High Risk is for the most part an enjoyable but throwaway boys-own adventure.
It begins with James Brolin picking up his three best friends in turn, for what they tell their wives and girlfriends is a fishing trip, but it’s immediately clear that’s not entirely true. Quite what they’re up to isn’t revealed until after we see them buy an arsenal of automatic weapons from cameoing Ernest Brognine’s low-rent arms dealer. Trapped on welfare, sinking into debt and desperate for a way out, Brolin’s plan is – naturally – to break into the safe of a Columbian drug lord (James Coburn) and steal the contents. That task is accomplished with relative ease, but the getaway proves more problematic.
This could have potentially been an absolute classic. Most of the ingredients are there – outlandish plot, exotic locations, fine performances, three screen legends pitching in – but it suffers from two significant flaws that interestingly both display a split personality. And it’s difficult to decide which one’s more damaging.
Firstly the tone is uneven. It’s nearly the halfway point before it becomes clear it’s actually a comedy, and as a result the shift is quite jarring. Throughout the film the comedic elements tend to work well, but the broader material doesn’t.
Secondly the pacing is equally uneven. The first half is a very fast-paced, tense, exciting affair, even though it’s light-hearted. Within minutes, even before they buy the guns and we know what the four are up to it’s clear that they’re out of their depth, and even if the scheme is silly it’s all played out in a pleasingly real-world fashion (best witnessed when they attempt to knock out one of Coburn’s staff to silence him, only for him to yell out in pain, alerting the armed henchmen roaming the property.) Lindsay Wagner is fine in her unfortunately underwritten role, but it’s the exact moment she appears that the tone and pace changes. From then on the comedy comes to the fore, and although the nearly-naked jailbreak is a riot the film does begin to slow right down and never recovers. Anthony Quinn doesn’t help matters. His scenes as a bandit after the loot are overlong and his stock-in-trade pantomime performance is as ineffective as it is tedious.
Still, High Risk is reasonably fun, and ripe for a remake too, preferably with Christian Bale in Brolin’s role as the two look indentical. It’s in the Public Domain, and can be viewed legally for free on YouTube and at http://www.archive.org/details/HighRisk.
Director: Stewart Raffill
Stars: James Brolin, Anthony Quinn, Lindsay Wagner
Country: USA, Mexico, UK