Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Renegades (1989)

Buster McHenry (Kiefer Sutherland), 80s action movie cop by trade, spends his vacation on a private undercover mission, trying to puzzle out the identity of the crooked cop helping violent dirt bag Marino (Robert Knepper when he was still Rob in an excellently lizard-like outing) do his violent deeds. Unfortunately, Buster’s plan to achieve this goal consists of planning the robbery of a jewellery store with Marino, in the hopes off convincing Marino to let him meet the bad cop in person before the robbery can actually take place. However, idiotic plans like this can go wrong rather easily, and soon Buster finds himself indeed committing the robbery with Marino and his gang, and still without the information he seeks. Dead civilians and quite a bit of property damage result.

On the flight, the gang and the idiot cop stumble into an exhibition where Marino finds the time and inclination to grab the holy lance of the Lakota, and shoot one of the Lakota men watching over it. That man’s brother, Hank Storm (Lou Diamond Phillips), promises to get back the lance and take revenge for his brother. A fine opportunity to start on this work opens up to Hank when his mystical Indian tracking powers (seriously, that’s how the film plays it and will continue to play it) lead him to Buster, who is in rather bad shape after Moreno ended their short-lived partnership by shooting him.

Luckily for Buster, Hank’s dad (Floyd “Red Crow” Westerman himself) is a capable shaman and takes time out of his busy schedule to pray his gunshot wound a bit better. Who needs a physician, right? Once that’s over, Hank and Buster will have to team up, at first (of course) very reluctantly but increasingly (of course) with full 80s buddy movie man love.

I am not the greatest fan of 80s buddy movies but it’s pretty difficult not to like a film whose future buddies are young Kiefer Sutherland (in his pre-“torture is awesome” phase) and Lou Diamond Phillips (in his pre-“Sheriff roles only” phase). Together, in good 80s action movies tradition, they fight slightly more crime than they commit themselves, crash cars, smash a large amount of things, and hurt or kill a lot of people in hilarious and improbable ways.

Director Jack Sholder’s just the right kind of guy at the right kind of place here, shooting the insipid, the hilarious and the exciting all in the straightforward and unpretentious manner this kind of thing demands, until nothing made of glass isn’t broken. It’s such a bunch of merry carnage (not terribly brutal as these films go) broken up by semi-embarrassing Indian (that’s the word the film prefers to use, even though it has the perfectly good word “Lakota” right there in the script; Buster of course is racist dickhead enough to always call Hank “chief”) mysticism, and general nonsense that it’s easy to miss that the script actually has some perfectly neat ideas beside the nonsense.

For once, the captain character in this sort of film (given by cop specialist Bill Smitrovich) does have an actual role to play in the plot apart from reaming out the insane, violent cop working for him, and even Buster’s absurd crusade against crooked cops has a reason to it. It’s nothing original, mind you, but I do think including some bits and pieces that actually make a degree of sense and hint at the real world in a plot only helps to make the general outrageousness of your typical action movies that decisive bit more interesting. Characters for their part are seldom not improved by adding some motivation for their actions either.

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