You can call Taylor Hackford a director who’s always been more about flash and impact than depth and emotional spirit, but you can’t say he didn’t enjoy a highly impressive breakout period — a five-year run between ’80 and ’84.

The Idolmaker, which I re-watched about half of last night, kicked things off with a dynamic performance from the late Ray Sharkey and a seriously invested stab at recreating that late ’50s, post-Elvis-explosion period when performers like Tommy Sands and Fabian (portrayed in the film as Tommy D. and Ceasare) were big with teenyboppers.

Two years later came An Officer and a Gentleman, a formulaic romance in some respects but strengthend by Richard Gere‘s Zack “Mayonnaise”, the soulful Debra Winger dealing straight cards and touching bottom in every scene, and Louis “D.O.R.” Gossett Jr., who wound up taking that year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

The Hackford run crested with Against All Odds, an Out of the Past remake with Jeff Bridges, Rachel Ward, James Woods, Richard Widmark and Alex Karras. Great Sunset Blvd. car chase, great Yucatan peninsula sex scenes, etc. It’s hard to believe that Bridges was once in really great shape.

None of these three (released in ’80, ’82 and ’84) are great or near-great, but they really do score as engrossing midrange edge-seekers…better-than-decent screenplays, dramatic flair, hormonal hunger, rousing energy, zero boredom, etc. And yet two (Idolmaker and Odds) conclude on downbeat, meditative notes.

Hackford’s next six films, released between ’85 and ’00, lacked the dynamic highs of that opening trio but were respectable efforts — White Nights (’85), Everybody’s All-American (’88), Blood In, Blood Out (’93…great title!), Dolores Claiborne (’95), The Devil’s Advocate (’97) and Proof of Life (’00). Then he hit a solid triple with Ray (’04), which resulted in Jamie Foxx winning a Best Actor Oscar (and in the process stealing it from SidewaysPaul Giamatti!)