As I brought up during The Ambassador, Cannon had been hoping to make Elmore Leonard’s 52 Pick-Up into a movie since 1974. John Frankenheimer read the book and wanted to direct a more faithful adaptation, which almost happened in Pittsburgh, which would have stood in for the Detroit location of the novel. It ended up being shot in Los Angeles.
With a screenplay by John Steppling and Leonard himself, this movie is lean, mean and rough. Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider) has gone from decorated war veteran to owning a steel company that’s finally worth some money, while his wife Barbara (Ann-Margret) is running for city council.
Their lives fall apart when Harry is visited by three blackmailers who demand $105,000 a year for life, as they have a videotape of him and his mistress Cini (Kelly Preston). He can’t go to the cops or he’ll ruin everything his wife has worked for. But he doesn’t have the available funds to pay them. And his guilt makes him confess to his wife, even as she tells him she wished that she never knew.
The three men — Alan Raimy (John Glover, who is a revelation in this movie), Bobby Shy (Clarence Williams III) and Leo (Robert Trebor) — get found out by Harry, who refuses to pay them, even after they murder Cini with his gun. Soon, he’s turning the gang against one another, with Raimy slowly going even wilder, finally kidnapping Barbara and injecting her with drugs.
This movie is one of those “oh you men” films, because men and their impulses drive every single violent action. It also has a great cast, including Doug McClure, Debra Berger, Blackie Dammit and Vanity as the dancer that gets Cini mixed up in the blackmail and a party scene that’s a who’s who of American adult film actors in 1986, including Tom Byron, Herschel Savage (his wife at the time Ines Ochoa is also in this scene), Amber Lynn, Ron Jeremy, Erica Boyer, Barbara Dare, Jamie Gillis, Cara Lott, Randy West, Honey Wilder, Pat Manning, Barbara Summers, Miss Sharon Mitchell, and Lorrie Lovett. Seka claimed in her book Inside Seka that she passed on being in the movie after Frankenheimer asked her for a date.
You can watch this on Tubi.
Yikes! I saw this and Castaway at the cinema. I’m now wondering if I was the target audience for Cannon. This was a shockingly tough film, would like to see it again…