Best Picture This Feature Presentation: Prime Cut

Every once in awhile a movie comes along that makes you ask, “How have I never seen this before?” Prime Cut is one of those movies.

A Quick Synopsis

NIck Devlin (Lee Marvin) is hired by the Chicago mob to straighten out Mary Ann (Gene Hackman), a Kansas City meat packer, who is refusing to cooperate with them. Part of his uncooperativeness is sending one their men back to Chicago ground up and turned into sausage links.

Hot dogs. Human hot dogs.

When Devlin meets Mary Ann at his packing plant he finds Mary Ann is selling a lot more than steaks and pork loin. He’s turned his meat packing enterprise into a sales and distribution center selling young women. Devlin takes one look at a very drugged up Poppy (Sissy Spacek) and carries her out of the meat market. He spends the rest of the movie protecting her from Mary Ann and his goons.

The Farley Award

Prime Cut can be a rough watch at times. Don’t watch it if you’re bothered by nudity. There’s a lot of it in Prime Cut. It’s a violent movie. Most of third act is people shooting at each other and people dying. Mary Ann gets it the worst in the final shoot out with Devlin. Yet, it has its more comedic moments too.

One of those comedic moments is the Farley Award winning scene of the movie. After the meeting with the big Chicago boss is over one of the goons comes up to Devlin with the box of human sausage. The goon asks him what he should do with the remains. “Is that him?” Devlin asks. When he’s told that it is the minced up goon Devlin tells him, “Bury him.”

Lee Marvin and Sissy Spacek eat dinner during Prime Cut.

The line is delivered in a fashion only Lee Marvin could deliver. It’s not delivered as a mean response nor even with condensation. It’s not delivered like Marvin is looking for a laugh. He is, afterall, talking about a man who had been killed, ground up, and made into sausage links. But, it’s funny nonetheless.

The Golden Take

There’s a history in cinema of thugs, heavies, and villians having a turn of heart. Sometimes it’s because their overlord, boss, or master stepped over the line one too many times. Who could ever forget Darth Vader throwing the Emperor down the reactor chamber in Return of the Jedi? Or Jaws in Moonraker finding love. Their moral compasses may be off, but every now and then it points in the right direction. If just for a moment.

Nick Devlin is no exception. Among the many things that he may or may not be, he’s definitely a killer. There’s no question of what’s being asked when he’s asked to “straighten out” Mary Ann. Yet, when Nick sees Poppy and another girl, drugged out of their minds, being auctioned off like meat he scoops up Poppy and leaves. Devlin spends the rest of the movie protecting Poppy from Mary Ann.

Gene Hackman as Mary Ann who sells women to the highest bidder in Prime Cut.

You may forget Devlin was sent to take care of Mary Ann. The script never forgets though. Because while he’s keeping Poppy safe he’s also taking care of business one annoyance at a time. Devlin is a man on a mission even as that mission shifts back and forth. The more we see him interact with Poppy the more human he becomes.

The sex trade in Prime Cut, notice the title can mean two things, brings the movie a little closer to reality. In 2021, the illegal trafficking of humans, mostly women, was worth over $150 billion dollars. Like a lot of movies, Prime Cut is wish fulfillment. It would be nice to think one man with a submachine gun could shut down a portion of the sex trade and close down an orphanage whose only purpose was to be as a pipeline to fill Mary Ann’s meat packing plant.

A woman rescued by Devlin in Prime Cut.

This sort of thing doesn’t happen in the real world. Crimes against humans go unpunished and the guilty are rarely brought to justice. For two and half hours we get to see justice served to the wicked. Although it’s served by a man who has been wicked in his time it is still a type of justice. We also get the added bonus of seeing orphans free from ever becoming sex slaves to the highest bidder.

Kick It or Keep It

I had heard of Prime Cut in the past, but never paid too much attention to it. I never really saw anything about in on social media talking about it either. It was as if the movie never existed or only a select few had the keys to theater it was showing in. It wasn’t until doing the Best Picture this that I actually sat down and watched the movie. I am glad that I did.

Prime Cut is, without question, a Keeper.