I’ve been remembering these movies for months now without any hint of perspective. I think the time has come to start commenting on how they rank, how something I learned from one played into another, and what kind of techniques I’ve used and discarded throughout these long filmmaking years. What is the running theme of my career?
So here you go: Extreme Prejudice is the greatest movie I have ever made. The only thing I’ve ever learned, the only technique I’ve ever really trusted is CASTING, and this movie’s got the best cast any director has ever worked with. Keep in mind, this is coming from the guy who made a little ditty called Glengarry Glen Ross (the Three Stooges of the Wall Street years).
Nick Fucking Nolte, Powers Fucking Booth, William F. Forsythe, Rip Torn (or, Cause & Effect, as we called him on set), Michael Detroit Ironside, Clancy Uncle Brown, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, and the toughest women on Earth–Maria Alonso. Never in my life have I been so afraid to show up for work each day. This cast was so goddamn badass, half the crew developed cancer. And oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the script was written by non other than Cormac McCarthy and Pancho Villa.
So Nolte is a sheriff on the Texas/Mexico border and he’s got some serious shit on his plate. The small town he protects is being overrun with drug smugglers sent from Mexico by his former best friend, Cash Bailey. Not only do the two share history, but they’ve also grown fond of the same woman, lounge singer Sarita Cisneros. Nolte has her now, but who knows how long it will last? Cash is keeping him so busy shooting drug smugglers, that he barely has any time for hot Mexican-accent lovin. He’s also incapable of smiling and that bums her out cause she likes to PAR-TAY!
With this in mind, Nolte calls a parley with Cash to give him one more chance to take his accrued drug money and retire before he’s got to cross the border and kick some ex-friend ass. Cash appeals to their shared nostalgia, but Nolte stonefaces him. Being badasses, neither man backs down and the stage is set for a no-holds-barred war. Cash clearly sets the situation with one of Pancho Villa’s most celebrated pieces of dialog: “I got a feelin the next time we run into each other we gonna have a killin.” Nolte nods and exits stage dust, which I happen to know is of McCarthy’s proudest moments as a writer.
Meanwhile, Micheal Ironside and his band of technically dead soldiers have been assigned to rob a bank in Nolte’s town, a bank that most of Cash’s drug cash happens to run through. Ironside’s team is a whole five fingered fist of awesome, but they’re soldiers all the same, so when his heist plan turns out to be slightly impossible, they do it anyway. Only an actor like Ironside could believably boss these guys around. They wire the town with high tech 80’s shit, and even get themselves arrested to get a bead on how Nolte’s operation works. What they find is, aside from Nolte and Rip Torn, the town is protected by a bunch of George W. Bushes.
Several things happen in one day. In a gunfight with Cash’s drug smugglers, Nolte loses Rip Torn, not only his good friend and mentor but also the film’s fifth funniest character. He comes home from that to find his lady has smuggled herself across the border to get back with Cash. Meanwhile, the bank heist goes awry. Not only does Ironside not get the main cash haul he’s looking for, but one of his guys gets killed, which makes the rest of the team question Ironside’s leadership, something no man in the history of men following Ironside had previously attempted. The raw fear of it makes them sweaty and gassy.
Ironside needs to get to Mexico to find Cash’s cash. He realizes that Nolte’s bloodlust for Cash could be used as a diversion. So the whole merry gang heads over to stir some dry and sunny shit. At one point, Nolte goes to take a dump and Ironside informs his team that they’ll eventually have to kill him too. Since they all get along with Nolte, this doesn’t go over well. Ironside proves his command by killing one of them. This tactic shuts them up for a while, but deep down they are telepathically bitching about it like a bunch of Emo kids on Hawaiian Shirt Friday.
Once they get across the border, Nolte has an hour to settle his beef with Cash before the army guys turn Mexico into swiss cheese. Cash insists that before they shoot each other, they get a bite to eat and talk about old times. Over a plate full of whiskey and cocaine, Cash’s lets out that his control is at a breaking point and Sarita Cisneros doesn’t even like him anymore. Nolte just sits there and nods, thinking “Aw hell, this is gonna be easy!” Cash offers him some coke but he declines. He offers some whiskey. “No thanks. I’m particular about who I drink with.” Finally he offers Nolte a cigarette. “Sorry. This is the one and only movie ever where I don’t smoke.” Then, when there’s no more stalling to be had, they go outside to enjoy an old fashioned duel. Nolte wins.
Meanwhile, the army guys start shooting everything in slow motion. Clancy Brown catches Ironside stealing all the money for himself, thus making the team mercenaries, not soldiers. This pisses him off, so now the team is fighting both Mexico AND Ironside. Bad odds. Unsurprisingly, even though one finds himself an awesome Gatling gun, they all get killed. So does Ironside. And so does Mexico. This movie is kind of like if everyone from The Wild Bunch got reincarnated and did the exact same thing they did in The Wild Bunch except with sunglasses and trucks. Anyone who says this is a bad thing must be your girlfriend.
Nolte takes his girl and drives off into the sunset. I hate to question the genius of the script, but it’s a little odd that he still wants her around. I mean, a) he doesn’t seem to like her very much, and b) she already dumped him once because she doesn’t seem to like him either. I guess the audience is supposed to temper their disappointment in all the dead baddasses with the hope that her and Nolte will repopulate the world with new ones.
Anyway, if movies could fight each other, this would definitely be the greatest film ever made.