Wednesday 20 May 2020

Movie Review: The Amsterdam Kill (1977)

A conspiracy thriller, The Amsterdam Kill strides into the dangerous world of international drug trafficking with willing energy but limited sophistication.

In a battle to control the drug trade, several dealers are killed in Hong Kong and Amsterdam. The elderly Chung Wei (Keye Luke), based in Amsterdam, wants out of the escalating violence. He approaches former Drug Enforcement Agency agent Quinlan (Robert Mitchum) to arrange a deal for Wei to turn informant and help bring down a major drug syndicate. Quinlan hires his trusted friend Jimmy (George Cheung) to guard Wei.

Quinlan had retired under a cloud and is now suspicious of the DEA's man in Amsterdam agent Knight (Leslie Nielsen), but convinces his former Hong Kong colleagues agents Odums (Bradford Dillman) and Ridgeway (Richard Egan) to accept the deal. Wei's information is immediately compromised, causing a mounting body count. Quinlan becomes a target, and realizes corruption runs deep and he can trust no one.

A Hong Kong production from Golden Harvest, The Amsterdam Kill is late to catch up with the The French Connection bandwagon but anyway does many things well. The action and character interaction scenes are well-paced, events hop briskly between Hong Kong and Amsterdam, the story is satisfyingly complicated but remains comprehensible, artificial romantic subplots are entirely avoided, and the central character of Quinlan is afforded just enough of a dark past to justify the rough edges and frumpled look.

But this is a relatively limited budget effort, and so the supporting cast is comparatively weak and exclusively male, and all the secondary characters are stiff. However, director Robert Clouse makes the most of the available resources with plenty of short and sharp action scenes, often infused with welcome style. A rolled banknote is lit and wedged into the ear of a murder victim to set-off an explosion, Mitchum and his car are unceremoniously dunked into an Amsterdam canal, and horses run wild in an artificial water channel because the shot looks good in slow motion.

At a tired 60 years old Mitchum appears too creased for the role of an ex-agent still willing to get his hands dirty, but he makes the best of the trudge. And the compact 90 minutes of running time reach an excellent climax at a Dutch countryside nursery: Mitchum dispenses with any need for physical effort by getting behind the gears of some serious machinery and embarking on an expansive and expensive damage-causation exercise. The Amsterdam Kill lacks finesse but knocks down some walls with brute force.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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