Review: ‘The Pick-Up Artist’

As long as this film sticks to what its title suggests, The Pick-Up Artist is a tolerably amusing comedy. But as soon as the compulsive skirt-chaser gets hooked on one girl, James Toback's long-gestating portrait of a one-track mind becomes bogged down in unconvincing plot mechanics.

As long as this film sticks to what its title suggests, The Pick-Up Artist is a tolerably amusing comedy. But as soon as the compulsive skirt-chaser gets hooked on one girl, James Toback’s long-gestating portrait of a one-track mind becomes bogged down in unconvincing plot mechanics.

Opening reels possess considerable buoyancy and zip, as makeout king Robert Downey cruises the streets of New York trying out his shtick on every pretty woman who crosses his path. Downey hits on Ringwald and quickly scores in his convertible, but predictably becomes intrigued by her apparent lack of interest in seeing him again.

Suddenly, he’s got blinders on and finds himself assuming personal responsibility for some enormous gambling debts the mob expects delivered by high noon. Dennis Hopper once again plays a drunken, washed-up shell of his former self as Ringwald’s irresponsible father, and Harvey Keitel is the threatening collector.

More responsible for the picture’s deterioration than the unnecessary melodrama is Ringwald’s thinly conceived character. Toback never lets the viewer in on what she really thinks and feels. Downey, in his first starring role, is brashly likeable, if perhaps too young, as the indefatigable but sincere ladies’ man.

Warren Beatty developed the project and was listed as producer during shooting, but producer-of-record credit goes to Beatty’s cousin, David L. MacLeod.

The Pick-Up Artist

Production

20th Century-Fox. Director James Toback; Producer David L. MacLeod; Screenplay James Toback; Camera Gordon Willis; Editor David Bretherton, Angelo Corrao; Music Georges Delerue; Art Director Paul Sylbert

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1987. Running time: 81 MIN.

With

Molly Ringwald Robert Downey Dennis Hopper Danny Aiello Mildred Dunnock Harvey Keitel
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