Monday, November 10, 2008

Extreme Prejudice (1987)

This picture has a solid pedigree; Walter Hill directing (48 hours and The Warriors), John Milius co-scripting (Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn), Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, William Forsythe, Rip Torn, Maria Conchita Alonso's tits, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, etc. It's like a who's who and a what's what of people and things guys like. Call it "The A-Team" by way of Sam Peckinpah, which isn't that much of a stretch considering Hill, at one time, learned under Peckinpah.

Fuck, one thing you don't really remember, or understand, as a kid is just how right wing all these pictures were. The stories usually involve one man, armed to the teeth, standing up against an army of drug runners, viet cong, invading cubans or some shit. Forget about calling for back up. I think 99% of these pictures were produced by CAROLCO, remember them? The women are usually completely perfunctory except to provide some kind of motivation for the hero to act usually in the form of revenge. Also, sometimes they get to show their boobies and often are employed as a stripper, a singer, or maybe a whore. These were pictures made for men by men about men with men and if you think that's gay, you've got another thing coming. Well, some of them were gay (Top Gun, not that I'm going to continue to beat that dead horse).

Extreme Prejudice is decidedly not gay. Nick Nolte stars as Jack Benteen, 3rd generation Texas Ranger, grizzled, emotionless, a guy who probably would have chastised Sheriff Ed Tom Bell for being a sissy. He's the kind of guy that thinks it's bad practice to give up his gun and is "particular about who he drinks with". He spends his days patrolling a dusty old border town trying to keep the drugs from coming in from Mexico. He spends his nights sleeping next to the beautiful and feisty Sarita (Maria Conchita Alonso). Sarita wants more from life than a roof over her head apparently. She wants adventure, money, maybe even fame. Which is why she goes back with her old flame, Cash Bailey (the terrific Powers Boothe), Jack's former best friend and current drug lord. Boothe is best when playing a villain, and this one he plays very well and is supported by his distinctive voice ("I got a feelin the next time we run into each other, we're gonna have a killin'" and "show us your tits if you want to be useful"). We know what kind of guy he is in his first scene when he let's a scorpion crawl into his palm so he can crush it.

Into this squabble between old friends come a group of six ex-soldiers, classified as dead, now working covert operations for the United States government. Consisting of the likes of Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption) and William Forsythe (Raising Arizona) and led by Major Paul Hacket (Ironside). Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds is in the group as well and he's not that gay here. Apparently, these guys were inspired by "The A-team" except they actually kill people for real and, if shot, they actually bleed. There is also a B.A. Baracus type character and a Murdoch (Forsythe) type character but thankfully we are not subjected to a scene where the B.A. character receives a blood transfusion from the Murdoch character and also they don't have to knock B.A. out before getting on a plane. If they did, it's offscreen becuase their first scene is in an airport after they land. Also, the Murdoch character in Extreme Prejudice is cooler than the TV version because he told a young woman "as long as I got a face, you got a place to sit." I've been waiting for the right opportunity to finally use that line in public. Hasn't happened yet, but I will keep you posted.

So, anyway, these A-team guys are actually trying to fuck with Cash Bailey's empire and by "fuck with" I mean destroy. Jack is a little more diplomatic, since they were best friends and all, and tells Cash to just "cut and run" but Cash is drunk with power by this point and a little crazy so bad things are going to happen. The movie is rife with double crosses and operatic gun violence. Sarita starts off the double crossing by leaving Jack to go with Cash in a heart rending moment that pretty much proves she is a money grubbing whore. Hell, I nearly forgot about Rip Torn, who shows up in the beginning as a wise old yoda like Texas lawman. He doles out some good advice to Jack such as "the only thing worse than a politician is a child molester" which is funny since he occupies the elected position of Sheriff. Then he's gun downed by the fat brother of the fat drug runner Jack gunned down in his first scene.

The first great set piece of the picture involves Ironside and his boys robbing a bank that is basically controlled by Cash, the monetary unit and the drug lord. These guys are pretty good. Murdoch and B.A. staged a fight to get themselves thrown in jail for a night so they could study the interior of the police station (number of cops, amount of artillery, switchboard type, etc). The following day, the guy that reminded me of Face, drives a Hydrogen truck into a factory to create a diverson. Meanwile, B.A. and Clancy Brown are disguised as armored truck drivers and Ironside is Hannibal. They all wear panty hose on their heads. These guys are not like the A-team in one respect. They kill without remore, with "extreme prejudice" one might say. Whatever is necessary to win the war on drugs. I wonder why we don't send in some "deceased" special forces to rob the bank of Iraq or Yemen or wherever to win the war on terror? It's just a thought because what we are currently doing doesn't seem to be working very well. I hope Obama reads my reviews.

The picture is very Peckinpah, except for the lack of slow motion. Jack eventually joins forces with Ironside and his guys but Ironside has other things on his mind and orders his men to kill Cash and then to also kill Jack, to "terminate with extreme prejudice". By the way, that line and this picture's title is lifted directly from Milius' own Apocalypse Now. Of course the picture ends with a bloodbath in Mexico, reminiscent of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, on their independance day no less! Cash is king down there and leads an army of Mexicans, gringos, and professional athletes. Tommy "Tiny" Lister shows up as his #1 bodyguard, an ex-american footballer, a guy that made the Pro Bowl in fact. The fact that he is now taking bullets for a drug lord in Mexico doesn't really speak well about the NFL's pension plan. On first meeting Jack he explains "I banged up my knee" to which Jack replies "I think you banged up your head".

This is a terrific picture my friends and just goes to show that a friendship in Texas can mean many things except usually not forever. The border towns were a brutal place, probably still are. People were desperate and turned to the easy money provided by drugs. It's moderately better than dirt farming and teatotalling. Fuck that shit. These people need their tequila and they need it straight. As Cash says, "there ain't no right and wrong, there's only choices." Unfortunately, the cycle of violence is endless. After Cash, some other guy, most likely a Mexican this time, will don the white suit and the only thing he'll find across the border is a stubborn son of a bitch named Jack who refuses to look the other way. Unless the border town he crosses into is corrupted. In that case, all bets are off. I have no idea if Jack took Sarita back, but i do know she's got a nice rack. This is a very good one and incredibly underrated. For the love of Christ, though, please put out a good DVD. It's inexcusable that a picture featuring beautiful wide open Texan and Mexican vistas should only be available fullscreen and with a god awful transfer. Bullshit, man.

12 comments:

elmo said...

Yeah, watching the new Rambo, I was stunned at how little work I had to do for the film to come across as right-wing in fifty different ways (head villain was gay, Rambo was there to save Christian missionaries, said missionaries were convinced to embrace violence for their cause, etc.).

brian said...

Not only was he gay but he was a child molestor if I recall correctly. Yeah, Rambo was definitely a throwback (how I loved it so!).

brian said...

not that I'm implying, in any way, that a more liberal society should endorse child molestors.

elmo said...

That's it. I'm not letting my... er, son, Timmy, read this blog no more.

brian said...

How is...uh...Timmy going to know what to watch!?

steve said...

I've never understood the appeal of Nick Nolte, I must say. He's not an actor, but he's not really an action star either ... he's just this GUY, who shows up in front of movie cameras and SAYS stuff. There's no charisma, no charm, no reserve, no imposing features, no interesting line-readings ...

I guess it's an 80s thing. I was probably too young to understand.

brian said...

Nolte gave an incredible performance in 'Affliction'. I don't know, the guy, to me anyway, has a great screen presence. He's a man's man. He was also great in Ang Lee's Hulk.

I half expected you to go off on my claim that Powers Boothe was "terrific" having heard your disdain for him before.

Regarding that last thing you said, I can't type and laugh at the same time.

Sam said...

Nolte does a great mugshot, at least.

steve said...

You shouldn't be laughing at me just because I'm young! Someday, the whole WORLD will be ours, man!

brian said...

continues laughing.

Timmy said...

The world WAS yours yesterday. Now it's mine.

steve said...

whatEVER man! I'm off to play Pong ...