MOVIE REVIEWS

52 Pick-Up

6/10 R 01 hr 54 min

November 7, 1986

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Our marriage has lasted 23 years. That’s longer than she’s been alive!

52 Pick-Up is directed by John Frankenheimer and written by Elmore Leonard (adapting from his own novel) and John Steppling. It stars Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, John Glover, Vanity, Clarence Williams III, Robert Trebor and Kelly Preston. Music is by Gary Chang and cinematography by Jost Vacano and Stephen Ramsey.

Successful business entrepreneur Harry Mitchell (Scheider) finds himself the victim of blackmail by three pornographers who have video evidence of his extramarital affair. With his wife about to embark on a new stage of her political career, the last thing Harry needs is a scandal, but when things take a turn for the worse Harry decides to use unorthodox methods to deal with the blackmailers.

A nifty neo-noir this, certainly deserving of being better known in neo-noir circles. The presence of Leonard at the writing table ensures that the story doesn’t drift too far away from his own source material, though location is moved to L.A. as opposed to the Detroit of the novel. Thematic thrust centres around Mitchell being caught for his indiscretions and what the consequences of his actions means for all around him, quite often with devastating results.

Mitchell has to move about a seedy world of pornography, of cheap peekaboo bars, strip joints and snuff movies, he has to get to the level of his blackmailers so as to enact his plans with conviction. The three weasels played by Glover, Williams and Trebor are in turn slimy, menacing and a twitchy neurotic, an off-beat trio suitably framed by Frankenheimer’s sleazy and cold world.

It may not be prime Frankenheimer but the director knows his noir onions, both in performances garnered from his strong cast and via his visual ticks. Characters are more often than not smoking or drinking liquor, sweating or looking pained as the camera gets up close and personal, the director even finds place for a bit of slatted shadow play in one sequence and menacing angled shards for another.

Some contrivances are more annoying than hindrances, it’s a bit bloodless for a picture not lacking in action scenes, and although the finale is signposted without due care and attention, it is still sufficiently rewarding. Decadence, sleaze, greed, paranoia and moral decay come crashing together to create a sadly neglected piece of 1980s neo-noir. A yuppie revenger where there are no heroes, just sinners and victims. 7.5/10

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