I have to admit I’ve never been much of a fan of the films of Russell Mulcahy — the only one I like is Razorback (1984), Mulcahy’s Australian man-eating pig movie starring Gregory Harrison, and I like that one quite a bit. When Give ‘Em Hell Malone turned up on Netflix streaming and I saw it was directed by Mulcahy, my instinct was to give it a pass, but I’m a big Thomas Jane fan (although to be honest, I’m not crazy about a lot of the movies he’s been in) so I figured I’d see what was what — and man, am I glad I did: Malone is one hell of an entertaining movie.
Set in the present day but played out like a particularly twisted old-school noir flick, Give ‘Em Hell Malone opens with our hero (Malone, as you might have guessed, played by Thomas Jane) in the midst of a damnably cool gun battle in a crappy old hotel. The groceries are delivered right off the bat as gouts of blood spurt from dozens of gunshot wounds, all accompanied by Malone’s hardboiled narration. Malone, a loose-cannon private dick, has been hired to recover a briefcase and he goes through hell to get it, taking a bullet in the chest for his efforts.
After the shell casings have settled, Malone takes the case and heads for the retirement home where his mother (Eileen Ryan) lives. He opens the case, finding an odd assortment of stuff, including a toy elephant that seems significant to him. Mom, who has seen it all (and calls her baby boy “Malone”) removes the bullet from her son and patches him up.
Meanwhile, we meet Boulder (Ving Rhames), another gun for hire, as he drops in on underworld boss Whitmore (that ol’ pig-fighter Gregory Harrison). Whitmore wants Malone dead and the case brought to him, but Boulder is nervous about confronting Malone because of rumors that Malone ripped a man’s heart out of his chest and ate it after his family was murdered. Not buying “the physics” of the story, Whitmore sends Boulder on his way, telling him to call in Matchstick and Mauler to help.
Malone visits his partner, Murphy (Leland Orser), saying the job was a set-up and demanding to know who hired him to recover the case. He claims that “the meaning of love” was inside the case and he’s got the contents hidden somewhere.
That’s when femme fatale Evelyn (Elsa Pataky) appears, and says she hired Malone because her brother was abducted and will be killed if she doesn’t deliver the case to the kidnappers. It doesn’t smell right to Malone but he drives Evelyn (in his supercool car) to an amusement park to make the exchange.
At the park, things go awry and Evelyn’s brother is killed by Mauler, a tiny Japanese girl armed to the teeth (literally, as a pervy old dude finds out). From there on, the plot thickens and Malone can’t figure out who to trust or what the hell is going on, other than that a lot of people are out to get him.
I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll leave it at that, but Give ‘Em Hell Malone is definitely recommended — and you oughta be able to trust me on this one, considering how little I was expecting going in. The movie doesn’t really bring anything new to the table but the spread Mulcahy and screenwriter Mark Hosack lay out is very satisfying. Thomas Jane is terrific as the world-weary, nearly impossible-to-kill Malone, and I’d swear he’s actually doing a Peter Graves thing with his performance (check out his voice in the trailer below). In fact, the entire cast is great, including Doug Hutchison (Horace Goodspeed from Lost) as Matchstick, Chris Yen as Mauler and French Stuart as Frankie the Crooner.
Give ‘Em Hell Malone would be great as part of a double-bill with Shane Black’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, so grab ’em both and make a crime-filled night of it.
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