Havana (1990) Poster

(I) (1990)

User Reviews

Review this title
44 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
7/10
A love story set against one of the sexiest, most dangerous and most glamorous cities in the world…
Nazi_Fighter_David15 March 2008
Jack Weil, played by Robert Redford, feels at home in this corrupt city… He's a professional gambler looking for the game of his life… He played in every Elks Club and Moose Hall in America… He remembers every hand of every game and now he wants a shot, only one shot in Havana…

But while he is on the verge of winning everything Bobby Duran (Lena Olin) has lost all she ever knew… Olin plays the wife of a Cuban revolutionary, Raul Julia… Bobby has nothing to lose or to protect… And in a super-natural and strange way Jack reaches her… And so, as Cuba crumbles Jack is drawn in Bobby's world of the revolutionaries and, in one crucial moment he sees himself he must choose between the greatest card game of his life and the woman he loves…

There's a kind of exotic combination between Redford and Olin's characters… Between Redford's very American, blond, golden look and Olin's dark, intense Swedish expression…

Sydney Pollack's "Havana" is a love story that takes place during the week of Christmas, 1958 which was the last week Batista was in power before Castro came in… It was the last week of this kind of a circus that Havana was… An attractive city full of gambling, of burlesque, of every kind of hedonistic pleasure possible…
22 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Bad Reputation Undeserved.
Doctor_Bombay1 March 1999
Many will claim that Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford were on auto-pilot while making this film. Based on their previous collaborative efforts, the well-received Three Days of the Condor, The Way We Were, The Electric Horseman, and Out of Africa, which swept the Academy Awards, people wanted to see their movies. They could make any movie they wanted. They made Havana, and NOBODY wanted to see it.

Maybe Pollack, brilliant in his own right, set his watch according to Redford's schedule at this time, and history shows that, subsequent to Havana, and its box office failure Sydney Pollack basically quit directing. His influence in film is still served, and may be better served as a producer, witness Sliding Doors, Sense and Sensibility, Fabulous Baker Boys, and Searching For Bobby Fischer, all of which he helped bring to the screen.

But, back to the matter at hand-Redford as a gambler, Lena Olin, his distraction (and what a distraction)--the film feels good, looks good, and gives us some perspective on Cuba in the waning hours of Batista.

Olin (pre-Romeo is Bleeding, post Unbearable Lightness of Being) is properly introduced to American audiences, and is not inappropriate as leading lady to one of Hollywood's leading stars, Redford, who, even on auto-pilot, delivers a strong, engaging performance.

I understand this film was heavily maligned at release, and failed dismally at the box office, but I enjoyed it. It is a beautiful film to watch with attractive leads - and that alone stands it well ahead of many of the alternatives out there today.
46 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
It's all about the passion
ddelamaide21 May 2001
How does a cool professional gambler show passion? He gives up the Big Game to rescue his beloved. How can a passionate woman reconcile the two loves of her life--the noble hero and his cause and the man who makes her feel most like a woman? Yes, it's Casablanca revisited. And Lena Olin portrays her ambivalence as ably as her Swedish compatriot, Ingrid Bergman. Fault the script for not delivering the depth of Casablanca, the humor--Alan Arkin could have been the equal of Claude Rains but didn't get the lines. But the cinematography makes pre-revolutionary Havana palpable, in its glamour and seaminess, its whiff of a bygone era. Who wouldn't want to drive a Cadillac convertible onto the ferry at Key West and debark in Havana?
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Fantastique!! Beautiful desirable Lena!
Nsureyou21 November 2004
A superb Havana noir set in 1958-9 and featuring three great actors, Robert Redford, Raul Julia, and Lena Olin. Lena is the object of desire for the male actors and for any living male in the audience! Robert Redford is an American gambler and poker player who works the high stakes poker games for his own account and for the Casino boss in Havana. Redford is debonair and sophisticated and a devout bachelor who is not looking for love, but it finds him. The beautiful Lena hires Redford to perform a task and he becomes deeply enamored of her. I think Lena Olin is one of the most underrated actresses in existence and also one of the most sensually beautiful. As the smitten Redford works the tables his thoughts continue to dwell on his desire, beautiful Lena, he is enthralled with her memory and must seek her to gain satisfaction. Revolutiuon is afoot and Cuba is both the best and worst of times. The Cuban scenery is beautiful. The movie will take you to a time that is past and no longer exists except in memory. A very beautiful movie with surprises and twists and turns in plot. A Sydney Pollack masterpiece. A treat awaits those who watch.
33 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
A pleasingly subtle depiction of the pain, and nobility, of all sorts of revolutions.
malcolmi13 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
In this extremely underrated 1990 film the worn glamour of gambler Jack Weill, played with expert subtlety by Robert Redford, is a perfect echo of the attractive corruption of Havana on the brink of the 1959 Cuban revolution. Locked in the pursuit of his big game, "with guys who don't even think how much they're playing for", Redford's character is unapologetically self-centred. "How many guys do you know who are really crude?" he asks with a charming leer. But Jack is drawn into a different climate of feeling when he encounters the earnest, committed revolutionary social consciences of Roberta and Alberto Duran, played flawlessly by Lena Olin and the uncredited Raoul Julia. Jack falls in love with Roberta, and begins to commit himself to a world larger than the circumference of his poker table. The betrayals and cruelties of the Batista regime are echoed in miniature around that table, and we can see Jack's growing understanding that, however he avoided it in the past, his world is indeed political, filled with kinds of suffering and commitment that he can't avoid any longer. When he makes his choices, and lives with the consequences, we watch the brave sadness of a man who knows that if he'd faced then what he understands now, he might have won. The excellent performances by Alan Arkin, a perfect illustration of the world to which Jack once aspired, and Tony Plana, as the Cuban reporter who yearns to be brave enough to act on his knowledge, expand the textured subtlety of this picture.

Why was the film spurned in the US when it first appeared? I have to think that American audiences found it difficult to accept a film presenting both a sympathetic presentation of Castro's revolution and a clear condemnation of covert CIA support for Batista's government. Jack Weill's story is a parable of the pain and glory of growing up. That's a process that American audiences seem unwilling to face.
11 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Mostly effective and plausible rethinking of Casablanca
tcabarga18 April 2004
Many viewers have noted that Havana is essentially Casablanca in the Caribbean, which is certainly true. But I found the same apocalyptic tension in Havana as in Casablanca, although not quite as effective the second time around. Others criticized the dialogue. I thought it was exceptionally mature, and subtle, which may be what threw some of the reviewers in this forum, who maybe would have wanted something more bombastic. The plot development was very compressed - things had to happen very quickly, and so some thought they happened far too quickly. But I thought Olin in particular showed all of the pain and turmoil necessary to make her quick transitions of emotion believable. You have to believe that the times were so tumultuous that people had to adjust very quickly to changing circumstances. As for Jack falling in love with Bobby so fast, that's entirely believable, and the look they exchanged at the party where Jack meets her husband for the first time was our signal that this love affair was happening, and was one of those insane passions that overtake people, not infrequently, and in this case, again, against the apocalyptic backdrop of this incipient revolution, which made all involved feel very much at loose ends, ready for, or dreading, the vast changes about to happen to them. I though the end was too dragged out, but other than that, the movie mostly plausible.
18 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Better than mediocre
coboconk7 November 2000
Havana is a favorite of mine. Sure it's a slick Hollywood movie but I thought Redford and Olin were marvelous together and fit their roles perfectly. Doesn't it seem natural to find Redford in exotic Havana playing cards on the eve of the revolution? And doesn't Olin's intelligence , charm, and beauty fit her role ? The supporting cast were flawless and the intriguing plot stood on it's own merit. The sentimental ending was superb and the musical score which received an academy award nomination was brilliant. Better than mediocre.
16 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Much better than expected
twistyhair27 January 2006
It's 15 years later, but seeing this film for the first time, I was surprised by its intensity, beauty, realism and acting. This is two thumbs up from my corner.

I totally believed both Olin and Redford. Yes, they're both very good looking people, but more than that, they both convey intelligence and real emotion. Their performances were relatively restrained and in my opinion that's a good thing.

As a person interested in politics and history, I found the film interesting and balanced especially considering that this was a studio product. This film made me want to learn more about Batista, Castro and Cuba's move for independence.
14 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of my favorites because...
oceanofsoul19 September 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Redford movies traditionally have strong female characters; Inside Daisy Clover; This Property Condemned; Out of Africa; Up Close and Personal; The Horse Whisperer....and this one.

Lena Olin and Redford make me believe these two could fall in love this quickly. I think it got bad reviews because the ending was not male protagonist friendly. Avoiding a spoiler, I love the message here. She is some woman. Loved by two. Loves two. What else could she possibly do? What else could he possibly do? This man, Jack, will be seated facing the door forever. What a love story. Their scenes together are gritty and fleshy and real. Raul Julia's passion echoes the backdrop. Turmoil...in Cuba, and in the hearts of these lovers.

I LOVED IT!!!!
9 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Fantastique!! Beautiful desirable Lena!
Nsureyou21 November 2004
A superb Havana noir set in 1958-9 and featuring three great actors, Robert Redford, Raul Julia, and Lena Olin. Lena is the object of desire for the male actors and for any living male in the audience! Robert Redford is an American gambler and poker player who works the high stakes poker games for his own account and for the Casino boss in Havana. Redford is debonair and sophisticated and a devout bachelor who is not looking for love, but it finds him. The beautiful Lena hires Redford to perform a task and he becomes deeply enamored of her. I think Lena Olin is one of the most underrated actresses in existence and also one of the most sensually beautiful. As the smitten Redford works the tables his thoughts continue to dwell on his desire, beautiful Lena, he is enthralled with her memory and must seek her to gain satisfaction. Revolution is afoot and Cuba is both the best and worst of times. The Cuban scenery is beautiful. The movie will take you to a time that is past and no longer exists except in memory. A very beautiful movie with surprises and twists and turns in plot. A Sydney Pollack masterpiece. A treat awaits those who watch.
14 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
A beautiful motion picture that pays tribute to the old school of cinema
lifeadventure31 July 2004
The reviews were horrible when released in 1990. But, what went over the heads of so money people was that this film set at the turning point of 1958 revolution in Cuba was designed to be an over the top romance filled with the style and craft of the early days of cinema. It doesn't matter if it finds inspiration from the crafty Casablanca, one of the best films ever made. Both examine similar themes and play to the adventurer in all of us. Havana is an escapist picture, and both Redford, Olin and Pollack do their jobs here, not to mention a wonderful supporting cast. They transport us to a place rich with color and mystery. Havana is a hidden gem for those who love travel, and spontaneous adventure and love. If you have not seen it, it's well worth the trip to the video store. For those who love Havana and location films I'd highly recommend the independent film "Somewhere," set in Thailand and Malaysia.
11 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
A quality period piece that holds your interest throughout.
martin-stanley-114 March 2012
Despite being panned by most " sophisticated " critics, this is a darned good movie. OK, it may not be Casablanca, but the two stars are interesting, and the story is a good one. Most of the cast is good, especially Menocal, played by Tomas Milian. The coolest part of this movie is the musical score which seems pretty authentic and gives the flick a lot of atmosphere. Even though it was filmed in the Dominican, most viewers would not care. I truly think this movie will rate better opinions "as time goes by" !! How you gonna beat Redford and Olin ?? The last scene in the movie where Redford goes to the beach in Key West and looks wistfully into the glorious sunset thinking of Bobbi, is one of the better endings of recent movies.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
3/10
Redford is no Bogart
hausrathman20 February 2003
Robert Redford plays a cynical gambler who falls in love with a rich, married revolutionary, Lena Olen, during the fall of the Batista regime. This is a genuine snooze-a-rama that doesn't work on any level. It wants to be another Casablanca, but suffers from the fact that Redford is no Bogart. His Jack Weil character is too dense and whiny to take the bull by the horns. And Lena Olen, come on. How committed and noble can her character be if she's doing Redford within two days of her husband's supposed death? This film is filled with talky scenes that just go on and on and on. (As does the film itself. It is one of those beasts that refuse to die.) A major disappointment from director Sydney Pollack.
6 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Watch for Colonel Menocal's Soliloquoy
paul vincent zecchino30 October 2007
Beautiful romance set in The Pearl of the Antilles, as Cuba was called before commies turned it into fido's island gulag.

In Havana, Hollywood spares us its tedious fantasies of commies good and we bad. Havana is an elegant film whose reds seem a chaotic pile of unwashed, B.O.-plenty scurfs. Authors, Dr. Mario Lazo and Guillermo Cabrera Infante tell us all we need to know about castro's Cuba. The Cuban people have suffered under this monstrous regime since 1959. No matter, see Havana for the fine film it is.

Havana's worth watching for the scenery alone, and the rest is gripping as well. Was Havana filmed in Florida and the Dominican Republic? Would love to know for certain. Havana, San Juan, and Santo Domingo, I believe are the three tropical cities each one guarded by a Moro Castle.

Mark Rydell appears briefly, playing Meyer Lansky. His speech to Jack Weil and Joe Volpe - a real person, by the by, - well explains why Cubans who yearn for freedom nonetheless don't want the return to Cuba of any mafioso, be they gangsters or 'legit' BigKorpseorate monopolist greaszeballs or their political handmaidens. They don't get any uglier than Rydell's vigorous portrayal of Lansky, and there's plenty of his type in circulation today.

Check out Daniel Davis' character, CIA Operative Marion Chigwell. Redford confronts, corners, and taunts Davis, then threatens to blow his cover as Davis' eyes turn cobra-like, dark, poised to strike. It' a compelling moment, one of many created by this inspired acting ensemble.

Watch for brilliant character actor Thomas Milian, as he delivers his character, Colonel Menocal's two piercing soliloquys. He pulls no punches, makes us think, and serves as unlikely hero, one of many in Havana. Marion Chigwell, good to his word, delivers the Colonel to freedom.

Freedom is Havana's understated yet powerful theme, one not easily missed.

Dr. Paul Vincent Zecchino

Manasota Key, Florida

30 October, 2007
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
5/10
better than expected, up to a point
Michael Neumann25 November 2010
The island of Cuba is a long way from Morocco, but in Sydney Pollack's film of the same name the city of Havana isn't too far removed from 'Casablanca'. The two films share a similar exotic locale, the same shady intrigue, and an all too familiar bittersweet romance. All that's missing are Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, but what's surprising about Pollack's film is how well it stands up under the comparison. Robert Redford portrays a tough and charismatic (if slightly disreputable) gambler who drifts into the decadent Cuban capital during the last, desperate days of the Battista regime, and it's a pleasure to watch him playing, for once, a character without a built-in halo. The foreign intrigue, played against a background of political unrest, is perfectly suited to the swinging tropical setting, but the romance between Redford and beautiful revolutionary Lena Olin isn't as convincing. Don't blame the talented cast; the script lets them down too often during the last half of the film, undermining an otherwise attractive and entertaining bit of high-grade, escapist fluff.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
HAVANA (Sydney Pollack, 1990) **1/2
MARIO GAUCI1 July 2008
To begin with, I had always stayed away from this one until now (watched in tribute to its recently-deceased director) given the fact that it was a notorious flop on original release. Having caught up with it, it’s strange to think that Hollywood was still trying to recapture the magic of CASABLANCA (1942) fifty years on: the title itself, the backdrop of a country in turmoil, a hero who won’t ‘stick his neck out’ until he meets the beautiful wife of a ‘freedom fighter’ (believed dead at some point), the gambling element as a symbol of the fickle nature of destiny, his antagonistic relationship with the chief villain (whom he dupes in the end), etc.

A lot depends on the effortless charm of its protagonist (Robert Redford – still looking great at 54), though his character is so laid-back that it’s hard to swallow him being so swiftly and easily a smooth operator with the authorities when required! Lena Olin and Raul Julia play the couple in peril this time around: reportedly, the latter so wanted co-star billing (though his relatively brief role hardly demanded it) that he opted to appear unbilled if his request was declined (which is exactly what happened)!; an overweight but quite effective Tomas Milian (a native of Cuba, incidentally) is the head of the organization rooting out the rebels; also on hand are Alan Arkin as the put-upon casino owner, Richard Farnswoth as “The Professor” and Mark Rydell as the real-life Meyer Lansky.

As expected of Pollack, he gives the film a polished feel all round – from Owen Roizman’s diffused lighting to Terence Marsh’s remarkable production design (depicting both the glamor and the seediness of Havana) and Dave Grusin’s plush Oscar-nominated score. Overlong at nearly 2½ hours, the film’s ultimate failure can be pinned down to its essential dullness (lacking in action and being deliberately-paced to boot) – despite a number of undeniably compelling individual sequences.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
it seems like they remade Richard Lester's "Cuba", but the movie still comes out well done
Lee Eisenberg25 March 2007
It often seems like some critics chastise Sydney Pollack for inserting too much political commentary into his movies. "Havana" would be a prime example. It features frequent Pollack star Robert Redford* as a gambler who goes to Cuba's capital during the last few days of 1958, when the revolution is about to triumph. On the way there, he meets Lena Olin, the wife of revolutionary fighter Raul Julia. Over the course of the movie, Redford and Olin not only develop a relationship, but he comes to understand why the revolution is happening.

Maybe the movie does go just a little overboard on politicking. But I would like to pose a question: are we supposed to focus on these sorts of things and totally ignore politics? Would the world be a better place if everyone just blindly accepted every piece of government propaganda? Because it seems to me that part of democracy is that people are supposed to challenge the government if they think that the latter is lying. Therefore, I have to commend Sydney Pollack for doing that in "Havana".

Another thing is that it seems like this movie was a semi-remake of Richard Lester's "Cuba", starring Sean Connery as a British agent sent there on the verge of the revolution's triumph and discovering the status quo. Even if it is, I still recommend it.

Also starring Alan Arkin (his character is very likely to make your skin crawl) and Richard Farnsworth.

*Interestingly, they haven't collaborated since this movie.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Plot reminds me of :Casablanca"
Jack Stachler29 August 2006
Substitute Jack (gambler) for Rick (cafe owner). Then, Bobby (wife of Arturo) for Ilsa. Finally, Arturo(revolutionary) for Victor. I think you end end up with a modern-day "Casablanca". Of course some would say it's mixing apples (Nazis) and oranges (Communists). But I think the plot outline and ultimate goal of the hero risking his life to save the lives of the heroine and her husband are similar. Not only did Jack find his soul but found the love that was missing all his life. Like Rick, in the end Jack did the right thing. Also, some of the scenes reminded me of the Godfather, Part II. The film could have been edited a little better. Overall, I thought it was a very entertaining film.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
The best romance & politics combination movie ever made
mfazil3424 July 2006
I watched this movie in 93 because i was working in the casino and of course Robert Redford, one of my favorite actor. i was expecting not very big performance but i noticed that movie was excellent as it run. Actually it's best the movie ever made which describes what a real love is, although the final is drastic. On the other hand it's a good political review of the 50s between Comies & Independent followers. So it is a good movie if you spend your time with your lover after a romantic dinner and then sit and watch that spectacular movie with 2 glasses of wine. Some little action & non-boring movie even if it's 108 minute long.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Underrated
GregFromOakland26 June 2005
I just saw this one again on DVD and was surprised at how good it was. The acting, story and environment made it very easy to follow what was going on. I fail to see big holes in the plot: the characters are very well developed. What is created is a very sweet romantic thriller in a historical setting - the viewer knows that the revolution will take place so that part is anti-climatic.

The film didn't attempt to make the revolutionaries into the good guys - Batista's forces did come across as corrupt and arrogant though.

One mistake: Redford's character convinces the security chief he works for the CIA which is implausible since he's supposedly on assignment in Cuba and doesn't speak Spanish.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
very weak
Laurie & Cleo16 October 2000
i was wondering the same thing! she was a fanatic of her husband & the revolution (and she wasn't even cuban!), but her husband is killed & 2 days later she's dropping her drawers for robert redford! at the drop of a hat, she's crazy about him & ready to drop the revolution & move to the states...and he's with chicks left & right, but he risks everything & shells out a ton of dough for this woman he briefly meets? this movie is a joke.
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
A nicely done movie.
INDIANA-43 December 1998
This movie deserves a higher rating. Admittedly it starts out slow but picks up. It is a love story and I thought the acting was extremely well done. You can really feel Redford's happiness, pain and eventual heartbreak as the movie continues and the ending is one of the best!
3 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
A beautiful, lush movie
Parker Lewis27 November 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I must admit when I saw Havana it came across as a bit boring, but it was good to see Robert "Sneakers" Redford.

But upon reflection, Havana is a lush, beautiful movie that really captures the atmosphere and scenery of Cuba pre-Castro (who died over the weekend coincidentally). Anyway, Havana was filmed in the Dominican Republic, and kudos to the production team for faithfully recreating Havana pre-Castro.

Maybe Havana will be looked upon more favorably following the passage of time, and who knows, it can be a Netflix series if some imagination and drive can be brought to the table.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
A beautiful, passionate, deep, sincere love story set during the Cuban revolution
jarlentjilenzi18 April 2016
This movie is for people who have been in love or like watching movies about love. Though this movie isn't your cliché type of love story (it also contains aspects on the Cuban revolution) the chore of the movie revolves around love.

The movie is about a simple man (Jack) who visits Havana because he loves to gamble, to meet the woman (Roberta) that would change his outlook and life forever. She fights for the resistance, against Batista, while he's not into politics at all. She's married with a man (Arturo) that is the head of the resistance in Havana. When Arturo gets kidnapped and is considered killed, Jack and Roberta have the chance to fall in love. But Jack finds out that Arturo is still alive and faces the choice of letting Roberta go or staying quite...

This is one of the most real, deep and touching love stories I have seen. It contains beautiful poetic dialogues and the acting is great. A beautiful story about the meaning of love, sacrifice combined with the Cuban revolution.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A beautiful romance
MJD 319 February 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film in 1995, before I became a huge movie fan, so I guess that innocence blinded me to the so-called similarities with "Casablanca" or allegedly poor directorial or acting performances. I saw it for what it was and it marked me for life. I've seen it again many times since then and it is always a beautiful romantic movie set against the backdrop of the Cuban revolution and the end breaks my heart every time. I loved the actors and their performance, the plot, the setting, the soundtrack... everything really. It's in fact one of the few movies I still hold very dear in my soul and that will never change. I found the characters believable and not false in any way. It also made me very interested in Cuba and its history. I really don't understand what was expected from this movie and why the harsh reactions back when it was released. All I say is, watch it and make up your own mind. I believe it is worth it. Enjoy!
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews