Though it looks ravishing, Warren Beatty’s longtime pet project is a curiously remote, uninvolving film. Beatty and his collaborators have created a boldly stylized 1930s urban milieu that captures the comic strip’s quirky, angled mood, while dazzling the eye with deep primary colors.
Beatty – ultra-stylish in yellow raincoat and snap-brim hat, black suit, red tie and crisp white shirts – is so cool he appears frozen. Torn between Madonna’s allure – she’s customed in black & white to look like a steamy low-rent version of Josef von Sternberg’s Marlene Dietrich – and the more low-key beauty and sweetness of Glenne Headly’s redhead Tess Trueheart, Beatty simply sits there and mopes, occasionally rousing himself into bursts of action.
A large part of what fun there is in the pic comes from the inventive character makeup by John Caglione Jr and Doug Drexler, who mostly succeed in the difficult task of creating live-action cartoon figures. Dustin Hoffman takes an eerie turn as Mumbles, R.G. Armstrong is chilling as Pruneface, Paul Sorvino hilariously disgusting as Lips, William Forsythe spooky as Flattop.
Al Pacino, virtually runs away with the show in a sizable role as Tracy’s nemesis, the Richard III-like hunchbacked villain Big Boy Caprice. His manic energy lifts the overall torpor.
Equally fine is young street urchin Charlie Korsmo who, together with the lovely Headly, gives the film a necessary counter-balance of normality.
1990: Best Art Direction, Song (‘Sooner or Later’), Make-Up
Nominations: Best Supp. Actor (Al Pacino), Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound