Unperturbed by Richard Lester's 1979 film, Cuba, a box office flop that also attempted to recreate the fall of the Batista regime from an outsider's point of view, and unashamed in their remaking Casablanca in all but name, Sidney Pollack and Robert Redford bring us Havana; a romantic film that displays a love for the place rather than a love between its central characters.
I love the cast, I like the director but this is little more than a beautiful misfire. Pollack reunites with his Out of Africa, The Way We Were and Three Days Of The Condor leading man Redford, casting him as the apolitical jaded Jack Weil, a professional cardsharp who enters Cuba ready for the biggest poker game of his life. His love interest is Lena Olin's Bobby, a beautiful woman married to Raul Julia's revolutionary contemporary of Castro.
So far, so Bogey/Bergman and Heinried right?
Except there's little to no chemistry at all between Redford and Olin, scuppering the film completely. Indeed, Redford is much more electric and charismatic bouncing off the male cast such as Tony Plana's journalist and a nicely wry turn from Alan Arkin as his backer, casino owner and Meyer Lansky's man Joe Volpi.
As much as I adore Redford, I'm not actually sure I bought him here; his natural real life core of idealism shines through instantly, making Weil's slow turn from non-partisan to involved participant rather unconvincing, especially given how bland a relationship he has with the woman who changes his outlook on life. I can't help but wonder how this might have been if Redford had been replaced by Harrison Ford (Bogey's natural successor) or even Warren Beatty (who is similar to Redford, yet always seemed capable of a sleazier edge thanks to his publicised personal life - in fact I always think he'd have been better in Indecent Proposal too)
Meanwhile Lena Olin, saddled with a script that largely tells us how beautiful and beguiling she is rather than actually take the time to show us, remains muted and in some scenes positively chilly. They may have been trying to display a certain kind of an aloof mystique that Redford ultimately falls for, but it just comes off as uninterested and as passionate as a wet week in dead end Rhyl rather than a steamy hot and unpredictable week in Cuba.
Ultimately the 40million budget, lavish recreation of 1958 Havana in Santo Domingo, some nice cinematography, direction, set pieces and the overall feel of the piece and a country on the brink of change (the era and locale fascinates me) doesn't save the overlong and sprawling Havana from mediocrity. And yet, I still have a soft spot for it. I wouldn't say I love the film, it has too many faults and flaws for that, but I do quite like it.