Walter Hill never really went away, but honestly, when was the last time he made a movie that you loved?
Hill's heyday was in the 1980's. For me Hill stood above most action movie directors. He utilized strong characters and the stories usually were more than simple blood, guts, guns, and chases. At their best Walter Hill movies rose above genre and were simply excellent movies.
Here's where I alienate myself even farther from the majority: I was never a fan of The Warriors. I tried and tried, especially when I knew that so many movie fans revere the film. The last time I tried to watch The Warriors was around six years ago. I made it through the entire movie, but it was a chore. Sorry, people.
Despite that, there is still a hell of a lot in the career of Walter Hill for anyone to respect. He got his start in the trade as a Second Unit Director. Astonishingly, his very first credit is on Woody Allen's debut movie as director, Take the Money and Run!
From there Hill became a screenwriter. Hill adapted the Jim Thompson novel, The Getaway, for director Sam Peckinpah. He wrote The Thief Who Came To Dinner. The Mackintosh Man, and The Drowning Pool, both of which feature Paul Newman in the lead role.
The first movie Walter Hill directed is one of the legendary Charles Bronson's best pictures: Hard Times. His second directorial release was The Driver, which is damned good despite Ryan O'Neil as the star.
Next came the one that put Walter Hill on the map: The Warriors. Regardless of my dislike of the movie, it is considered a classic by one hell of a lot of film fans. It won over a lot of critics too, but Roger Ebert only awarded The Warriors two stars.
After that Hill's reputation as a reliable commercial director was assured. He quickly fired off three of his best movies after The Warriors: The Long Riders, Southern Comfort, and Eddie Murphy's first feature, 48 Hours. All were solid action films that further enhanced Hill's reputation.
Walter Hill made some odd choices after 48 Hours. Streets of Fire was kind of an extended music video with action. It performed poorly at the box office. I'm still scratching my head as to how or why he directed the lame Richard Pryor comedy, Brewster's Millions.
Crossroads is a longtime favorite of mine, but after that things got pretty uneven for Hill. He made some good movies, like Extreme Prejudice, Johnny Handsome, Trespass, and Last Man Standing. And he made some poor ones, such as Another 48 Hours, and Red Heat.
Walter Hill also directed my very favorite episode of Tales from the Crypt, The Man Who Was Death.
But it seemed as though the days of Walter Hill as a reliable helmer of profitable movies had ended. He has done some television work, most notably on Deadwood, but his last feature film as a director was the disappointing Undisputed, with Ving Rhames and Wesley Snipes.
Let's not forget Hill's work as a producer. Among other things, he was one of the people behind the Alien series. He receives credit on the very recent Prometheus, along with nine other production credits on the movie.
I'm not counting Walter Hill out though. Yes, Hollywood loves the hot young action movie directors, but Hill has proven time and again that he has the skill to craft smart, suspenseful, successful films.
At this writing Walter Hill has completed principle photography on Bullet to the Head, which is based on a French graphic novel. It stars Sylvester Stallone and it is to be released sometime next year. The plot deals with a hitman, played by Stallone, who joins forces with an NYC Detective to solve some particularly graphic murders.
I'm not a big fan of Sylvester Stallone. Hell, I still think his best performance is as Machine Gun Joe Viterbo in Death Race 2000. However, I look very forward to seeing Bullet to the Head in the theater.