Thursday, June 16, 2011

You Can't Stop a Dead Cop...From Being AWESOME!

Oh, how nostalgic we are for the wonder that was 1980s cinema. It was the perfect combination of experimentation and blatant selling out. The space that existed between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Roger Rabbit is practically eight years of throwing something against the wall, just to see what sticks. A wonderful example of this phenomenon is a little gem, seen more by accident on Cinemax than in theatres around the world, called Dead Heat.

“Remember the good old days, when bullets used to kill people.” – Doug Bigelow

Starring Treat Williams (the poor man’s Tommy Lee Jones) and Joe Piscopo (post SNL, muscled and mulleted) are two LAPD detectives, cleaning up the mean streets with their standard issue side arms and butter knife sharp wit. During a routine bank robbery shoot-out (which is like a typical Tuesday in LA), Detectives Roger Mortis (Williams…note the name… get it) and Doug Bigelow (Piscopo, still with a mullet) realize that these bad guys aren't going down with bullet hits. Oh no, zombies!

As their pursuit of the dim bulb zombie robbers continues, they find themselves at Dante Laboratories, where something foul is afoot. Roger dies tragically and Doug decides, "Hey, why not put my partner and best friend's body in this huge machine, just to see what it does." The machine reanimates Roger and now we've got a movie!

What transpires is 90 minutes of madcap buddy cop comedy and one-liners to spare. Roger only has twelve hours before he completely decomposes. That's more than enough time to kick a little ass and get to the bottom of this zombie business.

There are more than enough things to love about this movie, many of which derive from Piscopo's Doug Bigelow. He's unnaturally buff (coughcoughsteroidscough) and rocking that Jerry curl like a pro. There's no shame in his comedic timing. So much so that you can't help but giggle even at the clunkers. The man commits. Williams is the straight guy, learning to live a little more every time he takes a bullet and doesn't go down. Whether they're fighting hulking monsters, reanimated post-butchered cows (yes) or each other, the brisk pace of this shiny turd keeps you entertained.

Directed by Mark Goldblatt, an Oscar nominated editor whose only other feature film directed endeavor was the Dolph Lundgren Punisher a year later. His fine-tuned editing chops come in handy with this mash up of genres. The make up and creature effects are fun, if not accurate and surprisingly effective when they are. With such a ridiculous premise and execution, it's hard not to love Dead Heat for what it is. I love the reckless abandon of 80s genre cinema. It's like there's a dartboard filled with contrived premises and the screenwriters landed their darts on Buddy Cop, Zombie, and Action Comedy.

Having seen the film numerous times in my youth, I was shocked how it held up by my (sometimes) unrealistic expectations today. If I'm going to commit to a movie now a days, it better be worth it. Oh, boy is Dead Heat worth it. So much in fact that I petition to you, Midnight Cheeseheads, let's get this re-made. Perhaps staring Will Smith and Ben Affleck or something, directed by someone that understands movies can be fun, even when they don't make sense. Keep the zombie butcher shop scene and it'll be box office gold!

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