Product placement at its most heroic
- Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man review by Count Otto Black
This film is obviously so pleased with itself that I feel a bit mean giving it only two stars. But then again, smugness is seldom endearing. And when a movie opens with a disclaimer that it in any way endorses the commercial products its two heroes are named after (by the way, the least irrelevant of the female characters is called Virginia Slim), you have to wonder if they thought things through properly before shooting began.
The hidden elephant in the room, which gets in the way of everything else as soon as you spot it, is that this film contains so many direct lifts, including bleeding chunks of dialogue, from "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid" that it's practically a remake. Let's be honest here. Mickey Rourke isn't Paul Newman, and Don Johnson (remember him?) very, very definitely isn't Robert Redford, so any hint that they're supposed to be comparable was always going to be a bad idea. Though to be fair, Mickey Rourke does do a pretty good Bruce Willis impersonation throughout, even if a lot of the time he looks as though he's having trouble keeping a straight face. He later admitted he only did it for the money - $2.75m, which was nearly a tenth of the budget, and more than a third of what this bomb ended up grossing.
As for the plot... Well, as our heroes keep smugly reminding us, they're "free spirits" (even if they're named after a brand-name and a corporate advertising logo), therefore they can do what they want all the time with no consequences, and make beautiful women into their playthings just by smiling at them. And what's more, they're such great guys that they'll stop at nothing to do "the right thing" and avenge the murder of their friends by the smirking, heavily-armed, mega-rich one-dimensional bad guys, even though the friends they're risking their lives to avenge would all still be alive if our heroes hadn't talked them into doing something incredibly stupid in the first place.
To be honest, the thing that got my attention the most, other than the constant distraction of spotting yet another quote from Butch & Sundance, was the fact that the bad guys have ridiculously long black leather coats, therefore, because "The Matrix" was still 8 years in the future when this movie was made, they look exactly like boringly generic modern good guys. Oh, there's some shooting - quite a lot, in fact - and men do what a man's gotta do, which naturally involves machine-guns and helicopters and the odd exploding car, but it's all a bit too self-congratulatory. It was a resounding flop in 1991, and 24 years later it hasn't become a cult classic, just a curious period piece which passes the time well enough, gives film buffs an exceptionally good opportunity to play "spot the pointless references to another film", and has an absurdly ill-advised title.
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