Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Extreme Prejudice

The Action Mutant…
thinks Walter Hill should just go ahead and make a film called “BALLS”.

Extreme Prejudice

review by Joe Burrows

“Funny, ain't it…how it comes around. Right way's the hardest, wrong way's the easiest. Rule of nature, like water seeks the path of least resistance. So you get crooked rivers… crooked men.”

- Sheriff Hank Pearson

Seriously, that's fuckin' deep, man. And shit gets blown up, too! Can't get much better than that.

The Plot, as it was:
Nick Nolte stars as Jack Benteen, a towering Texas Ranger who’s seeing his past catch up with him in a bad way. The ranger & his right hand man Sherriff Hank Pearson (Rip Torn!) have gotten into too many violent altercations with “drug mules” that have been sent across the border to transport narcotia for Benteen’s childhood friend Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe). When Benteen left Texas to become cop many years before, Cash ditched his informant gig, slinked off to Mexico & became a drug kingpin/militant warlord. As if it wasn’t hard enough for Jack to decide whether to go at his former pal with guns ablaze, his girl Sarita (Maria Conchita Alonso) is tired of the lawman’s macho bullshit & threatens to go back to her former flame…Cash Bailey! Meanwhile, a group of off-the-grid soldiers (led by Michael Ironside, so you know they’re all balanced) are planning on taking Cash out themselves & ending all of this drug business. Now, this sounds like a Mexican standoff!

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
At one point in Extreme Prejudice, Cash Bailey snarls at a female to “show us your tits if you want to be useful”. That pretty much spells out EP to the casual audience, as this is a MAN’S movie. You got Nolte looking like he’s been carved from an oak tree & resembling a modernized Gary Cooper. There’s Boothe, all P&V and mirroring the devil incarnate per Sonny Crockett’s evil twin. Add to that Rip Torn cracking wise, Ironside being Ironside (himself, not Raymond Burr in a wheelchair), William Forsythe, Clancy “The Kurgan himself” Brown and the fact that this is directed by Walter Hill (48 Hrs., Southern Comfort)…well, lets just say no one is going to be sitting down for tea in this one! EP plays out like a lost Peckinpah film (only with less slo-mo) and continues the tradition of Hill’s films being present day Westerns, which starts with Nolte. This is not the scraggly, booze soaked Nolte from 48 Hrs. or the goofy eccentric seen a year before in Down and Out in Beverly Hills; this one leaves the over-the-top histrionics behind. Tough & lean, Nolte’s Benteen has been weathered by the Texas sun & haunted by the inability to settle things right. He doesn’t want violence to take place but he doesn’t necessarily have to be talked into a gunfight, either. He’s easily complemented by Boothe, whose sardonic tone adds to every line the man utters (“I got a feeling the next time we run into each other, we gonna have a killin'.”). The supporting work is tops as well & Torn just about steals the flick outright with his snappy dialogue. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be nearly deflated when he was taken out of the pic way too early (sorry to spoil it but the sidekick/older mentor always gets plugged so it’s not like its something new). Don’t fret however…the film boasts everything that makes an 80s Action classic and then some. The action is expertly shot & photographed to the point that you somehow FEEL sweaty and dusty after watching. If EP has anything going against it, it’s that it may be a bit too ambitious. The subplot with the “dead soldiers” complicates the rest of the framework & you can definitely tell it was John Milus’ contribution to the story. It’s arguable that the story would work just fine if Jack & Cash were left alone but the inclusion of the mercenaries makes it ultimately seem like an excuse to make sure the body count is upped. The end brings that prophecy to fruition (as well as enough plasma for half a dozen blood banks) but even the convoluted plot is not enough to dampen the grade A entertainment that is Extreme Prejudice.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Mickey Jones plays Chub Luke. Jones has been in just about everything but may be best known as the grease monkey that tells Chevy Chase “All of it, boy!” when pressing him for money in Vacation. Jones actually signs all of his autographs with that line.
- Lin Shaye (Kingpin, 2001 Maniacs) is the “Employment Office Clerk”.

Body Count/Violence: 42. The red soaked year of 1987 was aided immensely by Prejudice as the majority of the cast is blasted into bloody heaps by everything from shotguns, pump action Winchesters, Gatling guns and other automatic weaponry. This one may only be behind Robocop for that year’s bloodiest American Action flick. Also included is an explosion, a rat being knifed and…what ever you do, don’t accept a rabbit as a gift any time soon!

Sexuality/Nudity: Alonso fulfills the male checklist early on with a nice full frontal shot of her coming out of a shower. Another woman’s breasts are shown while she’s in bed in one scene.

Language/Dialogue: Fairly strong for the era, with a decent amount of strong profanities involved. Plenty of memorable lines are spoken but nothing stands up to Torn’s immortal “The only thing worse than a politician is a child molester.”

How bad was it?:
Siskel & Ebert gave it two thumbs up and Siskel went as far as calling it the closest to the mold of a classic Western in the 80s. Other critics not in tune with the genre gave it a mixed response, citing either its resemblance to The Wild Bunch or the fact it was just too ghastly & violent. Look at the cast, the director & the fact that the story was partly accredited to Captain NRA himself; if you were expecting Disney then you deserved to be disgusted because you’re dumb.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
TriStar & Carolco Entertainment released Extreme Prejudice on 4/24/87, where it debuted in 2nd place behind the Michael J. Fox vehicle The Secret of My Success with $3.5 million. The spring of ’87 proved to be a slow patch at the box office in general & EP dropped out of sight about a month after its opening, closing out with $11.3 million (no budget was announced). Despite its lackluster B.O., Extreme Prejudice developed a cult following since then & can be found on DVD on the Artisan Entertainment label.

Film: ****/*****
Entertainment value: ****1/2/*****

Copyright 2009 The Action Mutant.

No comments: