Monday, September 1, 2014

This Is a Hijack (1973)

          Executed with as little originality and subtlety as its hilariously bland title might suggest, This Is a Hijack is best described as “undemanding.” Produced on a low budget and shot without any attempt at visual flair, the picture cycles through generic scenes as it moves steadily toward a predictable climax. Every so often, a glimmer of individuality shines through the workmanlike storytelling—for instance, one of the hijackers makes his prisoners shout animal noises like a farmland chorus—but director Barry Pollack and his collaborators mostly demonstrate an impressive skill for determining the minimum effort required for manufacturing filmic elements, from composition to performance to editing. This Is a Hijack isn’t even lurid enough to qualify as proper drive-in fare, so it’s basically the equivalent of a forgettable TV movie, except with a couple of feature-film actors and slightly more elaborate production values.
          Set in L.A., the movie begins when Mike (Adam Roarke), an inveterate gambler, is hustled out of bed by lackeys in the employ of a gangster to whom Mike owes a considerable sum of cash. Told he must pay his debts immediately, or else, Mike contrives a scheme to hijack the private jet owned by his boss, Simon (Jay Robinson), a rich entertainer who treats everyone around him like garbage. Assigned to watch over Mike is Dominic (Neville Brand), a psychotic thug who works for the gangster. Once the hijackers have taken control of the aircraft, Mike discovers that Dominic would be perfectly happy killing everyone aboard just for the thrill—he’s the one who makes people yell animal sounds—so Mike must tap his shallow reserve of bravery in order to prevent a catastrophe. Meanwhile, in a subplot so anemic it barely merits inclusion in the film, a small-town sheriff (Dub Taylor) coordinates with the FBI on a plan to seize control of the plane when it lands.
          Brand, Roarke, and Taylor provide most of the watchable moments. Brand does his patented happy-maniac bit, Roarke broods with the same charismatic intensity he brought to ’60s B-movies, and Taylor provides his signature crazy-old-coot shtick. (The climax of the movie involves Taylor running around an airport while wearing nothing but boots, a cowboy hat, and boxer shorts.) This Is a Hijack runs out of gas toward the end, with characters overcoming problems after exerting only a modicum of effort, and it’s not as if there’s any visual spectacle on display. For the most part, however, the picture delivers exactly what it promises—which isn’t much.

This Is a Hijack: FUNKY

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