Thursday, July 07, 2016

#TBT: Cannon's NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET (1987) from ER 11

It was thirty years ago this summer that my buddy Lou and I decided that we needed an outlet for our voluminous opinions about the hundreds of movies that we were seeing each year. The next thing I knew we were out on the tennis courts, batting about names that smacked of both pretension and our love of trash cinema. And that, boys and girls, is how Exploitation Retrospect got its name. Though many of those early issues make me cringe with in-jokes, of-the-time references and attempts at aping better writers (like Joe Bob Briggs), there's still a nugget of a readable review here and there. In this new ER blog feature, I'll be going all Throwback Thursday on you (hashtag TBT!) as I dig through the photocopied pages of the original run of the zine (43 issues published between 1986 and 1995) and yank out something I'm not completely embarrassed to share. So, without further ado and inspired by Valerie Bertinelli's appearances on seemingly every Food Network show my kid watches, here's my look at Cannon's NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET from November 1987's ER #11...

How many times do we have to see the same tired plot thrown in our faces before it's finally put out to pasture? A crazy cop and a stable cop are partners on the brink of destruction. Their zany antics get them in trouble with the superiors, but they get the job done. One of them is divorced / separated / widowed, etc., but his work gets him through. Oh, did I mention the higher-up in the department who is leaking information to the bad guys? And just in case, throw in a little racial tension by making one cop black and the other white. (Or one Chinese and one white... or one Indian and one black... and so on.)

Ho hum... NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET is another in a countlessly long line of Oreo Cop retreads with plots more suited to the television screen than the silver screen. Okay, so the opening paragraph could also be used to describe the action hit LETHAL WEAPON, but at least that flick kept the action fast and furious enough that you didn't think about how idiotic, repetitive and familiar the plot really was. That flick also had credible actors like Mel Gibson, Danny Glover and Gary Busey to carry it off. NUMBER ONE has to rely on the questionable talents of Robert Carradine, Billy Dee Williams, Doris Roberts, Valerie Bertinelli and Peter Graves! No wonder this thing disappeared in a week!!!

The story concerns the exploits of Berzak (Carradine) and his partner Frank (Billy Dee). Oh, Berzak is divorced from Bertinelli and Frank plays the trumpet at night in jazz clubs. Ho boy! It seems that ol' Berzak has been watching some guy for years because he's convinced the guy is up to no good. It eventually... LED TO HIS DIVORCE (surprise, surprise)! Finally, after letting a witness they were extraditing get killed, the two partners begin to get close to the drug ring, only to be outwitted each time when the criminal seems to have... INSIDE INFORMATION!!! This is so original!!!

The story jerks along from point A to point Z, barely connecting all the dots in between, and barely keeping me awake as well. The few action sequences are as exciting as watching bread mildew, and it doesn't help that Carradine couldn't act his height let alone convincingly portray and over-the-edge cop!!! (I noticed I'm using the triple exclamation point a lot in this review... this is rarely a good sign!) Billy Dee is no great shakes either and you keep waiting for him to start talking about all the great women he gets when he's plowed out of his skull on Colt 45. I even felt bad for Peter Graves, who still looks like he's embarrassed for appearing in AIRPLANE!

NUMBER ONE ranks right up there with some of the most unwatchable dreck Golan and Globus have ever dumped on us. There are the same guys that have given us AMERICAN NINJA 2, AVENGING FORCE and UNDER COVER? I find this hard to believe. One star. It could have been one and a half if Bertinelli had gone nude, but it was negatory on the celebrity skin so points had to be deducted. – Dan Taylor

Post Mortem: The credits for NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET reveal some interesting names. The screenplay is credited to a number of scribes including Gail Morgan Hickman, who wrote the story for the mediocre Dirty Harry flick THE ENFORCER as well as the Bronson vehicles MURPHY'S LAW and DEATH WISH 4: THE CRACKDOWN. Unfortunately, other screenplay credits go to SNL writer Rob Riley, Andrew Kurtzman (who also contributed to such delights as CAMP NOWHERE and DOWN PERISCOPE) and James "Don't Call Me Jim" Belushi. Given that pedigree it's a wonder veteran director Jack Smight (HARPER, NO WAY TO TREAT A LADY, AIRPORT 1975, MIDWAY, FAST BREAK and countless television shows) was able to make anything that resembled a coherent film. Future SIMPSONS composer Alf Clausen provides the music and in West Germany the flick was known by the more colorful title of DER BERSERKER, which sounds like an Olaf Ittenbach movie.

NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET is available from Amazon.

No comments: