Dick Tracy (1990) – or – Aren’t you gonna frisk me?

A gang war is brewing between Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) and any other hood that stands in his way. The only cop who can stop him is Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty). While Tracy is constantly running off to stop crime, his girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) is hoping he’ll finally take a desk job so they can spend their lives together. The two encounter an orphan who goes by the name of Kid (Charlie Korsmo), who begins to show Dick Tracy what family life could be like. As the war between Big Boy and the police escalates, will Dick Tracy survive long enough to have a life with Tess at all?

This was a great film from my younger years, and I can vividly remember waiting in line for hours to get in on opening night. The action figures filled my shelves, and I became addicted to drawing as many Dick Tracy villains as I could. Another viewing now reminded me of the reasons I enjoyed it then, and gave me plenty of new reasons to enjoy it now. The visual style alone is enough to give viewers a pleasurable experience. It completely captures the comic book feel of Dick Tracy. It did remind me of some of the later Batman sequels, but without the pointless, over the top neon that seemed to fill those films. Crammed full of primary colours, the visuals almost explode off the screen. It really is a comic come to life.

Warren Beatty does a great job as the tough, no nonsense detective.

That great visual style extends to the various evil characters in the film. Flattop, Pruneface, Lips Manlis, The Brow, and my personal favourite, Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles. There’s an insane amount of prosthetics used in the film, sometimes for only a brief scene. Quite a few villains meet their demise in the opening scene, probably spending more time in the make-up chair than they did in the final film. Of course, not everybody is buried under layers of latex, and the standout there would be Madonna. She sounds amazing, and is stunningly beautiful. This is probably the only time I’ve ever enjoyed Madonna in a film. Over the top may be an understatement for this flick, but her performance hits just the right notes without ever going where Al Pacino does the entire time. His turn as Big Boy Caprice is a combo of stuttering and screaming, a trait that tends to get annoying after a bit.

Pacino goes way over the top in his role as Big Boy Caprice.

This isn’t exactly a serious film, so strange performances can be forgiven, it just seems that Pacino is heading into caricature territory here. Warren Beatty plays the tough, emotionless detective perfectly, although you have to wonder if he’s stretching to pull it off. The villains wind up stealing the show, but that’s always the best part of any hero story. Perhaps the more reserved Dick Tracy is the best way to showcase the insane villains. Speaking of the bad guys, Dustin Hoffman as Mumbles may be the best. He’s given only a few scenes in the film, but they’re always hilarious. Even the smallest characters add plenty to the film, and Dick Tracy winds up being one of the most entertaining comic book movies around.

Under the marquee – Will

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One Response to Dick Tracy (1990) – or – Aren’t you gonna frisk me?

  1. Pingback: Gangster Squad (2013) – or – Guns and gams. | The Film Reel

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