The character interactions are strong, especially for this depleted genre, and Hill's tight, efficient styling recovers a lot of lost formal ground: his framing and crosscutting are as sharp as ever, and the bloodbath finale is, improbably, a model of intelligent restraint, the classicist's answer to Peckinpah baroque.
Hill doesn't really try to avoid the cliches in a story like this. He simply turns up the juice. Like his "Southern Comfort," "48 Hrs.," and "The Warriors," this is a movie that depends on style, not surprises. He doesn't want to make a different kind of movie; he wants to make a familiar story look better than we've seen it look recently. And yet there is a big surprise in Extreme Prejudice in the appearance and character of Nick Nolte.
Walter Hill's Extreme Prejudice is as red-hot as a Saturday-night special, an ultra-violent action-adventure fantasy so macho that it verges on parody--on purpose. Sensational rather than serious, it is an exploitation picture but one with class: it has style, a point to make that happens to be highly topical and, thankfully, a dry, saving sense of humor.
The action is lean and tough, the body count huge, and the final shootout an obvious reprise of Peckinpah's finale. But where the latter's vision transformed The Wild Bunch into a savage elegy for the passing of the Old West, Hill can only duplicate its choreographed violence.
Hill is a modern-day Peckinpah. But is there really a need for this pointless, graphic violence in the 1980s? Is this escapism, or is it just a distasteful, needless reflection of what has become horrifyingly common in the real world?
But on the evidence of this twisted, high-tech "Wild Bunch" update, [Hill]'s still just the poor man's Sam Peckinpah. All the ethics and issues have been eliminated from Hill's nuevo western film, leaving only the violence, the spent bullets and the copious slo-mo flow of blood.