Tuesday, 6 September 2016

BITE-SIZED REVIEW: Ricochet (Russell Mulcahy, 1991)

This movie is awesome.

It has Denzel Washington as cool cop and John Lithgow as a crazy villain in a plot ripped off from Cape Fear, directed by the guy who made Highlander (1986). 

Washington plays Nick Styles, a cop-turned assistant DA. He has a political career in mind and is deeply involved with charity projects to rejuvenate his local community. His rise in prominence is thanks to an incident when, as a rookie cop, he took down psychotic criminal Earl Talbot Blake (Lithgow).

While Styles has all but forgotten him, Blake has not forgotten about Nick. Locked away in prison, he has bided his time, and put together a scheme to bring Nick's pristine life and career crashing down on top of him.

This movie feels like it was made from a comic book. Each character is a caricature, Mulcahy shoots everything with the emphasis on style for its own sake, and Alan Silvestri's score sounds like the overture for a circus act. It is awesomely excessive.

Washington's performance here is pure charisma. Without him, Nick would probably come off as a preening git, but with Washington playing him, the character becomes incredibly sympathetic. As an Obama-like lawyer looking to boost his election prospects, Washington has the intelligence and charisma to be believable in the role. 

On the batshit front, John Lithgow is wonderful as Blake. Simmering rage distilled into human form, Blake is a wonderfully deranged nemesis. Like Washington, Lithgow brings a wit and intelligence to the character which probably was not on the page. A welcome addition to Lithgow's strong rogues gallery. 

Despite its overheated style (or maybe because of it), the movie is enormously entertaining -- the premise is so crazy, and the characters so morally delineated, that the stylistic excesses feel totally appropriate. 

Overlooked and somewhat forgotten, Ricochet is a terrific early showcase for Denzel Washington as a nascent action star. 

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