If asked out to see this gangster send-up, the prudent moviegoer will respond with something like, "Come in and get me, Copper," or perhaps, "You'll never take me alive." Director Brian (Body Double) De Palma, who has injected a lot of tangential wit into most of his previous films, deserves some credit for having the enterprise to make a full-fledged comedy. Well, make that a slightly-fledged comedy. Danny (Jewel of the Nile) De Vito and Joe (Johnny Dangerously) Piscopo play New Jersey hoodlums who are held in such low esteem that their main jobs are to start their boss's car to check for bombs and do the gang's grocery shopping. When they try a scam that ends up with their owing the boss $250,000, they find themselves running for their lives. De Vito and Piscopo do a decent neo-Abbott and Costello. But neither De Palma nor debut writer George Gallo give them much to work with. The few funny bits are like oases in a desert, separated by agonizingly long dry stretches. (The best line goes to Dan Hedaya, who plays the mob boss and at one point gathers his thugs to consider revenge against De Vito and Piscopo. "Do we really hurt them by killing them?" he muses. The henchmen ponder this for a while and one finally murmurs, "It's a start.") For the most part, though, De Palma is not as funny trying to be as he was unintentionally with Scarface. (R)

Produced by Michael Mann, the guiding force behind Miami Vice, this film is like a bad episode of Vice minus Don Johnson. Paul Michael (Starsky and Hutch) Glaser directs his first movie as if much of it were a series of music videos, blending disconnected scenes with Bob Dylan's music long before he allows the plot to surface. When it does, the audience is too numb to care. Playing a Vietnam vet turned social worker, Stephen (Twice in a Lifetime) Lang gives the only convincing performance. He gets five Miami misfits from a juvenile detention center and teaches them how to survive as a team in the Everglades, then leads them back to Miami to combat drug gangs. But Daniele Quinn (Anthony's son, in his first role) is the only one who realistically wants out. "I've got another war to fight," he says, referring to his former drug boss, James (The Cotton Club) Remar, who's stolen his girlfriend. Lang tells him it's the "same war; you're just changing sides." Remar isn't altogether pleased with this Dirty (half) Dozen and orders them killed. When the Band seeks revenge on Remar by blowing up his cocaine processing plant, things heat up. But that comes much too late. One-hour TV shows should not masquerade as feature films. (R)

Michael Caine makes movies almost as often as other people go to them. He began 1986 with one of his best, Hannah and Her Sisters, and in the next months we'll see the "cockney Cary Grant" in Sweet Liberty, Half Moon Street, The Whistle Blower and The Fourth Protocol. However well or bad these films turn out, you can always count on Caine. In Water, a Monty Pythonesque political satire, he plays Baxter Thwaites, governor of Cascara, a forgotten British colony in the Caribbean. When the Gov isn't testing the local marijuana crop or warding off his hysterical Guatemalan wife (deliciously overplayed by Brenda Vaccaro), he's dictating futile pleas for financial aid to Margaret Thatcher. It seems Cascara is a wasteland. The inhabitants are descended mostly from shipwreck victims (the national anthem is a hymn to the breaststroke that brought them there) or from the local minister (Fulton MacKay), who provided the women of his parish with more than spiritual comfort. But Caine sees his chance to end the island's tropical torpor when an American oil company's long-abandoned drilling well starts spewing out water. Not just any water. This lemony fizz is a match for Perrier. Suddenly business interests from America and Cuba are inciting a revolution to cadge bottling rights. With the help of ecologist Valerie Perrine, Caine sides with the natives against Whitehall's avaricious minister, hilariously played by the late Leonard Rossiter of TV's The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. Sneers Rossiter (and no one sneered better) to Caine: "You've become the Patty Hearst of the British Diplomatic Corps." If only laughs like this weren't so often followed by boredom. Director and co-writer Dick (Bullshot) Clement can't keep Water above the ragtag level. But Hand Made Films (whose co-founder George Harrison does a singing cameo) should be celebrated for financing films (The Long Good Friday, A Private Function) that don't play it safe. And while we're celebrating, let's raise one to Caineā€”an actor who is never less than a class act. (PG-13)

  • Contributors:
  • Ralph Novak,
  • Tom Cunneff,
  • Peter Travers.