Ricochet Film Review, and Director Russell Mulcahy's Roller Coaster Ride in Hollywood

I've always been a big fan of Russell Mulcahy as a director. While most filmmakers are hit or miss in their careers, I can't think of anyone else who deserves the "hit or miss" title more than this guy. For someone who exploded onto the scene in the early 80's and who has turned out some certifiable genre classics in his time, he has also, regrettably, given us a large number of forgettable, and just plain terrible films.  Let me put some of his career in perspective really quick. Starting out as a music video director, he blasted onto the scene with the Australian horror/thriller Razorback in 1984. 2 years later he would deliver another cult classic, Highlander in 1986. Though Highlander became an instant classic, he would not direct another film for 5 years, and that would be for his sequel to Highlander, Highlander II: The Quickening. But wait! Not only did he deliver another classic in my humble opinion with his sequel, but he also gave us this severely underrated detective/thriller classic Ricochet the same year. That's right, Mulcahy delivered a one-two punch in 1991 with Highlander II and Ricochet. Sadly, the remainder of his career could never reach this level of awesome, as anyone who knows his work can attest that his "quality" of work has been on a steady incline ever since.

Nick Styles (Denzel Washington) is an up and coming beat cop who ends up taking down criminal mastermind Earl Talbot Blake (John Lithgow), thus skyrocketing his career. Years later, he's now a famous attorney with a family and life couldn't be better. That is until Blake escapes from prison, hell bent on revenge and terrorizing Styles.

There are so many things that work so well here, that it's hard to break down specifically why Ricochet is so badass. The film as a whole, never skips a beat. There's never a dull moment, or long stretched out sequences that could have been cut shorter. Nope, not here. The pace moves along swiftly, with enough things going on at any given moment that keep you invested. Of course, the best scenes are any with John Lithgow, who excels at playing a bad guy. While I've seen him play the villain quite often, I don't think I've ever seen him as ruthless as he is here. How badass is he? Let's just say he has a sword fight with Jesse "The Body" Ventura and kicks his ass. But the entire casting is pretty great, and it's kind of bizarre seeing such a young and buff Denzel playing a cop out to clear his name, when you consider today he's such a respected actor in the film world, but not one who shy's away from a good action film like The Equilizer, or even the soon to be released Magnificent Seven remake. The guy knows a good film when he see's one.

On the surface, there's nothing about Ricochet that stands out from the countless other cop thrillers of the 80's and 90's, of which there were many. But it's the insanely talented production that kicks this many levels up above cookie-cutter. One of the first things you'll notice immediately is the killer score by Alan Silvestri. Immediately, you'll notice a very strong Predator vibe, and it only does wonders for a film that normally wouldn't warrant such a big and thunderous score. It's awesome. While Silvestri's score over the opening credits already have you in a trance, you'll start seeing names pop up that, if you're at all a fan of action, will kind of blow you away. The "story" is by none other than Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad), with the "screenplay" by 80's and 90's action legend Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard, 48 Hrs., Commando, Die Hard 2, The Running Man, Judge Dredd). It's produced by mega producer and action genre legend Joel Silver (Action Jackson, Predator, Commando, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard). Right there, it's just about an action fans dream. But add to that Russell Mulcahy's rather impressive visual eye candy, right at the peak of his creative talents, and everything just comes together so much more impressive than you would ever expect from a film like this.

I'll admit that it's been far too long since the last time I revisited this. I've always loved it, and have always considered it one of Mulcahy's best films, but it often gets lost in the flood of films I try to consume on a yearly basis. That is until I revisited Highlander II recently, reigniting my interest for some of Mulcahy's better films. Truthfully, you can count his best films out of his entire career on a single hand. Much like Renny Harlin, the best stuff was early in his career. It's hard to pinpoint why it happens, but there's always a "shift" in quality, a moment in their career where it all changes so drastically and it never recovers. It's happened to a lot of my favorites; Renny Harlin, John McTiernan, Albert Pyun, Stuart Gordon, and Mulcahy most certainly falls into that category. It's sad and frustrating.

Following this film Mulcahy gave us a forgettable heist film with Kim Basinger and Val Kilmer called The Real McCoy, and then The Shadow, a film that should have reignited his career and shot it into the big budget stratosphere with the big league boys, but as you know, that's not what happened. The Shadow, while not all that great of a film, didn't manage to muster up much interest and did poorly. Visually, The Shadow is pretty to look at, I'll give it that, but it just seems to be lacking substance, or anything to keep you really interested. It constantly feels like it's missing something, never going as far as you feel it should. After that he's pretty much stuck to television and direct-to-video work, with the occasional big budget film from time to time.

Ricochet isn't mentioned nearly enough as being an essential piece of Badass Cinema. Which is rather surprising when you take into consideration that every single person that I ask about this film loves it to death. So why is not considered more of a classic? I can't explain it myself. It's damn near a perfect cop action/thriller and just a great film all around. As of 2016, it's been 25 years since it's release and to date, we've only gotten a very bare bones and sub-par DVD release, where I believe the transfer was taken from a Laserdisc. It's grainy, old, and not in true widescreen, but rather a Letterbox crop. It's such a shame because the film itself looks incredible. It really begs a new cleaned up transfer and upgrade to Blu ray. Until then, you can get the DVD insanely cheap, and for now, that's the best we're going to get.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, this was a blind spot for me until a few years back. It's an insanely fun action film. My only criticism is that Lithgow goes too far over the top. I wished he reined it in a bit.

    Bonus fact: Mary Ellen Trainor plays reporter Gail Wallens in this film AND Die Hard. Meaning they are set in the same universe. I'm still waiting for my John McClane/Nick Styles team-up film!