Dick Tracy

Warren Beatty’s second solo directing effort, and he still had a lot to learn. Based on the Chester Gould comic strip, this has an appealing two-dimensional comic-book look, but lacks the vision to go with it, not to mention an interesting hero or a feeling for action. Madonna is great as Breathless Mahoney, but the crosscutting plays such havoc with her musical numbers that it’s hard to tell if Stephen Sondheim’s songs are any good or not. As with the subliminal flashes of dancing in The Cotton Club (which appears to be an unfortunate influence in some of the old-fashioned montage sequences here), her presence is more implied than savored. Al Pacino as the head crook is even better (one suspects the uncredited hand of Elaine May in some of his crazed free-form monologues), and the complex makeup on him and the other thugs (including Dustin Hoffman, R.G. Armstrong, William Forsythe, and Paul Sorvino) does wonders with Gould’s grotesqueries; but too much of the story is unfelt and mechanicalthe grimly humorless Tracy (Beatty) is never very convincing as an object of desire or admiration for Breathless, Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly), or Kid (Charlie Korsmo). Some of the ingredients of Tim Burton’s Batman seem deliberately apedparticularly in the lame action sequences, the main villain’s hammy acting, and the emotionally stunted herobut the film’s main source of originality, its two-dimensional approach, never gets much beyond a likable conceptual mannerism. The script is credited to Top Gun’s team of Jim Cash and Jack Epps Jr., but apparently a good many other fingers found their way into this particular pie, including those of Beatty, May, Bo Goldman, Floyd Mutrux, and Robert Towne. Mandy Patinkin, Seymour Cassel, Charles Durning, Dick Van Dyke, and James Caan are among the many recognizable costars. (JR)

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