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love ranch

Love Ranch

Starring Helen Mirren, Joe Pesci, and Sergio Peris-Mencheta
Screenplay by Mark Jacobson
Based on real events
Directed by Taylor Hackford
no website

FULL DISCLOSURE: Cranky's very first gig in the film biz was writing publicity materials for a Taylor Hackford film, back in 1994. We spent 6 weeks working out of his trailer on set in East LA and, if Bound by Honor ever is recut to what would easily top three hours as Blood In, Blood Out, see it. It was a darn fine script (not to mention Benjamin Bratt's first big screen appearance. Which is pretty much missing from the released product).

IN SHORT: Two hours feels like three.. [Rated R for sexual content, pervasive language and some violence .117 minutes]

This is one of the few times that the above IN SHORT is a positive thing. For, as we told the film's publicist, Taylor has packed so much story into his film that it is close to too much. Only a scene or two somewhere in the middle, which felt like it was cut in after the fact, got in the way of a full blown rave.

This story, extrapolated from real life events at Nevada's Bunny Ranch bordello, is Hackford's first work with his wife Helen Mirren since they first met back in 1985. Mirren plays Grace Bontempo, a daughter of a hooker though never one herself, who with allegedly philandering husband Charlie (Joe Pesci) run the "Love Ranch". Grace runs the girls, keeps two sets of books, looks the other way at Charlie's infidelities and wields a mean baseball bat when the born again Christians come a-protesting outside the locked gates of the Ranch..

Charlie, who is the front man to the public, spends most of his time trying to spend his cash on other things, in the case of this story a boxer he has purchased. Said pair of fists, Armando Bruza (Sergio Paris-Mencheta), is apparently renowned down in Argentina. He's fought Muhammed Ali once and then Joe Frazier and all the other top boxers in the business. Now, he wants a second go round with Ali. To do that, he's got to prove himself to the promoters once again, and that's where Charlie comes in.

Not that Charlie knows anything about training a boxer. strangely enough, Grace takes on a lot of that task as well. Even stranger, the pair become entwined. The film is not coy about this romance. Grace, who has kept her marriage vows for years, is not about to be fooled by this younger stud (who probably knows where all the money comes from). He is insistent and, after Charlie is caught red-handed (sic), Grace succumbs to temptation.

Of course, it's one thing for Charlie to cheat on Grace. It's quite another thing -- for Charlie -- when his wife pays back in kind. How Charlie will deal with this depends on the outcome of a fight he's booked . . . things with guns can come later.

Whether Armando truly falls for Grace, by the time the film is finished, is something we'll not explain. What is obviously manipulative at the beginning isn't so black and white by film's end. Take friends with you to see the film and discuss over cappuccino afterwards.

Yeah, we're telling you to behave like film students. It's the first time in fifteen years writing these things that we have. Sue us the next time it happens . . .

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Love Ranch, he would have paid . . .


Even with the bump in the middle, Helen Mirren is at the top of her game and Joe Pesci ain't far behind.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Taylor Hackford
Click to buy films starring Helen Mirren
Click to buy films starring Joe Pesci

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.