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Film review: Man Trouble

Published: Wednesday, July 29 1992 12:00 a.m. MDT

Here's an amazingly inept comedy from the team that gave us "Five Easy Pieces" some 22 years ago. It also boasts a first-rate cast. Too bad they're all slumming.

"Man Trouble" casts Jack Nicholson as a slimeball con man who runs a failing guard-dog security company. He is married to an Asian woman, whom he derisively calls "Iwo Jima," and we first see them in a marriage counseling session.

As the film progresses (if that's the word), we find that Nicholson cheats on his wife with some regularity, owes money to creditors in several states, is living under an assumed name and is a compulsive liar. And this is the film's chief protagonist.

Meanwhile, Ellen Barkin is a classical singer who is estranged from her husband, a musical director.

As the plot gets under way, Barkin goes home one evening to find her apartment has been trashed. The police don't help much and she gets nervous about staying there, so when her self-possessed sister (Beverly D'Angelo) goes out of town, she moves into her house.

Unfortunately, she's still being threatened, so she calls on Nicholson to provide her with a guard dog. They meet, for some inexplicable reason she's attracted to him and they begin a romance. Naturally, neither one admits to being married.

The main story line seems to be their romance, though a lot of time is devoted to a pair of indistinct parallel stories, one about D'Angelo having written a manuscript about a famous millionaire who is now threatening her, the other about the mysterious "Westside Strangler."

Barkin is the more sympathetic character here, while Nicholson seems to revel in his sleaziness. And if the film were funnier, he might get away with it. But screenwriter Carol Eastman and director Bob Rafelson only manage to work up a couple of chuckles here and there. Most of the jokes are on the level of a running gag that has the guard dog repeatedly jumping up and wrapping his legs around Barkin or her maid.

The supporting cast, aside from D'Angelo, includes Harry Dean Stanton, Michael McKean, Saul Rubinek, Veronica Cartwright, David Clennon and actor-director Paul Mazursky. But none of them have much to do, and what they do have simply isn't funny.

"Man Trouble" is a real waste of talent. Not to mention your time.

It's rated PG-13 for violence, sex, profanity, vulgarity, partial nudity.

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