Hal Ashby was behind several seminal films from the 60s and 70s, but by the time the 80s rolled around, his addictions made him unreliable. For his last feature film, he tackled novelist Lawrence Block’s famous character Matthew Scudder, and initially it sounded like it could be promising. Oliver Stone adapted the novel, and he’d proven he had a gritty edge to his work as a writer through the first half of the decade. Unfortunately the producers and Ashby wanted to move the story from New York to LA. While not an obvious problem, this decision seemed to set in motion a series of creative changes that led to several writers – including Ashby – tackling the script and eventually the film getting taken away from Ashby before going into post-production. The issues show through, but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have its merits. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we continue our Oliver Stone in the 80s series with Ashby’s 1986 film 8 Million Ways to Die.
We talk about the problems we have with the script and direction, but find ourselves on two sides of liking this film – Pete didn’t like it at all and Andy really enjoyed it. We chat about Ashby’s moments of character and humanity that come through several key scenes, notably when Bridges’ character of Scudder is speaking at AA dealing with his alcoholism. We look at Rosanna Arquette and Alexandra Paul as two high-class hookers and how well they do, as well as Randy Brooks and Andy Garcia as the men Scudder comes up against. We look at the cinematography and the score. And we fawn over several of the key locations in the film, notably the one with the funicular.
It’s a film that fails on many counts but also one with some compelling things going for it. We’re split on it here but still think it’s worth a watch so check it out then tune in! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins!
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Original theatrical trailer
Original poster artwork