Pulp Mike Hodges

I sort of want to give Pulp points for effort — it’s got such a willingness to throw things against the wall to see if they stick (or explode in flames) that a little affection is hard to shake. Sadly, most of the experiments go down in a hail of bad judgment and worse clichés. Michael Caine stars as Mickey King, an author of pulp novels who lives in the Mediterranean. One day, he’s approached to ghost write the autobiography of faded gangster/movie star Preston Gilbert (Mickey Rooney) for a decent amount of money. But wouldn’t you know it, people start dying around the newly minted biographer and soon he’s forced to sleuth the terrible thing Gilbert did to a woman many years ago. This eminently serviceably plot is let down completely by the too-talkative script, which not only perpetrates some spectacularly bad jokes but is also nearly wall-to-wall voiceover. The film can’t let the audience discover anything — Caine has to fill us in on every detail that Mike Hodges’s maladroit direction can’t show for itself, as well as attempting sardonic humour that falls flat on its face. Though the film tries to keep up with some fetid cinematography (shot on what must be the worst high-contrast film stock in the history of the medium), the movie is too self-satisfied in its feigned world-weariness and often sexist in its delivery. Though it’s no less caveman-like than the director and star’s previous Get Carter, it’s more confused, less forceful and conspicuously lacking in tension or interest. At least the cult actioner makes its points simply; this clunker doesn’t know what points it has and thus squanders the goodwill one might have for its otherwise exploratory stance. (MGM / Sony)