Heavy in grindhouse motifs, both in style, sleaze, and brutishness, Michael Ritchie's Prime Cut sees the mob picture journey to the heartland, following the exploits of Chicago tough guy-for-hire, Nick Devlin, who is brought on by the mafia to collect on an overdue debt from a malicious meatpacker, Mary Ann. Prime Cut flips the traditional fish-out-of-water story on its head, detailing the cultural confliction which exists between urban and rural ways of life, finding Nick Devlin's tough guy persona stuck in a world he has little understanding of, soon discovering that Mary Ann's meat packing plant isn't just for beef, but also human meat, with Marry Ann selling doped-up young girls into sex slavery. Prime Cut is lean-and-mean, giving Lee Marvin a role he was certainly built for, delivering a performance that is calm, cool, collected, yet dangerous, a man who oozes confidence and a quiet, menacing masculinity. The man standing in his way, Mary Ann, is a much more free-wheeling, carefree character played brilliantly by Gene Hackman, who displays this character as a deadly cowboy- a crude, wild persona whose outward personality is playful. A filmmaker far from known for this type of subject matter, Michael Ritchie's direction is impressively assured and ingenious, drawing heavily from the chaotic camera work heavily used in grindhouse cinema - jagged editing, subversive compositions, and a frantic pacing, using it all to aid in evoking the psyche of our main protagonist, displaying a rural setting to the audience that feels chaotic, foreign, and subversive. While the characterizations of the two leads perfectly align with the film's overall juxtaposition of the cultures of rural and urban america, Prime Cut also seems to subtly make a statement about the Vietnam War. While it is never shown on screen, Prime Cut takes place at a time where the Vietnam war is ending and soldiers are returning home. In this heartland, which has always had a reputation for its wholesomeness and morality, a demon lurks in the wheat fields in the form of Mary Ann. He is an important person in the town, but he exploits them in nearly every way, with his greatest crime being the sale of doped up young women into sex slavery, while he simultaneously runs his profitable meat business, Prime Cut as film subtly suggests that there is enough injustice on the home front, in the heartland, imploring that we should take care of the everyday transgressions before acting on perceived problems in foreign lands.
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