The Films of Walter Hill
The Long Riders
48HRS. (March 27/16)
48HRS. follows Nick Nolte's grizzled cop Jack Cates as he's forced to team up with convicted felon Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) to catch a vicious killer (James Remar's Albert Ganz), with the bulk of the proceedings devoted to the mismatched pair's ongoing attempts at putting aside their differences and working together. It's a solid premise that's employed to pervasively erratic effect by director Walter Hill, as the filmmaker, working from a script cowritten with Roger Spottiswoode, Larry Gross, and Steven E. de Souza, stresses an almost punishingly hit-and-miss narrative that's devoid of any real sense of momentum. The episodic structure paves the way for a midsection that consists mostly of the protagonists' exploits within a variety of seedy locales, with the palpable chemistry between the stars and an ongoing emphasis on better-than-expected action sequences ultimately securing 48HRS.' mild success. (There is, in terms of the latter, an early shootout in a hotel lobby that's far more exciting and engrossing than anything contained within the entirety of the film's second half.) But there's just never a point at which the viewer is wholeheartedly wrapped up in the protagonists' escapades, and it is, as such, impossible to muster up much enthusiasm for or interest in the increasingly dangerous nature of their pursuit of Remar's slimy figure - with the action-heavy yet kind of tedious climax finally confirming 48HRS.'s place as a rather disappointing buddy comedy.
Streets of Fire
Brewster's Millions (March 4/16)
Based on a book by George Barr McCutcheon, Brewster's Millions follows Richard Pryor's Montgomery Brewster as he inherits a substantial chunk of money from a distant (and previously unknown) eccentric uncle (Hume Cronyn's Rupert Horn) - with the catch being that Monty must first spend $30 million in 30 days before he can claim the entire amount. It's a pretty fantastic premise that's utilized to progressively underwhelming effect by director Walter Hill, with the movie slowly-but-surely transforming from a fun wish-fulfillment comedy into an overlong, heavy-handed drama. There's ultimately little doubt, then, that Brewster's Millions fares best in its breezy and entertaining first half, as scripters Herschel Weingrod and Timothy Harris effectively stress Monty's initial efforts at blowing through millions of dollars in progressively flamboyant ways (eg Monty rents the entire top two floors of New York City's famed Plaza Hotel). The easygoing, fun vibe begins to dwindle steadily as the film moves into its tedious midsection, however, with the increasingly hands-off feel perpetuated by a misguided emphasis on elements that couldn't be less interesting (eg Monty's growing infatuation with an accountant, Monty's eventual decision to run for office, etc). By the time the completely anticlimactic final stretch rolls around, Brewster's Millions, saddled with an oddly lifeless Pryor performance, has confirmed its place as a justifiably forgotten relic of the 1980s.
Red Heat (November 25/09)
Though it does boast several above-average action sequences and an expectedly compelling performance from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Red Heat ultimately comes off as a plodding, downright generic buddy-cop thriller that's simply unable to sustain the viewer's interest for more than a few minutes at a time. The storyline follows Russian detective Ivan Danko (Schwarzenegger) as he arrives in Chicago hoping to track down a notorious drug dealer (Ed O'Ross' Viktor Rostavili), with problems ensuing as Danko finds himself caught up in a whole mess of red tape and forced to partner up with a slovenly American cop (James Belushi's Art Ridzik). It's a serviceable premise that's generally employed to middling effect by filmmaker Walter Hill, as the cowriter/director stresses the protagonists' ongoing investigation to an increasingly lamentable degree (ie the movie primarily comes off as an '80s-style police procedural). The ensuingly uneven vibe ensures that Schwarzenegger's top-notch work - questionable Russian accent notwithstanding - often stands as the film's one genuinely compelling attribute, with the watchable yet underwhelming nature of everything else within the proceedings cementing Red Heat's place as a forgettable Schwarzenegger vehicle.
Another 48 Hrs.
Trespass (May 27/18)
A disappointing misfire, Trespass follows Arkansas firemen Vince (Bill Paxton) and Don (William Sadler) as they arrive at an abandoned factory in search of a supposed cache of stolen gold - with problems ensuing as the men find themselves caught in the middle of a gang-related execution. It's the sort of premise that could (and should) have resulted in a hoary yet entertaining B-movie thriller, and yet Trespass, for the majority of its overlong running time, comes off as a wheel-spinning, padded-out failure that's increasingly devoid of compelling elements - with the picture's various problems compounded by the decidedly unpleasant nature of the central locale (ie that abandoned warehouse grows more and more claustrophobic as time progresses). Scripters Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (!) deliver a fairly uneventful (and palpably repetitive) narrative in which nothing terribly intriguing occurs, and it's clear, too, that the movie suffers from a whole raft of underdeveloped, far-from-sympathetic characters (ie the viewer doesn't have a rooting interest in the survival/success of any of these people) - which undoubtedly paves the way for a midsection that seems to consist entirely of these bland figures scheming with and shouting at one another. Hill's inability to infuse the film's many instances of action with any real excitement doesn't help matters, surely, while the somewhat endless climax ensures that the whole thing ends on as underwhelming a note as one could possibly imagine - thus confirming Trespass' place as a justifiably-forgotten bit of 1990s filmmaking.
Geronimo: An American Legend
Last Man Standing
Undisputed (September 6/02)
Directed by Walter Hill, Undisputed transpires entirely inside a fictitious prison known as Sweetwater, where boxing matches are held every few months (and sanctioned by the prison authorities!) An inmate named Monroe (Wesley Snipes) is the reigning champ, having never lost a bout. But he's about to face his toughest challenge yet when the current heavyweight champion of the world, George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames), is sent to Sweetwater for rape. An aging mafioso (Peter Falk) is a big fan of old-school boxing, so he arranges for the two to fight using ancient rules (which basically amount to last man standing wins). Undisputed is a tough little movie, a B picture in an era that doesn't really allow for them. Like The Great Escape or The Dirty Dozen before it, this is a film about manly men doing manly things. The few women that populate the cast aren't looked upon as objects of desire, but rather as authoritarian figures to be feared. And Hill is pretty much the perfect choice to helm the movie, since he's one of the few remaining tough-guy directors. He brings a nice sense of style to the film, introducing the various characters with on-screen text and occasionally showing us a map of the prison.
The cast is remarkably well picked, too. Snipes plays a man who deserves to be in prison but nevertheless manages to evoke our pity. After being thrown in solitary (unfairly, but since he's the strong, silent type, he doesn't complain), he spends his time erecting an elaborate model made entirely out of toothpicks. Snipes is very good, but he's basically the straight man to Rhames' over-the-top and incredibly entertaining performance. As the disgraced champ, Rhames imbues the character with the sort of overblown behavior we'd expect from such a person. He's a lot of fun, and it doesn't hurt that he's been surrounded by some stellar supporting actors (most notably Fisher Stevens as a character known as "Ratbag").
So the whole thing is leading up to this big fight between Monroe and Iceman, and when the moment finally arrives, Hill shows it to us in real time. The fight takes around 15 minutes, and surprisingly enough, it starts to become dull halfway through. Now, fans of boxing will probably enjoy the hell out of the fight, but to the rest of us, it's just tedious. Still, Undisputed is (for the most) part a very entertaining throwback to the tough-guy flicks of yesteryear. And how can you really go wrong with a film that features Peter Falk doling out the F-word dozens of times in less than a minute?
Bullet to the Head