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Fowler’s Flix 11.26.18: Three from Walter Hill

Image via Shout! Factory
Ice-T and Ice Cube star in the 1992 neo-noir crime thriller "Trespass."
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Despite being a filmmaker that pretty much revitalized the action film in the early 80s, putting his own undeniable mark with movies like The Warriors, The Long Riders, and 48 Hours on the culture, it seems as of late director Walter Hill has kind of gone dark.

Maybe it was one too many big-budget bombs that made Hollywood a little antsy, but, rather quietly, Hill has been making a comeback of sorts, doing a few actioners of his own devising here and there; you might have to keep an eye out for them, but movies like Bullet to the Head and, as I will mention later, The Assignment, show that even though he’s damn-near pushing 80, he’s still got a lot of style and a lot swagger to throw on the screen.

While it was more of a hit on cable than the theaters, the “rock and roll fable” Streets of Fire (Shout! Factory) is big time rip ‘em up right from the first few minutes with a young Diane Lane belting out a Jim Steinman tune as a group of leather-clad bikers (led by a demonic Willem Dafoe) kidnap her in a violently choreographed street-riot. While most people would cower, including the cops, it’s up to soldier of fortune Tom Cody (Michael Pare) to step the hell up and take back the girl and settle down the whole town.

With an on-point rock soundtrack by Ry Cooder and songs by The Blasters, Dan Hartman and so on, Hill continues his anarchic vision of the world he started in The Warriors, turning it into a wholly explosive level of wet streets and big flames, creating far more of a comic book on film than anything Marvel has done. Too bad it didn’t catch on, because a sequel would have nice; who wouldn’t want to see the further adventures of Cody?

The rest of the decade didn’t have too many huge hits for Hill—Brewster’s Millions, anyone?—but he came into the new decade guns blazing with the hip-hop horrorshow Trespass (Shout! Factory), a decent flick penned by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (Back to the Future) that managed to put both Ice Cube and Ice-T on-screen in terrific performances, with Bill Paxton and William Sadler taking the backseat in a tight bottle of a film the spends most of its 101 minutes trapped in a run-down old tenement building.

Paxton and Sadler are firefighters who found a map to stolen relics hidden in a dilapidated East St. Louis firetrap. While they’re searching for the goods, around that same time local crime boss Ice-T and his flunky Ice Cube are up to no good; the two factions collide, with the firefighters doing everything they can to find the gold and beat feet as the criminals plow through as much ammo as they humanly can. It’s a tense shoot ‘em up that really is a pretty good example of what early 90s action films were like and how badly I miss them.

And that brings us up to speed with his latest insane foray in the genre, the gender-bender The Assignment (Lionsgate). Starring Michelle Rodriguez as hired killer Frank Kitchen—play rather convincingly, I might add—who, after shooting the wrong d-bag is kidnapped and given an unlicensed and unwanted sex-change operation by Sigourney Weaver as a brilliant but mad doctor who’ll stop at nothing to achieve her final revenge.

The Assignment is fully-loaded proof that Hill belongs behind the camera, pumping out these rapid-fire releases, putting his vision of the self-made western world up there for all to see, conducting his bullet-riddled ballets for the action-hungry masses which, I can tell you, there still are. Yeah, we sure could use more directors like him today, but until then, just be glad we got Hill and his films to keep that two-fisted bravado very much alive.

Next week: Película independiente Latinoamericana.

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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