Friday, September 23, 2011

Beyond the Law

Beyond the Law
D: Larry Ferguson (also wrote)

Pretty much Stone Cold with Charlie Sheen instead of Brian Bosworth

"Beyond the Law," yet another reason I have no regrets about the fact that I ignored the biker flicks of this period when they were new, has almost the same exact set-up as the previous year's "Stone Cold." Crazy cop is kicked off the force, then approached by the FBI to go undercover. He ends up deep inside a motorcycle club, and feels conflicted and begins to lose sight of his original mission. Fortunatley differences do emerge, because for a while this just seems like a remake.
There's other good news as well. Charlie Sheen is just a bit better an actor than fucking Brian Bosworth, the FBI guy is Courtney B. Vance (ADA Carver from Criminal Intent, my favorite of the Law & Order shows), and the main supporting actor and bike club prez is Michael Madsen. Let's put off the bad news for now.
Since Sheen is not the one dimensional actor Bosworth is, his character has a little more depth as well, corny as it may be. Dan Saxon was himself raised by a cop, a sadistic uncle who beat him severely and without reason, until Saxon shot him to death at age six. He is, of course, still haunted by nightmares of this. He's also not suspended for being a badass like John Stone, but fired, essentially because his boss is a prick. And he doesn't exactly have immediate success as an undercover man.
Saxon, in fact, has no luck at all making contacts as a drug dealer, and confides in a grease monkey he meets in a white trash dive--who just happens to be a motorcycle mechanic that always wanted to be a cop and offers to help him adopt a biker image and infiltrate local club the Jackals.
After learing how to "be a biker," building a Harley from scratch, and adorning colors for a fake club (the Pythons, Cleveland chapter), Saxon is ready. And, this being a movie, he's accepted rather quickly by Blood (Madsen), the Jackals' president.
From there things vary wildly, from the not bad to the ridiculous. Mostly ridiculous. Worst of all is the love story angle, involving Linda Fiorentino. She's a photojournalist hanging out with the club, who recognizes Saxon as the cop who pulled her over prior to his firing and undercover work. Despite the fact that she repeatedly mentions how dangerous his work is and that she'll be heading home to finish her project soon, she falls for Saxon, and after one night of lovin' (in a rather unsexy sex scene), allows him to bond with her six-year-old daughter. It also leads to an absolutely painfully cliche "Renee...I..." as he walks out the door.
Aside from the typically watchable Madsen performance, most of the rest of what's enjoyable here is only fun in retrospect. There's a three-way gun standoff like in "Reservoir Dogs," and in 2011 a scene where Charlie Sheen is pressured into doing coke (he likes it!) is pretty goddamnned funny.
I can't say enough about Madsen, who's always fun to watch, and would finally get to do a good biker film a decade+ later. And other small parts go to Rip Torn (as Saxon's original partner) and Dennis Burkley (from Sanford, "Mask," etc). All in all, this should have been a pretty enjoyable movie. So what's the problem?
The problem is that this is close to TWO FUCKING HOURS LONG, which is just obscene. And it's not exactly a tight 110 minutes, as there are so many fucking montages in this (even for an action movie of its era) that I started to wonder if it was a joke. The learning to be a biker montage, the getting ready to go out montage, the riding montage, the falling in love montage...Bloody hell.
Besides Michael Madsen and Sheen's performance (a throwaway, which from him is still good), the only real fun here is the titty bar, The Hole Thing, which features a Pabst "This Is The Place" sign that I would kill to own.
Would have been a good one if half of it was left on the cutting room floor, but as it is, this gets 1.5 lines of heavily stepped on blow.

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