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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » 52 Pick-Up (Blu-ray)
52 Pick-Up (Blu-ray)
Kino // R // February 24, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted January 20, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by John Frankenheimer in 1986 and based on the novel by Elmore Leonard (who also wrote the screen play), 52 Pick-Up stars Roy Scheider as a California based businessman named Harry Mitchell. At first glance, he's got it all: a successful business, a beautiful house and a foxy wife named Barbara (Ann-Margret) who is currently making a bid to get a seat on city council. Things head south quickly when a low rent pornographer named Alan Raimy (John Glover) produces a video tape showing Harry fooling around with a young stripper. If Harry pays up with a hundred and ten grand, Raimy will make the tape disappear.

Harry thinks it over and decides that rather than pay up, he'll confess to his wife. He does just that, and she essentially lets him know that she knew something was going on, even if she didn't want to hear it. Things aren't so perfect in Harry's world after all. Raimy isn't going away that easily though. Nope, in fact he's not going away at all and in this second attempt he produces another tape. This time the tape shows that same stripper shot dead with a gun that belongs to Harry. He's still not having any of this, and rather than go to the cop to get this sorted, Harry decides to give it right back to them. He heads underground to track down Raimy and his men but when Raimy responds with violence to those he cares about, Harry finds that maybe he shouldn't have taken this upon himself after all.

Made without pretension by the mighty Cannon Films during their mid-eighties boom years, 52 Pick-Up is a fairly standard revenge thriller (at least as far as its plot is concerned) made more interesting than most of its genre brethren by its cast and its characters. Breaking from tradition early in the film, we expect Harry to be a ‘good' guy' and to deal with his problem the way that a ‘good guy' would deal with such an issue. He doesn't do it that way. Harry basically brings things to Raimy's level and proves he's willing to play pretty dirty if need be. Continuing this break is Barbara. She's understandably upset about the confirmation of her suspicions but instead of standing by her man ever stalwartly the way a more cookie cutter female accomplice might, she reacts to the situation and quite realistically at that. The way that Leonard's writing twists what we expect from the film's protagonists definitely works in the movie's favor and goes a long way towards making the typical decidedly atypical in this film.

Scheider plays the tough guy lead here perfectly. He's angry about the situation and while he obviously does care for his wife despite his transgressions he's just as interested in getting revenge as he is in doing right by her. He carries the film nicely and brings a weariness to the part in the latter part of the movie that works quite well. Ann-Margret isn't given quite as much to do here but does quite well in her role, providing her character with enough humanity to make it work and still bringing her timeless sex appeal to the part. John Glover as the sharp-dressed dirtbag behind the blackmail plot tends to steal a few scenes of his own, he's ridiculously good here, while Robert Trebor and Clarence Williams III as his two scuzzy partners in crime are also excellent. Williams in particular looks so disheveled and beaten up here that it's almost hard to identify him as the young, cool guy from The Mod Squad.

None other than Vanity shows up here too, well cast as an exotic model type not above turning tricks on the side, and Doug McClure has a small but interesting role as a local politician. Eagle-eyed fans of dirty movies will spot the likes of Ron Jeremy, Tom Byron, Herschel Savage, Jamie Gillis, Amber Lynn, Barbara Dare and Sharon Mitchell as background details in a party scene, adding to the movie's effectively grim and gritty aesthetic.

A director as experienced as Frankenheimer was at this point in the game would be wise not to polish things up too much, and thankfully he seems more concerned with atmosphere and tension than with glossy Hollywood production values. As such we get a fairly seedy feeling film, but that feeling really stems from the story itself and the movie's all the better for it. We might have little trouble figuring out where Leonard's story is headed here, but the characters and dialogue are so well done and the performances and direction so rock solid that we don't mind so much. This is a fun right from start to finish.

The Blu-ray:


52 Pick-Up arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition in a transfer that gives the picture a nice HD facelift without sacrificing the film's gritty look. Grain is pretty obvious throughout but actual print damage isn't really a big problem, just a few specks here and there. Colors look good, quite natural and realistic without any instances of oversaturation, while black levels are pretty solid as well. There are some spots where shadow detail gets a bit muddy but there are no problems with even a trace of noise reduction or edge enhancement. Detail and texture both easily advance over what standard definition could provide and all in all, the movie makes its way to Blu-ray very nicely indeed.


The English language DTS-HD Mono track is also quite good. Range is a bit on the limited side but levels are properly balanced throughout and the track is free of any audible hiss or distortion. The late eighties synth-heavy score has a bit more breathing room here thanks to the lossless track compared to the DVD. No alternate language options of any kind are offered nor are there any subtitles provided.


Extras are limited to a theatrical trailer for the feature, menus and chapter stops.

Final Thoughts:

52 Pick-Up is grim, gritty, tense and very well made. Those qualities help us to look past the somewhat predictable aspects of the story and focus on the great characters and dialogue that bring Leonard's work to such vibrant life on screen. Kino's Blu-ray is sadly, like the DVD that came before it from MGM, a barebones affair but it does offer up the movie in very nice condition and as such, comes recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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