Director: John Frankenheimer
Script: Elmore Leonard & John Steppling
Cast: Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover, Robert Trebor, Lonny Chapman, Kelly Preston, Doug McClure
Running time: 110 minutes
Year: 1986
Certificate: 18

Opening with an impressive aerial shot of Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider) in a swimming pool on a roof-top, we soon learn that Mitchell, or Mitch, is a successful businessman who runs his own company, is very wealthy, has a wife, Barbara, and also a mistress, Cindy. Later, at Cindy’s apartment, Mitch is accosted by masked gunmen who threaten to ‘out’ his affair to his wife if he doesn’t pay them $105,000, which they reckon shouldn’t be a problem due to his company making over $12 million a year. But being sensitive masked thugs they tell him he can pay in instalments starting with an upfront payment of just $10,000 next week!

While his lawyer wants him to go to the cops he refuses as he doesn’t want to hurt either his wife’s or his own reputation. He decides to fess up and tell his wife about the affair since they’ve been married for 23 years. Barbara confesses that she’s suspected that something was up for a month or so, but she is still shocked and hurt by the revelation.

When it’s time for Mitch to make the money drop he pretends to go through with it, but in fact only gives them a few dollars, the rest being paper with the message ‘Bag your ass’ written on it! This angers the gang and they decide to send him a nasty message that they won’t be screwed with, a very nasty message that implicates Mitch in a savage murder, which they show him video evidence of. The battle lines are drawn and things can only get messier…

52 Pick-up is classic crime fiction writ large, with an excellent central performance from the late, great Roy Scheider and some marvellous hard-boiled dialogue courtesy of the great novelist Elmore Leonard, whose novel of the same name this film is based on.

Set in the eighties the film is a time-capsule full of characters wearing dodgy 80s fashions including shoulder pads, lots of denim and day-glow eyeliner. But through all these fashion crimes there shines a great story with great characters brought to vivid life by some at-the-top-of-their-game actors. Honours must go especially to John Glover who plays chief blackmailer, John Raimy, who oozes sleaze and slime, and makes for a genuinely nasty, but memorable, bad guy who thinks nothing of raping and killing to make a few bucks. Poor John Glover has also got the sort of untrustworthy face, in real life, that you just want to slap!

Unfortunately, the women don’t get such strong, memorable roles, although Mitch’s wife, Barbara, played by Ann-Margret, does at least get to hold her own in a few scenes with Mr Scheider.

The film looks great (thanks again Arrow Video), with a good sound mix and great cinemaphotography.

52 Pick-up certainly feels like an eighties movie, but the main themes of the story, being those of deception, infidelity and greed, are both universal and timeless.

Arrow Video are distributing 52 Pick-up on DVD and Blu-ray. As per usual with Arrow Video there are some decent extras on the disc including:

Audio commentary with Glenn Kenny and Doug Brod (journalists from Video Review)

Hardcore cameos (12 mins) – a short featurette where we get to play along with the ‘game’ of spot the porn stars. The porn actors are revealed, scene by scene, which makes for an unusual mini- documentary! Apparently the most famous of which is Ron Jeremy, who was in loads of movies in featured cameos. Additionally, we learn that actress Vanity was also a singer and protégé of Prince.

Theatrical trailer (1.45 mins) – cool trailer.

52 Pick-up
4.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)

About The Author

After a lengthy stint as a print journalist, Justin now works as a TV and film producer for Bazooka Bunny. He's always been interested in genre films and TV and has continued to work in that area in his new day-job. His written work has appeared in the darker recesses of the internet and in various niche publications, including ITNOW, The Darkside, Is it Uncut?, Impact and Deranged. When he’s not running around on set, or sat hunched over a sticky, crumb-laden keyboard, he’s paying good money to have people in pyjamas try and kick him repeatedly in the face.

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