His name linked in various capacities with films as diverse as The Warriors, Alien, Streets of Fire, Crossroads and Supernova, it was in 1987 that director Walter Hill released Extreme Prejudice, an action thriller framed as a modern Western, written by Harry Kleiner and Deric Washburn from a story by John Milius and Fred Rexer which dated back to the mid-seventies when Conan the Barbarian‘s Milius had intended to direct himself.
Set in El Paso, Texas Ranger Jack Benteen and Sheriff Hank Pearson try to stem the flow of drugs from across the Mexican border, a difficult task complicated by personal relations, Benteen believing that his childhood friend Cash Bailey is behind the operation, the man who was once in a relationship with bar singer Sarita Cisneros, now involved with Benteen but always taking second place to his job.
With bodies on the floor and bombs sent in revenge, another ring is added to the circus with the clandestine arrival of Major Paul Hackett, listed as killed in action and buried in a mass grave, commanding the “Zombie Unit” of similarly untraceable operatives in off-the-book operations, also seeking to break Bailey’s operation but without the restrictions of what would be considered normal channels, “termination with extreme prejudice” Hackett’s solution to opposition.
Hill reuniting with 48 Hrs’ Nick Nolte, Benteen is the emotional void that Sarita (The Running Man’s María Conchita Alonso) pours herself into only to find he cannot be filled, a man of conflicts and violence who carries his head high and wears his badge proudly; Bailey (Cruising‘s Powers Boothe) wears a white suit and hat but is not so clean, ruthless and unforgiving, while Zombie Unit are led by Knuckleball‘s Michael Ironside and The Mortuary Collection‘s Clancy Brown, operating outside the law and effortlessly cool even in the scorching sun.
Hill known to love a gunfight and the occasional explosion, in keeping with the era Extreme Prejudice plays at times like the mission where the A-Team took the safety catches off their heavy artillery, and what was once cutting edge surveillance technology used to coordinate the heist now seems quaintly primitive, but more frustrating is that the early scenes are disjointed owing to substantial cutting of the original edit prior to release.
Remastered on Blu-ray for StudioCanal’s Cult Classics range, Extreme Prejudice is supported by a commentary by film historians C Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke, a discussion of Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack, and interviews with cinematographer Matthew F Leonetti, Clancy Brown and a surprisingly jovial Michael Ironside who recalls Hill’s unstinting support on “the first big American film that I did,” laughing through memories of sunstroke and blisters, as well as a vintage promotional featurette graced with a voiceover which takes the project extremely seriously and an expansive gallery of stills and artwork.
Extreme Prejudice is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from StudioCanal now