Director: Roger Nygard
USA - 1996
For once, false
advertising pays off.
When I happened across this tape, the box indicated that
it starred Michael 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 briefcase, 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
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 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
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 acquires 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 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...
BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT EXPLODES!
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's 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. 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 Michael 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, 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
Tim Thomerson! The notorious b-movie
icon makes a cameo as a loveable loser with a dark secret.
Elvis is spotted at a strip club!
-- Copyright © 2000 by J. Bannerman