Wednesday 8 February 2012

Obscurity Files - Loose Cannons

Never heard of it? Well there's usually a good reason for that. Find out my opinion of Gene Hackman and Dan Aykroyd's "wacky" double act, next.

When he's moved from vice to homicide, veteran cop MacArthur 'Mac' Stern (Gene Hackman) is given a new partner, the haywire Ellis Fielding (Dan Aykroyd). Their methods are vastly different, with Mac being a man of action and Ellis a genius at deductive reasoning. When they're put on a case that puts their lives in danger, the unfortunate consequence is that every time Ellis gets over stimulated his multiple personalities appear and he delves into a catalogue of characters to help him through the situation. How did he get a job on the force you may ask? He's the chief of police's nephew!

Providing some much needed comic relief, Dom DeLuise appears as a porn baron about to be in possession of that rarest of things, Hitler porn. As the case progresses it turns out the film shows something slightly more palatable, Hitler's death at the hands of a Nazi agent, now running for political office and keen to get hold of this evidence of his previous penchant for genocide. Despite having a brilliant synopsis, Loose Cannons fails to live up to its potential as being a lost gem. It's not a so good it's bad craporama, it's just meh.

A perusal of the scriptwriters offers a big surprise, namely that Loose Cannons is from Richard Matheson, best known for writing the original zombie apocalypse novel, I Am Legend. Here teaming up with his son who wrote the slightly more in keeping high school comedy Three O'Clock High, there's being diverse and then there's being all over the place. There's some major flaws apart from Aykroyd's obvious mugging, namely that the criminal mastermind who wants the film only appears in one scene, likewise Ronny Cox as an on the case FBI agent who just disappears from the film without any real explanation.

When investigating a case Aykroyd is Dexter, Sherlock and Monk rolled into one, but despite being a master detective, after his introduction he never needs to use his deductive skills again. Instead he becomes a rather tragic comic relief, not only making a bit of a fool of himself but painting multiple personality disorder with some broad brush strokes. Hey, you didn't expect Hollywood to be sensitive about mental illness did you? It could be that the filmmakers realised this could be a sensitive matter too late in the game, as the device isn't exploited as much as you'd expect.

Sandwiched between Driving Miss Daisy and his sole directorial outing Nothing But Trouble, it's fair to say that was an odd period in Aykroyd's career. As a more light hearted version of his character in Dragnet, who wouldn't want to see Dan Aykroyd playing someone with multiple personality disorder, one of which is the Road Runner? Oh, most people. If you want to see a similar popular culture referencing story done properly, you'd be better off watching Jim Carrey's underrated 1996 classic, The Cable Guy. Played for all its dark potential, that's a much more satisfying comedic interpretation of an unhinged mind.

It's a shame that Loose Cannons ends up being so bland, as there's clear potential in its story to create a fun buddy comedy. If only they'd continued with the hostile disregard Hackman shows towards Aykroyd in the earlier scenes, this might have been more memorable. Instead they become a great partnership, disappointing when you consider what might have been if Hackman's grouchy detective had stayed apathetic towards his partner for a bit longer.

The history of buddy cop comedies is littered with failed attempts to create an original and memorable story. This could be the poster child for it, except no-one would want to own that poster.

Save from obscurity? No.

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