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 HalenĀ  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!]

Hell Night

The “spend a night in a creepy house at your own peril” conceit is so done to death, the DNA’s been degraded. And Hell Night won’t provide any exculpatory evidence.

Tom DeSimone’s 1981 feature is very close to Night of the Demons in structure. There, it was dumb students and Hull House, here it’s dumb students at Garth Manor. In terms of execution though, the effects and the fun is lacking in the latter.

And it’s not like Night of the Demons is a classic, or the only film Hell Night superficially resembles. Hell Night is a bit like House on Haunted Hill too, the classic flick where eccentric millionaire Vincent Price invites folks to spend the night in a creepy house. And when you’re talking young attractive people in an isolated setting, well…there are hundreds of horrors about that.

Frat/sorority initiates are goaded into spending a night at Garth Manor, where the family patriarch strangled the missus, and killed his three deformed kids before killing himself. But legend has it, one of his kids survived.

Da-da-dum.

A mob of students herds the initiates onto the property by tiki-torch light and locks the gates behind them. One of the students is Marti, played by Linda Blair, who it should be said seems completely bored by the proceedings. And she’s not the only one. This is a dull affair, with lots of long hallways with lights shone down them.

Straddling Gothic horror and stalk-and-slash college caper, Hell Night does neither genre any favors. But if we had to choose…the former provides the best elements, as there are some nice candle-lit visuals.

For some reason, Hell Night is out on Blu-ray. And yet, it’s not even among the Top 3 films with “hell” in the title, Hellraiser being the best (of course).

So is viewing the film a hellish experience? We wouldn’t go that far…

**1/4 (out of 5)

[Check out our Hell Night discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]