Tommy Lee Jones plays a government-employed thief hired to get the dirt on a large corporation suspected of all-round dodgy behaviour. He manages to procure a tape with the information needed, but is forced to hide them inside a nearby car. This ain’t no ordinary car, though, it’s the super hi-tech Black Moon, a race car, the type of which is designed to break speed records. And worse than that, the car ends up being stolen by another thief (Linda Hamilton!), who works for a stolen car racket headed by tycoon Robert Vaughn. So now Jones, aided by the car’s owners (Richard Jaeckel and William Sanderson) must break into Vaughn’s skyscraper and get the car (and the tape) outta there. Easier said than done. Bubba Smith (!) plays the government man who hired Jones, a well-dressed Lee Ving (with awful hair) is the man Jones stole the tape from, and Keenan Wynn is an associate of Jones’.
You know you’re watching a bad 80s movie the minute you see one of those cheesy ‘futuristic’ cars that look like a cross between a Lamborghini and an Atari computer. Directed by the unfortunately named Harley Cokliss (who worked as 2nd Unit director on “The Empire Strikes Back”) in 1986, it’s most notable for one of the several hands involved in the writing process; The one and only John Carpenter (“Halloween”, “Big Trouble in Little China”), who obviously contributed the slight Snake Plissken-esque vibes the film has on the edges, but which are ultimately diluted by the presence of fellow screenwriters William Gray (the excellent horror film “The Changeling” and the interesting sci-fi film “The Philadelphia Experiment”) and Desmond Nakano (“American Me”, “White Man’s Burden”). I doubt that very much of Carpenter’s original story remains in the finished script. In fact, the script was apparently finished ten years earlier, and the role eventually played by Tommy Lee Jones was envisioned for Charles Bronson. The central idea isn’t awful, but the script is a loser and I doubt if even John Carpenter could’ve turned it into a winner if he took on directorial duties.
The biggest problem is that it is completely boring, as Cokliss has no sense of pacing at all and the film has zero energy. That’s fatal for an action movie. It’s a shame because as I said, there’s a potentially interesting heist movie idea in here, except for the stupid Atari car. Make the car a bit more plausible, and hire a director who knows how to make an exciting action film, and you’ve got an infinitely better film.
Tommy Lee Jones (who is rarely the problem in any of his films) is decent enough to suggest he might’ve made for an OK action star, but this is pretty stale and flat, ruining any chances of that happening. It’s OK, his career recovered, obviously, and he offers up a different action hero vibe here that I liked, even if the film sucks. Good cameo by veteran character actor Keenan Wynn, though one wonders if Jack Warden was busy or something. The film is a complete waste of Richard Jaeckel, Bubba Smith, Lee Ving, and especially the usually quirky and fun William Sanderson. Ving is probably the best of them, but none get much screen time.
This is far from the worst film of the 80s, but it contains just about everything wrong with 80s filmmaking; The aforementioned car, a godawful synth score by Lalo Schifrin (“Cool Hand Luke”, “Bullitt”, “THX 1138”, “Enter the Dragon”), Linda Hamilton who sucks in anything not featuring “Terminator” in the title, a slumming and lazy Robert Vaughn as the villain, a Bubba Smith appearance, former punk rocker Lee Ving (who is solid as usual but rarely appears in anything worth watching), etc. Hamilton’s dreadful hairdo also deserves a mention, it’s like a cross between Prince and a poodle that has up and died on her head. You do get a brief look at one of her tits in this, though. She’s actually miscast if you ask me. The Linda Hamilton of “Terminator 2” might’ve been able to play a thief, but not the Linda Hamilton of 1986, I’m afraid. She has no edge or toughness, something that wouldn’t have been a problem with say, Linda Fiorentino in the part. Sorry, but this film is pretty damn awful.