After revisiting 1984’s The Hit for the first time since it’s release on the home video market and thoroughly enjoying it, I couldn’t help but follow it up with this gangland flick that like The Hit, stars a mean Terence Stamp.
“Tell me about Jenny!”
Stamp arrives in L.A. from England to investigate just who is responsible for the death of his daughter. He isn’t about to take any prisoners in his quest for truth and vengeance. He’s a career criminal and the violence by extension will come easily with little thought of regret. The trail leads him to finding a friend in Luis Guzman who recounts his daughters final days and apparent death in an auto accident.
There is little doubt as to where his journey will lead him. Peter Fonda appears to be the destructive force behind her death. The question is how and why. On his quest for vengeance, Stamp will make his presence know. First by roughing up an apparent connection to Fonda who has his gang of thugs beat the hell out of Stamp, depositing him on the street. Big mistake as it leads to one of the films best scenes demonstrating just how “old school” Stamp can be when delivering his own street brand of justice.
“You tell him I’m coming!”
Balancing the film is Lesley Ann Warren who was a friend to Stamp’s daughter. His scenes with her show the mellow side of his character and through intimate flashbacks he points out to Warren that, “I watched her grow up in increments.” A well thought out line for a father who has been in and out of prison much of his adult life. These flashbacks also allowed director Steven Soderbergh to insert clips of a young Terence Stamp lifted from the 1967 film Poor Cow. Really an ingenious idea to add weight to Stamp’s character.
Stamp has a very tongue in cheek appeal during the film as he is partly a fish out of water coming to L.A. from England, matched by his old school calmness plays up the fun. As Bill Duke points out the obvious to Stamp, “You’re not from around her are yah?” It should also be noted that this is as close to Steve McQueen cool as Stamp could possibly be. As a matter of fact, one could easily see McQueen in this role had the icon still been around.
Fonda’s sleazy music promoter/producer hides behind his bodyguard Barry Newman allowing Newman to put out a contract on Stamp’s life. While the deed is to be done, Fonda retreats to his ocean front hideaway where all the violence will collide leaving little doubt as to his guilt. Still there is a surprising shift in the outcomes tone that gives us pause.
Truthfully, Stamp is the whole show here and makes it a must see. He’s that good. If memory serves, his name was bandied about as a possible Oscar contender at the time. He’s comical, violent and thanks to the flashbacks, tender beneath the rough exterior and finally the essence of “screen cool.”
I like the fact that Soderbergh gives the film a dream like quality. He inserts montages of both the past and what is about to come in the sense of foreshadowing giving this a strong feeling of Noir for the modern crowds.
So grab a copy of this and sit back to make it a double feature with The Hit playing first followed up by Stamp giving us his interpretation of a real “bad ass.”