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File:Dick tracy1 7832.jpg


 I'm on my way.

In 1990, Walt Disney Pictures took Chester Gould's relatively simple crime-drama comic strip and reimagined it as a big-budget extravaganza with big-name actors, colorful costumes, special effects and plenty of music. Warren Beatty both directed the film and starred in the title role.

The setting is a Chicago-like city sometime in the early 1930s. Detective Dick Tracy (Beatty) is the most dogged plainclothes cop on the street, dividing his time between punching out mooks and making sure young delinquents get sent to the orphanage. A new challenge to his authority soon emerges in the form of up-and-coming gang boss Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino), who unites all his former rivals into a citywide gangland coalition. Now Tracy's only hope in foiling Big Boy's schemes lies with nightclub singer Breathless Mahoney (Madonna), who is prepared to help the detective....for a price.

The movie also starred Glenne Headley as Tess Trueheart and Charlie Korsmo as the nameless "Kid." It won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, and Best Original Song (Stephen Sondheim's "Sooner or Later"). Pacino was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor (in a Playboy interview, he actually listed it among his top 5 performances).

One of the striking features of the film was its attempt to replicate, in live action, the flat colors and limited palette of the comic strip. Every yellow thing was the same bright yellow as Dick Tracy's trademark outfit, every blue thing was the same blue, every red thing the same red, and so on. And unlike, say, Sin City, which did it with computer tinting, Dick Tracy did it by actually painting and dying the physical objects those colours.


Tropes include:

  • All-Star Cast: Though many of the biggest stars had relatively small roles.
  • Anti-Villain: Lips Manlis, Breathless Mahoney, 88 Keys, and Mumbles are all fairly sympathetic, despite being criminals. The Blank pursues ostensibly good goals (bringing down the city's crime syndicate) through evil means, a classic Anti-Villain move.
  • Award Bait Song: All five of the songs written for the film by Stephen Sondheim. "Sooner Or Later" took home the oscar for Best Original Song.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Largely inverted. The gangster's villainous monikers are all actually rather unflattering; Pruneface, Itchy, etc. There are some exceptions, like Big Boy Caprice.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: The majority of the bad guys, the good guys too.
  • Badass Longcoat: Being about the same color as a banana does nothing to make it any less badass.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: The Blank. (also good example of Villainous Rescue)
  • Big Eater: The Kid.
  • The Blank: Trope namer, in this case a faceless (literally) mystery man who undermines Big Boy's operation.
  • Bluff the Imposter: The villains do this to Tracy.
  • Boomerang Bigot:

 Kid: I don't like dames.

Tess Trueheart: Neither do I.

  • Bully Hunter:
    • Tracy, when attacking a hobo who's been abusing the Kid.
    • The Blank as well, although perhaps more of a Vigilante Man.
  • Catch Phrase: "I'm on my way."
  • Cement Shoes: In this case, it's an entire cement suit.
  • Co-Dragons: Itchy and Flattop. This is a big change from the comics, in which Flattop was probably Tracy's Arch Enemy.
  • Comm Links
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: How Mumbles is interrogated at the police station.
  • Cowboy Cop: And how!
  • Da Chief: Actually the District Attorney, but he fills the same role of breaking Tracy's balls.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Played with. The Blank is indeed evil, but may qualify as an Anti-Villain.
  • Death Trap
  • Dirty Coward: Big Boy instructs all his men to gather in their cars and drive out into the street in front of the Club Ritz to meet the police in a final showdown - but himself chickens out at the last minute, attempting to flee across the river with Tess as his hostage.
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted, as Big Boy is pushed over a ledge.
  • Distressed Dude: Tracy winds up as this on more than one occasion.
  • The Don: Big Boy Caprice.
  • Enemy Mine: Ultimately subverted in the case of The Blank.
    • "The enemy of my enemy is my enemy." But....if the first enemy is the enemy of his second enemy, then that makes his second enemy his friend. But he can't be his friend, because he's his enemy. But that means....
  • The Fagin: "Steve The Tramp" has "Kid" steal for him. Dick Tracy tracks Kid back to Steve's shack and beats Steve up, freeing Kid.
  • Femme Fatale: Breathless loves playing with this trope.
  • Five-Bad Band:
    • Big Bad: Alphonse "Big Boy" Caprice
    • The Dragon: Flattop
    • The Evil Genius: Numbers
    • The Brute: Pruneface
      • Before alligning with Big Boy, had his own Dragon, "Influence".
    • The Dark Chick: Itchy (high squeaky voice)
      • A better candidate for The Dark Chick might be Texie Garcia, who seems to be more or less the social equal of the male gangsters and is the only woman in the movie Big Boy doesn't make a point of treating like dirt.
    • The Sixth Ranger Traitor: 88 Keys (helps The Blank frame Big Boy for Tess' kidnapping).
  • Follow the Leader: Although Beatty's development of the film had been in the works as long as Tim Burton's Batman, it still retained a lot of elements that drew comparisons since Batman was released a year earlier. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone noted that they both contained: "a loner hero, a grotesque villain, a blond bombshell, a marketable pop soundtrack and a no-mercy merchandising campaign." That also didn't factor in the Art Deco-insipired set design, the original working script being worked on by Tom Mankiewicz (both films would basically discard them), and Danny Elfman as composer (and Travers noted that his Tracy score was incredibly similar to his one for Batman).
  • Foreshadowing: In the movie's opening action sequence, we see five hoodlums playing poker in a warehouse. One of them draws aces and eights - the "Dead Man's Hand" - just before a car crashes into the warehouse and all five men are violently shot to death.
  • Frame-Up: Tracy is framed for murder.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Holy crap, for a PG film you have Breathless in a sheer nightdress, wearing barely anything at all bordering on Nipple-and-Dimed.
  • Gold Digger: The nightclub song "More" pretty much says it all: "Got my diamonds/Got my yacht/Got a guy I adore/....Something's better than nothing, yes/But nothing's better than more, more, more!"
  • Greasy Spoon: The Diner Tracy and Tess hang out at.
  • Handy Cuffs: After being framed for murder, Tracy is being moved from the police holding cell to the county lock-up. His fellow police officers handcuff him in the front, Tracy comments on the lapse in procedure. As it turns out the move was a ruse to allow Tracy the time needed to clear his name.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Not that the blonde didn't put up a hell of a fight....
  • Hey, It's That Guy!: Blink and you'll miss him, but Colm Meaney of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine fame appears as a first-responder police officer after the drive-by attempt.
  • The Hyena: Flattop.
  • Ironic Nickname
  • Jabba Table Manners: Lips Manlis noisily sucking oysters down his throat by the mouthful.
  • Kick the Dog: Big Boy smashes the fingers of 88 Keys in a piano when he becomes frustrated with the slow progress made by his performers during a rehearsal at the Club Ritz.
  • Kill Him Already: The Blank has the chance to drill Tracy and escape scot-free, but doesn't. This is fully justified in the context of the story.
  • Large Ham: Many of the villains have their moments, but Big Boy Caprice in particular takes the cake. Then again, it is Al Pacino.
  • Lean and Mean: A number of the thugs, most notably Itchy.
  • Monochrome Casting: Except for a Chinese shop owner who gets shaken down during the extortion scenes.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Madonna.
  • Nice Hat: Tracy's unmistakable butter-colored chapeau.
  • Officer O'Hara: Okay, so the cop's name is actually "Moriarty." But he still tends to, aye, tawk loike this, boyo.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: So many of the criminals seen in this film are literally inhumanly grotesque. But not only do they not feel shunned or isolated from "normal" humans; they actually are quite proud of themselves, and even consider themselves pillars of the community! An especially striking example is when Tracy busts into the Club Ritz in an attempt to arrest Big Boy Caprice for illegal gambling: Pruneface acts offended, and swears that he would never set foot inside any establishment that allowed such a thing!
  • Outside Ride: Kid's specialty.
  • Perp Sweating: Tracy to Mumbles
  • Pretty in Mink: Breathless Mahoney.

 Big Boy Caprice: Around me, if a woman don't wear mink, she don't wear nuttin'.

Breathless Mahoney: Well, I look good both ways.

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