(director/writer: Jim Kouf; cinematographer: Brian Reynolds; editor: Todd Ramsay; music: Mickey Hart; cast: James Belushi (Frank Divinci),  Tupac Shakur (Det. Rodriguez),  Lela Rouchon (Cynthia Webb), Dennis Quaid(Joe Doe/William McCall), David Paymer (Elliott Goff), James Earl Jones (Arthur Baylor), T.C. Carson (Manny), Kool Moe Dee (Agent Hudd), Brad Greenquist (D.A, Richard Stein), Wendy Crewson (Helen Eden), Gary Cole (Richard Simms), James Handy (Capt. Henderson), Gregory Scott Cummins (Clyde David Dunner, killer), Tom Ormeny (Nathan McCall), Tony Perez (Judge Pine; Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating:R; producer: Brad Krevoy; Orion; 1997)

“Unpleasant urban crime drama that’s short on story but a bit longer on performances.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jim Kouf (“Disorganized Crime”/”A Fork in the Road”) is writer-director of this unpleasant urban crime drama that’s short on story but a bit longer on performances.

In an unnamed big city corrupt homicide detective partners Frank Divinci (James Belushi) and Rodriguez (Tupac Shakur) pose as drug dealers and await in their stripper friend’s apartment to make a drug sale. Stripper Cynthia (Lela Rouchon) pads down the buyer. After the buyer scores the heroin he drives off, and Frank kills him in a drive-by and recovers the drugs to recycle it again. The rogue duo have been working this scam for awhile and always keep both the money and drugs, and always label the crime as gang related. At the precinct, their anxious captain (James Handy) informs them that the vic is this time an undercover DEA agent (Kool Moe Dee) and the DEA boss (Gary Cole) is pressuring them to get the killer fast or else his department will take charge. The worried rogue cops thereby quickly frame a homeless man known as Joe Doe (Dennis Quaid), and coerce their stripper friend to be a false witness.

But things go bad when it turns out the drunk vagrant’s idealistic lawyer (David Paymer) believes his client is innocent and insists on going to trial rather than accept a plea bargain. The frightened witness flees. Also the true identity of the accused is discovered and his wealthy family hires the celebrated top-notch family lawyer Arthur Baylor (James Earl Jones) to represent the innocent man.

From now on, at every turn, the rogue cops, the nasty piece of work Frank who dreams of retiring to Hawaii and the guilt-ridden weakling Rodriguez who is hoping to pay off his gambling debts to the mafia, are squirming and whatever they do only makes things worse. The pic also worsens and becomes almost unbearable, as it suddenly finds its moral compass and gives its bad cops the business. The B film is never more than serviceable, if that, as it ends up looking like many other shoddy corrupt police tales even if it risked going down a few darkened streets other such films didn’t.

REVIEWED ON 8/22/2017       GRADE: C+