Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

Risky Business (1983)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Teen becomes suburban pimp.

Joel (Tom Cruise) is a teenager living in a sprawling home on the North Shore of suburban Chicago who is stressing about getting into a top college. His parents (Nicholas Pryor, Janet Carroll) announce that they will be leaving on vacation for two weeks and he’ll have the whole place to himself. After some prodding by his friends he invites over a beautiful prostitute named Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) and takes her for a spin in his Dad’s Porsche, which accidently slides into the lake. The repairs will be expensive, so Lana devises a scheme where his home will be used as a temporary, make-shift whorehouse bringing in customers, many of whom being Joel’s high school friends who will pay to have sex with Lana’s beautiful call girl friends and whose proceeds will go to fixing the car.

The film is a fresh, funny look at capitalism and a perfect composite of the Reagan years and ‘80s attitudes. However, the conversations that the teens have here is jarringly out-of-touch with today’s youngsters who seem to favor more socialistic concepts. On one hand this then dates the picture, but it also makes it fascinating at seeing how people thought from a bygone era.

Cruise is fantastic and really looks like a teen, especially with his bowl haircut, even though he was already in his 20’s at the time. The character though allows himself to be taken advantage of too much by his friends. For most people the friendship would immediately end if they had a pal who would invited over a prostitute as a ‘joke’ that they didn’t want and would still be expected to pay for.

Why are these friends doing these hijinks anyways? It was almost like Joel had never been home alone before. Most likely he had, so why now are his buddies doing these things when they hadn’t earlier? A much better premise would’ve been to have Joel achieve some sort of accomplishment, like pass an all-important SAT test and as a ‘reward’ his friends would pitch-in and buy him a prostitute for the night while his parents were away. Everything else that follows would be the same, but at least the catalyst that sets it in motion would make more sense and Joel would seem less like a pushover straddled with irritating friends no one in their right mind would want.

The sex scene between Joel and Lana comes off like an overly stylized bit from a soft core porn flick. There were several fantasy segments that came before it and I was fully expecting this to be one of them, but it isn’t. Joel is a kid that seriously lacks confidence in every other way, so I would imagine his initial meeting with a prostitute would be awkward especially since he had never done anything like that before. Most likely he would’ve been so nervous that he might not have been able to even ‘rise-to-the-occasion’. Having Joel initially behave clumsily towards Lana would’ve been funny and more believable instead as it is here the ‘reality’ segment is dreamier than the fantasy ones.

The Lana character is frustrating as she remains an aloof composite of a hooker that the viewer never gets to understand as a real person. Seeing her in a vulnerable moment would’ve helped, but it never comes. (Her conversation with Joel about her life was too brief and not enough.) I would’ve liked a more conclusive ending revealing whether their relationship ‘blossomed’, worked into a long term friendship, or just dissipated. Having a scene at the end with Joel in college and calling Lana up to chat could’ve solidified this.

The parents are portrayed as being too stuffy and more like caricatures. The ending, which entails Joel buying back his parent’s furniture that had been stolen and then moving it all back into the home with the help of friends before his parents arrived is implausible. The house was too big and had too many items for them to be able to get everything in near spotless position in only 2 hours’ time.

The movie’s original charm is also affected by the fact that films like Home Alone and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off have had similar plots and stronger cult followings, but there’s still plenty of engaging moments. Watching Cruise dance around in his underwear to a Bob Segar song is hilarious. His precarious attempts to save the Porsche from going into the lake is really funny as is his interview with a college admissions dean from Princeton (Richard Masur) in Joel’s home while prostitutes and their customers scurry all around.

( Joel’s house as it appears today.)

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: August 5, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 39Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Brickman

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

Losin’ It (1983)

losin it

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Road trip to Tijuana

Four classmates (Tom Cruise, Jackie Earle Haley, John Stockwell, and John P. Navin Jr.) load up into a 1957 Red Chevrolet Bel Air to take a trip down to Tijuana where they to hope to lose their virginity to the local prostitutes. Unfortunately they end up getting more than they bargained for as they get harassed by one of the local cops (Henry Darrow) as well as taking on an added passenger by the name of Kathy (Shelley Long) who they meet at a convenience store in the midst of a fight that she is having with her husband and now wants to hitch a ride with them so she can get a quickie divorce.

Although the plot description may sound sleazy this is by far one of the better raunchy teen comedies to come out of the ‘80s. The film was directed by noted horror director Curtis Hanson and written by the prolific Bill L. Norton. The production values are high and although not actually filmed in the real Tijuana it still gives the viewer a realistic sense of the both the street and party scene that is down there. The characters are more multi-dimensional than in the typical teen comedy and the action remains realistic with humor that is amusing without getting overblown.

The film does shift uncomfortably in tone during the second half and features some unpleasant scenes including having one of the boys thrown into a dirty and dangerous Mexican prison while another gets hung up in midair by a crane while being threatened with a blow torch. Initially I didn’t like this shift, but the film still manages to keep things interesting and culminates in a funny car chase back to the border, which due to what the characters have gone through, is more thrilling than in most comedies simply because the viewer is genuinely wrapped up into their plight to get out of there.

Cruise gives an outstanding performance playing completely against type as he is nowhere near his usual cocky self here and instead comes off as shy and awkward and even has the embarrassment of being unable to ‘rise-to-the-occasion’ when alone with one of the women. Haley is quite energetic and funny and Navin as his baby faced kid brother, who’s more sensible than the rest of them despite being the youngest, is a real scene stealer. Darrow, best known for playing Zorro, gets one of his better latter career roles as the corrupt cop.

The film is supposed to take place in 1965 instead of the ‘80s and I wasn’t sure why as what the characters go through could have easily taken place in either decade. The title tune, which gets played both at the beginning and end of the flick, has a very strong ‘80’s sound, which seems jarring and out-of-place in a picture that supposedly has a ‘60’s setting.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 22, 1983

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated R

Director: Curtis Hanson

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD

Cocktail (1988)

cocktail

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Chasing the American dream.

Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise) is an ambitious young man looking to somehow make it big in the business world. He reads all sorts of books detailing strategies to become rich, but finds that without a college degree his options are limited. After numerous rejections he finally gets a job as a bartender where he becomes friends with Doug (Bryan Brown). The two make a good team behind the counter and get promoted to a ritzy nightclub, but they end up having a falling out and Brian starts up a bar in Jamaica as well as a romance with Jordan (Elisabeth Shue) only to have Doug reappear years later with a tempting job offer that Brian isn’t so sure he can refuse.

Although Cruise is engaging and does quite well in the role I couldn’t help but feel that he has played this same type of cocky, ambitious type of character in just about all the movies that he has been in. It would be nice to see him play some sort of timid, shy introvert once just to prove that he has some actual acting range.

Brown is good in support and I liked their contrasting ages. Shue is always beautiful and solid and Kelly Lynch who plays Doug’s wife Kerry gets points simply for looking really hot in a thong bikini.

The story has a great start and I thoroughly enjoyed the first half. I’ve worked as a bartender and felt that the film captures both the bar and club atmosphere accurately as well as the hectic demands of the position. In fact the on-location shooting is splendid both in the scenes done in New York as well as the islands and the interior and exterior backdrops give the film a nice added texture.

There are also some really amusing scenes here including Brian’s many futile job interviews and his dealings with an arrogant college professor that is played perfectly on cue by the late Paul Benedict. I had high hopes for the film and felt it had a great foundation for a modern day rags-to-riches story, which is where it should’ve stayed. Unfortunately the second half devolves too much into the romantic and relationship angle. To some degree I went with it, but it ends up taking over the whole plot making it generic and losing the nice gritty edge that it had at the beginning. The final thirty minutes are filled with a lot of over-the-top dramatic twists that turns the whole things into a corny soap opera that ultimately overshadows the good points.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 29, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated R

Director: Roger Donaldson

Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video