Hal Ashby may be the most undersung directing talent in 20th-century film history, thanks to an early death of cancer at 59 and his hard-to-categorise films like 8 Million Ways to Die.
Ashby utilised an Oliver Stone script for this, his last film, casting Jeff Bridges in a role that took a warts-and-all approach to Los Angeles’ criminal underbelly.
Bridges stars as Matt Scudder, a Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy with a severe drinking problem that causes him to lose his job, his wife and eventually the daughter who is the love of his life.
After an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, a mysterious blonde slips him the name and address of high-priced hooker Sunny (Alexandra Paul), who wants his help breaking out of the business. With few other demands on his time, Scudder accepts the job.
When she is killed on the way to the airport and a new life, Scudder finds himself in the middle of an uptown drug war between a greedy big-time dealer named Angel Maldonado (Andy Garcia) and the owner of an illegal gambling casino and house of prostitution, Chance (Randy Brooks).
Scudder sides with relatively good guy Chance because he treats his girls all right and won’t allow drugs into any aspect of his business.
Helping Scudder fight the bad guys is toughened hooker Sarah (Rosanna Arquette). She was Sunny’s best friend and seems to be the only person who knows both Angel and Chance well enough to figure out what’s going on.
8 Million Ways to Die catches Jeff Bridges and Rosanna Arquette at seminal moments in their respective careers, lifting the film out of the ordinary with their performances.