Picks and Pans Review: Dead-Bang
updated 04/10/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 04/10/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT
The violence is bloodier, the language filthier and the sex a bit more explicit, but this is basically a Miami Vice episode—a wolf in wolf's clothing. Johnson plays a cynical, bitter L.A. detective who spends most of his time looking as if he has a toothache. Investigating a cop killing, he stumbles onto a white supremacist group and starts chasing them around the country. Johnson takes from the villains a map on which they've drawn a planned route—Don couldn't get better service from the AAA—but they thoughtfully don't change their itinerary. That sets up a series of pitched battles. In fact, in a 109-minute movie, there are three murder scenes, three gun-fights and a long chase-cum-punch-out.
There's only a passing attempt to give Johnson a personality. He is undergoing a painful divorce, for instance, but his ex never appears on-camera, presumably to avoid taking screen time away from the firing of automatic weapons. Everybody is a superstereotype: the wimpy parole officer, the weasely shrink, the punctilious FBI agent (well played, under the circumstances, by William Forsythe). It comes across like one of those quickie Westerns from the '40s. Johnson, no surprise, gets it all done, though if he expected this to be his Dirty Harry-like movie breakthrough, it's not likely to make his day. And it's depressing to think that the man who directed Birdman of Alcatraz and The Manchurian Candidate, John Franken-heimer, has been reduced to such beginner-level stuff as this. (R)