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Ricochet

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Released: April 24th 1991

Directed By: Russell Mulcahy

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow

Certificate: 18

Ricochet is a 1991 action thriller directed by Russell Mulcahy, who is best known for providing us with Highlander five years earlier.  The Australian-born Mulcahy started his career filming commercials, moved on to features in the 80s and 90s, and today works mostly in television (now on the much-derided Teen Wolf TV revamp).  I am ashamed to admit that Highlander was the only other Mulcahy joint i had seen before viewing Ricochet, a mistake i now intend to correct.

Los Angeles cop Nick Styles (Denzel Washington) is really good at what he does.  He’s a smooth-talkin’, basketball playin’, good-hearted man.  He’s the perfect cop.  We know immediately that he is doomed to have his life destroyed.  Enter John Lithgow, who plays Earl Talbot Blake, the frantic, over-the-top ridiculous foil of the piece.  The Blake character evokes some of the fevered oddness of Lithgow’s villainous turns in Buckaroo Bansai and Raising Cain, and is mesmerizing to watch.

The story is standard cop/lunatic fare…Styles arrests Blake , and over the next few years is promoted to Assistant District Attorney.  All the while, Blake is in prison, plotting his revenge and sparring with a phone-book-armored Jesse Ventura in seemingly ritualized Mad Max-esque duels.  As Styles becomes more respected and illustrious,  and grows a moustache, Blake descends into obsession and plans an outrageously elaborate revenge which he will visit upon Styles should he ever escape.
He escapes. Blake proceeds to commit many of the requisite psycho-killer crimes we have come to expect; killing Styles’ partner (played by Kevin Pollack, and yes, he did his Shatner in the film), kidnapping him, ruining his reputation, forcing him to have drugged-out sex with shapely Gonorrhea-infected women, etc.  For the balance of the film Styles and Blake compete to see who can conceive the most implausibly complex attack, culminating in the two foes scaling an electrified tower while punching each other in the face.

Ricochet is not a ground-breaking film.  It’s not even a very good film, but what it lacks in originality and production value it more that makes up for with sheer gusto.  Big hammy theatrical Lithgowian gusto.  Denzel Washington puts in his standard solid, likeable performance, but  we came to see John Lithgow act like a well-read maniac, and we are not disappointed.  If you find Lithgow to be “a bit much”, I cannot recommend this film to you.  For those at least Lithgow-neutral, Ricochet is a wildly entertaining action flick.

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