As a UK script consultant and script writer for hire I’m a big fan of Director Walter Hill. A lot of his best films figure somewhere in my formative cinematic experiences, these films include classics such as; Southern Comfort, Hard Times, Red Heat, The Warriors, The Long Riders, 48hrs, The Driver, the hugely underrated Johnny Handsome and one of my all time favourite films – Streets of Fire (1984).
That’s a pretty shit hot list for any director in any period (and most of those films came out in one decade – the 80s).
Not only where these films successful action pictures, they were often well written pulp fictions, aware of their limitations and the influence of the pictures that came before them, and set the genre staples. Tough guy heroes who say very little and are judged by their peers and the audience by what action they take (this philosophy comes from films made by Howard Hawks via Don Siegal and Sam Peckinpah – Hill is in that tradition of directors and even worked with Sam and Don.)
Tellingly, Hill had a hand in Alien and Aliens too. He didn’t direct either film but his hard boiled soldier dialogue is rampant in those pictures (especially Aliens).
Extreme Prejudice isn’t Hill’s best film; it feels too busy with too many plot strands running side by side. Some of the dialogue feels a bit forced at times. However, it’s still a good entertaining picture with a lot in common with Peckinpah. There’s plenty of action, a few laughs and maybe one double cross too many.
The best thing about the film are the performances of Nick Nolte, the late Powers Boothe and Maria Conchita Alonso. Rip Torn is good, Micheal Ironside and William Forsythe are always excellent value and I really like Clancy Brown in the film – his character is brighter than the people he normally plays and he comes off very well.
Nolte in particular gives a very good performance that deserves a better script and film. He’s taciturn, tough and brooding and like any good actor can do more with a look, than a line of dialogue.
It’s still pure, good fun pulp filmmaking, it doesn’t take itself too seriously but it also doesn’t hang together with the grace of other pictures by Hill, it feels like it’s trying to cram too much in, and can feel frustrating because of that (in this day and age the story and set up might have made a good Netflix series).
For vintage Walter Hill – my list would be Southern Comfort, Johnny Handsome, The Long Riders and Streets of Fire. Check them out.
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org or hire him on Peopleperhour
His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.