Combustible Celluloid
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With: Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover, Robert Trebor, Lonny Chapman, Kelly Preston, Doug McClure, Clarence Williams III, Alex Henteloff
Written by: Elmore Leonard, John Steppling, based on a novel by Elmore Leonard
Directed by: John Frankenheimer
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 110
Date: 11/07/1986

52 Pick-Up (1986)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

In the Cards

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Lowest-common-denominator producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus hired acclaimed director John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds, etc.) and writer Elmore Leonard for this aimed-at-adults thriller. Leonard adapted his own novel, telling the story of Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider), a successful, married industrialist who gets caught sleeping with a younger woman (gorgeous 24 year-old Kelly Preston). Three masked criminals threaten him and blackmail him. Since his wife (Ann-Margaret) has just thrown her hat in the political ring, it's a bad idea for any dirt to come out. When the stakes are raised and murder enters into the equation, Harry takes the initiative and begins shaking down the bad guys, one by one.

Frankenheimer holds everything together with determination, and keeps things firmly moving even when they turn ridiculous. Somehow, the inherent humor in Leonard's work isn't really highlighted here (no film would pick up on it until Get Shorty in 1995). Part of the movie's success is the colorful rogue's gallery, starting with smarmy 1980s preppie bad guy John Glover as the mastermind, plus Clarence Williams III, from TV's "The Mod Squad" as the strong, silent, murderous type, and Robert Trebor as the nervous, sweaty type. Beautiful pop star Vanity plays a stripper and some porn stars of the era (Ron Jeremy, Amber Lynn, etc.) can be glimpsed at a party. Kino Lorber's 2015 Blu-ray release is a welcome treat, even without extras.

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