Saturday, August 1, 2020

Movie Reviews: The Big Town

The Big Town
directed by Ben Bolt
This 1987 neo-noir film wasn't earth shattering in terms of story, acting, or direction. The viewer can call out most of the twists and turns ahead of time. I still found it entertaining. 

A fatherless young man has an awesome once in a life time skill. Supported and trained by his enigmatic father replacement figure the young man decides he's ready for the big time. Becoming (in)famous the Kid proceeds to shock and awe his rivals while making time with two attractive ladies. 

One lady is a good girl, the other not so much. The Kid must determine which woman is good for him and not just good to him. The Kid learns that people aren't always what they seem. Eventually the Kid must make some life and death moral choices. 

This movie's brash young man is J.C. "Cully" Cullen (Matt Dillon, who apparently has aged only slightly in the intervening thirty three years: good genes and clean living or deals with Infernal Powers?), a small town Indiana gambler and gas station worker who wants more. 

Although his mother discourages it, Cully loves hearing stories of gambling and fun times in Chicago from his mentor, Carl Hooker (Don Francks) who, along with Cully's father, once ran with the Windy City's gamblers. 

Hooker has looked out for Cully ever since Cully's wastrel father died. Hooker thinks that Cully is the best craps player he's ever seen. Hooker believes Cully will be far better than Hooker ever was. Cully quits his job. Armed with Hooker's lucky silver dollar, Hooker's enthusiastic support, and his mother's reluctant approval, Cully departs for Chicago. 

There, gifted with Hooker's reference, Cully meets his new employer Ferguson (Lee Grant). Cully is surprised to discover Ferguson is a woman. 

Ferguson is no nonsense. She quickly explains that she will be bankrolling Cully's dice gambling for a pretty hefty cut (70%) of his winnings. Ferguson has rules. If Cully should break those, he's out. 

Ferguson's husband, Mr. Edwards (Bruce Dern) is blind. He dislikes Cully from the start. Ferguson assigns one of her employees, the extroverted and bigoted Sonny (David Marshall Grant) to show Cully the ropes. Cully makes a rep immediately. He really IS that good. Learning that there's a big game where he can bet his own money, Cully attends that game and breaks it. However that game is run by the cold mobster George Cole (Tommy Lee Jones), who wants his money back by hook or by crook. Cole also runs a strip club, in which his wife Lorry Dane (Diane Lane) works. 

Having taken a lot of Cole's money, Cully thinks about taking Cole's wife as well. Lorry is giving Cully THAT look. Lorry has her own plans. Meanwhile Cully is also seeking companionship from Aggie Donaldson (Suzy Amis) a shy single mother who shares Cully's interest in (Black) rock-n-roll and jazz, something which GREATLY agitates the otherwise friendly Sonny.

Cully is not that innocent but he is more than a little naive. The soundtrack was good. This was the third movie that Dillon and Lane appeared in together. They had good chemistry. This film has a lot of semi-nudity. The violence is muted. Although the sets are limited, I thought the movie successfully invoked the spirit of 1950s Chicago. 

I liked Tommy Lee Jones' depiction of barely controlled belligerence. He's like a wolf who stalks up to you , growls and then decides for whatever reason that you're not worth his trouble. But if he wanted to, he could rip you to shreds. Dillon's Cully is often blissfully unaware of that. 
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