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Review: Mean Johnny Barrows

Fred Williamson plays the title character, a former football star-in-the-making who experiences racism and injustice in and out of the military. He gets dishonourably discharged from the military for punching his racist, antagonistic S.O. Johnny’s down on his luck after his service is over, but likeable mobster Mario Racconi (Stuart Whitman) takes an interest in Johnny, giving him a free meal and a job offer as a paid hitman for Racconi and his mafia don father (Luther Adler). Johnny at first refuses, as he did enough killing in the war. However, when things go pear-shaped for Johnny at the auto-shop gig that he has landed, he reluctantly takes up Racconi’s offer and goes on the mob payroll. Racconi wants Johnny to wipe out a rival mafia family, headed by Don Da Vince (Anthony Caruso), and his sons Tony (Roddy McDowall) and hulking Carlo (Mike Henry). Jenny Sherman plays Racconi’s main squeeze, R. G. Armstrong is the angry and bristling auto shop owner, Robert Phillips plays a hired g…

Review: The Big Score

Fred Williamson stars as a Chicago cop who gets chewed out by his boss (Ed Lauter) and forced to turn in his badge when wrongly accused of pocketing money from a drug dealing sting. Now he needs to find the dough and clear his name. John Saxon, Richard Roundtree, and Ron Dean play fellow cops. Michael Dante and Joe Spinell play drug crims on different levels on the drug kingpin totem pole, with Bruce Glover and brass-knux sporting Tony King as particularly nasty thugs on their payroll. D’Urville Martin plays an ex-con, and Chelcie Ross is a slimy lawyer. Singer Nancy Wilson plays Williamson’s main squeeze, who is a singer (natch). Fred Williamson’s director-producer-star efforts are always cheap money-grabbing affairs in which he’ll hire his relatively famous friends for a day or two’s shooting and put their names on the damn poster nonetheless. A couple of these ‘Po Boy Productions’ efforts turned out OK (“Mean Johnny Barrows” in particular), and this 1983 cops-and-corruption flick i…

Review: Hostiles

Set in the 1890s, Christian Bale stars as a veteran Army captain with a sour disposition towards Native-Americans, who is assigned the task of leading a party escorting a Cheyenne Indian chief (Wes Studi) back home to live out his remaining time, stricken with cancer. Bale is initially strongly opposed to the mission, as the chief was imprisoned for killing many whites, with several of Bale’s friends and officers among the dead. However, his superior officers (Stephen Lang and Bill Camp) are adamant that it is his duty to do so. Along the way, Bale’s party (Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, and Timothee Chalamet among them) pick up a disturbed widow (Rosamund Pike) whose family fell victim to Comanche savages. Ben Foster plays a shackled former comrade of Bale’s, a constant reminder that Bale used to be every bit as blood-thirsty as the Native American chief he loathes to be escorting. However, he now sees something different in him…a softness perhaps. Peter Mullan is a Lt. Colonel friend…

Review: Reprisal

Frank Grillo plays a bank manager who has a hard time coping with a robbery committed by disgruntled Jonathon Schaech, who has a sideline in making bomb threats too. Grillo suffers PTSD as a result of the ordeal, whilst on leave from the bank. With no video footage of the robbery, the Feds seem to think Grillo (who was held at gunpoint, I might add) was somehow involved. Sitting at home and stewing over it, Grillo gets to talking to his ex-cop neighbour Bruce Willis about the whole ordeal. They deduce that Schaech isn’t finished doing whatever he’s doing, and start to piece together what his next move might be so that Grillo can figure about restoring his reputation. Meanwhile, Grillo’s wife (Olivia Culpo, a former Miss Universe apparently) starts to worry about him. They have a cute diabetic daughter. You can see where this is headed, no doubt. 
Director Brian A. Miller (“Caught in the Crossfire”) and slumming actors Bruce Willis and Jonathon Schaech deliver another underwhelming dire…

Review: The Boys

Four delinquent ‘Teddy Boys’ (Dudley Sutton, Jess Conrad, Ronald Lacey, and Tony Garnett) are standing trial for robbery and the murder of an elderly garage nightwatchman. Defending them in an uphill battle is Robert Morley’s defence counsel, who tries to use every legal trick he can think of. He also tries to get the snotty little tearaways to realise that the hangman’s noose potentially awaits them and this is serious bloody business they’re facing here. Opposing counsel is played by Richard Todd, who takes his task equally seriously. Among the witnesses are a dapper Allan Cuthbertson, elderly janitor Wilfrid Brambell, and a very nervous bus driver played by Roy Kinnear. Felix Aylmer presides over the matter as the authoritative judge, Kenneth J. Warren is the rather na├»ve garage owner, whilst Charles Morgan plays a pool hall owner who knows the boys are trouble. A top-shelf British character actor cast is the whole show in this 1962 mixture of courtroom flick and juvenile delinquen…

Review: The Third Man

***** SPOILER-HEAVY REVIEW. PROCEED WITH CAUTION *****Joseph Cotten plays Holly Martins, an American writer who comes to post-war Vienna for a job offered to him by his old buddy Harry Lime (Orson Welles). Unfortunately, when he arrives he’s informed that Harry has suddenly died in an accident. Military policeman Maj. Calloway (Trevor Howard) immediately takes a disapproval to Martins’ arrival in Vienna, and suggests he vamoose back home swiftly. However, two things keep Holly sticking around; 1) A beautiful local woman who knew Harry (Alida Valli) whom Holly is romantically fascinated with, and 2) The nagging suspicion that there’s more to Harry’s death than meets the eye. The longer he stays in Vienna, the more Holly’s nagging suspicion grows. Bernard Lee plays a Sergeant, Wilfrid Hyde-White plays the head of a literary society keen to get Holly to make an appearance, and Ernst Deutsch plays a suspicious-looking Austrian acquaintance of Harry’s named Baron Kurtz. I’ve had a couple o…

Review: Death Line

A young couple (David Ladd and Sharon Gurney) discover the dead body of a government minister (James Cossins) at a tube station in London. Unfortunately, once the bobbies show up, the body has mysteriously vanished. Odd, seemingly aloof Scotland Yard Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence) investigates, though his strong suit seems to be pissing off ex-pat American Ladd with his disarmingly disinterested interview technique. The investigation eventually leads all the way back to an 1890s London Underground tunnel collapse disaster. Norman Rossington plays Pleasence’s #2, with Clive Swift appearing briefly as another Inspector, whilst Christopher Lee guest stars in one scene as a smug MI5 operative named Stratton-Villiers. Uneven, sometimes dull, but completely barmy 1972 film from American director Gary Sherman (“Vice Squad”, “Wanted: Dead or Alive”, “Poltergeist III”) and co-writer Ceri Jones (an ad exec by trade), which is also sometimes listed as “Raw Meat”. I personally think the oth…