Picks and Pans Review: I, the Jury

updated 11/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/22/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

Private eye Mike Hammer was created by Mickey Spillane in his 1947 blood-and-guts potboiler I, the Jury. The book was denounced for its blunt sex and violence and, natch, went on to sell 6.5 million copies. Spillane's 11 subsequent Hammer books spawned five movies, a syndicated comic strip and a 1958 TV series with Darren McGavin. Now along comes Armand (Private Benjamin) Assante to kick around the broads and the bad guys as Hammer. This updated version, written by Larry (It's Alive) Cohen, is gorier, kinkier and sillier than anything Spillane ever imagined. Assante's Hammer is out to revenge the death of a one-armed cop friend, who saved his life in Vietnam. Police Capt. Paul Sorvino keeps begging him: "Please try not to kill more than two or three people a day." Assante's search leads him to the Mafia, the CIA and a sex clinic run by curvaceous Barbara Carrera. Richart T. Heffron directs swiftly and efficiently, but the violence is unrelievedly sadistic. Assante's climactic escape in a car fueled by rum and lighter fluid is analogous to the entire film: a series of fits and starts. (R)

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