8 Million Ways to Die, 1986.
Directed by Hal Ashby.
Starring Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette, Alexandra Paul, Randy Brooks and Andy García.
An alcoholic Los Angeles narcotics cop, Matt Scudder, takes part in a drug bust that results in his fatal shooting of a small-time dealer. Scudder ends up in a drunk ward, suffering from booze and blackouts, damaging his career and his relationship with daughter and estranged wife. After a prostitute he meets is murdered he’s drawn back into the world of vice.
What better way to start off a cop movie than to drop the hero from a great height. In the popular film series, Lethal Weapon, Mel Gibson played a suicidal cop whose daredevil behaviour gave his character that much needed edge. When a man has nothing left to lose, things tend to get more interesting. However, Hal Ashby’s alcoholic cop yarn barely hits the bar.
8 Million Ways To Die sees an LA drugs cop, Matthew Scudder (Jeff Bridges looking like a blonde Charles Bronson), foil a drugs raid in the worst way possible. This leads him into losing his job and his family, on top of making his alcoholism slip out of control. Six months later, he’s sober, single and unemployed. After being contacted for protection by a hooker called Sunny (Alexandra Paul), he’s drawn back into the criminal world that he stopped enforcing.
The set up is a fairly basic detective plot. After Sunny is murdered, Scudder tries to track down who is behind it without the help of the police. Unfortunately, this is the only thing the film decides to focus on. Most of the film features far too much casual conversation to retain any major interest. It almost felt like around half of the dialogue was just filler to help the film move along. You could say that some important aspects were left out.
For example, we only see Scudder’s ex wife once and his daughter is only briefly mentioned. Instead of seeing him argue with drug lords all the time, Ashby could have gone into more depth about his family. Scudder’s alcoholism is explored for about a couple of pints, and then decides to go away from the bar until last orders are called. By the time the gun toting third act started, I almost lost interest completely. The generic Eighties synthesiser score did the experience no favours.
8 Million Ways To Die is a by the book cop movie with almost no surprises. Jeff Bridges plays his part a little too sober and Andy Garcia’s Latino drug dealer came across as a pound shop Tony Montana. This is a film that could have been trimmed down by a quarter instead of outstaying its welcome.
8 Million Ways To Die is released on DVD on September 12th.
Will Preston is a freelance writer from Portsmouth. He writes for various blogs (including his own website) and makes short films.