Jack Nicholson and Ellen Barkin in Man Trouble (1992)


(director: Bob Rafelson; screenwriter: Carole Eastman; cinematographer: Stephen H. Burum; editor: William Steinkamp; music: Georges Delerue; cast: Jack Nicholson (Harry Bliss), Ellen Barkin (Joan Spruance), Harry Dean Stanton (Redmond Layls), Beverly D’Angelo (Andy Ellerman), Michael McKean (Eddy Revere), Saul Rubinek (Laurence Moncrief), Viveka Davis (June Huff), Veronica Cartwright (Helen Dextra), David Clennon (Lewie Duart), John Kapelos (Detective Melvenos), Lauren Tom (Adele Bliss), Paul Mazursky (Lee MacGreevy), Gary Graham Socorro (Butch Gable), Mark J. Goodman (Betty Carvalho Talk Show Host), Betty Carvalho (Socorro); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Bruce Gilbert/Carole Eastman; 20th-Century Fox; 1992)
“This romantic comedy is a bow wow.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This romantic comedy is a bow wow. Star Jack Nicholson reunites with director Bob Rafelson (“The King Of Marvin Gardens”/”Blood And Wine”) and writer Carole Eastman from the trio’s seminal pic of the 1970s “Five Easy Pieces.” It’s an insultingly inadequate star vehicle film that lays an egg, never deciding if it wants to be a thriller, comedy or romantic pic. Its set comedy pieces are stiff, its romance pieces even stiffer and its thriller aspects the stiffest. In other words, this pic is a stiff.

The film is set in a crime-riddled contemporary Hollywood. Harry Bliss (Jack Nicholson) is a down on his luck charming roguish small-time security expert who is the owner of ‘House of Bliss,’ a guard-dog agency; Joan Spruance (Ellen Barkin) is an opera singer trying to find her voice who becomes frightened after her apartment is vandalized (obviously by her estranged conductor hubby) and the frightened wealthy singer moves into her glamorous three-times married sister Andy’s (Beverly D’Angelo), who just wrote a tell-all book about her lover, luxury mansion in the Hollywood hills but finds she’s alone with scary unwelcome visitors and has Harry supply her with a German shepherd attack dog named Duke. The two become romantically involved when they find out they’re both in the process of getting a messy divorce (Harry from a Japanese woman he calls Iwo Jima during an unsuccessful marriage counseling session). The subplot has the nutty Andy kidnapped by her boyfriend, the powerful reclusive billionaire Redmond Layls (Harry Dean Stanton), who is unhappy with the book.

The premise might have looked good on paper, but when executed just about nothing worked for the talented cast. For starters, there was no chemistry between Nicholson and the uncharacteristically shrill Barkin– playing the damsel in distress role. The well-trained dogs performed better than the actors. I’d write this one off as a big-time misfire.