Released by: Kino Lorber
Released on: February 24th, 2015.
Director: John Frankenheimer
Cast: Roy Scheider, Ann Margaret, Kelly Preston
Year: 1986 Purchase From Amazon
Middle aged businessman and construction magnate Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider) is a bit of a walking cliché. He's got a fancy car, nice house with a pool, an accomplished and attractive wife (Ann Margaret) and a 20 something mistress (Kelly Preston). Turns out the mistress is a plant however. She's actually being used by a trio of blackmailers to shake Harry down. But when he doesn't play along they start to up the ante. Murder and the targeting of Harry's wife are part of the agenda.
Based on an Elmore Leonard story, 52 PICK UP was produced by Canon films in their "ambitious" phase. This was when the studio graduated from pure B pictures to B pictures starring A-list talent mixed in with some quality character actor firepower. There's something oddly delicious about watching Scheider deliver tough guy dialog to the OTT pornographer/blackmailer played by Julian Glover. Everybody in the film is surprisingly game considering the overall sleaze factor, with Margaret in particular displaying little vanity (though to be fair at the time of this film she was still a remarkably sexy woman).
The actual blackmail scheme makes little sense but it doesn't really matter. Director John Frankenheimer makes the right artistic choice from the get-go: amp up the sleaze and immerse us in a neon landscape of strip clubs, skeevy "modeling agencies", and plenty of politically incorrect shenanigans. The trio of crooks are simultaneously terrifying and blackly amusing. Glover plays it a tad too big with his exaggerated accent and broad mannerisms, but it works. Gay peep show operator Leo Franks (Robert Trebor) is pathetic and funny with his boy toys and incessant whining but it's Clarence Williams III as pimp Bobby Shy who steals the movie. Using a lilting vaguely Jamaican accent he commits 100% to the "scary black man" trope. He exudes genuine physical threat at all times and the scene where he almost kills one of his whores (pop star Vanity delivering a credible performance) using a huge teddy bear is unforgettable. There's little meat to the role as written on the page, so credit to Williams is due. His knock down drag out home invasion fight with Scheider is a highlight of the film too.
Overall, 52 PICK UP isn't very original - in fact the climax directly rips off an earlier Charles Bronson vehicle - but it gets by on a potently sleazy devil's brew of attitude, nudity and pulpy energy. There's also some choice dialog including a great Scheider retort about the effect of Julian Glover's face on his slap reflex. Pacing is strong too. This one never drags.
Kino's 1.85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer is mostly strong with the most notable minus column item being detail getting a trifle hazy in some spots. The print itself is in good shape and colors are well balanced. Neon signs pop nicely and skin tones look realistic. Grain is normal and no sign of problematic DNR is visible.
The audio is handled by a DTS-HD Mono track that sounds strong. The score is robust and dialog clear and balanced. There are no audible anomalies to report. As for extras, forget it. You get a trailer and that's it. No subtitles either.
The Final Word:
52 PICK UP has its fair share of detractors but I've never been one of them. Anyone who enjoys a good sleazy thriller should have fun with this one. Scheider does good tough guy and the villains are a hoot. Frankenheimer is getting his grindhouse vibe on here and it works nicely. Vanity's copious full frontal nudity doesn't hurt proceedings either. Recommended.
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