I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: K-9

tn_k-9sdccK-9 is a weird type of action-comedy that only existed in the ’80s. James Belushi plays own-rules-playing San Diego narcotics detective Mike Dooley, who sneakily borrows a K-9 patrol dog off the books for an unauthorized raid, and then treats the dog as his partner, talking to him as if he’s a human in a regular non-dog-related cop movie. And the dog, Jerry Lee (introducing Jerry Lee as himself according to the credits, which is a lie because the dog was named Rando and got totally fucked over because dogs aren’t SAG), will sometimes make human gestures like covering his face with his paws in embarrassment or making a little arf sound that resembles a human sigh.

It’s humor that often seems more for kids than adults, yet every single other aspect of the movie – the car chases, the bar fight, the shootouts, the angry chief, the arrogant, swimming-pool-lounging drug lord villain (Kevin Tighe, ROAD HOUSE), the relationship problems caused by his occupation, the dramatic score, etc. – is 100% standard issue PG-13 (when that was edgy) action movie. And I don’t mean as a parody, mimicking the style to get laughs from absurdity. They’re just making a movie how movies were made back then. It wasn’t weird at the time.

Belushi plays it kind of like if Bill Murray had turned macho and got into making BEVERLY HILLS COP ripoffs. He’s a dry wiseass but obviously gets joy out of putting the holster on in the morning. He does stuff like handcuff a guy to the side of his convertible and then drive, to force him to give up information. In the movie it’s a funny, clever thing for a cop to do to get what he wants out of a bad person, in real life it’s kinda similar to how cops tortured a prisoner to death last year in Baltimore.

mp_k-9Dooley has a Riggs approach to his police work – do something crazy, get in over his head, improvise, barely get away with it, usually thanks to the intervention of the dog. I actually found myself giving an honest chuckle in the Axel Foley type scene where Belushi interrupts a crazy bar brawl to buy everybody drinks and do a bad job of acting like he fits in. “Give me, uh, whatever you got that’s, uh… diet.”

They’re ready to kill him when Jerry Lee comes in and takes them all out in a dog attack scene with Greengrassian handheld shots that culminates in Jerry Lee biting a guy named Benny the Mule’s dick (completely with dog-lunging-at-dick-POV-shot) until he gives up some information about who contracted the helicopter attack on Dooley’s car (long story).

The next scene actually got the biggest laugh out of me, when they go to the car and he dresses down Jerry Lee. “Don’t you ever, ever pull anything like that again without talking to me first! You lost it in there, you know that? You lost control. We could’ve gotten killed!”

But this brings up the big mystery that confounds me about this movie. I honestly can’t tell how we’re supposed to take these types of scenes. Does he just think it’s funny to pretend the dog understands him and act out long comedic sketches for himself? Or are we to take it that he’s serious? There aren’t other indications that he’s meant as a weirdo. I don’t think there are any scenes of people hearing him talk to the dog and doing a double take (or hearing him talk to the dog and going along with it, for that matter). And there’s a long, seemingly sincere monologue about their relationship when he thinks the dog is dead.

It’s also one of those movies that asks you to get emotional along with the protagonist even though in real life his position would be completely unreasonable. Jerry Lee gets shot and instead of bringing him to a veterinarian he brings him to the hospital and forces a doctor (first by yelling, then by guilting about the dog being a cop, then by showing his gun) to operate on him. But the doctor is correct that he’s untrained to operate on animals and not allowed to have them cut open in the hospital due to health codes. He could also mention that they don’t have the equipment, medicine or protocols to treat animals there. It is just an absolutely terrible idea to bring an injured dog to a human hospital. But we’re supposed to be like “THESE FUCKING ASSHOLES DON’T WANT TO HELP JERRY LEE HE IS A HERO!” I can imagine the San Diego police union putting out an inflammatory statement about it.

By the way, file this under “stuff that comes off differently 30 years later”: the part where Dooley’s almost spotted following the bad guy on a beach so he hides by pinning down a random sunbather and kissing her.

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To be fair, he does leave the scene walking funny from a knee to the balls, but then the woman seems to just let it go. Men did beach assaults all the time in ’89. It was considered good clean fun.

There’s one running joke that really grosses me out. Jerry Lee gets excited when he sees a poodle – code for girl dog – in a parked car. Belushi teases him about it, then says “You got ten minutes” and proceeds to stand guard while his dog climbs into another man’s car to hump a dog. And then the guy comes back and Dooley offers to pay him to let the dogs finish.

When Jerry Lee first sees the poodle it plays “Oh Yeah!”, when he leaves it’s “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Dooley smiles, proud of his dog for fucking another dog. Later he says “You should be mellow, you just got laid.”

Do we really want to see a human talking lasciviously about a dog?

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At the end of the movie he brings the poodle up again when he’s saying they should’ve “picked up a couple broads” and taken them to Vegas.

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What kind of a sicko are we supposed to be rooting for here?

But I don’t think anybody took it that way back then. It was a pretty successful movie, opening bigger than the other new releases that week (CRIMINAL LAW, LOVERBOY, THE HORROR SHOW and SCANDAL), taking second place to another fun animal movie, PET SEMATARY, which was in its second week.

Years later there were a couple sequels. I haven’t watched K-911 because… I don’t know. Too soon. I haven’t even watched UNITED 93. The other one is K-9 P.I.

K-9 is shot by Dean Semler (ROAD WARRIOR), and I can’t say it’s his best work, but his participation helps explain why it looks legit. Editor Lois-Freeman-Fox also did TURNER & HOOCH, the other human/dog buddy cop movie of 1989 (it came out three months later). Not willing to take sides, I guess. There are a few surprising character actor appearances: Ed O’Neill, a couple seasons into Married With Children, as the guy who loans him the dog; Pruitt Taylor Vince (HEAVY) as Benny the Mule, who gets his dick bit by Jerry Lee…

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William Sadler, one year before playing the lead villains of both HARD TO KILL and DIE HARD 2, has a bit part as a goofy car salesman…

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and Dan Castellaneta, months before The Simpsons started, plays a maitre d’.

Director Rod Daniel, who passed away just a few months ago, was an ’80s TV director (WKRP in Cincinnati, Harper Valley PTA, The Duck Factory, etc.) before hitting the big screen with TEEN WOLF, LIKE FATHER LIKE SON and then this. After THE SUPER and BEETHOVEN’S 2ND he went back to sitcoms and TV movies for the rest of his career. His final film was HOME ALONE 4 in 2002.

still_k-9_sdccThe last San Diego Comic Con before the release of K-9 was the August 1988 one at the Omni Hotel. George R.R. Martin – at that time a writer for TV’s Beauty and the Beast – was one of the guests. It was the first year they had an anime department.

While you’re at Comic-Con this year if you want to visit a historic K-9 filming location, I do believe this is the block where Dooley criticizes Jerry Lee’s out of control dick biting. In front of 2616 1/2 National Ave.

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and here is the intersection where Dooley does a donut after getting his windshield shot out while bickering with Jerry Lee about sharing a cupcake. Look for The Turf Supper Club, .

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If you go to either of these important sites, please send me a picture.

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.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 21st, 2016 at 10:46 am and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “SAN DIEGO EXCLUSIVE: K-9”

  1. Vern, please treat yourself to a montage of writing and succeeding set to “You’re the best, you’re the beessssast”

  2. I love K-9, but I am a fan of the action-comedy stylings of Mr. Belushi. He’s got just the right mix of cocky asshole and hangdog blue-collar schmo to make me buy him as a burned-out plainclothes cop.

    Vern, have you never had a dog? People talk to dogs all the time. They don’t expect the dogs to answer back. It is not considered a sign of psychosis.

    I am not a dog person (For me, “It loves and accepts me unconditionally” is easily trumped by “I have to clean up its shit” ) but even a cold-hearted bastard like myself can catch feelings over the “He’s not just a dog. He’s my partner.” speech. That scene (and its preceding moment of gratuitous but righteous clip-emptying catharsis) is why K-9 will always be the top dog when it comes to canine-based buddy-cop thrillers.

  3. This was no TURNER & HOOCH. T&H had Al Powell as token pre-Oscar Tom Hanks support so I watched it a lot more but it was also no TOP DOG and sometimes that is good enough. The sequel was atrocious though.

    Also that “AS HIMSELF” was even bolder than the review implied because I don’t think Rando was a K-9 cop.

  4. I remember laughing my ass off, like to the point of gasping and tears running down my face, in the scene where he gets in the car with the pastry box and is trying to eat his delicious dessert, but the dog is barking and barking and barking in his face, so he ends up cramming the pastry down the dog’s throat. That is all I remember of this movie.

  5. I really like how you start off discussing that weird 80s/early 90s phenomenon of seemingly kid-friendly comedy with story lines and elements which would fit better in an “adult” action movie. I think the success of Beverly Hills Cop might be to blame, since that was (if I remember correctly) written as a straight action/cop movie which only became a comedy when Eddie Murphy was cast. Granted, 48 Hours was like that too, but BHC was sooo huge when it came out that I suspect a lot of studio types thought that generic cop script + smartass humor = $$$$. I think that there was probably a phase where any unused cop script was reevaluated. “Hey, that script about a Chicago cop we bought a few years ago? What about if we cast this hot new stand up comic as the cop?” So, we had our Collision Courses and whatnot which tried to directly ape the 48 hours/BHC model to varying degrees of success. Then, within a few years, this had distilled from R rated cop comedy to slightly more family friendly ones to eventually just saying, “Screw it. What if his partner is a dog?”

    This is just a guess on my part, though. It was a crazy time.

  6. The prime example of that is KINDERGARTEN COP. Most of the movie is little kids saying the darnedest things, but all the shootouts are pretty vicious. I swear there’s chunks of meat in the squibs.

  7. Crushinator Jones

    July 21st, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Did they ever make a pun about how this cop and his dog would “collar” criminals? Real missed opportunity if not.

  8. I think there are two sides of this phenomena. I think there were action movies that they added comedy, like BHC and then there were comedies that they added action, like OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE.

    It was a weird time of genre melding. I wonder what it was about the 80s that inspired this surge of action in otherwise action free stuff. Like, soap operas. I don’t know how many of you around here have any experience with soap operas, but in the 80s they went from the usual soapy romantic entanglements to spies trying to fight off Bond-like villains building evil weather machines and such. Weird things a’doin’.

  9. I remember really liking this back in the day. Honestly, now I remember NOTHING about it, not even with my memory rekindled with this review.

    I have always thought Jim Belushi was somewhat underrated. He will always be in his brothers shadow of course, but Vern’s right, he’s always had a more Bill Murray in an action movie deal going on.

    My favorite is REAL MEN, a bizarre buddy cop thing with John Ritter. Aliens, clowns, Russian spies…all sorts of weird shit in that one. Great wacky soundtrack as well. Kind of fits into the very loose genre of very “off” comedies with lots of ridiculous sci-fi and/or creature effect elements. CABIN BOY, BUCKAROO BANZI, NOTHING BUT TROUBLE…that sort of thing. I love all those movies, and they are all thoroughly weird.

    I always wondered exactly how that genre began. Maybe with the success of GHOSTBUSTERS? Slightly more surreal POLICE ACADEMY’S? REPO-MAN wannabes? I really have no idea, but all the ones I can think of met with maximum disdain of the critics, but eventually found a small but loyal cult audience comprised mostly of…potheads.

  10. There are some good examples of off/zany comedies all the way back to the 40’s really, mostly mixing humor, crime solving and/or monsters. Abbot and Costello, Bob Hope, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Morecambe and Wise…

  11. Pegsman, you have a point. In fact, Tarantino has long cited ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN as a major influence in his melding of comedy and menace.

    But there was still something unusual about the 1980s in that there were so many mainstream studio films with bizarre “high-concept” premises that seemed to be aiming for adults and kids at the same time.

    Part of it might have been commercial desperation to appeal to as many viewers as possible simultaneously, Part of it might have been that the personal-vision-of-an-auteur 1970s era was over, and studio execs were now just grasping for any concept that sounded novel enough to be marketable without anyone bothering to establish a consistent tone.

    Also, the people making films then were probably the first generation raised on TV (plus cable TV and home video had come along by then), so people were perhaps more influenced by a wider range of tones and styles than previous generations could have been. For example, the Cannon Films documentary ELECTRIC BOOGALOO had one talking head commenting about how Golan or Globus (I forget which) would make a film that included elements he liked in other films, regardless of whether it made any sense for those elements to show up in the same film. So in the 1980s, even the hackwork was becoming postmodern.

    Of course film snobs would have hated all this at the time. But we appreciate this broken-compass insanity much more today, now that every major Hollywood film has to be based on an existing intellectual property (though maybe that too will seem postmodern to viewers in the future).

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned GREMLINS – of the major 1980s films I’ve seen, that one has the biggest gap between child-friendly cuteness and cover-your-eyes horror (which I’m guessing is why it was the one controversial enough to produce the PG-13 rating).

  12. Well, in GREMLINS, that juxtaposition was baked into the movie from conception. The film is doing the David Lynch thing of contrasting an idealized, picture-perfect Norman Rockwell small town with an element of primordial violence and chaos, suggesting that such savagery was lurking just under the surface the whole time. The tonal shift is the whole point of the movie. The kind of movies Dtroyt was talking about had no such thematic concerns. They just wanted to work in as many exploitable elements as possible to attract as many different demographics as possible, even if they didn’t fit together. And God bless ’em for it. There’s nothing I love more than seeing a spot of horrific violence in a movie it has no place being in. The violence has more impact when it’s unexpected (or, even better, unwarranted).

  13. Maggie, drugs. Lots and lots of coke. That explains your question.

  14. Tigger – I think REAL MEN is tied with DEAD HEAT as the most underrated buddy action film of the glorious 80’s. Would love to read Vern’s take on both of those someday.

  15. Crushinator Jones

    July 22nd, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I remember liking Real Men a lot when I was a kid.

  16. I did do DEAD HEAT:

    http://outlawvern.com/2012/10/07/dead-heat/

    But I don’t think I’ve heard of REAL MEN until this thread. I’ll have to check that out.

  17. Oh shit you did and I do remember reading it now I even commented on the thread since it was your review that inspired me to revisit it as a grown up. Sometimes I think I burn way too many brain cells when I chief. On to the TOP DOG review I go.

  18. I would love to hear your take on REAL MEN, Vern. Its an odd one!

  19. Real Men was on HBO all the time when I was a kid. I think it’s currently available on HBO Go actually.

  20. So I was looking up Real Men and the writer/director wrote Just One of the Guys, The Golden Child, Species and Virus. Just One of the Guys was one of those movies that no matter the time of day it was on tv somewhere. I think the best non-John Hughes teen comedy of the 80s.

    The Golden Child, I just learned, was originally going to be a Raymond Chandler film and star Mel Gibson. It turned into an Eddie Murphy movie.

  21. Funny how older film buffs used to bash 1980s cinema for only making generic blockbusters and not letting anything more innovative or idiosyncratic get through.

    After a while I would think: What the hell are these guys talking about? The 1980s was the decade of BLUE VELVET, REPO MAN, BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET, LIQUID SKY, FORBIDDEN ZONE, STRANGER THAN PARADISE, Terry Gilliam’s imagination trilogy… and that’s not even counting more popular films like GREMLINS, GHOSTBUSTERS, TOP SECRET!, PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE, BEETLEJUICE…

    Then it occurred to me – to one degree or another, these are all comedies. The 1980s was the era of the weird comedy. And I think some film snobs don’t like comedy (unlike it has a very obvious and on-the-surface political message). But to me, a weird movie in the shape of a dumb or crowdpleasing comedy is stranger than a weird drama or art film, because the filmmakers are assuming that what they’re doing is normal.

    I mean, the 1970s film ERASERHEAD is dark and weird, but we have accepted it into the canon as an expression of someone’s subconscious. A 1980s equivalent like MEET THE HOLLOWHEADS is much harder to parse – its makers seem to think they’re making a fun comedy and that we’re on their wavelength, which to me cranks the WTF meter even higher.

  22. Real Men kinda peters off in its second half, but its first half is one of the best first halfs of a movie I’ve ever seen. Do yourself a favor, Vern, and track a copy down. Maggie, your reference to Outrageous Fortunes merits a proposal. So if you wanna get married, just let me know

  23. Sternshein – I always forget the cocaine factor.

    Jerome – If I were ever to imagine a comment of mine would spur a marriage proposal amongst this crowd, never in a million years would I have thought it was over a Shelley Long comedy.

  24. Holy crap they put out Real Men on Blu Ray?? And it’s under $20 on Amazon? I wonder if I can designate my Patreon contribution towards it. (I’m still holding on to my VHS tape with it taped off of HBO, since it was one of my favorites growing up.) I agree with Jerome that the second half isn’t as good as the first, but man, the score and the surprisingly inventive action scenes and the chemistry between the leads is fantastic.

    I also think Belushi is underrated – probably because I’ve never seen anything with his brother (like i’ve seen bits and pieces of Blues Brothers on TV and SNL Best Of Specials, but haven’t actually sat through a whole movie of his), but probably because Jim’s legit great in Real Men and Red Heat and I remember thinking K-9 was pretty good for a Turner & Hooch ripoff (I can’t believe it came out first even though IMDB confirms it). I do remember thinking it was weird that a kids movie ends with the hero shooting the bad guy in the back though.

  25. Neal, I will rent REAL MEN, and you need to rent THE BLUES BROTHERS. I agree that Jim Belushi is treated unfairly (including in my own mind) because of the reputation as the lesser brother. It’s like the Billy Baldwin dilemma. But to me THE BLUES BROTHERS is one of the most perfect comedies and a one of a kind blend of action, music and John Landis excessiveness. I’d be surprised if it didn’t impress you.

  26. I’m from Chicago and a Cubs fan and dealth with 20 million seasons of According to Jim so my opinion on Jim Belushi isn’t quite as hi as yours. Though he is pretty great in Red Heat and Real Men.

  27. I was indifferent to BLUES BROTHERS for most of my life. Liked it more or less as a kid, but quickly forgot about it and moved on. I watched it again about a year ago (first time wide screen and not shitty VHS I might add) and I LOVED it! A truely surreal comedic masterpiece if there ever was one!!!

    I’m putting it in the rotation more often, that’s for sure!

    REAL MEN isn’t quite in that league, but it is a real fun oddball that I really think any fan of the tough guy action movies we like here should see at least once. Its kind of a coo-coo version. Not really a spoof as much as it is actually coo-coo.

    Both of these movies serve as a great reminder to when comedy really was a lot more daring and had a lot more genuinely unexpected shit happening in them.

  28. Vern – I just added Blues Brothers to my queue and Netflix says it’s….2 hr 28 min?! Man, I guess the 2hr+ comedy genre didn’t start with Apatow or the Farrellys like I thought! Looking forward to seeing it.

    And FYI I hope I didn’t come across the wrong way about “designating my Patreon” towards it…I would never seriously try to dictate what you should watch; in fact alot of the fun here is seeing what entirely unexpected review pops up next (I’m pretty sure nobody was expecting a K-9 or Tarzan and the Lost City review).

  29. neao2zod: Yes, Blues Brothers is a true epic.

  30. Don’t worry, BLUES BROTHERS is only that long because of all the songs and they are cool. So there aren’t endless scenes of Aykroyd and Belushi improvising jokes that are 85% cutting room floor material. All in all the whole movie feels like less than 2 hours.

  31. Well, originally it was 2 hours and 13 minutes. I don’t really know what the additions are in the longer cut. But yes, it can carry the length in my opinion. Partly because there are musical numbers and maybe the most over the top car chase I’ve ever seen.

    And no offense taken about the Patreon thing. I appreciate the support and the open-mindedness.

  32. I’ve seen BLUES BROTHERS “hundreds” of times over the years, and it was nice to see some new scenes in the director’s cut. In addition to a couple of more songs, there’s a whole sequence from Elwood’s workplace – and he’s not wearing sunglasses – and we find out where he got the superglue. If this is in, you’re watching the long version.

  33. Never seen THE BLUES BROTHERS director’s cut. Gonna have to track it down. Just finished my annual viewing of BLUES BROTHERS 2000 I know it’s hip to shit on it but I’ll be damned if the music in it isn’t simply anything short of mind blowing.

  34. The funny thing is, in BB 2000 they actually play blues. The first one, as good as it is, should have been called THE SOUL BROTHERS.

  35. I wish I could have unseen THE BLUES BROTHERS so i could watch it again for the first time. That is quite a movie to watch for the first time. One of those experiences you never forget.

  36. I didn’t like BLUES BROTHERS when I watched it the first time. Maybe I was too young for that. Can’t remember my age, but it might have been around 12 or 13, maybe younger, definitely not older. There were some things that made me chuckle and although I didn’t fully appreciated it yet, I liked much of the music, but in the end, the whole thing fell flat to me. But when I gave it another chance a few years later, it fully got me and I remember laughing my ass off from the beginning to the end. Kinda a reversed PULP FICTION experience.

  37. First time I watched THE BLUES BROTHERS I was like 5 or 6 and didn’t get it’s humor. When I rewatched it as a teenager it floored me. Now as an adult I find it even funnier.

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