Peeping Thomerson: Stringer (1992)

Dave heads downtown with a camera in tow, to join Tim Thomerson on the hunt for a savage serial killer.

Have you ever seen Tim Thomerson do stand-up? You should, not least because he does a mean Charles Bronson – which is ironic as STRINGER sees the white-haired Trancer-hunter in a role that would have been well-suited to the Death Wish (1974) star. He plays a character called Jack Mitchett: a former cop who was dumped from the force when he fired eighteen shots into a suspect and stopped to reload twice. These days he’s a down-and-out living on a mattress in the back of his van with only a sweater-wearing dog for company.

Salvation comes in the unlikely form of Frank Simmonetti (Anthony Finetti). The stringer of the piece [1], Simmonetti cruises the L.A. streets each night with his ear to the police radio in the hope of a lead – the more brutal the better – so he can cast his camera over the scene and bag a few hundred dollars from the local TV station for the footage. With his assistants barely lasting a week, Mitchett proves to be a handy sidekick – but when the pair stumble across a serial killer who’s targeting the homeless, their partnership is tested to the limit.

Scripted by Gary S. Hall – who started life as a producer on a variety of Stephen J. Cannell shows like Stingray and 21 Jump Street – before an eighteen-year stint as Fox’s Senior Vice-President of Post-Production, Stringer is a gritty urban thriller with a dose of topicality to it. Filmed only twelve months after Rodney King was beaten by four LAPD officers, there’s something consequential about the sight of a couple of cops gunning down an unarmed crook on a lugubrious backstreet in the City of Angels during the first reel.

Performance-wise, Thomerson has rarely been better, delivering a turn that’s at odds with his other lead roles; muted, understated, and solemn in regard to the life he’s trying to leave behind. By contrast, Finetti (in his second and final feature role) is arrogant and shallow – but there’s a depth to him that’s gradually drawn out by Sheila (Laura Reed), a good-hearted soul who spends her time feeding the vagrants.

Directed by a then twenty-three-year-old Michael DeLuise (Almost Pregnant (1992)) and featuring three original Fred Mandel tunes on the soundtrack [2], Stringer quietly shuffled into American video stores in September ’93 – albeit with some bangin’ cover art that matched the quality of the fine motion picture contained within.

Also known as ‘Prime Time Murders’.

USA ● 1992 ● Thriller ● 95mins

Tim Thomerson, Anthony Finetti, Laura Reed, Sally Kirkland ● Dir. Michael DeLuise ● Wri. Gary S. Hall

[1] A stringer is a newspaper correspondent retained on a part-time basis to report on an event in a particular place. They’re strung along and kept in a constant state of uncertainty.
[2] Mandel is a Canadian session musician who became the first significant guest performer on a Queen record, adding his keyboard abilities to four tracks on their 1984 album The Works. Mandel was responsible for the famous synthesiser solo on I Want to Break Free.

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