Indeed, veteran action specialist Walter Hill "goes gangsta" in this stylized thrill ride. It blurs the lines between "good" guys and "bad" guys; the protagonists are not squeaky clean, and the antagonists are not purely one-dimensional - not all of them, anyway. An assortment of colorful characters and solid performances add to the entertainment value of a film that ultimately builds to a real fever pitch. The pacing is truly excellent, along with the atmosphere and the typically eclectic music score by Hills' old pal, Ry Cooder.
Bill Paxton (Rest in Peace, sir) and William Sadler are Vince and Don, two Arkansas firemen who get wind that the treasure from a long ago church robbery has been socked away inside a now decrepit wreck of an apartment building. Wouldn't you know it: soon after Vince and Don arrive at the place, a gang of very tough black drug pushers arrive to use the place to execute a traitorous member of their crew. Vince witnesses the act, leading to a completely untenable situation where the main thing keeping Vince and Don alive is the fact that they've taken Lucky (De'voreaux White, "Die Hard"), the younger brother of gang leader King James (rapper / actor Ice-T), prisoner.
While you don't necessarily root for any one team in particular, you do understand where certain characters are coming from. King James really does have genuine concern for his sibling, while Vince is a more naive and somewhat more reasonable person than Don, who's determined to have the trip be worth something. Drawn into the fray is a homeless man named Bradlee (Art Evans, "Fright Night") who's been squatting in the building. Naturally, the whole argument comes up over who exactly has the most right to the gold.
Particularly riveting are the dynamics between key characters, as both Vince & Don, and King James & his right hand man, Savon (Ice Cube), argue over methodology.
The action comes fast and furious, with Hill drawing us into one tense and effective sequence after another. The stunts and special effects are first rate, and the soundtrack, consisting of Cooders' score and a selection of rap tunes (including a kick ass duet by Ice-T and Ice Cube), is consistently catchy. The mostly black cast includes some very solid character actors: Bruce A. Young ("Jurassic Park III"), Glenn Plummer ("Speed"), Stoney Jackson ("Streets of Fire"), 'Tiny' Lister ("Friday"), et al.
It's a shame that this was actually a flop in its time. 25 years later, it still works quite well, with a finale that truly brings the house down.
Written, and executive produced, by Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis.
Eight out of 10.
Action / Thriller
Action / Thriller
Two Arkansas firemen, Vince and Don, get hold of a map that leads to a cache of stolen gold in an abandoned factory in East St. Louis. What they don't know is that the factory is in the turf of a local gang, who come by to execute one of their enemies. Vince sees the shooting, the gang spots Vince, and extended mayhem ensues. As Vince and Don try to escape, gang leader King James argues with his subordinate Savon about how to get rid of the trespassers.
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