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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 9.09%
Average: 18.18%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap72.73%

1 review, 5 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"'Relentless'ly Boring"
1 stars

It actually makes Judd Nelson's critically-savaged "Blue City" from three years prior seem positively divine by comparison.

Relentless is one of the most listless serial-killer thrillers ever to disgrace the silver screen, with not a single good scene or performance or line of dialogue anywhere in its (blessedly short) ninety-two minute running time. Its most detrimental element is no doubt the horrid screenplay, penned by the very same individual, Phil Alden Robinson, responsible for the Sylvester Stallone/Dolly Parton bomb Rhinestone, making it crystal clear he stinks in two genres. After two remarkable films of this type in the three preceding years, Michael Mann's Manhunter and Rowdy Herrington's Jack's Back, you'd think a writer would feel the artistic obligation to try upping the ante by giving us some imaginative touches rather than the same tired cliches, but Robinson is always falling back on the familiar. The killer terrorizing the Los Angeles area is one Arthur "Buck" Taylor (Judd Nelson), an anemic-looking young man who lives in a crummy downtown motel and has enough guns to start a mini-revolution; he's obsessed with his deceased father who used to be a cop, and peeved that the police department rejected him for the academy on psychological grounds -- which we can believe what with flashbacks showing us his martinet of a dad subjecting him to abuse both bodily and mentally. So one day he moseys up to the phone book and starts randomly selecting his soon-to-be victims: first he calls them so he can hear their voices, then shows up at their addresses and slays them while making sure their hands grasp the lethal instrument doing the deed, and before leaving he places the page of the phone book on the corpse with their name circled and a taunting message for the police. Suffice to say, he's one sick puppy. Unfortunately, Nelson, a limited actor, is unaffecting. He was passable as the rebellious high-school senior in The Breakfast Club and the unorthodox attorney in From the Hip but has no earthly idea how to use his body expressively, and his vocal range is insipid, with the voice seeming to nosedive the millisecond after leaving the mouth. Nelson emanates neither menace nor mysteriousness, making Buck quite the underwhelming villain -- it's as if a teenage pizza-delivery driver were offing customers who stiffed him out of a tip.

Maybe if we were afforded a pair of substantial good guys this central weakness could be somewhat alleviated, but, alas, they don't come off any better. There's the veteran detective Bill Malloy (Robert Loggia) assigned rookie plainclothes Sam Dietz (Leo Rossi) from New York, and, of course, they have an initial dislike for each other. Dietz doesn't think Malloy is putting in one-hundred-percent effort, and Malloy thinks Dietz is trying too hard at coming up with incidentals that won't get them anywhere. Loggia can be marvelous, but he hasn't been handed much of a character -- endlessly complaining and guessing at the real-estate value of the abodes the victims are found in, Malloy amounts to very little. And Rossi, in his first starring role, is smug and unappealing -- he's too "on" most of the time and tries riding on a wave of charisma he just doesn't have. (It also doesn't help that he doesn't seem particularly comfortable in front of the camera.) Dietz has a wife and young son given a decent amount of screen time, so you know they're inevitably going to be put in jeopardy (and then saved at the last second by Dietz after driving home like a bat out of Hell through big-city traffic with the prowess of a Dale Earnhardt). Contextually, Relentless is a shambles, and directorially it isn't any better. William Lustig showed talent in his 1980 serial-killer tale Maniac and 1983 Death Wish knockoff Vigilante, but working with a bigger budget has all neutralized his vim. The scenes are poorly shaped and lack definition, the visual design is something out of a nondescript TV movie, and the narrative lacks any semblances of propulsion. Lustig is being a "good boy" for the studio, not implementing anything distinctive that might dare jar it out of ordinariness (when Buck talks to his dead father's image in a mirror, which should provide something of a dramatic impetus, it's treated like a mere afterthought); and while he brought on board his regular composer Jay Chattaway, who's previously done commendable work to help build up atmosphere, the music score is generically pedestrian. Relentless isn't exploitive enough to appeal to the undemanding, and not within the broad side of a barn in dexterous plotting to sate those looking for something a cut above the norm. It's relentlessly boring stuff.

Lustig would redeem himself a year later with the excellent "Maniac Cop 2."

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originally posted: 04/01/13 01:31:47
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User Comments

3/08/18 rk Grear review. crap boring movie. nice try copying friday the 13th at the end 1 stars
4/23/06 Sugarfoot Judd Nelson was surprisingly good, too bad the movie is so routne. 3 stars
2/13/05 Jeff Anderson A surprisingly good thriller! Rossi & Loggia are terrific, but Nelson is truly brilliant!!! 4 stars
8/27/04 tatum Very average crazed killer flick 3 stars
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  02-May-1989 (R)
  DVD: 31-Aug-2004



Directed by
  William Lustig

Written by
  Phil Alden Robinson

  Judd Nelson
  Robert Loggia
  Leo Rossi
  Meg Foster

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