Directed By: James Foley
Starring: Aidan Quinn, Daryl Hannah, Kenneth McMillan
Tag line: "Girls like TracEy never tell their parents about guys like Rourke"
Trivia: After seeing Aidan Quinn in this film, director Martin Scorsese hired him to play Jesus in the original Paramount Pictures development of The Last Temptation of Christ (which later got canceled)
1984’s Reckless featured a number of cinematic firsts. Aside from the directorial debut of James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), it was Chris Columbus's (writer of Gremlins and The Goonies) first produced screenplay, and marked the screen debuts of both Aidan Quinn (The Mission, Legends of the Fall) and Jennifer Grey (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dirty Dancing). The story of a rebellious high-school student living in a working-class community, Reckless set itself apart from the teen-centric movies of its day, and had more in common with ‘50s classics like Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One than it did the films of John Hughes (Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club).
Johnny Rourke (Quinn) used to be one of the “good kids”, and is still a starting player on his school’s football team. Recently, however, Johnny has become an outcast, with no idea what he wants to do with his life, but knowing full well that he wants to do it someplace else. At the annual dance, Johnny is randomly paired with Tracey Prescott (Daryl Hannah), a cheerleader who lives on the “right” side of town. Yet, despite their different upbringings (Johnny’s father, played by Kenneth McMillan, is a laborer at a Steel Mill), the two hit it off, much to the annoyance of Tracy’s longtime boyfriend Randy Daniels (Adam Baldwin). For the reclusive Johnny, falling in love is something he’s never experienced before, but will Tracey turn her back on the only life she’s ever known to be with him, or will she succumb to peer pressure and toss Johnny aside?
Everything in this movie clicks, starting with the performances of its two leads. Daryl Hannah is convincing as the good girl trying to hide her dark tendencies (early on, while out driving with Randy and her friends, Tracey plays a game of chicken with Johnny, who’s steered his motorcycle into her lane. Ignoring Randy and the others, who are telling her to pull over, Tracey continues to drive straight towards Johnny, hoping he’ll be the first one to blink). As for Quinn, who looks like James Dean and mumbles like Marlon Brando, he’s equally as good as the anti-hero looking to get out.
In addition, the steel mill, which employs practically the entire town (including Johnny’s father), looms heavy in the background throughout most of Reckless, and is all Johnny and the others can see when peering out the window at school. Shot on-location in communities in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, the film makes great use of its blue-collar setting, and shows us why Johnny is so anxious to break free. Throw in a rocking ‘80s soundtrack and James Foley’s dynamic direction (at the school dance, Johnny and Tracey hop about to Romeo Void’s “Never Say Never”, and as they do, the camera moves continuously in a circle around them, resulting in a scene with an incredible amount of energy), and you have a teen angst movie that’s as vibrant as it is dramatic.
John Hughes was, without a doubt, the voice of this particular generation, but with Reckless, Foley, Columbus, and Quinn shouted back a little, giving us a couple of kids who looked around and saw that they wanted more out of life than their parents, or their town, could give them. Well made in every respect, Reckless is 1950’s rebellion updated for an ‘80s crowd.