(Air Date: Week Of 9/20/87)
Watching Norman Mailer's "Tough Guys Don't Dance" is like being chained to a blind date with a fourteen-year-old motor mouth. You know his batteries will run down eventually, but in the meanwhile you find yourself entertaining the stray fantasy that Godzilla will turn up and flatten the kid. You see, Norman wants his new film noir to be a "murder mystery, a suspense tale, a film of horror-and a comedy of manners". That's nice. Lots of little boys want to do five different things when they grow up. By the time they turn 64, they might wish for their film to be in a better league than "Plan Nine From Outer Space".
Norman writes as if he spent most of his life running away from women whose sole aim is to chop off his quote 'pride and joy' unquote with a machete. Norman thinks that life is like this film. He seems obsessed with the suspicion that any man anywhere might be abusing more women than he is. And if the man is black, or gay, or a preacher, or a policeman, the script takes especially vindictive turns. Much of the plot runs something like this: A woman shoots a man. A woman shoots a woman. A man shoots a woman. A man shoots himself. Another woman shoots another man for calling her 'small potatoes'. And so on.
In a contrapuntal casting decision, Ryan O'Neal, the most constipated actor in Hollywood, mouths Norman's dialogue. Isabella Rossellini is around, presumably to lend an international panache to the proceedings, but she seems to be slumming. Clarence Williams III, who's done good work in bad films lately, has one entrance which is also his exit from the plot. Veteran film heavy Lawrence Tierney is the only cast member who seems at ease in his tough guy role. The rest of the players do the best they can with what they have been given to do.
The most revealing line in the film is, "I'm not a good enough writer to delineate how I really feel". "Tough Guys" is crammed with Mailer dialogue so excruciatingly bad that the best possible marketing ploy for this mess would be to slap it on a Golden Turkeys triple bill so its film makers can nurse their hurt feelings all the way to the bank. This one was produced by Francis Coppola and former Cal student Tom Luddy, so why waste your time attending to reviews like this one? Get out and package a bomb with plenty of T. and A., actors who rival Norman Mailer for sheer bad value and sell yourself to the Cannon Group before they go under.
Copyright 1987 Monica Sullivan
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