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Tough Guys Don't Dance (2008)

Tough Guys Don't Dance. Feature film. (1987, 110 mins) IMDB

...or make great movies...

D

uring its production and release, this film was well known for these simple facts: it was based on Norman Mailer's best-selling novel, he wrote the screenplay and directed the film. Since that time, the film has faded away from public consciousness for a very good reason. It's not a great film. It's not even a good film.

In describing the film, Mailer continually refers to it as a horror film. I wouldn't use that word. I would prefer the word suspense in the Hitchcock mould, however, his worst film would be more enjoyable than this film.

Ryan O'Neal plays a lost man married to a wealthy southern belle. They have a large house in Cape Town. Money isn't a problem. But it takes a while to know this because of the way the film is structured. The events that make up the plot are straightforward, but how they are told to create a convoluted situation because the film wants to show us the story from Ryan's POV and so we only know what he knows and he doesn't know much.

The film starts with Ryan waking up in this house. He appears to be confused and alone. When he goes downstairs he discovers his estranged father in the dinning room. As they talk, we discover what has happened and the film flashes back to different points until we return to that morning when he wakes up again and the film proceeds from there to end the story.

There are six major players in this film. Ryan as the befuddled husband. His beautiful, wealthy wife. Her former husband, another southerner with loads more money and college friend to Ryan. There is the chief of police who behaves more like a criminal than an officer of the law. A couple from California who appears out of nowhere. Plus a couple of local deadbeat thugs. That's eight, but you can think of them as six. Then I almost forgot Isablla Rosselini. She's married to the police chief, but in love with Ryan.

Throw in a quantity of cocaine worth a few millions and people with a lot of greed and you have your story.

The rich southerner produces an attaché filled with $2 million in cash. In films, it's always an attaché filled with cash even if $2 million would require a chest trunk to hold. His money will buy the coke and as part of the deal to net $10 million in return. It's never explained who will buy it on the end. Nor do we see the stash of coke, probably because it doesn't exist. So there's our first greedy person. Because the deal collapses and he sees himself as a failure, he kills himself with a pistol in the end and besides, greedy people have to die off in these types of stories.

His former wife and Ryan's current wife is also greedy. She apparently leaves Ryan at the start of the film. She's after money as well. A complete gold digger. She dies when her lust for the money gets in the way of the chief of police. He kills her and cuts off her head. The head baffles and terrifies Ryan when he finds it. The implication is he killed her. He's going to jail, but that sense of angst over a wrongfully convicted man doesn't develop because he doesn't know if he did or didn't kill her. Too much booze and drugs to remember. Because he doesn't know, we don't know.

At one point the California couple have control of the money. The husband is going to vanish with it and leave her behind. She kills him. Then the police chief kills her to get the money, but his greed results in his death as well.

Lots and lots of dead bodies.

Bodies that Ryan and his father dump into the ocean.

The film is in short a muddled mess. In some respects a different cutting might have made for a better film, but even then the subject matter isn't that interesting and a few scenes are simply repulsive.

Posted 2009/04/08 at 21h39ET in Movie Commentary.

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