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Keaton's Cop
(1990)
 

Director: Bob Burge             
Cast:
Lee Majors, Abe Vigoda, Don Rickles


TV star Lee Majors hits the minors in Keaton's Cop, a tired and dumb so-called "comedy" that was obviously inspired by Midnight Run and 48 Hours.

Mike Gable (Majors) is a tough cop who has a penchant for throwing people out of windows, illustrated by the opening sequence when he chases two crooks up to the second floor of a building (using the comic cliché of us hearing the ruckus from outside, then seeing the crooks being defenestrated). The next morning, he gets up very late and putting his dog on his treadmill for exercise. Then picking up his son from his ex-wife's house, he discovers she has a lover from the night before, causing him to run in and throw him out the window, leading to his arrest. At this point, I started to slump down in my seat; not seeing one original thing in these first ten minutes did not give me confidence for the next 85.

Meanwhile, across town in a retirement home, Louie Keaton (Vigoda) calls time-out in a poker game with his friend, and leaves the room for several minutes. While he's gone, a hit man enters the room, and shoots the friend, thinking he's Keaton. Gable and his partner Jake (Rickles) join the investigation. Jake has known ex-mobster Keaton since childhood and they get along, but it's hate at first sight for Gable and Keaton. Of course there's no reason why they should hate each other at first sight, except so the screenwriter can artificially create chemistry between them.

Actually, at that time I was more pondering Rickles' performance. Now, I've never been a fan of Rickles' barbed, "insult" humor, though I will admit that he can be funny at times (as in Toy Story). So since this movie professes to being a comedy, I was expecting him to at least use his trademark humor, or at least have some amusing one-liners. Imagine my surprise when Rickles plays his role completely straight; so straight, I actually wanted him to be let loose so he could add some laughs to the unfunny screenplay. I must admit, though, that it was quite satisfying when shortly after, a hit team comes to the retirement village and Rickles get bloodily blasted by a shotgun and painfully dies.

Gabe manages to blow away the hitmen and save Keaton, but he doesn't earn Keaton's gratitude or respect. When Keaton is put away in protective custody at a hotel, yet another hit team comes in, violently and bloodily killing the cops (I thought this was a comedy), but Keaton is again saved by Gabe. By now, Gabe is tired of Keaton's refusal to cooperate, and demands Keaton do so. Keaton says he'll agree to do so if he's let free to run the investigation with Gabe. Gabe and Keaton go to the captain for permission, and to remind viewers what this movie rips off, says, "You've got 48 Hours!" The duo set off to find comedy, action, and mystery, but fail at all three, choosing to mostly drive around and snap "jokes" at each other.

Maybe the filmmakers felt they had to follow a formula. But couldn't they at least juiced it up with some fresh material? And did it have to be so schizophrenic? It can't decide whether to be a wisecracking comedy or a violent action movie. Mixing action and comedy can be done - look at Midnight Run and 48 Hours. However, when you mix hard action and comedy - and in equal parts - it's doomed to fail. When viewers watch a movie, they usually expect and are set for one genre. Occasional detours into another genre along the way can work, because the focus is still on the main genre. When two genres are mixed, the viewer is forced to detour his set expectations throughout the movie. 48 Hours mixed hard action and comedy, but succeeded because up front its heart was comedy - viewers knew that the detours to action were just temporary, while knowing the movie's true heart. I suppose Keaton's Cop could be called a "half hearted" effort, with each half for the genre.

How about the action and comedy itself? Well, the action isn't exciting or original except for the fact a shotgun has a laser sight on it. And the movie has a strange sense of humor that might offend certain viewers. For example, the hitmen who kill Gabe's partner are gay. The screenplay does not make jokes about the actions these gay characters do, but expects us to laugh simply because they are gay. What's worse is the fact the movie keeps forgetting to be funny (or action packed). Imagine people standing around talking, with little to no musical score - that's what the bulk of the picture is like.

Of all the people involved in the movie, I felt most sorry for Majors. In defense of him, I must point out that it's quite clear in the movie that Majors is not happy to be in this movie. You got to admire him for sticking it out, though he acts like he's gritting his teeth. I felt like that myself for most of the movie


UPDATE: "Tim" sent some additional information along:

"Haven't seen the movie, which is probably just as well. But I do remember that several companies offered shotgun laser sights for a while. They were intended for use with shotguns that fired rifled slugs. Using one on a shotgun that was firing standard shot, of course, would make as much sense as putting a silencer on a revolver. Probably looks at least a little bit cool/threatening, though."

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See also: Deadly Force, Real Men, Drive

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