Prime Cut

Year 1972

Lee Marvin   as   Nick Devlin
Gene Hackman as Mary Ann  
Angel Tompkins   as   Clarabelle
Sissy Spacek as Poppy  
Gregory Walcott   as   Weenie
Janit Baldwin as   Violet
Director - Michael Ritchie  
Screenwriter - Robert Dillon

Prime Cut is one of the better examples of 1970s mob films. In the 60s and 70s, the mob wasn't just Italians. It was usually some non-descript group with non-Italian names thanks to Donald E. Westlake (The Outfit and Point Blank) and others like Lina Wertmüller (Violent City). In this film, it's the Irish.

Nick Devlin (Marvin) is some sort of freelance Chicago enforcer. He's hired by the mob to collect money owed to them by Mary Ann (Hackman). Hackman owns farms and a meat packing facility in Kansas City. Hackman also traffics in the flesh of young women. Devlin and Mary Ann have a history together centered around Mary Ann's wife, Clarabelle (Tompkins). Mary Ann doesn't want to pay and makes his point known by killing off Devlin's crew. Devlin has to have a major shootout to win the day.

Around this time, it became okay in movies for a bad guy to win if he wasn't the evilest of the bad guys. Kind of an anti-hero. Devlin is this guy and Marvin's excellent as Devlin.

The movie boasts some pretty unusual scenes that make the movie worth watching. There's the opening scene where a person is turned into hot dogs. There's a later scene where the items on display in the pens in the barn are drugged women. There's a scene where Marvin and his young girlfriend Poppy (Spacek) are chased through a wheat field by a combine. There's the most disturbing scene after Poppy's friend Violet (Baldwin) is forced to love hobos for a nickel a time. When the tragically vulnerable girl opens her hand, about a dollars worth of nickels tumbles out. It still gives me the creeps.

There's some clever dialog which I'll do my best to approximate.

Looking at the hot dogs which are the remains of Murphy.
Shaughnessy : Why do we do with him?
Devlin: Was he a friend of yours?
Shaughnessy : Yeah.
Devlin: Then you bury him.
Devlin: You really know how to push a man.
Clarabelle : As far as I can...hopefully to the graveyard.

It's not deep and there are some plot lines that go unfulfilled. There's also shoot-out at a county fair that's less than credible. Six people are hunting Devlin at the fair shooting the place up. None of the spectators really care. (I think that there's some sort of social commentary about the masses needing to be entertained, but that's acceptable compared to the rest of the shoot 'em up.) Then Devlin runs away and hides in a field, to set-up the being chased by a combine predicament. As for the people who chased him? They say, "He must still be in the forest," which is nothing but a stand of trees and forget to look back.

The Poppy character also could have you scratching your head. Supposedly she's been in an orphanage until ready for the flesh auction. Yet she fits in pretty well with Devlin's lifestyle. There are some pretty weak fish out of water moments, and those involve Spacek's, uh, attributes. There's also a little talk by Poppy about how she would comfort Violet at the orphanage on cold nights by pretending to be a man. Uh... Maybe a little too patronizing of the male audience?

But Prime Cut does have those scenes I mentioned and at least the final shoot-out is believable. It also has decent music. As Devlin is taking his crew to see Mary Ann, the score sounds like an Irish reel, but with a banjo. It's a clever arrangement.

There's a fair amount of nudity, typical for movies of this time. Sissy Spacek, Janit Baldwin, and Angel Tompkins show off how pretty they are. There's some blasphemy and profanity. I wouldn't recommend it as a chick flick but it's not a bad guy film.

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