Dead Bang (1989) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Don Johnson doesn’t stray too far from his television persona in Miami Vice, once again playing a cop in Dead Bang. This time the setting is not sunny Miami but rather sunny California. Johnson is Jerry Beck a cop with a disheveled personal life, a drinking problem and overall outlaw attitude. In an early scene Jerry is reprimanded by his superiors for excessive drinking, language unbecoming an officer, physical intimation and kidnapping. All in the name of pursing a white supremacist group from Los Angeles to their headquarters in Oklahoma City.

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This conventional police thriller has been directed with workmanlike efficiency from veteran action-helmer John Frankenheimer. So it seems a little mystifying then that so many loose ends and plot points go nowhere. Take for instance the Penelope Ann miller character who is awkwardly injected into the screenplay. She meets Beck at a Christmas party and sleeps with him, later he finds out she is the wife of the slain officer on the case he is investigating. If you stop and dissect the timetable of events, she is sleeping with the lead homicide detective a mere few hours after her husband has been killed in the streets, the body would still be warm at that point. Further illustrating the unnecessary character and ridiculous development.

Jerry goes on trying to expose this criminal enterprise but no one believes it exists to the extended that he is proclaiming. It’s all rather familiar, in fact the entire enterprise feels redundant. The characterizations are cardboard, while the violent action involving the white supremacists seem culled from standard TV fare. A waste of the enormous talent of both Frankenheimer and star Don Johnson, an under-appreciated and under-utilized actor.

Director: John Frankenheimer
Stars: Don Johnson, Bob Balaban, William Forsythe

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