Monday, September 12, 2011
Deadly Force (Paul Aaron 1983)
The past couple of months one of the main things I've been scanning for when thrift shopping for VHS is the name Wings Hauser. I had seen Vice Squad a couple of years ago, and oddly, the singularity of that amazing performance didn't send me on the hunt for more Wings. It was like, how could anything even come close to that tour de force of actor/character insanity? So I didn't really seek anything out. Street Asylum (Gregory Dark 1990) appeared on my doorstep recently, and I couldn't resist...I mean G. Gordon Liddy as the bad guy? I'm in! This film puts him in a role as nutty and intense as Ramrod, but unfortunately it's not the fine piece of work that Vice Squad is. So, luckily I have a lot of stuff to wade through as our big grinning nutjob has had quite the busy career in films and television.
So after Street Asylum (which set off my need to start finding more) , I have moved on to Deadly Force, which I've had on VHS for a while, but never bothered watching. Well, it's not without it's charm.
We get a little prelude where the first of many innocent victims is killed in a quick and tossed off manner. Actually now that I think of it, aforementioned victim is tossed off of a balcony after having her throat slit. Somehow this murder comes off as rather tame and reminiscent of something from an episode of Hunter. Then we make it to Stoney Cooper.
Yes, Wings plays a guy named Stoney; a guy who dribbles a soccer ball and is pretty good at rat roulette (is this a real thing?). He also is a piano playing guy who seems to be drinking away his responsibilities at some dive bar. Or is drinking because he doesn't like flying and he has a plane to catch? Anyhow, this is the first of an endless parade of details that don't really attain clarity.
So, Stoney gets a call from somebody about diffusing a situation with a revolutionary strapped with dynamite. He agrees after negotiating a $20,000 cash payment, putting on his LAPD bullet proof vest in an NYC cab with Estelle Getty plays the sassy taxi driver. They talk about this "X" killer that has been terrorizing LA, killing people at random. So that's established.
Stoney goes to this warehouse, attacks the guy threatening to blow the place and talks him out of not detonating his chest strapped dynamite. This unfortunately is the only scene where Wings really lets that unhinged lunatic thing loose, prefiguring the Lethal Weapon crazy-cop thing by a couple of years. It's also not really up to snuff, considering Wings' ability for convincing the viewer of potential loose screws. By normal cop movie standards it's pretty entertaining though. This scene does feature the first of a lot of casual racist remarks about Latinos, which seems out of place and certainly irritates. Do we really need to hear condescending shit like "buy a quesadilla, amigo?"
And as the plot progresses we get into serious "normal cop movie standards" territory. Stoney is of course flying to L.A. cuz he used to be LAPD and his old buddy needs help finding the "X" killer. After Stoney lost his badge to the "by the book" captain (angry black guy, of course), part of the deal was that he'd never come back to L.A., but here he is and he's interfering with official police business!!!!! Oh, lord. It does feel strange that we aren't witness to the loss of badge scene as it is the most easy to mentally picture thing in the world at this point.
Stoney also has a estranged wife he is still in love with who is a TV reporter also investigating the case. They fight, they flirt, they investigate...they investigate very inefficiently with the help of Sam, the "old friend" who's granddaughter was the girl who got thrown off the balcony.
It's montage time as everybody goes around shaking down hoods and TV reporting and hitting dead ends and meandering like lost dogs. This seems to take forever, and it's a sad state of a movie when this kind of thing is interrupted by random violent murders and it's still a bore!
Luckily it's all so unrealistic and silly that entertainment is there for those masochists like myself who sit through this stuff. One thing I found really amusing during all this dross was the music, which is really over cooked and does not seem like it belongs at all. Most of the cues sound way more dramatic than appropriate for the action on screen (Wings walking down the street? Heavy riffing guitar solos all the way!), and often doesn't really time with what's happening. Could it be library tracks? Not sure.
Amidst all this, a skeezy self help guru convinces a crowd that they are not losers, and is interviewed by Eddie, the TV reporter estranged wife. I wonder if this seemingly unrelated stuff has to do with the plot? It takes another 45 minutes to find out. And that's the rub, the pacing of this movie is all screwy. We get these long periods of what seems like inconsequential dead end nothing and crammed into the last half is a whole giant mess of a plot that comes so fast that it also has no meaning! This one's really lacking in the "sense" department.
There are some little details that are whacked out enough to make this an enjoyable diversion if you are into that sort of thing...like the mob boss (I think?) asleep while his gal watches lesbian porn (Stoney chuckles and says "They're gay") and a cheap hooker hanging out in a church. Also, many of the performances are quirky and gnarled enough keep things interesting. And Wings is always good to watch...I mean, he does chew the scenery, just not as much as he could and should. Sigh... And for those who have the hots for him, you get an overlong scene of him getting shot at while he covers his junk with a towel and (duh) a sex scene with him and wifey. Otherwise, it's rather disappointing even for a low rent action completist like myself. We'll be okay though, we always are. There just better be better Wings movies waiting in the wings.