Shakedown (Shout Select)

| January 8, 2018

As a writer/director, James Glickenhaus is probably best known for The Exterminator (1980) with its iconic, flame thrower-wielding hero whose fire-spewing image no doubt caught many an eye on video rental store shelves throughout the 1980’s. Glickenhaus’ actioners were ambitious, were often so narratively unique that they came across at times as obtuse, and were always defined by some impressive action set pieces, be they characterized by explosions of simply lighting a bunch of guys on fire. And once upon a time, Glickenhaus even made a film with Jackie Chan: The Protector (1985).

Glickenhaus’ best film though, by his own admission and in my experience, has got to be 1988’s Shakedown, starring Peter Weller (Robocop) and Sam Elliott (The Big Lebowski). Look at something like Glickenhaus’ James Bond-ish The Soldier (1982) and there he neglects his protagonist to such an extent that the titular Soldier barely appears in the first half hour of the film at all. By comparison, Shakedown achieves terrific unity of action through its emphasis on one terrifically engaging, goal-oriented character… and only a minor amount of meandering but none of the talking governmental heads that make The Soldier a chore at times.

The film follows Roland Dalton (Weller), a public defender on his last case before moving on to a big money position on Wall Street. With the occasional help of his ironically squeaky clean-yet-homeless NYPD detective friend, Richie (Elliott), Roland sets out to prove his drug-dealing client innocent of the murder of a police officer. And he risks his and Richie’s life numerous times in the process as they threaten to expose the widespread police corruption that found Roland’s client on trial. Along the way, they get involved in a gunfight on motorcycle, cause massive amounts of destruction to public and private property, and Richie even fights a guy atop a moving roller coaster.

Shakedown’s resolution may be a rushed, leave-no-villain-standing affair. Plus, Glickenhaus’ near-even split of the story between emotional courtroom drama and buddy cop film leaves Shakedown only cursorily reflecting the tropes of both subgenres, but all this makes for an honestly fun and fascinating experience. What’s more, Weller’s hip, Jimi Hendrix-loving, saxophone-playing, take no bullshit portrayal of Roland handily allows the film to overcome any shortcomings with only a little help from ass-kicking Richie and the excitement of Glickenhaus’ inventive action set pieces! It’s well worth a watch or, in my case, a half dozen or more.

Shakedown will be available on Blu-ray from Shout Select on January 23rd, 2018, but ships TWO WEEKS EARLY when ordered from ShoutFactory.com. That a James Glickenhaus flick has now made its way to Blu-ray from Shout Select will hopefully open up the imprint to even more unique 1980’s actioners, and perhaps more from Glickenhaus himself specifically now that they have a working relationship with him (Exterminator maybe?!). So we can hope.

In the meantime, there’s a lot to sink your teeth into on the Shout Select release of Shakedown. The Shout Select Blu-ray includes an introduction to the film by writer/director James Glickenhaus, commentary by Glickenhaus, an interview about the making of the film with Glickenhaus, an interview with Glickenhaus about Miles Davis, and a stills gallery. While I’d have loved to have seen some interviews or commentary with Weller and/or Elliott on the disc, it’s great to hear this much from Glickenhaus about what is surely his best work.

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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