Prime Cut (1972) Poster

(1972)

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10/10
Writers and Directors see this film!
stevetseitz15 July 2002
I sought out this gem of a film after being impressed by "Point Blank". Lee Marvin exudes the kind of toughness that most modern day actors can't equal. Only Eastwood comes close. This is a raw, gritty and entertaining revenge/mob picture. Gene Hackman plays the heavy, but who is heavier than Lee Marvin? You just don't want to mess with him. I think this is one of Sissy Spacek's first appearances. Look at most modern "action" movies. There is a cookie-cutter formula. They try to be all things to all people. I call it the "Bruckheimer Effect" You have to force the "hip" humor for those with attention-span problems. You have to include a romantic interest/sex-sysmbol for the girlfriends and the drooling twelve-year-olds. You have to tie it all in with large explosions and car chases. Are you as bored as I am of these films? Watch "Prime Cut" and you won't see the extra grisle and fat of a modern hollywood action film . You will see a U.S.D.A. Choice kick ass movie.
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6/10
Pretty Neat and Chic, but Within the Confines of Cheesy Auto-Pilot Genre Conventions.
jzappa9 October 2009
Prime Cut may feature charmingly gravelly Lee Marvin, always brilliant Gene Hackman and Sissy Spacek when she was young and pretty, and its plot may be a turn through an interesting alley in the gangster genre, but it is still essentially a cheesy action movie that settles everything interesting about the story with the same shootouts we've been watching since Edwin Porter dazzled us for 11 minutes in 1903. I like guys in suits from New York collecting debts as much as the next guy, just as said guy and I like guys from New York collecting debts from Confederate neanderthals, and movies from the 1970s right down to the score by Lalo Schifrin. Nonetheless, it is not very fair to be absorbed in a story like this only for director Michael Winner to sit comfortably half-facing us within the confines of auto-pilot genre conventions.

Marvin plays a two-dimensional mob enforcer from Chicago sent to Kansas to collect a debt from Hackman's intriguingly characterized meatpacking boss. Spacek debuts as a young orphan sold into prostitution. There are already scores of ways scores of writers and directors could make an instant classic out of this material. There are some fantastically effective scenes in particular, a great deal of which derive from the reason why this otherwise assembly-line dirty-ol'-basterd picture was regarded as notably risqué for its time. The opening credits sequence is a composition of cleverly discreet images depicting the beef slaughtering process, with a very discreet twist. There is a striking portrayal of sex slavery in a scene where Hackman partakes in the auctioning of young women. There is a noted chase scene involving a combine in an open field.

There are also fast-sketch expository scenes like one with Hackman and the character Weenie, his brother and right-hand man, where their day-to-day dialogue is interrupted by their sudden urge to rassle, Hackman's accountants making an effort to remain furniture no matter where the fight leads. Marvin's boss in Chicago gives him some back-up muscle in the form of a driver whose life he once saved and three other younger members of the Irish mob. There is a style here that seems to have influenced the chic male-centric palette of Guy Ritchie's thug films. There is a brief scene where one of these baby-faced enforcers makes Marvin meet his mother as they leave Chicago. It is a swift, omniscient and interesting little inference of this character before he becomes another pop-up board for the various sundry bullets he will be obligated to exchange with other pop-up men.

A shootout never hurt a great movie, and not too many good ones. But this is one that could have been one of them had it not jumped to the guns so hastily without taking a stab at working out the thematic dilemmas first. The first inclinations when dealing with such a premise would be the themes of man and nature, culture clash, North and South, and other elements that could say a lot about the dual nature leading to opposing means of taking on the same criminal enterprises. Instead, it's simply Marvin the good guy and Hackman the bad guy, and they slice through their respective thickets of underlings until they come face to face, only then addressing the superiority of man over beast with a stunning irony I can only hope was intentional. But I don't think so.
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10/10
Prime Cut!
ashleyallinson7 June 2005
Here we have Gene Hackman as the head of the Kansas City mafia. Leaving the city behind, Hackman makes his money on pork and prostitution.

We quickly find out that Hackman is indebted to the Chicago mob for 500 large. They send one of their hoods down there to collect, but Hackman literally turns him into hotdog meat and mails the "franks" back to Chicago.

Ready to play hardball, the Chicago mob retort by sending Lee Marvin down there to take out the trash, saving a young Sissy Spacek along the way. The ruckus that ensues is worth the price of the DVD alone, or at least a rental.
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10/10
Yoo-Hoo!! Hey!!! It's a Joke!!!!!!!!!!!
tonstant viewer17 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Director Michael Ritchie tore the innards out of the beauty contest culture with "Smile," competitive sports with "Downhill Racer" and politics with "The Candidate."

Here he does the same service for the Great American Crime Film. Robert Dillon's script is an extended Irish joke, a la John Huston ("The Treasure of Sierra Madre," "Beat the Devil," "The List of Adrian Messenger"). A plausible surface does not mean a realistic film.

Michael Ritchie takes iconic actors like Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman, who only have to be visible to make an effect. He puts in lots of destruction of property, and neo-Nazi blond bad boys falling by the score. There's shotguns and submachine guns and carnivorous farm equipment and 18-wheel trucks and all sorts of unlikely weapons. And the usual movie dichotomy of country good, city bad is stood on its head, with agriculture fairs and cornfields and sunflower fields as dangerous to life and limb as you could hope for (paging Alfred Hitchcock!).

There are complaints in some reviews here that the film is vulgar. It is, and it knows it is, and is not simple-minded about it at all. There are complaints that it is violent. It is, and the violence is deliberately exaggerated to remind you at all times that you are watching a movie. There are complaints that we never learn enough about the characters' previous lives. The film knows it, and systematically gives you just less than enough information. The idea is for you to use your imagination afterwards, rather than have the film hold you by the scruff of the neck and rub your nose in stuff that really doesn't matter except to tie things up with a bow.

What matters is not who the characters are, because they aren't. There are few real people here, and none of them are important to the story. It's in what the characters do, and what gets done back at them, and how does this reflect other movies, and the culture that produces movies like this in the first place? When you watch a hit-man with a heart of gold, a bad guy named Mary Ann who traffics in narcotics and prostitution, and learn more about the stockyards than you probably want to know, it's not because the filmmakers are stupid or incompetent. It's because they're deliberately trying to skew everything you see a little to one side and play around with your expectations.

Some people don't like the sensation of being thrown off balance. But if you think you might like it, by all means give this picture a try. It's funny.
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8/10
Prime Marvin
winner5512 March 2005
In 1972, critics were so offended by the violence of this film (they were easily offended, back then), that they almost wholly missed the film's humanistic message - which is strange, because I doubt a film could state a theme more explicitly without getting didactic. If this films evades such lecturing - and it does - it is largely due to the exceptional understated performance of Lee Marvin; I didn't think anyone could wear white loafers and still look cool, but Marvin pulls it off. His utterly deadpan approach underscores his character's rapid responses to crisis situations - a truly dangerous man because no one expects him to be dangerous, he just looks cool. Michael Ritchie's direction is also noteworthy; he uses some strategies that also appear understated, thus giving the film a grittier feeling than one might expect from its MidWest locale. And there are some risky editing gambits (like the combine-car collision sequence) that, even when not totally successful, are efforts to be respected exactly for the risk undertaken. There are some drawbacks to the film - the ending (which I won't reveal) is entirely of its era, and a little embarrassing now; Gene Hackman's performance is a throwaway, when it needs to be as confrontational as Marvin's is cool; but the weakest point of the film is its sense of history: This script wanted to be a period piece set in the 1930s; the criminal underworld which these characters inhabit was a victim of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (which put an end to the Irish mob in Chicago). To get a feel of the film that screenwriter Dillon really wanted to make, see "Road to Perdition". BUt taken on its own terms, and allowing that it is a genre film (and never pretends otherwise, really), this is a highly entertaining gangster film, with a grand performance by Lee Marvin.
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Lee Marvin at his Best
alicecbr3 January 2000
So what if 'Dog Day', made a decade later, repeats the threshing machine chase. It only underscores the success of the original, in which the 'teeth' of the threshing machine seem almost human. Watching them grind up the limo makes you feel almost sorry for the car. There are other scenes and themes I doubt that you will ever see in another movie: the packing house expose of what that meat you eat really goes through as it goes from the moo-cow to the sausage, for one. At least we don't see the guy actually made into the sausage the brother keeps eating!!

Hackman plays his evil best as an all-American who 'gives the public what they want' from meat to dope to virgins raised in an orphanage quite unlike the one in 'Cider House Rules'. Sissy Spacek does a good job in her first onscreen role, but come on!!! No one could be so stupid as to be unaware that they are wearing a completely transparent gown!! A few other holes in the film exist, but it is certainly a unique experience.
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5/10
Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman, and no plot
bensonmum25 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The best thing about Prime Cut is the chance to see both Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman. Marvin is the understated bad-ass we've seen before and Gene Hackman is the greasy bad guy we've seen before. If you like these two in familiar roles that don't require them to stretch their acting abilities, Prime Cut is for you. There are some good action sequences (especially the scene in the wheat field), but it's the two stars that make this one worthwhile. The plot certainly isn't the attraction. In fact, the plot is the weakest part of the movie. Why? Because there is no plot. Instead, Prime Cut is a series of action sequences strung together with a bare minimum of story. When the movie ended, I had more questions than when it began. What's the history between Marvin and Hackman? What is the relationship between Marvin and Hackman's wife? Does anyone in the movie have a backstory? Are the Kansas City area police completely oblivious to everything going on around them? Was that just some random fat guy on the combine trying to kill Marvin? Do people in Kansas City really wear overalls with no shirt or shoes? It's these burning questions that I wanted answers to.
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10/10
Amazing movie - one of the very best!!!
inframan21 July 1999
Warning: Spoilers
I cannot understand why this film has been so totally ignored by everyone - fans, critics, the French, you name it. For starters, it has an opening shot that is at least equal & in many ways superior to the opening of Touch of Evil. It alone is worth the price of the video & it will take several viewings to realize what you're watching: i.e. not a pastiche of an industrial film, but rather a key element in the plot. The problem is, much is lost in the stupid reformatting for video. & so much else about this work is so phenomenal: the cornfed milkdrinking killers, the country fair, the chase scene in the endless sea of wheat, the farm machine (a combine, I believe) that gobbles up the big black caddie & above all...Gene Hackman as "Mary Ann" who "eats guts" as Lee Marvin so succinctly puts it. The livestock show is quite a number, too. This was the peak of the last gasp of the golden age of film: 1972. They don't get better than this. This movie deserves to be totally restored & rereleased on DVD. Meanwhile, the VHS is better than nothing. Go For It!!!
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Underrated
jbarnett769 August 2004
It helps if you are a big Lee Marvin fan to enjoy this movie - but even if you're not especially, there's still enough in here to raise it above run-of-the-mill.

The cinematography is first-rate; lots of use of natural light and dingy locations of the city contrasted with the golden Kansas sunshine. Both Marvin and Gene Hackman are terrific and each exude good screen presence as gangsters at odds with each other, culminating in the shoot-out in the sunflower field and cattle house.

The film is slightly let down by the sentimental and unnecessary last scene at the orphanage, which feels grafted on, although the very final shot of the children running into the countryside hints at some kind of hope for the future (post Vietnam), not least between Nick Devlin (Marvin) and his new girl Sissy Spacek.

Worth watching
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5/10
Barons of beef
paul2001sw-15 December 2005
Two legendary Hollywood hard men, Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman, go head-to-head in this interesting thriller from director Michael Ritchie. Hackmann can act, Marvin just plays his stock character, but it's actually the latter to exudes more charisma, although the script is on his side: this is very much a Lee Marvin vehicle, structured not unlike 'Point Blank'. But that film had a distinctive, alienating air and ultimately showed clearly that its hero was no different, no better, to those he was pursuing. In 'Prime Cut', however, the villains of piece are (more typically, and more disappointingly) shown to be so depraved that Marvin is justified in sub-machining them down. Moreover, the sub-plot that explains this, their involvement in the trafficking of women to the sex trade, is presented in such a way as to seem sexist in itself. In other ways too the film appears dated: the editing is stuck somewhere between naturalistic and slick (not quite feeling like either), and the undeniably effective soundtrack is also horrid. What's more interesting is the setting: the story takes place in rural Missouri, but this is not America the beautiful. Instead, its the land of agribusiness and as such portrayed with an element of truth: although Ritchie does appear caught between emphasising its differences from the city, and its similarities.

'Point Blank' was a film ahead of its time in terms of style and tone. 'Prime Cut' is more like a typical thriller from the early 1970s. But either way, they don't make men like Marvin any more.
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8/10
Lee Marvin was the ultimate in professional torpedoes
Nazi_Fighter_David7 May 2005
In the Fifties, in "Violent Saturday," he made a little name as the killer who kept using a nose spray while terrorizing Sylvia Sidney and a bank… When Don Siegel made the second version of Hemingway's "The Killers," he was the cool, hard gunman who knew he was being paid to do the job and would definitely do it, come hell or high water…

His "Prime Cut," is a study in professionalism… Before that came "Point Blank," in which again he was the unstoppable force… But watch him in "Prime Cut." Notice the care with which he handles the tools of his trade, the cavalry rifle which takes to pieces and is lovingly kept in a neat executive-style case…

He is a "hit man," a torpedo who can be hired by the new breed of businessman-gangster… Pressured into a job against his will, he is sent to Kansas City to enforce his employer's demands for payment from another gangster-type… From then on, a trail of murder, malice and killing makes the screen run red… If the baddies all come to sticky ends – so does at least one innocent person, whom Marvin involves – as in the case of the truck-driver whose vehicle he hijacks…

"Prime Cut" is a tremendously exciting film, if one disregards its moral values… At the end Marvin, the paid killer who keeps the weapons of his trade in velvet-lined cases, has destroyed all the other villains… yet walks off into the sunset without a hint of retribution
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5/10
It's under expectations!
RodrigAndrisan15 October 2017
Well, Sissy Spacek is very young and sweet (her first film). Gene Hackman, great talent but not great role here, he's like a negative character caricature. Lee Marvin, tough guy as usual, also does not have a great role (is the script's fault, which is not one of the best). But, as it is, not a great script, another director, like Sergio Leone for example, would have made something exceptional of it. Lalo Schifrin's music also is not one of his best. I love Sissy Spacek, Gene Hackman and Lee Marvin very very much, they are all three among my favorite actors ever but, I will not watch this one again, once it's enough.
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7/10
Raw and tender, not too bloody, not too overcooked, an action flick to enjoy like a good steak ...
ElMaruecan823 September 2013
Days have been so hot lately I had to keep the air conditioner on all the night to prevent the room from turning into a human furnace. The trouble is that the machine is quite noisy and I had to reduce the volume on TV to let my wife sleep. Now, where am I going with these pointless details? I'm telling you.

Yesterday I had the unpleasant discovery that the subtitles option didn't work on my "Prime Cut" DVD, so I could hardly hear what was said between characters. And the oddest thing is that it didn't undermine my understanding, let alone my enjoyment, not at all. Now I can see why Roger Ebert compared Michael Ritchie's movie to a comic strip: it's a movie defined by actions, reactions and interactions rather than a complex and intelligible plot, and in fact, what the film could afford was precisely what it needed.

However, I doubt such a film can be possibly made today, when high-budgets and all-star casts became the new standard. Now, viewers need their minds to be blown and eyes stunned by the unusual, the stuff that elevates them, for 100 minutes, above their ordinariness and "Prime Cut" doesn't have such ambitious purposes. But it works for one simple reason: it's a film that knows where it goes, and trusts the presence of two great actors: Lee Marvin and Gene Hackman, with a honorable mention for Sissy Spacek, in her first and much promising film debut.

These are faces that can do without wisecracks or clever one-liners, when you see them; you know exactly what role they're assigned to. Marvin is the experienced and bad-ass debt collector, Hackman is the charismatic corrupt cattle owner and slaughterhouse operator and Spacek is the innocent fair-haired victim. Marvin has the obligatory macho magnetism, Hackman that lively sparkle that makes him even more likable than his enemy and Spacek, as usual, magnificently conveys the poignant fragility of the poor rural girl, victim of unfortunate circumstances.

And when these personality traits are all set-up, we confidently follow the action, trusting the actors' capacity to transcend the limits of these two-dimensional archetypes and provide great entertainment. But faces aren't sometimes enough and the director enriches a rather rudimentary narrative with a unique touch: the setting. Marvin belongs to the Chicago mob, but it's in Hackman's territory that the job must be done, in Arkansas. And don't be fooled by its bucolic appeal, the film hides an even dirtier business than anything you could find in the city.

Indeed, the film doesn't feature drug dealers, no pimps, no ethnic gangsters, no screeching police sirens, no cats crawling under trash cans, the bad guys are all typically wasp with hair as blonde as the wheat fields their monotonous lives have always basked in. This is the underrated Mid-West, America's wheat-belt that gives the film an unlikely escapist value, almost Western-like, à la Sam Peckinpah with Lee Marvin replacing Steve McQueen or Warren Oates. And on the violence department, the film has nothing to envy from 'Bloody Sam' work.

Danger is always present "naturally" starting with the impressive depiction of the slaughterhouse during the opening credits, when we follow the poor cows lead by the machinery that will turn them into steaks. I strongly suspect that among the millions of people who saw the film since its release, a few of them were converted to vegetarianism after witnessing the macabre spectacle. The credits ends with an intriguing oddity reminding us that it's still a gangster film: a shoe accidentally falls down from the sausage-maker. We get the point, whoever operates the slaughter house (it turns out to be Hackman) his enemies might end up sleeping with the cows.

And this is not even the most shocking aspect of the plot that seems like a breath of fresh air, from the boring perspective of our prudish political correct days. In fact, the notion of meat and flesh is so ambiguous that even the titles "Prime Cut" carries some disturbing undertones. And the surprise comes less from the revelation than its graphic depiction: poor naked girls being held in cattle pens and auctioned to avid rich men. Please, think about it twice before branding it as 'misogynistic': no film today would dare such sights, but aren't they metaphorically significant?

Isn't the only difference between that human slavery and what goes today contentment? Aren't girls eager today to be posing as fresh meats for greedy voyeurs, except that movies and social networks replaced the cattle pens? There's a thin line between forced and deliberate prostitution the film clearly exposes. It's made even more explicit through the fourth memorable character of the film: Angel Tompkins as Hackman's luscious wife, so amorally seductive that the word 'gold-digger' becomes a euphemism that doesn't fool anyone. It's for such gutsy moves like that that I will forever cherish the "New Hollywood" period when the humblest action-packed flicks weren't to be underestimated.

And "Prime Cut" flirts with subversive subjects through little glimpses, but it knows we needn't to be too preached about, and action must prevail. And for the thrills, the film provides an unforgettable wheat-field chase where hand-in-hand Marvin and Spacek escape from a combine harvester. And despite their predictable outcome, the gunfights and final shootouts are not without surprises. Michael Ritchie also directed "The Candidate" the same year, a film I enjoyed but wished it dug a bit deeper in its subject, but for "Prime Cut", packed-up in less than ninety minutes, it was enough.

So I would cheerfully compare "Prime Cut" to its defining element: meat. I enjoyed the film the way I enjoy a good steak: raw, with some tender sides, others 'harder-to-swallow", bloody the way it should, and not too overcooked. And when the plate is empty and you think you want more, a few minutes later, you realize you were plenty satisfied.
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3/10
The mind boggles
gazlomas7724 March 2018
All these great reviews for such an average film. Marvin is wasted in this. Story line (if you can even call it that) is unbelievably crap together with very poor acting, bar Marvin & Hackman. Nothing really else to say, other than if you find this film entertaining then you have a very bad taste in what makes a good movie.
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3/10
Sub-Prime Mob Drama
kenjha8 April 2011
A Chicago mobster goes to Kansas City to collect from an associate who's not paying his dues. The script for this film could not have been more than ten pages. There's hardly any plot. Some films make up for a lack of story by presenting entertaining vignettes. This film makes up for lack of story by using up lots of screen time showing people walking from one place to another or driving from one place to another. The vignettes have no rhyme or reason and little is revealed about the characters. When combined with the lethargic pace, it makes for an underwhelming experience. The talents of Marvin and Hackman are wasted. Spacek is notable in her film debut.
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4/10
Sadistic, sleazy gangster story with occasional quirky touches.
barnabyrudge20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
On the whole Prime Cut is a pretty incoherent film. The story wallows in sleaziness and trashiness, the plot makes little sense, the action set pieces are not really linked together with a meaningful narrative, and there seems to be a gratuitous level of violence and nudity. My first instinct upon watching it was to give it a 1-out-of-10 rating and try to erase it from my memory as swiftly as possible. But the more I thought about the film, the more its guilty pleasures began to win me over. Prime Cut is still trash and still a bad film - I'm not saying otherwise - but it has occasional quirky touches that make it enjoyably bad. And no-one was ever quite as good at playing the tough guy than the archetypal Lee Marvin, whose performance here boosts my rating all the way up to a generous 4!

Chicago hired killer Nick Devlin (Lee Marvin) is sent down to Kansas to deal with a crook who has let power go to his head and stolen money from his Mob bosses - 500 grand, in fact. When he arrives, Devlin discovers that his target, the bizarrely named Mary Ann (Gene Hackman), is running criminal operations from his farm that include murder, narcotics and even human cattle trading (he's selling young girls as sex slaves). Already three Chicago hit-men have fallen foul of Mary Ann in their quest to bring him to heel - the last being turned into sausages, literally, and mailed back to Chicago. Now Devlin must take up the unenviable task of stopping Mary Ann in his tracks. Devlin enrages Mary Ann by freeing one of his human "slaves", the young and beautiful Poppy (Sissy Spacek, in a full frontal nude screen debut). In retribution, Mary Ann pulls out all the stops to have Devlin and his back-up crew killed. Both sides suffer losses before Devlin and Mary Ann finally come face-to-face at the latter's isolated farm.

Prime Cut is definitely a unique film, though that doesn't particularly mean it's good. The characters are intentionally presented as oddballs which makes them initially interesting, though the effect starts to wear thin as the film progresses. The Kansas countryside provides a colourful backdrop and creates a strong contrast with the dark characters and plot. The film really comes undone when one tries to follow its narrative, for it is so fast-paced and scattershot that it barely makes a shred of sense. Also, the characters are frustratingly under-developed (this is a rare example of a film that isn't overlong but, if anything, UNDERlong!!) I wanted to know more about Marvin's past; I wanted more scenes featuring Hackman's depraved villain; I wanted more to be made of Angel Tompkins' gangster's moll character; and I definitely wanted the climactic shootout to have a more satisfying pay-off. Prime Cut has cult potential, but it's more of a curious misfire than anything else.
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No Holds-barred Gangster flick
BlagmeisterFTC8 December 2003
Classic period hoodlum flick. Lee Marvin at his laconic best with minimal amounts of dialogue from him, and that which is there is monosyllabic. But it is the action that speaks for itself in this film. Admittedly disjointed in plot, the content nonetheless is indicative of the stereotype of the "good ole boy" hoodlum fraternity, and in this respect it does not disappoint. The plot is simplistic, if a little over-produced in places, but the feeling of menace from the key characters never lets up. Marvin is magnificently understated, and the overall effect of this film [if you are into the genre] leaves you satiated. Some excellent performances, particularly from Marvin and surprisingly from Gregory Walcott [Pope in the Eiger Sanction]. Its a good, understated Mob flick for those who enjoy the genre. Those who don't will find it slow, cumbersome and at times self-indulgent, but then that is what makes us all different.....
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10/10
The Best B-Movie Ever Made
macheath-ny15 October 2004
OK, it's not Godfather, but hell, I LIKED Godfather III so what can I tell you? Anyway, there is no better black comedy b-movie gangster flick ever made. From the sterling cast to the Hitchcockian twists (the harvester combine scene is a killer) this is a movie that never stops surprising and pleasing. And while some may chafe at its pace, the fact is that there is an absolutely consistent rhythm that carries from first to last. It's a homage to the great gangster films of the 30's and 40's, as well as a textbook on the production of a perfect small film. Everything about it makes sense, and everyone in it is excellent. This is a fable, so don't be put off by the ending. Think about it. It works.
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8/10
"Everybody wants what I got."
lost-in-limbo28 July 2012
How to cut it? Watch as two very big personalities with bad tempers go at it and chew up the scenery. Very different in styles too. One hardened and lean, quietly going about his business which suited Lee Marvin, while Gene Hackman was all show, arrogant and aggressive in getting what he wants. So when these two come to blows, the confrontations are a sight to see. The story follows that of an underworld enforcer Nick Devlin sent to Kansas City by the Chicago mafia to collect money owned from a mobster Mary Ann who has no intention of paying, as those who have tried have met an untimely end (opening credits is an ingenious touch that won't have you looking at sausages in the same way again). So they hire the best in Devlin. A meat-packing plant fronts for Ann's other business dealings involving drugs and prostitution. "Prime Cut" is a hard-hitting 70s gangster joint, which can be brutal in its melodramatics and excessive in its details. It's a rough and tumble, if drawn out cat and mouse chase exercise with a pinch noir, as no one wants to step down from their stance. The script is unassuming, but vigorous when it has to be. Some moments do have a dark underbelly, like how the prostitutes are treated like live-stock. Drugged, paraded and demoralised. "Cow flesh. Girl flesh. All the same to me. " Throughout there are symbolic images, like when Marvin and his crew are riding into a storm, which mirrors what's to come in its climatic payoff. These moments stand out more, because it does feel aimless and maybe too simple in its automatic, if minimalistic narrative drive made up of hidden agendas. Director Michael Ritchie's hasty styling is comfortable, especially in constructing pockets of tense set-pieces (wheat tractor chase) and the picturesque backdrop adds genuine flavour. While it's the two leads that steal the show, making her film debut is the impressive Sissy Spacek, who's doll-face appearance simply sticks with you. Gregory Walcott also leaves a mark. Odd, but a conventionally engaging and unflinching action thriller.

"Anyway it cuts."
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4/10
Not so prime
JasparLamarCrabb10 January 2006
PRIME CUT has to be the best movie ever made about mobsters and wholesale meat packing. That's not really saying a lot. Lee Marvin plays a Kansas City bag-man matching wits with crooked meatpacking baron Gene Hackman. It's a terrific pairing, but the film is not very good. Hackman's character is named Mary Ann and he chews the scenery while Marvin gives his typically low-key performance. Things go south when Marvin realizes that Hackman is running a white slave ring. Several bloodbaths ensue. Hackman's prized piece of merchandise is played perfectly by Sissy Spacek. She has a certain blankness that makes you believe she's been around the block a few times but hasn't gotten anywhere. The direction by Michael Ritchie is surprisingly bland.
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7/10
Effectively offbeat.
Hey_Sweden15 January 2014
An interesting item on the resume of Michael Ritchie, the late director whose other credits include "Downhill Racer", "The Candidate", and "Fletch", the fast-paced and tongue-in-cheek crime drama "Prime Cut" succeeds at being an amusing piece of work. It's just sleazy and off kilter enough to make it a good if not memorable entertainment. It's well worth viewing for fans of the cast, establishing its tone early on when the mob in Chicago learn of the fate of one of their hired guns. Ritchie mines the rural settings for lots of atmosphere and uses the 2.35:1 aspect ratio to his advantage. There are also some real highlights in terms of action: a chase and a climactic shootout, both of which happen in fields. Enhancing all of it is a wonderful score by Lalo Schifrin.

Star Lee Marvin doesn't exactly have to stretch himself here, exuding that trademark cool as Nick Devlin, a mob enforcer assigned the task of collecting a debt from a Kansas rancher, played by Gene Hackman. (Another indication of this movie's tone is the fact that Hackman's character has a female name, Mary Ann!) Mary Ann doesn't want to pay his debt because he has no respect for the Chicago mafia. So Nick and a few others travel to Kansas City to pay Mary Ann a visit. Naturally, Mary Ann makes full use of his slaughterhouse, turning all of his enemies into cuts of meat! Nick also learns that his quarry is depraved enough to sell young girls as sex slaves, and rescues one of these girls, Poppy, played by the endearing Sissy Spacek.

Hackman's performance is great fun, and also appearing on screen are the delectable Angel Tompkins as Nick's former flame Clarabelle, Gregory Walcott as Mary Ann's thuggish brother "Weenie", Janit Baldwin as Poppy's friend Violet, and legendary police officer Eddie Egan as mob boss Jake. They all make this movie a pleasing diversion, one that, as previously mentioned, injects some trashy elements but never dwells too much on the darkness in the story. The big confrontation at the end is very moody and well done overall, and there's a satisfying wrap-up at the end.

Seven out of 10.
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8/10
Meat Market
ferbs5410 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Just a year after copping the 1971 Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of one of the most dogged detectives in screen history--"Popeye" Doyle, in "The French Connection"--Gene Hackman was back in theaters playing a character very much on the other side of the law. In the woefully underrated "Prime Cut," which opened in June '72, Hackman played a dope-peddling, slave-trafficking gangster named (shades of Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue") Mary Ann, who is also the legitimate operator of Mary Ann's Meats, a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant outside Kansas City, Kansas. As the film opens, we see the inner workings of this factory, in a scene guaranteed to turn the stomachs of not only the audience's vegetarians, but possibly its carnivores, as well. The strange sight of a man's shoe on the assembly line is soon explained, as we learn that Chicago mob boss Jake (Eddie Egan) has just been sent a package of sausage made from the remains of a recent "enforcer" that he had sent to Mary Ann's place to collect $500,000 in owed monies; the third enforcer to wind up dead after being sent to the slaughterhouse. Thus, Jake has no choice but to resort to his old buddy Nick Devlin (supercool Lee Marvin), who, despite being semiretired, cannot resist the $50,000 fee to do this bit of dirty collecting. And so off Nick goes, accompanied by three young Irish toughs and a limo driver, and armed with a submachine gun, on the long drive from Chicago to KC. But when the team arrives at Mary Ann's compound, it finds not only a stubbornly defiant Mary Ann, but also stock pens filled with drugged and naked young women, ready to be sold to the highest bidders. And after rescuing the pretty Poppy (Sissy Spacek, in her film debut), Devlin must soon contend with Mary Ann, his brutish brother Weenie (Gregory Walcott), and all of Mary Ann's assorted rural henchmen....

Featuring some surprisingly gorgeous photography of the heartland countryside, unexpected bursts of strong violence, a witty script from Robert Dillon and three terrific performances by its three leads, "Prime Cut" turns out to be a real winner, indeed. The film boasts at least three action highlights: in the first, Nick and Poppy flee from Mary Ann's country goons through a county fair and into a camouflaging field of wheat; in the next, which comes immediately after this Hitchcockian sequence, the two must escape the razor-sharp blades of a fast-moving combine harvester; and in the third, brilliantly shot action scene, Nick and his men engage in a pitched gun battle with Mary Ann's gang in a field of gigantic sunflowers. This last is a particularly well-done sequence, preceded by a moody lightning storm; I love the way the camera follows behind Devlin as he makes his way through those garishly bright flower heads. As revealed in Spacek's new autobiography, "My Extraordinary Ordinary Life," the film was actually shot outside Calgary, Alberta, whose wide-open wheat fields certainly do a fine job of simulating Kansas. Spacek also reveals in her book that Marvin was very easy to work with--the two DO have a strangely effective chemistry on screen, despite the differences in their ages and personae--and that he warned her that, when he was drinking, if his green eyes ever turned blue, she should keep her distance from him...advice that she apparently respected! Spacek surprisingly appears topless in this, her first screen role, and indeed, this scene is not the film's only risqué moment; well do I recall the spread that "Playboy" magazine did on "Prime Cut" that month, showcasing all the many female slaves, naked and doped up in their pens.

Of course, much of the credit for this film's artistic success must be given to director Michael Ritchie. This was Ritchie's second theatrical film, after years of work on television programs and the Robert Redford vehicle "Downhill Racer" (also featuring Gene Hackman), and he would go on to helm such popular entertainments as "The Candidate" (with Redford again), "The Bad News Bears," "Semi-Tough" and "Fletch." Ritchie here demonstrates a sure hand not only with exciting action scenes, but with quieter, more personal moments as well, and is quite adept at moving that ol' camera around! Kudos also to famed Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin for his understated, moody score; Schifrin was responsible for a whopping 78 film scores during his great career, plus 12 for TV, including, of course, his most famous piece of music: the theme song for TV's "Mission: Impossible." Ultimately, however, it is Lee Marvin's effortless sangfroid that steals the show here; what a wonderfully tough performance from this Hollywood icon! Clocking in at 86 minutes, "Prime Cut" is a compact thrill ride that effectively showcases the talents of all concerned. See it, you must...but NOT, of course, while eating a hamburger or sausage sandwich....
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7/10
It ain't no "Point Blank"
mdewey29 November 2006
Mr. Marvin is his usual cut-to-the-chase, laconic bad guy in a so-so film with a minimal plot line and lots of action sequences. The fact that most of this melodrama is set somewhere in a Kansas farm region automatically makes this movie a bit different from others of this genre, rather than being filmed in the usual urban settings. Although this is a nice touch and the villains are also a bit different from what we are normally accustomed to, the movie tends to drag a little due in large part to the over emphasis on the visceral and under emphasis on plot and character development. Of course, this movie may have been intended to be shown in this manner, but I (a no-name part-time movie critic!) prefer more plot involvement, a la "Point Blank".

Great acting by the principals (Lee, Gene H., Sissy) helps redeem the film, especially a very young Sissy S. as one of Gene H.'s abducted sex slaves. But it's bad guy Lee doing a heroic turnabout by going on a rescue mission to save the "girls" from the really bad guy, Gene H., who already is in "Dutch" with Lee because of past transgressions.

At any rate, check it out and see for yourself: it's still fun!
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10/10
Had to put things straight
karlericsson20 April 2004
OK, I've given this a 10/10 out of 10, although it only deserves an 8, but I just have to push up the medium vote a little. This is not just another gangster movie. It features Sissy Spacek totally in the buff in a very plausible market for women, who are without protection, taken from orphan homes. Gene Hackman plays a villain, you don't easily forget. He's just like you imagine a sufficiently successful American to be. What else should he do with all his power, I just ask you? A socially very critical film, disguised as pulp - that's what it is and nothing less. Impressive.
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