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    Tough Guys

    Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 99 mins . PG . PAL


    Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas are Harry and Archie, sent to the slammer 30 years back for train robbery, in fact the very the last train robbery on record. Now forced back into society after paying their dues in the big house, they find the ’50s have given way to the scary ‘80s, and their new life as free men isn’t as easy as they had hoped for.

    Split up, with one shoved into a shoddy retirement home and the other forced into the indignity of having to work at a fast food chain under a teenager for a boss, they’re forgotten relics of a long gone era and a system that fails its rehabilitated.

    If dealing with crushed egos wasn’t enough, they’re also shadowed by an assassin who wants them dead for reasons unknown, and the cop who busted them all those years ago is just dying to get them back in the slammer again. For guys who were once minor celebrities and proud owners of a reputation when it meant something, this can be a little disconcerting to say the least, and it’s not long before situations conspire to have them considering revisiting their old ways once again.

    A minor rank comedy, the biggest problem with this film is that it feels to have been written too lovingly for Kirk and Burt (or any other similarly ancient Hollywood hardmen). Their characters are infallible and invincible, the situations they run into are absurd and coincidental to say the least, and everything amounts to playing hero-worship to two faultless idols. Douglas and Lancaster deserved, and had done, far better than this.

    As much as he probably enjoyed it, the dirty old coot, did we really need to see Douglas scoring with a bimbo in her early twenties (he would have been nearly 70, remember), or both Douglas and Lancaster in the first act thwarting a bank robbery and scaring off a gang of clichéd street thugs? As their streetsmart style and cool is played for laughs it doesn’t have any of the impact that they generated in their heyday when it was all played for keeps. Perhaps if they had gone the more serious route instead and decided to forego some of the ‘laughs’ this would have been a far more effective and memorable film. There are a few moments which hint at this, with Douglas and Lancaster in disagreement over their re-entry into the crimeworld, Douglas pissed off and bitter and Lancaster stoic and dismissive, the two playing off each other wonderfully, leaving you wanting more of the same.

    I put Tough Guys in the What could have been... pile.


    Produced in (and presumably set in) 1986, this has all the hallmarks of the typical feature drawn from that period and plonked onto DVD. Colours are ever so slightly duller than today, detail is a good notch or so down, the picture is clear yet a little soft (although quite good regardless) and there’s a fine grain underlying the picture. If you like the film you’ll be happy enough with the transfer.


    I don’t expect miracles from older films when viewed on DVD, so this has shielded me from some disappointments in the past and also allowed me some great finds. Still, modern movie sound design and the clarity and dynamic range available to DVD has no doubt spoiled me, as much as I try to keep it all relative. This rambling of mine has a point, and that point is that Tough Guys just didn’t cut it for me. If it just had to stick to dialogue it would be fine, as it comes across clearly and firmly anchored, but when it stretches to helicopters and gunfire and action the sound is hopelessly dated, flat and anaemic. Worst of all is the woeful synth pop score which entrenches the film in all that is crap about the ‘80s and dates it worse than the fashions. But dated or not, the complete lack of depth to the soundstage and the limp effects did ruin the movie magic for me.


    More cut price banal catalogue building, so there’s nothing other than the film and another shite menu to look at while fiddling with the buttons on your remote.


    What could have been and what is here is separated by a whopping big chasm. Sure there are a few laughs to be had, and it’s intriguing to see two stars far from their heyday having some fun together, but the script feels forced and hurried without thought for what could really have been made out of Lancaster and Douglas brought together after so many years.

    The DVD is similarly handled, with an acceptable picture, an audio job that’s left wanting and nothing but the film to see.

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      And I quote...
    "A film that could have done without the blatant Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas hero-worshipping."
    - Vince Carrozza
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS730P
    • TV:
          Philips 55PP8620
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DB1070
    • Speakers:
          Wharfedale s500
    • Centre Speaker:
          Polk Audio CS245
    • Surrounds:
          Wharfedale WH-2
    • Subwoofer:
          DB Dynamics TITAN
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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