There are tons of buddy cop films, and series for that matter, out there. The “Lethal Weapon” and “Rush Hour” franchises, “Showtime”, “Beverly Hills Cop”, the list goes on. Now I’m not saying “The Hard Way” is the best of them, not by far, but it was surprisingly entertaining for a movie I heard of based on reading “Back to the Future” trivia.
There are some actors out there that when you think of them, the only roles you can picture them in are whatever made them famous. For instance up until “Avatar” it was hard to think of Sigourney Weaver as anyone but Ellen Ripley from the “Alien” series, or Keanu Reeves as someone besides Neo (see “John Wick” review below to understand that he’s actually a pretty solid actor). So after recently watching all three “Back to the Future” movies (it is 2015 after all, I want my hoverboard) I thought I’d expand on my Michael J. Fox repertoire. From reading the trivia for each of the BTTF movies I discovered that in ’91 he played actor Nick Lang in “The Hard Way”, essentially the original version of “Showtime”. And as far as buddy cop movies go, this one was actually pretty good because it didn’t really go the same route all the others do; a fact that they keep mentioning throughout the film (“This isn’t the movies!”).
James Woods is Detective John Moss, NYPD. He’s a badass cop with a quick temper but he gets the job done. His immediate squad includes partner Luis Guzman and LL Cool J, whose contracts for films must include a clause that his songs are played throughout. These guys are tearing up NYC looking for “the Partycrasher”, a metrosexual Stephen Lang killing people at clubs and bars for what looks like no particular reason. After an attempt to catch Partycrasher goes wrong, Moss is made a public spectacle thanks to the news. Enter Nick Lang (Fox). About to release his newest action film, “Smoking Gunn II” he’s looking for something grittier, something he has to audition for that will actually require acting chops. Having seen the news segment on Moss in New York, he decides he’s going to shadow him for a few weeks and learn just how to be an actual cop. I’m pretty sure you can figure out how it goes from there. If you need a reference, just think about any other buddy cop film you’ve ever seen.
Now the reason this one was enjoyable and kind of stood out above the rest is because of its formula. Just about every other buddy cop film I’ve seen has the two cops/partners hating each other from the get-go and becoming besties by the time the credits roll. This is not the case here. Woods’ character Moss HATES the fact that he has to babysit an actor while trying to work an important case, and he never really wavers from that mindset. Even during the climax he’s still calling Lang (Fox) an idiot. As I mentioned before, this idea is constantly represented throughout the movie when characters keep saying, “This isn’t a movie!”, whether it’s in regards to how a bust goes down, the state of Detective Moss’s apartment (pretty nice), or hitting someone over the head with a piece of wood. So utilizing that idea made it pretty funny because the two are continuously at each other’s throats, making it enjoyable to watch. Plus James Woods is just an epic actor and it’s crazy to see Michael J. Fox in a non-McFly role, especially one where he drops a few F-bombs.
DIRECTOR’S CUT: My roommate told me that I’d “enjoy the ride” but once would be enough, but I’m willing to keep this in my collection to watch every couple of years. I definitely think it deserves a spot on the shelf with the rest.
SCENE COLLECTED: Right after they get partnered up, James Woods gives a quick monologue to Fox about why following a cop around isn’t the same as being one, and that an actor might “get 17 takes to get it right, but we only get one.” For a comedy it’s a pretty dark moment…and then Fox turns it around by pulling out a tape recorder and asking him to repeat it.
FLICKCHART RATING: 1139/2276