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‘Ricochet’ (R)

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
October 05, 1991

"Ricochet," a blood relative of the Joel Silver-produced buddy thrillers "48 Hrs." and "Lethal Weapon," explodes with the genre's customary gunplay and gut-clenching conventions. There's nothing particularly unusual about the razzle-dazzle. As with other Silver-smithed projects, this one is almost frighteningly competent at bashing heads and pushing all the right buttons. However, there is one significant sociological development.

Denzel Washington, who plays the black half of a law-enforcing duo, does not die to give his white partner (Kevin Pollak) a reason to get even with the villain, nor for that matter does he play sidekick to a more dynamic white hero. "Ricochet" is strictly Washington's playground, and the distinguished actor is kicking off his wingtips and kicking up his heels -- better yet, he's taking off his clothes. Mel Gibson, eat your heart out.

Washington plays a rookie patrolman, Nick Styles, whose career is made when he captures a professional hit man, Earl Talbot Blake (John Lithgow). An amateur photographer videotapes the dramatic collar and sells the tape to a Los Angeles television station.

Seven years later, Styles is a happily married assistant district attorney well positioned to enter the local political arena. He is the father of two, and his pet project just now is building a children's center under the Watts Towers. What a nice man. He warns his boyhood friend Odessa (Ice T), now a drug lord, to stay the (bad word) out of the area. More on this later.

Meanwhile, Blake has been growing progressively more loony in prison, where he has joined an Aryan pride group. But he's no racist, he's just using the group to break out of jail. Once out, he murders what's left of the Wonder Bread Bunch and focuses all his attention on destroying Styles's happiness. More goal-oriented than Madonna and meaner even than the Predator, Blake sullies the squeaky-clean reputation of the hero.

Ethically, "Ricochet" is all over the place. Unable to turn to the System for reasons too numerous to mention, Styles seeks help from the neighborhood drug lord. The movie is anti-drug, yet it glamorizes Odessa and gang, even turns the funky he-man into a hero. But who has time to think about ethics when there's all that tearing flesh? An action hero must suffer and overcome emotional and physical injuries that would leave ordinary mortals in body bags. And Styles pays his dues as well as the next guy.

"Ricochet" comes with mixed credentials in that it's directed by Russell Mulcahy of the debacle "Highlander" and written by Steven E. de Souza, who wrote the screenplays for "48 Hrs.," the "Die Hards" and "Commando." Yo, Steve, ever think about trying musical comedy?

"Ricochet" is rated R for language and extreme violence.

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