I love Robert Redford. He's a cool guy. I don't think we need an enumerated list to explain why I think he's cool, either. Suffice to say that although neither of his Vegas movies really make my tops list -- in fact, I think one of them is a turd -- he still gets special mention in the pantheon of best Vegas movies because he's such an unlikely leading man for Las Vegas adventures. And it's exactly those distasteful veins that he taps into for each role. Instead of glorifying the city, which would be anathema for him, he brings across the disdain. And yet, that's the beauty of Redford -- it's still done with flair of wit and rapscallion charm.
So it's 1979 and Sydney Pollack decides to make a movie about the beauty of the unspoiled west. A cowboy movie infused with a natural romance. Hmm. Where to start? Las Vegas, of course! He gets two movie stars at the height of their fame and has Hanoi Jane and the Sundance Kid spar along the strip and appropriately calls it The Electric Horseman.
Redford rocks the purple satin, bedazzled with green sequins for accent, as the Electric Horseman, Sonny Steele. (<--great porn name)
Sonny's a hard-boozing, ex rodeo champ who's been outposted to do time as a breakfast cereal spokesman, and he's sent to Vegas, along with a $12 million dollar champion horse, to pitch the stuff. All of this is distasteful enough for Sonny, but when he sees that the once dignified horse is being doped, he gets his shit together and steals it. Which results in this scene, of the Sundance Kid riding down the strip in full, flashing getup.
Unexpected highlight of the movie? Redford, as Sonny Steele, actually slaps Jane Fonda's Hallie across the face at one point! That's the kind of shit that went the way of mob-rule in Vegas. By the mid-80's, it just wasn't done anymore, at least not publicly.
Once Sonny gets off the strip and into Utah, Pollack captures some beautiful scenery to really make this a laid-back western. But until then? It's set in Caesars Palace, which isn't all that different looking from the 1988 Caesars Palace, which still bears a striking resemblance, in places, to the 2007 Caesars Palace. But the wallpaper in the rooms is funkier than George Clinton, and Sonny's tricked-out ride down the strip features a Vegas that's completely gone today.
Fourteen years later, Redford gets tricked-out once again, but in a much more literal way. In Indecent Proposal, his character, appropriately named John, takes an even more expensive ride on a thoroughbred when he mounts top earning Hollywood female Demi Moore (12.5 million for her highest paying gig, I believe, therefore edging out the racehorse) for the American's Top Hooker price tag of a million bucks.
He also tries to steal this bucking babe away from her husband, played by Woody Harrelson, but instead of setting her free in Utah, she runs back to Woody by picture's end. This is the second unsuccessful theft in this film, as the first occurs when sex-obsessed director Adrian Lyne rips off the comic premise of Honeymoon in Vegas and turns it to a fucking dirge. None of this is the fault of writer Jack Engelhard, on whose novel the movie is supposedly based, and who published his book long before Honeymoon. However, he sure didn't help matters, either. Also, it should be noted that I have nothing against the sex-obsessed, I just think Adrian Lyne kinda sucks.
On the upside, Lyne is sex-obsessed, and Demi Moore is unabashedly uninhibited, so we get some skin shots, which is nothing to scoff at. In 1993, Moore was one of the sexiest and most beautiful women in the world, and it's a pleasure to watch her move onscreen. On the downside, Moore was also one of the most beautifully awful actresses in Hollywood, so watching her trying to act can be downright wince-worthy.
But there is also Redford. Casually flipping his chips, seated at a high-limit baccarat table beneath the crystal chandeliers in the Hilton Las Vegas casino. He inspired me to lean that trick. By most people's standards, the Hilton is a fairly unremarkable casino, because it has no theme. It's a just a casino, which is precisely what makes it pretty cool. I owe this movie a debt of gratitude, because I only stopped in to check the place out because of the movie being filmed. And because of that, I discovered the greatest cocktail ever created. The Warp Core Breach. It's not even mentioned in the movie, and in fact, the bar (Quark's) isn't mentioned, either. But this drink, it's legendary. So for that, I'm grateful.
Despite this movie's many shortcomings (no pun intended), it is worthwhile to see the elegance of Redford, and sexiness of Moore's lips as she kisses the dice and then puts on the infamous dress, and to get a glimpse of Vegas that's not theme-park mania.
We all know Redford prefers the peace and natural dignity of Utah. But put him in a suit in the middle of Vegas and he still manages to light up the screen and outshine all the artificial glitter.