Tough Guys Don't Dance

Deserted husband and ex-drug dealer Tim Madden (O'Neal) wakes from a hangover to find gore all over his car, a new tattoo on his arm, and a severed head in his drug stash. The only person he can turn to is his old dad (Tierney), who has his work cut out deep-sixing heads and corpses in the ocean. Police Chief Regency (Hauser), involved with Madden's chippie wife and married to Madden's old flame (Rossellini), is out to fit him up for the murders, but has an epileptic fit in his Green Beret uniform instead. Norman Mailer's novel, Tough Guys Don't Dance, wasn't so hot, but his potboiler on screen is a disgrace. No scene generates a complex reaction, and his attempts at turning his Manichean material and existential dread into a chortle-fest is as unsuccessful as is the high camp, for the film forfeits sympathy from the start. Neither thrilling nor horrific, the camera, plotting, dialogue and atmosphere are uniformly unconvincing: a conservatoire of false notes.

Release details

Duration: 109 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Norman Mailer
Screenwriter: Norman Mailer
Cast: Ryan O'Neal
Isabella Rossellini
Debra Sandlund
Wings Hauser
John Bedford Lloyd
Lawrence Tierney
Penn Jillette
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