Tough Guys

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Tough Guys
Tough guys.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jeff Kanew
Produced by Joe Wizan
Written by James Cruikshank
James Orr
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography King Baggot
Edited by Kaja Fehr
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date
October 3, 1986
Running time
104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18 million
Box office $21,458,229

Tough Guys is a 1986 action comedy film starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Eli Wallach, Charles Durning, Dana Carvey (in his film debut) and Darlanne Fluegel. It was directed by Jeff Kanew. This was the first film to be released under the banner of Touchstone Pictures rather than Touchstone Films.

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 (Lancaster) and Archie Long (Douglas) are gangsters who've served a 30-year prison sentence for hijacking a Southern Pacific train called The Gold Coast Flyer, ready to collect Social Security.

Their parole officer, Richie Evans (Carvey), who seems to be more of a fan of historically notable criminals than a representative of law enforcement, meets Harry and Archie at the gates and offers them a ride. Meanwhile, Leon B. Little (Eli Wallach), an elderly hit man with bad eyesight who still has an outstanding contract on them, immediately tries to kill them. Harry and Archie manage to get away.

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's past the mandatory retirement age of 70. Archie, still allowed to work at age 67, takes a job 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.

Both are in for a shock at how much the world has changed from 1956 to 1986—clothing, sexual lifestyles (their favorite bar is now a gay club for men), lack of respect from the younger generation, and the advance of technology. Archie's young restaurant manager treats him poorly while Harry is denied proper food by a nasty orderly and is given even worse treatment by the retirement home's even nastier manager.

Harry reconnects with an old flame named Belle (Alexis Smith), and reminisces about old times. Archie embraces the contemporary scene, listening to new wave music, asking out a much younger woman, Skye (Darlanne Fluegel), and dressing in faddish clothes. Though both their relationships go well, neither Archie nor Harry seems to fit in society anymore.

Tired of trying to adjust, Harry and Archie go back to their old ways. First they try to rob a bank with members of their old gang, but all are now either crippled, invalids or dead. Then they hijack an armored truck, only to find it empty except for a roll of quarters. When the media mock them for their blunder and mistake them for younger men in masks, Archie decides to hijack the Gold Coast Flyer again as it makes its final southbound run. Harry refuses, but Archie decides to do it anyway with or without his help.

Archie stops the Flyer just as it's leaving the railyard and is soon joined by Harry. The media and dignitaries aboard are surprised, but Harry and Archie gladly answer their questions and pose for pictures. To their surprise, Leon arrives and explains why he's after them: an old enemy of theirs paid him $25,000 and he has waited 30 years for them to get out of jail. Deke Yablonski (Charles Durning), the police officer who first arrested Harry and Archie, soon arrives with a full SWAT team. Richie, disguised as a SWAT officer, boards the train and starts it moving again.

Harry, Archie, Richie and Leon temporarily join forces. They decide to take the train to Mexico, but unfortunately the tracks end a few feet from the border. Harry throws Leon from the cab; the hit man vows to get them even if it takes another 30 years. Archie then takes Richie back to the coaches and uncouples the train, advising Richie to tell the police that he was kidnapped. 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. A Mexican border patrol arrives to arrest them. A tough guy till the end, Archie kicks the lead officer in the groin.


Adolph Caesar was originally cast as Leon B. Little, but died of complications from a heart attack before the film was finished.


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 play themselves in the movie, performing a song never heard outside of 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 during the ending credits.


The locomotive Southern Pacific 4449 played the Gold Coast Flyer. It was also used to pull the American Freedom Train exhibit during the 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.


Tough Guys received mixed to some positive reviews by critics. It received an approval rating of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 13 reviews.[1]

Roger Ebert gave the film a 2 out of 4 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".[2]

See also[edit]

Other crime caper films involving older perpetrators include:


External links[edit]