Dir. Terry Bedford, 1983
US/UK, 89 min.


Kinda-but-not-really adapted from a novel by noir hero Donald Westlake (alias Richard Stark), you can see three different movies cannibalistically clawing at each other in Terry Bedford’s Slayground : a gritty potboiler, a moody midlife relationship drama, and a slasher picture. After putting undue faith in an untested getaway driver who ends up flip-crashing into an Oldsmobile carrying an innocent young girl, Stone (Peter Coyote) flees the United States. But the victim's industrial hockey magnate father calls up some dodgy underworld contacts, and soon the worst of the criminal worst are seeking retribution for her life. It doesn’t take long for Stone to realize he’s about three names down the list.

Stone successfully fakes his own death, but it makes no difference. As he hides out in the UK, the screenplay assumes Stone's struggle to find the meagerest shred of an identity - any identity, let alone one worth preserving. The final showdown takes place at a derelict amusement park, where Stone’s estranged friend Terry (Mel Smith) leads him in the hopes that the men will be able to reconnect - but they're not alone. Between the lines of dialogue conspicuously missing from the characters' conversations - probably cut to make more room for car chases and murder scenes - and the intensity of its jerry-rigged brutality, Slayground adds up to a breathtaking monument to grotesquerie, hopelessness and nihilism. Like a giallo remake of Fritz Lang's SCARLET STREET vomited through an old VCR, the film will linger in your mind late at night for its bookending, psychedelic-action set pieces.

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