Palatable: Hickey & Boggs

Hickey & Boggs (1972)
Directed by Robert Culp
Written by Walter Hill, Robert Culp
Produced by Fouad Said, Joel Reisner
Starring Bill Cosby, Robert Culp, Carmencristina Moreno, Rosalind Cash, Lester Fletcher, Louis Moreno, Bill Hickman, Matt Bennett, Gerald Peters, Robert Mandan, Michael Moriarty, Bernie Schwartz, Ron Henriquez, Vincent Gardenia, Ed Lauter, James Woods, Roger E. Mosley, Gilchrist Stuart
As its scanty box office receipts revealed, theatergoers energized by and accustomed to aggressive spectaculars courtesy of Peckinpah, D'Antoni, et al. hadn't a collective palate for Hill's auctorial debut, a costive, cheerless reunion of I Spy stars Cosby and Culp (meanly overseen by the latter) as luckless, partnered Angelean private dicks whose professional search for an elusive femme (Moreno) enmeshes them in dicey convolutions eventuating from her husband's (Moreno) canny abstraction of a small fortune in large bills heisted from a bank in Pittsburgh. Perseverance, rich tricks, intuitive acumen and magnum revolvers suffice to sustain them on a fraught, flexuous trail to $400K, but not to forestall the collateral damage proceeding from a few ugly retaliations. It's shot as well as played, nimbly plotted in Hill's usual manner and extending to viewers no more clues than to its prostrate protagonists. Familiar faces that weren't in '72 abound: on loan from D'Antoni, supreme stunt driver Hickman heads a vicious trio of hitmen; police detectives Gardenia, Lauter and Woods are three steps behind the desperate dyad; copiously coiffed, Moriarty grins winningly as a buoyant mob attorney. Modest by both current and contemporaneous criteria, Culp's sole cinematic feature is still worth a watch for its unostentatious craftsmanship and refreshingly unsentimental pathos.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Getaway.


Mediocre: The New Kids

The New Kids (1985)
Directed by Sean S. Cunningham
Written by Stephen Gyllenhaal, Brian Taggert
Produced by Sean S. Cunningham, Andrew Fogelson, Barbara De Fina
Starring Shannon Presby, Lori Loughlin, James Spader, John Philbin, David H. MacDonald, Eric Stoltz, Paige Price, Vince Grant, Theron Montgomery, Eddie Jones, Lucy Martin, Jean De Baer, Tom Atkins
They grow up so fast! Crazed by cocaine, malfeasant teens might graduate quicker from petty vandalism and harassment to kidnapping and attempted murder as from high school, as in this alternately fluffy and frightful thriller. Army brats (Presby, Loughlin) suffer the most taxing of their adolescent years when orphaned after their parents perish in an unspecified accident, lodged by a bumbling uncle (Jones) aspiring to revive his downscale amusement park, and both harried and harrowed by a redneck gang who locally dabble in dogfights and narcotic traffic after Loughlin's decent demoiselle rebuffs their unhinged honcho (Spader). Too tough to buckle, the titular transplants requite after taking their lumps, and the ensuant, escalating exchange of hostilities swells with violence of an intensity inversely proportionate to its plausibility, administrated adequately by genre journeyman Cunningham. It's much more attractive than agreeable, relying on its fit and photogenic leads, especially lovely Laughlin and specially stunning Spader, here spruce and bleached, playing what seems initially a particularly previsional cosplay of Milo Yiannopoulos. Gyllenhaal's trite dialogue and stale scenarios seem as apropos to a televised feature from the late '70s as Lalo Schifrin's untypically, oddly outmoded score. Worse, Atkins is squandered as the heroic, fatherly colonel dispatched not ten minutes into the picture, as is Stoltz as Loughlin's pissant love interest. Its routinely motivational montages submit: can our protagonists lick the iniquitous hicks, profitably repair the theme park, rescue the community center, find true love and punctually attend the school dance? Sure.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Tuff Turf.