30Hz Underrated Thrillers – “Cocaine Noir”

30Hz Underrated Thrillers

originally published on

52 Pick-Up VHS box

I watched 52 Pick-Up, and then the next day Brian Saur invited me to tackle a Thriller list for his site Hence, I used this film to inspire my entire list. I have an odd affection for the crime thrillers of the 1980’s and early 90’s. As I compiled the list and rewatched a few of my favorites, the tropes became clear. Drugs. Hypersexualization. nudity. Gaudy color palettes and neon lights. The shady characters of mid-century noir modernized with the paranoia of the blooming digital age. The thrillers made during this decade-plus owned up to a specific brand of exploitation. Though violence remained an essential component, excessive violence rarely defined the films. The fetishization of violence became more essential to the genre as the 90’s wore on (and wore out of ideas). I tried to come up with name for this subgenre. “Neon Noir” came to mind first as a play on Neo-noir. “Cocaine Noir” sounded more thrilling and better reflected the sleazy underbelly often represented. I liked the sound of that so I googled “Cocaine Noir” and found that someone on Letterboxd named David Raposa beat me to the punch. Damn you, David Raposa. Anyway, here are a handful of my oft-overlooked or underwatched picks from that decade and a half of underappreciated cinema/Hollywood trash. My last pick fits the era, but not the Cocaine/Neon Noir label. I’d have been remiss to leave it off the list, however. Consistency be damned.

cannon media promo


52 Pick-Up (1986)

“There’s something about your face that makes me want to slap the shit out of it.”

52 Pick-Up is modern noir with a healthy dash of that 80’s sleaze and a side of classic cred from Roy Scheider and Ann-Margaret. Scheider plays a downtrodden everyman who gets caught on camera in the throws of coitus with a young hussy. Now Scheider’s being blackmailed by an unsavory group of lowlifes led by a porno director (played by the hyperbolic and always-entertaining John Glover). When Scheider doesn’t play according to the rules of blackmail, the lowlifes up the stakes, and Glover’s porno-Demille becomes increasingly determined to take Scheider for everything he’s got.

As Glover’s plan spins awesomely out of control, Scheider becomes cool and calculating. The oh-so-satisfying ending pays off audience expectation with a nifty variation on the Chekhov’s gun literary theory. I’m thrilled that Kino has added 52 Pick-Up to their calendar of upcoming Blu-ray releases.