52 Pick Up (UK - DVD R2 | BD RB)
Marcus is blackmailed and pays it off with this review of an 80s thriller on BD
HIS WIFE. HIS MISTRESS. HIS CAREER. A DEADLY TRAP.
In 1986, John Frankenheimer the director of The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds and French Connection II made the unlikely career move of working with schlockmeisters Cannon Films. Adapting Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name, 52 Pick-Up s union brought about the perfect blend of high calibre thrills and Cannon-grade trash.
Roy Scheider (Jaws, Cohen and Tate) plays a successful businessman whose life quickly falls apart when a compromising videotape of him and his mistress (Kelly Preston) becomes a tool for blackmail. Unable to go to the police without compromising the political career of his wife (Ann-Margret), he must take things into his own hands and delve into a world of drugs, sleaze, pornography and snuff.
Co-starring Prince protégé Vanity and John Glover (who was described as the best, most reprehensible villain of the year by Roger Ebert), and featuring a host of cameos from the stars of the Silver Age of Porn , 52 Pick-Up has been described by Leonard as his favourite big-screen adaptation of his works. [Official Synopsis]
This is an Elmore Leonard drama that absolutely shines as something uniquely Leonard. Everything Tarantino loved and emulated in his own Elmore Leonard adaptation Jackie Brown is here and I’d maybe go as far as to say 52 Pick Up is the better of the two films. This is a twisted tale that keeps finding new ways of reinventing its plot. Just as we're on one route, something happens, usually a character making a bold decision and we're on another track. These changes of gear never get boring or silly and without a doubt the film keeps you locked in to the bitter end.
A lot of this film's success is based on the gravitas of Roy Scheider brings to the screen. He's the victim of his own bad decision but once the initial threat is presented he's just not a character who's going to let it ruin his life. He's bold in his decisions and while a lot of it gets him in deeper water, his on screen presence somehow enables us as an audience to follow him despite his many wrong doings that puts those around him in danger. Scheider's performance here manages to feel personal and weighty and you're locked into his situation despite it being the classic male failing of a guy who has it all but makes the mistake of wanting more thinking there would be no repercussions and it leading to his downfall.
The film plays out very well and realistically even with the blackmail element causing the drama to unfold the performances all round feel genuine and often raw, especially surrounding the breakdown of the husband and wife at the centre of all this. John Glover, our bad guy, drops a fantastic love to hate bad guy full of charisma and life and is clearly rotten to the core despite his big smiles. He's fantastic here but the same can be said for
Clarence Williams III who does the cool as shit psycho bit beautifully.
All round 52 Pick Up delivers the goods. It's dark, it unravels at a near perfect pace and it keeps you on your toes. It may not be the best known 80s thriller but it certainly deserves your time if you want to see a crime thriller down well.
The presentation, which is transferred from original film elements by MGM has a darker look to it during the open credits sequence with grain and grub heavy along with a fair bit of dirt and damage to the print.
Stepping out of the credits, the image gets a little brighter buts it's still an aged affair with its 80s looks, initially feeling a little soft and drab. However soon close ups really begin to show off the upgrade here, with fine detailing on faces and some well presented lighting within some of the sets. Yes, the film remains rather dark, with a lack of sharpness in the darker areas of the frame (and there are a lot of darker areas) but in terms of lighting and colour this is a good remaster that lifts the film into modern realm without losing its 80s charm.
The colours can run a bit heavy on the red side of the spectrum here at times and detail can get a little lost in hazier or darker areas but these are minor quibbles really as the film smartly balances its limitations of age with a fresher remastered look without losing the original grimy style of the film.
The stereo track is clear and crisp throughout, it's a dated track for sure and small sounding at times but dialogue is always impressive and the while there's a bit of hiss in the quieter moments but that limitation of the track manages to go largely unnoticed due to the good placement of sound effects and score that fills up the track and manages to cover.
The score sits well behind the dialogue either subtly underpinning it or equally impressively driving it forward. It's a synth track that sometimes feels almost as if it would fit better within a science fiction story but somehow that works and elevates this dark drama to feel grander than you'd expect from such a story.
The commentary track with Glenn Kenny and Doug Brod begins with the pair covering Canon Productions and travelling through director Frankenheimer's work which sets the tone as a rather technical affair. That said, it offers a fair bit of history to the film because of that and those elements mixed with them highlighting important plot points makes this an okay listen along.
'Hardcore Cameos' (12:10 HD) is a 'spot the pornstar' extra where the two commentary guys return to highlight the adult film stars dotted around the film. There's a brief history of the porn industry at the time the film was made and how the two industries were much closer at the time.
Last up is the Trailer and DVD Copy.
I was aware of 52 Pick Up but I’d never seen it until this review disc. I dug it a whole bunch and the cast, story and general tone of the film makes this one a real missed gem from my youth as I never managed to get to it back then. The disc is okay, not the greatest of transfers but solid, same goes for the audio but beyond the commentary, extras are a tad lacking for an arrow release, so that’s a shame.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 17th October 2016
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English, English HOH
Extras: Comentary, Hardcore Cameos, Trailer, DVD Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Frankenheimer
Cast: Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 110 minutes
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