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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Retro Review: Shakedown/Blue Jean Cop (1988) #bmovie

Cast: Peter Weller, Sam Elliott, Antonio Fargas, John C. McGinley 
Genre: Crime Drama/Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $10 million

Plot: An idealistic legal aid lawyer and a veteran undercover police officer check a drug dealer's story of police corruption

'Blue Jean -Not- So- Robo Cop, But Still Ain't Half Bad'

Shakedown was released under the title of 'Blue Jean Cop' (blue jean cop is apparently a term to describe cops who make money by stealing from drug dealers) in the UK during the 1980s to relatively little fanfare and some decent reviews starring Robocop star, Peter Weller. Weller's career, right after Paul Verhoeven's Robocop never really took off. He appeared in the terrible sequel, Robocop 2, as well as horror thriller, David Lynch's Naked Lunch & sci-fi horror, Scanners during the early to mid-1990s. I sort of remembered watching Shakedown when it aired on ITV late on Saturday night, back in the early 1990s, and though I remember very little of it, I did enjoy it.

In revisiting this film 20 plus years on, I am in reminiscent of it and taking it into view of Robocop; it was released on the back of that movie, one year on and by comparison this is a very low-key affair and Peter Weller plays against type; well, kind of as a smart, defence attorney and co-star, Sam Elliott is the scruffy, hard-as-nails undercover renegade cop: together, they team up to bust a ring of shady cops and to bring down a crime lord, played by Huggy Bear himself aka Antonio Fargas. I'm guessing here their bond and relationship is practically on the similar lines to that of Riggs and Murtagh in Lethal Weapon. Okay, not exactly. Ronald Dalton defends a young black man, who is also a drug dealer, who was attacked by a police officer because of his skin colour, only for the guy to fire back. At first, he is dubious of his client's story but his investigation leads him to corrupt cops, who work for Antonio Fargas's Nicky Carr. Later on, Dalton and cop, Richie Marks discover a web of corruption and greed. 

As a movie, Shakedown is a fairly standard, generic affair of a grade- B cop movie: with polar opposites in Weller and Elliott going above and beyond the law to unleash their own brand of justice to the ranks. It was nice to watch Weller as a different type of character, your average kind of guy, and who doesn't speak in a monologue-tone of voice. Like with Robocop. Yet he gets ample screentime here. He gives an understated and believable performance as the charismatic Dalton that is also watchable. Plus, I dig his appearance as Ronald. What is also interesting is that with Dalton, he makes mistakes too. So much so he cheats on his wife with his ex-girlfriend. Sam Elliott does all right, but the film could have benefited with one or two more scenes of them working together. As Richie, he has a sly personality, who is also aware of the corruption that occurs within the police force, but he has kept stum about it, for now. 

There is violence, swearing, brief nudity, as well as some action. Shakedown is part action movie, part- drama despite its niche-ness and the fact that this is the type of film one would have stumbled across in bargain bins back in the late 1980s, as well as on Amazon today as cheap as chips. It has moments of wit, some nice stunt work and some good performances, despite the messy plotting and script. 

It's not an outright sophisticated cop movie, but rather a film that operates on two levels: one as a legal drama, & the other as a crime thriller supplemented by the action and it feels sometimes that it tries to do too much of everything that it then becomes very uneven. Directed by the James Glickenhous (The Exterminator, The Protector), Shakedown is one of his most commercial offerings, however in one's view, Peter Weller's performance and the manner of his presence conveyed as his character, Dalton is what makes this movie watchable, - if not entirely memorable. 

Final Verdict:

Shakedown is not going to blow you away, but still its take on the action cop thriller whilst not very original, as a whole, it's not bad as a film. It does have its flaws, and yet it isn't the most emphatic of action films, although it's entertaining in places. Shakedown is an embodiment of 80s' B- action cult movies.  

It will not appeal to everyone; nevertheless for those who want a different type of action movie or to see Peter Weller in a different role to Robocop, kindly step forward. 


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