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Originally opening to mixed reviews in 1988, Tequila Sunrise has become one of those films that opened to a myriad of bad reviews, after promising much in the very well edited trailer. The critics weren't kind, and the years even less so to this bloated thriller that has some magic moments, but ultimately confuses and clunks to an unsatisfactory end.
High school friends Mac and Nick find themselves at odds when Mac tries to go straight after years as a big name drug dealer. Mac feels compelled to protect his friend from prison, but also wants to do his job as a cop well. An early interaction between them reveals a tension that has grown by their increasingly seperate life choices. Added to the tension is a triangle with local restaurant owner Joanne, who Mac is initially suspicious of but then attracted to. She is a smart mouthed gutsy woman who takes no nonsense, but finds herself caught between their battle of wits. When she agrees to cater at Nick's kids birthday party, she doesn't realise that she's implicating herself in an impending drug bust.
This is a slick sexy looking thriller that is unfortunately reduced to an assessment of relationships rather than a meaningful statement on anything else that the film threatens to touch on. The film is loaded with an instantly recognisable cast, most of whom cope admirably under the weight of the hefty plot threads and saggy last act. As the plot veers off into some silly melodrama about friendship and loyalty, even the cast begin to look a bit daft and pointless.
Michelle Pfeiffer is a favourite actress of mine. The most frustrating thing about her is that she goes from insanely brilliant (see Batman Returns, Hairspray, and What Lies Beneath) to tedious and disinterested (see this film). Spouting one liners about chapped lips is the only saving grace in a performance that is one note and predictable, although in her favour she continues to look stunning.
Mel Gibson gives another of his charming blue eye performances that made him a household name in the 80s. Prior to spouting anti-semetic filth and making an idiot of himself, he was a notably excellent actor who brings it home in any performance. He gets the most to work with, so it is only right that he should have the stand out performance.
Kurt Russell is typically annoying. As the supposed good guy of the piece, its hard to relate to him. The director's intention might have been to mix things up a bit and make his audience think about the fine line between being good and doing something bad and being bad but still being a good person. He failed to induce that interesting slant to any of the other characters and, as a result, it looks as if this one might just have been accidental due to Russell's sleazy demeanor and too-slick appearance.
Much of the drama comes from some steamy moments between Pfeiffer and her co-stars, but the film itself is bogged down by too many manipulative talky moments. We are also battered over the head by too many clever silhouette shots, and a score that tries so hard to be sexy that it verges on pornographic. Contrast that with the dim power ballad that see's the film out, and you've got a bullseye on how clumsy the film becomes in its last act.
In short, Sunrise is a blatantly in-yer-face thriller that hits on some levels but misses on so many others. The cast are able for the job, but are given a one dimensional script that ranges from daft to demented, and a direction that fails to ignite anything other than their seemingly oversaturated sexual appetites. Poor Pfeiffer comes off the worst, looking like an air hostess with barely a thought or expression of her own.
Now, this is what I call a film!! Two ‘hornbags’ in 111 minutes. Sounds good to me hey girls? And boys, for those of you that are so inclined. Don’t get me wrong though. It’s not only the extremely good looks of Gibson and Russell that endear me to this movie. It’s a big part, but not the whole part. This is a great movie. It didn’t impress the right people, or win any awards. However, it impressed me. Well, it’s in my Top 10 so surely that is praise enough? ***HOW COMES I’VE SEEN IT?*** As I cast my mind back about 12 years ago I remember, very vaguely, seeing this movie on the QT. I had a friend who worked for Blockbusters, and well, I saw it before it went on general release at the video stores. Shouldn’t have done. But I did. I liked, loved even, this film from the first time I saw it. As soon as it was on sale, this was a buyer. And there it has sat, on my shelf, being pulled out, and slipped in every so often when the mood takes me (‘out’ from amongst the other video’s on the shelf and ‘in’ the video for those of you that have as dirty a mind as mine!!??) And as a long time Gibson and Russell fan, the mood is taken quite often. But I still protest my innocence if you are all think that I only like this film because of the male cast, the story line is good too. Honest. ***SPECS AND STUFF*** Director: Robert Towne Writer: Robert Towne Producer: Thom Mount Length: 111 minutes Certificate: 15 Distributed: Warner Bros Two thirds of ‘behind the scenes’ credit must go to Robert Towne. It’s obvious as to why isn’t it? Well, he wrote and directed this movie. Yep, pretty much his baby. More known for his writing than his directing skills, Towne has delighted audiences in their millions with written optical offerings such as ‘Mission Impossible 1 & 2’,
8216;The Firm’, ‘Days of Thunder’ (likes working with Tom Cruise doesn’t he?) and ‘Swing Shift’ (Goldie Hawn) to mention but a few. His directorial works are somewhat scarce with only this film and two others to his credit. But even though he doesn’t seem to have had much success, or should I say practise in the driving seat, he handled the ride well. Producer Thom Mount has a whole range of movies under his ‘producing belt’ and all seem to be of the same genre, action thrillers. If he has found his niche, it was a good find, with films such as ‘Natural Born Killers’ (Woody Harrelson), ‘Bull Durham’ (Kevin Costner), and ‘Frantic’ (Harrison Ford), to name a couple … or three!! With a rating of 15 expect to find the odd swear word, and reasonably strong too. But it’s not a continuos occurrence so don’t be expecting every other scene littered with expletives. And they are only used when needed. There’s also some action of the sexual nature going down (watch it!!). Michelle Pfeiffer (lucky cow!!) and Mel Gibson’s characters ‘bump uglies’ and well, although it’s not that explicit, it would be hard to explain to your younger kids if they were watching just what they are up to. ***WHO’S IN IT?*** Oh where to begin? Do we do Mel first, or should I let the honours go to Kurt?? Neither, ladies first, we’ll save the best till last. Michelle Pfeiffer plays the love interest in the film. Let’s face it, with most of these action-thriller movies, there’s a helpless girlie in the scenes somewhere isn’t there? And plays it well she does. Taking centre stage with Gibson and Russell, she adds to the film as much as they do, in character and in her presence. Pfeiffer has a diverse character line up behind her, ranging from the tough ex marine in ‘Dangerous
Minds’, to the shy and somewhat stilted Frankie in ‘Frankie and Johnny’ (Al Pacino), turning her hand at comedy with George Clooney in ‘One Fine Day’, and, who here can’t forget her first film debut in ‘Grease 2’?? Raul Julia (for those of you that aren’t familiar with the Spanish language, J’s are H’s and so his last name is pronounced Hoo-lia, not as in the girls name!!) plays the movies meanie. Probably not the role he was born to play, but he handles it well, and with his Latin American roots, he fits the bill as a Mexican drug kingpin. I should imagine the high light of Julia’s career came in the guise of the Gomez Addams in the hit film ‘The Addams Family’ (Angelica Houston). While his ‘delete from history’ vehicle that many actors have in their repertoires has to be ‘Street Fighter’ with Jean Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue. It is surely has to be as much as an embarrassment for Van Damme and Minogue. That film was awful!! Unfortunately Raul Julia passed away in 1994 and so ‘Street Fighter’ was one of his last movies, and one he really couldn’t escape from before his untimely death. Kurt Russell plays the law-abiding element in the movie. Well, he’s a cop, so it’s probably just as well he’s law abiding hey? His previous film role before ‘Tequila….’ was ‘Overboard’ (Goldie Hawn) and believe me when I say a total contrast to the role he plays in this movie. Where as in ‘Overboard’ Russell drew on his comic talents, in this movie he proves that he is just as capable playing the kinds of roles that an action-thriller commands. And the genre of action-thriller is where Russell seems to spend his time, delighting us with performances in films such as ‘Tango and Cash’ (Stallone), ‘Tombstone’ (Val Kilmer), ‘Backdraft’ (Ro
bert De Niro) to name a few. Keeping up the tradition of settling us in with his action-thriller roles, he occasionally chucks in a comedy to remind us that he can tackle other roles. ‘Captain Ron’ bombed at the box office, and the critics all had a field day slighting it, but there is no getting away from it, (and the critics agree) Russell was funny. And now, we come to the piece de resistance, actor ‘extradinaire’, an award winning director, and one ‘horny son o’ gun’!! Ladies and Gentlemen …….. I give you Mr Mel Gibson!! Phhwwoooaaarrrrrrr!! Please, just talk amongst yourselves for a moment while I compose myself ………. Ahem. That’s better. Where was I? Oh yes, I’ve just given you Mel!! If you want an all round actor, and one that excels at almost everything he does? Choose this guy. He does action-thriller. He does comedy. He does drama. He does ……… well, everything. He’s an all rounder. And I like him. Just a bit?! For those of you out there in dooyoo land, or where ever you are reading this from, and have never come across Mr Gibson before, firstly… WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN FOR THE LAST 20 ODD YEARS?? And secondly, you are missing some seriously watchable movies!!! Since Mel began his acting career way back in 1978 approx. he has supplied optical offerings that have delighted and entertained millions of moviegoers the whole world over. Just a few of his successes are the ‘Lethal Weapon’s 1, 2, 3, and 4’, ‘Braveheart’, which he won 2 Oscars for (Best Director/Best Actor) the ‘Mad Max’ trilogy, ‘Ransom’ (Rene Russo) and ‘Conspiracy Theory’ (Julia Roberts). His hand has turned to the world of light hearted comedy on a couple of occasions, and to be honest, while the films were enjoyable, ‘Maverick’, ‘Bird On A Wire’, and the recent
8216;What Women Want’, I don’t enjoy his obvious attempts at being funny. The wry humour that you find in the Lethal Weapon’s appeals much more. Mel gives his performance in ‘Tequila ….’ all that the character needs and brings the ‘good guy’ to life. He gives him extra depth, and a sense of intrigue and mystery. The guy does good! ***WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?*** The concept is not new. Maybe it was then, but not now. But it hasn’t aged any. We have two old friends Dale McKussic (Gibson) and Nick Frescia (Russell) that have taken separate paths into adult hood. Very separate paths indeed. McKussic chose the path that led to becoming a drug runner. A nice drugs runner though. While his best friend, Frescia chose the path that led to him becoming head of a sheriff’s drug detail. The two were destined to meet. Their paths to cross. And so …………. Well, you can guess they do. Meet that is. But it’s several years down the line. McKussic is clean, he hasn’t been running for a while, he lives on the beach (not literally ….. in a house on the beach!!) with his son, and his dog. And lives in constant fear of loosing custody of his boy. His ex wife is mad because the money has stopped coming. He’s the original bad boy turned good. Or is he? Word gets out that Mexican drug kingpin Escalante (Julia) is heading into town personally escorting a big shipment of drugs. McKussic and Escalante used to be good friends. Will McKussic be trying to score one more deal? Has he truly left the past behind him? Frescia doesn’t seem to think so. But could Frescia be wrong? McKussic and Frescia both hang out at the Italian Restaurant owned by Jo Ann Vallenari. The growing tension between the two old friends (McKussic and Frescia) is not helped by the fact that they are both in love with her. One acts upon it, th
e other is too shy to speak of his love. During the course of the story line, and getting set up for the ending, Vallenari is the main key player as to whether Frescia finds out just what McKussic is up to. If anything? Apart from the obvious ‘Is he bad? Is he good?’ factor, the most intriguing is the three way tug o love triangle. She likes them both. But which one does she love? We deal with personal loyalties and individual honour. This is just not a movie about drug running. Gibson, Russell and Pfeiffer all add depth and dimension to their characters. This film has you choosing between the good cop and the bad guy. But are they as they seem? Could it be case of bad cop and good guy? You have to make that decision. You have to chose which one to believe. At times you choose the wrong one. ***WHO SHOULD WATCH IT?*** All red-hot blooded female that wants to loose themselves in the cool blue pools of Mel’s come to bed eyes …. Ahem ….. err …… sorry…….!! Got carried away again ……….. Anyone that likes action thrillers will not be disappointed when seeing this movie. Although those of you that always want that ‘little bit extra’ had better not come in. Let’s face it, however much I say I like this film, there is bound to be somebody out there who didn’t enjoy it. Some body who will always complain because all though the fuel pipe was cut, the boat wouldn’t explode like that. Or maybe, how comes he has fired his gun 8 times when he has only 6 bullets?? Pah … I don’t care. But there are some that do …….. Take this movie for what it is. No more. 111 minutes of action. 111 minutes of thrills. It’s not perched on the edge of your seat’ suspense filled. But there’s enough to keep you awake. I don’t think that the majority of you will be disappoi
nted? ***DID I LIKE IT, AND WILL I BE FEASTING MY PEEPERS ON IT AGAIN?*** Yeah, I’ve gotta say it, this movie never fails to entertain. In fact, I love this movie. I love all the aspects that you meet in the plot. The three way love triangle. The drug triangle. The whole concept of the friends loyalties being tested to the brink. Once you learn more about the characters the final scenes become predictable. At least you think they do? There are twists and turns to keep you on your toes. Not enough to make your feet ache perhaps, but maybe hurt a little? My feet don’t ache anymore watching this movie. I’ve seen it so many times now that my toes have no part to play. I know the ending. I know who dies. Who doesn’t die. It makes no difference. This movie is 9 out of a possible 10 on the ‘watchability’ scale. (to make it 10 I would be playing Jo Ann Vallenari ; ) teehee ) As I have said …………… I love this movie!!
Robert Towne is one of Hollywood's most celebrated screenwriters, but because his directorial efforts have been few and far between, anticipation was high when this star-powered crime story was released in 1988. Critical reaction was decidedly mixed, but there's plenty to admire in this silky, visually seductive film about a drug dealer (Mel Gibson) whose best friend from high-school (Kurt Russell) is now working for the Los Angeles sheriff's drug detail. Their personal and professional conflicts are intensified by their love for the same woman, a waitress (Michelle Pfeiffer) at the Italian restaurant they both frequent. There's a big deal going down with a drug lord (the late Raul Julia), but as it twists and turns, Towne's story is really more about personal loyalties and individual honour. And even if it doesn't quite hold together, the movie's got a fantastic look to it (courtesy of the great cinematographer Conrad Hall), and the three stars bring depth and dimension to their well-written roles. --Jeff Shannon