the fresh films reviews

S I N C E   1 9 9 7


Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991)

Simon Wincer
Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man
98 minutes
Jere Henshaw
Don Michael Paul

Cast includes:

Harley Davidson Mickey Rourke
The Marlboro Man Don Johnson
Virginia Slim Chelsea Field
Kimiko Tia Carrere
Chance Wilder Tom Sizemore
Alexander Daniel Baldwin
Jack Daniels Big John Studd
Old Man Jiles Julius Harris
Lulu Daniels Vanessa Williams
Jimmy Jiles Giancarlo Esposito



This is one of the best documents of what was wrong and right with the typical 1980s macho filmmaking. For better or worse, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man boasts a partly attractive, partly abominable hotchpotch of male camaraderie and individual freedom on the one side and misunderstood morals and good/bad simplifications on the other; all reeking appropriately of gasoline, sweat and gunpowder. From within its clumsy script filled with embarrassing dialogue and badly motivated actions, the film grazes interesting themes and discussions which I'm not sure whether to give the filmmakers credit for. Harley and Marlboro are the remnants of bygone American heroes clinging on to their reactionary ethics and worldview in a (slightly) futuristic world of designer drugs, increased profits and less generosity.

Neither Harley and Marlboro or the bad-guys suggested by the film have any connection to the real world. They are stereotypes drawn from movie stereotypes, and because of that and their extreme contrast, the confrontations between them is much more otherworldly than that between James Cameron's futuristic cyborgs in one of 1991's other great successes, Terminator 2. Whereas Cameron predicted a bleak future in which humanity was our only hope, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man predicts a bleak future in which humanity's only hope is the cowboy; a return to old-fashioned American values. Harley and Marlboro are heroes because they represent these values, not because what they do is heroic. As a matter of fact, they mostly run around mimicking William Goldman's rendition of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, wreaking just about as much havoc as the bad guys they're up against only they do it with romance and patriotism. It's not very relevant or intelligent, but it makes you feel good much the way driving a vintage car on a modern highway does.

Copyright 19.3.2012 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang