For his second film, Victor Nunez again turned to Florida-based fiction, this time adapting to the screen John D. MacDonald’s 1962 novel, A Flash of Green.
In another display of low-budget, high quality filmmaking, the character-driven ecological thriller, set on Florida’s West Coast, uses “name actors,” Ed Harris, Blair Brown, and Richard Jordan, in a regionally-based production.
Jimmy Wing (Harris), a Palm City newspaper reporter, accepts a bribe to provide information with which his boyhood friend, Elmo Bliss (Jordan), an ambitious county commissioner, can blackmail opponents of an ecologically disastrous land development scheme. Otherwise, Jimmy is an honorable, even moral man. He’s loyal to his hospitalized young wife who’s dying of a brain disease, and acts as a responsible surrogate father to the children of Kat (Brown), his best friend’s widow.
Conveying effectively the specific time and place, this offbeat drama excels in defining the characters’ contradictory feelings for one another, especially Jimmy for the conniving Elmo, the film’s most vivid character. It’s never clear why Jimmy accepts the bribe-nor is it important.
Nunez is more interested in character exploration–in Jimmy’s fall from grace. The cynical Elmo says: “The world needs folks like me, folks with a real love for power.” Later, Elmo rationalizes his actions, claiming that “all the wild things and the magic places have already been lost forever.” It takes Jimmy a long time to see the light–not before several lives are wrecked and other people injured. Jimmy’s rehabilitation provides the most complex part of the movie.
The film’s title derives from a phenomenon that occurs when the Western horizon is totally free of haze and a clear green light appears.