Hal Ashby's final film is not a masterpiece - but it's also better than its poor critical reputation suggests. The script for Eight Million Ways To Die angered fans of the novel by taking substantial liberties with the storyline but what is there works as a pseudo-noirish 1980's crime story, even if at times it feels like a particularly seedy two-part episode of Miami Vice. Ashby's direction is solid, with a nice attentiveness toward its performances. It seems he wasn't too interested in the more action-oriented parts of the story (a gunfight finale is handled in a pro-forma way) but he's able to convey the character moments with great skill. For instance, a scene where Jeff Bridges and Rosanna Arquette reflect on the wreckage of their lives has a raw, honest power that is free of cheap melodrama or Method-style showiness. It also helps that the performances are stellar: Bridges is sympathetic as a loser trying to get straight (he really uses his physicality to sell the character's alcoholism), Andy Garcia is scary as an always-grinning but sociopathic dealer and Arquette is steely yet alluring as the quietly wounded soul caught in the middle. The end result isn't perfect but the performances and the sympathetic direction that guides them make Eight Million Ways To Die worth a look.
by Donald Guarisco review