“52 Pick-Up” – 1986. Dir. John Frankenheimer. With Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, Kelly Preston, Vanity, Clarence Williams III and John Glover.
“There’s something about your face that makes me want to slap the shit out of it.” – Harry Mitchell (Roy Scheider)
“52 Pick-Up” follows the short couple of days in which Harry Mitchell’s (Roy Scheider) life is turned upside down. Harry, who is a very successful businessman, finds himself in a wicked blackmail scheme. His mistress is kidnapped (played by Kelly Preston) and the kidnappers threaten to kill her unless Harry comes up with the sum of $105,000. What keeps Harry from going to the police? Well, I’ll tell you: his wife (Ann-Margret) has just been persuaded to run for city councilwoman (or some other high profile big city elected position).
Harry tries to keep this matter in house, only discussing it with his friend and lawyer. Harry ends up leaving the “ringer” in the disclosed location for the kidnappers for them only to find a bag with no money and a message that reads: “Get fucked!” I have to admit, that made me really chuckle. This is your average 1980’s thriller. It consists of a cool walking “hero” who is portrayed by the wonderful Roy Scheider, and the film consists of much T & A since the kidnappers are a part of the adult entertainment industry.
The film is extremely entertaining as we watch Scheider begin to turn the table on the kidnappers and he starts to foil their plot. The end of the film will leave you saying: “oh come on!” but it’s still a fun film. It doesn’t have any deep subtext, or metaphoric undertone – it’s just a fun action/thriller flick plain and simple. If you like Roy Scheider, you’ll like “52 Pick-Up”.
What makes this film above average for the genre is the excellent casting of Roy Scheider and the always wonderful character actors John Glover and Clarence Williams III. Glover and Williams portray two of the kidnappers and they are so marvelous in the way that they create these seedy yet insanely interesting characters. We know very little about them, but we’re shown quite a bit. I found myself more interested Glover and Williams than I did with Scheider’s character.
The second factor that makes this film above average is the fact is that it’s directed by the great John Frankenheimer. This is nowhere near one of his best films, but it is one of the highlights of the second half of his career. What makes this story so rich and intriguing is the fact that it’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel (which he also penned the screenplay). Leonard has a way of finding his way through cliché riddled stories and making them rich and full of vibrant characters (“Rum Punch” – from what “Jackie Brown” is based upon, “Hombre”, “3:10 to Yuma” and “Get Shorty”). His works are so easily adaptable because they read as if they are a film. Leonard has such a unique voice and character quality that he stands alone when it comes to adapted fiction to film. If you are a fan of Elmore Leonard works or a fan of Roy Schieder – you should check this one out.