The Guilty Pleasures: “Ricochet”
Flickchart Ranking: #3835
It’s right around the time that John Lithgow and Jesse Ventura equip themselves with phone book armor and huge metal rods to have a death-stick prison-fight to determine who the true “Aryan Warrior” is that I realized, sweet lord this movie is bringing the ruckus. It wasn’t the first scene of awesome and it definitely wasn’t the last but it perfectly encapsulates what makes this crazy little movie one of the most memorable action movies around.
Here’s the story in a nutshell. Denzel Washington’s awesomely named character “Nick Styles” publicly humiliates John Lithgow’s “Earl Talbot Blake” while arresting him during a carnival. So Blake goes to jail and spends his time there plotting the best way to “kill Styles’ life.” Not kill “Styles” mind you but to kill his “life.” It’s a major distinction and means the rest of the film is a cat and mouse game with Blake doing everything he can (including raping Styles and giving him an STD) to ruin his life. Along the way, we’re presented with scenes that get consistently crazier and crazier and some of the most ridiculous one-liners put to film.
Lithgow’s one-liners really are what sets this movie apart. I apologize but there’s really no way to get around how horribly filthy these are. I guess you can do some visual earmuffs past the next three boxes if you’re easily offended. Here’s a small selection:
“Pork, back off or else she’s gonna need a paper bag over her head when her boyfriend f**** what’s left of her!”
Prison Guard: “The Parole Board’s ready Blake. I hope you remembered to floss.”
Blake (Lithgow): “I did. With your wife’s pubic hair.”
Parole Board: “Mr Blake, what will you do if you get out of prison?”
Blake: “Well, I guess Mr. Chairman, that first I’d pay a visit to your house.”
Parole Board: “To Thank Me I suppose?”
Blake: “No. To f***your wife. And your daughter. Hell, maybe even your dog.”
Those classic bits of writing comes to us from the amazing pens of Steven E. de Souza (Die Hard, 48 Hrs, Commando, The Running Man) and Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps, Monster Squad) and through Russell Mulcahy’s (Highlander, Razorback) lens. Everybody is on the absolute top of their game here, making sure the screen is consistently filled with unique people, places, situations and things.
Ricochet maintains a twisted sense of humor throughout, despite getting really dark in places. There are times, like when Denzel pulls a gun on a clown while wearing a robe, where it’s almost as bizarre as The Wicker Man remake but actually manages to be a good movie. It truly is unique and is not a film you’ll easily forget.
Early Denzel Washington has some wild charisma here too. Besides being ridiculously good looking (and naked!), he just seems like the kinda guy you want protecting your city. You can tell he’s going to be an absolute star and the movie comes at a very interesting point in his career as it’s the last movie before he made Malcolm X and Philadelphia and became DENZEL.
The final reason this movie just won’t leave my head is the incomparable Ice-T. I’m an unabashed Ice-T fan. There’s something about his flow and how he carries himself that I just can’t resist. The writers make sure almost every line he spits references some of his greatest hits, including the requisite “F*** the police.” He also provides a really solid theme song for the movie.
So, where does it rank on my Flickchart?
Right now it’s sitting pretty a #53 out of the 1914 movies I’ve seen. The only action movies ahead of it are The Road Warrior (#5), They Live (#9) and Die Hard (#47) and it’s four spots ahead of Tango and Cash. I consider Ricochet to be a modern masterpiece but that 30% overall win percentage seems to say otherwise. Which I guess is what makes it my “Guilty Pleasure.”
Check out the really slick trailer:
Looking for another guilty pleasure to watch? Give Denzel’s 1989 film The Mighty Quinn a try. He plays a Jamaican cop, complete with accent. It’s not on the same level as Ricochet but still a solid watch. Ice-T’s Surviving the Game, also starring Rutger Hauer and Gary Busey, is a great twist on the “Most Dangerous Game” story.