Thursday, February 24, 2011

Film Review: COCKTAIL (1988, Roger Donaldson)

Stars: 2.9 of 5.
Running Time: 104 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Tom Cruise, Bryan Brown (BREAKER MORANT, THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE '05), Elisabeth Shue (THE KARATE KID, HOLLOW MAN), Laurence Luckinbill (THE BOYS IN THE BAND, STAR TREK V), Kelly Lynch (ROAD HOUSE, ROAD HOUSE, ROAD HOUSE), Gina Gershon (SHOWGIRLS, FACE/OFF). Written by Heywood Gould (THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, co-writer of ROLLING THUNDER). Directed by Roger Donaldson (WHITE SANDS, SPECIES, THE BANK JOB, THIRTEEN DAYS, NO WAY OUT).
Tag-line: "They thought he was good. They were wrong. HE WAS THE BEST." Also, see review.
Best one-liner: "I don't care how liberated this world becomes - a man will always be judged by the amount of alcohol he can consume - and a woman will be impressed, whether she likes it or not."

I'm not sure what to say. I enjoyed this, yes. For starters, it has one of the greatest tag-lines in film history: "When he pours, he reigns." There's high-fives, an amazing 80's neon font, and a sort of visceral, perverse fascination to be had in watching Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown undulate in unison, doing the Hippy-Hippy Shake as they mix Singapore Slings and what-have-yous.

But there's a key element of revulsion: the bad boy 'counter-culture' facade is easily unmasked to reveal a basic celebration of crass yuppie ideals. And it thusly kinda turns into a ginormous, reassuring pat on the back for yuppie sell-outs.

COCKTAIL says, "Fuck money! Fuck selling out! Yeah! Choose love!," and then cranks up the volume on some Starship before resuming with a business plan for creating a chain of bars for strip malls. It LITERALLY does of all of that. Only a yuppie shithook would think of themselves as a 'Maverick' because they're devoted to trite success manuals and dream of one day franchising NYC ambiance to tools across the land. Only the worst of douchebombs would truly relate to a romantic hero who successfully employs "A guy lays down a dare, you gotta take it!" as a perfectly legitimate, forgivable excuse for cheating on your girlfriend.


But still, COCKTAIL is an important cultural document. The late 80's saw several exposés of yuppie culture. Something like BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY examines the origins and driving forces, and something like John Carpenter's THEY LIVE attempts to place it in perspective through the lens of outrageous sci-fi action and social commentary. But COCKTAIL exists as the flip side- the dark side- of that coin... almost a yuppie Bible. It's also a lot of fun. But for sheer vapidity, I'd rather be watching CAPTAIN RON, and for vapidity with subsequent meaning, I'd rather be watching AMERICAN GIGOLO. So there you have it. Not quite three stars.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

I'm ashamed to say that I actually saw this piece of crap in theaters when it first came out but then I had no critical faculties at the time so there's that. This is a film that has not aged well and, I guess, serves as a reminder of the rah-rah "Greed is good" materialistic 1980s but man, I sure hope Bryan Brown got paid well for this gig. I prefer to remember him from F/X rather than this turkey.

Space Cadet said...

Your assessment of the film as a documentation of ‘80s yuppie culture is all fine and dandy, but I’ll tell ya’ what makes this review truly work… are these VHS quality screenshots. Did you record this from some 1990 edited-for- CBS, movie-of-the-week showing? (please say you did, even it means lying).

I like the scene where Brian and Doug are cocktailing, what appears to be, aboard a spaceship. At the time I just assumed it was, because I was really high and I also plainly afraid to question otherwise. And you forgot to mention ‘Kokomo’. You can’t shop-talk COCKTAIL without mentioning ‘Kokomo’. It’s a rule.

Oh, and by the way:

Sean Gill said...


I still somehow feel that Bryan Brown acquits himself admirably- though of course I too prefer him in the likes of F/X or BREAKER MORANT (a personal favorite).

Space Cadet,

Thanks for the pic of Cap'n Ron- he never fails to raise my spirits, and this has been a particularly rough week.

I apologize for not mentioning Kokomo, clearly I was swept up on a wave of yuppie-hating fervor and forgot to show the 80's Beach Boys the proper reverence.

As for the screencaps, I think you'll find the truth satisfactory- I had already returned COCKTAIL to Netflix, and on a whim decided to cull my screencaps from a trailer included on my VHS of TURNER & HOOCH.