Loose Cannons

1990, Movie, R, 94 mins

Review

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In LOOSE CANNONS, Gene Hackman plays Mac, a Washington, DC, police detective teamed with a new partner, Ellis (Dan Aykroyd), to break open a case that involves the FBI, Nazis, Israelis, and pornographers. In addition to this dangerous and complicated case, each man has his own set of problems. Mac--for reasons the script keeps unclear--is homeless; living out of his "woody" station wagon, he is full of disdain for his ex-wife and for his life in general. Ellis, who is fresh out of a psychiatric institution, is a virtual genius of deduction, but having been made a detective (thanks to his uncle), he can't handle the violent aspects of the job. Whenever something dangerous or difficult seems about to happen, Ellis changes into one of the many strange alternate personalities he harbors in his head. As different as the two cops are, they must work together and overcome these obstacles to catch the criminals. Sound familiar? Exactly how many buddy-cop movies can be made before people stop going to see them? Though Andrei Konchalovsky's extravagantly weird TANGO AND CASH seemed to be the most appropriate wrap-up for the tired concept, Hollywood failed to take the hint of that film's self-parody, and now comes LOOSE CANNONS, with its boring gimmick and moronic plot.

Briefly, this plot involves the fight for the possession of a pornographic film starring Hitler and a prominent German politician. Various people want to get their hands on this hot property, including sadistic neo-Nazi Grimmer (Paul Koslo), 350-pound porno dealer Gutterman (the wildly miscast Dom DeLuise), a group of Israeli spies, a corrupt FBI agent (Ronny Cox), and the many, many personalities of Ellis. After several convoluted chase scenes and ridiculous plot twists, the whole thing climaxes in New York's Grand Central Station. Mac finds the film, and is chased by Grimmer into an enclosed billboard high above the crowd in the station. Cornered at gunpoint, Mac flings the film through the billboard, where it falls into the waiting hands of the Israelis. Grimmer is then shot by Ellis (who has survived various tortures) and falls to his death. Later, the Hitler footage is shown at a debate (the porno film has now become a suicide film, but that's beside the point), exposing the German politician as a Nazi. Ellis and Mac recover in the hospital, and upon release are recruited to work for Israeli intelligence.

To put it bluntly, LOOSE CANNONS is garbage. It contains not one original idea or funny gag, not even a remotely entertaining moment. It's a painfully bad "comedy" that is full of the trademarks of director Bob Clark. Clark, whose credits include such gems as RHINESTONE; PORKY'S; and TURK 182!, fills his movies with startlingly crass elements. Crude themes, loud performances, and hammer-me-over-the-head comedy abound in his films, and LOOSE CANNONS is no exception. After a confusing and ineptly handled boat chase, the movie opens, in typical Clark fashion, with a group of characters eavesdropping on a couple having sex. This bit of comic inspiration is followed by some condom jokes, "dick" jokes, and fat jokes, culminating in Aykroyd and Hackman's first meeting, with Aykroyd vomiting. This sets the tone for what follows, including a scene at an S&M bar (easily Aykroyd's most embarrassing moment on celluloid) and several ridiculous chases. The gags are painfully flat and the plot is needlessly complicated.

Moreover, Clark seems to have no idea of how to handle his actors. DeLuise is horrible playing a sleaze who bizarrely ends up as a lovable goof and who is "so great with kids"; Hackman seems lost and completely disinterested, relying on his charm to get him through this mess; and Aykroyd is neither funny nor sympathetic in his obnoxious, overbearing character. Ellis' sudden personality changes are forced excuses for him to do bad impersonations (if your idea of comedy is Dan Aykroyd doing Pee-Wee Herman, then LOOSE CANNONS is for you), and his performance occasionally goes beyond over-the-top.

The mix of violence and comedy (which also marred DOWNTOWN, another 1990 buddy-cop film) is unsettling here. Beheadings are smoothly followed by slapstick, and torture is used for comedic purposes. LOOSE CANNONS also wastes the talents of attractive newcomer Nancy Travis, who was so good in Mike Figgis' INTERNAL AFFAIRS. Playing the leader of the Israelis, Travis is essentially used to model tight-fitting, loosely-buttoned sweaters, but she's still the reason for the generous one-star rating. LOOSE CANNONS is a horrible movie, and as such a fitting entry on Bob Clark's resume. (Profanity, violence, brief nudity, adult situations.) leave a comment

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