Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dead Heat

What we have here is an ideal result of an unexpected blending of genres: a goofy 80s style buddy cop movie that manages to throw in a plot about zombies for some spice. It’s the kind of movie where you get a hero named Roger Mortis, a sidekick played by Joe Piscopo, and a band of mercenary zombies led by Kolchak and Vincent Price, so by the time you get to the scene in Chinatown you’ve already gotten pretty accepting of whatever they feel like throwing at you next.

The film follows the two aforementioned daring cops as they manage to take down two bold robbers of a jewelry store that don’t seem all too willing to die when shot repeatedly by the regular police. For their heroic efforts, they get chewed out by their captain and have their badges threatened, a scene pretty much required in all such films. When the bodies of the criminals disappear from the morgue, however, they investigate further, and the trail leads them to a pharmaceutical company that’s doing experiments on reanimating the dead. During a surprise battle at the company, Mortis is killed and brought back as a zombie, and now he and his partner have about half a day to find out who murdered him and bring them to justice before he decomposes.

Not too shabby of a plot, right? The film moves along at a pretty steady clip, never pausing long enough for us to contemplate how ridiculous it all is. There’s constantly something new going on, further complications, new scenes for all the actors to ham it up, and new dangers to face, the best of which is of course the scene in Chinatown, which is such a brilliant set piece it should have been in a Re-Animator film. The film hardly qualifies as a masterpiece, but then the zombie comedy genre is a fairly crowded one. It does hold its own, however, and is consistently entertaining the whole way through, and really, how much more can you ask for?

Rating: ***

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