A scuzzy, stylish action thriller (1986) from John Frankenheimer (The Manchurian Candidate, French Connection II) about a businessman targeted for blackmail who violently turns the tables on the hoods who set him up. An LA undersides excursion in the manner of Friedkin's To Live and Die in L.A. and Hal Ashby's copycat 8 Million Ways to Die, though without the obsessional engagement of the former or the funky naturalism of the latter. Frankenheimer's been criticized in the past for sacrificing thematic involvement for empty technical display, and this film runs true to form; his studied compositions and acute formal balancing—right and left, fore and aft, a lubricious tit for every configurational tat—hardly connect with the material at all. Everything exists as voyeuristic opportunity, and you get the uneasy feeling Frankenheimer would bring the same elegant dispassion to directing splatter films (blood, violence, kinky sex, what's the difference? . . . just get a closer angle on that breast). Impressive as formal exercise, and it's nice to know the man's still master of his craft, but somehow you wish he'd find his soul. With Roy Scheider, Ann-Margret, John Glover, Vanity, and Clarence Williams III; based on a novel by Elmore Leonard.
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