Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Burt With a Badge: Rent-A-Cop (1987)

Apologies to those who may have been expecting 1984’s City Heat next. But Burt Reynolds plays an ex-cop in that film, and I hew to a rigorous if arbitrary standard. Plus I swore I’d never sit through that turkey again. (Yes, Burt does play a sheriff in 1982’s The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Musicals are exempt. Again, my rules.)

Burt surrenders his shield a mere twelve minutes into Rent-A-Cop, but it still counts. By the twenty minute mark he’s not even a rent-a-cop anymore, so who’s the idiot now?

Whole chunks of the film were shot in Rome but it’s set in Chicago, a fact we never forget because Burt’s Tony Church is always seen wearing or standing close to some item of Bears paraphernalia. Again the action opens with a botched drug bust, the mayhem courtesy of a bargain basement Boba Fett in a motorcycle helmet. For the third straight movie a call girl is part of the plot; Liza Minnelli, equipped with heart of gold, got a glimpse of the shooter and now he’s gunning for her. She casts Burt as her white knight, glomming onto him and not letting go.

You know you’re in trouble when a baby-faced Michael Rooker is given a single line – and it’s dubbed by someone else. The entire enterprise is exhausted, the screenplay consisting solely of placeholder dialogue. After the initial bloodbath one of the brass (John P. Ryan) is about to lay into Church when he’s told, “Take it easy on him. Those six guys we lost were his friends.” Ryan’s response: “Oh yeah? So what?” Things swiftly reach a point of no return when Liza harasses Burt at his new gig busting department store shoplifters while dressed as Santa. The one marginally decent joke, about Flower Drum Song, is naturally repeated. The villain, played by esteemed badass James Remar, is known as Dancer because ... he’s a dancer, although his terpsichorean efforts consist mainly of rhythmic arm flails while barefoot and shirtless in front of a mirror. The film’s high point comes when a transvestite disarms Liza at a disco by saying, “I love your muff.”

Burt and Liza were both nominated for Razzies for their performances. They don’t have much chemistry and are ten years too old for their roles. Liza is forced to toddle around in fake furs and gaudy high heels as if she were working a lounge in 1974 Atlantic City. But she’s game, God love her. Burt wisely keeps it minimalist and tries not to bump into the furniture.

Honestly? I’d have been better off watching City Heat again.