John Candy and Eugene Levy make a great team in the underrated comedy, Armed and Dangerous.
John Candy plays Frank Dooley, a member of the LAPD. One of the first scenes of the movie is Frank climbing up a tree to save a little boy’s kitten and then getting stuck in the tree himself. When Frank discovers two corrupt detectives stealing televisions, Frank is framed for the theft and kicked off the force.
Eugene Levy plays Norman Kane, a lawyer whose latest client is a Charles Manson-style cult leader who has a swastika carved into his head. After being repeatedly threatened with murder, Norman asks for a sidebar and requests that the judge sentence his client to life in prison. The judge agrees on the condition that Norman, whom he describes as being “the worst attorney to ever appear before me,” find a new line of work.
Frank and Norman end up taking a one day training course to act as security guards and are assigned to work together by their tough by sympathetic supervisor (Meg Ryan!). Assigned to guard a pharmaceutical warehouse, Frank and Norman stumble across a robbery. The robbery leads them to corruption inside their own union and, before you can say 80s cop movie, Frank and Norman are ignoring the orders of their supervisors and investigating a crime that nobody wants solved.
Armed and Dangerous was one of the many comedy/cop hybrid films of the 1980s. Like Beverly Hills Cop, it features Jonathan Banks as a bad guy. Like the recruits in Police Academy, all of Frank and Norman’s fellow security guards are societal misfits who are distinguished by one or two eccentricities. There is nothing ground-breaking about Armed and Dangerous but Mark Lester did a good job directing the movie and the team of Candy and Levy (who has previously worked together on SCTV) made me laugh more than a few times.
Armed and Dangerous was originally written to be a vehicle for John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. It’s easy to imagine Belushi and Aykroyd in the lead roles but I think the movie actually works better with Candy and Levy, whose comedic style was similar to but far less aggressive than that of Belushi and Aykroyd. One of the reasons that Armed and Dangerous works is because John Candy and Eugene Levy seem like the two last people to ever find themselves in a shootout or a car chase. With Belushi and Aykroyd, it would have been expected. After all, everyone’s seen The Blues Brothers.