Thursday, February 20, 2014

This Bud's for You: EXTRA LARGE: INDIANS (1993)

Now is the winter of our... oh wait, I used that line already. Yes, Christmas has come again to Miami proving with absolute certainty that we have no freakin' clue what order these episodes are in. It's not for a lack of looking that's for sure. Every single source we could find lists the episodes of both seasons in a different order. I can understand the Italians not getting it right ("eetsa buncha episodes, wadda ya want?"), but the Germans unable to keep things in order? What sort of ghastly thing could this lead to? A bit of trash on the street? A random unmown lawn? One shudders to think.

Not only is it Christmas, as evidenced by the radio playing yuletide tunes and Maria's Pomeranian now endowed with fuzzy antlers, but it's time for another birthday too! Dumas is wrapped up in conning a waifish model to pose for him in his bed while he paints her in cubist form. Suddenly Little Tyson calls him saying that he has a gun at his head and needs help quick. Turns out LT's plight is a Christmas birthday, but Jack being the awesome dude that he is, has a party for him complete with a cowboys and Indians theme. Unfortunately for Dumas II, Jack and LT have rigged the apartment with booby traps including an electrified door knob! Nothing says "funny" like "electrocution". Why am I telling you about this bit which has nothing to do with the rest of the episode? Because this is the best segment we are going to get. I can't believe we complained about "Cannonball" and "Black Magic".

The Mafia is not happy with taking their lumps in Atlantic City and are looking for a new venue for their law-scoffing pursuits. They've been trying to make headway into Miami but are continually being stymied by housewives and pensioners known as "baptists." I guess they don't have to feel so bad for losing out to Charles Bronson, Christopher Lambert and Ray Stevenson anymore. Hell, even Thomas Jane is a more worthy adversary than someone's mom in a floral print dress. In order to circumvent this issue, the surprisingly Teutonic president of the South Corporation and Mafioso, Clemente (the prolific Nikolas Lansky), has a plan to steal American Indian land and turn it into a mecca of gambling, prostitution and drug dealing. A Las Vegas of the South, if you will.

The only dirt in the Mafia's chamber is the big Indian Chief Thomas (Mark Madrid), who is sadly gifted with a soprano's voice and a demeanor that should lead to him having the Indian name Chief Slothful Field Mouse. This guy talks about the plight of the Native American, but is so high-pitched, whiny and generally sluggish that when he gets killed by a Mafia-paid dirty cop (Tony Bolano), it's more of a relief than anything else. Right before Thomas is killed he tries to get in contact with Jack who is too busy blowing the sax at his new favorite bar, Harry's Place (what was wrong with The Blue Monkey, I ask you?). I'm guessing Jack is not going to take this well.

Of course Thomas is an old friend and Jack knows for damn sure that Thomas isn't the violent type and he must uncover the truth, with or without the help of the cops. If you've seen any of these, you know it will be with the help of the cops in the end. Even though Jack has never been wrong before, Sam never seems to think he will ever be right again. Some friend.

This episode could have been an action-packed episode in which Jack and Dumas II take on the mob with fights and car-stunts galore. It could have done all that and carried a positive message about American Indians at the same time. Instead, writer Rosario Galli (who, thankfully, was only allowed to write this one episode solo) opts for a very long-winded, dramatic outing in which we get heavy-handed sub-plots including one about a Native American newswoman Laura (Cynthia Mallick) who is covering what appears to be a solid story about a corporate attempt to take over Indian lands. I say "appears to be" because nobody else at the station thinks it is remotely newsworthy. In addition to her producer telling her it's a complete waste of time before hitting on her, her boss has finally had enough and fires her after she attends Thomas' funeral and is accosted by South Corp's thugs. I kind of wonder if this some sort of meta-statement from Galli about the political games that no doubt take occur in the TV station workplace. On the other hand, if it is sort of an autobiographical catharsis for him, I think I might be on the side of the station manager because this script is awful. Not just awful, but embarrassingly bad.

First off Galli seems to want to re-invent Extralarge as some sort of grim angel of vengeance ala THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987). After a decade of hambone Bond outings, this was a welcome change. It's not for Bud. Why embarrassing? Wait till you get to the scene where Dumas II brings in a pair of clothing designers to make Jack a new tux for the Governor's party. These guys are so flamboyant that they make Siegfried and Roy seem like icons of butch machismo.

To be fair, I can't lay all of the blame at Galli's feet (just most of it). Even though he has discarded all of the throw-away gags, minimized recurring characters and skipped potential action sequences, director Capone is guilty of incredibly flat, perfunctory TV-style direction.

The two fight scenes that we get, one versus truckers in a bar, the other versus mobsters in a warehouse, are shot almost entirely with medium and close-up shots. Granted, I'm not expecting some old HK-style fight scenes where everything is a master shot so the audience can marvel at the incredibly complex choreography, this is an Italian Bud Spencer TV movie we're talking about after all. However, the scene where Jack fights off a group of truckers, he does so with half a pool cue in each hand. We never actually see both sticks in one shot, but the fact that he has two seems to be implied by the editing. Even the scene where Jack throws Thomas' killer through a buffet line (yes, that made me wince) is shot an angle where you can't actually see the stunt, just the food flying off the table. That's two fouls in one! You know how much time and effort it takes to set up a buffet? Why take out your frustrations on the caterer? They're just trying to serve food man! Plus, they've changed the title from "Detective Extralarge" to "Extra Large". Why? Perhaps to appeal to English speaking audiences who don't want to have to deal with too many extra syllables. Non bene, non bene.

On the plus side there are a few amusing moments to be found. Of course when you are desperate, it doesn't take much. When the reporter comes over to Jack's apartment after being fired from the TV station for covering news, she makes Jack and Dumas II an "ancient indian recipe" which includes a bottle of Mrs. Dash clearly visible on the counter. Damn white man will never know the difference! Also Clemente threatens Jack by telling him "there's someone who would like to cancel your name from the telephone book!" Rule number one when threatening to kill someone in a foreign language: Never use Google Translate.

If I had never seen a Bud Spencer movie and someone told me to start here, I would never speak to them again. This series can only get better from here.

Nice of the bad guys to print up their evil plan in a presentation binder.

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