The eighties and nineties gave us so many great action thrillers that it’s really hard to pick the best ones. Despite all its flaws, Ricochet is definitely one of them. It’s powerful, intense, and full of great performances. It’s also one of the movies that made a big impression on me when I first watched it. I thought the script is just so damn clever and my opinion hasn’t changed much since. The scene where John Lithgow’s character Earl Talbot Blake takes two huge books in hospital and then proceeds to tape them to his injured knee to exercise stayed with me all these years. It perfectly describes the raw emotion and the drive that this movie posses. Oozing masculinity, this is a raw and visceral thriller well worth your time.
Ricochet was originally a Dirty Harry script deemed too dark for the franchise. Steven E. de Souza of his Die Hard and 48 Hrs. fame worked on it and fucking shows. It was blind luck that the director is another famous figure from the eighties, Russell Mulcahy (Highlander). He has a knack for setting up scenes perfectly and streamlining everything to get the most important points across. The suspense is palpable and you simply don’t know where the movie is going. That unpredictability gives it an edge and keeps the viewer engaged as we want know how this whole thing is going to end.
It is the year of our Lord Satan 1983 and Los Angeles is the same melting pot of crime, opportunity, and justice as it always was. In this city, young police officer Nick Styles is doing his thing, trying to get ahead and further his career. He’s got big ambitions and ideas to change the city for the better. However, one faithful night he will run into a man that’s going to change his life forever. Earl Talbot Blake is a cold, calculated, and ruthless criminal who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. And so the game begins.
The second most memorable scene from Ricochet is the one where Denzel strips naked during hostage negotiations. Yes, you read that right and if you want to find out how that went, you just need to check out this movie. Hot damn, I sound like someone trying to get you to buy a product or something. Trust me, I’m not, it’s just that this is a pretty solid movie, that’s all. The story is pretty fucked up and finally, we get to see a revenge story from a different angle. As we’re dealing with a person who has no morals or regard for anything, the stakes are incredibly high.
The main plot keeps subverting itself and it offers constant twists. And there’s something jarringly primal and scary about it. Like if somebody wanted to do this to you, it could. And that realization is scary as fuck. I remember thinking about it when I was younger, trying to think of ways not to piss off people enough to Earl Talbot Blake me. Speaking of which, the acting here is top-notch. Denzel is a force to be reckoned with but Lithgow steals the show. Mostly because he had some liberty with his character while Denzel is this standard-issue good guy.
One of the things that Ricochet treats rather silly are prison scenes and the legal system in general. There are a couple of other silly moments that slightly break the immersion but nothing that would jeopardize your viewing pleasure. You immediately know what type of movie is this and are willing to go on a ride. There are also some pretty brutal and graphic scenes of violence, not to mention original. Mulcahy also isn’t afraid to use artistic approaches to action sequences and framing them more like music videos. They are, after all, best at conveying emotions in short periods of time.
This brings me to the final point which is Alan Silvestri’s magnificent soundtrack. It emphasized all the emotions and instincts cranking them up even further, to almost grotesque dimensions. In the best tradition of the eighties, we also get raw sexuality and nudity. So, what more to ask from a movie? Finally, if you’re looking for similar movies you might wanna check out Mulcahy’s next movie Judgment Night. Enjoy.
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Writers: Fred Dekker, Menno Meyjes, Steven E. de Souza
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Lindsay Wagner, Mary Ellen Trainor, Victoria Dillard
Fun Facts: John Lithgow almost never blinks during this film. He wore a contact lens to give the impression that his character had a glass eye.