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  No Man's Land It's A Steal
Year: 1987
Director: Peter Werner
Stars: D.B. Sweeney, Charlie Sheen, Lara Harris, Randy Quaid, Bill Duke, R.D. Call, Arlen Dean Snyder, M. Emmet Walsh, Al Shannon, Bernie Pock, Kenny Endoso, James F. Kelly, Lori Butler, Claire Wren, Philip Benichou, Linda Carol
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Benjy Taylor (D.B. Sweeney) is a new cop on the Los Angeles force who happens to know a lot about cars and their maintenance, so when he is called aside by his boss, Lieutenant Bracey (Randy Quaid), he realises this could be his big break. What Bracey asks him to do is go undercover at a garage whose owner it is believed has something to do with the death of another undercover officer, and Taylor accepts. But he has not counted on the connections he will make between himself and the main suspect, a rich kid called Ted Varrick (Charlie Sheen) - will he be able to betray him?

Back in the eighties, certainly in Hollywood movies, it was fashionable to flaunt your wealth, so the films were packed with young actors playing flashy characters on the way up. No Man's Land was little different, and to contrast with Sweeney's aspirational working class twenty-two year old there was that other cliché of the decade, what amounted to the evil businessman in the person of Sheen's Varrick. Scripted by Dick Wolf, best known now as a producer on Law and Order, it was directed by another television talent, Peter Werner, which may be the cause of its rather small scale worries.

Not that Sheen and Sweeney aren't taking part in a titanic struggle between all that is right and all that is wrong, it's just that it comes across as more of a scuffle outside a wine bar. Varrick represents the glamorous lifestyle that Taylor gets to like being around, and would do anything to stay with if it were not for the slight drawback of investigating his new buddy for murder. To keep us interested the film stages some well-shot but rather routine car chases, with Varrick's gang having the heat put under them by a rival, meaner bunch led by Martin (R.D. Call).

To ensure we don't think that although there's an attraction between Taylor and Varrick, it's not a homosexual attraction, there is a sister to the car-stealing rogue in Ann (Lara Harris) who commences an affair with Taylor, thereby putting him in an even more difficult position. How can he stay professional and on the case when he is bedding the chief suspect's sister? Well, the truth is he doesn't really, and although he works out that Varrick is not the killer they are looking for, he reckons without him murdering other people to keep his interests valid.

In fact, the film seems just as entranced with the ostensible villain's world of fast cars and expensive nightclubs as Taylor is, and it's with great reluctance you see them accepting they have to wind things up with a more moralistic conclusion. Sheen is good as a slick young businessman who happens to have a penchant for appropriating Porsches, not because he needs them but because he is living life on the edge, man, but when it comes to portraying his character's darker side he's not really up to the task, and too often appears a lightweight. Sweeney is better, but isn't offered much to do except manfully control his fretting, meaning No Man's Land is a work aiming for more depth than it can muster. It is essential viewing for eighties Porsche fans, though, and this would class as heavy product placement if they weren't shown to be so easy to steal. Music by Basil Poledouris.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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