Film Noir, by tradition, often takes a down on their luck private investigator and immerses them in a sleazy underworld, filled with bad, yet incredibly sexy and sensual women. The investigator endures hellish circumstances that were alluded to because the movies were made during the forties and fifties, which left the viewer very curious. However, “I, The Jury” takes the audience into the dark twisted world of Mike Hammer’s universe.
Cult movie writer, Larry Cohen (“Maniac Cop”) was set to write and direct this 1982 adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s famous Hammer character, but certain circumstances lead to him being fired shortly after principal photography started. The producers did keep his concept for the film intact, which is great because Cohen took a unique approach to all the movies he was involved in. “I, The Jury” is no different and Hammer is put into a wildly sexy and violent roller coaster of a mystery.
Something interesting and inventive is done due to the fact many detective shows were a staple of the ’70s and early ’80s and that leads the picture to look and feel like that of a made for television movie. Except, there is one big exception and that is the over-the-top violence and graphic sexuality. This allows the audience to be taken outside of what makes them comfortable and into the world of Hammer himself.
The mystery starts with the murder of a one-armed man that was a close personal friend of Hammer. That leads him to a new wave sexual therapy center that seems to be very shady. He also travels to the set of a film, tangles with the mafia and meets one twisted and depraved serial killer with an Oedipus complex. Without divulging any more of the many plot twists, all you can say is that it provides an amazing amount of fun and is never dull.
An unshaven Armand Assante is excellent as Hammer and provides the right amount of toughness and street smarts for the character. Hammer never sleeps alone and always has a woman falling for him where ever goes. This is the type of character that men dream about playing and Assante is easy to appreciate in the role. This is the best part that the actor ever played and it would have been nice had this movie started a whole series of films with Assante as Hammer.
His cool demeanor is made apparent in the opening and closing credits, which are a strong reminder of the James Bond type credits.
Alan King, (“Cat’s Eye”) gives one of his best supporting performances as the head of the mafia and really makes you wish the actor/comedian had a few more roles like this in his career. But the entire supporting cast is solid, with the luscious Barbara Carrera (“When Time Ran Out…”) as Dr. Charlotte Bennett, the beautiful Laurene Landon as Hammer’s lovely secretary and Paul Sorvino (“Cruising”) as Detective Pat Chambers.
The grimy scenery and cinematography also provides the right amount atmosphere to become engulfed in this world that most people will never be part of.
The main drawback to the film is that it doesn’t know when to quit with many endings. One of the endings has a shade of “Rambo” to it and that removes one briefly from the picture. Hammer is an ordinary guy not a bullet diving superhero but it is hard to complain because for the most part you will have a good time.
“I, The Jury” is an intense, taut and sex-filled thriller that does a great job of entertaining the adult audience it was intended for.