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DEAD BANG (director: John Frankenheimer; screenwriters: based on a story by Detective Jerry Beck and Robert Foster/Robert Foster; cinematographer: Gerry Fisher; editor: Robert Shugrue; music: Gary Chang; cast: Don Johnson (Detective Jerry Beck), Penelope Ann Miller (Linda Kimble ), Tim Reid (Chief Dixon), Bob Balaban (Elliot Webly), William Forsythe (Arthur Kressler, FBI agent), Mic Rodgers (Police officer Kimble), Stephen E. Miller (Policeman, Bogan, Oklahoma), Frank C. Turner (Sheriff, Cottonwood Arizona), Mickey Jones (Sleepy), Tate Donovan (John Burns), Micheal Jeter (Dr. Krantz), Antoni Stutz (Ray), Michael Higgins (Reverend Gebhardt), Frank Military (Bobby Burns), Hy Anzell (Capt. Waxman), William Traylor (Elton Tremmel); Runtime: 103; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Steve Roth; Warner Home Video; 1989)
A film that maybe could only be more absurd if Woody Allen played the Don Johnson role.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Routine cop thriller directed by John Frankenheimer(“All Fall Down”/”George Wallace”/”Manchurian Candidate”) without distinction. It’s done in by the vacuous performance by TV’s Miami Vice star Don Johnson, who doesn’t look so good on the big screen doing his TV routine. Also detrimental is the overall wooden acting by the supporting cast, the insipid story and all the holes and artificiality of the storytelling. The film is based on a true incident in the police career of LAPD homicide detective Jerry Beck (Don Johnson), as co-written in the book by Detective Jerry Beck and Robert Foster. The dreadful screenplay is by Foster.

On Christmas Eve, in LA, a black convenience store manager is badly wounded and a patrol car officer (Mic Rodgers) is killed by the same ruthless gunman, while making an escape. Homicide Detective Jerry Beck’s investigates using the computer and that leads him to recent parolee Bobby Burns (Frank Military) as the prime suspect. After the Hispanic patrons in a Mexican bar are slaughtered in a robbery in Cottonwood, Arizona, the white supremacist gang that did it is identified by the sheriff (Frank C. Turner) as Bobby’s. Beck gets permission to go there from his LA bosses. When the gang escapes in a shootout, Beck uncovers papers that says the nasty white boys are having a big meeting to unite with other neo-Nazi groups to be under one-umbrella. Tagging along with Beck to meet with a bigoted small-town police chief (Stephen E. Miller) in Oklahoma is the annoying nerdy FBI agent Kressler (William Forsythe), who does more to hinder the investigation than help. On a rural farm area the investigators meet with the twisted Aryan church’s Rev Gebhardt (Michael Higgins), who gives them misinformation. But the persistent Beck stays on the case despite objections from the rigid FBI agent and his LA boss (Hy Anzell), who says he can only be on the case if the police shrink (Micheal Jeter) clears him as sane. When cleared for duty Beck treks by car to Kellman, Colorado, where the well-armed gang has been traced to a neo-Nazi compound run by Rev Gebhardt. With the help of the local law enforcer, the sympathetic black Captain Dixon (Tim Reid), and the unwanted help from the annoyingly inept FBI agent Kressler, the gang is discovered hiding in tunnels under the basement. After a bloody shoot-out, there’s a plot twist as we learn who really committed the holiday crimes.

Bob Balaban appears as a pussy parole officer, more interested in spending time with his family than helping Beck. We observe that Beck is throwing himself fully into his work to forget his personal woes over a failed marriage, rising debt due to overdue bills and a hefty alimony for child support. Penelope Ann Miller is unbelievable as the widow of the slain policeman, who meets Beck at a cop Christmas party and hops into bed with him for a quickie so soon after hubby was slain.

The funniest scene has Beck vomiting on a suspect after chasing him on Christmas through the streets of LA. The dumbest scene has Beck giggling at the shrink because he looks like Woody Allen and when realizing the vindictive shrink will not clear him for duty, threatens the shrink with body harm. The most awkward line of dialogue has Beck saying to fellow officers that there’s only one thing that matters: “Is there anyone who’d be afraid to go through a door with me?”.

Dead Bang is a film that maybe could only be more absurd if Woody Allen played the Don Johnson role.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”