The Movie Waffler Re-Release Review - EXTREME PREJUDICE | The Movie Waffler

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Re-Release Review - EXTREME PREJUDICE

Extreme Prejudice review
A CIA hit squad finds a Texas Ranger in the way of their mission to take out a drug baron.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Walter Hill

Starring: Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Michael Ironside, María Conchita Alonso, Rip Torn, William Forsythe, Clancy Brown

Extreme Prejudice bluray

Walter Hill's Extreme Prejudice is loaded with so much testosterone that if you don't have a hairy chest before watching it, you'll look like Burt Reynolds by the time the credits roll and half of Texas/Mexico has been gunned down onscreen. The movie began life as a planned project in the '70s for John Milius, who described it as "a right wing Costa Gavras" film. In the years before its 1987 release it was reworked to reflect America's newfound mistrust of its institutions, something that would arguably appeal more to the left in the Reagan years.

Extreme Prejudice review

Michael Ironside is at his stone-faced best as Major Paul Hackett, leader of "Zombie Unit," a CIA black-ops team whose members have all been declared officially dead so they can be used to perform all manner of dodgy operations their government doesn't want to be linked with. Zombie Unit's latest assignment sees them sent to a small Texas town on the Mexican border. Having once been a CIA informant, Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe) has set up a massive drugs operation across the river in Mexico, using his knowledge of sensitive information to keep the feds off his back. Hackett and his men plan to stage a robbery at the local bank, where Bailey keeps a dossier filled with enough incriminating evidence to seriously embarrass Washington.


What Hackett didn't factor in was the local Texas Ranger, Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte), a Gary Cooper figure who also happens to be a childhood friend of Bailey's. He's also now involved with Mexican saloon singer Sarita (María Conchita Alonso), who was once Bailey's lover. When a bomb is set off in the middle of town, Benteen appeals to his old friend to give himself up, but Bailey is having none of it, and it seems they're a-headed for a killin'.

Extreme Prejudice review

Extreme Prejudice is a very old-fashioned film, even for 1987. Its setup owes much to Richard Fleischer's Violent Saturday, though while the local townsfolk were key characters in Fleischer's film, here they serve merely as collateral damage. Hill and his writers are more interested in the conflict-a-trois between Benteen, Bailey and Hackett, with the love triangle between Benteen, Sarita and Bailey something of an afterthought. Alonso does her best but her character is little more than a stereotypical senorita, a pawn between two gringos set to draw guns for her affection.


If you're looking for a movie that passes the Bechdel Test, Extreme Prejudice ain't for you. This is a man's movie goddammit, filled with hulking brutes who can take a dozen bullets in the chest and still come at you firing. Adding to the macho quotient is Rip Torn as a local Sheriff who serves as a sort of Walter Brennan figure to Nolte's John Wayne and says things like "only thing worse than a politician is a child molester." It's almost a reprisal of the character he played in William Tannen's similarly themed 1984 thriller Flashpoint, in which local Texas officers find themselves caught up in the JFK conspiracy. Like Ben Gazzara'a Road House antagonist, Boothe's Cash Bailey is one of those classic '80s bad guys who really enjoys being an '80s bad guy. When we meet him first he's swigging tequila and crushing a scorpion in his fist, numbed to physical pain by alcohol, coke and adrenaline. Nolte by contrast is a sturdy oak, toning down the histrionics he had become known for by this point to deliver a stoic Randolph Scott impersonation.

Extreme Prejudice review

A subplot involving Andy Robinson as a CIA agent liaising with Hackett was famously cut from the movie, and the result is a late twist that is conveyed somewhat sloppily. But that's the only real complaint for a movie that genuinely lives up to a title like Extreme Prejudice. As he has done so often, Hill takes a b-movie plot and elevates it with A-plus direction and actors that fit squarely into their character templates while adding humanity, or in several cases here, inhumanity. Hill is also known for loving a squib or two, and in the Wild Bunch inspired finale he does his old mentor Peckinpah proud by painting the white-washed walls of a Mexican town red. Now, I'm off to eat a raw steak.

Extreme Prejudice
 is on UK VOD, DVD and blu-ray from June 6th.