Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Norman Mailer wrote and directed this demented film noir, which takes place in a Provincetown of perpetual twilight. Most of the tale, based on his best-selling novel, is told in flashback as Dougy Madden (Lawrence Tierney) pays a visit to his son Tim (Ryan O'Neal). Dougy, a tough ex-bartender, is ravaged by cancer and decides to see Tim one last time in order. But Tim is suffering both from writer's block and from the effects of too many years of drink, drugs, and sex. His sexy wife Patty Lariene (Debra Sandlund) has recently left him and disappeared. Even worse, one morning he awakens from his stupor to find the front seat of his car covered with blood and a severed head inside his drug stash. He tries to rekindle a relationship with his ex-wife Madeleine (Isabella Rossellini), now married to the psychotic Provincetown police chief, Alvin Luther Regency (Wings Hauser), and he re-acquaints himself with old prep school friend Wardley Meeks III (John Bedford Lloyd), who was also married to the missing Patty Lareine. As the murders pile up and Tim's psyche takes a beating, Dougy decides to help Tim put an end to this chaotic mess of murders.
R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Media Home Entertainment


Ryan O'Neal
as Tim Madden
Isabella Rossellini
as Madeleine Regency
Debra Sandlund
as Patty Lareine
Wings Hauser
as Regency
John Bedford Lloyd
as Wardley Meeks III
Lawrence Tierney
as Dougy Madden
Penn Jillette
as Big Stoop
Frances Fisher
as Jessica Pond
R. Patrick Sullivan
as Lonny Pangborn
Stephen Morrow
as Stoodie
John Snyder
as Spider
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Critic Reviews for Tough Guys Don't Dance

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (5)

Neither thrilling nor horrific, the camera, plotting, dialogue and atmosphere are uniformly unconvincing: a conservatoire of false notes.

Full Review… | February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Not the high point of the Mailer career, but it's a small, entertaining part of it.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Hard to classify; at times you laugh raucously at what's up on the screen; at others you stare dumbly, in stunned amazement.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

What is strange is that Tough Guys Don't Dance leaves me with such vivid memories of its times and places, its feelings and weathers, and yet leaves me so completely indifferent to its plot. Watching the film, I laughed a good deal.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Norman Mailer's best film, adapted from his worst novel, shows a surprising amount of cinematic savvy and style.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Embarrassingly idiotic high camp modern noir set on Cape Cod.

Full Review… | October 11, 2009
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Audience Reviews for Tough Guys Don't Dance

Not the best story in the world or acting for that matter. But one scene with [url=""][u][color=#000080]Ryan O'Neal[/u][/color][/url] in this movie will have you hitting the rewind button more then you ever have in your life. This is the funniest scene I have seen in a movie this year and I have seen the Punisher War Zone. The jury is still out on if the director wanted this to be a drama or a comedy. In any case, Tough Guys Don't Dance is worth checking out. It will have you saying "oh god, oh man".

michael vargas
michael vargas

Wings Hauser is God. The acting in this movie is hilarious. I mean the story is so crazy and so is everything else. It makes no sense and I do not think it is meant to. Just watch it you will never forget it which might be a bad thing.

Matthew Marks
Matthew Marks

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