Film / Sunset

"They broke every rule, loved every woman, took every risk and solved the most shocking murder in the history of Beverly Hills. And it's all true. Give or take a lie or two."

Sunset is a 1988 film written and directed by Blake Edwards, starring Bruce Willis as legendary western actor Tom Mix and James Garner as legendary lawman Wyatt Earp (a role Garner had previously played in John Sturges' 1967 film Hour of the Gun). The story is based on Rod Amateau's novel Sunset, which was loosely based on fact as Earp actually did serve as technical adviser for some early silent westerns.

The film is set in the Hollywood of the late 1920s, during the waning days of the industry's transition to sound film. Producer and studio head Alfie Alperin (Malcolm McDowell) wants to produce a great Western movie about Wyatt Earp. Tom Mix is cast as the great United States Marshal and the real Earp is on set as a technical adviser. But before Earp and Mix can start their movie adventure they are caught in a real case of murder, prostitution and corruption. Together they try to straighten out the problems of the missing son of Earp's former girlfriend, Christina. But now she is Alfie's wife — and he isn't amused by Earp's investigations. The fact that the young man's older sister is dating a notorious mobster and that all three were at the scene of a murder doesn't help. Soon Earp unveils the true sadistic character of Alfie, and after the death of Christina matters become personal.

Sunset contains examples of:

  • Brandishment Bluff: The shotgun that is a mop.
  • Butch Lesbian: Invoked, Cheryl admits to dressing as a man so that people will assume she's Candy's lover. Actually she's her daughter.
  • Catch-Phrase: "Give or take a lie or two."
  • Cool Car: Tom Mix owns several, including a huge Packard covertible with steer horns.
  • End of an Age: Both the Old West (already gone) and silent movies (soon to go).
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Tom Mix tells Wyatt Earp that he's not what he expected, being so cultured. Wyatt Earp replies that Tom's not what he expected either, he then ponders a moment before shrugging and resorting to this trope.
  • Hood Hornament: Tom Mix drives a huge Packard convertible with steer horns mounted on the front. Mix actually had a car like this in Real Life.
  • It's Personal: Once Christina is murdered, the case becomes this for Earp.
  • Kung-Shui: Lampshaded since the scene is actually being shot in a film about Wyatt Earp, in the presence of Wyatt Earp himself who comments on how unrealistic it is.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Alfie Alperin is very strongly based on Charlie Chaplin. Of course, lawyers for the Chaplin estate probably would have something to say if the movie had Charlie Chaplin commit the acts that Alfie does.
  • Retired Gunfighter: Wyatt Earp
  • The Roaring '20s: The movie is set in Hollywood during the heydays of the silent movies.
  • Stick 'em Up: A gang of thugs is bluffed into thinking a mop handle is actually a shotgun.
  • Twilight of the Old West: Earp is watching his life being mythologised while he is still alive.
  • U.S. Marshal: Earp; retired, of course.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Earp did live in Hollywood in the 1920s, did act as a technical advisor on several silent westerns, and was close friends with Tom Mix (who served as a pallbearer at Earp's funeral). The murder is very loosely based on the events surrounding the death of Thomas Ince (which did not involve Earp or Mix in any way).
    • In universe, Wyatt describes the film about his life as being "Just like it, give or take a lie or two." Variations of this phrase start being used by others about their own anecdotes.