I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Pink Cadillac

In PINK CADILLAC, Clint Eastwood plays Tommy Nowak, a skip tracer who has to bring in a woman who jumped bail after getting blamed for her stupid husband’s stupid prison buddies’ counterfeiting scheme. Of course he catches her, but ends up protecting her and falling for her and what not. Do not get this confused with the one where he’s a cop who has to escort a mob trial witness from Vegas to Phoenix and falls for her. That’s THE GAUNTLET. That one has a bus, not a Cadillac.

I’d say this qualifies as an action comedy. It takes itself seriously, it’s not broad like the EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE movies, but Clint goes further than his usual wry one-liners, because Nowak loves to wear disguises and play characters. In the opening he catches a guy by making him think he won a date with Dolly Parton from a country radio station. Just for this he does a “Crazy Carl Cummings” DJ persona and a briefly-British-accented limo driver. Since he later quibbles with his boss over gas mileage I really wonder how he paid for the limo and costume. I guess he just thinks it’s worth the expense to fuck with people. During the drive back to Sacramento he asks the guy what kind of music he wants to listen to, and when he doesn’t make a choice, Tommy puts on some Dolly Parton.

Later we see him catching guys while dressed as a rodeo clown and a sleazy Wayne-Newton-esque casino boss with a mustache, a gold lamé suit and a raspy voice.

His most elaborate vocalization is as a lispy, mumbling hick character with a wad of chew in his mouth. If only Clint wore a fat suit at some point this would be his Eddie Murphy movie.

But most of the time Nowak is more like regular Clint. He’s grimacing, chewing gum, wearing tight t-shirts, more pumped up than usual. His cynical outer-heart is melted by Lou Ann (Bernadette Peters, VIGILANTE FORCE), a sad woman we meet as she’s about to stand up to her loser husband Roy (Timothy Carhart, CANDYMAN 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH, BLACK DAWN) because he doesn’t care about the baby and ever since returning from his bid for selling stolen VCRs he’s always bringing his asshole prison gang buddies to the trailer. When she’s the only one indicted for their counterfeiting scheme even the judge (Paul Benjamin, one of Sweet Dick Willie’s buddies in DO THE RIGHT THING!) knows it’s bullshit. And then they try to post her bail, so she finally says “fuck it,” steals Roy’s unused pink Cadillac and makes a run for it.

Lou Ann is a layered character. We can root for her as an underdog using her THELMA AND LOUISE girl power, but we also get some laughs at her expense. I love the scene where she’s enjoying driving with the top down, blowing bubble gum bubbles, rocking out to her music and waving to a school bus full of kids, thinking she’s the shit, and not noticing for a while that a cloud of American currency is blowing out of the back. It seems that’s where Roy stashed some money that belongs to his buddies and their gang the Birthright, notorious white supremacists that even Tommy doesn’t want to fuck with. When they’re not at the bar or the trailer park they’re on their compound practicing uzis on their elaborate gun range. And they say that money is “our weapons budget, our communications budget.”

On this range they not only have home-made building facades with cutouts of cops and a blown up photo of Lou Ann, but even a police helicopter that they move around using a pulley system. I like the Disneyland-Jungle-Cruise type detail of the jailbreak scene where a mannequin in striped jail uniform is standing on the shoulders of another, trying to climb the wall.

Alex, the psychotic leader of the gang, is played by Michael Des Barres, a character actor who appears in TO SIR WITH LOVE, GHOULIES and UNDER SIEGE. But he’s also a singer and songwriter.  He co-wrote the familiar ’80s hit “Obsession” by Animotion. Here’s his original version recorded for the John G. Avildsen movie A NIGHT IN HEAVEN:

But most importantly he was the lead singer of Power Station after Robert Plant left, and wrote their song “We Fight For Love” that’s on COMMANDO.

The Birthright also includes the interesting looking John Dennis Johnston as Waycross, Sven-Ole Thorsen as “Birthright Thug” (I think he has one line) and Bill Moseley (THE DEVIL’S REJECTS) as Darrell, who other than apparently being a total scumbag seems pretty nice. He likes Tommy’s fake racist persona, thinks he’s a funny guy, and welcomes him to the compound. It’s not a huge role, but he gets more screen time than in most of his non-TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 movies he did in the ’80s, and gets to do alot of the Chop Top laugh. And like in TCM2 he drives a big redneck truck with some dudes on it chasing somebody, but they’re using guns instead of a chainsaw and none of the dudes are a dead body being used as a puppet.

There are some other notable appearances too. I guess this gas station attendant with one line is a cameo by the singer Bryan Adams:

Eastwood regulars Bill McKinney and Geoffrey Lewis show up as, respectively, a bartender and a crazy hippie arms dealer named Ricky Z. Also Frances Fisher (UNFORGIVEN, TRUE CRIME) is Lou Ann’s sister who takes care of the baby, and James Cromwell (SPACE COWBOYS) is “Motel Desk Clerk,” which is a more significant role than it sounds like. He’s a friendly guy running a shitty hotel who parks the Caddy in a barn where chickens shit all over it.

And there’s a weird part where Tommy stops in a casino in Reno and this guy is on stage doing a weird Elvis impression:

This was a year after Jim Carrey had been in THE DEAD POOL, three years before In Living Color. He’d actually done big parts in ONCE BITTEN and stuff, so it’s kind of weird that he has this little less-than-a-minute stage appearance here. The best part about it is the pretentious credit he gets for it:

At the time this was made it was different from now – you could just say somebody was a white supremacist, and that meant they were the bad guys. It was shorthand for “they are disgusting horrible people who clearly deserve whatever Clint is gonna give them.” We don’t even see these guys committing any hate crimes, I think it’s pretty much all white people in the movie, but it was assumed that any decent human of any race automatically knew that white supremacists were shitbags. Back then they would not have even been considered for the presidential cabinet or to be “provocateur” media celebrities with major book deals. So they just sat around doing speed and talking angrily about their friend Roy’s wife as “the female.”

There is one scene where Alex explains his “America For Americans” platform. He calls the Birthright “warriors, ready to seize everything that’s been denied them.” He makes Waycross read the pamphlet he made, which involves a bunch of racial slurs and “taking our jobs” and then he says “blah blah blah, ‘conspiracy of the Jews’… It’s not very good,” partly because “the printing stinks” and “you got ‘Jews’ running off into the margin.”

Anyway, you basically got a road trip with Tommy and Lou Ann learning to get along and Lou Ann going from trying to escape to trying to be Tommy’s partner in catching other bail jumpers, until the Birthright find the baby. Then it becomes a ransom situation with dumbass Roy in the middle of it not necessarily meaning harm to his own baby and not knowing what to do. And Tommy uses his skip tracing techniques to try to track them down.

The titleistical vehicle goes through a whole lot, being stolen back and forth so at one point Tommy and Lou Ann are driving a loaner truck from the hotel. During the climactic chase the Caddy gets fucked up and loses the whole front corner but it keeps going. It looks like a Terminator or a Chucky at the end of their respective movies..

Screenwriter John Eskrow later did AIR AMERICA and THE MASK OF ZORRO. Although Clint didn’t direct this one, it’s a Malpaso production made with some of his usual guys, like cinematographer Jack N. Green and editor Joel Cox, plus composer Steve Dorff, who had done HONKYTONK MAN and was conductor for EVERY WHICH WAY BUT LOOSE, BRONCO BILLY and ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN. The director was Clint’s former stunt double Buddy Van Horn, his final movie as a director (after ANY WHICH WAY YOU CAN and THE DEAD POOL). He must be retired now (he’s 87 years old) but he was still working with Clint this decade, having been stunt coordinator for J. EDGAR.

Coming two movies before UNFORGIVEN, it was near the end of Action Star Clint Eastwood, when he was about to become Serious Oscar Winning Director Clint Eastwood. PINK CADILLAC has a reputation as lesser Eastwood, but I think it’s totally solid. I like it more than the similar THE GAUNTLET, and not only because I find Peters more appealing than Locke. It’s tough, it’s funny, it’s a good time.

thanks to RRA for suggesting I watch this one

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, January 2nd, 2017 at 7:30 am and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Pink Cadillac”

  1. I saw this at the turn of the decade and liked it fine, although I seem to remember it just ends.

    I believe it was Robert Palmer who was the lead singer of Power Station, unless there was a Plant phase I’m not familiar with, which wouldn’t be surprising with a supergroup like that (the Palmer line-up did reunite in the 90s though, I believe). Prefer the Animotion version of OBSESSION to be honest

  2. I was wondering which one your New Years Clint movie of 2017 would be. For some reason I always confuse this with CADILLAC MAN.

    Des Barres most popular role might be MacGyver’s seemingly unkillable arch enemy Murdock (Not to be confused with the lovable nutcase Murdock from THE A-TEAM). One episode was about one of Mac’s frineds starring in a rockmusical about Cleopatra (“Cleo Rocks”) and apparently Des BArres wrote the cheesy pop songs for that episode too.

  3. Robert Palmer, not Plant.

  4. Vern, you really like this better than THE GAUNTLET?!

  5. “You see, we got a problem, you and me. We don’t like each other very much, but we have to take a trip together. Now you can come along peacefully or you can be a pain in the ass. But I’m warning ya, you mess around and I’ll put the cuffs on you. You talk dirty, I gag ya, if you run, I’ll shoot you. My name is Shockley, and we’ve got a plane to catch. Let’s go.”

  6. I remember this was one of the movies available when my cable company first got oh per view. I ordered it, I taped it and must’ve watched it a few times but damn I can’t remember anything about it. Even Vern’s detailed review doesn’t jog any memories.

    I definitely remember The Gauntlet fondly but respect.

  7. I’m sure it’s my 40 year old love of THE GAUNTLET which clouds my mind, but doesn’t every Eastwood fan alive consider it one of the brightest jewels in the man’s action crown? Not least because it’s one of the rare movies of Clint with a liberal agenda. I sure that’s down to the project starting out as a Peckinpah movie with McQueen and Streisand in the leads, but at least Eastwood didn’t change the script. His speech in the movie about settling down with a picket fence and a swimming pool is down right touching.

  8. I’m with you, Pegsman. Vern goes his own way, and “I wouldn’t have it any other way”, but you are quite correct. I was gonna say THE GAUNTLET is the second best Clint-on-a-bus movie ever, but then I remembered how much I love the bus chase in WHERE EAGLES DARE.

    Does PINK CADILLAC have a poster by Frank Frazetta? I think not.

    Happy New Year y’all, and let’s put some money on Mally No Show for 2018.

  9. I’ll have to rewatch it. I don’t remember what it was that I found lacking other than Locke being kind of annoying.

  10. The Gauntlet itself should be reason enough to love it. That is some amazing stuff.

  11. “or to be “provocateur” media celebrities with major book deals.”

    Was this a dig at Milo Yannapallafiefighfannabobannapolos?

  12. Gus is supposed to be annoying, and under Clint’s direction Locke gives us the best acting of her entire carreer…

  13. I’ve waited many years for this review and it was well worth the waiy.

  14. I haven’t seen this since it was in the theater, so I’m definitely overdue for a re-watch. But THE GAUNTLET is prolly in my Top 3 Clint movies, so…yeah, hopefully PINK CADILLAC is on the Netflix or something.

  15. The story back at the time was that Clint did this as a quickly job that allegedly came together swiftly because he had an opening right before he went off to Africa to make WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART and well, that was seen as a prestige project (i.e. lose money but maybe win awards) like BIRD was…which lost money for WB. So basically Clint trying to do an I.O.U. for WB. Ironically, PINK CADILLAC tanked.

    I didn’t care for this one from what I remember of it. I usually respect Clint for his knack of being economical with his storytelling and efficient with the decent formula of action, humor, no bullshit pacing, etc. Usually they’re terrific entertainments, but this one just didn’t work. And yes as somebody above mentioned, the movie’s ending is random. Like Clint realized “ah fuck it, good enough.” It’s odd.

    Basically part of his career funk with this and THE ROOKIE (another Clint formula misfire in my book), though BIRD and WHITE HUNTER BLACK HEART are good movies. Until UNFORGIVEN, which was a hit and won Clint his first Oscar. And then IN THE LINE OF FIRE (which yes it was a great Oscar-nominated thriller script was also a refreshed formulaic “Clint movie”) confirmed he was a draw again.

  16. Yeah, this was the period in my life when I was living with my parents and seeing absolutely every new Clint release with my dad, but between this and The Rookie, my Clint enthusiasm was at an all-time low. To the point that Unforgiven being a western gave me a glimmer of hope, but I wasn’t expecting much. Needless to say, that I (and my dad) were knocked for a fucking loop…

    I pretty sure my dad said “Better than Shane” as we were walking out, but he later claims to have no memory of saying that.

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