Mad Dog and Glory
1993, R, 97 min. Directed by John McNaughton. Starring Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Bill Murray, Kathy Baker, David Caruso.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 5, 1993
After his shocking film debut in 1989 with the unforgettable Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, word came out that McNaughton's next project would be a Martin Scorsese-produced project entitled Mad Dog and Glory scripted by Richard Price, the esteemed novelist (The Wanderers, Clockers) and screenwriter (The Color of Money, Sea of Love). In the four years since then, McNaughton has tried his hand at both cheesy sci-fi (The Borrower) and an Eric Bogosian concert film (Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll), neither of which held out the promise of his initial venture into filmmaking. Mad Dog and Glory, thankfully, finds the director in remarkable form, crafting an engrossing new film out of what might have been, in less competent hands, simply another Hollywood formula movie. When timid Chicago PD evidence technician Wayne “Mad Dog” Dobie (DeNiro) inadvertantly saves the life of local mob boss Frank Milo (Murray), he finds himself on the receiving end of “Glory” (Thurman), a gorgeous, week-long “thank-you” gift from the mobster. At first, put off by the appearance of this vision in his cramped, tidy apartment, DeNiro and Thurman eventually begin to hit it off; the ice thaws, the chill warms up, and before you know it, love is in the air. And the seven days are almost over. As in his previous films, McNaughton has an uncanny mastery over reality: this film -- the locations, the people, the emotions -- rings true. The city is a gritty, violent place, and the ironically named “Mad Dog” is a lonely soul, small bark and even less bite -- suspension of disbelief is an easy thing here. Murray, hot off Groundhog Day, his freshest comedy in years, is less of a comic (though it's interesting to note that his gangster character moonlights as a stand-up) than a witty, unctuous small-timer. To top it off, the film ends on an blessedly unsure note: will this newborn love survive? Maybe, maybe not. It's nice to know that sometimes not all your decisions are made for you by Hollywood.