Tequila Sunrise

December 2nd, 1988


Tequila Sunrise

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Mac Mckussic is an unlikely drug dealer who wants to go straight. His old and best friend Nick Frescia is now a cop who is assigned to investigate and bring him to justice...

Release Year: 1988

Rating: 5.8/10 (13,731 voted)

Critic's Score: 62/100

Director: Robert Towne

Stars: Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kurt Russell

Mac Mckussic is an unlikely drug dealer who wants to go straight. His old and best friend Nick Frescia is now a cop who is assigned to investigate and bring him to justice. Mac is very attracted to Jo Ann, the owner of a stylish restaurant. Nick gets close to Jo Ann attempting to know more about Mac's drug dealing plans and his connections with the Mexican dealer Carlos, who the police believe is coming to town to meet with him. Nick also falls for Jo Ann's charms and his friendship with Mac is in danger.

Mel Gibson - Dale 'Mac' McKussic
Michelle Pfeiffer - Jo Ann Vallenari
Kurt Russell - Det. Lt. Nicholas 'Nick' Frescia
Raul Julia - Carlos / Comandante Xavier Escalante
J.T. Walsh - DEA Agent Hal Maguire
Gabriel Damon - Cody McKussic
Arliss Howard - Gregg Lindroff
Arye Gross - Andy Leonard
Daniel Zacapa - Arturo, Bartender at Vallenari's (as Garret Pearson)
Eric Thiele - Vittorio Vallenari
Tom Nolan - Leland
Dawn Martel - Sin Sister #1
Lala Sloatman - Sin Sister #2 (as Lala)
Budd Boetticher - Judge Nizetitch
Ann Magnuson - Shaleen McKussic

Taglines: A business on the line. A friendship on the edge. A woman caught in the middle. [Video]

Release Date: 2 December 1988

Filming Locations: Manhattan Beach, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $23,000,000 (estimated)

Gross: $41,292,551 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Michelle Pfeiffer reportedly did not get along with writer/director Robert Towne with Towne labeling her as "the most difficult actress I have ever worked with." This however was most likely due to Towne's reputed perfectionism and the fact that Pfeiffer was going through a divorce during the time of filming.

Continuity: When Pfeiffer is at the police station getting her chef released, Russell pulls up and parks directly in front of her car. When they leave the station, his car isn't there and Pfeiffer is able to drive away unobstructed.

Nick Frescia: [to Hal Maguire] At least the CIA does it on purpose

User Review

Very Underrated


Many perceive Tequila sunrise to be a routine, formulaic cop thriller with some nice sets, pretty actors, some guns, some sex....etc. Cynics go on to say that Gibson has never acted worse, that the plot twists are predictable and the love triangle is overly cheesy. I, on the other hand, feel that the film profits greatly from expert cinematography, fluent storytelling and convincing(albeit rather undemanding)acting. Pitting Gibson (the now-retired drug dealer lured back for one last deal) and Russell (the reluctant sheriff assigned to bust him) as best of friends on opposite sides of the law was a strong premise, made even more compelling by the fact that the drug dealer (Gibson) is the sympathetic character and the cop (Russell) is the sly, manipulative sort. There is an apparent sense of irony and it goes a long way to making an otherwise average story, interesting and very watchable. Pfeiffer is the glamorous love interest whose character does a lot to intensify the rivalry between the two men. Much of the drama and strength however comes from the late J.T Walsh as Russell's superior, hell bent on bringing Gibson down and his Mexican drug counter-part who nobody has ever seen. A special sense of irony presents itself at the denouement for Walsh unknowlingly becomes a pawn in the drug ring that has now become the talk of the town thanks to his vendetta.

The also late Raul Julia never disappoints as the charismatic yet enigmatic Mexican law enforcer. Julia and Walsh complement the film beautifully as side characters with dubious intentions. They are multi-faceted and like all the other people in this film are torn between what they should do and what they want to do, and in fact what they end up doing. Nothing is black and white in Tequila Sunrise; it's a very grey area. With every development we learn more about the people and how they are so far from being what we originally perceived. Hats off to to Robert Towne for his writing. Tequila Sunrise may lack the inventiveness, vision, and dynamism of Chinatown (Robert Towne wrote both scripts), but it should, by no means be discarded as a mediocre cop thriller.It is a very slick piece of cinema with fine acting, glamorous sets, and great dialogue. Furthermore, unlike some of it's predecessors it's a film that can be seen repeatedly without losing it's cutting edge. Under appreciated and underrated, Tequila Sunrise is an excellent film


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