Deadly Hero is a 1975 thriller movie starring Don Murray, Diahn Williams, James Earl Jones, Lilia Skala, Treat Williams, and directed by Ivan Nagy from a screenplay by George Wislocki and Don Petersen. Released in limited locales in 1975 with an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, the film was distributed by AVCO Embassy Pictures and is Treat Williams' film debut. Deadly Hero opened to mixed, mostly negative reviews by critics and was seen as a commercial failure.
Officer Lacy (played by Don Murray) is an 18-year veteran of the New York City Police Department who finds himself demoted from detective back to patrol duty for his violent tendencies and trigger-happy behavior. Responding to a call on Manhattan's West Side, he finds a young musician named Sally (Diahn Williams) has been abducted by a mugger named Rabbit (James Earl Jones). Rabbit has Sally at knifepoint in a hostage standoff but is persuaded to release her and surrender by Officer Lacy, who kills the unarmed Rabbit anyway. A grateful Sally is convinced by Lacy to lie to detectives to make Lacy seem like a hero. She later changes her mind and tells the truth about the shooting. This drives Lacy to try to silence Sally with escalating threats and violence before his career is ruined and he's tried for Rabbit's murder.Don Murray ... Lacy
Diahn Williams ... Sally
James Earl Jones ... Rabbit
Lilia Skala ... Mrs. Broderick
Conchata Ferrell ... Slugger Ann
George S. Irving ... Reilly
Ron Weyand ... Captain Stark
Treat Williams ... Billings
Hank Garrett ... Buckley
Dick Anthony Williams ... D. A. Winston
The cast also includes performances by Josh Mostel as "Victor", Rutanya Alda as "Apple Mary", Charles Siebert as "Baker", plus Beverly Johnson, Chu Chu Malave, Danny DeVito, and an uncredited Deborah Harry as a singer. Deadly Hero is Treat Williams' first motion picture appearance.
Deadly Hero was directed by Ivan Nagy from a screenplay by George Wislocki and Don Petersen. The film was produced by Thomas J. McGrath and distributed by AVCO Embassy Pictures. The film's cinematographer was Andrzej Bartkowiak, with editing by Susan Steinberg, music by Brad Fiedel and Tommy Mandel, and art direction by Alan Herman. Deadly Hero was filmed entirely on location in New York City. The 104-minute film was released as R-rated (Restricted) from the Motion Picture Association of America.
Gene Siskel wrote in the Chicago Tribune that the film is "a small triumph" but qualifying that praise by noting, "Of course, expecting nothing helps." A reviewer for the Cineman Syndicate felt that "moments of suspense" helped elevate the "thin script and moody photography". A.H. Weiler of The New York Times described Deadly Hero as a "fairly derivative Manhattan melodrama" with the supporting cast "wasted in brief, broad portrayals". Los Angeles Times reviewer Linda Gross called the film "gritty" and "intriguing" but ultimately found it "predictable and pessimistic". Modern critics have been kinder with VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever describing it as both "gripping" and "chilling" while rating the film three (out of a possible four) bones.
A commercial failure, George Anderson wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the violent film "suffered sudden death at the box office."
Deadly Hero was released on VHS in the 1980s by Magnetic Video and in 1986 by Embassy Home Entertainment. The movie was released to the DVD format on August 7, 2007, by Trinity Home Entertainment but as of December 2010 is out of print. On December 22, 2015, it appeared on Blue Ray by Code Red Entertainment through Screen Archives Entertainment Exclusive.