Year 8, Day 156 - 6/4/16 - Movie #2,355
BEFORE: Happy to have hit the weekend after the dreadfully busy Friday I had - but it was nothing that two beers and twelve hours of sleep couldn't fix.
Ann-Margret carries over from "The Train Robbers", and after watching people play poker in "The Cincinnati Kid" comes a movie named after the worst card game ever.
THE PLOT: A secret fling between a man and his mistress leads to blackmail and murder.
AFTER: A man who cheated on his wife is being blackmailed - any rational person in that situation would go to the police, but the much more manly option is to turn the tables, figure out who the blackmailers really are, and then turn them against each other. Right? Just don't try this at home. But that puts this film into the territory of films like "Taken" and "The Equalizer", where the hero identifies the threat, and then takes the fight to them.
The central character here, Harry Mitchell, is not a secret agent or even an ex-secret agent, he's a regular guy who runs a steel mill (or something) who happens to hold a patent on a method of fusing steel to some other material, which NASA is very interested in. Perhaps that's why the blackmailers assume that he's got a lot of money, and they demand $105,000 from him, which seems to be a strangely specific amount. Why is it not $100,000 even? We never really find out why the blackmailers don't like round numbers. (Ah, someone on IMDB has the answer - because 100 grand is not evenly divisible among three people...)
And since this film was released in 1986, it comes off as one of those "family values" films - in the sense that bad things happen to a man who cheats. And worse things happen to a man who cheats and then gets blackmailed, especially since he tries to take them down, which puts everything at risk - his wife, her political career, and even that really nice Jaguar he rebuilt.
But there are lessons to be learned from the way that the criminal element operates, and it was surprisingly reminiscent to me of the way people interact in any office environment. OK, that thing that went wrong, let me explain why it wasn't my fault. And if it was my fault, let me now explain why it wasn't a mistake. And if it was a mistake AND my fault, let me now explain everything I've done for the company over the years, and why you shouldn't fire/kill me. Everything is self-protection, everything.
This is based on an Elmore Leonard story, so that also places it in the company of films like "Get Shorty", "Out of Sight", "Jackie Brown" and also "Stick", which I'm watching next week as part of the Burt Reynolds chain.
The worst, most unbelievable part is probably the ending, where our hero, who admittedly is a car specialist, suddenly displays Tony Stark-like abilities, turning his Jaguar into a technological marvel in a very short time-frame, all while being distraught over his wife's kidnapping. Completely implausible, what a shame to have an intricate cat-and-mouse mind-game crime film ruined at the last minute. And then he's probably got to explain to the police after the fact what happened, anyway - he shouldn't just get to walk away from a situation like this.
Also starring Roy Scheider (last seen in "The Rainmaker"), John Glover (last seen in "Gremlins 2: The New Batch"), Clarence Williams III (last seen in "The Butler"), Robert Trebor (last seen in "The Purple Rose of Cairo"), Vanity, Kelly Preston (last seen in "The Cat in the Hat"), Doug McClure (last seen in "Maverick"), Lonny Chapman, with cameos from porn stars Ron Jeremy, Amber Lynn, Sharon Mitchell, Tom Byron, Herschel Savage, Jamie Gillis, Erica Boyer, Barbara Dare.
RATING: 5 out of 10 rolls of film