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Tough Guys

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Tough Guys
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJeff Kanew
Written byJames Cruikshank
James Orr
Produced byJoe Wizan
CinematographyKing Baggot
Edited byKaja Fehr
Music byJames Newton Howard
Distributed byBuena Vista Distribution
Release date
  • October 3, 1986 (1986-10-03)
Running time
104 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$21.5 million (US/Canada)[2]

Tough Guys is a 1986 American action comedy film directed by Jeff Kanew and starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Eli Wallach, Charles Durning, Dana Carvey, and Darlanne Fluegel. It is the eighth film of Touchstone Pictures, and the final film to be released from Douglas's Bryna Productions.

Lancaster and Douglas had already made several films together, including I Walk Alone (1948), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Devil's Disciple (1959), The List of Adrian Messenger (1963), and Seven Days in May (1964), becoming something of a team in the public's eye. Douglas was always second-billed under Lancaster but, with the exception of I Walk Alone, in which Douglas played a villain, and The List of Adrian Messenger, in which Lancaster cameoed, their roles were more or less of equal importance. Tough Guys was their final collaboration.

Adolph Caesar, who was originally going to star as Leon B. Little, died of complications from a heart attack on the set of the film[3] and was replaced by Eli Wallach.

This was the first film released under the Touchstone Pictures label after Walt Disney Studios changed the name of the label from Touchstone Films, following the release of Ruthless People (1986).


Gangsters Harry Doyle and Archie Long are released from prison after having served a 30-year sentence for hijacking the Southern Pacific train the Gold Coast Flyer in 1956. Their parole officer Richie Evans meets them at the gates, offering them a ride to collect their Social Security. Meanwhile Leon B. Little, an elderly hitman with bad eyesight and an outstanding contract on them, immediately tries to kill them but Harry and Archie get away.

At the bank, the duo stop a robbery by taking down the two young armed gunmen. Then, they trash six young street punks trying to rob them. Richie informs them of their parole conditions. Harry, at 72, is committed to a retirement community; despite wanting to work, he is past the mandatory retirement age of 70. Archie, only 67, takes a job first at an ice cream parlor and later a restaurant. They cannot have further contact with each other for at least three years, and are closely monitored by Richie and Deke Yablonski, the officer who first arrested them.

Both Harry and Archie are in shock at how much the world has changed: clothing, sexuality (their old bar is now an openly gay men's club, women are more assertive), technology, and disrespect from youth. Archie's young female restaurant manager mistreats him, while Harry is denied proper food by a nasty retirement home orderly and the female manager is even nastier. Harry reconnects with his old flame Belle, and they sweetly reminisce about old times.

Archie embraces the much changed contemporary scene and at a unisex high-tech gym, the young manager Skye decides he is the only "real man" there. She gets Archie to adopt faddish clothes and invites him to a trendy disco nightclub, they gyrate to new wave music, and start a steamy affair which aging Archie cannot sustain.

Tired of trying to adjust to 1980s society under the eyes of the law, Harry and Archie go back to their old ways. First, trying to reassemble their old gang for a bank robbery, all surviving members are now either crippled or invalids. When they hijack an armored truck, they find it empty except for a roll of quarters, and are mocked by the media. To add insult to injury, they are mistaken for younger, disguised men.

Meanwhile, Leon tracks Richie down at his office and finds Harry's retirement home. He holds him and Belle hostage until Harry and Archie arrive and opens fire. Richie knocks Leon down and quickly escapes with them, then blames himself for getting them into trouble.

Archie decides to hijack the Gold Coast Flyer again as it makes its final southbound run after 50 years, asking Harry and Richie for help. Both refuse for moral reasons, so Archie decides to do it alone. He stops the Flyer just as it is leaving the railroad yard and is soon joined by Harry, having had a change of heart.

The media and dignitaries aboard are surprised, although Harry and Archie gladly answer their questions and pose for pictures as they identify themselves and their ages. To their surprise, Leon arrives and explains that he had been paid $25,000 to kill them by their old enemy and he has waited 30 years for their release.

Deke soon arrives with a full SWAT team to capture Harry and Archie, who persuade Leon to call a temporary truce as they have never killed anyone in their crimes. As Leon escorts the passengers off the train, Richie, disguised as a SWAT officer, sneaks aboard and gets it moving again to help Harry and Archie escape before Deke can arrest them.

Harry, Archie, Richie, and Leon take the train towards Mexico, but find that the tracks end just before the border. Harry pushes Leon off the train, to which he vows revenge. Archie then takes Richie back to the coaches and uncouples the train, advising he downplay his role in the heist to not destroy his career. Harry and Archie drive the locomotive at full throttle through a fusillade of bullets from U.S. border police. They crash through, burying the engine partially in the soil of Mexico a few feet across the border, where a Mexican border patrol arrests them.

True to their tough guy credo, Harry and Archie raise their hands but talk back to the patrol's commanding officer, leaving him puzzled enough to give Archie an opening to kick him in the groin.



Kenny Rogers sings the opening theme song "They Don't Make Them Like They Used To".

Janet Jackson sings the song, "Nasty," during Harry and Archie's lesson in Street Fighting with a local street gang.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers briefly appear in the film where they performed a song never heard outside this film: "Set It Straight". No soundtrack album was released, and frontman Anthony Kiedis was quoted as saying they recorded it solely for the movie and had no intention of releasing it themselves.

The 1977 Bing Crosby recording of Duke Ellington's "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" is featured.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds song "Tuff Enuff" plays in the armored truck hijacking scene on the truck's radio and during the ending credits.


Adolph Caesar was originally cast as Leon B. Little, but the actor died unexpectedly only a few weeks into filming. His completed scenes were re-shot with his replacement Eli Wallach.[4]

The locomotive Southern Pacific 4449 played the Gold Coast Flyer. It was also used to pull the American Freedom Train during the United States Bicentennial, now based in Portland, Oregon.

The locomotive engineer is played by Doyle L. McCormack, the man most responsible for the actual restoration of SP 4449. A portion of the Eagle Mountain Railroad was used in the filming of the movie.

During the filming of the exterior shots of SP 4449, the train was stored nightly at the Eagle Mountain rail yards. The local school children from Eagle Mountain School took a field trip in early 1986 to see and tour the train on location along the Eagle Mountain Railroad south of Interstate 10.

As of November 2, 2019, the full size replica prop, which was used at the end of the film, was sold at an Auction to a student at Desert Center, California.[5]


Box office[edit]

The film was released in theaters on October 3, 1986 in the United States making US$4.5 million on its first weekend and would eventually gross $21,458,229 in the United States and Canada.[1][2]

Critical response[edit]

Tough Guys received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 53% based on 15 reviews.[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 54 out of 100, based on eleven critics, indicating "Mixed or average reviews".[7]

Walter Goodman of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, saying, “We know that when the he-men of “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” are picked on by a bunch of callow toughs, the toughs are going to regret they started up. But it's fun anyhow waiting for what it is.”[8] Roger Ebert gave the film a two out of four stars, stating, "'Tough Guys' might have been better if Douglas and Lancaster had played characters who were a little more fallible, humble and realistic".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "AFI listing". Catalog.afi.com. Retrieved 2021-06-19.
  2. ^ a b "Tough Guys". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 2022-05-05.
  3. ^ Robert W. Stewart (March 7, 1986). "Adolph Caesar : Fatal Heart Attack Fells Actor on Set". latimes.com. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  4. ^ "Star-Phoenix from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada on February 26, 1986 · 49". Newspapers.com. 26 February 1986. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  5. ^ "College student saves movie-prop 'Daylight' replica | Trains Magazine". Trn.trains.com. Retrieved 2021-06-19.
  6. ^ "Tough Guys (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes.
  7. ^ "Tough Guys Reviews". Metacritic. 1986-10-03. Retrieved 2021-06-19.
  8. ^ "Screen: 'Tough Guys,' Lancaster And Douglas - The New York Times". The New York Times. 1986-10-03. Retrieved 2021-06-19.
  9. ^ Roger Ebert (1986-10-03). "Tough Guys movie review & film summary (1986)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2021-06-19.

External links[edit]