Thursday, November 12, 2009

Film Review: EXTREME JUSTICE (1993, Mark L. Lester)

Stars: 3.7 of 5.
Running Time: 96 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Scott Glenn (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, W.), Lou Diamond Phillips (THE DARK WIND, LA BAMBA), Yaphet Kotto (ALIEN, BLUE COLLAR), Ed Lauter (DEATH WISH 3), Chelsea Field (COMMANDO, THE LAST BOY SCOUT), L. Scott Caldwell (LOST), Andrew Divoff (LOST), William McNamera (Argento's OPERA). Cinematography by Mark Irwin (VIDEODROME, THE FLY, SCREAM).
Tag-line: "They're an elite task force. They target high-profile criminals, learn how they work...and shut them down."
Best one-liner: "Oh, shiiiiiiit!"

Mark L. Lester is a master of cobbling together chunks of existing genre cinema and fashioning them into an outrageously entertaining end result (COMMANDO, FIRESTARTER, CLASS OF 1984 and 1999). Now, EXTREME JUSTICE isn't anywhere near the top tier of Lester's output, but it ain't the worst way to waste 96 minutes. Within the first ten, we have a shootout, a car chase, the exchange "What the hell are we doing?" -"GETTING THE JOB DONE!," a throwaway black partner who says "Oh, shiiiiiiit!," and a lecture from a superior officer calling our hero a "loose cannon"... this is what we're getting into, ladies and gentlemen, and personally, I'm totally okay with it. [And I think that if this movie were made in, say, 1998, they probably would have called it X-TREME JUSTICE.]

The plot is simple: a ragin' Lou Diamond Phillips (with backwards ball cap and long, early 90's tresses):

You thought I was kidding when I said 'raging,' didn't you? If this was in 3-D, you'd be shitting your pants, I guarantee.

is recruited by a delightfully skeezy Scott Glenn:

(here in a masterful, nuanced role that at times resembles an unholy hybrid between John Hurt and Lance Henriksen!) to serve in a modern-day official police 'posse' of sorts, where "What used to get you in trouble will get you a round of beers with us!" Diamond Lou finds his morals compromised, and at the insistence of his douchey crime-reporter girlfriend, decides to 'do the right thing' and shut the unit down. Blah.

"Moralizing chippy" tries to ruin the movie for the good ole boys.

Yeah, this is all we really wanted! Beers and 90s stylings and hearty slaps on the back!

But Scott Glenn and the rest of the cast are so effin' awesome, it doesn't matter that things get a tad too moralistic. We got Yaphet Kotto, perpetually dressed as a cowboy (ponchos, dusters, etc., etc.) and gunning down wrongdoers with dual six-shooters. (I don't know how much the producers had to pay Yaphet to get him in that silly 5 gallon hat, but I hope it was a lot.)

I'm not gonna lie- Yaphet deserves better than this.

Then we got Ed Lauter ('Shrike' in DEATH WISH 3) as the crusty Captain, master of accents Andrew Divoff ('Mikhail' on LOST) as an asskicking Cuban, and L. Scott Caldwell ('Rose' on LOST) as an Internal Affairs rep.

Andrew Divoff tries to calm down ragin' Lou.

L. Scott Caldwell will call you out for what you are: a loose cannon that doesn't belong on the force.

Now nearly four stars is probably a touch generous, but Scott Glenn's X-treme N-tensity goes a long way.

Side note: I don't know if it's just the word EXTREME in the title, but certain aspects reminded me of a poor man's EXTREME PREJUDICE- a hero (Nolte vs. Diamond Lou) led down the garden path by a unit of antihero character actors (Forsythe, etc. vs. Kotto, etc.) headed by a charismatic skeeze (Ironside vs. Glenn) in a sunbeaten, Western locale (Texas vs. L.A.) that involves botched bank robberies, tense shootouts, and lots of cervezas. Something to think about.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

HK Fanatic said...

Gotta love these movies that are only available to "Watch Instantly" on Netflix. I definitely added this one to my queue after reading your review at the site.

Also, Sean, you added me on Facebook awhile ago. I just sent you a message there about the Twin Peaks paper I'm working on. I'm not sure if that was the best way to get a hold of you, so I thought I'd mention it here in case it'd be better to e-mail you.