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(YouTube) Video Saturday Cinema: Dead Bang, 1988 - Don Johnson tracks a cop killer to a white power compound in Oklahoma. Frankenheimer directs   (youtube.com) divider line 7
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425 clicks; posted to Video » on 21 Jun 2014 at 12:15 PM (4 weeks ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2014-06-21 10:28:12 AM
www.pastposters.com

Director John Frankenheimer worked flat out from leaving school, through the Air Force's documentary films unit, into early TV and then to block buster films. All that success took its toll. After driving Bobby Kennedy to the hotel where he was murdered, Frankenhimer began wear thin. He still had a few good years in him with stellar 70s outings like Black Sunday, The Iceman Cometh and French Connection 2, but now battled drink.

The blockbusters ended and he stepped in as a replacement director for clunkers like Prophesy and The Holcraft Covenant (which still show a deft touch) but the muscular confidence was gone and so was was the pre shooting thinking that eliminated script weaknesses.


The 1980s were the years of the cop film. The entire genre was predicated upon never ever calling for back-up and never needing to build cases for prosecution.  In this picture, TV heartthrob Don Johnson is following up on recent parolees after a policeman is shot after a store robbery.

Johnson pursues the lead into the Midwest. Throughout the chase, there is great casting for the many characters along the way such as a  obstructionist bigoted policemen and the   Woody Allan-like psychiatrist who gives Johnson an inappropriate case of the giggles during a high-stress meeting, In particular, the FBI man with appallingly crooked teeth by William Forsythe who's offended by Johnson's blue language help keep you wondering 'what's next' and distract you from some of the paint by numbers weaknesses:The first sixteen minutes of the film actually needs to be the first five minutes.

Specifically, the stage setting of a divorced hard drinking cop is irrelevant to anything that happens in the film; consequently, the life lesson the lead character learns in the last 30 seconds to end the film on a happy note has zero narrative force as it comes out of no-where.  Given that only two years previously, we had scenes like this in a Christmas cop film, some script editing could have brought Dead Bang into sharper focus.


Similarly, the need to have him shirtless with a pretty blond is predicated by his TV stardom. It should have been cut.

Finally, it seems unlikely that a dead policeman would be treated as lacksidasically as depicted, however, once the film's cookie-cutter opening ticks past, the film gathers pace and grace.  Frankenheimer even starts using his favourite lens, the 19mm anamorphic. Perhaps the suits were looking at the dailies and once the LA scenes that start the film were shot, stopped caring and he felt free to get back to his instincts.  An uncredited Michael Kamen was apparently brought in to beef up the score apparently to make the film sound more like 'Die Hard' but it's not a major component to the film's aesthetic. The trouble with that sort of thinking is that most of the film takes place in the great outdoors and the heavy score of Die Hard wouldn't work in that context. Moreover the action beats of Dead Bang are shorter and less complicated; it's a police investigation film, not an action film.

This director made much better films before this and would again later. 1988's Dead Bang hinted at a come back that would reach a zenith with the totally f*cking awesome Ronin a few years later and amazing made for TV work such as The Path to War and Andersonville.   That aside, so many other directors never managed to get to the level of this passable film, suitable for a Saturday afternoon.

There's one thing that rather bugs me in retrospect. The obvious SS imagery seems like it followed path of least resistance when depicting the far right fringe in America.  Then again, this was before the 1995 Oklahoma bombing.

For the record, high speed sprints can result in you puking.
(Ask me about runner's diarrhoea.)
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Link to Last Week's Saturday Cinema
Next Week's Saturday Cinema wonders what fools these mortals be. For example, Jimmy Cagney in tights.
 
2014-06-21 02:36:02 PM
Dead Bang? No wonder it did poorly at the box office, it sounds like it's about a necrophiliac.
 
2014-06-21 03:14:43 PM
Never heard of it
 
2014-06-21 03:59:14 PM
Good movie
 
2014-06-21 08:48:17 PM
I remember when it came out; it was a desperate attempt to cash in on Don Johnson's TV popularity, but since he was playing a cop that -wasn't- the one he played on TV, lots of people were confused and didn't see the movie.
 
2014-06-22 01:35:30 AM
That was one of the movies I randomly picked up at the video store a long time ago fully expecting to to suck.  It was surprisingly good.  Perhaps it was because I had such low expectations given that the last Don Johnson movie I thought was OK was "A Boy and His Dog".

BTW, "Miami Vice" sucked, chewed and swallowed balls.
 
2014-06-22 11:59:03 AM
A year later Johnson did "The Hot Spot" with director Dennis Hopper..Another great movie...He was on a roll for a short while...
 
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