Whatever you do don’t crack a smile: “Extreme Prejudice”

February 2, 2013

epHistory has not only forgotten about Extreme Prejudice, but it seems to have done its level best to bury it in a shallow grave alongside the neighbor’s dog (I’m not fond of my neighbors). This is a bit perplexing since, while not without its faults (there are plenty), Extreme Prejudice is hardly a terrible film. Alas, today, Prejudice is barely remembered—even in the canon of guy movie shoot ‘em ups. Maybe if someone had reminded Nolte to smile or, you know, emote anything besides low-key annoyance it’d be a little more loved. Plus it takes forever to get to the climactic bloodbath. Now if you’re gonna have a bloodbath, it really should close out your film, but that doesn’t mean you can just jerk around until you get to it. Promises of a bloodbath  will only go so far to keep people in their seats, so you need some decent filler. Okay, what else is there to say about Extreme Prejudice.

Extreme Prejudice was directed by Walter Hill and written by John Milius, so you pretty know what this movie’s worldview is gonna come down to, “All right, who around here needs killing?” And the guy asking that question happens to be Texas Ranger Jack Benteen, and lest his title confuse you, he is not at all cuddly like Chuck Norris’ Walker. No, Jack is pretty much perpetually pissed-off—mostly because of the drugs that flood across the border into his little town, and the toll they take on the population.

Those drugs are courtesy of Cash Bailey (which, when you think about it is a pretty good white-guy-drug-lord name—I sure couldn’t think up a better one), a childhood pal of Jack’s who has obviously made a few different life-choices along the way. Cash and Jack also share a woman (not in that way—ick), torch singer Sarita Cisneros (Maria Conchita Alonso at her Conchitaist). Sarta used to date flashy flamboyant Cash, but left him for the solid, dull, emotionally-inert Jack. Woomen don’t fare well on the border.

Also interested in Cash is a sooper-secret Special Forces team headed up by Michael Ironside (who else? Seriously, it’s 1987, who else would it be?). They seem to be in place to take down Cash, but have to rob a bank first. This seems like a fairly chump-change assignment for a sooper-secret SF team (though, in fairness, we weren’t at war with anybody in 1987, and they probably had to use the guys for something), but they still manage to screw it up, getting one of their guys killed and two others arrested by Jack.

So, Ironside bails them out and explains to Jack that his team is meant to take down Cash, and that they had to rob to bank to steal back some incriminating documents in Cash’s safe-deposit box. And, hey, why don’t they team up to take Cash down? Jack isn’t real keen on the idea since, well, he hates pretty much everyone. Unfortunately, Sarita has decided to give Cash one more chance, and Jack isn’t onboard with that, so he agrees.

And then they pretty much go to war with an entire Mexican town. Yeah, it’s pretty damn amazing.

Unfortunately, getting there takes way too much time, and most of time is spent in the company of Jack. Who’s a real dick. No, he is. Look, I dig a good testosterone-storm as much as anyone, but Jack is so taciturn he’s freaking dull, and so intolerant he’s less cowboy than “grumpy old man who lives next door who shoots people.” His scenes with Sarita are downright offensive. I mean, he doesn’t have to be all gooey, but, shit, he might at least pretend he can stand the sight of her. When they’re in bed together, they lay a good two feed apart.

When we’re not watching Jack hate on humanity and life in general, we’re with the SF guys…who do absolutely nothing until the abortive bank robbery. Here’s the thing, badass dudes are only interesting when they do badass stuff. When they sit around in vans pondering how weird it is that they have to rob a bank…they’re not that interesting.

But the film’s climax is a kicker, that’s for sure. I mean, seriously, these guys basically get into a gunfight with a Mexican town. Doesn’t get much better than that.

So that’s Extreme Prejudice. It’s not terrible. I guess if I have to watch a guy go to war with narcotrafficers—and I have no problems with this, mind you—I just want him to have a bit more character. I mean, if you can’t stand to be around 1987 Maria Coonchita Alonso…well, there’s just something wrong with you.

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