May 19th, 2009

I, THE JURY (1982) ** ½

Armand Assante stars as Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer in this wildly uneven but intermittently entertaining action flick.  The plot has Hammer investigating the death of his one-armed war buddy while simultaneously looking for a switchblade wielding serial killer with a serious grudge against redheads.  Eventually Hammer learns that he’s just being used as a pawn for both the FBI and the mob and that makes him extremely pissed off.


The biggest problem with I, the Jury is that it never really knows what it wants to be.  At first, the film seems like it’s going to be more or less a faithful updating of the film noir genre.  Hammer banters with his secretary Velda (Laurene Landon), talks shop with his police captain pal (Paul Sorvino), and even finds time to bang a client’s wife too.  (“I’m busting my balls on this job!”)  When Hammer stumbles onto a sex clinic that the FBI uses as a front, the film starts too veer off into Emmanuelle territory as there is a big ass orgy complete with porn stars (like Samantha Fox) and sexy twins (Leigh and Lynette Harris from Sorceress).  By the time Hammer goes after the main bad guy, the flick switches gears yet again and becomes a standard issue 80’s action flick.  Seriously, the scene where Hammer raids the villain’s booby-trap laden hideout resembles something out of Commando.


Although director Richard T. (Futureworld) Heffron doesn’t really know he’s making a detective story, he does thrown in an abundance of steamy sex scenes and orgies, which is always a plus.  He also does a capable job with the violence as the shootouts and torture sequences are fairly effective.  The standout scene comes when a kamikaze teppanyaki chef slashes a hooker’s throat in a Japanese restaurant. 


Even with all the sex and violence, I, the Jury still manages to come up short whenever Hammer isn’t fucking or killing.  The narrative is just far too choppy for the plot to really work.  It’s easy to tell that there were a lot of behind the scenes problems on this movie (Heffron replaced original director Larry Cohen after the first week) because the plot jumps around more than a frog on amphetamines.  The flick also runs about 20 minutes longer than it really should and has a couple excessive supporting characters to boot. 

As the sexy sex therapist, Barbara Carrera is ultra hot and gets naked a couple of times and the Harris sisters also show off their assets as well.  Too bad Landon didn’t drop her top too.  As for Assante, he’s pretty great but he isn’t really Mike Hammer.  I mean, Hammer was always a badass hardboiled detective but Assante plays him as more of a suave action hero.  

If you’re looking for faithful adaptation of Spillane’s beloved character, you’ll be deeply disappointed by I, the Jury.  (To me, Stacy Keach was far more successful as Mike Hammer in the subsequent 80’s TV series.)  However, if you’re in the mood for some mindless 80’s action junk, you’ll probably approve.