It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The old golden age Warner Bros. crime dramas knew something that most modern movies have forgotten: Heroes are great, but a movie is only as good as its villain. John Frankenheimer's "52 Pick-Up" provides us with the best, most reprehensible villain of the year and uses his vile charm as the starting point for a surprisingly good film.
The villain's name is Raimy, and he is played by John Glover as a charming blackmailer with the looks of an aging British juvenile and a conscience with parts on order. He tries to pull a slick job on a rich businessman named Harry (Roy Scheider). He shows him videotapes of an affair Harry is having with a topless dancer. He wants $110,000. Harry thinks it over, decides not to pay and confesses everything to his wife, Barbara (Ann-Margret). In a scene of powerful understatement she says she had guessed the truth for a long time but she just doesn't know why he had to tell her. Then Raimy turns up with another videotape. This one shows the topless dancer being murdered with Harry's gun.
This plot is not startlingly original (although there are some unexpected developments later in the film). What makes it special is the level at which it is told. The screenplay is based on an Elmore Leonard novel and retains Leonard's gift for terse, colorful dialogue.
It also isolates the key ingredient in Leonard's best novels, which is the sight of a marginal character being pushed far beyond his capacity to cope. In "52 Pick-Up," there are three such characters, and by the end of the movie they are all desperately confused and frightened.