“You might have saved my life, but you ruined my career, buddy.”
If I’m being honest, it was really difficult not to view this as a parody of buddy cops movies. I know that wasn’t its intention, but if I could make a recommendation; rebranding it as such would bolster its credibility. Between the helicopter vs. airplane shootout, and the dogged, always-get-your-man main character sitting in his empty apartment eating raw steak, I’m not sure how I was supposed to take this film seriously as a buddy-cop film. That said, the film is not without its charms or entertaining moments. I’d even be willing to go as far as to suggest that it worthy of whatever cult status that it has managed to achieve. It may have even became a blueprint for future buddy cop films, or at least a rough outline for them, had it not for another, more popular and realistic buddy cop film that also came out that year. Robert Carradine’s Nick Barzack may have been unpredictable, but Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs was crazy! Carradine never stood a chance.
I learned while watching this film and from my own research about it. For example, Carradine’s character was initially intended for Jim Belushi, who apparently co-wrote the film, but he departed in the pre-production stage. Then there was Billy Dee Williams as the smooth-talking ladies man, Frank Hazeltine. He’s cultured, polite, and suave. These attributes have become synonymous with Billy Dee; it was no wonder that he was cast in the role. However, there was another actor, who has also shown himself to be synonymous with those attributes, who was also rumored to have been considered for the role, one Denzel Washington. And while I love Billy Dee, I can’t help but wonder if Denzel’s inclusion might have helped the overall project. Then again, this was 1987, when Denzel wasn’t the household name that he is now. He was still in the middle of his six-year run on St. Elsewhere, so I can see why Williams was the frontrunner.
More on the subject of the movie, the plot was the equivalent of stop-and-go traffic, as the characters followed a circuitous track to the finish line. The Barzack character is the one driving this storyline, as he is dead set on nailing the man he believes responsible for the main influx of drugs in the city. This would have been an interesting angle for the plot, had it been properly set up. I would have given more backstory between Barzack and his nemesis, perhaps woven in a personal connection, something to explain the character’s dogged determination and fixation. As it stands, the audience is just supposed to believe that this is the level of obsession that the character brings to every case. This wasn’t out of the realm of believability, especially given the indications that it was his work that proved detrimental to his relationship with the ex-wife who he clearly is still in love with.
This seems like appropriate segue into the things that took away from the main premise. Too many personal matters clogging up the story, particularly the inclusion of Barzack’s mom. While I am greatly fond of Doris Roberts, I don’t believe this character added any real value to the overall story or the character. We already got a good sense of the character via his dynamic with the ex-wife that he continuously and desperately kept trying to win back. Out of everything that was going on, this portion of the film proved to be the most entertaining, especially the lengths the character was willing to go to in his pursuit of her. The Carradine and Valerie Bertinelli chemistry was the best of the film, which is good, but when it is at the expense of the two main characters’ dynamic, it can be detrimental.
Another thing this movie gave me is a real understanding of how large the Carradine family is. Prior to this I never really gave it much thought, but prior to watching when I read about Robert I confused him with another one of his siblings, which made me wonder just how many Carradines there were in the industry. There were more than I expected, and the irony was I’ve watched most of them in other projects. It was difficult buying Carradine as a renegade cop. He does all the things you would expect of a renegade: excessive force, bending the rules, but he lacked the intensity to sell it in the manner that it need to be sold. As I said, it ends up coming off as a parody.
Not a movie that I’m likely to repeat, but for a one-time watch, there were some elements that I enjoyed in the film. As I mentioned, had it not been for that other, more popular buddy cop film, who knows; maybe the film could have been like the title says: Number One With A Bullet.