Night at the Golden Eagle is an uncompromisingly dark drama about one night in the life of a series of low-life characters in a squalid hotel in the skid row area of Los Angeles.
In the course of one evening we meet the ensemble of hopeless characters who inhabit the area in and around the hotel including two sixty something ex-cons, three prostitutes, an English pimp, two amusing old black men, an annoying desk clerk, a homeless woman and various riff-raff.
The main story is about the two life long friend / ex-convicts Mic and Tommy who are reunited after one of them is released from prison. Mic (Vinnie Argiro) has arranged plans for him and Tommy (Donnie Montemarano) to leave town by bus for Vegas in the morning. But they still have a while night before the bus leaves. And the difficulty of going on the straight and narrow proves tough for these guys.
The secondary story is about a 15 year-old runaway teen (Nicole Jacobs who has a genuine innocence) who is a newly recruited prostitute. She is to be coached by one of the more seasoned hookers (Ann Magnuson) for her first night. But as is to be expected it's a rough ride; especially since the kid is still naïve enough to think she is going to become an independent woman by sleeping with old drunk men.
Night at the Golden Eagle is the kind of bleak, tough-minded film that a lot young aspiring directors write when they first get the sensation to write a script. But usually they sell out early and never return to such material because it has almost no appeal to either Hollywood or to mainstream audiences. Rifkin, who has previously only made mainstream movies (Detroit Rock City, The Chase), shows a whole other independent side to his artistic talent with this film. And for this alone Rifkin should be commended.
However, at its center there is still a formulaic story. In this case, it is about dreams deferred and the way that two old ex cons see the light to freedom but have to deal with their fate before they get there. The film too seems to revel in its miserable state; it's as if Rifkin decided to consciously do a 180 degree turn on everything he has done before.
Despite this the film rises above it's trapping due to its acting. Especially by the two older men Vinnie Argiro and Donnie Montemarano (who is amazing in his first film role) both of whom are life long buddies in real life and both of whom bring a real no nonsense quality to their rolls.
The image is not meant to be pretty and it isn't. It's full of dark florescent greens and browns. Most of the film is made to look like a very warm, sweaty, grimy night – and it succeeds quite well. The anamorphic transfer seems to be good, there is some artifact but any kind of 'clean' look would only undermine the film's appeal.
The audio is in Dolby digital 2.0 and has a fair amount of street sounds, as well as an eclectic soundtrack including opening credit music by Tom Waits.
There are a good amount of extras including an engaging and informative Director's Commentary by Adam Rifkin. There is also an On the Set documentary that is about 25 minutes long and shows a lot of the film being made and includes interviews with Rifkin and some of the crew. The other extra is Interviews with Cast and Crew is about 20 minutes long and has good interviews mainly with the Cast.
Night at the Golden Eagle is a tough going little film about low-lifes in the underbelly of seedy downtown Los Angeles. The film is about as bleak as they come and, in this respect, it becomes predictable. However the script and the acting make it worth a look. The DVD has a good many features that help put perspective on the film and for this reason the film is recommended for rental.