Shotgun

A weird hybrid of Don’t Answer the Phone! and Lethal Weapon, Shotgun is an inept cop buddy pic which should be booked for employing every cop cliche there is.

The title character is Shotgun Jones, who should be bedecked in furs and running around Harlem, but who is instead, a towering freckled Caucasian who favors pea-coats even in the stifling heat of Los Angeles.

Jones and African-American partner Max (Murtaugh to his Riggs) are tailing a “basher,” a guy who’s been giving ladies of the evening a rough go. In fact, it’s worse than that. He’s beating some to death.

And he’s getting away with it by employing what should be said is a very weird gambit: paying a guy to bring the girls to a fleabag motel to get the police off his scent. This is a good idea in theory, but not when your accomplice looks like you! This is one of the more baffling aspects of the very bewildering Shotgun.

But this isn’t a straightforward procedural. You see, Internal Affairs has a bone to pick with a cop who PLAYS BY HIS OWN RULES (caps for the obvious cop cliche). They set him up in a sting, and an angry Jones beats the snot out of an IA colleague with a night stick. To get a sense of how seriously LAPD takes rogue policemen, look no further than Jones’ punishment: a six month suspension (or, roughly one day for every day the poor bastard was stuck in the hospital).

Lucky for Jones, there’s an avenue for hotheads who’ve run afoul of police procedures: bounty hunting. Just imagine you’ve jumped bail and you’ve got the Geico Caveman and Barry Gibb’s illegitimate Jesus son bearing down on you.

Shotgun is an absolute joy, an odd mix of weird sub-plots (Max’s wife has a thing for Jones and Max is way too easy-going about it) and marble-mouthed meathead banter. There’s also cochlea-piercing Van Halen  guitar noodling that is so deafening it’ll have viewers diving for the remote.

And for action fans, you’ve got choppers, explosions, fisticuffs, ruthless drug dealers, and amazing montages.

Essential GED-level action fare.

****1/2 (out of 5)

[Check out our podcast discussion of Shotgun!]

First Blood

first_blood_poster“…Silver wings upon their chest
These are men, America’s best
One hundred men will test today
But only three win the Green Beret…”

First Blood. Because the movie’s title is said in dialogue and Stallone drops choice ass-whoopings on a bunch of arrogant townie cops who don’t know who they’re dealing with…

What more do you need in a movie? The answer is unequivocally nothing, but there’s a bonus of scene-stealers Brian Dennehy and Richard Crenna as a belligerent sheriff and silver-smooth Colonel Trautman respectively, adding class and gravitas to a movie that probably deserves neither.

When you think about was considered to play John J Rambo, it makes you woozy, a who’s who of Hollywood machismo, who announce themselves by their surnames: Pacino, Eastwood, De Niro, Newman, McQueen, Nolte, Garner…

Ultimately, Sly came in, did a script re-write and the rest machine-gunned its way into the national consciousness, a $125 million dollar worldwide success.

“Drifter” Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) ambles into a hick town in the Pacific Northwest, and is immediately hounded by Sheriff Teasle (Dennehy). He’s taken downtown (or whatever the equivalent is in this one-stoplight burb) on trumped up charges, and while being processed, has flashbacks to his stint in a Vietnam jail. Rambo cannot be held by mere mortals, and beats the holy tar out of the entire precinct, before fleeing, commandeering a motorcycle, and hightailing it into the woods. Call in the National Guard. No really.

rambo-first-blood-forest-knife

There are quite a few deviations from the 1972 source novel by David Morrell:

1. Rambo (no middle “J” initial like la Homer J Simpson) is more of a Born on the Fourth of the July hippie than the comparatively “kempt” (if that’s a word), Sly Stallone.

2. The initial conception of the character was more combative, violent, and generally antagonist (in the novel, he disembowels one of the jailers, whereas in the film the CO gets off with a comparatively easy elbow to the face).

3. The introduction of Rambo’s old war pal character, whose widow we meet in the opening frames, a change meant to humanizing him.

and

4. In the novel, Rambo flees jail confines in the nude, probably taken out for ratings concerns.

Still, all changes make perfect sense and what we’re left with is cracker-jack stuff, never a dull moment, with some incredible lines courtesy of Rambo mentor Colonel and intervener Trautman: “You don’t seem to want to accept the fact you’re dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare…A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a billy goat puke.”

***3/4 (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT THE FIRST BLOOD PODCAST!]