Elmore Leonard’s clever screenplay (from his own bestseller) and John Frankenheimer’s staccato direction work effectively to bring about this chilling crime drama with colourful heroes and villains.
Roy Scheider plays Harry Mitchell, a successful self-made businessman who appears to have it all – an expensive vintage E-Type Jag, a luxurious home in the Hollywood Hills and a glamorous wife who is running for city council (Ann-Margret) – until he has an affair with an exotic dancer (Kelly Preston) and is blackmailed by three small-time thugs – led by psychotic killer Alan Raimy (John Glover) – who have secretly filmed his trysts with his young mistress and threaten to expose his affair if their financial demands are not met.
This dark melodrama is propelled by the way he deals with the terrible predicament which threatens his marriage (in order to protect his wife’s political career he can’t go to the cops) as he turns the tables on the creeps and takes control of the situation – until the bad guys go after his wife.
The conflict is played out brutally, with virtually the entire cast getting shot, raped, or blown up.
52 Pickup was financed and distributed by the independent company, Cannon (originally an Israeli company that focussed on cheap exploitation films). Having recently moved to Hollywood, Cannon flourished until it hit a financial crisis involving Australian money borrowed to buy another company.
The company was still responsible for a lot of trash (exhibit 1: Firewalker) but was known for letting talented directors alone as long as they stayed within budget.
Clarence Williams III