Plot: A serial killer is on the loose, a maniacal murderer who seems to choose his victims at random, from a telephone book. He is a sadistic man who also forces the victims to have a hand in their own deaths, so this is no run of the mill killer. New arrival Dietz (Leo Rossi) and his grizzled veteran partner Malloy (Robert Loggia) are assigned to the case. The two couldn’t be much more different, but they’ll need to align their methods to crack a case like this one. Meanwhile, The Sunset Killer, as the media calls him, seems to have an edge on the investigation and is always one step ahead of the police, as if he has an inside track. As the case unfolds and more bodies pile up, can anyone stop the killer and figure out what drove him to these murderous ends?
Entertainment Value: Relentless would spawn three sequels, but this is where it all started, with William Lustig’s competent thriller that features one of Judd Nelson’s best performances. Although Lustig keeps Relentless anchored in more mainstream elements, you can feel some of the threads of his grindhouse roots, especially in the scenes that focus on Nelson’s spiral into madness. Those scenes prove to be the bright spots of this movie, as Nelson turns in a fun performance and I wish Relentless devoted more time to his development, rather than the police procedural elements. A darker, more in depth psychological approach could have worked wonders here, but the movie is still a solid thriller. Even the procedural segments are passable, thanks to Robert Loggia, who makes even dull lines tolerable. I suppose this divided focus was to increase wide appeal, but I feel it resulted in shortchanging Nelson’s narrative at the expense of the weaker police side of the coin. Even so, Relentless is able to hold your attention and deliver some solid entertainment, despite the missed opportunities.
A fairly lengthy topless scene is on showcase here, as well as some brief man ass, so there’s a little sleaze here. The movie has some bloodshed involved, though not in massive doses. Some of the bullet wounds yield nice, splashy gushes, while there’s also a corkscrew put to an unusual use. There’s also a fun piano wire demise, though it is low on the red stuff. So Relentless isn’t exactly shy with the crimson, but this isn’t a crazed, blood soaked experience either. The dialogue here is quite fun at times, as Loggia has some terrific lines and makes the most of them, often at the expense of his new partner, of course. I also appreciated some of the husband and wife talk sprinkled throughout the movie, as it provides some fun moments and light dysfunction. Not a wild script perhaps, but it does have some enjoyable bright spots. This one never goes all that crazy, but Nelson’s psycho persona is on the wild side and the quirky dialogue helps kick things up to a couple of points.
Overall Insanity: 2/10