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D.C. CAB (1983) **

Joel Schumacher’s D.C. Cab is a movie that has energy to spare and features a great ensemble cast. Somewhere along the way, he forgot to make it funny. I guess Schumacher was trying to make another Car Wash-esque kind of flick, but the whole thing never quite clicks.

Adam (Firefly) Baldwin stars as a young kid who goes to D.C. to drive for his uncle’s ramshackle cab company. While learning the ropes, he gets to know the colorful characters who work there. When he gets kidnapped, the cabbies band together to rescue him.

Although Baldwin is quite good in the lead, it’s the supporting cast that makes the film watchable. Gary Busey, Bill Maher, Mr. T, and Paul Rodriguez have a few nice moments, yet none of them are really given anything laugh out loud funny to do. Busey blusters and flusters, but he’s not very funny. A young Bill Maher has a surprising amount of screen presence, but again, he’s not very funny. Mr. T… well… you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong, all involved give it their best shot. It’s almost as if Schumacher got together a dynamite cast and then completely forgot to light the fuse.

Because of the cast, it’s hard to completely dismiss the movie. I only wish the useless kidnapping subplot didn’t bring the whole thing to a screeching halt. On the plus side, the flick climaxes at a drive-in that’s playing a 3-D movie, so it’s got that going for it.

Flaws aside, D.C. Cab is still pretty much guaranteed a place in cinema history. That’s mostly because it introduced the world to The Barbarian Brothers. They are a lot of fun to watch and have an uncanny knack for rising above subpar material. Heck, they basically made an entire career of doing just that.

Busey gets the best line of the movie when he says, “If I wanted responsibility I would’ve become a sex surrogate!”

AKA: Mr. T and Company. AKA: Street Fleet.

EYE OF THE TIGER (1986) *** ½

You know how you have a bad first impression with someone and then they go out of their way to make it up to you until you finally have to admit they’re an okay dude? That’s kind of how it was with Eye of the Tiger. Right away, I didn’t like the way they stole the title of the movie from Survivor’s hit song from Rocky 3. Not only that, but it’s also heard several times during the movie. It just rubbed me the wrong way that they could take something so closely identified with a hit movie and try to make a new thing out of it. It’s kind of like making a movie called “There’s Got to Be a Morning After” that’s not about a boat sinking. Because I love Rocky 3 with all my heart, I saw this as sort of a slap in the face.

So immediately, I’m on the defensive. But, the movie did it’s best to make up for that. It said, “Sorry about that Mitch. I didn’t mean to get you all riled up like that.”

Now if we were in a bar or something, and someone wanted to smooth over a misunderstanding, they’d offer to buy me a drink. I’d probably refuse, but they’d insist and I’d relent and drink up. Then before long, we’d be buying each other shots and become friends and quickly forget our differences.

This is a movie we’re talking about though so instead of offering to buy me a drink, it said, “How about if I make the plot of this movie a Death Wish rip-off?” I’d say something like, “Nah, that’s okay I’m good!” Then it would insist and say, “How about if I make it a Death Wish rip-off starring Gary Busey as the hero?” I’d ponder it for a second and still shake my head and say, “No thanks”. Finally, the movie would say, “OK… how about a Death Wish rip-off starring Gary Busey as the hero and William Smith as the leader of a vicious biker gang?” Then I’d smile and say, “You’re on!”

You’ve got to wait about 45 minutes before Busey starts taking out the garbage in this one, but let me tell you folks, it is well worth the wait. You can tell Busey is going to go nuts just from the scene where the bikers crash his wife’s funeral, circling around the mourners and revving their engines. On a scale from 1 to Busey, Gary goes BUSEY.

First he ties a wire across a road and decapitates one biker. Then he blows up another one with a grenade. Gary goes along eliminating one scum bucket at a time until they kidnap his daughter. Then he goes B-U-S-E-Y. He goes so crazy that he sticks dynamite up the guy’s ass and lights the fuse to make him tell him where his daughter is. (Busey at least has the courtesy to lube it up first so you know he isn’t COMPLETELY heartless.) Busey then drives his truck (fitted with machine guns and mortars) into the biker compound and blows shit up while his buddy (Yaphet Kotto) flies around in his Red Baron style bi-plane bombing the fuck out of bikers.

If you can’t already guess, this movie is pretty fucking insane. It was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, who also directed Vanishing Point. I know I’m going to get shit for this, but this movie bends Vanishing Point over and jams its size 12 boot up its ass. If only it didn’t take so long for Busey to wipe out the scum of the earth, it could’ve been a real classic.

And oh… did I tell you about the cinematic smackdown between Busey and William Smith? It’s badass. I particularly loved the part where Busey shoved Smith’s face into a pile of Scarface cocaine and made him snort a shit load of it. Then Gary punches him so hard in the stomach that coke dust shoots out of his mouth! Awesome.

If any movie deserves the name Eye of the Tiger, it’s this one.

CANVAS (1992) * ½

This whiny fuck-up botches a delivery for a butterball gangster and his starving artist brother tries to help him recover the money. Before long, he gets roped into a heist by an unscrupulous art dealer played by Gary Busey. Naturally, the poor sap quickly becomes wrapped around Gary’s finger and he is forced to pull even more jobs.

Canvas is weak on just about every non-Busey front. The whole thing has a made for cable movie vibe to it. The cinematography is flat, the direction is lackluster, and the pacing is rather monotonous. What’s more, the plot is so boring that you quickly become disinterested in whether or not the starving artist guy is ever going to be able to cover his fuck-up brother’s debt.

Busey is pretty good here, but despite the top billing, he only has a supporting role. The artist dude and his irritating brother unfortunately get most of the screen time. These guys are pretty lame and have all the screen presence of mildew. When Busey is given an opportunity to shine, Canvas briefly comes to life. However most of the movie is just one long dull slog. You know it’s bad when the ever-gregarious John Rhys-Davies can’t even save it.

At least there’s a smattering of nudity so it’s not an entirely worthless enterprise.

AKA: Canvas: The Fine Art of Crime. AKA: Double Traffic.

MAN WITH A GUN (1995) ***

Michael Madsen stars a hitman who works for mobster Gary Busey. When Busey’s wife (Jennifer Tilly) starts blackmailing him, he hires Madsen to kill her. Of course, Madsen is also in love with her. Tilly tells him she has a twin sister they could off and make it look like her body, and Madsen agrees. Only his conscience gets the best of him, which leads to more double crosses and murder.

Man with a Gun is a pretty good neo-noir crime thriller that’s anchored by some solid performances. Madsen gives a very assured performance and handles his hardboiled narration very well. Busey does some fine work too (I liked the part where he unexpectedly jumped into a swimming pool) and Robert Loggia is even better as the gangster at the top of the food chain.

The best performance though comes from Jennifer Tilly. Usually whenever someone is playing twins, it just feels phony or gimmicky. Tilly however does a credible job at crafting two separate and very different performances. It’s definitely one of her most unsung roles.

Madsen made several good DTV noir thrillers in the 90’s like Trouble Bound, A House in the Hills, and The Maker. Man with a Gun definitely ranks right up there with those films. It’s a solid thriller through and through that features good actors doing what they do best, as well as a plot that has a genuine surprise or two. Lately though, it just seems like Madsen takes any damn role that comes along. Here’s hoping he can make a return to the smaller idiosyncratic flicks of his 90’s heyday.

AKA: Gun for Hire. AKA: Hired for Killing.

STEEL SHARKS (1997) * ½

A Navy Seal team must rescue a kidnapped scientist from some Iranians who want him to make chemical weapons. The mission is not a success though and the Seals get captured and held prisoner on an enemy submarine. They eventually have to escape their captors and figure out a way to get back to their sub.

To call Steel Sharks by the numbers would be an insult to numbers. Not only have you seen all this shit before, but the whole movie is on autopilot so there never really feels like there’s something at stake. On top of that, none of the team members have much of a personality and they all feel rather interchangeable, so it’s hard to care about any of them.

The only spark from the movie comes from Billy Dee Williams as the team’s commander and Gary Busey as the sub captain. Like Canvas, it features Busey and another vet in supporting roles while a bunch of no-names do all the heavy lifting. Sadly, the no-names aren’t up to the task and Busey and Williams aren’t given very much to do except sit around their sub looking worried most of the time. They still give 100% though, so I guess they are to be commended for that.

Busey does get the best line of the movie though: “Break out the good china folks! Looks like we’ve got company!”

Well folks, once again, I’m leaving next month’s Palooza up to you. Next month it’s Nic or Vic. Do you want to see a bunch of movie reviews for Mega-Actor Extraordinaire Nicolas Cage? Or Pilipino Acting Legend Vic Diaz? Cast your vote in the comments section below. The polls close July 31st!



( 4 comments — Comment )
Jul. 21st, 2012 11:13 pm (UTC)
Canvas was pretty dull but I enjoyed Steel Sharks, for me one of Busey's most underrated films was "The Chain" with Luca Bercovici.

Oh and my vote is for Nic Cage.
Jul. 21st, 2012 11:25 pm (UTC)
Hmm... I'll have to look for it. I like Bercovici.
Jul. 23rd, 2012 11:46 am (UTC)
Great write-ups! Totally agree about Canvas and Steel Sharks. Very boring and unexciting. Will definitely have to re-watch Eye Of The Tiger and Man With A Gun soon.
Jul. 23rd, 2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
You should! Both are very entertaining and feature some great Busey moments.
( 4 comments — Comment )


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