Relentless (1989, directed by William Lustig)

Buck Taylor (Judd Nelson) is the son of an LAPD cop who has never gotten over the bitterness he feels over being rejected by the force himself.  Determined to get revenge on a world that refuses to look beyond the dark circles under his eyes, Buck becomes a serial killer.  He picks his victims at random from the phone book.  Because his father was a cop and he studied to join the force, Buck knows all the tricks of the trade.

Pursuing Buck are two cops.  Bill Malloy (Robert Loggia) is a veteran detective who is supposed to be laid back though Robert Loggia was one of those actors who never seemed like he had been laid back a day in his life.  Malloy’s new partner is Sam Dietz (Leo Rossi).  Dietz has just transferred to Los Angeles from New York and he’s having a hard time adjusting.  Everyone is just too laid back.

When Buck starts to target the two cops who are investigating him, the case gets personal and relentless.

Relentless is a movie that I’ve been meaning to review for five years now.  In the past, I’ve always been deterred by the fact that reviewing Relentless would mean rewatching Relentless.  But, having just spent two weeks watching all of the Witchcraft films, I now feel like I can handle anything.  Relentless is a movie that I always remember as being better than it actually is.  The murders are creepy but Judd Nelson gives such a one-note performance as the killer that it’s impossible to believe that he could have gotten away with them.  As played by Nelson, Buck Taylor is such an obvious serial killer that I’m surprised that he wasn’t already in jail, having been accused of every single unsolved murder on the books.  There’s nothing compelling about this killer and films like this pretty much live and … ahem … die based on the quality of their villain.

Why do I always remember Relentless as being better than it is?  Most of the credit for that probably goes to Leo Rossi, an underappreciated character actor who gives such a good performance as Sam Dietz that he makes the entire movie better.  Rossi even got a brief franchise out of his performance in Relentless, as Dietz returned for three sequels.  Robert Loggia is also good as Malloy and it’s unfortunate that the movie doesn’t do as much with the character as it could have.

Rossi and Loggia aside, Relentless doesn’t live up to its potential.  But it was still popular enough to launch a direct-to-video franchise.  Tomorrow: Relentless 2.

One response to “Relentless (1989, directed by William Lustig)

  1. Pingback: Lisa’s Week In Review: 10/26/20 — 11/1/20 | Through the Shattered Lens

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