Australian Simon Wincer, the director of some of our most unappreciated favorite films, pushed the movies of colleagues to the maximum with a stylized dystopia starring two stars at the peak of his career. Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke were never more cool than in ‘Two tough guys on wheels’, the incredible adventures of Harley Davidson and Malboro Man in a futuristic western. A jewel.
The 90s were obsessed with motorcycles. ‘Cold like ice’ (not to be confused with ‘Cold like steel’), ‘Don’t tell him it’s me’ or ‘Cold like steel’ (not to be confused with ‘Cold like ice’) influenced the power and masculinity of wild motorcycles that had riders of the caliber of Brian Bosworth, Steve Guttenberg or Vanilla Ice. Feeling very sorry for good old Bosworth, none of them demonstrated the exquisite taste and savoir-faire that the stars of ‘Miami Vice – Miami Corruption’ and ‘Manhattan South’ wielded here.
‘Two tough guys on wheels’ is a unique movie. It belongs to that strange corner of the 90s where creativity was seen in the big studios, which authorized impossible and brave projects in search of a recognition that would never come. There they are ‘The great hawk’, ‘The Phantom’ (also by Wincer) or these two antiheroes on wheels. With a $ 23 million budget and the support of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer behind it, the film did not convince either the critics or the public, becoming a monumental failure and falling into oblivion. Apparently we’ve always been shortsighted.
The first detail that made the film special is that it was a futuristic story. This 1991 production is set in a hypothetical 1996 quite similar to that of ‘Robocop 2’, for example. After Independence Day, the radio makes it clear to us that a new synthetic drug is annihilating a lost youth in an unsustainable world. Banks screw up your life and there is no trace of the law beyond some old youth league wanting to settle down. An outlaw song by Bon Jovi and a stylized sequence of credits began the adventure.
Of course, now that we live in the era of warnings and contexts, a film with this original title had to warn that there was no sponsorship in the title and project. It is not hard to believe, because the film flies free in a western peer format where the villains are triple threatening: they are murderers, they are drug dealers and they are banks. In fact, the characters smoke cigarettes of unknown brand (production did not get license from Marlboro) on motorcycles of unknown brand (they did not get license from Harley either!).
In the near future, two fringe heroes, aimless cowboys, stage a heist to save the premises from which they were rescued from the streets. Unfortunately, the stolen bags turn out to contain a new designer drug that belongs to powerful and dangerous men who will not hesitate to recover the loot at any cost. The place, by the way, is full of posters from Hollywood’s golden age. And here the blows are not planned, there is no time: you have the idea and to steal.
‘Two tough guys on wheels’ is an extraordinary film immediately and inevitably condemned to cult. This colleague thriller narrated in the key of a neo-western achieves the feat of being a certainly strange work, but also coherent. First heist movie and then revenge movie, it moves forward with friendship as fuel. That of two old friends, almost brothers, following to the letter the advice that has kept them alive for so many years.
Rourke’s Harley Davidson is nothing more than a disenchanted cynic unable to convey the slightest emotion, a rock tired of being tripped over. And it brings a very grateful halo of humanity. In numerous interviews, Mickey Rourke claimed that he made the film for purely financial reasons, something that made him feel “like a sellout” and fueled his descent into self-loathing in the mid-1990s. Indeed, he has never been characterized by his sense of self. humor.
Don Johnson does seem to be much more aware of the comic character of his character, an anachronistic old cowboy with boots patched in eternal duct tape. Same disappointment, different philosophy. Spitting out funny lines of dialogue, with a laconic “my old man always said before he left this rotten world …”, Johnson, the Malboro man, steals the show.