The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

52 Pick-Up

If movies have taught men anything, it's not to cheat on your spouse.  Movies have shown us you could be killed, double-crossed, blackmailed, and forced to do all sorts of ungodly things to keep your secret safe.  Then there's always the mistress and/or spouse finding out and turning on you.  Big picture?  Don't mess around, and you've got a good shot at avoiding all this stuff.  Too bad no one takes advice these days, like in 1986's 52 Pick-Up.

Working off an Elmore Leonard novel, director John Frankenheimer puts together a movie that you basically feel dirty for having watched it.  It's that perfectly wrong blend of sleaze and scum with the 1980s porno scene serving as a backdrop for some extramarital shenanigans. 'Pick-Up' has that feel of a low-budget B-movie, but not necessarily in a good way. The premise is interesting enough, but there's a handful of plotholes that make you groan, and worse than that, characters making decisions that no one in their right mind would do.  If you read no further, here's a good summation of the movie.  Death Wish for Cheaters.  That's the best I can do.

Going to see his nude model/topless dancer mistress, Cini (Kelly Preston) at her apartment, rich and married businessman Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider) is caught off guard by three men waiting for him.  They have video footage of Harry on vacation with Cini in some comprising positions and now want him to pay up if he doesn't want the footage shown to his wife, Barbara (Ann-Margret). Making his decision worse, Barbara is running for local office with the district attorney and any news like Harry's cheating would completely derail her campaign.  But even as he's about ready to pay the money, Harry realizes they won't just let him get away so he decides to go on the offensive, taking it to the three mystery men blackmailing him for piles of cash.

Watching a movie based on an Elmore Leonard novel, you head in with a certain amount of higher expectations.  Not having read the book, I can't just how well the transfer was made and what was left out, but this movie has some of the dumbest villains I've ever seen.  Raimy (John Glover) is an owner of a porno theater and the mastermind of the plan.  Leo (Robert Trebor) runs the club where Cini works and seems genuinely surprised when everything hits the fan.  Last, there's Bobby (Clarence Williams III), a pimp who is just too trusting of his partners in crime.  They have to be the unlikeliest of villainous trios, but man, they sure are dumb.

The dynamic is funny among the three, Raimy being the insanely calm leader, Leo the freakishly nervous dupe, and Bobby the muscle who never seems to realize something bad could happen in this plan.  Glover stands out for his part as Alan Raimy, a truly over the top villain you just love to hate.  He's the only one of the three that really registers in any sort of intimidation with the other two more funny than scary -- unintentionally so.  The decisions these three make drove me nuts because they hope to blackmail Scheider's Harry for years and years to come, but then decide to get rid of all the evidence that would pin a murder on Harry.  There's stupid and there is criminally stupid.

As an actor, I really like Roy Scheider in the five or six movies I've seen him in.  This is a difficult character to get behind because of the actions he's taken against his wife (who would really cheat on Ann-Margret?) so he's in a hole right from the start.  The character as a whole is hard to put your finger on because he is so far over the place.  He's angry, worried, a vigilante, a detective, a rich businessman, and with an intelligence that has helped him amass a huge business.  Scheider's always very watchable, but this isn't my favorite character of his.  Ann-Margret is very good in a better part as Harry's wife Barbara, a woman struggling to deal with this bombshell that's been dropped on her while also trying to be elected to office.  Former model Vanity has a small part as one of Cini's fellow strippers while Preston needs to look scared and be naked for her part. Doug McClure has a small part as Arveson, the D.A. that Barbara is working for.

In most of his movies I've seen, Frankenheimer is a very visual director, and 'Pick-Up' does have it's moments as Harry tries to right his wrong. The movie was shot in some of Los Angeles' seedier areas on top of some locales that include a strip club, an orgy/party, and Raimy's porno theaters.  Needless to say, Frankenheimer isn't shy about nudity and violence in this flick.  It's almost too seedy though right from the start in a story that never quite figures out what it is.  Also, watch out for the obvious reference to The Mechanic near the end.  A laughably bad ending.

52 Pick-Up <----trailer (1986): **/****

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