' ' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Old Fashioned: Extreme Prejudice (1987)

Friday, August 18, 2023

Friday's Old Fashioned: Extreme Prejudice (1987)

Once, long ago, dudes no doubt recall, TBS had a recurring series called Movies for Guys Who Like Movies. In my memory these selections tended to be action-oriented and were not required to be classics in anyone’s minds except Guys who exclusively drove American and drank American, movies like “Stone Cold” and “Silent Rage” as a vintage promo suggests. I’m not sure if Walter Hill’s “Extreme Prejudice” was ever screened for the series, but it made more at the box office than “Stone Cold” so it’s possible. And besides, finally getting around to it all these years later, I think it’s the archetype of the genre, with essentially one female character (Maria Conchita Alonso) that could have been represented by a blow-up doll with no one noticing, so much is her role strictly as bait between argumentative men, and a conclusion lacquered in sweat, so much sweat. If it makes no logical sense for Michael Ironside’s character to be sporting a beige jacket under a scorching sun, hey, that’s only because Hill wants you to see the impressive sweat stain on his back. This isn’t the sweatiest movie ever made because the whole movie is not inundated in it a la “A Time to Kill,” but when everyone finally begins to perspire, it comes across hilariously, joyfully deliberate, epitomizing how “Extreme Prejudice” builds to an orgiastic explosion of dude-on-dude violence.

Smartly, the three-man screenplay by Deric Washburn, John Milius, and Harry Kleiner accentuates the guy-ness by essentially melding two guy movies into one. It begins as a movie in which a team of guys is assembled, outlined in the opening credits as an American paramilitary outfit under the command of Major Paul Hackett (Ironside) gathers at the El Paso airport, under some vaguely defined orders to stage a midday bank robbery as cover to acquire information on Mexican drug lord Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe). That’s the other story. Bailey is the former childhood friend of the very Texas Ranger, Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte), battling the relentless flow of drugs, the black hat and the white hat of an old western.

Opposites attract, indeed, as Boothe is all slimy charisma and Nolte reduces his entire turn to a grimace and a grumble, credibly juicing every overheated line with his gravelly terseness. In one scene where the two men walk and talk, the camera pulls back as their chat gets less friendly, suggesting Hill’s visual thoughtfulness. That is not to say the movie is entirely thoughtful, spiritually waving off the previously mentioned female character even as it keeps putting her into trouble and hardly concerning itself with the fatalism tied to the plot twists of the two converging storylines. But Hill understands his job, seeing “Extreme Prejudice” as a kind of Miller Lite ad, tastes great vs less filling, as a series of shootouts and dramatic confrontations, escalating and escalating until one final face/off between all factions, tension rising with quick cuts of sweaty male faces in close-up before giving way to countless rounds of bullets and geysers of blood, so much pent-up male fury erupting like Old Faithful.

No comments: