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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

"Genuine Risk" is an underrated gem

Author: Comeuppance Reviews from United States Minor Outlying Islands
10 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Genuine Risk" is what you might call a "neo-noir" film, predating Hard Eight (1996), among other examples, and quite similar to most of the output of director John Dahl. His The Last Seduction (1994) also features Peter Berg. Perhaps Dahl saw "Genuine Risk" and recognized Berg as a new noir figure, the 90's answer to Dan Duryea? We may never know.

Berg puts in an engaging performance as Henry, a good-looking but down-on-his-luck dude who is addicted to betting on horse races and lives in a squalid apartment above a seedy L.A. bar. His buddy Jack (M.K. Harris) is a psychopathic gangster who works for Paul Hellwart (Stamp), the biggest, baddest, most intimidating crime lord in town. Needing money, Henry reluctantly agrees to work with Jack and become an employee of Hellwart. Next thing you know, Henry is mixed up with The Girl (Michelle Johnson), Hellwart's girlfriend. Uh Oh.

As stated earlier, Berg is quite good in this film. He is likable amid his difficult circumstances. He doesn't want to be a bad guy. He provides a good audience-identification character, as he's sort of roped in bit by bit into a life of crime. Not to take anything away from him, but I noted that Christian Slater also could have played the part of Henry. That would have been interesting. Terence Stamp is scary as Hellwart (great name), and there is an intriguing point about his character, that he was a pop star in the 60's in England under the name Paul Blaze, that might have been developed a bit more. Also one gets the feeling that Stamp wasn't firing on all cylinders, but that's okay, as it fits the moody style of the film. Sid Haig makes a welcome appearance as one of Hellwart's men.

Besides the Paul Blaze thing (The film was produced by Miles Copeland and the IRS record label, maybe they demanded a musical subplot?), there are some other half-baked ideas in "Genuine Risk". For example, the entire character of "The Girl". Even her lack of a name connotes zero character development. She doesn't say that much or do that much, and her "personality" is nil. it seems hard to believe Berg would fall in LOVE with her. Sure, she's hot but she's basically a human prop. And a rich, powerful crime boss like Hellwart could get any woman he wants, why he would unleash hell over "The Girl" seems a waste.

But ultimately, these are minor quibbles, as "Genuine Risk" (the title has at least two meanings, you have to watch the film to see what they are) is well worth watching. The lighting and cinematography, as well as the music, capture that noir feeling well, and there are some good performances and ideas. "Genuine Risk" is an underrated gem.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Likable characters in a noirish thriller with laughs ..........

Author: merklekranz from United States
2 May 2012

M.K. Harris and Peter Berg are low level thugs for mobster boss Terrence Stamp in "Genuine Risk", a very entertaining film indeed. Berg is the horse racing degenerate, recruited into crime by his good friend Harris. After Berg is "checked out" in the local bar for her boyfriend Stamp, a torrid affair between Berg and the mobster's trollop, Michelle Johnson, commences.. "Genuine Risk" is an unusual mix of violence and humor, although I never felt the movie was intended as "dark comedy". Our hero, Berg, takes some serious punishment, from Sid Haig playing a bookmaker, in a minor role. This is a truly surprising sleeper, featuring likable characters, a slightly off kilter story, and a fairly outrageous conclusion. Recommended for admirers of the genre. - MERK

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Peter Berg goes to work for bad guy Terence Stamp and becomes entangled with his woman, Michelle Johnson

Author: msroz from United States
26 May 2014

"Genuine Risk" is a solid and enjoyable neo-noir. I recommend it to all noir fans.

The hero is a small time hood (Peter Berg) who eschews violence, a likable young man who likes to play the ponies. Being broke a lot and wanting the easy way, he cuts corners. He doesn't particularly look, act or talk like a criminal or a movie-criminal type, even though he's done time. He's more like a college dropout who liked to gamble and drink and drifted into crime to make some easy money. Berg is kind of a downbeat character who is put upon by others, finding himself in hot water. But he's not so inept as to be a schnook. We can still care about him.

Berg has hooked up with Michael Harris, an enforcer who works closely with and for his boss, Terence Stamp. Harris is not a man who likes violence for its own sake, but for his line of work he will hurt and kill if it comes to that, and he knows a number of ways to kill people. He has repressed anger that boils over at times; but often he is sociable and likable. It's just that his survival comes first and you cannot always trust him as a partner. He's worked with Berg before and likes him. Harris does a fine job livening up this movie.

Harris recruits Berg to work for Stamp. Now, Stamp is a scary character. The first sequence in the movie shows us that for sure. When he interviews Berg, we see it again. Stamp can play this kind of part in his sleep. He began doing it with "The Collector", way back in 1965. He steals every Superman scene as General Zod. He's bad and still engages our sympathy in the excellent neo-noir "The Limey" (1999), and he's consistently interesting in "The Hit" (1984), an existential noir. Stamp's presence adds a great deal to the movie.

As in many noirs, cops are nowhere to be seen, which is just the way we noir fans often like it. Also, as in many noirs, there's a woman in the mix whose role is ambiguous, and that's Michelle Johnson.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

low budget, but not bad example of LA hood genre

Author: tobiasn from Bay Area, CA, USA
19 March 2002

If you are a cynical person then you might watch this all the way thru. There is violence (or the danger of violence) plus the requisite love scene. Pretty good acting (especially Terence Stamp) gets you thru the clichés in the script.

A racetrack milieu is involved. Note the title of the movie, which is both a banal comment on the ambiguous nature of relationships, and the name of a race horse - in the 'Baby' race! (that horse has no role in the plot, that I remember).

This movie is a bit better written than your average hood flick (I gave it a 6 out of 10).

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7 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Creative, Humorous, and Refreshing Flick

Author: whitmule from Dallas, Texas
25 October 1998

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. I became quickly attached to the characters who were truly hilarious. This film was put together with intelligence and creative enthusiasm. One gets the feeling that everyone involved in making this film had a great time doing it.

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good and gritty

Author: JamieWJackson from United States
7 January 2015

"Genuine Risk" surprised me by remaining very engrossing throughout. Yes, there are lots of clichés, but they didn't bother me. There are some really fun bits as well, and the movie keeps you guessing as to which will be next. It's true that "the girl" gets just about zero character development, rendering her a walking (or should I say slithering?) cliché in both name and substance, but so what? Everyone here is at least somewhat of a cliché. The movie embraces that.

Berg is very well cast in this role, being quite believable as a small-time loser with more heart than brains who gets sucked into things beyond his control. His friend Jack brings a huge dose of life to the story, strutting his way through scene after scene with flamboyant ambiguity. Stamp's Paul is perfect, as we would expect from him. (I guess that could be considered "faint praise", but can it be any crime to be good at something and do it?) Johnson does what she can with the admittedly shallow role she's given, which is to say she looks sexy. Everyone else are minor characters, but each does well with them. The pacing, editing, and directing are all solid.

What I enjoyed perhaps the most here was the sense of reality Berg's character brings to the backdrop of the tapestry of clichés which make up the story. He is a splash of "the common man" across that tapestry, and the contrast creates the tension. He clearly doesn't belong in Paul's world, so we want to see what happens as he gets drawn into it.

Ultimately, I gave this movie an 8, which is probably too high, but for what it is I really enjoyed it a lot. It knows what it's about and it spends its time on exactly that. It's certainly better than its present 4.8 rating, at least for those who enjoy noir -- and if you don't, then shouldn't you pick something else in the first place?

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