52 Pick-Up (1986)
Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Vanity, John Glover & Clarence Williams III
Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Reviewed by Mike Kenny
From the director of The Manchurian Candidate, 52 Pick-Up centers on successful Los Angeles entrepreneur Harry Mitchell (Roy Schieder, Jaws) who, along with his city council running wife (Ann-Margret, C.C. & Company), lead the good life. When Harry is confronted by a trio of blackmailers, led by the sadistic Alan Raimy (John Glover, Gremlins 2: The New Batch) with video evidence of his secret affair, tensions mount as Harry attempts to pit the criminals against one another. Clarence Williams III (The Mod Squad), Vanity (Never Too Young to Die), Robert Trebor (Talk Radio) and Kelly Preston (Death Sentence) co-star.
While, best remembered for their enjoyable cult classics and over the top action extravaganzas, the stars would align several times for Cannon Films, pitting A-list talent both behind and in front of the camera to deliver something truly worthwhile. Releasing films at a rapid pace, 1986 would see the juggernaut company, led by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, reach their pinnacle with a whopping 43 films. Based on the novel by Elmore Leonard (“3:10 to Yuma”, “Get Shorty”), 52 Pick-Up is a suspenseful thriller combining exceptional directing and memorable characters with remarkably sleazy Los Angeles locations. Roy Scheider leads the film as a lucrative businessman and former soldier who refuses to bow down to the demands of pornographic blackmailers. Confronted with evidence of his affair with a young stripper (Preston), Alan Raimy (Glover) demands $105,000 per year from Harry to keep the tarnishing footage out of the limelight. John Glover’s maddening performance as the lead blackmailer is the film’s highlight with his striking eyes and ruthless perseverance to obtain Harry’s money a magnetizing sight. In addition, Clarence Williams III and Robert Trebor both offer worthwhile turns as Raimy’s partners with Trebor, greatly impressing as an openly gay strip club owner with emotional depth for his slimy yet, sympathetic character. Set in some of Los Angeles‘ seedier bars and strip clubs, 52 Pick-Up finds our blackmailers hosting a party with scantly clad guests including, appearances from porn icons Ron Jeremy, Amber Lynn and Jamie Gillis. Coming clean to his devoted wife (Margret), Harry ultimately risks both their lives choosing to resist the very serious threats, leading to one chilling turn after another.
With critical opinions mixed and a poor box-office reception, 52 Pick-Up still remains an engaging thriller with a top-notch cat and mouse story between blackmailers and their target who fights back. Joined by a welcome appearance from the gorgeous Vanity as a fellow stripper, 52 Pick-Up stands as one of Director John Frankenheimer’s strongest efforts of the decade and another intense performance from Scheider.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents 52 Pick-Up with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Opening with a softer image and light speckling, the film proceeds to a much cleaner picture with warm skin tones. Meanwhile, detail is crisp in Scheider’s gruff complexion, wardrobe choices and backgrounds. Black levels are handled nicely in the many dingy bar and underlit strip club sequences with no crushing to speak of. Bearing a healthy layer of grain without any digital manipulation applied, 52 Pick-Up pleases on high-definition. Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is always nicely relayed and appropriately prioritized with Composer Gary Chang’s score of synth and jazz elements richly captured. Finally, a Theatrical Trailer (1:44) is the sole special feature of the disc.
Tense and gripping, 52 Pick-Up is a fast-moving concoction of thrills and endless suspense. Highlighted by performances from Roy Scheider and its unhinged antagonist John Glover, 52 Pick-Up blends blackmail and the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles to deliver a first-rate effort from Cannon Films during the height of their success. Furthermore, Kino Lorber Studio Classics‘ Blu-ray treatment compliments the film with a visually pleasing transfer and well balanced audio mix. Cannon Film completists will relish in this darkly engaging effort, destined to leave you on the edge of your seat.
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