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Joey O'Brien (Robin Williams) has a way with women and a gift for selling cars. He's got an ex-wife, a current lover and he's fooling around with another. He owes $20,000 to the local mob and he has to sell 12 cars "by tomorrow" or risk losing his job. Joey is not having a very nice day, but it gets even worse when a crazed bike rider (Tim Robbins) comes crashing through the showroom window, waving a gun and threatening to kill everyone...especially the guy, or all the guys, who are having it off with his wife. To save lives, Joey's got to think fast...on his feet, on his knees and on the phone, if he has to. It helps to be a salesman, sometimes.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
This is the story of a car salesman who road tests the same slippery skills he hones wheeler-dealing on the showroom floor to save his neck while bargaining with a crazed gunman on that very same showroom floor. It's crunch time at Turgeon Motors. Big Jack Turgeon isn't flogging the cars he once did and unless the sales team respond to his challenge it won't be the autos alone that are "out the door." It seems that Big Jack's pack of slackers have other distractions.

Little Jack, for example, is having it off with Donna, the front-office doll...but Jack is dad's right hand man and it's Joey who is issued with the veiled ultimatum: sell 12 cars today or don't bother tomorrow. Now, Joey has a reputation as a super-sleaze salesman...the kind of guy who dines out on true stories of him trying to flog a V8 to a grieving widow (Elaine Stritch) at her husband's funeral. But Joey's motor-mouth is not entirely on the job. He owes $20,000 to a local mobster who makes soft warnings like "don't make me wait too long, Joey" sound like shattered kneecaps or a horse's head in bed.

Part of Joey's problem is that he "can't say no" to women. "I love 'em. I've just got to make 'em happy, because if they're happy, I've got a chance of being happy too." It's a screwed up philosophy, of course, that has already cost him his wife (Pamela Reed) and the house in an expensive divorce settlement. Instead of a loving family, Joey is lumbered with Lila (Lori Petty), a dingbat designer whose Cyndi Lauper-style outfits were out before they were in and Joy (Fran Drescher), a nasally nouveau-riche housewife with a jealous husband and a yapping Pomeranian in need of a good throttling!

Of course, it's all Joey's fault when daughter Lisa disappears on the very day of Turgeon's make or break sale...the very day that a disgruntled Larry (Tim Robbins) vrooms through the showroom window on a roaring motorbike, demanding just who is screwing wife Donna and holding wives, lovers, customers and staff hostage until he gets answers to "how many times!" In some ways, Cadillac Man has improved with age, gaining credibility given the sad reality of hostage dramas that feature on the six o'clock news most days. Despite the incumbrance of a ludicrous moustache, Williams, less manic, more controlled and with humanity shining through, gives one of his most sustained and likable performances as the unlikely hero.

It's a funny film, until it turns into a sort of dog-eared Dog Day Afternoon as Kiwi director Donaldson (Dante's Peak) labours over the parley between victim and villain, slowing the pace to a virtual standstill. This leaves Robbins out on a limb with Larry...it's much harder to sustain derangement, and so Robbins is reduced to repeated head poundings which tend to lose impact after the first two or three. Still, the film is spiced with some stinging one-liners, but perhaps nothing is more memorable than that credit for Chester Drescher (the demented Pomeranian) or Lauren Tom, hilarious as a pushy Chinese waitress who orders "thlee dim sum, allight" after her customer specifically asks for one.

Published November 25, 2004

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(US, 1990)

CAST: Robin Williams, Tim Robbins, Pamela Reed

DIRECTOR: Roger Donaldson

SCRIPT: Ken Friedman

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: Original trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: MGM Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: November 17, 2004

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