Cinemax Friday: Supreme Sanction (1999, directed by John Terlesky)


Jordan McNamara (David Dukes) is a world-renowned news reporter who is investigating why some U.S. Army helicopters were mysteriously shot down.  The sinister Director (Ron Perlman) doesn’t want McNamara to uncover the answers.  So, he dispatches Dalton (Michael Madsen) to take care of the problem.

Dalton leads a group of assassins but everyone knows that his best sniper is Jenna (Kristy Swanson).  Jenna has killed a countless number of people for Dalton but, when it comes to McNamara, she can’t bring herself to pull the trigger.  It’s because Dalton foolishly orders Jenna to take the shot while McNamara is on a beach with his daughter.  Jenna is not willing to kill a man in front of his daughter.  When Jenna refuses to pull the trigger, she becomes a target herself and she’s forced to go on the run with McNamara and her only friend, a hacker named Marcus (Donald Faison).

Supreme Sanction doesn’t feature any nudity or, for that matter, any sex but the presence of Michael Madsen and Kristy Swanson in the cast makes this feel like a late night Cinemax film nonetheless.  The movie starts out slow and David Dukes (a good actor who is strangely bland here) really isn’t believable as world-renowned journalist but things pick up once Jenna and McNamara go on the run.  The first time you see Kristy Swanson behind a sniper rifle, your instinct might be too laugh but she gives a surprisingly natural performance and, by the end of the movie, she’s actually a credible action heroine.  Meanwhile, in the role of Marcus, Donald Faison gets all of the good lines.  He’s a hacker and, since this movie was made in 1999, that means that he’s the comic relief who can do just about anything.

Not surprisingly, the movie is stolen by Michael Madsen.  Madsen gives a standard Madsen performance here, delivering all of his lines in a threatening whisper and smirking whenever anyone tries to talk back to him but, even if he doesn’t do anything new, he’s still entertaining to watch.  Madsen is one of the few actors who can easily switch between appearing in B-movies and major productions and that’s because it’s hard to think of anyone who can play a smug, overconfident villain as well as he can.

Supreme Sanction is an unapologetic B-movie and it’s pretty damn entertaining.

A Movie A Day #224: Armed and Dangerous (1986, directed by Mark L. Lester)


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.

 

A Movie A Day #191: Blue City (1986, directed by Michelle Manning)


Billy Turner (Judd Nelson) has always been the bad boy but now he just wants to return to his Florida hometown and reconnect with his estranged father.  As soon as he rolls into town, Billy gets into a bar brawl and is arrested.  The chief of police (Paul Winfield) informs Billy that his father has been murdered and that his stepmother has since married the local gangster, Perry Kerch (Scott Wilson).  Everyone knows that Perry murdered Billy’s father but no one can prove it.  He is told to get out-of-town but Billy’s not going out like that.  Instead, he gets together with his childhood friends, gimpy legged Joey (David Caruso) and Annie (Ally Sheedy), and seeks his revenge.

No, it’s not a picture of Judd Nelson hanging out with the a member of the Heaven’s Gate cult.  It’s the DVD cover for Blue City.

An infamous flop, Blue City was meant to show that the members of the infamous Brat Pack could play serious, adult roles.  Unfortunately, Blue City was released right at a time when everyone was starting to get sick of the Brat Pack.  (Even John Hughes had moved on, casting Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller, instead of Anthony Michael Hall.)  After countless magazine covers and the monster success of The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo’s Fire, a backlash was brewing and Blue City walked (or, in Joey’s case, limped) straight into it.

It also did not help the film’s prospects that it matched up the least interesting Brat Packer, Judd Nelson, with the member of the Brat Pack most likely to take herself too seriously, Ally Sheedy.  Playing roles that would have been played by Alan Ladd an Veronica Lake in the 40s, both Nelson and Sheedy are miscast and, strangely considering this was their third film together, have no chemistry.  Nelson, in particular, gives one of the most annoying performances in film history.  He never stops smirking, even when there is no reason for Billy Turner to be smirking.  With his wide-eyed stare and his attempts to speak like a tough guy, Nelson comes across like John Bender auditioning for West Side Story.  The scene where he manages to floor Tiny Lister with one punch is simply beyond belief.

When Judd Nelson can beat you up, there is only one thing left to do:

Thanks, Duke.

On a more positive note, David Caruso, long before he could usher in the Who by simply putting on his sunglasses, is better cast as Joey but there is nothing surprising about what eventually happens to him.  The best performance is from Scott Wilson, showing why he used to always play villains before reinventing himself as Herschel on The Walking Dead.  Wilson was so good that I realized, halfway through Blue City, that I actually would not have minded if he succeeded in killing Billy.

The most disappointing thing about Blue City is that it is a Florida noir from the 80s that somehow does not feature even a cameo appearance by Burt Reynolds.  Couldn’t Judd have taken just a few seconds during the filming of Shattered: If Your Kid’s On Drugs to convince Burt to drop by Blue City?

They could have used the help.