Blu-ray Review: Tough Guys

Over their long and illustrious careers, Burt Lancaster and Kurt Douglas made seven films together. The final pairing, Tough Guys, isn’t their best, but it’s a fitting swan song, offering humor, and a little bit of the swagger that helped make both men Hollywood legends. Appropriate as well, Tough Guys is the story of two old friends, Harry (Lancaster) and Archie (Douglas), who after being locked up for thirty years for staging the last train robbery are being released from prison. The world has changed a lot in three decades…

Initially, the guys are excited to hit the streets again, but it doesn’t take them long to realize that 1980’s Los Angeles isn’t the glittering city they once knew. Archie’s parole officer gets him a job as a busboy, but he can’t stand the insults from customers. Harry reluctantly checks into a retirement home, but soon grows tired of being treated like a senior citizen.

Inevitably, they return to a life of crime. After they successfully stick up an armored car, their future plans are complicated by Detective Deke (Charles Dunning), the arresting officer from the original train heist, and Leon (Eli Wallach) a hitman determined to pull off two assassinations after three decades of waiting for his shot; no matter that he’s nearsighted.

Tough Guys is strongest during the first half, when Harry and Archie are struggling to adjust to modern Los Angeles. Eager to revisit old haunts, Archie is stunned to discover his favorite nightclub is now a gay bar, he’s also forced to confront a new co-ed world at his gym, and women in body-hugging attire. Meanwhile, Harry leads a revolt in his retirement home while romancing old flame Belle (Alexis Smith), reaffirming his distrust of authority, and fondness for sex.

Talented, old pro’s like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas were born to play Harry and Archie. The problems in the second half happen because screenwriters James Orr and Criuckshank decided to have them step back into crime with an immediate success. It might have worked better if Harry and Archie were a little bit fallible, or nervous. After all, they’ve been locked up for thirty years, a little nervousness would be understandable. But as they’d done throughout their lengthy careers, Burt Lancaster and Kurt Douglas did the best they could with a mediocre script.

Let’s face it. Tough Guys offers one more opportunity to see Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas on screen on last time. This film has a rather light tone, and the two have a remarkable sense of comic timing, and chemistry with each other.

Presented in the 2.34:1 aspect ratio, Tough Guys has a wonderful 1980’s look. Colors are exaggerated throughout much of the presentation, but remain true to the source. Lots of bold colors appear vivid, and appropriate. Faces appear natural. Detail is strong, capturing the fibrous suits of the decade. Delineation is solid throughout. The level of grain it’s fine, and filmic. I did notice a few thick scratches during the main titles, but that seems inherent to the film.

The 2.0 DTS-HD MA mix won’t blow away, but it maintains its 1980’s feel. It handles action beats well, offer the necessary punch without overdoing it. Sound effects are surprisingly loud and deep, delivering train crashes and other alterations with appropriate force. Atmospherics are clear and detailed, providing a nice sense of the surroundings. Dialogue is clean, clear and concise.

English SDH subtitles are included.

The following extras are available.

  • Commentary with Director Jeff Kanew: This guy gives a very laid back commentary. As things move along he talks about the shoot, the script, the actors (and their occasional crankiness), and more.
  • Trailers:
    • The Devil’s Disciple
    • The Scalphunters
    • Cast a Giant Shadow
    • Run Silent, Run Deep
    • The Vikings
    • The Unforgiven
    • The Indian Fighter

Movie title: Tough Guys (1986)

Director(s): Jeff Kanew

Actor(s): Burt Lancaster , Kirk Douglas , Charles Durning , Alexis Smith , Dana Carvey , Darlanne Fluegel

Genre: Comedy

  • Movie
    (3.5)
  • Video
    (4.5)
  • Audio
    (4.5)
  • Extras
    (1)
3.4
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