Written by: Ron Cotton on December 14th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: 1982
Director: Edward T. McDougal
Writers: Edward T. McDougal, Cecil C. Moe, Jean Moe, Jerry Newcombe
Cast: Michael Madsen, Maureen McCarthy, Cecil Moe, Rex Flores, Yvonne Higgins
DVD released: 2005
Approximate running time: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full-Frame
DVD Release: Digiview Productions
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $1.00
Cecil Moe (Michael Madsen) is losing everything: his wife, his kids, his control and respect in his household because of alcoholism. Jean Moe (Maureen McCarthy) clearly at wits end decides to finally leave Cecil, knowing there really is no hope. Tired and with nowhere else to turn, Cecil calls Reverend Tom Baird (Cecil Moe) as a last hope for redemption. Tom listens as Cecil must recount and relive the moments that he’s washed away over the years with his uncontrollable drinking. Cecil hopes there’s an answer that can resolve his evil ways.
My favorite scene is where Cecil’s kid gets alcohol poisoning from sneaking some of his fathers bottled brew during a football game. Cecil notices and laughs at the prospect. As his wife, Jean confronts and scolds Cecil for allowing this to happen. In response, Cecil simply turns his head away, ignoring every harsh word. Atypical of a marriage with communication problems. The freeze frame at the end of the film gives it that 80s charm. These dramatic moments transformed into humorous ones, giving me the thrill of laughing out loud. Out of all the actors to select, Micheal Madsen is a perfect shoe-in for a recovering alcoholic yet Michael Madsen placing his life in the hands of god wasn’t quite as believable.
Also known as One for the Road, this film is a debut for the careers of both actor Michael Madsen and writer/director/producer/editor Edward T. McDougal. Appearing to be a low-budget self-produced 16mm feature. Cut together with fifties style vehicles, craftsman homes and old-style bars elevating the production value and vintage feel of the film. Acting appeared amateurish and stilted with colors appear washed out and murky, however these two problems might have been intentional to give Against All Hope an authentic feel of the era it represents.
Micheal Madsen’s debut performances were worsened by Edward T. McDougal’s poor editing skills. Transitions from scene to scene were timed completely wrong indubitably edited by cutting film on the fly. Background sounds are anywhere from muffled to echoed, audio was probably poorly captured on set without any ADR. Clearly Edward T. McDougal wore too many hats and had too much on his shoulders to make Against All Hope work cohesively.
Filmed on location in Chicago, the film being co-written by the real Cecil Moe and his wife, this film is most likely autobiographical recount of his past. The real Cecil Moe portraits the reverend reforming the actor Cecil Moe (Micheal Madsen) to become the husband and father that the Moe family needs. Cecil’s message that the only successful way to rehabilitate an alcoholic is though prayer is one-dimensional and incorrect to say the least.
Digiview’s slimline jewel case cover displays a modern photo of Michael Madsen, not unlike other DVD releases that’s playing on an actors current fame and popularity to drive sales. To Digiview’s defense, back revels the telling screenshots.
After the rolling credits, Digiview has included clips of other DVDs available in their catalog. These same clips can also be selected on the menu. Just like other Digiview releases, the movie plays after one minute of inaction on the menu. This no-frills budget DVD includes scene selection with no audio options.
Somewhat preachy and with poor editing, Against All Hope is a feature that deserves no extra features. A feature film for a buck is hardly a loss especially when discovering Michael Madsen’s roots. This feature never received any better treatment nor will it probably ever.