Tequila Sunrise Movie Review

Tequila Sunrise

A Dangerous Mix


Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kurt Russell, Raul Julia

J.T. Walsh, Gabriel Damon, Arliss Howard, Arye Gross, Daniel Zacapa, Eric Thiele, Tom Nolan, Dawn Martel, Lala Sloatman, Budd Boetticher, Ann Magnuson Update Cast

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When the film was first released, the initial teaser trailer for Batman (1989) was attached to prints of the film. When word got out about the teaser, fans were so excited about seeing the teaser that some people paid admission just to get a glimpse of the trailer.

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Mac McKussic (Gibson) is a drug dealer... Or isn't he? It's hard to tell, even to McKussic himself. While he's trying to get out of the business, he keeps on getting sucked back in again. This makes his former friend Nicholas Frescia (Russell) more than a little interested in the exploits of Mac. With beautiful restaurant owner Jo Ann Valenari (Pfeiffer) in a love triangle between Mac and Nick, and a drug dealer named Carlos (Julia) playing on both sides of the law, there's only one way this can end...And that's with a bang.

"Tequila Sunrise" is a drug drama, one of those movies that's as recognizable to 80s film fans as the teen movie and the homoerotic action flick. The dialogue has the rapid-fire intensity you would expect from Towne, the man behind the screenplay for the brilliant neo-noir "Chinatown". The performances are great as usual for these actors. As Mac, Gibson takes the edginess and ambivalence he displayed as Martin Riggs in "Lethal Weapon" and makes it into something evil. As Nick, Russell displays his trademark combination of smiling cynicism and razor's edge rage. As Jo Ann, Pfeiffer once again has that air of bitterness under a mask of icy beauty. As Carlos, the late Julia shows off the combination of gusto and darkness that made all of his characters so appealing.

There's one aspect of this movie that I haven't really talked about in my other reviews for this site. That aspect is cinematography. Conrad L. Hall's lens tells the story as much as the screenplay does. Three examples of that follow:

On a swing set where Mac and Nick have a conversation, their shilouettes intertwine as if to indicate the bond they have and that they can't break, despite being on opposite sides of the law.

The light that reflects on Mac's striped shirt gives us the idea of his criminal mind. The shirt is reminscent of those worn by prisoners in the days before the orange suits came along.

A love scene with Jo Ann is lit so you can't tell whether she's making love to Mac or Nick.

...Light and shadows make the movie as mysterious as Towne's words.

Author: John Edward KilduffUpdate This Review


The words pack a punch. The bubbling poison in the humorous lines runs paralell to the brute-force dialogue the characters exchange. If it weren't for the sunshine and the happy ending, this movie would've made a great neo-noir.

The performances are wonderful. Pfeiffer is beautiful and aloof, while Gibson and Russell are handsome and hard-edged.

The cinematography is stunning in its' stylishness. Smoke and mirrors aren't just magic tricks...They're the tools of a master craftsman, and Hall definitely was one. While it should've won the Oscar, it had some tough competition, including the eventual winner "Mississippi Burning", as well as fellow nominees "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "The Unbearable Lightness Of Being" (the only one that shouldn't have been nominated in that category was the overrated "Rain Man"). I digress, though.

This movie is recommended to those who appreciate a good mystery/thriller. The movie has a dark beauty that will stun you.

The performances, the script and the lighting...Put them together, and there's no faults at all.

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The Movie Data

Key Crew

Director: Robert Towne
Writer: Robert Towne
Producers: Thom Mount, Tom Shaw
Locations Manager:

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Release Date: 02 Dec 1988
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Warner Brothers
Production: The Mount Company, Warner Bros. Pictures
Genre: Thriller

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The Movie Trailer
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1988 Warner Brothers
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