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USA 1973
Directed by
Michael Ritchie
86 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Prime Cut

Although Lee Marvin doesn't have the stripped-back tautness of his appearance in John Boorman's Point Blank (1967) and he has to share screen time with the scene-stealing Gene Hackman as a very bad guy Prime Cut is still one of his best tough guy roles in a film that is typical of lower budget crime films of the '70s such as Don Seigel’s Charley Varrick (1973), films which were direct descendants of the B grade crime movie tradition. Ritchie's film however with its rather twisted sensibility could be seen as a pre-echo of Tarantino's filmic pulp fiction.

Marvin plays gangland enforcer, Nick Devlin, who is sent in to straighten things out between a vicious Kansas City slaughterhouse owner, Mary-Ann (Hackman) and his hick family who are in a face-off with a Chicago crime syndicate over profits from their joint illegal operations in drugs and sex slavery.

Apparently director Ritchie's original cut was much better than this release but the producers lost their bottle over the blackness of  his and writer Robert Dillon's vision of gangsterism as just the other face of consumer capitalism. This suggestion makes sense as the film appears quite disjointed, moving abruptly from one action sequence to another (one of which is an extended homage to Hitchcock's North by Northwest with Marvin and Sissy Spacek being pursued through a wheat field by a giant mechanical reaper) with no apparent attempt to connect them logically or psychologically. The result is a stimulating but also frustrating film. 

FYI: Ritchie, who began his career in television, on the strength of this and his next film. The Candidate, also released in 1972, was briefly considered as a director to watch during the '70s but failed to deliver and most people will know him as the guiding hand behind the mildly amusing thriller spoof Fletch (1985) and its forgettable sequel, Fletch Lives (1989). Prime Cut was Spacek's screen debut





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