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dead-bang , an action thriller starring don johnson , lives up to its dumb title , or at least to half of it .
although dead-bang is definitely dead , it is anything but a bang ; in fact , they should have called this one " dead bore . "
in the film , johnson plays . . .
you guessed it . . .
a cop .
the role must have been really challenging for johnson since his character , jerry beck , is a gritty los angeles homicide detective , a real stretch from the slick vice detective johnson portrayed on " miami vice . "
a la mel gibson in lethal weapon , beck is an emotional wreck , complete with violent outbursts , unscrupulous police methods , and a bleak outlook on life .
beck's wife has just divorced him , and she is cutting him off from their children .
she will not even allow him to wish them " merry christmas " by telephone .
but beck's family and emotional problems take a back seat to the action and thrills in dead-bang .
beck is investigating the brutal murders of a shopkeeper and a cop .
his investigation starts in l . a . and finally culminates and climaxes in oklahoma , where he has a violent showdown with the killers at a white supremacist camp .
virtually every aspect of dead-bang is inept and ineffective .
the plot is incoherent and full of holes .
the movie depicts beck's investigation so clumsily that you never see the connections between his clues and his conclusions .
the action sequences in dead-bang are strictly third-rate , and the movie has absolutely no momentum or suspense .
i certainly expected more from long-time director john frankenheimer who directed the classic political thriller , the manchurian candidate--as well as black sunday , seven days in may , and the french connection ii .
in all fairness to frankenheimer , however , i should note that most of dead-bang's shortcomings seem to stem from its shabby script rather than from the direction .
dead-bang tries to don a mask of social relevance by incorporating themes of racism and white supremacy , but its efforts are nothing more than token gestures and nothing less than insulting .
according to the movie's production notes , dead-bang is based on the real-life experiences of still-active detective jerry beck .
you would never guess this from watching dead-bang , however , since the film totally lacks credibility ; it is utterly unconvincing and unbelievable .
most of the characters in dead-bang are either atrociously acted , underdeveloped , superfluous , or all of the above .
william forsythe , for example , is painfully bad as arthur kressler , a wholesome by-the-book fbi agent who's offended by beck's foul language and unorthodox methods .
forsythe's lame performance and corny dialogue makes his character unbearable .
dead-bang marks the motion picture debut of tim reid ( " wkrp in cincinnati " and " frank's place " ) , but his talents are completely wasted in a cliched and contrived role ; he plays the chief officer of a squadron of black cops who help beck to nail the villains .
the sole function of penelope ann miller's character is to give dead-bang an excuse to include a gratuitous love scene between characters about whom you could not care less .
i guess the film's title refers to this love scene since it's definitely a dead bang .
the only real virtue of dead-bang , believe it or not , is don johnson , who tries to overcome the limitations of the movie's pitiful script .
johnson succeeds in giving his character a sarcastic sense of humor and a hint of depth , and his pessimistic wisecracks occasionally bring the film to life .
and i must admit that dead-bang does have one or two amusing moments .
the funniest scene has johnson throwing-up all over a criminal as he interrogates him .
but when barf is the highlight of a movie , you know the movie's in trouble .
the other amusing scene involves a psychological examination of beck , in which he can't keep a straight face because the psychiatrist resembles woody allen .
but two funny scenes and a couple good wisecracks do not a movie make .
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