Monday, 14 November 2011



An absolute apocalypse of testosterone and rugged manliness in which two hulking great Alpha Males swagger and snarl and wave their massive manly balls at each other for breeding rights over the sole significant woman in the Tex-Mex district (there might be a secretary with a couple of lines or something, but that's pretty much all there is in the way of any other female interest), while a pride of other hairy-balled Men prepare to prepare to terminate either, both, themselves or anyone and everyone. Reeking of sweaty machismo from start to finish, it's probably one of the most masculine films ever made.

Nick Nolte is the rock hard and incorruptible Texas Ranger - Robocop but less willing to show any kind of emotion - is a small town not far from the Mexican border; just the other side is his one-time friend Powers Boothe, now a big league drugs baron and legally untouchable so long as he stays out of the USA. Between them is not just the black and white of good and evil but the affections of Maria Conchita Alonso: Nolte's current girlfriend but, significantly, Boothe's ex. Into town comes a team of ex-military Special Ops badasses led by Michael Ironside (sending the machismometer into the danger levels), with orders to rob the local bank and remove the contents of Boothe's safety deposit box along with the cash. Things don't go exactly as planned.... For the final reels everyone treks down to Mexico, armed to the eyebrows with bigass firearms: Ironside and his squad to take down Boothe and his men, and Nolte to take back Alonso....

Walter Hill's Extreme Prejudice is, in its action sequences, phenomenally violent, particularly the climactic massacre where pretty much everyone's shooting at pretty much everyone. I'm not sure whether it manages to top the final reels of The Wild Bunch but it's certainly one of the most bullet-strewn final sequences we'd seen prior to the glory days of John Woo. Seeing it again the other night for the first time in maybe 20 years, I think I enjoyed it more this time around: certainly I always liked the Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack (I have the CD: performed by the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra, augmented with synths and big echoey 80s drums) but I don't recall having so much fun with the overly macho characters or dialogue.

Maybe that's a sign of the times: we're used to action movies being a little fluffier and softer these days, restrained to a 15 or even a 12A level rather than a blood-soaked 18, and perhaps the aggressive manliness feels overblown. We could take the Rambo movies at face value at the time but now - as witness the atrocious fourth Rambo movie - such characterisation feel more like a parody. The same went for Road House which I've also rewatched recently, and that's even more macho and crunchily violent: it feels absurd now. That's not to say any of those 80s movies aren't fun, and it's certainly not to suggest that Extreme Prejudice isn't a good movie: it is, but to some extent it's a product of its time.

Still, I had more fun and more visceral thrills with it than many, many modern action movies that consistently fail to reach those standards. The action sequences are properly edited, so you exactly who's where, and not hacked into a thousand subliminal pieces that flash past your eyes like a strobe; and the blood is done properly with squibs rather than cartoonish CGI blobs painted on in post-production. Well worth watching, and well worth rewatching.


When men were men, and women were glad of it:

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