Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Film Appreciation - The Facts Are Completely Irrelevant

Cody Hamman is packing Film Appreciation for the 1986 action comedy Armed and Dangerous.

In 1985, Mark L. Lester directed the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Commando, one of the greatest action movies ever made. The very next year, he took the helm of the John Candy / Eugene Levy vehicle Armed and Dangerous, which is essentially a buddy cop action comedy, but one where the characters aren't exactly cops. It may not be one of the greatest comedies ever made, but when it hit VHS and cable it certainly entertained a little kid named Cody Hamman.

During my childhood, one of my favorite actors was John Candy - the man just had an incredibly endearing screen presence that, I found, made him especially appealing to a young viewer. In Armed and Dangerous, Candy plays LAPD officer Frank Dooley, who is framed for robbery by a couple fellow officers and loses his badge. Eugene Levy plays defense attorney Norman Kane, who ends his career as a lawyer after a Charles Manson-esque criminal threatens his life.

Dooley and Kane find new jobs at an extremely lax security firm called Guard Dog Security, where you get put to work after one day of training and a visit to the shooting range. Guard Dog Security is a suspicious place, and the fact that the firm's union reps are played by Jonathan Banks and Brion James instantly gives the impression that there is something corrupt going on here. Other top members of the union are played by James Tolkan and Robert Loggia, further driving home the feeling that this union is dirtier than a garbage dump.

Our heroes end up working at an actual garbage dump, and at a toxic waste dump, after a pharmaceutical company is robbed on their watch. It wasn't Dooley and Kane's fault, though. They had been ordered to take a lunch break right when the robbery was taking place. Just like other Guard Dog guards have been ordered to take breaks right when the places they were watching were being robbed. This can't be a coincidence, so Dooley and Kane start investigating these robberies and the union reps to get to the bottom of what's going on here. Along the way, they get some help from - and Kane develops a crush on - Maggie Cavanaugh (Meg Ryan), the daughter of Guard Dog boss Captain Clarence O'Connell (Kenneth McMillan), who doesn't like the men her father associates with any more than Dooley and Kane do.

This investigation doesn't lead to action sequences on the level of Commando, but we are treated to the sight of unlikely action stars Candy and Levy participating in vehicular chases and shootouts, wielding guns and dodging bullets (including some machine gun fire)... and dressing up in sex shop costumes to evade their enemies. Just in time for the climactic action, Steve Railsback shows up to deliver a really amusing performance as a truck driver known only as The Cowboy, who has way too much fun driving Dooley into the middle of a chase sequence involving an armored car.

Armed and Dangerous was one of the movies I had recorded onto VHS from cable when I was a kid, so I could watch it whenever the mood struck me. Which was often. I'm fairly certain that there was a time in my life when I considered Armed and Dangerous to be my favorite movie - and while I don't hold it in such high regard these days, I can see where I was coming from at the time. It's a fast and fun movie that delivers some laughs and plenty of action, all packed into an 84 minute running time. It was a perfect movie for me to watch over and over.

Looking back, it's also pretty charming to see John Candy and Eugene Levy trying their hand at action comedy after Eddie Murphy had enjoyed some major success with such mash-ups.

Armed and Dangerous is a movie that I moved on from for quite a while, you could probably count the number of times I've watched it in the last 25 years on one hand, but I'm going to endeavor to make those viewings more frequent from now on. This is a film that I'm always going to come back to from time to time because it was an important one to me when I was very young.

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