Time for a buddy film today – the 1991 crime drama offering from director Simon Wincer (“The Phantom”, “Free Willy”), the snappily titled “Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man”.
The movie opens with a shirtless biker Harley Davidson (Mickey Rourke – “Homeboy”, “9½ Weeks”) smoking in a motel room, while a naked woman lies on the bed. Without so much as a word, as Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead Or Alive” plays, Harley leaves the room, gets on his motorbike (you know the make, right?!) and splits.
When we meet cowboy Marlboro (Don Johnson – “Miami Vice”, “Cold In July”) he is trying to hustle some native Americans over a game of pool, a plan which isn’t going too well and after a good old bar fight Marlboro leaves with his long-term friend Harley.
When the pair discover that their favourite bar is about to be closed due to the rent being skyrocketed by the bank they have an obvious solution. They’ll team up and rob the bank in question of the amount of cash needed to keep the bar permanently open. As you would.
Things go a little awry, however, when they hold up the bank’s armoured van and discover that instead of shed loads of cash they’ve actually stolen a designer drug called Crystal Dream that the bank’s corrupt president Chance Wilder (Tom Sizemore – “Heat”, “Blue Steel”) was dealing in to supplement his income.
Wilder is more than a little keen to retrieve his missing drugs and so begins a kind of cat and mouse game between him (and his seemingly indestructible black trenchcoat-clad killers) and Harley and Marlboro.
There is a side story about Marlboro’s involvement with a married motorbike cop called Virginia Slim (Chelsea Field – “Extreme Justice, “Flipper”), and other notable appearances include nightclub singer Lulu Daniels (Vanessa Williams – “Eraser”, “Hoodlum”) and the lead black trenchcoat-clad killer Alexander (Daniel Baldwin – “Mulholland Falls”, “Vampires”).
With character names being taken from brands (Harley Davidson, Marlboro, Virginia Slim (cigarettes), Jack Daniels (whiskey) and Jose Cuervo (tequila), the big question is whether the film is a kind of warning of the impending dangers of brand globalisation, or whether the scriptwriters just couldn’t come up with original character names.
For me, the jury’s out on that one. This is a film that falls firmly into cult classic territory. Is it terrible? Or is it knowingly taking the mickey out of itself? Some of the dialogue that Rourke and Johnson have to deliver suggests the latter, but at the same time the movie does seem to be terribly serious – at least in terms of appearing very cool.
There is a decent rock soundtrack, plenty of 90s MTV music video style cinematography, bikes, guns, babes, bikes, guns, explosions, bikes, guns… So who knows? What I do know is that regardless of its artistic merits (or lack of) I had a good time watching the film. And at the end of the day that’s probably the most important thing…