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  Beyond the Law Charlie Busts A Ring
Year: 1993
Director: Larry Ferguson
Stars: Charlie Sheen, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Madsen, Courtney B. Vance, Leon Rippy, Dennis Burkley, Lyndsay Riddell, Rhino Thunder, Rip Torn, James Oscar Lee, Ed Adams, Hollie Chamberlain, Richard Madsen, Larry Ferguson, Ted Parks, Michael Waltman
Genre: Drama, Thriller, BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Dan Saxon (Charlie Sheen) is an Arizona cop haunted by his childhood, as even now he wakes up in the middle of the night after nightmares of a trauma he can barely recall in his conscious life. Today he is called out to an incident at a construction site out in the desert, and it turns out to be a rogue Indian with a rifle taking shots at those below him, so Dan decides he can use some of his own Indian breeding (on his mother's side) and confront the man. That he does, but the sniper tells him he sees a great darkness within him, something he cannot deny and which emerges when he confronts his corrupt Sheriff...

As the voiceover at the end tells us, Beyond the Law was based on a true story, and though it was made for cinema release somehow it was mostly seen on television if it was seen at all, making it essentially a TV movie of the week with added swearing and violence. How accurate it was could be debatable, since writer and director Larry Ferguson, by his own admission, dressed up the basic story of undercover officer Dan Black with his own embellishments, and if you were one of those people who preferred to act the sceptic when a work claiming truthfulness appeared before you then you would be delighted at the holes you were able to pick in this.

Not that it was a tissue of lies, it was based on a real article which originally appeared in Playboy, and apparently the actual Dan is in this as an extra though nobody but the filmmakers knew where, as he was still wanted by the Hell's Angels he had infiltrated, little wonder when he had sent so many of them to prison back in the seventies (two hundred odd, it says at the end of the movie). This whole "how much is accurate?" question added a mystique that the movie a few thought had inspired Beyond the Law, which was the gleefully dumb Stone Cold, could not lay claim to, and the belief that what you were watching happened in one way or another was responsible for the cachet it might not otherwise have had.

Particularly when the bikers were portrayed as such badasses, something you could well accept had basis in fact. What was harder to swallow was Charlie Sheen as convincing enough to pass as one of them, for throughout the movie, no matter how he dressed up in the denim and leather or grew his hair and beard, he looked totally out of his depth, and any genuine tough guys would have realised he was a fake almost immediately, even if he did act in a cavalier fashion with a stick of dynamite and make a man twice his size piss himself in fear, a scene which plays out more as a fantasy of how an inadequate personality might win over the trust of a bunch of hardcases. So it was safe to say Chaz was a drawback in the overall mood.

Not that Sheen could never essay the rugged role, but there were better actors than him who could make you believe it no matter the dubious details of how he acted in reality, both before and after this film. His Dan character was pitted against Michael Madsen, who might have been a better choice to take the part, here as biker No. 1 Blood and orchestrating a huge drugs ring which pays off Dan's superior officer. When he is sacked by the corrupt chief, the narcotics agent Price (Courtney B. Vance) recruits the troubled soul into posing as a Hell's Angel to bust the ring, and to add to the lack of a sense of truth they are being followed about by a photographer played by Linda Fiorentino who hangs around in the background snapping away for some project or other, all with the consent of Blood, apparently. Predictably she becomes Sheen's love interest, knowing his double identity, because what would a movie like this be without a sex scene? Other than that, this was diverting on its low level, but for a biker movie you could do trashier, and therefore better. Strange amount of Chris Rea on the soundtrack, too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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