This week we begin with a film that appears to sport a decent budget, seasoned actors and a true-life storyline (though I couldn't find any evidence of it) that purports that there are corrupt elements in the Los Angeles police department (say it isn't so).
This one opens with a bang, several bangs actually, as the police respond to a shooting at a savings and loan. When they arrive, two heavily-armed hoods emerge from the building sporting automatic weapons, which they use to full effect as the cops take cover behind their cruisers.
Eventually the men are brought down by the newest additions to the force, officers Steele and Wade, who take out one thug by ramming him with their car before putting him on an all-lead diet. The other goon wilts under Steele's iron gaze and promptly shoots himself.
Back at the station their Captain dresses down both men for hot-dogging, but they are embraced by their fellow officers who invite them to their nightly party pad which is located in the posh Hollywood Hills.
The party house is expansive and obviously more than a policemen can afford. Wade is put off by the ambiance, which includes generous portions of drugs and what appears to be a small army of prostitutes. Steele, on the other hand, meets a young lady who produces music videos and becomes a regular at party central.
Meanwhile Steele's dad, a retired LAPD cop, has opened a convenience store and the two check in on him regularly after a trio of hoods begin robbing 24-hour markets. Papa Steele eventually gets robbed and manages to shoot one of the offenders after succumbing to the most awkwardly staged punch in the nose ever committed to celluloid. He sustains a gunshot wound in the fracas, which sidelines him and makes him available for heart-to-heart chats with his son, who is starting to question the integrity of his fellow officers.
Steele may be slow on the uptake but he eventually figures out that most of the squad is taking graft. It helps that he and Wade respond to a robbery call and find half of their fellow officers blatantly stealing electronics from a warehouse. They decide to look the other way and their fate is sealed as Wade puts in for a transfer and Steele begins to enjoy the extra perks that come with taking bribes.
The heat gets turned up when a homeless man comes forward as a witness to the warehouse robbery. When said witness winds up as street pizza under an automobile, Steele begins to see the light. Unfortunately, so do the sticky fingers at the squad who decide that Wade is gonna sing and that they would be better off without Steele as well.
It all leads to an extended shootout at a pawnshop, where nobody is able to score a direct hit for five minutes, despite the enclosed space. Eventually bodies begin hitting the floor and just about everyone goes down. When the smoke clears, one good cop walks away but a final note from the filmmakers reveals that no one was ever prosecuted for the crimes we have just witnessed.
This one is about as good as it gets for a dollar. The action sequences are plentiful and the drama quotient gets equal time as the main characters deal with moral dilemmas. It sure helps that a talented bunch of actors are on display here and they help the film over the rough spots, which are plentiful thanks to uninspired direction by Ed Anders (don't bother to commit that name to memory).
Anders makes a few blunders that the cast can't clean up, which include substituting rainy Vancouver locations for sunny Los Angeles. He also gets sloppy with the opening sequence, which appears to have been shot on both a rainy and sunny day with little editing know-how, so that it appears to be alternately raining and clear from moment to moment. He also proves to be humbled by action scenes that come off as clumsy, though he does manage to flip over a burning vehicle well enough.
The actors sell this one and include Dennis Hopper (in a role that seems to have been shot in one day), Les Durning and Marc Singer (“Beastmaster”) as Steele.
Michael Madsen (“Resevoir Dogs”) logs a fair amount of screen time as the evil leader of the bad cops, but his is the only performance that appears to be phoned in. Madsen has oodles of screen presence but his work is so casual here that you expect he was more worried about those checks clearing than giving any weight to his lines. That said he does have some moments at the start of the movie though by the end it's clear that he is barely paying attention.
Singer handles the central role with much more skill and deserves the poor man's Nick Nolte award for best impersonation of moral anguish in a B-movie.
For a dollar movie, there are at least 80 cents worth of primo stuff here, though I wouldn't expect any change when the clerk at the dollar venue of your choice scans this one.
Best line: “One more word out of you and you'll be working male prostitutes in Sequoia.”
2001, rated R.