In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “At most, it raised as shrug and a yawn.”
“Mr. McKussic, it seems, has been engaged in his business for purely romantic reasons, whilst you have been engaged in romance for purely business reasons.”
I’ve written plenty of times about the virtues of going into a movie blind. It’s harder and harder to do with new movies, with inescapable marketing campaigns and trailers that reveal more and more of what the final product has to offer. So now, going in blind usually means going for tiny indies, or something that’s at least a couple of decades old. The name Tequila Sunrise was definitely familiar, and I was even kind of aware of its late 80s vintage.
What I wasn’t aware of were the treats waiting for me in the opening titles. Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell’s names popping up had me immediately glad that I had taken a chance on this movie. Then seeing that it was written and directed by Robert Towne, of Chinatown and Bonnie and Clyde fame, had me legitimately excited. Unfortunately, the opening titles is where I should have stopped if I wanted to go away liking this movie.
A squirmy lawyer (JT Walsh as Maguire) attempts his first ever drug deal. Along for moral support and expert guidance is retired dealer, ‘Mac’ McKussic (Gibson). When the deal is broken up by cop Frescia (Russell), Mac’s quick thinking sees himself and Maguire evade arrest. But maybe it wasn’t all thanks to Mac, because it turns out, Mac and Frescia are old friends. And while Frescia is no dirty cop, he has successfully avoided ever having to go after Mac out of a sense of loyalty. But when word of a major Mexican drug lord coming to town is also linked to Mac, Frescia’s loyalty is pushed to the limit. Things only get worse when restaurateur and shared love interest, Jo (Pfeiffer) enters the picture.
Getting a movie made is really hard work. Unless you’re someone like Steven Spielberg, even the most well known and successful writers and directors still have to jump through countless hoops to get studios to fund their work. I thought about that a lot while watching Tequila Sunrise, because I can’t imagine this was a story anyone could have been passionate about making and willing to jump through all those hoops for. Especially not the dude who wrote classics like Chinatown and Bonnie and Clyde.
For a movie about drug dealers, police stings and love triangles, Tequila Sunrise is surprisingly limp and lifeless. It takes three amazingly charismatic Hollywood stars in their prime, not to mention Raul Julia as a Mexican federale, throws them in the middle of a seemingly action packed story, then manages to do nothing with those ingredients, except suck the life out of them.
Tequila Sunrise isn’t a bad movie. But the only reason it’s not a bad movie is because it’s not enough of a movie to warrant classification as good or bad. And that’s even worse than being a bad movie. At least bad movies generate real emotions and reactions, even if they’re negative. Tequila Sunrise didn’t even do that for me. At most, it raised as shrug and a yawn.