Sunset Review

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Hollywood, 1929. Cowboy star Tom Mix and old-time frontier marshal Wyatt Earp team up to solve complicated murder case awash with floozies, blackmailers, gangsters and crooked cops and near-libellous depictions of historical figures.


Wyatt Earp and Tom Mix were a matched pair of frauds, considerably more interesting and considerably less endearing than the characters given them in this Blake Edwards comedy-mystery. Authenticity apart - and history is shamelessly ignored - Sunset has a terrific story idea and a potentially winning star combination, but comes out as a terrible movie.

Bruce Willis' Tom Mix is reduced to modelling outrageous Western outfits and playing sidekick, and James Garner's dignified Wyatt Earp - more in line with the heroic Henry Fonda portrayal from My Darling Clementine than his own, earlier, more sinister, interpretation of the character in Hour of the Gun - comes on like an ageing Jim Rockford, sleuthing through a case so complicated that Chinatown seems transparent but bereft of the snappy lines or bits of business he could turn to his advantage. If Sunset is at all watchable, it's down to Garner - one of the best, most consistently underrated light leading men in the movies - but the film keeps tripping up.

As usual in his later career (That’s Life, Blind Date, Skin Deep, Switch, A Fine Mess), it's down to Edwards' astonishingly maladroit direction. This could profitably be played as light comedy adventure or a brooding, cynical, violent latterday film noir, but Edwards shoots off in all directions, cutting from badly-staged slapstick to brutal violence with no regard for tone. The best thing in it is also the most subversive idea: Malcolm McDowell brilliantly plays Alfie Alperin, a comedian-cum-studio head modelled on Charlie Chaplin, as a smiling sadistic psychopath who commits slapstick killings. A major disappointment.

This has a terrific story idea and a potentially winning star combination, but comes out as a terrible movie, go figure.