Taglines: A business on the line. A friendship on the edge. A woman caught in the middle.
Mac Mckussic is an unlikely drug dealer who wants to go straight. His old and best friend Nick Frescia is now a cop who is assigned to investigate and bring him to justice. Mac is very attracted to Jo Ann, the owner of a stylish restaurant. Nick gets close to Jo Ann attempting to know more about Mac’s drug dealing plans and his connections with the Mexican dealer Carlos, who the police believe is coming to town to meet with him. Nick also falls for Jo Ann’s charms and his friendship with Mac is in danger.
Tequila Sunrise is a 1988 American crime thriller film written and directed by Robert Towne. It stars Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell, with Raúl Juliá, J. T. Walsh, Arliss Howard and Gabriel Damon in supporting roles.
The film, only the second (after Personal Best) to be both written and directed by Academy Award–winning screenwriter Towne, was commercially successful, making over $100 million at the box office worldwide, but critical reception was mixed. One reviewer was of the opinion that, “perhaps because the elements were so irresistible—Robert Towne directing Gibson, Russell and Pfeiffer in a California crime film—an aura of disappointment settled over Tequila Sunrise, no matter how engaging, and profitable, it turned out to be.”
Tequila Sunrise was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography. The film’s soundtrack spawned the hit single “Surrender to Me”, performed by Ann Wilson (lead singer of Heart) and Robin Zander (lead singer of Cheap Trick), where it went to #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1989.
About the Story
Dale “Mac” McKussic (Mel Gibson) is a former drug dealer trying to go straight. His close friend Nick Frescia (Kurt Russell) is a Detective Lieutenant with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who, in spite of their long-term relationship going back to high school, is duty-bound to bring Mac to justice if he is selling drugs again, as DEA Agent Hal Maguire (J. T. Walsh) believes to be the case.
Mac is attracted to stylish restaurant owner Jo Ann Vallenari (Michelle Pfeiffer). Nick becomes acquainted with Jo Ann while attempting to learn more about Mac’s activities, in particular his relationship with the Mexican drug kingpin Carlos, whom the DEA agents and Mexican federal police commandante Escalante (Raul Julia) believe is coming to town. Mac has a legitimate business and is raising a son, trying to distance himself from his former drug smuggling ways. But he tries to help his lawyer (Arye Gross) sell some cocaine, and feels indebted to his old friend Carlos, who is pressuring Mac to do one last job.
Jo Ann succumbs to Nick’s charms and a love affair begins. Nick genuinely cares for Jo Ann but she becomes angry when Mac accuses Jo Ann of spying on him on Nick’s behalf. She accuses Nick of using her to gather information because Mac often eats at her restaurant and hires her to cater his son’s birthday party. Nick admits he is investigating Mac and that he originally approached her because of that. But he truthfully admits that he really has fallen in love with her. Jo Ann ends her relationship with Nick for his initial deception. Maguire and his associates, meanwhile, set a trap for Mac and the mysterious Carlos, whose face none of them except Mac has seen.
In time, Jo Ann realizes that Mac is in love with her and that she has fallen for him. Nick figures out that Mac’s cousin Gregg (Arliss Howard) is an informer for the DEA. Nick also realizes that McGuire has become dangerously obsessed with catching Mac, willing to use any means necessary. Mac and Jo Ann make love at his house. Jo Ann is called to her restaurant on business. Nick meets her there, gives her a pistol for protection, and tells her to stay away from Mac tonight because Carlos is expected there. She does not heed Nick’s warning and returns to Mac’s house, where she discovers that Escalante is, in fact, Carlos.
Tequila Sunrise (1988)
Directed by: Robert Towne
Starring: Mel Gibson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kurt Russell, Raul Julia, Arliss Howard, Arye Gross, Gabriel Damon, Daniel Zacapa, Lala Sloatman, Ann Magnuson
Screenplay by: Robert Towne
Production Design by: Richard Sylbert
Cinematography by: Conrad L. Hall
Film Editing by: Claire Simpson
Costume Design by: Julie Weiss
Set Decoration by: Rick Simpson
Art Direction by: Peter Landsdown Smith
Music by: Dave Grusin
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: December 2, 1988