Ricochet (film)

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Ricochet ver2.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Produced by Michael Levy
Joel Silver
Written by Fred Dekker
Menno Meyjes
Steven E. de Souza
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Peter Levy
Edited by Peter Honess
HBO Films
Silver Pictures
Cinema Plus L.P.
Indigo Productions
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • October 4, 1991 (1991-10-04)
Running time
109 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $21,756,163

Ricochet is a 1991 American crime thriller film, directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, and Lindsay Wagner. The film details a struggle between a Los Angeles attorney (Washington) and a vengeful criminal (Lithgow) he arrested and caused to be convicted when he was previously a cop.


The film begins in 1983, depicting Nicholas Styles (Denzel Washington), a mild-mannered rookie officer of the Los Angeles Police Department and law student. The young Styles is witnessing the beginning of his career and adult life, as he meets his future wife (Victoria Dillard) and is drifting away from his childhood friend Odessa (Ice-T), who is drifting into a life of crime in South Central Los Angeles, where the two of them grew up.

One evening, while Styles and his partner Larry Doyle (Kevin Pollak) are patrolling a carnival, they intervene and block the escape of a vicious organized-crime hitman, Earl Talbot Blake (John Lithgow), and his servile accomplice Kim (Josh Evans), shortly after Blake has murdered several drug dealers and stole the drug money. Styles catches Blake at gunpoint in the carnival, and is forced into a standoff when Blake takes a hostage at gunpoint, using her as a human shield. Styles manages to get Blake to release the hostage by stripping his equipment and uniform off, demonstrating that he has no other weapons or body armor, before placing his revolver on the ground. He has stripped, however, to gain access to a backup gun hidden in his athletic supporter, which he uses to shoot Blake in the knee, allowing him to take the killer down. The incident is caught by an amateur videographer, and is shown on television, making Styles a local hero and drawing the welcome attention of the Los Angeles County District Attorney (Lindsay Wagner) and a local councilman (John Cothran, Jr.). He and Doyle are immediately promoted to Detective, while Blake is sent to prison.

The film cuts ahead eight years to 1991. Styles has since had a famous and eventful career in the Police Department, has gone on to further fame and success as an Assistant District Attorney, has married and has had two daughters. He is moving gradually into politics, beginning with raising funds for a children's community center at the Watts Towers with the patronage of the local councilman. At the same time, Blake has nurtured a psychotic fixation and lust for revenge against Styles while in prison, and has degenerated into further violence fighting against the Aryan Brotherhood. After killing an AB member with whom he had a grudge, Blake strikes a deal with the leader of the gang to plot an escape. Shortly before their escape, Kim, who has been incarcerated with Blake, is paroled, and plans to assist in Blake's escape and revenge plot on the outside. Blake and the AB members stage a violent and deadly prison escape during a parole hearing, which only Blake and the AB leader survive. Shortly after, Blake murders the gang leader, shoots him in the knee, and burns his corpse. Kim had previously switched Blake's and the gang leader's dental records, and Blake expects the coroner to believe that Blake was the one killed (due to the dental records and knee injury), thus faking his own death.

Meanwhile, Styles is planning a telethon to raise money for his community center, planning to broadcast it from a church at which his father (John Amos) is a minister. He also finds his old friend Odessa, who has become a major drug-dealer in the neighborhood, to convince him forcefully to avoid the new center. Blake has returned to Los Angeles, and is keeping Styles under surveillance. On the night of the telethon, Blake cuts the power to Styles' house, and then shows up impersonating a utility worker to the babysitter watching Styles' daughters. He drugs the babysitter, and takes the opportunity to bug the house. Blake has sent $10,000 in cash and an anonymous letter to the telethon, posing as an anonymous benefactor. Later that night, after the telethon, Blake and Kim ambush the city councilman, who is taking the proceeds of the telethon to deposit them at the bank. They murder the councilman, staging his death to appear as a suicide, dressing him in drag, planting child pornography, leaving a suicide note that implicates him and Styles in child molestation, and stealing the $10,000 in cash.

The next morning, when the councilman is discovered, the implications of child molestation and the missing money lead to a scandal implicating Styles, creating negative and intrusive media attention and suspicion from the District Attorney for whom he works. Later that evening Styles is abducted by Blake and Kim outside his home and is held hostage in an empty swimming pool for several days. Styles realizes that Blake is really alive, has murdered the councilman, and intends revenge. Blake explains that Styles owes his successful life to Blake, while Blake has sat in prison. Blake and Kim keep Styles for several days, regularly injecting him with heroin and cocaine while engaging in arm wrestling.

Blake hires a blonde white female prostitute Wanda (Linda Dona) to have sex with a drugged Styles. As she stripes naked, Wanda ignores Styles' weak objections and proceeds to mount and rape him as Blake records the incident on video.

Blake and Kim finally deposit Styles' unconscious body on the steps of City Hall, making him appear as a homeless derelict. When he is found, his colleagues and the media treat his story with skepticism, which is only furthered when he unsuccessfully tries to lead them to the swimming pool where was held only to find it filled with water and elderly woman exercising. A medical examination reveals the drugs in Styles' system and also that he is infected with gonorrhea, which he explains he got from the prostitute Wanda. Styles' wife overhears his phone conservation and thinks Styles has cheated on her with a prostitute despite his pleas and explanations. This last revelation alienates Styles from his wife, and he spends an evening on the sofa, drunkenly talking back to the negative media coverage of himself on TV while being recorded by Blake until he passes out.

The next morning, Styles sees that a note has been left on his VCR to play it. When he does, he sees a video of Blake going up to his daughters' room and holding a hatchet over them just before the tape cuts out. Terrified and enraged, Styles finds the girls' room and the rest of the house empty with only a note that his wife has taken them to the park. Styles digs his old service revolver out of a nightstand and runs down the streets in his bathrobe to the park. As he is leaving, Kim returns to the house with another videotape.

Tired, hung-over, and disoriented, Styles sees a black-clad figure approaching the stage where his girls are putting on a play. He tackles the figure and holds him at gunpoint; the figure turns over to reveal that he is nothing more than a clown who is part of the performance. The incident occurs in front of and is videotaped by several prominent local people, whose children are in the play. This latest incident and his reaction to it cause the District Attorney to question Styles' sanity.

When he attempts to show her the videotape from his VCR, the tape has been substituted with the video recording of his rape, only Blake injected unrelated audio recordings of the prostitute and Styles' lines, making their sexual encounter seem consensual. The tape is at the same time released to the media. Styles vehemently protests his innocence and Blake's complicity. He begins to appear to be delusionally paranoid to the District Attorney, who suspends him from his position.

Afterwards, Styles' old partner Doyle, who is the only person still willing to believe him, approaches him with evidence of Blake's obsession. This evidence was found in his prison personal effects, and Doyle reveals that he has a lead that an Aryan Brotherhood-affiliated bookstore is planning to get tickets and false passports for someone. Styles and Doyle go to the bookstore that night, and Styles beats information out of the owner. Kim is witnessed running away from the store, and Doyle chases him down an alley. Blake ambushes him and shoots him repeatedly in the alley, before tossing the gun to Styles who picks it up, leaving his fingerprints on it. Blake then escapes, and Doyle dies in Styles' arms, finally realizing that his friend had been right all along. Bizarrely, Styles leaves the scene without taking the gun that implicates him.

Now pursued as a murder suspect, Styles has few options. Desperately, he contacts his old, and perhaps last, friend Odessa, for help. Styles evacuates his family from their home and takes them to the housing project Odessa uses as a drug lab. Putting his family in Odessa's hands, Styles and Odessa's gang initiate a plan to bring Blake into the open. After the project building is cleared, Styles goes to the roof and begins raving to the street below, appearing to be deranged and suicidal. The media arrives and broadcasts him live. Believing that Styles will kill himself and deny Blake the satisfaction of seeing him incarcerated, Blake arrives at the project. Odessa's gangsters spot Blake there, and the plan continues. Styles fakes his own death, by starting a fiery explosion in the building and escaping. Odessa's gang abducts Kim, and Odessa sends a message to Blake that Styles is alive and intends to get him, challenging him to come to the Watts Towers.

At the towers, Blake finds Kim tied to the scaffolding, and Kim begins to berate Blake, telling him that Styles is going to get him and expressing his disgusted disillusionment of working with Blake. Blake shoots Kim in rage, and Styles emerges, challenging Blake to come after him on the tower. On the tower, they fight, while Odessa and his gang ambush and incapacitate the police to prevent them from interfering. They allow the media through and Styles reveals his plan to Blake, to let the media see him alive, revealing his plan, before he dies. They continue to fight, and the battle turns against Styles, until Odessa and his gang connect electrical mains to the metal tower, electrifying Blake while Styles swings clear of the tower on a harness. Styles knocks the stunned Blake off the tower, and he lands on a spike protruding from the tower, impaling and killing him.

Styles comes down from the towers, rejoining his wife and children. He calls out to Odessa one last time, inviting him to basketball that Saturday. Meanwhile, the television news crews, who had played a major role in Styles' discommendation, are there, broadcasting the latest events that have dramatically proven Styles innocent. Styles, at last, joins a newscaster (Mary Ellen Trainor) on camera as she is broadcasting. When she asks him for a comment, he turns off the news camera and dishes the news media as the screen fades out.



Reportedly, violent scenes in the film were heavily cut down following the test screenings. According to interview with director Russell Mulcahy, in one of the scenes that were cut out Blake physically abuses Styles until Styles pukes out and Blake gets a sponge to clean him up. This is why Styles has vomit on him when he is found in the streets. Uncut version of the film was never released.


On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 73% based on 15 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10.[1]

Box office[edit]

The movie had a modest box office. It premiered 5 weeks prior to the premiere of Cape Fear, a film starring Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte with a very similar storyline.[2]

International remake[edit]

The second half of Farz, a Hindi language film, is a scene-for-scene copy of Ricochet.


External links[edit]