John Hughes wrote and directed many of the most iconic of the 80’s teen films. Of all the Brat Packers he worked with on his films, it was Anthony Michael Hall that was generally considered to be Hughes’ alter ego. So while that gave Hall good roles in films like Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Weird Science, it also meant that he was becoming the go-to nerd of the decade. Anxious to avoid typecasting, Hall took a role as leading man in a teen action film, 1986’s Out of Bounds.
Hall plays Daryl Cage, an Iowa boy who has spent his whole life on the farm but is getting ready to leave his on-the-verge-of-divorce parents to go live with his brother in LA. On the plane he meets a wild young wannabe actress named Dizz (Jenny Wright) who tells him he should pay her a visit at the diner where she works. Once he’s off the plane, Daryl grabs his duffel bag from the luggage carousel and meets up with his brother. Problem is, he grabs a bag that looks exactly like his but is filled with a load of heroin. Wait a minute? He grabs the wrong bag!?! What an original concept! I’ve never seen that one in a movie before!
Of course, the drug dealers, led by Roy Gaddis (Jeff Kober) come after their goods. When they come to the brother’s house, Daryl and the drugs are safe in the hidden guest house…but big brother and his wife end up dead. Daryl’s attempt to contact the cops ends in disaster, so now both the crooks and the cops are chasing him. Without anywhere else to turn, he goes to the diner where Dizz works and enlists her help to try and scam the drug dealers and lead them to the cops without getting dead in the process.
This part of Hall’s career is defined by several bad decisions. At the time of this film’s release, he was coming off having been a cast member on Saturday Night Live for what was possibly its worst season ever. He had also turned down two roles John Hughes had written for him: Duckie in Pretty in Pink and Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ouch! Clearly he was trying to get away from the nerd roles he had become famous for playing. Thing is, he still comes off as a bit of a dork in this film. The producers of this film may have sensed that as well, which they chose to combat by ultimately giving Hall’s character almost no personality. Heck, he barely utters any sentences longer than about three words. We’re never given any opportunity to find out who this character is, other than the fact that he’s too dense to look at the claim ticket on his checked luggage.
Ultimately, one of the biggest problems with the film is that the story is just so thin. The whole switched bags routine is such a worn out formula that it is hard to get on board with the rest of the film. By the time Anthony Michael Hall is jumping on to moving semi trucks we’ve moved well into the realm of ultra ridiculousness. He’s supposed to be some teen from Iowa who’s never stepped foot off the farm. Next thing we know he’s a street smart man-of-few-words going after the drug dealers who bumped off his brother!?!
The one bright spot in the proceedings is Jenny Wright as Dizz. Dizz is one of those quirky 80’s girl characters that tended to capture my heart when I was teenager. Wright brings a nice energy to her role, which is a stark contrast to how Hall mumbles his way through the film. Glynn Turman (who I’ll always remember as the science teacher from Gremlins) is also decent as the police lieutenant who is not sure whether to trust or arrest Hall. Also keep your eyes open for Meatloaf in a small part.
As an adult, Anthony Michael Hall has succeeded in moving past the nerd parts that made him famous. Maybe with Out of Bounds the timing just wasn’t quite right. I understand not wanting to be typecast, but this is an awkward and forced attempt to break the mold which just doesn’t work.