It’s the small towns you’ve got to worry about the most.
Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte) is a Texas Ranger who has taken a very different path than his childhood buddy, Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe), a ruthless drug lord, who stumbles back into town, looking to cause all sorts of havoc in the area and most importantly, for Jack himself. Though both men are very different in terms of their careers, their lives, and what sides of the law they each stand on, they do have one aspect in common: They’re both in love with Sarita Cisneros (Maria Conchita Alonso), who has been involved with both men, but chooses to stay with Jack, even though they constantly seem to fight all of the time. The tension between these two begins to escalate over the next few days, and to make matters worse, there’s a group of rag-tag veterans who are staging some sort of mission. But what is it? What is there purpose for being in this small town? And hell, are they dangerous?
Extreme Prejudice is clearly Walter Hill’s ode/homage to the Dirty Dozen that it almost goes without saying. It’s a western, without seeming like an old-school western that relies on the same old tropes, but instead, uses some neat tricks with its story to make it seem way more modern. Cause after all, Hill already made a out-and-true western with the Long Riders, so it’s basically like he doesn’t have much else to prove in that genre, except to show that he can use it as a stepping-stone for going out into his usual crazy barrage of guns, violence, blood, and oh yeah, a whole lot of cursing.
But for a Walter Hill movie, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It helps that Hill knows what he’s doing, when the material’s there to work with and have fun with. Both Deric Washburn and Fred Rexer wrote the screenplay and know not to make this story too difficult, or even all that meaningful – just give us a few bad guys, a good guy, some conflict, and lots and lots of guns. The rest, in Hill’s hands, is history.
Which is why the final-act of Extreme Prejudice, as well as the few other action set-pieces spread-out across, are all exciting, fun, and downright electric. They feel perfectly thought-out and constantly keep on surprising, what with where the violence goes and how. Hill isn’t considered a master at his craft by any means and he sure as hell will never be called an “artist”, but the man knows how to craft a solid, compelling, and fun action-scene, which in today’s day, that means a whole lot.
Basically, we could use a whole lot more of Walter Hill in our life and while we do still get his movies, they just aren’t the same anymore.
But anyway, the reason why I’m going on and on about the action so much is because, well, there’s a bit of a problem with the story, in that there may be a little too much. Or, at least, let me put it this way: There’s essentially two different plots going on here, with both being mildly interesting, but also pretty different from one another. For instance, there’s Nolte’s Jack who is feuding with Powers Boothe’s Cash, which doesn’t start cooking-up until the end and seems like a lot of talking and not much else, whereas the other plot, involving Michael Ironside’s group of bad-ass veterans, is fast-paced, interesting and, well, unique. It’s as if Washburn wrote one part of the movie, Rexer wrote the other, and they tried to combine it all together in one, seamless package.
But that’s what’s odd, because it doesn’t quite fully come together in that sense. Jack’s tale is far more dramatic and, as a result, slower, whereas Ironside’s is quicker and a whole lot more exciting to watch, even if we know it seems to be happening in almost entirely different movie. Hill works well with both stories, however, which is why the movie isn’t totally destroyed by this uneven thread, but still, it’s a bit choppy, to say the least.
And yes, it also helps that Ironside’s performance is pretty great here where he, once again, gets to play a bit of a nutty psycho who, somehow, has everything ready to go according to plan. In fact, almost everyone here is playing very much with their type; Nolte is stern and serious, Boothe is cold and dark, Rip Torn is fun and light, William Forsythe is crazy, and Alonso is, well, very attractive, but unfortunately, doesn’t get to be much else. Hill knows how to let his actors let loose when they need to and because of that, it helps a lot of the boring characters, work a bit better.
If only for the company they keep.
Consensus: While uneven, Extreme Prejudice is still a solid bit of action-thriller from the reliable hands of Walter Hill, who’s clearly enjoying what he’s doing here.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Radiator Heaven