Merle Hency is an ex boxer, now working for the head of a San Francisco mob called Murdoch as a debt collector and general all round hard guy, doing his master’s bidding. He’s long since become sick of this existence however and wants out. His Boss has decided that this particular henchman has had his time and is of no further value to him so they take advantage of his gambling habit to set him up as part of a money laundering scheme. However, Merle actually wins for the first time in twenty years or so and decided to take vengeance against his old boss, to whom he had been loyal all this time. Merle’s life suddenly becomes more dangerous that he could have imagined as Murdoch throws everything he can at him in an attempt to stop his ex employee.
The action scenes are handled brilliantly and there is plenty of blood on show if you like that sort of thing, especially in the last reel where Merle takes a protracted and graphic revenge against his old colleagues. The plot is solid and well constructed, nothing exceptional but with no major plot holes or embarrassments and with some nicely written character moments that help to make this film stand out from the usual mob movie crowd. Merle is an interesting character brought vividly to life by Eric Roberts in how own never knowingly understated sort of way, although he does manage to play it cool this time as the character demands.
Larry Cobb and Keith David both provide excellent support to Roberts and Robert Davi is sinister and brilliant as the hood who wants Merle dead (Why has Davi never really become mainstream?). Irina Björklund is a stand out as the young woman with no direction in her life who takes a chance on Merle’s surprise offer to run away together and live a life hopefully of safety, made possible by the money he has now stolen from his ex boss. Though it’s a very standard film in many ways, it’s terrifically entertaining, held together largely by the presence of Roberts himself who manages to chew the scenery with such gusto that you cannot help buy enjoy what he is doing. All in all, a great little film an a good mobster movie if you’re a fan of the genre. If not, it’s action packed with a lot of nifty lines to raise a smile along the way and the ultimate resolution does give hope for the future of Merle and other s like him.
Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Cast: Eric Roberts, Robert Davi, Keith David, Bokeem Woodbine, Michael Ironside