You ever heard of an actor just called Leon? He used to be credited as Leon Robinson. He’s also a musician, and has found most of his acting success playing musicians in such movies as THE FIVE HEARTBEATS (he played a Heartbeat), THE TEMPTATIONS (he played David Ruffin), MR. ROCK ‘N ROLL: THE ALAN FREED STORY (he played Jackie Wilson) and LITTLE RICHARD (he played Little Richard). He’s been working hard for years, at one point working as the stage manager for In Living Color while also doing supporting roles in major movies.
Despite all that alot of people probly just know him from Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” video:
But we here know him from CLIFFHANGER, ALI and especially BAND OF THE HAND. He might’ve wanted to be more of an action guy than he ended up being, because between his parts in COOL RUNNINGS and ABOVE THE RIM he produced an independent low budget action vehicle for himself. And filmed it in Seattle. So I watched it.
Leon plays Eddie, a Seattle cop and motorcycle enthusiast. An undercover drug deal at Fremont’s Buckaroo Tavern (R.I.P.) goes south when a weird blind guy walks in yelling and everybody starts shooting. It’s the whole deal where it screwed up an ongoing investigation so Eddie gets suspended and has to wear a uniform and patrol with a partner and not even drive. But – and this will be so unexpected it will shock you to your very core and make you question everything you know about movies – he keeps investigating the case he got kicked off of.
He finds out the blind guy is a local street preacher who attracts quite a crowd. But when he tries to approach the guy his sermon gets disrupted by two young rock ‘n roll afficionados, who make some strong atheist arguments:
Teen #1: “Stupid old fool, there ain’t no God!”
Teen #2: “God was on an acid trip!”
Teen #1: “Yeah! God is dog spelled backwards!”
Eat your heart out, Ricky Gervais. Then there’s chaos and one of the kids knees Eddie in the balls and the old man flees the scene on a motorcycle with his Asian biker chick bodyguard Mai Lei (Gina Lim, “Female Workout Partner” from the Marky Mark workout video).
Later Eddie catches up with Mai Lei and they get along because of their shared love of motorcycles. He has a Marlon Brando THE WILD ONE picture in his apartment, and she tells a story about seeing EASY RIDER in her village as a kid and all the kids saving up money to buy a poster to take turns with. Eventually she lays on a motorcycle and he touches her while a fake Phil Collins song plays.
Eddie has a drinking buddy, a white guy with long hair, looks like he’d be in a band from that era. (Other ’90s touches: a character wearing a Butthole Surfers t-shirt; a female vocal loop on the soundtrack that sounds like a backup singer from a Young MC demo.) They talk about moving to Hawaii together and trying to popularize “hogs” on Maui. It seems like the friend is more passionate about this dream than Eddie is, but he’s at least willing to put on the Hawaiian shirt and lei that the friend provides as part of his pitch.
The villain is the drug kingpin Mendez (Susan Finque), who’s real intimidating and even bites a chunk off an underling’s ear, Mike Tyson style. One odd thing… well, let me just show you a picture of these two gentlemen, these males who I am describing here.
See, it is my contention that that it would be hard for anyone on the planet earth to watch these characters for more than 3 seconds without identifying both Mendez and his #1 (Nancy Griffiths?) as women, yet the characters in the movie keep using male pronouns for them (“He’s crazy! Get me out of here!”) Even after the scene where Eddie is shocked to find a porn video where Mendez is apparently sticking it to Mai Lei Ifigured it was they were just butch women (I believe STREETS OF RAGE or one of the other Mimi Lesseos movies did something like this) and maybe just everybody was being real cool about lesbian or transgender issues. But at the very end (is it a SPOILER to give away the surprise that it’s supposed to be a surprise?) someone finally refers to Mendez as “her,” surprising and confusing Eddie. Then her shirt is pulled off, revealing her breasts bound by bandages to flatten them. Eddie had no idea! No wonder he got demoted, he’s not a very good detective.
It’s not as good as FISTS OF STEEL as far as these who-do-you-think-you’re-fooling gender reveal deals go, but I’m glad there’s a whole category for that.
I think this movie’s supposed to be kinda gritty. These ladies, er I mean lads, say tough lines like “Shit. His bike is at the bitch’s place, and her bike is at his place. We gotta do something,” or when they meet with Eddie in a diner one of them orders “Two coffees. White. Two chocolate donuts.” After the meeting, when the waiter turns down Eddie’s money because they already paid the tab, he flips out: “Fucking drug dealers don’t buy my coffee, you hear me!?”
Coffee is a normal thing to come up in a movie, but I think at least one of the times here is a tribute to Seattle’s reputation as a town of coffee nerds: the suitcases in a drug deal setup are filled with bags of coffee instead of coke. I liked that one.
It’s interesting because this takes place in Seattle, they aren’t trying to fake some other city, yet as far as I remember they didn’t ever show the Space Needle. I respect that. Most of it takes place in the International District (they call it Chinatown in the movie) but there are some familiar sights from other parts of Seattle, such as the famous spinning Elephant Car Wash sign.
In the credits I noticed Erin “Tiny” Blackwell listed as “Rehab Center Teen.” This surprised me because Tiny is sort of the lead subject in STREETWISE, the excellent, Academy Award nominated documentary about homeless teens in Seattle in the early ’80s. It looks like she’s also going to be the center of a “where are they now?” type followup to STREETWISE thanks to Kickstarter.
I didn’t recognize her anywhere in the movie and I’m not sure but my only guess based on the character description is this random gal in the sleeveless Zeppelin shirt standing at the door of the church/rehab clinic. It doesn’t really look like her to me, but I’m not ruling it out.
I know alot of people enjoy hearing the title of a movie said in the dialogue, they hear it and they go “Oh, that’s why it’s called JACK REACHER” or whatever. To those people this movie is gonna be pretty great because they say the phrase “BAD ATTITUDE” five different times, by my count.
IMDb lists this as a TV movie, but it doesn’t seem like one. Maybe that just means they couldn’t get distribution so it played first on cable. It’s a pretty amateurish movie, but at least they had the confidence to stamp the title onto the screen after the credits.
According to IMDb, one-and-done director Bill Cummings was an uncredited stuntman on 11 James Bond movies, THE GUNS OF NAVARONE and WILLOW. Writer Crane Webster’s only other credit is JOURNEY TO SPIRIT ISLAND (1988), which was also filmed in Washington.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.