Some years ago, Nick Styles (Denzel Washington) was a cop training to be a lawyer, troubled by the fact that his brother Odessa (Ice-T) was headed for more criminal pursuits than he would have hoped for him. But on the bright side, he had just met Alice (Victoria Dillard), and a romance was blossoming between them, yet he was unprepared for the twist of fate that was about to hit him. One night, he was stationed at a carnival with his partner Larry (Kevin Pollak) when he happened to hear the sound of gunshots from a nearby building and went to investigate...
And who should he find leaping through the window but John Lithgow? Well, Lithgow's character Earl Talbot Blake at any rate, one of those movie psychos that emerged during the eighties onwards who manage to be criminal masterminds as well as extremely violent, a combination that proved irresistable for a wide selection of character actors, and not only those in Hollywood. It's easy to say that many thrillers that lean on action scenes are ridiculous if you think about them for too long, but that's within their rights as entertainment delivery systems - with Ricochet, however, they downright abused the privilege.
Everything about this was patently absurd, yet for many of its fans this willingness to soar way over the top was exactly what appealed about it, and producer Joel Silver obviously knew the audience he was aiming for. The plot took place over a number of years, but is presented as if it's all coming to pass over a period of mere days, so no plethora of montage sequences to denote the months going by here. When Styles meets Blake, he holds him at gunpoint even though the criminal has a hostage, but fools him by stripping off to show he has no concealed weapons then, er, produces his concealed weapon and disarms him.
This type of oneupmanship can give rise to grudges in many psychopaths, so when Blake is sent to prison he begins scheming not only his escape, but also his method of revenge. In the meantime, Nick gets married, has kids, and becomes assistant District Attorney under top woman Lindsay Wagner, who has total faith in him in spite of the bit we see of him in court where his behaviour is ludicrously overstated - I know actors like courtroom scenes but Denzel really made a meal of this one. But uh-oh, Blake escapes from prison in an orgy of brutality and fakes his own death, leaving him free to mess up his target's life in a campaign of hatred that the media are only too happy to lap up without question.
The theme being that when you hear the worst about someone, then you're more likely to believe it, especially when that person is being framed by one of those criminal masterminds, but here he stacks the deck so strongly against Styles - everyone swallows the story that he's a prostitute using, child molesting, hard drug taking maniac, basically - that you would have thought someone might have clicked to the notion that it was all a bit too bad to be true. Not for the makers of this film, as they operated by the equal and opposite reaction system of storytelling so that their hero has all the excuse he needs to come up with a plan wild enough to beat his nemesis at his own game, and he assuredly does that, so much so that it's utterly unconvincing he'd get away with it. Yes, you can set aside all suspension of disbelief and enjoy Ricochet for the silliness that it was, but perhaps it would have been better as a straight comedy rather than an unintentional one (for those with a strong sense of humour, that was). Music by Alan Silvestri.
Australian director with a flashy visual style. A former music video director - most notably for Duran Duran - Mulcahy made an impact in 1984 with his first real film, the Outback creature feature Razorback. 1986's fantasy thriller Highlander was a big cult hit, and its success led to a foray in Hollywood in the 1990s, which included thrillers Ricochet and The Real McCoy, the superhero yarn The Shadow and the sequel Highlander II: The Quickening. Subsequent work has largely been in TV.