film reel image

film reel image

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Cocktail 1988 * * * Stars


1988's Cocktail represents the second film in the Tom Cruise, Top Gun formula trilogy. '86 had The Color of Money (Top Gun in a pool hall), '90 had Days of Thunder (Top Gun in a race car), and two years prior was Cocktail (Top Gun in well, a bar). Basically you have a dude character that has an adroit skill and must face certain inner demons to corral said skill. Cruise represented the actor most suitable for his own, skilled ingredients here. I mean he learned to flair bartend, deep brake, and shoot cue balls like a champ. "That's the only way I want it". Well said Tommy boy.

So yeah, Cocktail is shot in two parts, a sort of condensing of 103 minutes of runtime. The first half has a lot of energy and panache as Cruise's Brian Flanagan stumbles upon slight bar-tending fame with the help of barkeep mentor Doug Coughlin (played with dry wit by Bryan Brown). The second half of Cocktail could be classified as a marginal downer as it takes some darker turns mixing a romantic plot between Flanagan and an NYC waitress (the sexy Elizabeth Shue playing Jordan Mooney).

Bottom line: Cocktail's narrative is thin, the minimal flair scenes feel like a tease, and the overall viewing effect appears a little uneven, like checking out two different flicks in one. The critics hated Cocktail back then, calling the drama shapeless, stupid, and vanity-driven. Bite your tongues boys and girls! I guess I don't feel the need to be so harsh. Cocktail has a few things going for it being the fact that it's vastly entertaining, slyly flaunting in the dialogue department, and splashily directed by Roger Donaldson, putting us right up in the grills of cocky mixologists slinging drams like steady bosses (if only for some brief moments). "Drink" up.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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