6.0/10
25,696
85 user 31 critic

Tequila Sunrise (1988)

A former L.A. drug dealer tries to go straight but his past and his underworld connections bring him into the focus of the DEA, the Mexican feds and the Mexican drug cartels.

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
... McKussic
... Jo Ann
... Frescia
... Carlos / Escalante
... Maguire
... Lindroff
... Andy Leonard
... Cody McKussic
... Arturo (as Garret Pearson)
Eric Thiele ... Vittorio
Tom Nolan ... Leland
Dawn Martel ... Sin Sister
... Sin Sister #2 (as Lala)
... Judge Nizetitch
... Shaleen
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Storyline

Mac Mckussic is an unlikely drug dealer who wants to go straight. His old and best friend Nick Frescia is now a cop who is assigned to investigate and bring him to justice. Mac is very attracted to Jo Ann, the owner of a stylish restaurant. Nick gets close to Jo Ann attempting to know more about Mac's drug dealing plans and his connections with the Mexican dealer Carlos, who the police believe is coming to town to meet with him. Nick also falls for Jo Ann's charms and his friendship with Mac is in danger. Written by Sami Al-Taher <staher2000@yahoo.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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A dangerous mix See more »


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

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Release Date:

2 December 1988 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Traición al amanecer  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$23,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,350,974, 4 December 1988, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$41,292,551

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$105,932,000, 31 December 1989
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kurt Russell was not the first choice to play Nick Frescia. It was Thom Mount's idea that he'd be cast in the role. See more »

Goofs

When Pfeiffer is at the police station getting her chef released, Russell pulls up and parks directly in front of her car. When they leave the station, his car isn't there and Pfeiffer is able to drive away unobstructed. See more »

Quotes

Escalante: You go to a good deal of trouble to explain an inconsequential event, Lieutenant.
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Connections

Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #22.198 (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Surrender to Me (Love Theme from 'Tequila Sunrise')
Performed by Ann Wilson and Robin Zander
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User Reviews

 
More of a writer's film than a director's one
26 June 2008 | by See all my reviews

"Tequila Sunrise" is sometimes quoted as an example of neo-noir, a genre of film which uses modern cinema techniques while trying to capture the spirit of the classic films noirs from the forties and fifties. Other examples include Polanski's "Chinatown", the Michael Winner remake of "The Big Sleep", Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat" and Curtis Hanson's more recent "L.A. Confidential".

The title is derived from the well-known cocktail which has three ingredients, tequila, orange juice, and grenadine. Mel Gibson is seen drinking this cocktail on a couple of occasions, but the significance of the title may be that the film explores the triangular relationship between a "cocktail" of three main characters, Dale "Mac" McKussic, Nick Frescia and Jo Ann Vallinari. (The film was advertised in France under the slogan "Un Cocktail Explosif").

Mac is a former drug dealer who claims that he is now trying to go straight. Nick is not only the head of the Los Angeles narcotics squad for but also Mac's close friend. Jo Ann is a local restaurant owner with whom both Mac and Nick are in love. The two men's friendship is therefore under severe strain, and not only because of their feelings for Jo Ann. There are suspicions that Mac has slipped back into his old ways and may be trying to pull off one last deal with another old friend, a Mexican drug baron named Carlos. If these suspicions prove correct, Nick will be duty-bound to arrest him.

Like many examples of both film noir and neo-noir, "Tequila Sunrise" has a complex plot, one where the motives of all the characters are suspect and where nobody knows whom they can trust. (The writer/director Robert Towne was also the scriptwriter for "Chinatown", a film with one of the most convoluted plots in cinema history). Nevertheless, I have never really regarded it as authentic neo-noir. There was always more to film noir than a crime-related theme and a complicated storyline. Atmosphere was equally important; in some cases (such as Howard Hawks' original "The Big Sleep") it was paramount. In the eighties it would have been virtually impossible to make a film using the moody black-and-white photography which characterised film noir, but neo-noir directors were often able to give their films an equivalent atmospheric look. "Body Heat", for example, has an atmosphere of extreme heat, of sweat, of physical lassitude, of moral decay and of sexual tension, something emphasised not only by John Barry's jazz score but also Kasdan's colour scheme dominated by blacks, reds and oranges.

The film stars three of the up-and-coming stars of the eighties in Gibson, Kurt Russell and Michelle Pfeiffer. None of them really give their best performance here, although Pfeiffer is always very watchable. Although in the eighties Gibson was best known for his "tough guy" roles, especially in the "Mad Max" series, he does not bring much menace to the role of Mac or suggest his criminal background. Roger Ebert called him "the nicest drug dealer you'd ever want to know".

In 1988 Towne was much more experienced as a screenwriter than as a director. He had worked on the scripts for more than a dozen films and several TV series, but had only directed one previous film, the very different "Personal Best". It is therefore perhaps not surprising that "Tequila Sunrise" comes across as more of a writer's film than a director's one. Towne inserts all the plot twists and turns that we have come to expect from noir and neo-noir, but there are none of the visual touches we associate with the genre. The film is surprisingly slow-moving and wordy for what is supposed to be a crime thriller, dominated more by talk than by physical action except during the (literally) explosive finale. Towne may have had ambitions to become an auteur director like Polanski, but "Tequila Sunrise", a run-of-the-mill crime drama, is not the work of an auteur. 5/10


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