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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jeff Kanew|
|Produced by||Joe Wizan|
|Written by||James Cruikshank|
|Music by||James Newton Howard|
|Edited by||Kaja Fehr|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Distribution|
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 was the first film to be released under the banner of Touchstone Pictures rather than Touchstone Films. It was also the final film to be released from Douglas' 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), 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, their roles were more or less of equal importance. Tough Guys was their final collaboration.
Harry Doyle (Burt Lancaster) and Archie Long (Kirk Douglas) are gangsters who have served a 30-year prison sentence for hijacking a Southern Pacific train called The Gold Coast Flyer in 1956. When they are released from prison in 1986, their parole officer, Richie Evans (Dana Carvey), meets Harry and Archie at the gates and offers them a ride to collect their Social Security. Meanwhile, Leon B. Little (Eli Wallach), an elderly hitman with bad eyesight who still has an outstanding contract on them, immediately tries to kill them but Harry and Archie manage to get away.
Later at the bank, the duo stop a bank robbery by taking down the two young armed gunmen, one of whom faints when un-armed Harry and Archie turn the tables on them. Then, outnumbered 3-to-one each, the duo trash six young street punks trying to rob them. At Richie's office, they are informed of the conditions of their parole. Harry, at age 72, is committed to a retirement community; despite his desire to work, he is informed he is past the mandatory retirement age of 70. Archie, still allowed to work at age 67, takes a job first at an ice cream parlor and later a restaurant. They are told not to have further contact with each other for at least three years, and are closely monitored by Richie and his superior, Deke Yablonski (Charles Durning), the police officer who first arrested the duo.
Both Harry and Archie are in for a shock at how much the world has changed from 1956 to 1986: clothing, sexual lifestyles (their old bar is now an openly gay men's club, women are more assertive), the advance of technology, and lack of respect from the younger generation. Archie's young female restaurant manager treats him badly, while Harry is denied proper food by a nasty retirement home orderly and receives much worse treatment from the home's even nastier female manager. Harry reconnects with an old flame named Belle (Alexis Smith), 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 (Darlanne Fluegel), sets her sights on Archie as the only "real man" there. She gets Archie to adopt faddish clothes and invites him to a trendy disco nightclub where they gyrate to new wave music, and they 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 they try to reassemble their old gang for a bank robbery, but all surviving members are now either crippled or invalids. Then they hijack an armored truck, only to find it empty except for a roll of quarters, and are mocked by the media for their blunder. Meanwhile, Leon tracks Richie down at his office and retrieves the information on Harry's retirement home. He proceeds to hold Richie and Belle hostage at the retirement home until he sees Harry and Archie arrive and opens fire. Richie punches Leon to the ground and quickly escapes with the duo; before blaming 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 and asks Harry and Richie for their help. When both refuse to take part for moral reasons, Archie decides to do it anyway.
Archie 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. To their surprise, Leon arrives and explains that he had been paid $25,000 to kill them by an old enemy of theirs and he has waited 30 years for them to get out of jail. Deke soon arrives with a full SWAT team to capture Harry and Archie, who persuade Leon to call a temporary truce with them as they have never killed anyone in their crimes. As Leon escorts the passengers out of 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 decide to take the train to Mexico, but find that the tracks only end a few feet from 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 Richie to downplay his role in the heist to not destroy his career. Harry and Archie drive 4449 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 arrives to arrest them. A tough guy until the end, Archie kicks the lead officer in the groin.
- Burt Lancaster as Harold "Harry" Doyle
- Kirk Douglas as Archibald "Archie" Long
- Charles Durning as Deke Yablonski
- Alexis Smith as Belle
- Dana Carvey as Richard "Richie" Evans
- Darlanne Fluegel as Skye
- Eli Wallach as Leon B. Little
- Monty Ash as Vince
- Billy Barty as Philly
- Simmy Bow as Schultz
- Darlene Conley as Gladys Ripps
- Nathan Davis as Jimmy Ellis
- Grant Aleksander as Bartender at the gay bar "Mickey's Bar"
The Red Hot Chili Peppers play themselves in the movie, performing 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 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.
Tough Guys received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 57% based on 14 reviews. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 54 out of 100, based on eleven critics, indicating "Mixed or average reviews".
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.” Roger Ebert gave the film a two out of four stars, stating, "Watching Tough Guys, you begin to meditate. You look at Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, and you remember years and years of moviegoing, Tough Guys might have been better if Douglas and Lancaster had played characters who were a little more fallible, humble and realistic".
Other crime caper films involving older perpetrators include:
- Robert W. Stewart (March 7, 1986). "Adolph Caesar : Fatal Heart Attack Fells Actor on Set". latimes.com. Retrieved July 19, 2020.
- "Tough Guys (1986)". Rotten Tomatoes.
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