By Hemanth Kissoon
“You're just an opportunistic prick who'd fuck mud if it'd move a little and not argue too much.” Sarah (Rosanna Arquette) to Matt Scudder (Jeff Bridges).
Jeff Bridges getting his more obscure back catalogue released on DVD can only be a good thing right? Right. Next week we get 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE and THE LAST AMERICAN HERO. It gives me great pleasure to see this unique character actor and leading man hit box office pay-dirt in the last year; TRUE GRIT and TRON: LEGACY (which was admittedly poor) made something like $600 million worldwide at the pictures. Hopefully that signifies his transformation into a movie lightening conductor like Messers DiCaprio and Pitt.
The pedigree behind the camera here is pretty cool: Co-written by Oliver Stone (SCARFACE, CONAN THE BARBARIAN), directed by Hal Ashby (HAROLD AND MAUDE, SHAMPOO) and cinematography from Stephen H. Burum (THE UNTOUCHABLES, RUMBLE FISH). You usually get a haunting score from James Newton Howard (THE DARK KNIGHT, UNBREAKABLE), but for 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE it feels synthesisery (I know that’s not YET a word). This is definitely the 80s, signalled immediately by the neon blue credits à la MIAMI VICE. The opening is a voice-over conversation of cops chatting (including Bridges’ Scudder)about the murder rate, as the camera soars from the point-of-view of a helicopter high over Los Angeles. Scudder is an alcoholic and botches a drug bust, killing a suspect in front of his young family. The guilt triggers the end of his marriage, and career as a detective. Six months later he sobers up and thinks about getting a job at the sheriff’s department. Instead he gets sucked into the world of a prostitute Sunny (Alexandra Paul – BAYWATCH, DRAGNET), who wants to quit the game. She plays on Scudder’s good nature to help. He confronts her pimp, Chance, who says he has gone legit since Scudder was on the force. While trying to protect Sunny, she is brutally murdered and his sobriety is destroyed. You think Bridges was drunk in THE BIG LEBOWSKI, check him out here! He becomes a suspect, along with Chance, and sleazy, pony-tailed drug dealer Angel (Andy Garcia), and in a who-dunnit-stylee strives to solve the crime.
Bridges makes this watchable, with his hugely winning charisma. But this joins AGAINST ALL ODDS as one of his 80s projects which have dated. They are not up there with the likes of TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. or MANHUNTER; those directors’ stylings are so distinctive as to make them, not timeless exactly, but certainly evergreen. 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE is not interesting or different enough, even with that crew and cast.