Unprincipled gambler Jack (Redford) is thunderstruck by an aristocratic revolutionary's committed wife (the excellent, appropriately intense Olin) and, ennobled by love, rushes headlong into dangerous games between Batista's secret police and the guerillas.
"In Russia communism is boring; in the Caribbean - cha cha cha!" observes a journalist in this very long, lavishly made love story set against the turmoil of the Cuban Revolution during the last week of 1958. Normally, one would agree. In this seventh offering from the distinguised firm of Pollack and Redford, however, what should be a heady mix of revolution and romance is sadly, almost impossibly, dull.
The intelligent script holds some memorable lines and touches on many interesting things - from the US gangster interests that made Cuba a veritable whorehouse for Americanos' recreation to the perennial dilemma of middle class liberals when finally forced to choose between social justice and personal comfort. And the earnest Redford, though heavily lined nowadays, is still pretty dazzling when lovingly lit.
When you consider that Pollack's previous film, Out Of Africa, picked up all the marbles, this must be counted a major disappointment. Top marks, though, for the swingin' 50s soundtrack, with Dave Grusin's score counterpointed by lots of Sinatra, some Tito Puente, Fats Domino, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin, salsa and more. Cha cha cha indeed.
Somehow, though, Havana never quite catches fire. The brief scenes of struggle and liberation are too clean, too staged, and even the central pair's shattering, once-in-a-lifetime passion cries out for more urgency and emotional power.