Monday 13 May 2013

Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man

Mercenary Garage - Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man
I love this movie. Everyone else thinks its rubbish...

It was universally panned by critics when it was released and nobody went to see it. Consequently, it was only shown in the cinema for about a week. I read the previews and I guessed this would happen so I went to see it on the opening night. Nobody else did.

I was torn. There are things about it that are undeniably deadly but it's just not a very good flick.

I mean, it's not that bad. It's not Highlander 2, for example. And it's better than Barb Wire and Johnny Mnemonic. But it's not as good as Robocop.

HDATMM, Barb Wire, Johnny Mnemonic and Robocop all share the same near-future slow-grinding apocalyptic vision. Social breakdown, environmental issues and the energy crisis are all in evidence but there's nothing terribly catastrophic happening. This was the zeitgeist at the time (early '90s) and was probably a result of a collective uneasiness about the coming millennium. There was a sense that something bad was going to happen but nobody could quite put their finger on what it was.

In retrospect it seems quaint compared to what actually did happen...

HDATMM was released in 1991 but set in 1996 which can be a bit confusing more than twenty years later when 1991 and 1996 are essentially the same thing. Anyway, it's the future. It looks exactly like 1991, just not as nice. Why? Because there's a new drug on the market or something. And there's pollution. And gasoline costs nearly $4 per gallon. It's not important.

Okay, so it has a plot but it's better not to dwell on it. Essentially, Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson's favorite bar is going to be repossessed by an evil bank. They get together with all their friends to rob the bank, to pay the mortgage. It goes wrong. Everybody gets killed except Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson. They all live happily ever after. It's mostly this last part that I have difficulty with.

According to a review I read in Road Rocket magazine at the time, the movie was ready for distribution before anybody thought to ask Harley Davidson Motorcycles or Marlboro Cigarettes would they, y'know... mind? It's hard to believe that this could happen but there is a disclaimer displayed in the first few seconds of the move, so maybe it's true.

Mercenary Garage - Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man
Mickey Rourke on his custom Harley Davidson FXR. Don Johnson on a Kawasaki Z1000.

So what's so good about it?

Well. Mickey Rourke. He's cool. He's enigmatic. He doesn't say much and he has a deadly two-piece leather race suit. He shoots Don Johnson. He's Mickey Rourke, what more do you need?

And Mickey Rourke's motorcycle. There's lots of differing information on the internet about this now so it's hard to know what's true. From memory, it's Mickey Rourke's personal motorcycle. He had it custom built to his design and it cost over $40,000 which was a lot of money for a motorcycle in 1991. Don't quote me on any of this. Anyway, twenty-odd years later it still looks and sounds great.

Mercenary Garage - Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man
Apparently Eric Buell took inspiration from this when designing the pillion seat on the XB12S.

And there's Tia Carrere. Before she became a big hit in Wayne's World.

And there's an Airplane Graveyard. That's always good whether it's a Mythbusters episode or Berlin singing Take My Breath Away.

And there's a Honda PC800 Police Bike that looks like it beamed in from the future. I first saw one of these in the Motorcycle Show in the RDS in the very early 90s and I hated it. I've had several Honda 3-Valve Vee Twins since then, and now and I quite like them. There was one for sale in Dublin recently and I was very tempted but the meager tank range put me off. I digress...

Mercenary Garage - Harley Davidson & the Marlboro Man
Mickey Rourke's custom Harley Davidson FXR and a Honda PC800 Pacific Coast Police Bike

But the best thing about Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is the opening sequence. Mickey Rourke bids adieu to his beautiful companion, gears up and goes through a complicated motorcycle start-up procedure. He coaxes the machine to life and roars off (yes, roars off) into the night and across America 'til he gets low on gasoline and the rest of the movie starts.

Despite all the cheesiness of the rest of the movie, there's a truth to this that really encapsulates the romance and freedom of traveling by motorcycle.

Sometimes when I'm sad I watch this sequence and it cheers me right up...

#HDATMM #HarleyDavidsonAndTheMarlboroMan #Mercenary #MercenaryGarage

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