Dick Tracy

1990 action movie

Rating: 15/20

Plot: A detective deals with mobsters, an orphan, and a sultry lounge singer as he tries to keep his yellow hat clean.

I always imagined Dick Tracy and Curious George's pal in the yellow hat--who I believe was named The Man in the Yellow Hat--shop for clothing at the same store. Can somebody verify that for me?

I like this stupid movie. And I'm calling it stupid in the most respectful way possible. I'm not all that familiar with the comic, but knowing the time period during which it enjoyed its popularity and knowing what I do know about it, the tone this movie strikes and then sticks with consistently is about perfect. There's a darkness here--shadows, grotesque gangsters, whores, terrifying violence--but it's all as colorful and as safe as a comic book. I mean, when your protagonist's yellow clashes so much with everything around him, it's impossible to have any other tone than the one this movie has.

Honestly, this movie does a lot that the Sin City movies have done, only Warren Beatty was able to put it all on screen 25 years earlier. Sure, it doesn't have the ultraviolence of the much-darker Sin City, nor does it have the kinkiness, the language, the greasy filth. But it does have striking visuals and gorgeously creative settings. It's all a lot more colorful although it seems this rarely extends beyond the primary colors. But I really do love how this movie looks--the painted backdrops, the urban lines, the fun camera angles. There are some times when the action kind of gets a little hectic, but for the most part, there's not a lot of shots in this movie that I don't enjoy looking at.

And that includes Madonna who I think does a great job in this. She's playing a singer who seduces Warren Beatty which isn't much of a stretch, and her character is a walking and singing film noir cliche. Still, she nails everything she's given to do. I mean, she seduces you right through the screen, so it's easy to see what poor Dick Tracy is up against. There's just something about Madonna in this movie that draws your eyes to her, and that's pretty remarkable considering I can search on the Internet and find a picture of her hitchhiking naked any time I want. Not that I've ever done that. But I could if I wanted to.

Maybe Breathless Mahoney is so easy on the eyes because most of the other characters are difficult to look at. Actors are caked in make-up and prosthetics to give them that inhuman form of humanity that you can only find in a comic book. It gives the story another color and weirdness that's attractive and unique. Actors like William Forsythe and Dustin Hoffman are nearly unrecognizable. Al Pacino might have been unrecognizable, too, but it's impossible to not know it's him because no other human being acts like that. He's on fire here, a performance that is undeniably (and appropriately) campy but nevertheless completely genius. Still, I was surprised that he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. I'm not saying it's not deserved, and I really do love the performance. But would anybody not named Pacino get the nomination for something like this?

I wonder what the pornographic parody of this was titled.

This isn't the most creative storytelling, and there are times I wish one of the subplots would have been cut to better focus on the other aspects. But when a movie looks this good, has this much color, and has these kinds of memorable performances, who cares about a little thing like story?

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