A CIA agent has been shot down in the line of duty, which is unfortunate, since the fate of the world lay in his hands. His bosses decide to bring in the loose cannon Nick Pirandello (Jim Belushi), who may be difficult to control, but gets results, and the result he needs to get is a map the deceased agent was carrying but is now in the possession of the Russians. He accepts the mission, winding up in a hotel where he narrowly evades the KGB men and manages to secure the piece of paper that is so important to both sides. However, to achieve their goals they must now find a lookalike of the dead man, and there's only one who fits the bill: meek salaryman Bob Wilson (John Ritter).
Real Men was released at the height of the craze in the nineteen-eighties for buddy movies, except it was hardly released at all, and found what audience it did attain when it was sold to television, barely getting a look in for theatrical distribution. For this reason there is a generation of Americans who fondly recall seeing this on the small screen growing up, assuming they remember it at all, and a minor cult following resulted, though from this distance it resembles another cult film from around fifteen years later, another buddy flick with a random sense of humour, though less of a thriller-style plot. That film was Dude, Where's My Car? - could this have been an inspiration?
Dude is a film that, if anything, goes even further than Real Men, and both tended to be looked down on by those who did not appreciate their dedication to goofy humour, regarded as the nadir of dumb comedy, though Dude has more of that reputation than the eighties effort since only the select few have heard of what looked like a vehicle for a faded sitcom star and the brother of a more famous comedian. What marked both out was a willingness to include ninety degree plot twists and events that occurred for no other motive than seemingly for the sake of doing something wacky rather than any serious attempt at making any kind of statement or even hang together rationally.
That said, you could argue Real Men had a message that for men, being a rounded individual in your masculinity, able to be tough when the situation called for it, yet not eschewing your sensitive side to promote more compassion in the world was important as well, not something every action flick of this decade would be comfortable to feature, so there was a note struck you wouldn't necessarily expect. Nevertheless, the jokes remained on the crude side when they were not being surreal, therefore Nick avoids an assassin by hopping into bed with a blonde and shoots the guy dead while in the act of, shall we say, making love, a typical example of the shorthand his character was offered. Ritter's Bob (whose name is helpfully repeated about a million times in case you forget it) was more of a contrast.
So we had Bob encourage to man up, and Nick taught to be more sensitive, each fellow bringing out the best in one another, assuming you thought Bob asserting himself through violence was a positive move. As for the plot, this burbled its way from action setpiece to absurdist gags, coming across as if they were making it up as they went along, though while it was a shapeless effort in form, the two leads had a certain chemistry that smoothed over a particularly bumpy narrative. It wasn't consistently hilarious, certainly, but every so often there would happen along a situation where you couldn't help but laugh - "Who are these clowns?", Nick's father played by Ilsa sexploitation queen Dyanne Thorne for some reason, even Bob shooting baddies by pointing his index finger and shouting "BANG!" It had a shaggy dog quality, so that when the science fiction elements appeared you just went with them, with a shrug and a "why not?", as they were doing whatever they felt like. Music by Miles Goodman (really needing a theme song).