- Movie Rating -

Extreme Prejudice (1987)

| April 24, 1987

It is obvious from his work that Walter Hill has been inspired by films of the past, particularly westerns starring the likes of John Wayne and Gary Cooper and Clark Gable.  His films imbue the qualities of the make sensibilities as tough, mean and ready to face an enemy that may be stronger, younger, smarter or have a personal stake that might make one think twice.  I’m thinking of great westerns like Rio Bravo and High Noon.

That’s not to say that Extreme Prejudice belongs in that league.  It is a fine film but its a little more predictable and not nearly as tight.  But what it has is a style that feels like a fusion of the old and the new.  Modern male action pictures are Rambo and Dirty Harry, characters who substance comes at the barrel of a very big gun.  Extreme Prejudice has some very big guns but is also has characters with a little more depth.  It’s not a character study by any means, but I felt the reality of these men more than I did Rambo or Dirty Harry.

The story is as old as the hills.  It’s that old bit of the cop and the criminal who were friends in childhood but now battle each other over both their station in life and over the woman that they both love.  The good man is a Texas Ranger named Jack Benteen and played by Nick Nolte in his best performance since 48hrs, also directed by Hill.  Nolte looks different here, he has lost weight and his features are much more lined.  That’s not a criticism.  In the earlier film he played an urban cop whose diet would subsist of chili dogs and donuts.  Here he is a man working the Texas border, he gets around a lot, travels great distances and he spends a lot of time outdoors, therefore he would be leaner in this environment.  He wears his wide-brimmed hat down over his eyes and his skin looks weathered by the sun.  His physical look is important because Hill works in style, and style is important to a movie like this.  His job is to control the drug trade alone the Texas border and then go home to his girlfriend Sarita (Maria Conchita-Alonso).


Sarita’s former lover was Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe) who also control the drug trade along the border as a dealer.  Her heart is with Nolte but the money is better with Cash.  Almost out of nowhere, the territory is invaded by American combat veterans that I think are working for the CIA.  I say “I think” because I was never really sure.  The motivations are unclear but it all leads to a violent confrontation that is standard for a movie like this even though I was never quite sure what the motives were.

The action plot is where the movie gets all screwy.  I didn’t care about the veterans, the CIA, the helicopters, the abiding loyalties and the switcharoos.  I guess it is perfunctory that a movie like this has to have a massive shoot-out in the third act.  I just ask that the movie be a little clearer on why the men are shooting at each other.

Frankly, I sank into my seat during all that stuff.  The motivations between Nolte and Boothe were interesting enough and their struggle over the heart and mind of Alonso kept me more interested than whatever the CIA was doing.  Still, Extreme Prejudice is a better movie than I expected.  I enjoyed it for the characters, but I dismissed it for the plot.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1987) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Drama