(US - 1985)
Directed by J. Lee Thompson. Written by Max Jack. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Ellen Burstyn, Rock Hudson, Fabio Testi, Donald Pleasence, Heli Goldenberg, Michal Bat-Adam, Ori Levy, Shmulik Kraus, Avi Kleinberger, Sasson Gabai. (R, 95 mins)
It was a box office flop at the time, but 1986's 52 PICK-UP has come to be regarded as a top crime thriller of its era and one of the best films to come off the Cannon assembly line in their heyday. Adapted from Elmore Leonard's 1974 novel and directed by the great John Frankenheimer, 52 PICK-UP stars Roy Scheider as Harry Mitchell, a successful L.A. businessman caught up in a web of blackmail and murder when a trio of porno industry dirtbags (the leader constantly condescendingly calling him "Sport") videotape him having sex with his young mistress, shaking him down for an exorbitant sum of money in exchange for not embarrassing his wife (Ann-Margret), the top aide to a popular mayoral candidate. When he refuses to pay, they kill the mistress and try to frame Mitchell, not understanding that he's a self-made man used to doing things his own way, bullheadedly determined to take on the blackmailers himself, manipulating them and beating them at their own game, of course inevitably leading to Scheider delivering one of his signature "Smile, you son of a bitch!" lines just as he takes out the chief shitbag ("So long, Sport!"). It's lean, mean, gritty piece of vintage '80s L.A. sleaze, not entirely faithful to Leonard--he wasn't happy that the setting was moved to L.A. from his native Detroit--but it stands today as one of the better adaptations of the author's work, which would enjoy a significant renaissance a decade later with films like GET SHORTY, OUT OF SIGHT, and JACKIE BROWN, the latter based on his novel Rum Punch.
BOLERO after clashing with Bo and John Derek and sent to Israel to have simulated sex with Ellen Burstyn instead. Burstyn is Alex Hacker, the bored, frustrated wife of Peter Hacker (Robert Mitchum, in a role that was probably pitched to Cannon regular Charles Bronson at some point), the US Ambassador to Israel. Hacker is so distracted trying to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine that he's completely oblivious to his wife's torrid affair with antiques dealer Mustapha Hashimi (Testi), a shady figure with lifelong ties to terrorism. After a bombing in Jerusalem, Hacker is summoned to an abandoned movie theater where he's shown a stag film of Alex and Hashimi having sex, and is promptly blackmailed in exchange for not airing the footage on TV and creating an international incident over the wife of the US Ambassador getting between the sheets with a terrorist. The blackmailers are presumed to be from the PLO, but it's actually a rogue faction of far-right Mossad agents determined to maintain the status quo. There's duplicity and double crosses, and numerous attempts on the Hackers' lives by a renegade KGB agent (Shmulik Kraus), which sends Hacker's security chief and bodyguard Stevenson (Rock Hudson in his final big-screen role) into ass-kicking Cannon action hero mode.
DYNASTY before succumbing to AIDS in October 1985). Leadenly directed by the veteran J. Lee Thompson, who would become of the top in-house Cannon guys throughout the decade (10 TO MIDNIGHT, KING SOLOMON'S MINES, FIREWALKER, DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN) and simplistically written by Max Jack and an uncredited Ronald M. Cohen (both vets of the short-lived 1981 ABC series AMERICAN DREAM), THE AMBASSADOR does offer one clever bit of caustic repartee between the Hackers (when she uses horseback riding as a cover story for some afternoon delight with Hashimi, Peter asks "English or western?" and she snidely replies "Bareback") but little else, jettisoning any connection to Elmore Leonard and wasting an overqualified cast in the process. At least with 52 PICK-UP, Cannon got it right the second time.