Thursday, February 18, 2016

Retro Review: NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET (1987)

For this blog's regular readers--a number that is coming perilously close to double digits--"Retro Review" will be shorter, less-detailed reviews of older (2015 and back) movies that I'm either looking at again or seeing for the first time. I'm still doing the regular new theatrical and DVD/Blu-ray reviews and the infrequent "Cult Classics Revisited" and other longer pieces, but with my regular day job, I simply don't have the time to write as many of those longer (sometimes too long) pieces as I'd like to, but I don't want to taper off on my writing. In other words, I think something is better than nothing, and honestly, sometimes there's just not much to say. 

(US - 1987)

A disjointed buddy-cop movie that feels like it was made up as it went along, NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET was Cannon's quickly-made attempt to beat LETHAL WEAPON to theaters, which it did by a week, despite switching directors at some point late in production. Veteran journeyman Jack Smight (HARPER, DAMNATION ALLEY) is the credited director, but Roger Corman alumnus Steve Carver (AN EYE FOR AN EYE, LONE WOLF MCQUADE) ended up doing reshoots and finishing the film after Smight either quit or was fired. Along with Gail Morgan Hickman (who scripted the 1976 Dirty Harry entry THE ENFORCER), Jim Belushi was one of four credited screenwriters and was originally set to star, though he ended up being replaced by Robert Carradine--the same year he reprised his signature role in REVENGE OF THE NERDS II: NERDS IN PARADISE--as loose-cannon, no-rules L.A. cop Ray "Berserk" Berzak. Billy Dee Williams is Frank Hazeltine, Berzak's long-suffering, jazz-loving partner who's constantly dealing with Berzak's annoying antics, ranging from chasing off his ladies by pretending to be gay or through his obsessive pursuit of DaCosta (Barry Sattels), a BFF of the mayor and a prominent businessman that "Berserk" is convinced runs the city's drug business, with help from someone deep inside the LAPD.

The story is on the episodic side and meanders from set piece to set piece, with an emphasis on obnoxious comedy, like Berzak stalking his ex-wife (Valerie Bertinelli in one of her very few appearances on the big screen) and chasing off her current beau by implying that she has AIDS.  In addition to pretending to be gay, Berzak also cock-blocks Hazeltine by telling a bullshit story about him wasting a nine-year-old boy who was wielding a toy gun and subsequently disposing of the body. Definitely not for those susceptible to microaggressions, but it's entertaining if you're in a stupid enough mood or a completist of '80s cop movies where two mismatched cops have to work together to bring down the bad guys...if they don't kill each other first!  Also with Doris Roberts as Berzak's nagging mom, Bobby DiCicco, Mykel T. Williamson, Sunset Strip icon Bill Gazzarri, and Peter Graves as Berzak and Hazeltine's perpetually aggravated captain, who of course threatens to bust the troublemaking duo down to traffic if they don't get with the program. NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET bombed in theaters, landing in 15th place (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS opened the same weekend) and not even sticking around for a second week to give LETHAL WEAPON any competition, thus depriving us of any further Berzak & Hazeltine adventures. Smight (1925-2003) directed one more film, 1989's little-seen INTIMATE POWER, before retiring from the business. (R, 101 mins)


  1. regular reader here! never commented before but i love your reviews (whether i agree with them or not). keep up the great work! long or short, i'll keep reading

  2. Thank you, sir! Much appreciated!