Now I know this might seem like a shameless way to get other people to find loads of 1970s crime…
Cisco is an ex-rock star who has become a drug dealer. A corrupt cop blackmails Cisco to sell marijuana for him. Cisco has one weekend to sell it to his friends.
Usually in these kind of movies the criminal reluctantly pulling off "one last job" is some master thief or assassin. Leave it to 1972 to translate that role to "two time loser pot dealer with a failed music career." Even the crooked cop is just a dope with a bad ticker and a pension on the line. There are no external corrupting forces, everyone's already hollowed out and collapsing under the weight of their own bad decisions. "Don't look back, something may be gaining on you." The sharply written script offers up a string of black pearls with lines like, "Dumping that bitch was the most sincere thing I ever did" and the deliberately ambiguous, "There's somebody on the beach…
This is a film of myriad little details, quiet scenes, and unusual characters (Hackman and "H.D. Stanton" in particular are like the twin poles that the rest of the movie activates in between, to put it in language that is way too energetic for a movie this hauntingly relaxed), but I think the element that sums it up best is the resigned, tired way that Kris Kristofferson says "Cisco Pike" whenever anyone asks him his name.
I like Kris Kristofferson. Who doesn't like Kris Kristofferson? But I don't like Kris Kristofferson as much as this movie assumes I like Kris Kristofferson. No one likes Kris Kristofferson as much as this movie assumes we like Kris Kristofferson.
I'm not sure Kris Kristofferson's acting was all there at this point in time (lots of sullen cool dude posturing) but his tunes certainly were. Aside from the good soundtrack, Harry Dean Stanton enlivens this hangout-style crime film; a drug dealing tale so docile it could only have come from the tail-end of the hippy era. Gene Hackman, appearing as a corrupt cop, was born middle aged.
Low-key 70s crime film, sort of. Bent cop forces former drug dealer to sell drugs on a deadline or face incarceration, sounds like a crime movie right? But Kristofferson's weekend is a meandering tale that is as much social realism as anything else, there's certainly no tension added to proceedings, in fact the only energy injected is courtesy of Harry Dean Stanton's burned out musician. Kristofferson is suitably downbeat and impressive for a first time actor.
"No way, I'm magic."
So there's that guy that burned you. He comes back around with "one more job." You take it because you need to take it. Then you wish you hadn't.
Kristofferson grinds his way through this bad but necessary choice and faces down the reality that he has been more successful as a drug dealer than musician.
This movie manages to feel disconnected and drift-y despite a ticking clock. Moments of excellent dialog punctuate the general floating feeling. Good times.
Musician Cisco Pike (Kris Kristofferssn) gets blackmailed by a corrupt cop (Gene Hackman) to sell pot for 10 grand over the weekend...
This movie is more a mood piece than about actual plot. The protagonist is a hippie getting exploited by the authorities making CISCO PIKE also a very political movie.
Director Bill Norton shows Pike wandering around trying to sell pot and thereby introducing many characters which are the most interesting aspect of this movie. You really get a 70s vibe from those encounters which is underlined by Kristoffersons songs played throughout the movie.
Still the movie is not glorifying the free spirit lifestyle but takes a more sophisticated approach as it shows the dark sides explicitly.
Cisco Pike(Kris Kristofferson) is so committed to keeping away from drugs that put him in prison and away from his girlfriend Sue(Karen Black) that he is even willing to pawn his guitar, too. However, Narcotics Officer Leo Holland(Gene Hackman) has other ideas. Namely, it involves Cisco selling a lot of pot over the weekend or he busts him back to prison.
“Cisco Pike” is an offbeat little movie whose ostensible star is hardly in the movie at all. Usually, that would not be a problem and could actually be positive in a meta sort of way but we’re talking about Gene Hackman here whose presence is greatly missed. In fact, Hackman’s best scene is the one where his character is running in place which can be symbolic either of Cisco’s situation or the movie’s plot. Take your pick. In any case, Harry Dean Stanton adds some much needed energy late in the story.
Drugs and rock n' roll. Not glamorized, just depressing.
You can't lose with Hackman as a crooked, fascist cop and Kristofferson as a rugged songwriter forced to sell stolen kilos of marijuana.
For your consideration: double feature of CISCO PIKE (1972) and LIONS LOVE (1969), two love letters to late sixties Los Angeles. Each is in its way a perverse time capsule - whereas CISCO PIKE is resigned to the end of a broken era filled with fractured individuals LIONS LOVE is the irreverent and thoroughly perplexing LA portrait through kaleidoscopic stained glass. The two films are converse. Total polar opposites. CISCO PIKE: iron-willed, serious, but with spurts of wit. LIONS LOVE: riotously funny, but lined with an inescapable acknowledgment of mortality. I'd love to see these two in sequence together.
It is almost as if LIONS LOVE is the feature film that would result by making Viva's character, Merna, the main character of CISCO PIKE. At least, both are LA stories at their core, whether real, imagined, or somewhere in-between.
Also: likely one of the best first feature films ever made. B.L. Norton, hot damn!
Cisco Pike is too under-appreciated and deeply in need of a cult. Though the basic plot is not new, the film feels fresh in its freewheeling pace, spirit, great performances and the way it captures a place and time that feels absent from most films from the time.
Karen Black is unfortunately pushed to the side. As always, she brings depth to her small amount of screen time.
Most trends of New Hollywood around 1970 with a more palatable presentation. Cast is great and keeps things effective, but give it to Hollywood to find such a tidy package for losing.
"My daddy caught me levitatin once. Told me I'd go blind."
The list is from the book by Jennifer Eiss. A lot of these have surpassed cult status, but it's a…