Theatrical Release:April 22, 1982
Blu Ray Release: November 8, 2016
Director: Richard T. Heffron
Review by Travis North
Mickey Spillane’s hard boiled Mike Hammer novels have been adapted quite a few times and with various leads. I knew about the 80s television series starring Stacy Keach, but was unaware of how many other versions of the character there are. One was the 1950s television series with Darren McGavin as Hammer, there were a lot of other movie and television entries, and then there is this cinematic take starring Armand Assante from 1982. Since I, The Jury is the only book I have read so far, I was very interested in finding out how this incarnation worked out.
It definitely starts out interestingly enough. Right away PI Hammer is introduced as a horndog and is shown boning a women he’s supposed to be investigating, and it then cuts to a James Bond-like credit sequence. This was a little weird, but intrieging. Then the plot kicks in with a one armed man getting gutshot (with a nice bloody effect) from an unknown assailant. This poor clod was an old friend of Hammer, so he gets pulled in to try to figure out who would have wanted to kill his buddy. This is reasonably on track with the book. The more Hammer investigates, the more the plot goes off into left field. There are sex therapists, mafia ties, and a CIA brainwashing psycho assassins subplot. Definitely not in the book. It all ends in a big shoot out in a remote compound that has ridiculous booby traps and robotic sentry machine guns.
It seems kind of juvenile and goofy. The Bill Conti score doesn’t help because it comes off as very cheesy and a jazzy remnant from the 70s. The direction really feels like a television production, which makes sense since Richard T. Heffron did loads of TV. This is definitely rated R though. I can’t imagine a network showing a nudity filled orgy that culminates in a close up of a man’s quivering Peter North O-face. Spillane never shied away from sex or violence, and the movie delivers on both. There are things that didn’t work, like Hammer being a teetotaler. Hammer was basically an alcoholic, but by the 80s society’s pussification had already begun so they toned that aspect down. Nothing against Armand Assante, but he is just wrong for this role. His acting style and physique don’t quite match the character, but at least he pulled off the famous closing line of dialogue pretty well.
The supporting cast is solid, with Geoffrey Lewis, Alan King, and a yelling Paul Sorvino doing a fine job. What was really nice to see in this was a ton of old school stunt work, which is almost extinct today. Guys jump off moving cars, get tossed off buildings, all with no wires or green screens to be found. Overall I can understand why this ended up being a one-and-done for Assante as Mike Hammer, but this is certainly an enjoyable entry for any action movie fan.
The disc presentation is solid in both picture and sound. There are a series of trailers included, as well as a commentary by film historian Nathaniel Thompson. He knows his stuff, but I would have preferred an actor or the director to have more direct insights into the making of the movie.
Movie and Blu Ray Rating: