Forgotten Classic: ‘Cocktail’

I know what most of the discerning film connoisseurs amongst you are thinking. Surely he doesn’t mean the appalling 1988 Tom Cruise film, and if he does, can somebody please put this man in a straight jacket and ensure he is never allowed to express his opinions on a public forum again.

I understand your concerns, I really do. Roger Donaldson’s Cocktail (1988) is a throwaway piece of fluff: a cheap and cheesy tale full of bottle tricks and beaches, forged in some dark and mysterious studio office by a bunch of heathens whose sole purpose in life was to ensure that Tom Cruise occasionally made the front cover of Smash Hits. Yes, it’s hard to believe now but way back when posters of “Uncle Tom” adorned the bedroom walls of teenage girls the world over and this film was genetically engineered for them. However, it’s also film about male friendship. It’s The Shawshank Redemption (1994) with ice and a slice.

The pairing of Bryan Brown and Tom Cruise is right up there with best ever casting decisions.  I have no idea how many actors they must have looked through for the role of Douglas Coughlin before they finally settled upon Brown, but I’d hazard a guess that he wasn’t top of the list (or anywhere close to it). From his opening line to his posthumous letter Brown steals the film, devouring his dialogue and delivering it with a dry wit and masculine charm. Cruise is also fine and dandy: all pearly teeth and arrogance, which perfectly fits his ambitious yet flawed character Brian Flanagan.

Brown’s sporadic preaching of his personal bartender philosophy – “Coughlin’s Law: Never show surprise, never lose your cool” – coupled with Cruise’s playful banter – “You look like a man who dyes his hair and shaves with a Brillo pad…” – has made Cocktail immensely quotable. I know people with a dear love for the film that regurgitate the majority of the script at will. Throw in some early turns by Gina Gershon and Elisabeth Shue, not to mention the delicious Kelly Lynch as Doug’s wayward wife, and you have a movie which caters for all faiths and persuasions.

I’m not claiming that Cocktail is a misunderstood masterpiece, so there’s no need to call the men in white coats just yet, but if you want a couple of hours of mindless escapism, entertainment and eye candy, there is no finer piece of lovable trash on the market.

Lee Cassanell