A top secret military unit have been assembled under Major Hackett (Michael Ironside) for an undercover mission: each of these men are registered as deceased to keep their identities hidden, and they are about as efficient as it is possible to get for operatives such as these. The place they are heading for is a small Texan border town, which has as its Sheriff Jack Benteen (Nick Nolte), a man who takes a no-nonsense approach to his job in light of how the type of person he deals with can be very violent, not seeing eye to eye with the law. But will he be able to tackle these new arrivals?
Not only that, but Benteen has to deal with his childhood friend Cash Bailey (Powers Boothe) who has taken an alternative path through life than his buddy has, being as he is a drugs baron who traffics dope across the border with his personal army of Mexican mercenaries. So you could see from the beginning that Extreme Prejudice was one of them thar modern Westerns, a form which suited director Walter Hill right down to the ground, and with John Milius on the story duties hopes were raised for an action flick with a lot more character than your typical entry in the genre from the decade which truly established the Hollywood style.
But of course, that style did not pop up overnight, so there were influences to be taken into account, the principal one being with Hill his old moviemaking hero Sam Peckinpah. If you watched the finale shootout here and were not reminded of The Wild Bunch then it would probably be because you'd never seen the film, as everyone else would be getting that nagging sense of deja vu. Even before that, the sunbaked, dusty atmosphere spoke to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia with its shady morality and plot points brimming with violence, so if you regretted Peckinpah never made more movies, this appeared to be the work of someone making up for that by creating a clone of his methods.
His storytelling methods, that was, rather than doing industrial amounts of booze and drugs to get them through the production. Which was all very well, but only rarely did Extreme Prejudice come across as its own entity, most of the time more like a slavish tribute to a favourite filmmaker. Much of what made it individual, if only to a meagre extent, was the cast, a top group of distinctive actors who offered personality to material which threw them a few sops for their talent to shine through, with William Forsythe especially standing out as the uncouth Buck Atwater - my mistake, according to him he's very couth. Nolte was pretty much stonefaced throughout, but Boothe offered some charm as the scorpion-squashing baddie who we just know will be in a showdown with his former buddy before long.
The top secret unit were consciously depicted as some kind of evil A-Team, orchestrating an expert heist to get hold of the Macguffin which brightened up the middle section a little while Benteen was somewhat outclassed for too long by his rivals. To be fair, he was reeling from what happened to his colleague Rip Torn, a shock development which would have been more surprising if every scene was not presented in much the same mucho macho fashion so any genuine emotion was for cissies, frankly. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the love interest scenes with Benteen's girlfriend Sarita (Maria Conchita Alonso), who was given such short shrift that you could be considering that they could have quite easily dispensed with her and beefed up the relationship with Cash for more resonance at the end when events come to a head. Still, if you wanted to see loads of people pretend to get shot (and an exploding rabbit) then Extreme Prejudice supplied that. Music by Jerry Goldsmith.