random thoughts on: legal eagles

For no reason other than it showed up in a row of recommendations on Netflix and I couldn’t decide on anything else, I rewatched the Ivan Reitman-directed Legal Eagles recently, likely for the first time in over 30 years.

For those who haven’t seen it: Robert Redford stars as Tom Logan, an up-and-coming Assistant District Attorney in New York City who’s handed the high-profile assignment of seeing whether or not there are charges to be filed against Chelsea Deardon (Daryl Hannah), the grown daughter of a famous artist who died when she was a child. She’s been arrested after allegedly breaking into the apartment of someone who might have one of the few of her father’s works to have survived the fire that took her life. Chelsea is represented by attorney Laura Kelly (Debra Winger), who winds up working with Logan to find out the truth of what happened not only with Chelsea but also all those years ago when her father died.

As is often the case when these things happen, I have some thoughts now that I’ve seen it again:

First off, that poster is really something. Nothing about the photo itself communicates any aspect of the story or characters, other than that Laura is very serious, Tom very breezy and Chelsea very blonde. The clothing styles are all over the place and that copy at the top is in desperate need of someone who can whittle it down significantly.

The movie is less the story of combative and very attractive lawyers who have to unravel a mystery surrounding art forgery and insurance fraud and more the story of how Hollywood just completely turned its back on two very talented actresses.

In any given movie, Robert Redford is the most attractive man that’s ever been on film. This is no exception.

No, seriously, I’d like to go back to the moment in time where Debra Winger was pushed to the sidelines and have a conversation about how we shouldn’t let that happen. Because, just as she does in just about every role, she shows up here and goes toe-to-toe with Redford, which is no small thing. I get that she took herself out of the system for a number of years, but still…

He’s known primarily for Ghostbusters and other straight-up comedies, but we need to more fully appreciate the romantic comedy wing of Reitman’s directorial career. While there’s certainly a Tier 1 to this list, Tier 2 isn’t terribly far behind:

  • Legal Eagles
  • Dave
  • Six Days, Seven Nights
  • No Strings Attached

No, seriously, Daryl Hannah is so good in so many things and Hollywood couldn’t get past her playing kind of a ditzy blonde and sometimes I get angry about this, especially given the conventional wisdom that her career was torpedoed by That Miramax Guy.

There’s an extended bit in the film where Winger’s character gives Redford’s a hard time about the various charming looks he utilizes to appeal to juries and I feel like we didn’t appreciate how this was essentially Zoolander’s “Blue Steel” 15 years early.

It’s also an incredibly accurate encapsulation of Redford’s entire career, which is nice.

Steven Hill as a New York district attorney, but not the one you’re thinking of.

Ladies and gentlemen, Christine Baranski, but make sure you’re looking for her because she’s easy to miss given this is 1986 and all.

Speaking of 1986, remember when even romantic thrillers meant for audiences over 30 looked this good as a matter of course? Not that the cinematography is incredibly innovative or anything, but László Kovács’ work here is representative of a period of filmmaking when it looked like people cared about how the movie looked and knew how to frame a damn shot.

an appreciation of the best sequences in: sneakers

My voice is my passport…

A quote attributed to filmmaker Howard Hawks contains the assertion that the secret to a good movie is that it contains “three great scenes and no bad ones.”

By that measure, 1992’s Sneakers is not just a good movie but among the greatest of all time. To prove that point, here are five of the best sequences in the film, written and directed by Phil Alden Robinson and starring Robert Redford, Mary McConnell, Sidney Portier, Ben Kingsley, David Straitharn, Dan Ackroyd and River Phoenix.

Bishop becomes an honorary blind person

The back and forth between Redford and Straitharn here is remarkable as Bishop, with Whistler’s help, realizes he remembers more details than he originally thought.

Calling Mr. Abbott

It’s the countdown as well as the visuals of the connections being made that adds substantial tension to what in other movies would be a standard scene of the good guys trying to get more information from an unseen character.

Figuring out the black box

It’s not just the giddiness of a bunch of hackers figuring out a new toy, it’s that moment where Whistler’s glasses reflect a sudden flood of data indicating they’ve finally made the right connection.

Posit / Consequence / Result / Conclusion

The reunion of Bishop and Cosmo is the midpoint highlight, the moment the first half of the story has been building toward and it doesn’t disappoint, especially not since it finally gives Redford and Kingsley an opportunity to play off each other.

Breaking into the office

Redford doesn’t get enough credit for being an incredible comedic talent, but he is, and his side of the conversation about how to defeat an electric keypad on an office door proves that definitively.

Of course this is just a partial list. The movie is filled with top-notch 2-3 minute sequences filled with humor, tension and music, the latter composed by James Horner with appearances by Branford Marsalis. It starts with the opening flashback of a young Martin and Cosmo, thankfully made before studios discovered the technology to de-age actors.

You can find the movie on most rental services as well as HBO Max and, I presume, your local library.

The Old Man and the Gun – Marketing Recap

old man and the gun posterRobert Redford is one of the most charismatic, charming and talented actors to ever grace the silver screen. With 78 acting credits to his name since 1960, he reteams with director David Lowery for the second time in this week’s The Old Man and The Gun.

In the movie Redford stars as Forrest Tucker, a man who’s enjoyed a long career as a generally non-violent, gentlemanly robber of banks. He’s still having fun with his chosen vocation, but feels time running out on him. One day he meets Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a widow whose path he crosses while on the run from the authorities. The two develop a romance as Forrest eludes the police on his tail, led by Detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck).

The Posters

Tucker’s face is obscured as he places a fedora on his head on the poster. It’s a simple poster, just showing him walking along carrying a case (presumably of money) and looking dapper. An old-fashioned typeface is used for the title treatment and other copy, including the tagline that qualifies the movie, admitting to the audience that “This story is mostly true.”

The Trailers

Redford breezes through the first trailer (and likely the entire movie) as we meet Tucker and see how while he may be a bank robber he’s exceedingly polite about it, always leaving his victims with a positive sense of the experience. The trailer is structured primarily around Tucker meeting Jewel and the two of them starting up a late-in-life romance, her eventually accepting what he does for kicks. There’s also the search for him by police, but that almost seems secondary.

We don’t deserve Robert Redford. I mean…it’s not even fair.

The second trailer hits many of the same story points in showing how Tucker so nonchalantly robs banks for the thrill, not necessarily for the money. Different here is the focus on the other members of his crew, while the relationship with Jewel is relegated to just a couple scenes showing their cautious flirtation and romance. It’s got the same vibe, though.

Online and Social

Fox Searchlight’s official website for the movie has some basic information like the trailer, a story synopsis, cast and filmmaker profiles and details on release dates. There were also Facebook and Twitter profiles where the studio shared updates on the movie.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Media and Publicity

The first still from the movie was accompanied by news of it finally getting a release date. Later on Redford made comments about how this was going to be his final acting job. He confirmed that decision closer to release, saying the time had simply come for him to “escape” from the lifestyle and work.

The movie was announced as one of those screening at the Toronto International Film Festival as well as the London Film Festival. It also scored the prestigious opening slot at the Telluride Film Festival.

Redford shared how and why he says “yes” to a movie and why he said “yes” to this one while Lowery talks about how he worked to get that answer from the actor.

There was also coverage of how the movie started out its life as a 1999 feature in The New Yorker that profiled the real Forrest Tucker and his exploits. That history meant it was one of the movies produced by Conde Nast Entertainment, a division of the publishing company that’s had trouble taking off since its inception about five years ago but which was hoping this year would bring a turnaround.

Redford and Spacek, either on their own or together, appeared on “CBS Sunday Morning,” “PBS Newshour,” and “The Today Show” among other shows.” Costar Danny Glover, who plays a member of Tucker’s crew, was also interviewed about working with Redford.

Redford later expressed regret for bringing the focus of the publicity for the movie and his reported retirement, saying he shouldn’t have drawn attention away like that. It wasn’t the walk-back some sites framed it as, just him saying he should have kept his mouth shut in the moment.


Redford’s easy, confident charm has brought him through a career that’s lasted over 50 years. The campaign here shows that persona is just as strong now as it was when he broke out as a major star in the late 60s, when he was a king of 70s cinema, when he was the romantic elder statesman in the 80s and the commanding veteran of the 00s and 10s.

Mostly what’s shown is the story is a great vehicle for Redford to be everything he can be. It’s a silly kind of story that could be played for laughs in the wrong hands, but the marketing shows the actor and his costars, under Lowery’s direction, play it straight, pulling the drama out while still allowing the sly wink and smile the lead is best known for.


I missed this story the first time around, but Sissy Spacek shares a charming anecdote about meeting Robert Redford that’s 100% relatable.

Director David Lowery says shooting the movie in Texas really helped capture the authenticity father story, even if most of it was shot in Ohio as a stand-in for Texas. He and the cast appeared in a featurette where they all talked about the story and characters. Another interview had him talking more at length about working with Redford for the second time, as did this one.

More from Spacek here and here, the latter coming to my attention thanks to an email blast from Conde Nast, the media company that helped produce the film.

Additional TV spots like this have been released to keep up audience interest. And a new featurette focuses on how the movie reunited Redford with his longtime stunt double.

Lowery shares some expanded thoughts on the role guns play not just in the story but in the world along with more comments about working with Redford again and more.

Our Souls At Night – Marketing Recap

Two of Hollywood’s most iconic, most charismatic and most talented stars reteam for the first time in almost 40 years in Our Souls at Night. In the movie, Jane Fonda plays Addie, a widow who one day knocks on the door or Louis (Robert Redford), a man she’s been neighbors with for decades but never really gotten to know. He’s a widower and she’s decided that, with both of them alone and in their sunset years, maybe it would be good to spend some time together.

What she’s proposing isn’t necessarily romantic in nature. It’s more about companionship, someone to talk to and fill an empty house. Louis agrees to the idea and the two form a friendship that, despite its original intent, becomes something more.

The Posters

The movie’s poster uses its primary asset as the key selling point, namely the pairing of its two stars. Fonda’s head rests on Redford’s shoulder in a pose of obvious emotional intimacy. The hazy filter applied to the photo gives it a slightly gauzy look that brings to mind the one-sheets for movies based on Nicholas Sparks books, but let’s overlook that for the moment. The credentials of both actors, as well as the movie’s appearance at the Venice Film Festival, are at the top.

The Trailers

The first teaser doesn’t have a lot, just a single shot of Addie and Louis driving along a barren highway in an old truck, Addie gradually moving over to be closer to Louis. It’s not much but it’s enough to promise the repairing of these great actors, which is actually quite a lot.

The full trailer starts as Addi knocks on Louis’ door She wants to get to know him better after years and years of the two living near each other. They’re both alone and want to avoid the appearance of a scandal, just some companionship through the last years of life. They develop a friendship and spend more and more time together, with that friendship eventually evolving into something more.

Dang…the chemistry between Fonda and Redford is practically a character of its own here. They both bring their usual world-class chops and abilities, shown here in subdued, understated performances, to the role. I’m completely on board, though that has been the case for quite a while now.

Online and Social

Nope. Netflix gave the movie limited promotion on its brand social channels but didn’t set up separate websites or social profiles to promote it.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

No paid advertising that I’m aware of.

Media and Publicity

The first real look at the movie, along with a brief interview with Fonda about the story and her on- and off-screen relationship with Redford, came in EW’s 2017 preview. Fonda kept talking about the movie and her long-lived career working with Redford, usually while promoting other projects.

It was announced the movie would screen at this year’s Venice Film Festival, which also hosted an event celebrating both Fonda and Redford. Both Fonda and Redford talked here about reuniting, the changed dynamic between the two of them after so many years and more. That would be a constant theme throughout the publicity in various other interviews with the pair of leads.

(Side note: It’s not part of the movie’s publicity or anything, but if you haven’t been listening to Karina Longworth’s latest podcast series on the political activism and film career of Jane Fonda, you’re doing the internet wrong.)


I would have loved to see even more attention and press turned to the movie, of course. But that’s because I’m a huge fan of Redford and Fonda and have loved their previous collaborations. While current, younger actors are often great, there’s nothing quite like the older generation that brings with it the ease and charisma of the old days of Hollywood.

That charisma and charm are on central display in this limited but effective campaign from Netflix. The reteaming of Fonda and Redford is enough of a draw in and of itself and the company knows it. There’s just enough story shown to let the audience know what to expect and there are sure to be twists on that, but the focus is on two stars whose chemistry hasn’t diminished a bit over the decades.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.