Sunday, June 21, 2009

8 Million Ways to Die

8 Million Ways to Die; Crime, USA, 1986; D: Hal Ashby, S: Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette, Randy Brooks, Andy Garcia, Alexandra Paul

Los Angeles. After he killed a drug salesman who refused the arrest in his home, police officer Matthew becomes a depressive alcoholic and quits his job. 6 months later, after rehabilitation, he is contracted by prostitute Sunny who begs him to protect her because she wants to escape from her boss Chance. But she gets killed. Matthew then contacts her colleague Sarah and discovers Sunny was actually killed by mobster Angel. When Chance and Matthew steal his drug in a store in order to exchange it for Sarah, it all ends in a bloodshed. Matthew kills Angel and ends up with Sarah.

The penultimate film by Hal Ashby and his last feature film before he directed the TV flick "Jake's Journey" and then passed away, "8 Million Ways to Die" shows only small crumbs of virtues of one of the most talented directors of the 70s who somehow got lost in the 80s. For a crime film, the story has at least two big plot holes and some discrepancies, but is otherwise cliche free and neatly structured, without really big flaws, except that it simply doesn't engage on a higher level. It's a restless, nervous and spontaneous film with some bizarre touches that give it some sparks here and there (for instance, in one scene in a rehab clinic, the councilor praises Matthew for staying sober for 6 months now and asks him: "How do you feel?", upon which he replies with: "Like I could use a drink!"), but not a real continuation of a spark as a whole. For one, the film seems chaotic, while the character of prostitute Sarah (very good Rosanna Arquette) is poorly, scarcely developed, especially since the relationship between her and the protagonist - who is an ex police officer - could have been much more interesting than the way it was shown here, without any interest at all. Ashby probably was aware that the story had much bigger potentials than just a simple action flick, but due to his deteriorating health he probably couldn't or didn't want to go into discussion with the screenwriter. However, it's a solid film and one should be grateful for that, while it has some moments, like the car chase with a flat tire.


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