I’m not really familiar with Mickey Spillane’s work, being more a Hammett or Chandler guy myself. I rather liked the short-lived ‘80s series with Stacey Keach, but since I’d heard good things about this particular film–and I knew about the “whatsit” from somewhere (maybe the ’80s cult classic Repo Man)–I queued it up and gave it a view.
It’s…well, it’s solid enough as a detective noir film, but Bezzerides script is subversive and Aldrich’s direction plays that aspect of it up. So, Ralph Meeker’s Hammer isn’t just tough, he’s sadistic and misogynistic. Life isn’t just hard, it’s cruel and isolating.
Part of the charm of the hard-boiled detective is that he’s a good man, but he knows that a white hat will get him killed. He’s not a sucker for dames but he’s got a code. He’ll think nothing of getting rough, but it has to achieve something.
So, the great photography, nuanced performances (Cloris Leachman in her first film role!) and intriguing story are marred by this misanthropic world view.
I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked, therefore.