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The daily Tar Heel. (Chapel Hill, N.C.) 1946-current, December 08, 1988, Page 20, Image 20

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DTHOmnibus Thursday, December 8, 19889 thickens like mud in Sunrise5 The plot By JAr.'ZS DEAN Staff writer There really hasnt been a good thriller out In ages. Recently, James . Cameron's "Aliens" is the only movie that has had me sitting on the edge of my seat with my mind racing. But that was set in another time and another place. "No Way Out" almost did the same, but was spoiled by an unbelievably stupid ending. Both these films were a while ago now. Last year's only offering was Roman Polanski's pseudo-Hitchcockian "Frantic," which, in spite of some astonishing critical praise, was as bad and embarrassing as any film I have ever seen. For a writer, Robert Towne, the director of Tequila Sunrise, has a reputation in Hollywood that is more or less unparalleled, even though he has not made a film for six years "Personal Best" was his last effort and the works that made him famous; "China town" and "Shampoo," are almost 15 years old now. He made "Chi natown" with Polanski, and even today it looks as fresh and exciting as any film around. Towne's exem plary screenplay and Polanski's direction were more or less flaw less, and together they produced one of the most clever and stylish thrillers of ail time. But that was clearly a while ago. Before he made "Tequila Sunrise" Towne visited Polanski in Paris to help him with the script for "Frantic" Clearly to no avail On the face of it, "Tequila Sun rise" seems to have the potential to be a great thriller. Written by Towne. the plot promises to be both well-written and intricate, and the cast brings together the attractive and not untalented combination of Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt RusselL Unfortunately, the film never gets close to fulfilling its potential Towne's plot simply tries to be too clever for its own good. He spends so much time developing ambiguities and red herrings that he forgets that the key to any thriller is to create tension. His story revolves around two high school buddies. Nick Freesher (Kurt Russell) and Dale McKussic (Mel Gibson), who have remained friends despite the fact that Freesher is a cop and McKussic is a big-time drug dealer. This friend ship is further strained when Freesher has instructions to arrest McKussic for his drug dealings. Without sufficient evidence, how ever, Freesher is required merely to obtain information from him about a shipment of drugs coming in from a big dealer in Mexico, in an attempt to get closer to his clandestine activites, Freesher befriends the hostess of McKussiCs favorite restaurant (Michelle Pfeiffer), since he suspects that she is collaborating with him. Forgive me if this is boring and overly complicated, but so was the film. Towne tries so hard to develop the backgrounds of the charcters and make sure that he gives them some breadth, that he more or less suspends the action after the initial chase sequence. The story really could have been exciting it just never takes off. Towne leaves too much unsaid and unexplained without making dear what is and is not important, and without ultimately incorporating everything into the final condu sioa He falls to show an important character being killed, and he barely even refers to the failure of a crucial set-up created to capture McKussic On the flip side, he gives undue importance to irrelevant details, which simply enhances the confu sion of the plot unnecessarily. It's ail very well being dever, but you have to let someone in on what you're being dever about. Towne also fails to establish a consistent mood and direction for the film. He tries to balance the intricacies of the story with twists of humor, but they dont work. At one stage, the police are surround ing McKussirt house in an attempt to capture the Mexican drugs leader at a "party" that they've heard about, when a whole load of kids run out into the garden with balloons and party hats. It turns out that it's McKussic's son's birthday party. This really could have been funny, .but Towne flattens the joke by staying at the party for about 15 minutes, while McKussic gives out hot dogs, and the cops stand around looking stupid and wondering what to do next. By the time the climax arrives, the damage is done. Towne man ages to weave in a few more plot twists, which again fail to create the impact they should, and then makes a mess of the action to such an extent that it becomes more confusing than exdting. His over concern with the sensibilities of the characters destroys the pro gression of the film, which no amount of exploding speedboats can bring back to life. Irrthe lead roles, Russell, Gibson and Pfeiffer work well together. All three are a cut above, most mainstream Hollywood stars. They develop their characters consistently, and their eventual sho tcomings are as much the faut of the script as anything. Towne does manage to leave some imprint on the film. Once it gets going, his sparkling dialogue is a joy to listen to. Also, some of the scenes, especially the conver sation between McKussic and Freesher on the swings with the sunset in the background, are beautifully filmed. But neither of these aspects can redeem the emptiness of the rest of the film. And it is a shame. "Tequila Sunrise" really should have been a good film, it had the cast, it had the writer, and it had a potentially thrilling story. Just like "China town," actually. "Chinatown," however, was well-directed, and permanent tension for the audience by raising intriguing questions and answering them at the right time. Of "Tequila Sunrise," this cannot be said. The Naked Gun' has silly aim By LESLEY BARTLETT Staff Writer Fans of "Police Squad" will be thrilled to discover The Naked Gun, a recently released movie, which continues in the slapstick tradition of the television series, the movie focuses , on Lt. Frank Drebin. still played by the polished, silver-haired Leslie Nielsen. Any success of the film should be credited to Nielsen, who submits his usual comical performance. The movie suffers mainly from discontinuity. Four writers, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Pat Proft collaborated on the script and, judging from the finished product, each wrote separate parts and then patched them together. The result forms a single, disjointed story. The first five minutes of the movie follow Lt. Drebin as he demolishes an international terrorist ring. The next 25 minutes concentrate on a police officer who is shot at the docks in Los Angeles during a thwarted heroin bust. The remainder of the film focuses on the "Police Squad " spedfically on Drebin, as he struggles to protect Queen Elizabeth II from an assas sination attempt during her visit to Los Angeles. The story lines are incredibly tangential. If you do venture out to see this film, dont expect to find a clever, or even clear, plot. Likewise, "The Naked Gun" should not be seen by anyone unwilling to check his refined mind at the front door. The bulk of the humor is derived from crude jokes about biological functions and parts of the anatomy, which eventually become quite irritating. The jokes are stale, and, even in Nielsen's capable hands, they cant be pulled off. The script naturally indudes the stock dumb blonde, played by Priscilla Presley, who serves as Drebin's love interest. To her credit, Presley does a good job with the flat character she is given, although it's obvious that she lacks Nielsen's experience with comedy. But if you're willing to overlook these less-than-creative stabs at humor, the movie does contain some genuinely funny lines, in one scene, Lt Drebin brags that he shot five deviants dressed in togas who were violently stabbing a man in the park, only to be reminded by the mayor that, in reality, he had shot five actors in the middle of a Shakespeare in the Park rendi tion of "Julius Ceasar." Although this scene is minor and is executed with little effort, it perfectly illustrates what Nielsen can do with a fresh, original script. The final 20 minutes of the movie are equally hilarious with Drebin disguised as an umpire at a California Angels baseball game. He attempts to uncover the Queen's prospective assassin by frisking the players as they step to the plate. Nielsen's animated acting and particularly his fadal expressions really bring life to this part otthe fiira .... in general, "The Naked Gun" does not live up to its predecessors. Jerry Zucker, Abrahams and David Zucker previously combined their efforts on both "Airplane" and "Ruthless People" with positive, effective results. Conversely, their current endeavor seems little more than a series of sketches which barely relate to each other. This lack of continuity couid be pardoned if the main focus of the film, the humor, benefitted from it. But the humor itself is not sustained consistently through out the film, and actually suffers more when the story line is undear. Once the plot is settled, there are moments when the movie shines, but these moments are too few to consider the movie an overall success. miYC Top 20 1. Sonic Voutfi 2 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds 3. Waterboys 4. Dinosaur Jr. 5. Downsiders 6 time Spiders 7. FLEJtfL S. Fairground Attraction 9. Lilac Time 10, Go Betweens U. Julian Cope 12. Scrawl 13. Penelope Houston 14. Danielle Dax 15. Scruffy the Cat 16 KteOiPPer XT. The Scene is Now 18. Steve Ear Je 19. Squalls, 20. 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