review for 52 Pick-Up on AllMovie

52 Pick-Up (1986)
by Nick Sambides, Jr. review

This early adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel and screenplay has its interesting moments but, like Stick and other 1980s versions of Leonard's work, doesn't quite capture the offbeat humorous tone of later, more successful Leonard stories such as Get Shorty or Jackie Brown. The blame can probably be laid on director John Frankenheimer, who is a master craftsman with action and suspense but is notoriously short on humor; arguably no American filmmaker really knew how to combine humor and murderous mayhem to such delirious effect until Quentin Tarantino did it in 1994's Pulp Fiction. Still, the dialogue is sharp, and Frankenheimer mixes sleaze and suspense well. John Glover, as a gleefully sociopathic extortionist, and Clarence Williams III, as his loony drugged-out cohort, suggest the over-the-top possibilities that Tarantino later brought to life. Watch for Mrs. John Travolta, actress Kelly Preston, in an early role as the doomed girlfriend of businessman Roy Scheider.