Tin Men (1987)
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[font=Century Gothic]"Tin Men" takes place in Baltimore, 1963. Minutes after purchasing a brand new Cadillac, successful aluminum siding salesman, BIll 'BB' Babowsky(Richard Dreyfuss), gets into an accident with a rival aluminum siding salesman, Ernest Tilley(Danny Devito), driving his own Cadillac.(I always thought Baltimore was a fairly large city, myself.) Large egos are involved, so vengeance is sworn but since there is an absolute lack of maturity, it's not really in an Old Testament kind of way.(If this was a less civilized time, then dueling would have definitely been an option.) The stakes are raised and this comes to include Tilley's neglected wife, Nora(Barbara Hershey)...[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Writer/director Barry Levinson has a great eye for detail but the story is broadly drawn and hardly believable. For example, Babowsky is nearing middle-age and a bachelor when such things were frowned upon. (I found it hard to believe that in 1963 nobody was talking about starting a family and all of the men seem interested in living a mythic "Rat Pack" kind of lifestyle.) And I have no sympathy for a group of grown men who act like 10-year olds. All of which is a shame because a great supporting cast including John Mahoney, JT Walsh and Seymour Cassel is wasted. Barbara Hershey is by far the best thing in "Tin Men" but she is not in enough of the movie. [/font]
The best of Barry Levinson's films evoke a great sense of time and place, and "Tin Men" is a beautiful example of that, something that it accomplishes through the use of music and a terrific production designer.
This is the second of what's become known as the director's "Baltimore films," and it's a comedy with a lot of dark undertones bubbling just under the surface, another thing it shares with some of Levinson's best. This is a very satisfying film, filled with rich characters are situations both comedic and dramatic that hits close to home. Sometimes they hit a little too close to home, but the performances by both Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss always find just the right tone to keep the film from getting ugly.
Dreyfuss stealing DeVito's wife all because of a traffic accident could have turned things sour, but the actors and Levinson's screenplay never allow that to happen. There are a lot of laughs along the way, although it is true that just as many of the laughs come from the supporting performers as they do from the leads. Jackie Gayle is a riot as DeVito's partner and gets a lot of laughs whether he is musing about the logistics of "Bonanza" or mindlessly raving about Dreyfuss' dancing skills.
The music puts just the right finishing touch on the picture, and not just the usual and expected hits of the '60's. There's also a lot of great music from up-and-coming band Fine Young Cannibals, who had yet to break out in America. "Tin Men" is a comedy with some serious underlying themes than enhance the picture rather than spoil the mood. It's yet another winner from a major talent.
Not even two great actors can save this mess from being one of the most boring films of all times. It's not funny, amusing or interesting. Only thing that kind of makes worth while are the two masterful performances from Richard Dreyfuss and Danny De Vito and the historical background. The rest is bad.
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