Wednesday, September 18, 2013

52 Pick-Up (1986)

Director: John Frankenheimer

Writers: Elmore Leonard, John Steppling

Composer: Gary Chang

Starring: Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover, Robert Trebor, Clarence Williams III, Lonny Chapman, Kelly Preston, Doug McClure, Alex Henteloff, Michelle Walker

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Greed. Extortion. Revenge.

Plot: Harry Mitchell, an L.A. manufacturer with a fancy car, a nice house, and a wife running for city council, has his life overturned when three hooded blackmailers appear with a video tape of Harry and his young mistress. He's been set up, and they want $100,000. To protect his wife's political ambitions, Harry won't go to the police; instead, he shines them on and then doesn't pay. They up their demands, so he goes on the offensive, tracking them down and trying to turn one against the other. Their sociopathic leader, Alan, responds with violence toward the mistress and menace toward Harry's wife. Will Harry let up and pay off Alan or can he find some other solution?

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? Absolutely.

I was THRILLED to have caught this as a second half of a double bill with JACKIE BROWN (1997) at The Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles recently.  Seeing movies like this on the big screen proves that it's the best way to see them.  Take every chance you get to see older movies in a theater.

Over the past year I've seen more and more of Frankenheimer's diverse films and I'm even more impressed with this guy than ever before.  With this picture he brings together some wild and wonderful performances from some bad guys, types of which you might not have seen before.  John Glover as Alan, the leader of the trio, is off the charts fantastic. 
He's charismatic and fun. Robert Trebor as Leo, the whiner of the bunch and the weakest, plays his slimy part well.  And then there's Clarence Williams III who brings the violence.  His line deliveries are funny as shit and he brings a slightly different take on the silent-but-deadly killer.  I also dig on how these guys were merely opportunists and that they move on from one scheme to another.  These three guys together deserve their own movie franchise.

Then you've got the good guys.  Scheider and Ann-Margret make a great pair and they both bring a lot of realism to their roles.  I particularly like the quiet scene where Harry (Scheider) confesses to his wife, Barbara (Ann-Margret). Nice.  And then the scene after someone breaks into their home and Harry has just kicked someone's ass.  The way Barbara looks at him and what follows was nicely done as well.


My only beef is the ending.  Up until then I was 100% invested in the characters and the story.  I was completely hooked.  And then Alan gets in the car.  I'm OK with the tape.  They set that up properly but what about the doors automatically locking?  How could Harry have made that happen?  How are Harry and Barbara going to explain why their car blew up?  She's running for City Councilwoman.  Someone's going to ask questions, right?  I'm probably overreacting and I'm looking to much into this but it just felt odd.  I didn't mind seeing the same 'gotcha, you bastard' device that was used so effectively in THE MECHANIC (1972) used in this picture.  Does anyone else have even the slightest issue with the ending?

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