Whilst making a silent film about the life of the legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, veteran actor 'Tom Mix' (Bruce Willis) discovers that the real Earp ('James Garner') is on the film set as a technical advisor. The two become friends, but when a murder takes place, the two become partners and set about tracking down the killer.Written by
Jonathan Broxton <email@example.com>
Blake Edwards' "Sunset" has the misfortune of following a series of films that are among his all time best: "10", "S.O.B.", "Trail of the Pink Panther" (a surprisingly cohesive film considering the circumstances; see my review for more details), "Victor/Victoria", "The Man Who Loved Women" (an underrated film), "Micki and Maude", "A Fine Mess" and the remarkable "That's Life!" By comparison, "Sunset" is a weak film.
But it is a good Blake Edwards film and good Edwards ("Blind Date", "Curse of the Pink Panther") is much better than horrible Edwards ("Switch", "Bring Your Smile Along", "Justin Case"). "Sunset" is Edwards' attempt at a risky genre, film noir, which if handled wrong, gives us films such as "Palmetto". When handled right, the results can be very entertaining.
"Sunset" is indeed very entertaining. It has laughs, but they're not important here. The atmosphere is what's important here and Edwards drenches us in it. And his casting of James Garner and Bruce Willis is inspired and right. They work wonderfully together and it is a testament to Garner and Willis as actors that they are so utterly believable as Wyatt Earp and Tom Mix, respectively. The bigger surprise here is Willis, who has a fresh faced charm that he doesn't show all that much anymore. I had forgotten what a solid actor he really is beneath that cliched "ACTION STAR" persona.
What prevents "Sunset" from approaching greatness is that Edwards is weighed down by the plot. He wants to create a complex mystery and he achieves that. But after getting to know such rich and likable characters, I really wish he had just forgotten about the plot and focus on them. All of his very best films are about character. Look at the list in the beginning. Each and every one of those films has characters we care about and he wisely forgets about resolving the plot. He observes and that's how he gets our attention (and laughs where appropriate). I only wished he had remembered. Luckily, his next film "Skin Deep" remembered that.
I still recommend "Sunset", if only for the charm of Willis and Garner and that wonderful atmosphere. This isn't a great film, but you just can't resist smiling at the end.
*** out of 4 stars
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