A high stakes gambler hustles for one last big score before the revolution overtakes havana. Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 01/06/2004 Starring: Robert Redford Lena Olin Run time: 145 minutes Rating: R Di... more »rector: Sydney Pollack« less
Michel D. (michelann) from WALNUT GROVE, MO Reviewed on 7/10/2016...
Very good movie from script to acting to direction! Can't beat Sydney Pollack when it comes to directing and Robert Redford is always on top of his game! This explores Havana Cuba most notably at Christmas time of 1958 just before all hell broke loose in Cuba. Look for the fabulous Raul Julia in a smaller part.
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Kathy W. (klw414) from NEWNAN, GA Reviewed on 2/3/2010...
Good movie. Not one of Redford's best, but a good movie.
1 of 1 member(s) found this review helpful.
Themis-Athena | from somewhere between California and Germany | 05/11/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In a highball glass, pour 1.5 - 2 oz rum over ice cubes, add the juice of 1/2 lime and fill up with coke.
That's the recipe for the drink political correctness has renamed "Rum and Coke," but which most of us also still know by its original name, Cuba Libre. And the cocktail invented just over 100 years ago to celebrate Cuba's freedom from Spain perfectly epitomizes the state of the island republic's society towards the late 1950s' end of the Batista regime: A sweet, tangy, intoxicating Caribbean foundation, mixed with the classical American exports; from Coke, cars and cigarettes to expatriates and their money ... except, alas, for the greatest thing the U.S. might have brought to Cuba, assistance in establishing democracy. Instead, during Batista's 30-year dictatorship, Cuba - and particularly Havana - became the Latin Las Vegas, a place where the action was on, the stakes were high, flesh was cheap, gambling was legal (and largely controlled by American mobster Meyer Lansky) and the party never ended.
Until, beset by the revolutionary movement led by a certain Fidel Castro, Batista fled the country in the early morning hours of January 1, 1959. And suddenly the party was over.
The last days of Batista's regime are the backdrop for 1990's "Havana," which sees high-stakes poker ace Jack Weil (Robert Redford) in Cuba for the game of his life. He has played "every elks' club and moose hole in America" and remembers every hand of every game, he tells Lansky's right-hand man Joe Volpi (Alan Arkin). Now he wants a shot at the big one - playing with guys who don't even think how much they're playing for. And he knows that the revolutionary fever in the air has the same effect on gamblers as a potent aphrodisiac on those in pursuit of Havana's other main commodity; so in Jack's eyes, now's the time or never. Yet, although liberally indulging in all of Havana's pleasures, he couldn't care less about Cuban politics. All he thinks he needs to know is who's in charge, and how to stay out of trouble.
But then he meets Roberta Duran (Lena Olin at the top of her game), the wife of a wealthy physician aligned with Castro. (Raul Julia who, despite a stellar performance, chose to remain uncredited, reportedly because he didn't receive first billing alongside Redford - a great pity, and a disservice to himself.) Now Jack falls in love, badly enough to go against his life's entire philosophy to try and save Roberta from Batista's henchmen after her husband has been arrested and supposedly killed, and she questioned and tortured by the secret police. And now Jack really does get to play the game of his life - except that now it's no longer about cards at all; and when Volpi at last does put together the big game he has lobbied for, Jack is no longer even in attendance. Instead, he's out putting his personal interests at stake for Roberta.
"Havana" was Robert Redford's and director Sydney Pollack's seventh cooperation after "This Property Is Condemned" (1966), "Jeremiah Johnson" (1972), "The Way We Were" (1973), "Three Days of the Condor" (1975), "The Electric Horseman" (1979) and "Out of Africa" (1985); and it shows, for better and for worse. At his best, Redford delivers magically, whether dealing cards at a poker table surrounded by marks and beautiful women, or arguing with Roberta about her stake in the revolution, or letting her captured husband know how he has enjoyed being with Roberta; realizing jealousy's potency in stirring a betrayed, hot-blooded husband's fighting spirit, after Jack has decided, against all self-interest, to free and reunite him with her. But there are those few occasional lines, those few mannerisms that smack of just a pinch too much routine; and why an exchange like "Were you waiting for me?" - "All my life" didn't make Redford's and Pollack's usually unfailing kitsch-o-meters go into overtilt, I honestly don't understand. (Besides, whoever had the brilliant idea of making Redford wear a Hawaii shirt in the closing scene should be flogged and hung out to dry in a Hawaii shirt himself. Eeeewwww ...)
Undeservedly, "Havana" flopped at the box office and only later began picking up audience favors. This is primarily blamed on its unfair (and shallow) initial comparison to "Casablanca," which I don't think it ever set out to replicate; in addition to its somewhat two-dimensional political outlook (and here I agree). Redford himself has also been quoted commenting on his suddenly prominent facial lines, an effect only underscored by the fact that he had last been seen on the big screen four years earlier in "Legal Eagles" with decidedly lesser visible lines. But come on, folks - the man was over fifty when he made "Havana" ... have you ever wondered to what extent you've internalized Hollywood's youth addiction if you did *not* expect his age to start showing at some point? Frankly, I rather think it's admirable if an actor whose looks have always factored highly in his appeal makes a point in going against the expectation that he submit to plastic surgery, *and* then continues to make his mark on society and the movie business regardless.
So forget "Havana"'s bad rep. This is a beautifully shot, superbly edited, sumptuous drama (a particular delight editing-wise are the scenes setting Jack's forays into Havana's night life against the city's less glamorous realities); part romance, part political thriller; magnificently scored by Dave Grusin and endowed with all of Pollack's and production designer Terence Marsh's known attention to detail, whose authenticity even "spooked" Cuban-born Tomas Milian (who plays secret police obvious reasons the entire set had to be reconstructed in the Dominican Republic. It may not be one of the multiple Oscar-winning Redford-Pollack collaborations ... but overall it's still head and shoulders above many another production I'll refrain from naming here.
Also recommended: The Honorary Consul Cuba Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Then Lost It to the Revolution Fidel Castro The Tailor of Panama"
Better than I expected
R. J. Marsella | California | 12/04/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is really a beautiful movie on several levels. The sets and atmosphere really do seem to capture the feel of pre-revolution Havana. Redford is quite good in the lead, although I was less impressed Lena Olin as a leading lady. She seemed a bit stiff in many scenes and I wasn't as convinced that a hard core gambler and pleasure seeker like Redford's character would be so quick to fall for her. I thought that Raul Julia was great in a relatively small part. The movie really was more about atmospherics for me than anything to do with the love story. I enjoyed the depiction of Havana and the decadence of it's nightlife as well as the growing threat of violence as the rebels approach. The night of the government's fall is very similar to the scene from Godfather II including people smashing parking meters, etc. All in all I would recommend this for those interested in Cuba during that period."
Very, very good....
Robert Bykowski | New Berlin, WI USA | 11/06/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Funny how time changes things. When this movie was first released, I found it boring and impenetrable -- and, yes, a direct rip-off of 'Casablanca'. At the time, I compared it to 'Out of Africa', which I had considered the ultimate Pollack/Redford collaboration, and I wondered what had gone wrong with 'Havana'.
After several re-viewings, I have to admit it - I was wrong about 'Havana'. I now look upon 'Out of Africa' as slow and dull except for Meryl Streep's amazing, jaw-dropping performance, and Redford was horribly miscast in a role that should have required a British accent (and a British actor). As far as 'Havana' is concerned...this is an absorbing and compelling film about the last days of pre-Castro Cuba. The sets are marvellous and seem very realistic, and Robert Redford's performance as the loner poker shark Jack Weil may very well be the best of his career (he should have at least received a Best Actor nomination). Alan Arkin and Raul Julia also deliver solidly in supporting roles. As noted by several other reviewers, Lena Olin is the weak spot -- imagine what a strong female presence, like a Meryl Streep or a Diane Keaton or even a Charlotte Rampling, could have done with this characterization. The lack of real chemistry between Redford and Olin is very, very obvious and does drag down the overall quality of the film a bit. However, the story is compelling throughout -- especially to those interested in political history of the last fifty years -- and the ending ties up things quite nicely. 'Havana' may not be a timeless, great movie, but it is VERY well-done and deserves a reevaluation. It holds up today as one of the better films of the 1990's. Time has been good to it."
G. B. Campbell | Chicago, Illinois | 04/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm at a loss why some people put down this movie. It is one of my all time favorites. That it didn't become a box office hit is understandable since it requires some interest in politics, human nature and the dilemma of people who wish to make a difference. But if you are willing to let yourself pull in by this human drama and the struggle of the Cubans you are in for a great experience. The acting, especially of Robert Redford, Lena Olin and Raul Julia is superb and I firmly believe that this movie belongs to Sydney Pollack's great successes."
A beautiful love story
W. Noshie | Beirut, Lebanon | 01/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Act takes place during the final days of Cuba under the collapsing Batista regime. A high-stakes card gambler (Robert Redford) comes very often to Cuba seeking big score poker games. On this final trip he meets the wife of a rich Physician allied to Castro. Redford is immediately attracted to her and it becomes mutual after the husband is arrested and presumed killed by the Cuban police. The Love affair will direct the rest of the movie until the Batista regime finally falls in the hand of Castro's revolution. A beautiful love story combined with with good history scenes of that period in Havana. The DVD quality is good. If you watch and like this movie than I would highly recommend to you; "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Saigon"