Film Review: High Risk (1981)

in Movies & TV Shows5 days ago


Inflation is one of the most serious problems for many people in the world today. It was the exactly the same few decades ago in USA, with inflation and related economic woes being so severe that they were beginning to play important part in the plot of action films. Inflation is exactly the prime motive for the actions of main characters in High Risk, 1981 film written and directed by Stewart Raffill.

The plot begins in Los Angeles where documentary film maker Stone (played by James Brolin) gathers three of his unemployed or financially troubled friends – Tony (played by Chick Vennera), Dan (played by Bruce Davison) and Rockney (played by Cleavon Little) – for what their respective families and everyone else believes to be a fishing trip. In reality Stone has, during his trips around Latin America, found information that could help four friends solve all of their financial problems. They buy weapons from an old dealer named Clint (played by Ernest Borgnine) and charter a plane to parachute them into Colombia. From the jungle they begin a trek towards compound owned by powerful narco boss Serrano (played by James Coburn) where they hope to steal large amount of money from the safe. Plan, despite minor difficulties, goes even better than expected and four friends leave compound with even larger stash then they hoped. Unfortunately, Serrano isn’t too happy and launches merciless manhunt which would result with Tony and Rockney being captured. While they are imprisoned, Tony and Dan meet Olivia (played by Lindsay Wagner), American woman arrested under false charges and held for ransom. In the meantime, Stone and Dan meet Mariano (played by Anthony Quinn), former revolutionary and bandit leader who wants to lay his hands on the money.

Idea of small group of ordinary men feeling so desperate that they must try to beat top professional criminals at their own game looked good for action comedy, especially those with little bit of exotic settings (Latin America) or related subplots (drugs) thrown for good measure. Unfortunately, High Risk fails because there is never proper balance between action and comedy; the former too often looks silly or depends on coincidences that hardly anyone would take seriously; the latter suffers because small number and poor quality of jokes (one example is Cleavon Little’s character trying to blend in among the locals dressed in drag). There is also certain problem with the general tone of the film – protagonists are, despite their reluctance, forced to kill people and even expressed displeasure with such acts; while, on the other hand, all of them get hurt or wounded, their ultimate fate is never in question, just like in the case of pet dog they inexplicably tag along themselves. Arrival of Lindsay Wagner (star of 1970s hit TV show Bionic Woman) and her character’s rebellious antics near the half of the film adds a little bit of humour, but not much. Cast is capable, but usually doesn’t have much to work, which includes Coburn as menacing conventional villain. Anthony Quinn, on the other hand, goes little over the top as somewhat more buffoonish villain. The final scene, in which protagonists get rescued by quasi-hippie machine gun-totting pilots playing Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” through loudspeakers comes at the right time and with its irreverent surreality improves the general impression just enough to make High Risk worth recommending.

RATING: 5/10 (++)

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Critic: AA

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