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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Retro Review: Collision Course (1988)

Collision Course
Cast: Jay Leno, Pat Morita, Chris Sarandon, Tom Noonan, Ernie Hudson
Genre: Action Buddy Cop Comedy 

Plot: A Japanese investigator and Detroit cop team up to track down a stolen prototype turbocharger 

'East- Meets- West Buddy Cop Comedy Which Should Have Worked, But Comes Up Short' 

Watching Collision Course, it was almost as if it was a precursor to the Rush Hour films starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker with the fish-out-of-water native Asian detective arriving in America and wise crack comedian as an American cop teaming up to catch the bad guy. It definitely appears so. It also has the actor who played Duke in Robocop 2 as the bad guy, Winston of Ghostbusters Ernie Hudson and the big Black guy from Trading Places. You may come across some of the cast members of this film after seeing them in their other movies, even if you don't know their names.

The film was shot and produced in 1986 in Detroit, Michigan but wasn't released until 3 years later in 1989, which is a bit of an irony as that same year, Black Rain- another Japanese/American based cop movie- also came out. Yet the reason for this was because they ran out of money during the final day of shooting. Collision Course is directed by Lewis Teague, who gave us The Jewel of the Nile; the equally financially successful sequel to Romancing The Stone and it follows in the same vein as to those other buddy cop comedy movies, but this one falls more on the lines of Running Scared and Dead Heat in terms of a B-movie equivalent, mixed with East meets West in Rush Hour. You have the witty sidekick comedic actor - or be it TV personality in Leno and established dramatic actor in Pat Morita. Japanese American Morita, as expected, is a good actor, given his turns in The Karate Kid movies and stint on Happy Days and here, his efforts are admirable.

In the 1980s, the buddy cop action movie was the 'go-to' sub-genre of action films: two partners of opposite ends of the spectrum yet on the good side of the law. working together to achieve their target in defeating the bad guy, in addition to arguing, shooting and perhaps sharing a beer or two with their partner.

Given that Jay Leno is a comedian, as well as being a former chat show host, I expected him to give one of those turns as the goofy, fun, loose sidekick. It just doesn't happen. Here, his character doesn't see eye to eye with the Japanese cop at first. Leno and Morita though just lack that extra something that Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan have in abundance. And whilst some may argue that Morita is the better actor than Chan, Morita lacks star quality and charisma that Chan has that shows through in his other roles. Leno is not bad, but this film, unlike Rush Hour, needed that madcap zaniness that Chris Tucker brings out on the comedy side of things. Morita plays the wacky Asian cop, but with someone like Eddie Murphy or even, say Robin Williams in place of Jay Leno as the funny, wacky cop with Morita as the straight guy, they would have brought out more of that comedy to the forefront. But that's me speaking personally.

Compared to Rush Hour, though it does have action, there is not much of it on display, but rather there is more banter between Morita and Leno as buddy cops. Collision Course's problem is that for a buddy cop comedy that it has been billed as, the lightheartedness and comedy here are relatively minimal and thus, it is not that funny. In fact, the comedy aspect is not that good; coupled with a generic and flat script and lack of action scenes and with Collision Course, the potential teaming up of Leno and Morita sees its efforts come to vain. There is not enough action (though as low down as it is, is also the type you wouldn't find in The Karate Kid films) and not enough comedy. It's actually a shame really because I do like this pairing of Leno and Morita together, and that had the material been a lot better and consistently funnier, I would have enjoyed it even more. The racist jokes were in bad taste also.

The closing motorbike and car chase scenes were not bad though, as is when Morita launches a flying drop kick through the windscreen and killing the bad guy. This is the highlight of the film, by far. 

Final Verdict:

If you are easily offended or sensitive to ethnic stereotypes and depictions of Asians, then steer clear of this film.

Contrary to a lot of people, this one had promise and the casting was interesting, but the script lacks genuine laughs and there just aren't as much action and many light-hearted scenes for a so-called buddy cop comedy. Having said all that, Collision Course is at most, an earnest effort.

It definitely ranks lower than Running Scared, 48 Hrs, Red Heat and Dead Heat for me; yet nonetheless, it's intriguing to see the former host of The Tonight Show Jay Leno in this, alongside Pat Morita and their camaraderie onscreen, came through - just. Leno's acting was passable and his performance was okay and believable enough for me.

By all rights, it should work and that everything comes together. I really wanted to love and enjoy this one as those above buddy cop action comedies that I have mentioned above, but it just didn't offer more of what I'd usually come to expect in this type of movie.

Collision Course is the '80s Rush Hour but only far less interesting, amusing and with very little action.


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