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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Tough Guys (Blu-ray)
Tough Guys (Blu-ray)
Kino // PG // May 30, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted June 2, 2017 | E-mail the Author
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Tough Guys (1986) represented the final teaming of longtime movie stars Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, the pair having previously worked together on I Walk Alone (1948), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Devil's Disciple (1959), and Seven Days in May (1964), the last three already on Blu-ray. Most assumed they were close friends but in actuality they mostly tolerated one another. Each respected the other's talents and understood the box office advantages of appearing together, but they were also highly competitive alpha-male types and rarely socialized.

And they were such good actors that none of their occasional animosity toward one another ever was perceptible onscreen. They seemed the best of pals, even when their movies cast them as adversaries.

Tough Guys cast them as longtime friends, released from prison 30 years after robbing The Gold Coast Flyer, the last train robbery in American history. Now elderly, they find times have changed, and struggle with their "rehabilitation" while on parole, before opting to attempt one last big heist.

Unfortunately, Burt and Kirk are the only reason to watch the film, which at its best is mildly amusing but mostly isn't credible at all, even as a comedy. It's painfully predictable, and despite a potentially interesting premise puts the stars in obvious, overdone, and stereotypical situations. Ironically, its ‘80s clichés are far more dated that its ‘40s-‘50s era leads.

Released from prison after 30 years, Harry Doyle (Lancaster) and Archie Long (Douglas) are met by their admiring parole officer, Richie Evans (Dana Carvey, not bad in a non-comic role). Also meeting them outside the prison gates is Leon B. Little (Eli Wallach), a myopic hitman and a stranger to the pair, who inexplicably begins blasting away with his shotgun, nearly killing them.

The three manage to flee, and back at Richie's office, he explains that 72-year-old Harry is to be committed to a retirement community, despite his desire to go back to work. Archie, several years younger, gets a lowly job at a frozen yogurt shop and a voucher to stay at a fleapit hotel downtown. Under the terms of the parole, they're not allowed any contact with one another for three years.

Life at the retirement home is as dreary as one might suspect, though he does meet an old flame, Belle (Alexis Smith). Archie, meanwhile, tries hard to get with the times. He dates a much younger, sex-starved aerobics teacher (Darlanne Fluegel) and goes clubbing, but he's treated like dirt at the ice cream parlor, and even worse later, working as a busboy at a restaurant.

Soon enough (well, not soon enough for this viewer) the unhappy men get back together and decide to hijack The Gold Coast Flyer, itself making its final run before being scrapped.

Tough Guys is basically Going in Style (1979) without that film's humanity-meets-Cocoon (1985) minus the sci-fi. The picture's biggest flaw is how at every turn it goes for the most obvious, most predictable plot points, then overcooks those overly familiar situations like a well-done rib roast. When Archie goes to work at the ice cream parlor, he encounters a bratty kid who maliciously taunts him with topping demands, the kind of situation that never ever ever happens that way in real life. His boss at the restaurant isn't just thoughtless or insensitive, but rather the NASTINEST BOSS OF ALL-TIME.

At the retirement home, the supervisor and orderly are likewise unrepentantly cruel and uncaring. Couldn't they have instead been well-meaning but unable to comprehend Harry's needs? Archie's very sexually active relationship with a much younger woman who clearly likes him had promise, but the script treats it in the most superficial way imaginable, further eroding credibility by having them both dress in exaggerated ‘80s fashions while visiting exaggerated ‘80s nightclubs. When Harry and Archie encounter a street gang, it's the kind of politically correct street gang that only exists in the movies: racially diverse (one black, a Latino or two, a couple of white guys who get all the lines, and requisite boom box).

And why is Eli Wallach's character in the film at all? Beats me. He serves no purpose to the story in any meaningful way. The respected actor Adolph Caesar (A Soldier's Story) was originally cast but died of a heart attack midway through production, so maybe the character's role was changed. But the overlong film didn't need him at all.

That leaves Lancaster and Douglas as the only reason to watch Tough Guys at all. Douglas seems to be enjoying himself, including showing off his still-muscular physique though in his late sixties by this time. Lancaster, on the other hand, was sickly and looks it, the actor having recently survived quadruple bypass surgery and other ailments. And where Douglas in his later starring career generally stuck with commercial products (Saturn 3, The Final Countdown, etc.), Lancaster from the early '60s favored artier, more challenging fare like Atlantic City (1980) and Local Hero (1983). He springs to life here and there, especially in his scenes with Douglas, but generally looks dispirited. No wonder.

Video & Audio

Filmed in Panavision and featuring an early Dolby Stereo mix, Tough Guys looks and sounds great, at least. The image is razor-sharp and the DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 surround mix offers some nice oomph and directionality. Region "A" encoded.

Extras

The lone supplement, apart from scads of trailer, is an audio commentary track with director Jeff Kanew.

Parting Thoughts

Disappointingly trivial a swan song teaming for its substantial stars, Tough Guys is tough sledding, though fans of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas might want to give it a look. Rent It.





Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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