

But there is something to be said for the spectacle of watching Woods bounce from wall to wall like a superball. And his scene in the restaurant -- where all his dreams of making a comeback are forever dashed -- is a classic of tawdry excess. His performance is so shamelessly overblown that you almost have to respect him for his nerve.


The Boost, at area theaters, is rated R and contains lots and lots of drug use, profanity and adult situations.

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