Friday, 8 February 2013

Tequila Sunrise (1988)

Written and directed by Robert Towne, Tequila Sunrise couldn't be any more '80s if everyone who saw it was handed a Rubik's Cube and pair of lime green leggings after the end credits rolled. Kurt Russell has very slick hair, Mel Gibson is sporting one of his more cuddly looks, Michelle Pfeiffer is Michelle Pfeiffer (perhaps the most gorgeous actress of the 1980s, though maybe a close second behind Kathleen Turner) and when there's any prospect of sex a saxophone player comes along to provide cheesy musical accompaniment.

Kurt Russell is Nick Frescia, a cop with a solid reputation and a big operation happening in his neck of the woods. That operation is being overseen by DEA Agent Hal Maguire (J. T. Walsh) and focuses on drug dealer Mac McKussick (Mel Gibson). The two big problems with this situation are that a) Mac insists that he's no longer in business and b) he and Frescia have a friendship that stretches back many years. Nick doesn't want to bust his friend, but it's all necessary to capture a man named Carlos, who seems to be quite a big deal in the drug world. Things are complicated when Nick realises that Mac is in love with a restaurant owner (Jo Ann Vallenari, played by Michelle Pfeiffer). It's easy to see why. In fact, Nick also falls for her charms. Or is he just using her to get information about Mac?

It's slick, nicely unconventional and benefits from a few great leads, but Tequila Sunrise is also surprisingly dull. In fact, with other people onscreen this wouldn't even manage to be as average as it is (I rate it just above-average due to my love of Russell and my LOVE of Pfeiffer).

The script has some good lines here and there, and some nice exchanges, but they're scattered too few and far between. Far too many scenes feel like filler material and character motivations are all over the place. It's especially disappointing coming from Towne, who at least always has Chinatown overshadowing everything else on his C.V.

The cast don't disappoint, although it's safe to say that all of the main players in front of the camera also have plenty of better vehicles in their filmographies. Russell, Gibson and Pfeiffer are as dependable as they usually are, J. T. Walsh never turned in a bad performance in his life, Arye Gross does fine in his small role and Raul Julia is a welcome injection of energy into the second half of the movie.

If, like me, you're fans of the actors involved then you will get some enjoyment from this. It's just a shame that this cast couldn't have been put together for something more deserving of their talent.


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