Follow TV Tropes


Film / Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man

Go To
So much macho, it might make you sick.

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man is a 1991 action film, starring Mickey Rourke and Don Johnson. The film was written by Don Michael Paul and directed by Simon Wincer.

Set in the then-future of 1996, Harley Davidson meets a life long friend, a cowboy who is nicknamed The Marlboro Man and they later plan a bank robbery to help save their friend's bar from being foreclosed and replaced with a skyscraper. However, after they rob a bank's armored car, they discover the cargo they stole is the designer drug Crystal Dream, not money. Chance Wilder, who is a bank president involved in drug dealing, demands the return of the drugs. A series of increasingly deadly encounters ensue as heavily-armed assassins hunt for Harley and Marlboro, and the film continues to detail their attempts to escape with their lives.

Tropes associated with this work:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Made in 1991, it's set in 1996, so technically it's five years into the future from when it was made.
  • The Alleged Car: Marlboro's first bike that we see him own in the film has a very faulty ignition. After Harley and Marlboro take turns testing the Desert Eagle Harley gifts the latter "putting the bike down", Marlboro goes and steals the bike of the man who took his girlfriend Virginia. We also have a rare case of The Alleged Shoes in Marlboro's cowbow boots.
  • Badass Biker: Both our heroes. Jack Daniels as well.
  • Badass Boast: Harley's "Better to be dead and cool... than alive and uncool." Later used as an Ironic Echo when Harley tells Marlboro he'd rather run away and live than face the assassins and Marlboro throws this line in his face.
  • Badass Longcoat: The villains all wear long black coats that not only conceal the assault rifles they carry, but are also BULLETPROOF.note 
  • Berserk Button: Harley insulting Marlboro's dead father out of frustration merely annoys him. Chance insulting Marlboro's father for real is grounds for a No Holds Barred Beat Down
  • Big Damn Heroes: The gang would have been subject to a Total Party Kill during the robbery if Jack hadn't shown up at the last minute and sent his bike careening into the assassins.
  • The Big Guy: Jack Daniels. Fittingly, he's played by Big John Studd. Harley and Marlboro lampshade it in his first scene.
    Harley: "Does he look like he's gotten bigger?"
    Marlboro: "...Maybe a little."
  • The Chanteuse: Lulu Daniels, as played by Vanessa Williams.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Marlboro's duct-taped cowboy boots. Harley calls him out on this, saying he should get a new pair. Later, one of the assassins holds to Marlboro's boots when they're both hanging from a ledge and... whoops.
  • Cool Old Guy: The owner of the Rock n' Roll Bar, who also acts as a surrogate father figure for Harley, Marlboro, Jack and Jose.
  • Cool Shades: Harley constantly sports a pair.
  • Corporate Warfare: Unfortunately for our heroes, it turns out that the Great Trust Bank has a team of hitmen at its beck and call to secretly (and brutally) eliminate thieves. Said hitman squad is equipped with top-of-the-line weapons and armored longcoats, and although they don't end up using it (but our heroes do), the helicopter that takes them around has a concealed minigun.
  • Costume Inertia: Marlboro won't change his boots, even though they are older than dirt and the soles keep flaying off now and then, it doesn't matter, they are his father's. The old man probably also used the duct tape.
  • Crapsack World: Being set 20 Minutes in the Future, it features several motifs consistent with that trope, including protagonists who are rebellious anti-heroes, corrupt businessmen who operate without any civil oversight, increased crime rates (with police not acting either due to corruption, disinterest or being overwhelmed), new designer drugs, skyrocketing cost-of-living and the entire city of Burbank razed and turned into an airport.
  • Deadpan Snarker: There's a lot of this going around this movie, but Marlboro is the most consistent in his snarking. Most prominently in his Snark-to-Snark Combat with Harley.
  • Demolitions Expert: During the robbery, Jose is in charge of blowing the back of the armored car open with C4.
  • Destination Defenestration: Harley's fight with Jack Daniels.
  • Disney Villain Death: Chance falls to his death after Marlboro's boot peels off.
  • The Dragon: Alexander.
  • Fantastic Drug: The hallucinogenic neurotoxin "Crystal Dream", which is taken through the eyes.
  • Fair Cop: Virginia Slim.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Chance is seen having a video conference with Japanese business partners. Roughly half of his dialogue is made unintelligible by a combination of his accent and speaking way too fast.
  • Gunship Rescue: Tom the chopper pilot rescues our heroes when they're about to be shot by Chance's guards in the climax... By tearing apart Chance's office with his helicopter's built-in minigun.
  • Hand Cannon: Both of the main characters are armed with biiiig guns; Harley Davidson has a custom Ruger Super Blackhawk in .454 Casull, and Marlboro packs a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Subversion. Tom the chopper pilot decides to help our heroes out in the climax despite being in the employ of the villains, but it's more because his bosses were assholes to him and because the heroes paid him than anything else.
  • Henpecked Husband: Jack Daniels, the gigantic biker that can pick up Harley and toss him around like a rag doll, turns out to be this to his wife Lulu. When he pulls a Big Damn Heroes entrance by using his bike as an impromptu Molotov during the heist, he tells his friends he's not looking forward to explaining to Lulu what happened to his bike.
  • Honor Before Reason: Despite being an outlaw, Marlboro adheres to a strict code of honor. He rejects Harley's idea to run away when they're being hunted by the assassins, and later refuses to shoot an unarmed Chance despite everything Chance had done, both times because "It ain't right."
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Harley is apparently a graduate. According to Marlboro, it's because he first learned how to shoot with an overly-powerful gun, and thus never mastered the finer points of marksmanship.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: By contrast, Marlboro is capable of such feats as Blasting It Out of Their Hands and popping off the gun belt for good measure.
  • Instant Marksman: Just Squeeze Trigger!: The Marlboro Man says "Squeeze the trigger, Harley. Don't yank it, it's not your dick. Squeeze it." In this case, however, there's no training taking place; the Marlboro Man is making a snarky comment on Harley's piss-poor shooting skills.
  • It Was a Gift: The reason Marlboro continues to wear his shitty, worn-out, duct taped boots is because his father gave them to him before his first ever rodeo ride.
  • It's Like I Always Say: "My old man used to tell me, before he left this shitty world..."
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Jack Daniels with his wife Lulu.
  • Jive Turkey: Jimmy Jiles.
  • Man Bites Man: Harley does this during his fight with Jack.
  • Name and Name: Nickname and nickname, to be exact.
  • New Old West: The plot is a gang of outlaw bikers robbing an armored car to save their favorite bar that represents the last bastion of an earlier day in a modern society. Replace the motorcycles with horses, the armored car with a train, and you have a western right there. The fact that one of the bikers actually is a cowboy, and the bar they hang out is frequented by a variety of cowboys and outlaws doesn't hurt matters either. It even ends with one of the heroes riding off into the sunset.
  • Neutral Female: Kimiko does absolutely nothing but stand and watch as her boss is, in order: held at gunpoint, beaten and bloodied, and sent careening to his death.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Chance is a Corrupt Corporate Executive who runs a bank and peddles drugs on the side. He can afford to pay other guys to do the fighting for him.
  • Only a Flesh Wound (with a side of Major Injury Underreaction): The Marlboro Man is shot in the arm twice: once in the forearm with a 5.56 assault rifle round and once in the shoulder with a massive .454 Casull round. In real life, that arm would probably have been damaged to the point of requiring amputation. At the very least, it would have been severely and permanently crippled. Marlboro's reaction to his injuries can best be described as "mild, bemused annoyance", and he is later seen competing in a rodeo, where he uses that arm as if nothing ever happened.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The Marlboro Man's name (Robert T. Ellison) is thrown by a rodeo announcer in a quick line at the very end of the film. He's the only titular character that gets his real name said on-screen (unless we are to believe Harley's name is "Harley Davidson").
  • Power Dynamics Kink: Robert is pulled over for speeding by his ex-lover Virginia Slim (who is a motorcycle cop), after which they spend a night together.
  • Product Placement: Right there in the title. And we also have the characters Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo and Virginia Slim.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Alexander tries this when he captures Marlboro. Subverted when Harley attempts to take out the baddie with a well-placed shot, but is such a poor marksman he just ends up shooting Marlboro in the shoulder.
  • Ridiculous Future Sequelisation: A billboard is shown advertising a hypothetical fifth Die Hard film, Die Hardest V. invoked Hilarious in Hindsight, as of 2013's A Good Day to Die Hard.
  • Robbing the Mob Bank: Turns out the armored transport van they robbed was carrying drugs instead of money.
  • Sacrificial Lion: All of Harl and Marl's friends at the bar (minus Lulu) die when Alexander and friends come looking for them.
  • Saving The Bar: A misguided attempt at this is what sets the plot in motion.
  • Sexy Secretary: Chance's secretary Kimiko, as played by Tia Carrere.
  • Smoking Is Cool: Subverted and then played straight. Marlboro quit prior to the start of the film, but likes to keep a drag in his mouth out of habit. Finding out that Virginia is engaged gets him to demand a light from Harley.
  • Soft Water: Harley and Marlboro jump off the roof of a hotel, fall at least ten stories and land in a pool without breaking anything in their bodies. Lampshaded, as Marlboro was certain they'd be smashed only to express genuine surprise when they do end up surviving.
  • Throw-Away Guns: Harley tosses his shotgun at a guard during the heist to distract him as he's charging at him (which makes Marlboro admonish him over it), and in the final confrontation Marlboro solves the problem of Chance being unarmed (he doesn't wants to shoot an unarmed man, you see) by tossing him an empty Desert Eagle and then charging at him.
  • Unintentionally Notorious Crime: The idea was to steal an armored truck, and that is what was accomplished. Unfortunately, instead of cash, the gang stole a multi-million-dollar load of the hot new drug on the street, because the bank turns out to be its top distributor. The result: the bank sends its secret group of assassins to get the gang.
  • The Voiceless: Jose is a mute. Marlboro is responsible for interpreting his miming.