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  Number One with a Bullet More Ruddy Buddies
Year: 1987
Director: Jack Smight
Stars: Robert Carradine, Billy Dee Williams, Valerie Bertinelli, Peter Graves, Doris Roberts, Bobby Di Cicco, Ray Girardin, Barry Sattels, Mykelti Williamson, Jon Gries, Richard Minchenberg, Michael Goodwin, LaGena Hart, Alex Rebar, Artie Ripp, Larry Poindexter
Genre: Comedy, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Hazeltine (Billy Dee Williams) is a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department who happens to be an expert jazz saxophonist, and likes to unwind by playing at a local nightclub. It's also a great place to meet women who are impressed with his technique, as tonight when he has a very good chance with an attractive blonde, but just as they are hitting it off and discussing classical music, along comes his cop partner Detective Barzak (Robert Carradine), known as Berserk for his unorthodox and forceful style with the bad guys. He starts telling outrageous lies about Hazeltine to the woman who makes a quick exit, so now he can get around to his pet subject: how can the both of them bring down a pillar of society he believes to be corrupt?

Another year in the eighties, another Cannon action flick, and this one was so generic that it more or less slipped through the cracks when it was first released, lost in a plethora of near-identical buddy movies. That was then, but now these efforts have gathered a following of their own, especially the Golan-Globus productions of which this was one, and the more generic the better in the fans' opinion because that leaves room for the sort of casual lunacies that marked out those films. The big influence here would appear to have been Lethal Weapon, yet as they were being made at the same time we have to put down the similarities to sheer coincidence, or maybe the fact that cop buddy movies were so prevalent then.

Especially those where one partner was black and one was white, an echo of Walter Hill's 48 Hrs which had become so important in the evolution of the genre, not that it evolved much further than the concepts on offer in this era. In this case, Billy Dee Williams, the man described for years as the black Clark Gable (or was Clark Gable the white Billy Dee Williams? OK, Gable was first, but was he Lando Calrissian? Don't think so), was the sensible partner who had a total of two, count 'em, two distinguishing features: he was so dashing that the ladies were lining up to fall at his feet, so he's never seen with the same woman twice (or perhaps Barzak is doing a great job of scaring them off?), and the other, obvious trait in his love of health food. His what?

That was the best way of contrasting the two leads, you see, one had to be the snob to the other's slob, and Carradine was the latter. So much so that while the big baddie DeCosta (Barry Sattels, epitome of yuppie scum acting) was oily and unlikeable, Barzak was if anything even more repellent, not just because of his preference for junk food either. Take the romantic subplot where he tries to woo back his wife Teresa (Valerie Bertinelli in a rare break from television), he's so dogged in his detetmination that he hounds her by showing up at her house to demand she takes him back, scares off potential suitors, and generally acts like a case of domestic violence about to happen. Yet for some reason the script sees to it that she is won over before the end credits roll.

That script had an interesting name attributed to it, one Jim Belushi, eighties comedy cop actor extraordinaire who had developed Number One with a Bullet as a vehicle for himself until he had to drop out. You can see why it would have been a fair match for his talents, and also why Carradine is odd casting, especially coming off Revenge of the Nerds success. He has all sorts of wackiness to get up to, including a stakeout inexplicably staged in drag, whereupon the villain he is trying to catch makes a run for it - and he's in drag as well! Were they trying to tell us something, or did Carradine prefer a role with a touch of idiosyncrasy to sink his teeth into? Meanwhile Williams coasted through the mayhem with nary a hair out of place, whether he was being shot at in a plane or being shot at in a car (which happens to be chasing a huge truck full of drug dealers - it wouldn't be eighties action without a great big lorry). Also along for the ride was Doris Roberts for nagging mother jokes, and she gets in on the action too, not quite Estelle Getty levels but notable. Passable but nuts, really. Music by Alf Clausen.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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