When Lawrence Tierney utters the line that gives Tough Guys Don't Dance its title, he evokes the stoic, hard-boiled codes of post-war noir, felt in films he made like Born to Kill, The Bodyguard and The Devil Thumbs A Ride. And when Isabella Rossellini shows up, she suggests David Lynch's kooky and subversive Reagan-era suspense movies like Blue Velvet. These homages mark two of the many streams that flow into Norman Mailer's rhapsody on themes of sexual intrigue, multi-tiered duplicity and garish murders. (Mailer directed his movie from his 1984 novel.) It's a baroque contraption that comes close to self-parody - and may even cross the threshold - but neither is it just a fling at film making by a celebrity author intoxicated by his own publicity.
The forlorn setting is Cape Cod under the sign of Sagittarius: the dunes and the bars empty, and the Atlantic is choppy and gunmetal grey. Ex-con Ryan O'Neal (his boyish superstardom well behind him) has been drinking heavily since his wealthy if white-trash wife (Debra Sandlund) left him; one morning he wakes to find a tattoo on his arm and his jeep's upholstery soaked in blood. Circumstances lead him to a burrow where he stashes his marijuana harvest; in it he finds the severed heads of his wife and a woman he had picked up (along with her boyfriend) a few nights before.
The clues he starts piecing together lead him back down paths that wend through his own none-too-savory past. There's the out-of-town `couple' with whom he had spent a hard-drinking night (Frances Fisher and R. Patrick Sullivan); a woman he had once loved (Rossellini) now married to Provincetown's sadistic Chief of Police (Wings Hauser); another woman he had met when she was married to a wife-swapping Christian preacher (Penn Jillette) and who later wed a rich, spoiled Southern boy (John Bedford Lloyd) then, ultimately, O'Neal, whom she recently left. Helping him find his way is his gruff, cancer-ridden father (Tierney).
What plot line there is hangs on cocaine (maybe) and several millions, but that's but a pretext for Mailer to worry the preoccupations, even obsessions, which crop up again and again in his work, most notably the yin/yang of eroticism and violence. The women come across as predatory sirens but end up being almost beside the point - they're prizes for sexual competition between males, conflict that shades into edgy attraction, right up to taunting flirtation. (The movie is loaded with homosexual references, generally pejorative - the bisexual boyfriend is even given the name `Pangborn' - and the continuum of couplings, both on screen and in the back story, results in a very kinky daisy chain in which everybody save Tierney might just as well have slept with everybody else. Mailer comes close to suggesting that two men who have slept with the same woman share an implicit homosexual relationship themselves.)
Coming to Tough Guys Don't Dance expecting anything like a conventional suspense film (even something `post-' or `neo-') is to court disappointment. One comes for Mailer, who's like the little girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead: When he's good, he's very, very good, but when he's bad, he's horrid. How the proportions weight out in this movie can be argued, but adventurous and provocative nuggets nestle among some very bad choices (the acting runs the gamut from rather good to execrable, often within the same performance). Caveat spectator: wildly uneven and sometimes grotesquely macho, Tough Guys Don't Dance is far from negligible.
Tough Guys Don't Dance
Comedy / Crime / Drama
Tough Guys Don't Dance
Comedy / Crime / Drama
Writer, ex-con and 40-something bottle-baby Tim Madden, who is prone to black-outs, awakens from a two-week bender to discover a pool of blood in his car, a blond woman's severed head in his marijuana stash, and the new Provincetown police chief, Captain Luther Regency, shacked up with his former girlfriend Madeleine. As his father Dougy helps him try to unravel the mystery, he is dogged by the psychotic Capt. Regency, who has it in for Tim as a car-crash that he was involved in with Madeline has left her unable to have children. Flashing-back to the past, Tim remembers the time when he encouraged Madeline to swing with a Li'l Abnerish couple from down South, the fundamentalist preacher Big Stoop and his Daisy Mae-ish wife, Patty Lareine, whose ad Tim had come across in 'Screw' magazine. It's on the trip back that the car crash occurs, since Madeline is incensed that Tim has so enjoyed Patty Lareine's charms. Except for his father Dougy, who is dying of cancer, Tim suspects everyone, including his ex-wife Patty Lareine, multi-millionaire prep-school pal Wardley Meeks III, - and himself - of murder. Patty Lareine had left Big Stoop, married Wardley, left him in a messy divorce which netted her a rich cash settlement, and in turn married Tim, whom she fancied. Patty Lareine disappears, and Tim goes on his fatal bender that has left his memory in shards after receiving a letter from Madeline informing him that her husband is having an affair with his wife. Tim remembers his assignation in the local tavern's parking lot with the blond porn star Jessica Pond, while her effete husband Lonnie Pangborn watched from the sidelines, distraught. It was Jessica's head in the Hefty bag with his grass, but soon, another head turns up in his marijuana stash, that of Patty Lareine. We eventually learn that she and her ex- Wardley, a bisexual skewed towards the gay side, had been involved in a massive marijuana deal, a deal that also involved Jessica Pond and Lonnie Pangborn, who are also missing. Will Tim be able to get to the bottom of the mystery and save himself from another stretch in stir? As his father Dougy reminds him, "Tough guys don't dance," and Tim has been doing everything but the Charlston in his attempt to keep ahead of the forces closing in on him. Will he unravel the case and reclaim his lost manhood? And what does an old witch trial and the unspeakably lumpen sleazoids down at the garage at the outskirts of town have to do with all this? —Jon C. Hopwood
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
September 15, 2021 at 05:32 PM