Insomnia File #12: Beyond The Law (dir by Larry Ferguson)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!


Last night, if you were awake at one in the morning, you could have turned on FLIX and watched the 1993 film Beyond The Law.

Now, you may look at the title and think to yourself, “That movie sounds way too generic for anyone to watch.”  And, to a certain extent, you’re right.  Based, so the narrated epilogue insists, on a true story, Beyond The Law is about a troubled cop who goes undercover and joins a biker gang.  After gaining the trust and friendship of the gang’s ruthless leader, the cop struggles to maintain a between order and chaos.  Sometimes, he succeeds.  Sometimes, he doesn’t.  Largely, his success is dependent on whatever the narrative requires at the moment.

It’s totally predictable but, at the same time, it’s hard not to watch.  When a film starts with an Indian shaman telling Charlie Sheen that his dark side is going to destroy him, how can you not keep watching?

That’s right … the undercover cop is played by Charlie Sheen.  Fortunately, since Beyond the Law was made in 1993, we’re talking about the sexy and dangerous Charlie Sheen who showed up at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and not the sad and bloated Charlie Sheen who co-starred on Two And A Half Men.

Charlie’s a deputy in Arizona who, as a result of his traumatic childhood, has a violent temper.  After he gets into a fist fight with another deputy (played by Rip Torn), he is told that he can either quit the force or he can go undercover.  He chooses to go undercover.  Fortunately, he knows an informant (Leon Rippy) who can teach him how to pass for a biker.  The informant’s nickname is Dildo (no, really) but later, we find out that his given name is Virgil.  And he’s Charlie’s guide through the Hell of the Arizona underworld, just as another Virgil led Dante through another Hell…

Yes, it’s totally heavy-handed but somehow, it’s appropriate.  The title may be generic but, within the first 30 minutes of the film, Beyond the Law gives us Indian wisdom, strange flashbacks, references to Dante, a guy named Dildo, and Charlie Sheen.  But that’s not all!  Beyond the Law also has Michael Madsen!

Michael Madsen plays Blood, the leader of the biker gang that Charlie has to infiltrate. And he gives a classic Michael Madsen performance, full of random squints, arched eyebrows, menacing pauses in the middle of dialogue, and that famous Michael Madsen half-smirk.  Predictable as its plot may be, Beyond The Law is your only chance to see Charlie Sheen and Michael Madsen compete to see who can chew the most scenery.  Charlie does his crazy eyes.  Madsen does his half-smirk.  In the end, I would say that Madsen wins.

Charlie also ends up having a relationship with an photojournalist (Linda Fiorentino).  Before going undercover, he gave her a speeding ticket and, when they later meet at a biker gathering, she immediately recognizes him but keeps his secret.  She doesn’t really get to do much in the film but I still liked the character because she was tough and she was the only person in the film who could outsmirk Michael Madsen.

Beyond The Law is nothing special but it’s worth watching just for the chance to see Michael Madsen and Charlie Sheen acting opposite each other.

Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch



46 responses to “Insomnia File #12: Beyond The Law (dir by Larry Ferguson)

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