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With: Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman, Bill Murray, David Caruso, Mike Starr, Tom Towles, Kathy Baker, Anthony Cannata, J. J. Johnston, Richard Belzer
Written by: Richard Price
Directed by: John McNaughton
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, language, violence and drug content
Running Time: 97
Date: 03/05/1993

Mad Dog and Glory (1993)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Glory Be

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Mad Dog and Glory is like a movie that exists in some other dimension. There was a role for a nice guy and a role for a dangerous gangster, and Bill Murray — whose previous movie that year was in the comedy-romance Groundhog Day — and Robert De Niro — not too far from Martin Scorsese's edgy GoodFellas and Cape Fear — somehow switched parts. Scorsese produced, but did not direct, choosing instead to make that year's costume movie The Age of Innocence. The actual director, John McNaughton, came from horror movies, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and The Borrower. It goes without saying that many did not quite know what to do with the finished movie.

But the French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema voted it one of the year's ten best movies, and while they're not 100%, the choice at least acknowledges that the movie has something worthwhile about it. So De Niro stars as the "Mad Dog" of the title, kind of an ironic nickname, given that he's a little on the dull side. He's a crime photographer for the Chicago Police Department, so familiar with the job that he can read a crime scene in his sleep. While on a job, he stops by a convenience store, only to find it being robbed. He manages to save the life of a hostage, who turns out to be mob boss Frank Milo (Murray).

Frank decides to pay his debt to Mad Dog by sending him Glory (Uma Thurman). She owes a debt to Frank and is basically his slave. Her assignment is to spend a week with Mad Dog and do anything he wants. But Mad Dog is too kind to take advantage of her, and instead falls in love with her. He meets with Frank and bargains to buy Glory's freedom, which amounts to something like $40,000. Frank gets himself in deep trying to raise the money and fend off Frank's thugs, and the movie climaxes in a somewhat legendary (in another dimension) all-out street brawl between Frank and Mad Dog.

The movie isn't exactly laugh-out-loud funny, but it does have a light spirit like a comedy would. The filmmakers seem to like the characters; the film sees the good in everyone, and hopes that everything is going to turn out OK. Yet it's also unafraid of going a little dark, a little gritty. It uses Chicago well, showing its imperfections, rather than as a scrubbed sitcom backdrop. (The cinematography is by the late, great Robby Müller.) David Caruso co-stars as Mad Dog's loyal partner Mike, who is not afraid of a scrap. Huge, thuggish-looking, but funny Mike Starr plays one of Frank's henchmen. Kathy Baker co-stars as Mad Dog's pretty neighbor, and Richard Belzer has a cameo as a comic at a nightclub where Frank "performs."

It's far from an essential movie, but it is a lot of fun to see Murray behaving so badly, and De Niro showing a softer side of himself. Thurman is lovely here, but still a little ways away from truly being challenged in a role (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, etc.). Kino Lorber released the movie on Blu-ray for 2019, in a decent transfer and audio mix. It comes with a nifty array of extras, starting with a director's commentary track, a making-of featurette, archival interviews (including one with producer Scorsese), and a trailer.

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