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TEQUILLA SUNRISE (director/writer: Robert Towne; cinematographer: Conrad Hall; editor: Claire Simpson; music: Dave Gruisin; cast: Mel Gibson (Dale Mckussic), Kurt Russell (Nick Frescia), Michelle Pfeiffer (Jo Ann Vallenari), Raul Julia (Escalante), J.T. Walsh (Maguire), Arliss Howard (Gregg); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Thom Mount ; Warner; 1988)
“Muddled thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Robert Towne (“Without Limits”/”Ask The Dust”/”Personal Best”), the noted screenwriter of Chinatown, helms and writes this muddled thriller. It’s hard for me to get enthused over following characters I disliked.

Nice guy divorced Southern California drug dealer Dale Mckussic (Mel Gibson), living on the beach with his son, is trying to become a legit businessman. But he’s tempted to be in on one last big deal so he can take care of his son for life. Nick Frescia (Kurt Russel) is a Lieutenant Detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and was Dale’s close friend from childhood. DEA officer Maguirre (J.T. Walsh) informs Nick that word on the street is that Mexican drug kingpin Escalante (Raul Julia) is bringing in a shipment. He’s Dale’s usual business partner.

Jo Ann Vallenari (Michelle Pfeiffer), owner of their favorite local Italian restaurant, is involved romantically with both men.

While the story meanders between the romantic love triangle and the drug deal, we are left trying to figure out who will Jo Anne choose since the cop is a devious womanizer and the rival might be straight-forward but is a criminal. Also, we are left guessing if Dale could ever give up the lucrative drug business and will his old pal pinch him. Plot twists come through noirish double-crosses in the final act, but by then you might have snoozed off.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”