"Drugs Dealers, Cops, Surfing, and Italian Cuisine!"
Don't analyze the damn thing -- just luxuriate in its potent spell.Oscar-winning screenwriter Robert Towne's first directed-film since his perceptive character study Personal Best of 1982 is this romantic crime drama that pits two longtime friends (Mel Gibson's retired cocaine dealer, and Kurt Russell's narcotics lieutenant) against each other in vying for the affections of the luxurious restauranteuse (Michelle Pheiffer) who comes between them during a DEA investigation. When Towne concentrates on the dynamics of the relationships between these three, the film sizzles; but when he tries spritzing things up in the final third with action (which comes off as purely perfunctory and is unimpressively staged), it drizzles. Luckily, the first two-thirds are so good that we're willing to overlook the tepid follow-through as a mere inconvenience. What's hugely appealing about Tequila Sunrise is that it seems to be taking place in a hidden alcove from the rest of the world: even though there's a criminal investigation encompassing the characters, they're far more concerned with penetrating each other's protective emotional shields and playing mind games in Malibu beach houses and high-priced restaurants. There's a fascination in watching the three initially confident main characters falter when love figures into the equation; it's as if it were a foreign pathogen that found its way into their bloodstream, causing them to act elated yet frightened at the same time. The film is ultimately about loyalty, and Towne dexterously makes this implicit in the Gibson/Pheiffer, Gibson/Russell relationships without overstressing things. There's a giddy high to be had in seeing glamorous, gorgeous stars staring into each other's eyes and mouthing dialogue you know can only come from the movies ("Just lookin' at ya hurts more."), engaging in foolhardy actions that ring an oddly true bell (like Gibson calling to cancel a dinner reservation while being chased by the police), or just reveling in the colorful give-and-take verbal banter that a filmmaker who truly loves actors like Towne has afforded them. A small masterpiece of glitzy irreverence.See it.