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.

"I'm telling you man, if you don't start putting in some effort, then I'm going to beat you with my Cowboy hat"

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.

Baldwin desperately wanted to know where the last packet of cookies had been hidden

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.

Rescued by Airwolf. Airwolf rocked.

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.

I like this bit.

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:

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

22 responses to “Jarv’s Birthday Series: Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)”

  1. just pillow talk says :

    Never seen this, and quite frankly, never interested me. Your review confirms this.

    I’m getting a bit giddy with excitement over your forthcoming Colombus review…

    • Jarv says :

      The problem with it is that I fast forwarded all the way through the film and he doesn’t even get on his boat until about 2 hours in.

      • Jarv says :

        Oh, there are chuckles to be had, but it gets tiresome- the cuteness with the characters brand named, the non-performance of Rourke, the incessant references to Butch and Sundance…

        Actually, fuck this film- go and watch that one instead.

      • koutchboom says :

        I saw this a couple years ago, what an odd flick. This and Tango and Cash have weirdly similar vibes and crappy techno 80s babble thrown in them. I think they are both fun…they both may be directed by the same guy. I remember Sizemore being fun in this flick, but Tango and Cash the team up worked much better.

      • koutchboom says :

        Ohhh wow no this is Simon Wincer of Free Willy fame. Tango and Cash is from the Nutcracker 3D dude.

      • Jarv says :

        Yup. Tango and Cash does work much better. That’s because both actors are giving a shit in T&C and only Johnson is here. Wincer did a whole lot of shit, Koutch- Quigley Down Under? Crocodile Dundee in LA?

      • koutchboom says :

        Yeah those are fine….but they don’t touch the willy.

      • Jarv says :

        I, well, don’t bow, but acknowledge your superior knowledge about Willy touching.

    • Jarv says :

      This isn’t a bad film, by the way pillows. Just not very good.

      Anyway, look at the hateful garbage I’ve got from 1999 onwards.

  2. Spud McSpud says :

    I’m liking the sound of the opening scene, though. One would hope they got a shitload of cash for all the product placement going on with the character names, though…

    • Jarv says :

      They clearly didn’t, though, because there’s a disclaimer at the start saying no product is being promoted here.

      Actually, this “quirk” becomes supremely fucking annoying very quickly.

  3. Xiphos0311 says :

    I’m surprised you had a middle of the road reaction to this. I was sure you were going to hate. When you think about it “meh” reaction to something is really worse then hating(or loving) a movie, it shows it could never get you to buy in. With an more “extreme” reaction at least you had some sort of response to a movie.

    • Jarv says :

      It’s not bad. At all. Just not exactly worth blowing your load over. If Rourke had given a shit at all, it probably would have been quite good

      Honestly, Butch and Sundance is so much better.

      • Xiphos0311 says :

        I really liked the movie when I saw at the theater then I watched it again on cable like a year later and thought why the heck did I like this?

      • Jarv says :

        It isn’t bad, and it honestly is quite Likeable.

        If you’re around in about an hour I’m publishing Columbus early, because it’s so awful

  4. ThereWolf says :

    I haven’t watched this one. I remember seeing it on the rental shelf several times and deciding, for some reason, it wasn’t for me. I think the box art put me off – which is a really shit way of deciding not to watch a movie.

    The shitter the box art, the more worthy of a rental.

  5. Droid says :

    I’ve never seen this flick. Something about it just stopped me watching it. This review won’t be changing that.

  6. tombando says :

    I think I caught this but haven’t any concrete memories. Now I see why. Someone should review Year of the Dragon.

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