Havana | Chicago Reader


A professional Yankee gambler (Robert Redford) falls for the politically committed wife (Lena Olin) of a wealthy Cuban radical (Raul Julia) on the eve of the Cuban revolution (Christmas 1958), and finds himself, like Casablanca's Rick, getting sucked into politics in spite of himself. The plot's a lot skimpier than Casablanca's, but the running time is 40-odd minutes longer, thanks to the film's efforts (mainly successful) to re-create the place and period in some detail—although Castro's rebels don't put in much of an appearance, and the movie's determination to slip as many Sinatra tunes as possible into the sound track occasionally seems labored. (David Grusin's score also features other period hits, romantic schmaltz, and the umpteenth rip-off of Sketches of Spain.) In fact, elaborate visual mounting and iconographic placement of the romantic leads are the movie's preoccupation, with the overthrow of Batista merely providing local color; American fence-sitting may be part of what the liberal filmmakers—screenwriters Judith Rascoe and David Rayfiel and director Sydney Pollack—have in mind, but the revolution itself is scaled to the hero's narrow vision, and consequently remains in the wings throughout. What emerges is watchable enough in terms of spectacle, with a good secondary cast—including Alan Arkin, Tomas Milian, Richard Farnsworth, Mark Rydell, and Fred Asparagus (the latter essaying a sort of Cuban Sydney Greenstreet)—but is nonetheless thematically limited (1990).

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