Back to Back

Director: Roger Nygard

USA - 1996

    Hoff! Hoff!  


For once, false advertising pays off.

When I happened across this tape, the box indicated that it starred Michael They have that exact special at a Bob Evans' by my place!Rooker and Bobcat Goldthwait in a cop/buddy movie. Immediately I thought, "Michael Rooker and Bobcat Goldthwait: They're COPS!"

Granted, I probably should have taken the time to actually read the plot synopsis conveniently located on the back -- but just seeing the two names of these master thespians together made the rental irresistible. How could I pass up a movie starring that kooky serial killer Henry and Shakes, the alcoholic clown? So naturally, I snatched it up and headed back to the pad. Kicking in the tape and kicking back in my chair, I thought, "Bobcat Goldthwait and Michael Rooker! Man, I'm going to tear this movie a new one..."

I couldn't have been farther from the truth.

The film opens at an airport, with two Japanese thugs arriving from - you guessed it - JAPAN! The gangsters hail a taxi and make their way to a local gentleman's club run by an Asian affiliate. There, they obtain an ominous metallic b"The receipt says I have to have this suit laundered and returned to Chow Yun-Fat by Thursday."riefcase, borrow a car, argue over the selection of travelling music (one is a huge Elvis fan, while the other, apparently, is not) then head off into the city.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Bob Malone (Michael Rooker) drops his daughter Chelsea (Danielle Harris) off at her Mom's house, but not before a thorough scolding on her choice of attire. Here I must agree with the authority figure, but for an entirely different reason altogether. While Bob finds his daughter's outfit to be too revealing, I, on the other hand, find her ensemble of a conservative white mini-skirt and pink halter top to be merely tacky. Offensive? No. A reject from Alyssa Milano's "Teen Steam" video? Definitely.

Anyway, we then discover that Bob's life is on the skids. An explosive temper cost him his job as a police officer; and said loss of job (combined with that nasty temper) also cost Bob his wife. And even though his daughter resides with him, their relationship is strained, based almost entirely on Chelsea's pity for her down-and-out father.

Unfortunately, Malone's luck goes from bad to worse, as an evil loan officer (Fred Willard!) forecloses on Bob's house. Narrowly avoiding a public scene, Bob leaves the bank and attempts to draw some cash from an ATM. As one Act, Fred, ACT!might guess, the machine informs Malone of having insufficient funds for such a transaction, and then proceeds to confiscate his card. Bob attempts to rough up the inanimate object a bit, but his theatrics prove all for naught. Disgruntled and edgy, Bob returns to his car to find it blocked by another motorist double-parked in the street. When Bob kindly requests that the driver move his vehicle, the gentleman, instead of graciously accommodating this reasonable request, instead gives Malone some guff, and the two quarrel.

Suddenly, just as Bob restrains his tormentor by fastening his head into the backseat window, a gang of robbers blast out from the bank, guns blazing; Ironically, Bob just beat the bejesus out of their getaway driver. A shoot-out erupts between the opposing factions (just because Bob is an ex-cop doesn't mean he can't pack heat, does it?), with Malone taking out all the crooks save the leader (Bobcat Goldthwait). Just as the police arrive, the Bobcat a"I got your alcoholic clown right here!"cquires a vehicle and takes off down the street with the police in hot pursuit.

Bob, on the other hand, is arrested for carrying a gun, firing said gun, killing several people with said gun, and molesting an ATM. It also doesn't help that he's an ex-cop in ill-repute with the department.

At a restaurant nearby, our friendly Yakuza representatives, Koji (Ryo Ishibashi) and Hideo (the Elvis aficionado), feign a leisurely lunch. Not-so-coincidentally, the establishment is both owned and frequented by the resident crime lord, with whom the Japanese have some unfinished business. Suddenly, just as the gangsters arrive and the proverbial ca-ca is about to hit the fan, Bobcat loses control of his getaway car outside, and ends up crashing into the parking lot out front. Immediately, Goldthwait ditches his totaled car and makes his way into the restaurant, machine gun in one hand, bank booty in the other.

The cops arrive only to find that Bobcat has now commandeered a restaurant full of hostages. The second ace-up-his-sleeve being a chest-full of explosives with a remote control trigger. If Bobcat dies, he will, in turn, release the remote control, thus blowing up the establishment and all its patrons. Convenient, ain't it?

Koji and Hideo, more annoyed than afraid of the incoherent Goldthwait, draw "The King lives!"him over to the salad bar. Hideo then distracts the Bobcat as Koji deftly immobilizes his hand, and with one swift motion of his handy cleaver, Koji removes the bomb trigger via the wrist (all the while holding down the explosion mechanism with Goldthwait's own thumb!).

Seeing their window of opportunity, the hostages flee out into the parking lot, where the cops are standing by. Both Koji and Hideo escape outside as well. But just as all seems right with the world, Bobcat brings up the rear (figuratively speaking), screaming at the top of his lungs, one arm bleeding profusely from its stump, the other brandishing a wildly blazing machine gun. Koji, again more annoyed than afraid, calmly releases Bobcat's thumb from the trigger (he's been carrying the hand the whole time, you see), and then...


Folks, if that isn't reason enough for you to rent this movie, I don't know what is.

Unfortunately, one of the cops witnesses this altercation, and arrests Koji on the spot (with Hideo making a narrow escape, but getting shot in the stomach in the process). Koji is then taken downtown for questioning.

After approximately five minutes of the aforementioned questioning, Koji becomes somewhat perturbed by the interrogating officer's rude behavior, and proceeds to slam his head into the interrogation desk, both breaking the cop'sYou remember, he played that small role, in..uh.. what's-its-name... nose and rendering him unconscious. Cool, calm and collective, Koji then makes his escape from the precinct. Outside, he runs into Chelsea and Bob (her picking him up from jail appears to be a normal thing). Koji, not having a ride or sense of location, takes them hostage and orders them at gunpoint to take him home with them. Once there he plans to get his bearings and figure out a new plan of attack.

Back at the station, Detective Dussecq (the cop who just had his ass handed to him by Koji), studies the tapes from the surveillance cameras throughout the precinct, and eventually comes to the assumption that perhaps Bob Malone might've been inadvertently involved in Koji's escape scenario. After a trip out to the Malone residence, and a hurried conversation with Malone, Dussecq decides his assumption is correct. In an ironic turn of events, however, instead of calling for back-up, Dussecq, instead, calls the mob and informs them of Koji's whereabouts. Come to find out, not only is Dussecq a crooked cop in cahoots with the Mafia, but he also played a key role in Malone's occupation termination. Ironic, no?

When the mob arrives, Malone and Koji quickly learn that this a take-no-prisoners confrontation, and nobody, including the Malone family, is safe. "I'm afraid I have to take you downtown. Not for firing your gun in public, mind you, but for missing Goldthwait altogether!"Begrudgingly, the two anti-heroes decide to team up. Together they hope to take out the mob, expose Dussecq as a fraud, and take Chelsea back to the Gap to return that heinous pink halter top.

As I implied before, Back to Back is surprisingly good. Non-stop action sequences, decent performances by the majority of the cast, and the Bobcat Goldthwait explosion make decent cinema. Michael Rooker turns in a fair performance. Granted, his hot-tempered, boiling-over persona is reminiscent of his most famous role in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but I gotta admit, I dug it anyway. Sort of like Michael Madsen. Sure, he plays the suave, rockabilly thug in the majority of his films - but if it works, man, run with it.

The true scene stealer, however, is Ryo Ishibashi. Though it sounds horribly cliche', I find it impossible not to compare him to action film god Chow Yun-Fat. Now, he has yet to reach Chow's level of overall coolness, but in Ishibashi's defense, I must say that he holds his own fairly well. As mentioned above, the cover box for Back to Back implies that Bobcat Goldthwait and MichaelWhat is this? Butt-Cam? Rooker are the principals, and there is no mention of Ishibashi. Obviously, this serves as a great injustice to Ryo; not only is he in the film for it's entirety, but he shines high above the rest of the cast. Was this slight due to the fact that he's an "unmarketable" Asian? Perhaps because he didn't star in Shakes the Clown? Heck, Bobcat should have his name taken off the marquee for that reason alone!

Now, though the film is good, it is not, however, without flaws. Arguably, the worst offense is the bad dialogue - in simple terms, corny one-liners galore. During the ten minutes that the Bobcat graces us with his presence, he manages to ramble through a seemingly endless supply of stupid lines. While speeding down the freeway with the cops in hot pursuit, blasting his machine gun out the back window while narrowly avoiding collision after collision, Bobcat quips, "If you don't like the way I drive, dial 1-800-PSYCHO!" Then, mere moments later, one of the squad cars catches up to Goldthwait. Just as the police close in behind him, Lose the ice cream man suit, tough guy.Bobcat turns around and blasts away with his gun shouting, "If you can read this, you're too close!" These are merely examples, but if your script is derivative of truck stop bumper stickers (that aren't very funny in the first place), then you more-than-likely have a problem with bad writing. Trust me, if anyone knows bad writing...

But if my review isn't enough to convince you to check this out, do it simply for the trivia. Back to Back is chock-full of, "Hey! There's that one guy from..from.....from that movie!" Michael Rooker, Danielle Harris, Bobcat Goldthwait, Vincent Schiavelli, Tim Thomerson, Fred Willard, Jake Johannsen - they're all here, folks.

Teen Steam: Gotta Let It Out!


These are the times of which to cherish...


                                        Bobcat goes BOOM!

"Yuck! It smells like burned game hen!"



"The name's Tim. Tim Thomerson, Esquire." Tim looks on as his buddy ACTS!

Tim Thomerson! The notorious b-movie icon makes a cameo as a loveable loser  with a dark secret.


The King lives!

Elvis is spotted at a strip club!


-- Copyright 2000 by J. Bannerman


Back to the film page...