By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: Shoot-out in Kansas.
If you enjoy a great compact action flick, but are tired of the same old formula then Prime Cut may be for you. It is the story of Nick Devlin (Lee Marvin) who is head of the crime syndicate in Chicago who travels to Kansas City to take on the head of their syndicate and avenge the death of one of their men as well as recouping an unpaid debt.
The movie has a lot of great offbeat touches that starts during its opening montage that takes place in an actual slaughterhouse. Here you get a graphic glimpse of the inner mechanics of meat packing while soft, romantic piano music is played in the background. The credits are displayed in a way that makes them look like they are being sliced by a meat cutter with cool meat cutting sound effects. From here the quirky elements just keep coming. There is a wild chase through a wheat field where Marvin and Sissy Spacek find themselves attacked by a giant wheat thrasher that eats up their limousine and spits out the car parts into hay bails. There is also a well filmed shootout amidst a sunflower field as well as Spacek’s revealing see through dress, which she wears to a posh restaurant and a giant plastic cow that gets shot up with holes and spews out milk.
This film is so unique that I am amazed it hasn’t acquired a stronger cult following. It stands up very well by today’s standards and even seems a bit shocking as it includes a scene involving white slavery where drugged young women are caged naked in stalls just like cattle and ranchers inspect and bid on them.
Marvin does well in his tongue-and-check role and pretty much steals it. He speaks his snappy lines in his usual terse manner with his famous stone expression, but he does it with a wink in his eye and at times even shows a soft side. Sissy Spacek, in her film debut, looks young and fresh faced here. She is pretty and appealing in a very natural way. Only Gene Hackman as the villain named Mary Ann seems wasted. He does a good job for the material that he is given, but he needed more screen time and his character is not allowed to evolve at all. Honorable mention also needs to go to Gregory Walcott as Hackman’s slimy henchman named Weenie. The two get involved in an amusing scuffle while their accountants sit at their desks and busily add up their numbers and futilely try to ignore them.
Director Michael Ritchie nicely captures the Kansas landscape and gives it a very picturesque quality. It is probably the best on-location shooting of Kansas since Picnic. I did wish that the film was a little longer and showed more of a history between the two adversaries. It also seems to run out of steam at the end with a final shoot-out that isn’t all that clever or exciting and not up to the standards of the rest of the film. Still this movie should appease any action fan and the story and direction are consistently original.
My Rating: 8 out 10
Released: June 28, 1972
Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes
Director: Michael Ritchie
Studio: National General Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD