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Tequila Sunrise
1988 - R - Mins.
Director: Robert Towne
Producer: Thom Mount
Written By: Robert Towne
Starring: Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kurt Russell, Raul Julia, Arliss Howard
Review by: John Ulmer
"Tequila Sunrise" is the first film from Robert Towne since 1982's "Personal Best." He is best remembered for the man behind the screenplay for "Chinatown," the highlight among his other reputable projects. He displays a keen eye for characters and dialogue in "Tequila Sunrise," but the film suffers from boredom. There's no explanation for the boredom--it just is.

Too bad, really, since most of the time films like these have great pacing and badly developed characters. If Towne had contributed a bit more action and interest into the film it really could have been much better. It suffers from dead weight and uninteresting subplots that have become almost expected of Towne. Unfortunately, they're not needed in a story like this.

Mel Gibson plays Dale McKussic, a retired drug dealer living in Southern California who lives on a beach with his young son. By establishing many scenes with Gibson as a caring father figure, he is ultimately presented as a likable character--a script trick not hard to fall for since Gibson is a generally amiable and enjoyable actor.

But maybe that's the problem: Towne manipulates the audience with his script. A lot. I'm willing to ignore this since all the characters are lovable and nice, but it does hurt the film's impression. Anyway, I'm digressing...

Dale is afraid that he will lose custody of his son to his ex-wife--since he is no longer making big bucks. As the critic Roger Ebert pointed out, "Only in Southern California would you lose custody because you'd stop selling drugs."

Dale has fallen for a fancy restaurant owner named Jo Ann (Michelle Pfeiffer). So has his best friend, Nick (Kurt Russell), who also happens to be a cop. The plot intracicies extend even further when we find out that a big figure in the drug business, Carlos (Raul Julia), is coming to town with a stash of cocaine.

So in the midst of both falling desperately and hopelessly in love with the same woman, Dale and Nick must also confront each other in regards to their differences. Will Nick become angered and arrest Dale? Which man will Jo Ann pick to be her future love interest? When will Raul Julia stop choosing bad co-star roles? Oh, too late. Sorry, Raul.

Mel Gibson is one of the most likable and easy-going film stars of all time, Kurt Russell is always a good bet in any type of film, and Michelle Pfeiffer is a very beautiful and talented actress. Their interaction, however, seems watered down and pretty dull in "Tequila Sunrise," which has good characters but the actors, quite understandably and visibly, have a hard time getting into their roles. Can you blame them? There's something wrong here--it's not a very bad film, but it's not a very good one, either. It is lacking something vital. It's just bleak. Even though the characters are given good introductions and stories, the movie isn't nearly as interesting as it should be.

I'm not quite sure what the primary problem of "Tequila Sunrise" is, I'm not even sure I want to think about it. This is a movie I have sat down to watch twice but have both times become downright bored past the half hour point. It rambles on too long, lacks the hard punch of action, dramatics and humor of Gibson's earlier cop film "Lethal Weapon" (1987), and is basically a showcase for Towne's ability to craft interesting characters and intriguing subplots given a basic outline of otherwise cliched material. But this is all "Tequila Sunrise" feels like--a showcase--and that, I suppose, is its biggest fault.
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

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