Dick Tracy

1990, Movie, PG, 103 mins

Review

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In sheer visual terms, this is the most convincing of the comic book movies that have been popular for the last decade or so. Surprisingly sweet and good-natured, DICK TRACY is a highly stylized piece of fluff that's easier to digest than the ponderous pretensions of the equally over-hyped BATMAN. Producer/director/star Warren Beatty looks great in his yellow fedora and trench coat though his jaw is never as sharp as Chester Gould's celebrated comic strip cop.

This old-fashioned story takes place in a strikingly stylized comic-strip city of the 1930s. Handsome, hardworking detective Dick Tracy is hot on the trail of crime boss Big Boy Caprice (played with gusto by a nearly unrecognizable Al Pacino) who has taken the entire underworld syndicate of the city away from Lips Manlis (Paul Sorvino). After disposing of Lips, taking over his nightclub, and stealing his girl, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna), Big Boy comes up with the idea of uniting all the villains in town under his leadership, thereby running the city. This is a job for Dick Tracy!

From the opening shot of the famous fedora and badge to the wildly extravagant long sweeps of the matte-painted comic-book city, DICK TRACY has a gorgeous but hollow look. It's the first film to transfer successfully the look of a comic book to the screen (kudos to Vittorio Storaro, whose striking photography makes striking use of primary colors) in an entirely cinematic way.

The performances are all fairly interesting. Hoffman's cameo as Mumbles is creepy and surprisingly funny, Headly and Korsmo are terrific, and Beatty is mesmerizingly hollow. The true star of this film, however, is Pacino, who provides a wildly over-the-top performance as Big Boy--in many ways he out-Jokers Jack Nicholson's Joker in BATMAN. leave a comment

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