There's a guy named Rico in the movie "R.I.C.C.O.," except it's not his real name, and there's a reason he calls himself Rico, because he's daring the government to bust him under the RICO statute, except that statute is spelled RICO not RICCO, and when we finally find out what "R.I.C.C.O." really means, it turns out to be Regional Covert Crime Organization, except that would be spelled RCCO or, at best, RECCO.
Welcome to Detroit filmmaking, where one of the good guys is a loan shark who sells money for two weeks at 100 percent interest and the love interest is a stripper in the skankiest club this side of Tijuana.
This is low-budget blaxploitation in the "Shaft" tradition, with Walter Harris as a small-time criminal defense attorney whose life takes a wrong turn the day he gets lost in a warehouse district and notices two guys unloading a bound man from the trunk of their car. (Shortly thereafter, we watch the man executed with a battery cable in an attempt to duplicate the "Reservoir Dogs" ear-hacking torture.)
Pretty soon our dapper counselor is running from two donut-chomping hit men, playing Strip Trivial Pursuit with the hot honey he rescued from a kidnapping, then going to his cool cousin J.T., who takes a break from shaking down low-life deadbeats to loan his bro some firearms and give him some advice about the contract that's been put out on him by Mr. Big, otherwise known, of course, as Rico or R.I.C.C.O. or Reco.
There's a whole lot of cell-phoning in this movie, which is one of my pet peeves, since every time a cell phone goes off, it sounds like YOUR cell phone is going off, besides which it's one of the lamest ways to advance the plot since those scenes in screwball comedies where the maid explains why her master is not home yet.
At any rate, if you make a gangster movie in Detroit, you're bound to be compared to "Action Jackson," which in my opinion is one of the greatest exploitation flicks ever made, and the producing/writing/directing team of Marcus Canty and Shawn Woodard obviously didn't have the budget for enough car chases or, for that matter, heroin needles to get the job done. There's a certain charm to watching scenes that are supposedly set in a diner, where folding tables have been set up along a brick wall, or a topless club that has one dancer and one table, but it only goes so far.
The movie also starts out with voiceover narration that is abandoned about halfway through, and the big revelatory final scene depends on someone having a laptop computer available in the warehouse where the gangsters have gone to torture and kill the entire cast -- but first let's check this mysterious computer disk!
They don't call 'em exploitation flicks for nothing, do they? I liked it in spite of myself.
Let's take a look at those drive-in totals. We have:
Fifteen dead bodies. No breasts. Four gunbattles, including one shootout in the dense forests of urban Detroit. Dead-cop robbing. Battery-cable torture. Three motor vehicle chases. Whiskey-bottle head-smashing. Jelly-donut mugging. Gratuitous Witch Doctor dance, with voodoo dust. Gratuitous romantic flashback.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Sophia Taylor, as the squealing stripper with a heart of lead; Cedric Demps, as the kind loan shark who says "She ain't no good for ya;" and Walter Harris, as the naive young lawyer who learns to kill (not really).
Two stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
"R.I.C.C.O." Web site: yorkentertainment.com.
(To reach Joe Bob, go to joebobbriggs.com or email him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas 75221.)