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RYAN O'NEAL & LAWRENCE TIERNEY IN 'TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE'

Ryan O'Neal and Lawrence Tierney in TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE Year: 1987 Rates: **1/2

Ryan O’Neal’s infamous “Oh Man Oh God” moment, while awful and embarrassing, taken on its own accord... linked all over the Internet... within context of an equally bizarre vehicle, just sort of comes and goes, coinciding with a cheesy spinning camera-glide in this Neo Noir thriller with little thrills, tons of intentionally pulpy dialogue that Norman Mailer, who directed based on his novel turned screenplay, purposely borrows from the likes of Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane...

Although there weren’t many cocaine addicts written about back in those dime novel days; at least not for an aimless anti-hero to be involved with without a second thought. Enter O’Neal’s low-rent ex-con writer, Tim Madden, literally counting the days with shaving cream on a mirror of his missing wife's beachfront mansion...

Ryan O'Neal and Lawrence Tierney in TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE

Beginning as Tim finds his dad sitting reposeful in the living room, and Lawrence "the original DILLINGER" Tierney, a man who reigned genuine terror in the true crime flicks of yesteryear (and would growl in RESERVOIR DOGS a few years later), actually has a reason for baldness...

His surprisingly subdued, world-weary Dougy Madden is suffering from the after-effects of chemotherapy. The conversations with his son, including banal dialogue seeming like adlibs from a macho actor's workshop, are...

Ryan O'Neal and Lawrence Tierney in TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE

O'NEAL: "You always worried I'd turn out queer" TIERNEY: "Your mother was delicate, she spoiled you a lot." O'NEAL: "Well I did my three years in the slammer standing up, no one made me a punk." TIERNEY "Good for you... I didn't want to ask..." is how, instead of the usual narration, we're provided exposition through this steamy, uneven tale centering on O’Neal trying to figure out how the severed skull of a woman got buried in the woods, and why he knows the exact location.

The sporadic O'Neal/Tierney wordplay is performed good yet awkwardly leads to each flashback sequence: a keyword is repeated at the end of the present time and the start of the backstory... just in case you missed it. A sort of Film Noir for Dummies. And Mailer throws in a score of naked bodies and taboo subjects that end up serving as wallpaper.

Francis Fisher as one of two Dead Herrings smokes in an old school fashion

The second-billed and not very important "one that got away" ingénue Isabella Rossellini aside, if any particular dame steals the picture it’s femme fatalle Patty Lareine...

Who is played by blonde actress Debra Sandlund (now Debra Stipe), chewing scenery without chomping too loud, knowing just how to play kitsch unlike O’Neal in his “Oh God” moment or Wings Hauser, who goes his usual overboard after being subtle for most of the film...

Deborah Sandlund with Ryan O'Neal in TOUGH GUY'S DON'T DANCE

The real problem with TOUGH GUYS is the direction by Norman Mailer, but that’s not exactly true… For DANCE doesn’t seem like there’s any real direction at all. As if the actors are performing in a vacuum; their characters exist on a treadmill course throughout the gorgeous New England beach locale...

And while O’Neal has lived to regret his performance, it’s not that god-awful, and he’s a comfortable enough shoe to trudge along the muddled plotline: For when our man vanishes for twenty long minutes, taken over by tormented simpleton John Bedford Lloyd as… someone’s crazy lover… what was once aimed downhill reaches rock bottom, with vengeance.

Clarence Williams III as a chauffeur who literally drives the wife away
Lawrence Tierney with a rare grin
"I don't want to do the 'Oh God Oh Man' line, can you tell Norman for me?"
A climatic Wings Hauser during a nice dissolve
Isabella Rossellini and Debra Sandlund between Ryan O'Neal in Tough Guys Don't Dance
Patty Lareine played by Debra Sandlund in TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE

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