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Thursday, 26 December 2019

Retro Review: Ricochet (1991)

Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Lindsay Wagner
Genre: Action Crime Thriller
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $21 million 

Plot: A district attorney is terrorised by the criminal he put away years ago when he was a cop

'Utterly Absorbing Action Suspense Cult Movie Gem That Pulls No Punches' 

In the early 1980s, Cop Nick Styles becomes a front-page sensation when he strips down to his boxer shorts, in an attempt to arrest a notorious wacko criminal, Blake. Fast forward 7 years later & Nick is now an assistant district attorney, who is now married with kids; Blake, meanwhile, is seeking and plotting his revenge against him. After making a daring escape, he sets his sights on destroying Nick's public image, his life and the people around him. 

Ricochet is an early taut 1990s psychological action thriller that has aged surprisingly well, compared to many other so-called B-movie type offerings and Denzel, of whom is a terrific dramatic actor, lends credibility to his first major action role that is affiliated with the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis when called upon here. As proven with Training Day, when the material is impressive, he can convince as a standalone action star, and here, Denzel manages to assimilate into the role with ease. Both he and John Lithgow supply much needed strong performances to boost what is still an impressive script. Lithgow is deliriously deranged as he turns up the wacko psycho act several notches, and none more so than in Ricochet, Raising Cain and Cliffhanger, whereby he rarely ceases to disappoint as the main anarchist. 

Filled to the brim with some absurd and over-the-top moments, it takes the slasher/psychological action thriller to a whole different -, not to mention silly level that very few movies try to attempt to navigate. Because of that, it refuses to let up, as the plot twists and shocks become even crazier and violent. Ranging from the gladiator sword fight between Lithgow and Predator actor & former wrestler, Jesse 'The Body' Ventura in a male prison, whilst the pair are decked out in books, which are taped to their bodies like body armour, and cop Nick, who is strung out, naked and drugged out of his mind, being chained to a bed, whilst a prostitute has sex with him - and this is captured on camera. The latter of which may leave a nasty taste in people's mouths. Speaking of Lithgow beating up Jesse Ventura, now I can understand the little not so physically powerful guy beating all the odds to defeat the big guy... but in real life, that would never happen. But anyhoo, moving on...

A forgotten Denzel Washington vehicle, Ricochet has a nasty streak to it that can be seen as a good thing as its immensely darker tone makes for a far better film than others give it credit for. Its comparisons with the much successful, Cape Fear, which came out a month after this film was released, are noticeable - yet what separates this film from that one is the cop/detective aspect of Ricochet, that acts as its main device and it lacks Cape Fear's psychological complexity. Whilst many will accuse it of going downhill when the acts themselves become more grandiose and sillier as the story (penned by Steven E. De Souza who did Commando and Die Hard, with Joel Silver producing: both of whom are two stalwarts from the action movie world) progresses, regardless, this stylishly-looking actioner that is full of tension and thrills, is still a breeze that merits a second chance, after many years being slept on as a financial box office bomb of a B-movie. 

Yes, sure, Ricochet is all kinds of implausibility and ridiculous.... but it is also good ridiculous that rarely runs out of steam, and suffice to say, I enjoyed this one a whole lot indeed. 

Final Verdict:

A cat-&-mouse chase thriller with the odd grimy feel going for it, it is also entertainingly bonkers and brainless and manages to be so exploitative as it turns the screw not once, twice but several times, one never knows for sure what to expect next. If you enjoyed Cape Fear, I suggest you ought to seek out Copycat and Ricochet: for me, these are two highly underrated psychological crime thrillers from the 1990s, which succeed in executing the film's subgenres ideas and themes decidedly well. 


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