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THE SQUEEZE (1977).

I've reviewed a lot of weird-assed Stacy Keach flicks in SHOCK CINEMA over the years, and while I'm sure the guy has made a few relatively sane motion pictures in his lifetime, I'm often hard pressed to remember them. END OF THE ROAD? THE NINTH CONFIGURATION? BREWSTER McCLOUD? THE TRAVELING EXECUTIONER? THE DION BROTHERS? I give up... This brutal British crime drama co-stars David Hemmings, was directed by a young Michael Apted, and I knew this was another prime Keach-o-rama when he makes his entrance, looking like he's at the low-point of a week-long bender. Balding, bleary-eyed, bleeding (due to a drunken tumble down a flight of stairs), and sporting a so-so British accent, Keach plays Jim Naboth, an ex-Scotland Yard sot-turned-private eye (imagine Charles Bukowski as Philip Marlowe). But when his ex-wife and her new boyfriend's daughter are kidnapped by slimy Hemmings, Naboth (a poster child for the d.t.'s) tosses on his trenchcoat, dives into the UK underworld, and tries to remain sober for a few days. Meanwhile, her wealthy beau (Edward Fox) is forced to pay the ransom by being the inside-man for his own company's armored car robbery. Slowly killing himself with booze, Naboth sees this case as one final attempt at redemption. And boy, does this guy go through shit -- such as when he's stripped naked by crooks and left in the street (with a handy shoe over his privates). Chalk this up as another challenging, self-deprecating performance from Keach, who not only gives new meaning to the word "seedy," but brings a welcome humanity to this cruel and moderately compelling yarn. Along with a couple of wonderfully grim twists and a kick-ass, righteous finale, the movie is at its best when Keach is pushing the envelope. In addition, Hemmings has fun as a sadistic slimebag who forces Naboth's ex (Carol White, POOR COW) to strip for him and his cronies (accompanied by The Stylistics, no less). Apted's direction is tight, with a script grounded in believable characters and backdrops, plus it's particularly refreshing to watch a crime flick where all of the hard-boiled crooks don't talk like Tarantino wannabes.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.