Jarv’s Birthday Series: Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)
When I was growing up, probably my favourite film (not called Flash Gordon) was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I honestly loved every single frame of it, I loved the banter between Newman and Redford, I loved the story, I loved the ending. Hell, I even loved the love interest in the film. It remains, to this day, in my top 5 films, and is one of the few Westerns that Mrs. Jarv can watch without complaining. So, ever since then, I’ve had a bit of a soft spot for buddy action movies, films that are about friendship between two men and lots of gunplay. So, when I saw this come up (released on 23rd August 1991 in America) I have to say that I was really quite chuffed. Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man was a film that I’d never seen and promised to make me very happy. How did it work out for me? Well read on…
Well, the first impression was actually really quite good. It opens in a sleazy hotel room with Mickey Rourke smoking listening to the radio about Crystal Dream, before leaving a hot naked chick behind. He hops aboard his Harley and drives into the dawn to the sound of Bon Jovi’s Dead and Alive. I have to say, this made me sit up, as I was still mostly unaware of what it was going to be, and damn it, that was quite cool. He then beats the tar out of two morons robbing a petrol station before introducing himself to the stunned attendant (a very young Kelly Hu) as “Harley Davidson”. Even better. Next up, we’re introduced to Don Johnson’s “Marlboro” a rodeo cowboy hustling a rather large indian, and quoting the advice his father gave him. Cue second punch up.
So far, I’m quite chuffed. Then the film kicks into gear properly. For a contrived reason too stupid to get into, they hook up with their friends (Jimi, Jack Daniels, and a few others) to rob a bank truck. The robbery goes swimmingly well until a posse of unkillable douchebags led by Daniel Baldwin turn up. It turns out, even worse, that they’ve fucked up and robbed a vast amount of “Crystal”. Instead of abandoning the caper as a terrible idea, Harley ransoms it back to the mob (led by Tom Sizemore with Tia Carrere as his assistant). Marlboro splits up with his girlfriend, Virginia Slim (Chelsea Field) and Baldwin murders all their friends. They escape to Vegas, before returning to LA after a rooftop shoot out. One thing leads to another and there’s a big showdown where they kill Baldwin, before going to kill Sizemore (which they manage despite being needed to be rescued by Airwolf). Film ends with Harley riding off into the sunset.
OK, this isn’t a bad film. It rocks along at a fair old lick and it is quite enjoyable for the most part. For the most part. Johnson is hugely likeable in the lead, and the supporting cast all seem to be enjoying themselves. Unfortunately, Rourke is putting in what can only be described as the laziest performance that he ever did. Honestly, he can barely be bothered here, and seems to be literally not be trying. He, according to IMDB, hates this film and blames it for his spiralling problems that plagued him for the rest of the 90’s. I think he’s being harsh, actually, as compared to some of the crap he was in it’s really quite good.
The problem, though, is that this film desperately wants to be Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. We’ve got countless nods to that film (Harley has never shot someone, there’s almost a straight lift of Butch and Sundance’s high jump for a watery escape, Marlboro constantly looks to Harley for ideas, then complains about them) and I just sat there eventually wishing that I was actually watching Newman and Redford do their thing.
I’m almost out of things to say about this. It’s OK, to be honest, and I’ve had far worse times watching films. However, Australian director Simon Wincer has a career stocked full of shit, and you can see why. The last third in particular gets completely out of control, and the natural ending to the film is the fight in the aeroplane graveyard. He also, frankly, has to take some of the blame for Rourke’s non-performance, but is lucky that Johnson is on sparkling form and more than willing to take up the slack.
Overall, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t exactly a slice of deep-fried gold. Without Johnson’s twinkly turn, it would actually be severely lacking. Yet, Johnson is the ace in the hole and his turn is enough to carry the film that just isn’t as cool as it wants to be. I don’t really recommend it, but it certainly isn’t hateful, and it did pass the time admirably enough. I give it two packs of cigarrettes out of a possible 4.
Next up is something called Christopher Columbus: The Discovery. Which I’ve seen precisely 10 minutes of so far and has made me die a bit inside.
Until next time,
The full list in this series:
- 1978 – The Driver (3 out of 4)
- 1979 – Life of Brian (4 out of 4)
- 1980 –Xanadu (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1981 – An American Werewolf in London (4 out of 4)
- 1982 – Class of 1984 (3 out of 4)
- 1983 – Fire and Ice (1 out of 4)
- 1984 – Cal (1/2 out of 4)
- 1985 – Teen Wolf (3 out of 4)
- 1986 –Reform School Girls (2.5 out of 4)
- 1987 – Dirty Dancing (Orangutan of Doom)
- 1988 – Married to the Mob (1 out of 4)
- 1989 – Millennium (1 out of 4)
- 1990 – Darkman (3 out of 4)
- 1991 – Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man
- 1992 – Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
- 1993 – Hard Target
- 1994 – Natural Born Killers
- 1995 – Desperado
- 1996 – Freeway
- 1997 – Mimic
- 1998 – Blade
- 1999 – Teaching Mrs. Tingle
- 2000 – Bring it On
- 2001 – Heartbreakers
- 2002 – Simone
- 2003 – My Boss’s Daughter
- 2004 – Exorcist: The beginning
- 2005 – The Cave
- 2006 – Invincible
- 2007 – War
- 2008 – Death Race
- 2009 – Der Baader Meinhof Komplex
- 2010 – Piranha 3D
- 2011 – Conan the Barbarian