Before he was The Dude, he was Matt Scudder. Detective Matt Scudder to be precise. Never heard of him? Jeff Bridges will probably have a hard time remembering him too. Bridges’ Scudder is the main attraction of Oliver Stone-co-penned, Hal Ashby-directed 8 Million Ways To Die, a film that seems to find it hard remembering what its central story is.
Emblazoned with an 80’s-tastic soundtrack, the film lurches from one story arc to another, with relatively little direction. The film loosely looks at prostitution and drug trafficking as well as larger concepts such as guilt and remorse. After killing an un-armed man, Scudder spirals into an alcohol-induced mess that costs him his job, his family and his happiness. After a random chance meeting, he finds himself embroiled in a confusing mish-mash of crimes and meetings that fail to make an impact.
Jeff Bridges’ usual charm and talents are wasted somewhat here (and hidden by a dodgy ‘tache that he sports throughout), whilst the supporting cast flail from scene to scene, giving almost cardboard performances. A young Andy Garcia appears as troublesome crook Angel, a man whose interests switch quickly from girls (namely Rosanna Arquette’s Sarah) to snow cones.
8 Million Ways To Die is harmless enough but fails to deliver on the expectations it provides. It’s unsurprising to discover that co-producer Mark Damon once spoke of Ashby supposedly throwing away the script and letting the actors improvise. Reminiscent of daytime TV fodder, 8 Million Ways To Die rarely achieves the tension it obviously sets out to achieve and, with a strangely gory ending, the film feels ill-paced and rushed.