Friday, January 13, 2012

Deadly Farce: TOP COP (1990)

TOP COP is the kind of film where you type the title into the IMDb and the search results display 12 different titles before giving you the exact match.  “Are you sure you weren’t looking for TOP GUN, COP OUT, TOP DOG, BEVERLY HILLS COP or HOT SHOTS,” asks the IMDb search intuitively.  Nope, I’m the dumbass who really wanted TOP COP, a regional 1980s action flick that just barely made the decade’s deadline. The film was picked up by Crown International Pictures but I’m not aware of it having a VHS release and it can currently be found on BCI’s MAXIMUM ACTION 8 movie collection.  Now I don’t want to read too much into things, but this bad boy might be a company killer. Founded in 1959, Crown International Pictures distributed over a hundred pictures.  After they picked up TOP COP, their acquisitions basically dried up. After the film was released in the aforementioned DVD set, Navarre Corporation closed down BCI Home Entertainment.  Is it all a coincidence or a display of the deadly power of TOP COP’s toxicity?

This is the city: Hot Springs, Arkansas. Present day.  I work here. I'm a top cop. Our hero is Vic Malone (Stephen P. Sides) and you know he is a brave man because the opening scene has him busting a child pornography ring in a warehouse solo during the middle of filming.  These are apparently the high end child pornographers as they have a large crew and a director who yells, “Cut! Alight, everybody, take five.”  HA! Malone blows them all away and saves the young girl.  When the cops arrive, Malone’s partner is pissed.  Not because of his reckless ways, but because he didn’t bring him along.  You know such acts of rebelliousness can only lead one place – in front of your angry black police Captain (unconvincingly portrayed by a young guy who looks like Gary Coleman with whitened hair).  But the Captain ain’t mad at ya, he just wants to give Malone and Porter their plane tickets so they can fly to Washington, D.C. to testify to the grand jury against Arkansas drug kingpin Johnny Costello (Len Schlientz). Oh, yeah, your plane leaves in an hour.  Jeez, you’d think they might be aware of such big plans and not have them sprung on them.  Anyway, our top cops arrive in D.C. and, in keeping with D.C. tradition, are the victims of an attempted robbery in the airport bathroom within minutes of their arrival.  Malone kills both men (probably just for their fashion crimes; see pic above) and you know such further acts of rebelliousness can only lead one place – in front of another angry black police Captain!  Of course, the Captain ain’t mad at ya and just wants them to keep their nose clean while in his jurisdiction.   Damn, this dude has already killed nearly 10 people and no one cares. He is truly a top cop.

Anyway, Malone and Porter make it to their hotel and, wouldn’t you know it, Costello and his men are staying there too.  Our heroes spot Costello trying to have his way with Helen (Tiffany Dossey) and Debbie (Christine Kiefer), two innocent real estate agents, and they scare him off when Malone whips out a hand grenade. Damn, what a top cop.  Naturally, they hit it off with the ladies, who are amused at his hand grenade lighter. While exchanging pleasantries, a Costello henchman shows up and gives Helen a hand written note from the drug kingpin saying he “always gets what he wants.”  What is this, the sixth grade?  Soon our two new couples are sight seeing in D.C. and splitting off to their respective suites where Malone oddly gets it on with Helen.  Bad news as the next day Frank is found dead in his hotel room, shot between the eyes.  The Captain tells Malone it must be the work of the Avenger and, sure enough, this hired killer open fires on them. Damn, this mystery person is a top cop killer.  Inexplicably, the charges are dropped against Costello – Malone hasn’t even testified and apparently they don’t find it odd one of the key witnesses was killed the night before – and Malone is shipped back to Arkansas, despite his vow to find the killer.  Of course, the Avenger might follow him to finish the job.

Since Malone is fresh out of partners, the Captain assigns him a new one in James Evans (Christopher Dennis) and, get this, top cop doesn’t want or like his new partner. No way! Begrudgingly Malone takes him along and they go to find out about a big cocaine deal.  For some odd reason the person who knows exactly when and where it is all going down is a wino on skid row (essayed by a dirt road with three cinema hobos on it). Our top cop duo busts the guys (sans back up, ‘natch) and capture Costello’s younger brother, Anthony (Todd Tongen), during the shootout.  Hoping to bail out his brother, Costello arrives at the police station and he just happens to have Helen on his arm.  Damn, player does really get what he wants.  Anyway, he tells the TV mob that he is just a simple businessman and this is police harassment.  Naturally, this sets up the stage for our top cop to end this feud and do what he does best – kill people! With Anthony under his arm and Helen held hostage by Costello, the stage is set for a huge showdown in a junkyard.

Oh man, where do I begin with TOP COP?  I often wonder how and why these kinds of films get made. Obviously trying to emulate the popular titles in the cop genre (from DIRTY HARRY [1971] to LETHAL WEAPON [1987]), you have to wonder why they bothered as they have neither the talent or resources to match their predecessors.  Perhaps director Mark L. Maness and his family just had some money they wanted to throw away and they found donating to charity too damn magnanimous.   I mean, I seriously hope they didn’t read the script by Helen P. Pollins (also a producer) and think, “This is going to be the one to launch us into the big time.” The screenplay is filled with cliché after cliché, so much so that you might think this was a spoof but without the laughs.  It is a shame as the production at least looks nice.  They had all the ingredients to make a cake, but opted to put zero icing on it.

Even if the filmmakers had a decent script, they completely failed when it comes to the acting.  Len Schlientz as lead villain Costello isn’t the slightest bit scary looking and looks more like a creep who would be giddy outbidding you on eBay in disco record auctions. Of course, special notice should be given to Stephen P. Sides as the titular top cop. While he does give a commendable physical performance (he was also the stunt coordinator), Sides has serious trouble in the acting department and seems to deliver all of his dialogue as if he is trying to make the words shatter his (rather large) teeth.  Imagine your friend who always does a really bad Clint Eastwood performance (you know the one) and that is how he comes across.  Looking like a cross between Hank Williams, Jr. and Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Sides is about as wrong as you can get for a 1980s style vigilante cop.  As it stands, TOP COP is no HOLLYWOOD COP or SAMURAI COP and for that I am truly saddened.

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