New on Video: Total Testosteronation in Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

There's no small amount of debate among the sort of people who debate these things as to when the “1980s Action Movie” genre ended. Most point to Tango & Cash, which was released in December 1989 and thus certainly fits with a strict calendar-based definition, but I gotta go with Simon Wincer's 1991 Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man which Shout! Factory is releasing on a mostly bare-bones Blu-ray on May 19 — as the genre's true gasp. Mind you, would I never go with Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, because it's one of those kinds of movies where you just know all the characters smell like boy-sweat and beer farts. And that does appeal to some people. You know who you are.


Here's the distributor's synopsis, which does more justice than I possibly could:

When their favorite bar is threatened with closure, outlaw biker Harley (Rourke) and modern-day cowboy Marlboro (Johnson) hatch a scheme to save the day – by robbing the corrupt bank behind the bar's shutdown! When the robbery yields not money but a shipment of drugs, Harley and Marlboro find themselves on the run from the bank's sinister president (Sizemore) and a posse of seemingly unstoppable hit men. Now wanted dead or alive, the hard-riding heroes must fight for their very lives… and learn that when the going gets tough, the tough take the law into their own hands.

So there you go. This movie tries so hard to be macho it hurts, and it offers plenty for guys who want to feel vicariously badass, like they too could someday be an “outlaw biker” or “modern-day cowboy.” Which is fine, 'cuz let's face it, macho white men just don't get to see themselves onscreen as often they should. (Being a femme-y white woman, my inclination is to live vicariously through Patricia Arquette's character in Stigmata, minus the whole “possessed by the spirit of a dead priest and bleeding spontaneously” thing.)

The extras are limited to the theatrical trailer, and a frequently hilarious making-of featurette from the time of the film's original release. It's hosted by the film's screenwriter Don Michael Paul, all 80s-hangover feathered hair and manly denim shirt, talking about the film's themes of individuality and ruggedness and whatnot. Director Simon Wincer, a Australian journeyman who directed the 1990 western Quigley Down Under (a film I like quite a lot), only makes a brief appearance, mostly because he doesn't at all project the kind of badassery that Paul is clearly going for. Heck. Ol' Don Michael even makes holding a script look macho.

Paul hits the whole “individuality” theme pretty hard, and how “the world's spinning out of control” and “business always gets in the way of friendship.” He also tries to rile up the base to boo and hiss the movie's evil corporate villain, whose only goal is “to stamp out the kind of individuality that Harley and Marlboro stand for,” adding, “You know him — we hate him!”

Yeah! That these two icons of individuality not only dress like classic archetypes — as Lisa Simpson put it, “How rebellious…in a conformist sort of way” — but have names that are taken from multi-billion dollar corporations whose CEOs wear suits and ties just like the villain is not addressed, because whatever, egghead.

Of course, the reason this huge disconnect is ignored might have to do with the possibility that Mr. Paul is really a reptilian shapeshifter.

The jury is indeed still out, but it would explain everything. Wake up, sheeple!

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