I, THE JURY
(director: Richard T. Heffron; screenwriters: Larry Cohen/from the novel by Mickey Spillane; cinematographer: Andrew Laszlo; editor: Garth Craven; music: Bill Conti; cast: Armand Assante (Mike Hammer), Barbara Carrera (Dr Charlotte Bennett), Laurene Landon (Velda), Alan King (Charles Kalecki), Geoffrey Lewis (Joe Butler), Paul Sorvino (Detective Pat Chambers), Judson Scott (Kendricks), Barry Snider (Romero), Julia Barr (Norma Childs), Frederick Downs (Jack Williams); Runtime: 110; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert H Solo; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1982)
“Like most other of Spillane’s Hammer series put to celluloid it comes out well-short of the novel.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The talented cult director Larry Cohen was fired after one week (though still responsible for the script) and veteran TV director Richard T. Heffron (“Outlaw Blues”/”Futureworld”/”Trackdown”) replaced him as director. That was not a good idea, as Heffron is not a skilled enough director who can make heads or tails out of the novel’s underlying paranoia. The Mike Hammer sadistic gory thriller, driven by excessive sex and violence, is crudely and unfaithfully updated from Mickey Spillane’s 1947 trashy pulp novel of the Cold War period (and the expurgated film of 1953) to the modern-day post-Watergate period and comes out looking like just so much crap. More sex, nudity and violence are tacked on from the novel itself, but like most other of Spillane’s Hammer series put to celluloid it comes out well-short of the novel (the exception being Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly).
Hammer portray-er Armand Assante gives the free-wheeling James Bond-like cartoonish amoral hard-boiled NYC private dick an Italian flavor in cool vulgarity, but he offers a performance that has nothing going for it but to watch the robotic macho guy repetitiously fuck and kill his way through most of the city.
Hammer investigates the death of his one-armed detective war buddy, from their Vietnam War days, Jack Williams (Frederick Downs), and is bent on revenge. Help comes from Hammer’s loyal shapely blonde secretary Velda (Laurene Landon) and his long-time pal and antagonist Detective Pat Chambers (Paul Sorvino). The dick is also busy looking for a sicko switchblade wielding serial killer named Kendricks (Judson Scott), who has been programmed by the CIA and has a nasty attitude toward redheads. Eventually, after much mayhem, Hammer learns that he’s just being used as a pawn for both the FBI and the mob. Naturally, that pisses our man off–which leads to only more killing and fucking.
The murky plotline has us following an inexplicable tale of government conspiracy and mind control tactics involving the Mafia, the CIA, his late pal Jack and an unbelievable sex clinic run by baddie sexpot Dr. Charlotte Bennett (Barbara Carrera). The Mafia part of the deal has Charles Kalecki (Alan King) as the suave mob boss. Also part of this kinky conspiracy tale is deviant former CIA operative Romero (Barry Snider), who operates out of a heavily secure exurban computerized fortress. But that is penetrated by Hammer in the climax, as he shows off his rugged action hero stuff bringing down the run-of-the-mill action pic villain.
The uneven pic was about as lucid and well-meaning asa do-gooder talking up Mother Theresa’s charity efforts for the marginalized poor to a misanthrope. Basically, an entertaining film for those impressed that the hero has a license to kill, is dressed in the finest silk threads, drives a shiny new Trans Am and has a sure-fire macho way of scoring with the dolls.
REVIEWED ON 11/20/2009 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/