Saturday 22 April 2023

Movie Review: Tin Men (1987)

Genre: Dramedy
Director: Barry Levinson
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito, Barbara Hershey
Running Time: 112 minutes

Synopsis: In Baltimore of 1963, rival aluminum siding salesmen Bill "BB" Babowsky (Richard Dreyfuss) and Ernest Tilley (Danny DeVito) get into an escalating feud after a fender bender damages their Cadillacs. Both men deploy scams to close sales as a routine part of business, but while BB is a smooth and single ladies' man, Tilley is on a losing streak and in a thorny marriage with Nora (Barbara Hershey). With a newly-created commission investigating the industry's devious sales tactics, BB heaps further misery on Tilley by seducing Nora.

What Works Well: Writer and director Barry Levinson recreates an era of unscrupulous door-to-door salesmen preying on naïve homeowners, and the early 1960s milieu is beautifully enriched with stellar production design and a large selection of Cadillacs. The script's energy is derived from a culture of tangential banter between male co-workers, the sense of camaraderie smoothing the job's euphoria peaks and despondency valleys. A stellar supporting cast includes John Mahoney, Bruno Kirby, and J.T. Walsh.

What Does Not Work As Well: The feud between BB and Tilley is juvenile and quickly becomes tiresome, the two men failing to evolve past repetitive childish antics and overexcited threats. Similarly, the romantic triangle is more convenient than convincing. The dialogue exchanges are hit-and-miss at best, and the opportunity to delve into the psychology of closing sales fades in the second half.

Conclusion: The sales pitch is promising but eventually falters.

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