Hangfire

  • 1991
  • 1 HR 29 MIN
  • R

Opening with a dictionary definition of the titular word, "serious" docudrama-like place and date/time notations and a wholly extraneous prison shower murder, HANGFIRE soon sinks into the morass of genre cliches making up Brian D. Jeffries's screenplay. This lame and implausible action film begins with a tanker truck accident that releases a cloud of toxic...read more

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Opening with a dictionary definition of the titular word, "serious" docudrama-like place and date/time notations and a wholly extraneous prison shower murder, HANGFIRE soon sinks into the morass of genre cliches making up Brian D. Jeffries's screenplay.

This lame and implausible action film begins with a tanker truck accident that releases a cloud of toxic gas heading straight for nearby New Mexico State Penitentiary. The warden (George Kennedy) orders the prison evacuated, during which convict and rabid sociopath Kuttner (Lee De Broux) and

buddy Patch (James Tolkan), kidnap prison shrink Maria Slayton (Kim Delaney) and escape with a busload of prisoners. Heading for Mexico, Kuttner and his gang, which includes the muscle-bound Albert (Lyle Alzado) and Smitty (Lou Ferrigno), take over the town of Sonora and round up its citizens as

hostages.

A state police lieutenant (Yaphet Kotto) and the hard-ass Lieutenant Colonel Johnson (Jan-Michael Vincent) of the National Guard bumblingly attempt to handle the crisis. Sonora sheriff Ike Slayton (Brad Davis), who just the previous day had married Maria, and his best-man, old Army buddy Billy

(Ken Foree) use their Vietnam-learned skills of "covert infiltration" to decimate the prisoners and save the hostages. The final face-off has Ike and Kuttner battling each other dangling from a helicopter. Deserting Freud for the moment, Maria eventually kicks Kuttner off, plunging him to his

death.

Although some of its members, like the ubiquitous veteran George Kennedy, have only a few scenes, a solid all-star B-cast adds some propulsion for a while, although everyone is eventually wasted. Under Peter Maris's static direction, there is clearly more chemistry going on between the war

buddies Davis and Foree than between the newlyweds Davis and Delaney (the latter from TV's "All My Children"). Apart from the literally smashing opening vehicular crash, Peter Horak's stunts, crucial to such fare, are rote and unconvincing, particularly the tired helicopter finale. (Violence,profanity.)

Cord-Cutting Guide. Credit: Robert Rodriguez / TV Guide

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