A seeming good Samaritan (Debra Winger) hires a private detective (Nolte) to prove a teen sitting in prison on a murder charge is innocent. His investigation discovers deep corruption in a ... See full summary »
In 1958, two teenagers take their pride and joy, a hopped-up Chevy, and start a cross-country journey to enter it in the National Championship drag races in California. Along the way they ... See full summary »
Monterey, California in the 1940's. Cannery Row - the section of town where the now closed fish canneries are located - is inhabited primarily by the down and out, although many would not ... See full summary »
Grace Quigley is nearing the end of her life, living alone in her New York apartment. One day she witnesses a murder being committed by top hit-man, Seymour Flint. She decides to blackmail ... See full summary »
Kit Le Fever
An American soldier who escapes the execution of his comrades by Japanese soldiers in Borneo during WWII becomes the leader of a personal empire among the headhunters in this war story told... See full summary »
Vietnam veteran Ray Hicks gets conned into helping his buddy John Converse smuggle some heroin, only to wind up on the lam with John's wife when the deal goes sour. Written by
Alan Sepinwall <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The scene on the railroad tracks is a reference to the final adventure in Mexico of beatnik figure Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac's inspiration for Dean Moriarty in "On the Road". Author Robert Stone had traveled with Cassady and Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters. Furthermore, Nick Nolte was in the midst of extensive research on Cassady for his portrayal in the film Heart Beat (1980). See more »
[jamming a pistol-barrel under Danskin's chin]
I'll kill you quick.
See more »
Nick Nolte is dead-solid perfect here as Vietnam-vet Marine Ray Hicks, the ultimate 70's zen anti-hero. It's shocking to see him so young and muscular after the sheer variety of roles and physical embodiments he has taken on since. Here he's tough, flawed, and jaded, a once-idealistic cynic who has gotten himself into a bad situation but whose instinct for survival takes over. One of his first lines in the film is, "Self defense is an art I cultivate.", and he doesn't let down. It's a Steve McQueen-cool kind of role, and Nolte's wonderfully cinematic throughout; whether it's smoking a cigarette, drinking a beer, cleaning a weapon, kicking bad-guy butt with some quick martial arts moves, or putting a supportive arm around Tuesday Weld.
The story comes from Robert Stone's National Book Award winning "Dog Soldiers" which is a better if less marketable title. The title refers to those mercenary soldiers who would hire on and die for someone else's cause as surely as if it was their own. Much of the dialogue comes verbatim from Stone's book, and it's rare that the translation is so perfectly realized as it is by director Karel Reisz and his actors. The characters seem to be saying these words for the first time in the situation they're in, and what's more, much of the dialogue is endlessly quotable. Nolte in particular builds a tough-guy philosophy throughout snarling lines like, "I'm tired of taking s**t from inferior people."
He's perfectly paired on the road from Oakland to New Mexico with Weld, in one of her best performances as Michael Moriarty's pill-popping wife. Also well-cast are Anthony Zerbe, Richard Masur, and Ray Sharkey, who add plenty of menace and dark humor as a trio of shady feds after the heroin Nolte has ill-advisedly brought back from Vietnam for one-time pal Moriarty. Also standing out is Charles Haid as a small-time Hollywood hustler Nolte tries to have move the heroin. Look fast for Wings Hauser in the opening scenes as a Marine jeep driver. The film's tone may be too violent and downbeat for some tastes, but it captures the feeling of cynicism and disillusion stateside during the Vietnam War in an appropriately harrowing manner.
The climactic shootout is ingeniously staged at night on a mountain commune with strobes flashing and Hank Snow/CCR music blaring. The final shots of the film are striking and memorable, particularly the stark image of a battered and worn but still not beaten Nolte marching along an endless set of railroad tracks in the New Mexico desert. It's only a shame Nolte didn't attempt a few more roles in this action vein while he was still young.
The film is available on DVD, though there are no extras. It would have been nice to have interviews, commentary, and deleted scenes (particularly the pivotal Nolte/Weld love scene, which was reportedly filmed but wound up being only implied in the final cut).
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