From The Hip


‘…From the Hip is a wildly problematic film that never tonally matches the light central performance to the serious story…’

As a teen, I was keen to see more of Judd Nelson, the voice of a disaffected generation in John Hughes’ classic movie The Breakfast Club; since Nelson was closing in on thirty when he played the schoolboy role, the actor obviously had other ideas about where to go next. Tough thriller Blue City, with Nelson in revenge mode, was an acceptable way to continue, but From The Hip was his potential mainstream studio breakthrough as a lead. It’s a tonally-challenged vehicle from director Bob Clark, a courtroom thriller/comedy partly written by David E Kelley (LA Law, Ally McBeal, Boston Legal).

With the credits in a wedding invite pink font, From The Hip clearly wasn’t going to satisfy Nelson’s fan-base, but his character Robin “Stormy’ Weathers is hard to get your head around. He plays another ‘born again punk,’ this time a mouthy young lawyer who’ll say or do anything to win a case, but his showmanship when it comes to ‘all that lawyer stuff’ lands him in deep trouble. An early scene in which Weathers provokes an irate judge to administer a series of contempt orders feels very much like something John Bender would do, but an uncomfortable conversation about how rape law works (or doesn’t) is the first indication that From the Hip wants to be something other than just a goofy comedy; this is uncharted territory for the director of Porkys and Porkys II.

Weathers is rewarded for his juvenile courtroom antics (bringing live rabbits into the courtroom, setting off battery-operated sex-toys during a speech) with the case of Douglas Benoit (John Hurt) who has been accused of raping and murdering a woman. ‘This case cannot be won on the evidence, style is what will decide,’ advises Benoit, a cynic who believes that appearances will prove more important than content, but Weathers soon comes to realise that while innocent until proved guilty, his outwardly respectable client might well be guilty as sin. ‘How can the ethical thing to do not be moral?’ Weathers wonders after hearing a chilling confession from Benoit; Hurt proves you can give a strong performance in a not-great film here, lifting the tone every time he appears.

‘You’ve been framed’ is the phrase that Weathers’ girlfriend (Elizabeth Perkins) writes on a political cartoon she gifts to her partner, and that seems to suggest a more serious film which might have looked at why Weathers would be given a case like this from the start; ie he’s young and easily manipulated by his bosses. Nancy Marchant and Darren McGavin acquit themselves well as Weathers’ crafty superiors, but somehow the promise of Judd Nelson and a selection of colourful dildos didn’t catch the public zeitgeist back in 1987; From the Hip is a wildly problematic film that never tonally matches the light central performance to the serious story. What comes next? ‘We’re suing the president of the United States!’ is one of the more prophetic lines here; From The Hip’s suggestion that those with access to money should be responsive to the rule of law didn’t find many fans back in 1987, even if this film has gained uncomfortable resonances in the onguing legal tumult of 2023.


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  1. If that’s Judd Nelson on the right in the picture, I’ve thought he was someone else all along. Or rather I thought someone else was him. Whatever, anyway I haven’t seen this and I’m happy with that.

  2. This passed me by. Not sure if it got much of a release over here at the time. Judd didn;t quite cash in on St Elmo’s Fire and the Club, though, depending on your point of view, Transformers: The Movie, could have given him a cult following.

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