Code Red // 1987 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // September 18th, 2013
It is so ironic that you use the Americans' weakness for drugs and prostitutes to finance your plot...to destroy them!
The topless dancers at sleazy men's club Fool's Paradise are dropping like gyrating flies! Of heroin overdoses! Even though some of them are experienced junkies who should know better! Whatever could this mean?
Well, it could mean there's a powerful new smack brand out there. Or, it could be some kind of hooker-pimp-john thing gone wrong. Or, because Fool's Paradise is in D.C., and it's the Reagan '80s before Mr. Gorbachev was challenged to "tear down this wall," it could be a steamy blast of Cold War puffery!
In any event, Detective Malcolm "Mace" Douglas (Ed Marinaro, Hill Street Blues) is on the case -- a guy so tough, he got his nickname because he squirted -- yes -- MACE down a perp's throat to try to get him to talk. Tough...yet thick...that's Mace -- the detective, not the tear gas.
The streetwise Mace is paired with the college-educated Det. Cain (Darrell Larson, Twice in a Lifetime); naturally, the two disdain each other. This causes friction for Mace, who experiences another kind of friction when he goes undercover as a bouncer at the club and finds himself pec-to-pec with the jiggling doomed.
But even our dense but handsome hero can't imaging what's really at the bottom of all this.
Mace seems to be trying to be something a little more than a standard cops-'n'-crooks actioner; its topical-turned-dated Cold War motif lobs it lightly into the espionage genre. But even by mid-'80s standards, the cartoonish commies -- who, at one point, echo Krushchev's famous "We will bury you!" comment -- are just silly, and their motivating enchilada not all that compelling.
It's a little frustrating -- or it would be if there was any notion that the plot of this thing actually mattered. In the long run, it doesn't. Scenes of topless dancers topless dancing and later being slaughtered: that matters. Shootings and chasings and slaughterings: those matter. Anything more thought-provoking really comes off as gimmicky, which doesn't mean it's bad, but it doesn't really make it as good as it might have been. It just teeters somewhere between clever and sleazy, and never really commits to either.
Ed Marinaro seems like a really nice guy; unfortunately, this is a liability, since he's playing a cop who's supposed to be a loose cannon and something of a scuzzball. Physically imposing -- seriously, the guy's huge -- and with rugged good looks, he just doesn't have that sinister edge that would make him a Dirty Harry-style killing machine.
There are so many characters that just pop in and out of these puzzle pieces that never fit together, that it's the rare instance in which "spot the character actor" is a setback. William Windom (The Mephisto Waltz) and Corbin Bernsen (Psych) play cops staking out prostitutes in a sting operation that ends up going wrong; a gold-chain heavy Isaac Hayes (South Park) plays a drug lord with an army of Asian protectors; William Sanderson of Newhart -- "I'm Larry. This is my brother, Darryl, and that's my other brother, Darryl" -- is a pathologist. Lynn Whitfield (The Josephine Baker Story) is a reporter, Lane Davies (Body Double), a technician, and Rick Washburn (Mississippi Burning) turns up as a very bad man; plus, we get a whole scene-and-change devoted to a g-man discoursing on the United States Official Secrets Act, something that the United States doesn't actually have.
Code Red sprays this Mace with a decent-enough transfer and audio, along with a commentary with the director (William Vanderkloot) and associate producer (Toby Murphy) that was recorded in 2009.
Not guilty enough.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Code Red
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Rated R