Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Nickel Ride

A movie that's showing up again on FXM Retro that I haven't blogged about before is The Nickel Ride. It's going to be on again tomorrow morning at 3:00 AM, and seems to be available on DVD.

Jason Miller plays Cooper, who gets woken up early one morning. He's taken control of a bunch of unused warehouses in one of Los Angeles' more undesirable areas, and is using them to house a bunch of fenced goods. However, there's a problem, which is that the mob bosses who actually run the whole "block" feel they need more space, and want a better financial deal from Cooper. Not just from Cooper, but from his intermediate Carl (John Hillerman, later of Magnum, P.I.). Cooper, in effect, is what as known as a "key man", for having all the keys to the warehouses, but he's just as much a sort of fixer. Another of his problems is when he's approached by his friend Paulie, who is being leaned upon to fix a boxing match. Paulie doesn't want to do it, so perhaps Cooper can convince the boxer to take a dive?

Cooper also has a girlfriend Sarah (Linda Haynes), whom he calls "Georgia" because that's where she's originally from, so his assumption is that she's a bit of a hayseed even though she really knows more than she lets on. His other friend, Paddie (Victor French later of Little House on the Prairie, here without the beard), runs a bar near Cooper's rundown office. Rounding out the main cast is Turner (Bo Hopkins), whom Carl presents to Cooper as a would-be keyman from Oklahoma; Carl wants Cooper to show Turner the ropes. It's enough to get Cooper to think that perhaps the big organization is trying to push him out of business.

Along the way, Cooper has to go up north to the mountains of Squaw Valley to negotiate an agreement with the big organization, since their representative is going to be going on vacation for the weekend up there. However, Cooper gets up there, and finds out the man he's supposed to meet hasn't checked in, which really gets Cooper suspicious. That, and the presence of shoe tracks in Cooper's cabin, marks which clearly aren't from him or Sarah....

The Nickel Ride is one of those mid-1970s movies which, as a genre, did a really good job of showing the seamy side of life in that era. I've mentioned New York-set movies like Panic in Needle Park before; this one and something like Trouble Man are good examples set out in Los Angeles. The Nickel Ride also gets to benefit from having really nice cinematography once the action shifts to Squaw Valley. Who wouldn't like to spend the weekend in a cabin like that? The problem, however, is that The Nickel Ride is a rather slow and meandering movie; it's hard to figure out half the time precisely what's going on.

Those who like 1970s movies will probably enjoy The Nickel Ride; if I were looking to introduce people who don't know so much about 70s realism I'd probably start with some other movies instead.

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