By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Bruce Willis, Damon Wayans, Chelsea Field, Halle Berry, Noble Willingham, Taylor Negron, and Danielle Harris.
I may be naïve, but until I moved to Nevada, I really had no clue how big sports gambling was. I was always intent on rooting for my teams, and if they were not in the playoffs, rooting for a good game. Since moving here, I have seen sports gambling up close and personal. And, like most gamblers, I have my good days and bad. However, some people make a living on it. And, this script, written by a post Lethal Weapon Shane Black, explores the ugly sides of it. Of course, adding in the element of a football player shooting their opponents on the field and ex quarterbacks in car chases and drawing bombs that look like apples. This 1991 actionier starring Willis and Wayans at the height of their careers, is a real romp that, while unbelievable at times, is type of altogether exciting, violent sort of entertainment that is a fun way to spend a couple hours.
Willis plays Joe Hallenbeck, an LA detective who was once a member of the Secret Service. He gets a job from his partner (Bruce McGill) involving the surveillance of a stripper named Cory(Berry, before she took herself way too serious) who holds the tape that might expose NFL owner Sheldon Marcone (Noble Willingham)as the slimy owner that he is, using players for his own profit and no one else’s. After his partner is killed outside his house (and he is caught sleeping with Hallenbeck’s wife) and Cory is killed, Hallenbeck teams with her boyfriend, ex quarterback Jimmy Dix, to expose Marcone themselves. First thing’s first: while John McClane is undoubtedly the role he will always be known for, Willis has, nor ever will be, better than he is here. Sporting a five o’clock shadow and whipping out one side-splittingly funny one liner after the other, he flat out owns here. Wayans also has his funny moments, and him & Willis actually play off each other rather well (some of these lines were undoubtedly ad-libbed). A real surprise is Harris, playing Willis’ foul mouthed daughter who also somehow gets involved in the fray. Known strictly as the character of Jaime in Halloweens 4 & 5, it was a surreal experience seeing her spew out one four letter word after another here. But, she pulls it off, and, believe it or not, becomes endearing by the end of the movie (although, I have to admit that the Satan Clause bit had me laughing pretty hard).
The direction, by Ridley’s brother Tony Scott, is also very spot on. While there are definitely some obvious blue screen usage here (remember: digital effects wouldn’t be used frequently till a couple years down the line), the shoot-outs are very well staged and of course, there has to be a car chase or two now doesn’t there? They were exciting as well. I did have a few minor qualms about the movie. I don’t know about you, but every time a movie has what they claim is a sports team in it, and they are actually made up names, it kind of distracts me from the film itself. Yeah, they had real announcers such as Dick Butkus and Lynn Swann calling the games, but it always feels weird seeing a staged “pro” match-up that involves…the LA Stallions and Cleveland Cats. Huh?! Come on, Joel Silver. You had all the money in the world back then. Shell out to rent the Raiders name or something. Also, Taylor Negron was just too weird of a bad guy, and his conversations with Willis just came off as boring and uninteresting to me.
Other than that, this film hits some great notes. Truth be told, this is a case of a bunch of popular Hollywood players (Black, Willis, Wayans, Scott) who are on top of their game here. I don’t think any of them would ever reach better heights. Black’s dialogue is really good, Willis is just hilarious, and Scott’s direction is better than it was in Top Gun. Looking for a movie about cuddly animals? Look elsewhere. Looking for a balls-to-the-wall action film involving the sport of football? This is your ticket. Although…believe it or not, there are cuddly animals who shoot guns in this film as well.
4 out of 5