Touchstone Pictures // 1988 // 104 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // July 30th, 2012
"Are you ready for the big time, young Mr. Flanagan?"
It dawned on me whilst watching Cocktail that Tom Cruise is the first bona-fide movie star whose career I have bore witness to pretty much from the start. His rise from standard teen fare (Risky Business) to more substantial material has led to a varied career with considerably more ups than downs.
Cocktail, a film that seemingly got the green light purely on the wave of popularity Cruise found himself riding after Top Gun, is certainly one of the actor's lesser works, but as is evident from the Cocktail (Blu-ray) release, it is not without its charms.
Brian Flanagan (Tom Cruise, Vanilla Sky) dreams of making it big. Having completed his time serving in the U.S. Army, Brian moves to New York where he applies for every marketing job going, only to face a wall of rejection. Whilst studying for a business degree, Brian finds work at a local bar, where he learns the trade under the watchful eye of manager Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown, F/X). Brian and Doug soon strike up a friendship. Together, they begin to wow the New York night scene with their elaborate bartending act. The two soon plan to open their own chain of cocktail bars, but an indiscretion by Doug sees Brian leave for Jamaica.
Whilst in Jamaica, Brian falls for holidaymaker Jordan Mooney (Elisabeth Shue, Adventures in Babysitting), who makes him question his money-driven existence, but old habits die hard. When old friend Doug pays Brian an unexpected visit, he must decide what is truly important.
Cocktail follows an obvious narrative, in which the all cock and no balls Brian Flanagan comes to realize that his dreams of wealth are for naught if he doesn't have anyone to share them with. Coming from the eighties -- a decade renowned for greed -- Cocktail is that rare example where the ruthless pursuit of money is seen to be hollow.
Despite the occasional allusion to containing a little substance, Cocktail is a fairly standard romantic drama...except in many ways this is more a bromance than traditional romance. The biggest mistake the film makes is to assume the viewer will put any kind of investment into the relationship shared between Cruise's Flanagan and Elisabeth Shue's Jordan Mooney. The simple fact is that the two share too little time together on screen to make enough of an impact, with director Roger Donaldson seemingly hoping the film can coast by on the good looks of its two young stars. A much more rounded relationship comes in the form of Flanagan and his friend/rival/mentor, Doug Coughlin, played with vigor by Bryan Brown. Brown and Cruise share a good onscreen chemistry, and it's their ups and downs that really make Cocktail fizz, not least due to the banter they share.
In lieu of any big action set pieces, Cocktail introduces elaborate bottle spinning to excite its audience. With music blaring, a heaving bar, and Cruise and Brown throwing bottles around with gay abandon, the movie steps up a gear during these sequences. Unfortunately, anyone of drinking age will immediately spot the one major flaw with Cocktail, and that is the way Cruise and Brown spend the entirety of "Hippy Hippy Shake" just making one drink. How in the hell are these guys making any money if they are so slow to sell to just one punter? Such arguments are pointless though, as Cocktail is pure eighties spectacle and glamour. As a piece of fluff, it's hard to knock.
Bar a few moments of profanity, Cocktail does little to earn its R rating, and is perhaps worthy of reclassification. Despite its aspirations to be seen as steamy, the closest it ever gets to raising the temperature is a glimpse of side boob courtesy of Elisabeth Shue, a sight whose glory the film's twenty-odd years has done little to diminish.
Cocktail makes for an attractive-looking Blu-ray release, even if it couldn't really be called exceptional. While colors remain natural, they lack the vibrancy one would hope for from such a bright and colorful film. The picture is sharp for the most part, though does suffer from softness on occasion. Detail levels are good, and really bring to one's attention the quality of Mr. Cruise's wardrobe -- particularly his choice of shirt. There is a varying level of grain evident, and black levels are a little inconsistent. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is dialogue heavy, and is perfectly clear. The numerous music tracks that flesh out the score are delivered with aplomb, though there's little to ever really push your sound system. No special features are included on this release.
The viewer is presented with two choices when viewing Cocktail: they can either despair at its anemic plot or revel in its vacuous splendor. I definitely fall into the latter category. Perhaps it's a nostalgia thing, but I think it goes beyond that. For all its faults, and for every one of its moments of utter cliché -- of which there are many -- Cocktail delivers simple, undemanding entertainment. Isn't that all we really want sometimes?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R