Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Dead Heat (Mark Goldblatt, 1988)

Did someone say, zombies wielding Uzis? What's that, no one said that? Oh, really? Well, someone should say that, and they should say it a lot. Here's a crude theory that just popped into my head. You want to know why the movies from the 1980s rule so hard and why the movies made today...don't rule as much? Uzis. (Uzis?) That's right, Uzis. Movies nowadays seem to be severely lacking when it comes to Uzi usage. I don't know why Uzis stop appearing in movies, but I think most sane people will agree: Uzis make everything better. Movies, TV shows, books, you name it. (Graphic novels?) They would fall under "books," but, yeah, sure, graphic novels. (Are you just going ape shit over Uzis because this particular motion picture was woefully deficient when it came to providing the sleaze?) I'm afraid not. I love Uzis. Always have, always will. And Dead Heat, a, get this, film that stars Joe Piscopo (crazy, I know), has no shortage of Uzis. I won't lie, the simple act of spraying a hail of inaccurate, small caliber bullets in a haphazard fashion never fails to put a smug smirk and/or sly grin on my face. And I like the fact that the person firing an Uzi in a movie rarely ever comes out on top. Every now and then, the so-called hero of the piece will pick up an Uzi from a dead henchmen or bank robber and use it with some degree of success. But for the most part, anyone armed with an Uzi is usually an incompetent boob with one foot already in the grave. There's a brief moment at the end of Scarface where the character of Chi Chi seems to be doing all right, Uzi-wise. However, his Uzi ultimately lets him down in the end. And that's just merely one of the thousands of instances I could sight where an Uzi comes up short during a shootout.

I think the main reason its track record is so uninspired is because most people use them incorrectly. You see, it's meant to be used as a close-quarter weapon (in my non-expert opinion, hallways are the best place to deploy them). But in movies, they're mainly used in wide open spaces. (And that's no good?) No good? You try protecting the expansive compound belonging to, oh, let's say, a brutal drug kingpin, from a musclebound Austrian wielding an M-60 with a bunch of Uzi-toting sycophants with wonky bladders. His 7.62 mm bullets will penetrate the guards like a rusty spike through marmalade, while their puny Uzi-fired bullets will simply bounce off him like weakly foisted flatulence.

I'm putting my Uzi essay on hold. Why? I just remembered a sleazy moment that occurs in this film. (Does it involve Joe Piscopo holding aloft a pair of women's panties?) Actually, it doesn't. But now that I think about, that sounds pretty sleazy. No, the scene I'm referring to occurs when Det. Roger Mortis (Treat Williams) and Det. Doug Bigelow (Joe Piscopo) head over to a pharmaceutical company to investigate a drug that was found in a couple of a dead thieves who were killed during a Melrose Ave. jewelry store robbery. (I don't know, that doesn't sound very sleazy.) I haven't got to the sleazy part yet. (Oops.)

Approaching the detectives with a womanly ease, Randi James (Lindsay Frost), the drug companies attractive P.R. consultant,  is introduced via an upward camera pan that starts at her feet and slowly makes its way to her head.

What we see along the way during this camera pan upward will illuminate and titillate in equal measure.

Her feet have been lovingly poured into a pair of sensible black shoes; perfect for giving tours to nosy detectives.

Black no-nonsense hosiery adorn her shapely legs in a manner that will lift one's spirit; amongst other things.

An unpretentious grey pencil shirt prevents things from getting out of hand, spirit lifting-wise, as it helps cover her crotch, buttocks and upper thighs.

She wears a gold bracelet on her left wrist, which let's everyone know she's not afraid of a little flair.

You'll notice she's wearing a blue name tag with white trim. This allows people to know what her name is at all times. And, as I've already established, it's Randi with an 'i.'

And a sharp grey blazer (buttoned, of course) over top a black t-shirt of some kind completes the ensemble.

(You mentioned something about a couple of dead jewelry store robbers?) Oh, yeah, the crazy thing about them is that Dr. Rebecca Smythers (Clare Kirkconnell) already did an autopsy on them. (So, what you're saying is, they died twice?) Exactly. And Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo, who were responsible for killing the Uzi-wielding jewelry store robbers the second time, are at the pharmaceutical company to find out how a couple of clinical dead guys were able to get up and rob a jewelry store.

I don't know where to squeeze this in, so I'll just slip it in here. And that is, I spotted Martha Quinn as a newscaster during the scene at police headquarters. I'm not sure if everyone is aware of this, but keeping an eye out for Martha Quinn in movies is kind of my thing.

Anyway, the scene where dozens of cops are killed during the shootout with the zombie jewelry store robbers reminded me of Ninja III: The Domination. In that, the ranks of the police force have just been decimated, yet all everyone seems to care about is that Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo broke a few rules and a shitload of regulations. First of all, if they hadn't broke any of your precious "rules and regulations," even more cops would have probably lost their lives. And secondly, relax, man, it's only a movie. Besides, you kind of expect the cops in a buddy cop movie to be chewed out by their superiors, or better yet, a black police captain near retirement, over trivial nonsense. Quirky fun-fact: Dead Heat was written by Terry Black, brother of Shane Black, who wrote Lethal Weapon, the granddaddy of buddy cop movies.

Who's responsible for reanimating the corpses of dead criminals? I wouldn't put it past Darren McGavin, he looks a tad shady. (He looks shady?!? What about Vincent Price? He looks as shady as all get out. Plus, his character's name is "Arthur P. Loudermilk." It practically screams shadiness.)

What Roger really wants to know is, which of these shady fucks pushed the "on switch" while he was trapped inside a decompression chamber while his partner Doug wrestled with a two-faced zombie. It doesn't happen often, but Roger gets to investigate his own murder. With the help of a machine that reanimates dead people, Roger is brought back to life. The catch being, he only has 12 hours to find out who killed him first, as he will eventually melt into a pile of goo. Wait, I think the term they used was "organic stew."

Even though he feels fine, Roger is slowly rotting. (Aren't we all?) Yeah, but Roger knows exactly when he's going to expire, so time of the essence. (If that's the case, why is Roger going to the drugstore?) Um, he's picking up some mulberry wine lipstick. Duh. As you would expect, the lipstick scene leads to some situations of a comedic nature.

Since it's been awhile since we've had any Uzis onscreen, a couple of zombies burst into Randi's house firing Uzis with an inaccurate abandon just as Doug was admiring the cut of Randi's "extra panties" (it never hurts to have extra panties on hand). Out of all the one-liners Joe Piscopo hurls in this movie, my favourite has to be: "Remember the good old days when guns killed people." To which Treat Williams responds: "You're just jealous." (Treat's character is now impervious to bullets).

If you thought fighting Uzi-wielding zombies was hard work, you should try taking on a headless cow carcass, a broiled pig, and an army of duck heads. Of course, Joe Piscopo's advice to Treat Williams as he's about to confront the reanimated cow carcass is to drown it in A-1. Which reminds me, if the A-1 line makes you cringe at all, I don't think you should watch Dead Heat, as the film is peppered with gems like this.

If, however, you dig cheesy one-liners and have a soft spot for Uzi shootouts (the final one is an Uzi lovers dream - even Keye Luke wields one at one point), then you should definitely seek this film out.


  1. The Piscopo one-liners are pretty painful, mostly in that they feel WAY forced.

    Overall I like the movie, though. Nice review.

    1. Thanks.

      Joe Piscopo: "You are under arrest. You have the right to remain disgusting" is my new fave. :D

  2. Uzi's made it pretty far into the '90s, too. Van Damme's hockey themed Die Hard ripoff, Sudden Death, is lousy with them. (Powers Boothe, too, but sadly a severe dearth of post pubescent double X chromosomes not covered in a penguin suit and boiled in an industrial dishwasher.)

    I think their cinematic decline is a delayed mirror of their actual decline. Honestly they are pretty crap weapons, and if a modern day criminal is going to assume the risk of operating an extremely illegal fully-automatic firearm, he's probably going to spring for something more effective, like a select-fire Glock or a blinged out AK-47.

    You still can't deny the cosmetic badassery of a fully decked out Uzi with a fake movie suppressor and the fold out stock. Maybe with a red dot sight or completely useless scope to make it seem futuristic. Then you have to make sure not to put the stock in your shoulder like you are supposed to, and fire with wild abandon from the hip so that the hero can easily hit you in the face with his revolver or Beretta whilst hanging from the chandelier.

    Also Joe Piscopo was one of those guys who was the butt of a lot of jokes during the '90s, so imagine my surprise when I discovered, upon watching Dead Heat, that I don't hate him at all. (At least in the context of undead buddy cop movies.)

    1. Sudden Death is "lousy" with Uzis, eh? It's too bad it's a Van Damme flick (not a fan).

      I've heard nothing but negative things about Joe Piscopo over the years. But like you, I was surprised by how not annoying he was in Dead Heat.

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  4. Replies
    1. I saw the trailer for this movie on television when it came out!

      You win. ;)

  5. Awesome movie, that scene where they fight with the hunk of beef coming to life holy moly! This movie is tons of fun, love lots of things about it. The make up effects are great. Joe Piscopos one lines are hilarious!

    There's tons of UZI's on Invasion U.S.A.! Yet another hilarious movie! Stars Chuck Norris! Highly recommend it if you want to laugh!

    1. While I love the idea of watching a movie that is lousy with Uzi's... I don't know if I can watch a Chuck Norris movie all the way through.

  6. Love this movie. I used tho watch it over and over on my betamax, back in the day. Joe was also good in Johnny Dangerously.

    1. I've read that Johnny Dangerously is the Citizen Kane of Joe Piscopo movies.