Saturday, April 24, 2010

8 Million Ways To Die (1986)

Strong, well-acted cop drama about an alcoholic former pig who gets caught up with a prostitution/drug-running ring. Jeff Bridges plays Matt Scudder, who, after being traumatized on the job, drinks his life and his badge down the toilet. After AA, he gets caught up with a hooker and an old friend, now a pimp, who drawn him into this world that he cannot help but try and remedy. Along the way, he meets up with Rosanna Arquette's hooker character, and the two wounded souls try and heal each others wounds. The whole thing sounds very overwrought and cliched, bordering on melodramatic horseshit, but it plays a lot better than it sounds due to the acting, particularly Bridge's beaten cop. He looks, feels, and acts as if he's on the verge of a mental and physical collapse, and our empathy with him raises the stakes before the first gun is drawn. However, the film only moves beyond being interesting and provacative, and gets truly exciting, when Andy Garcia's heavy enters the picture. In this early role, Andy Garcia is shockingly understated and soft-spoken as he smiles and charms his way past the fact that everyone in the film knows that he is a scumbag. His silly hair and tough accent become completely ignored as he begins his illustrious career taking the traditional Cuban druglord (a.k.a. Scarface) and spinning it on its ass to the point where you almost believe that he and Bridges would make more interesting friends than enemies. The film is very well-shot, staged, edited, and scored, but all in a very '80s aesthetic; those who can't sit through an episode of Miami Vice without squirming (or whining) probably shouldn't even bother with this one.

Highly recommended for fans of '80s cop dramas, Jeff Bridges, or Andy Garcia. Director Hal Ashby cut his teeth on films like Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, and Being There; this is not one of those films at all, more along the lines of To Live and Die in L.A. or James Woods' Cop than those soft (albeit amazing) flicks.

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