Monday, 14 January 2008

Dead Trouble (aka Grand Slam)


Written & Directed by: Bill L. Norton
Starring: John Schneider and Paul Rodriguez

A fun little TV movie from the late eighties that never really caught on as a series, Dead Trouble (aka Grand Slam) applies the buddy cop formula to a pair of mismatched bounty hunters on the trail of a ruthless South American drug dealer. John Schneider (Dukes of Hazard) is Hardball, a no nonsense, ex-cop turned bounty hunter who has a knack for capturing his bail jumpers using baseballs (hence the name Hardball). Paul Rodriguez is Pedro, another tough talking bounty hunter who can spit out one liners as fast as he can catch crooks. Forced to work together on a $1 million bail, the two must learn to put their petty squabbles aside in order to catch ruthless killer, Aguilera (Juan Fernandez), and save the baby of the inevitable woman caught in the middle (Susan Walters).

While never breaking new ground, or reinventing the genre it so plays to, Dead Trouble is a fun ride that succeeds on the chemistry of it two stars. Schneider and Rodriguez bounce off each other well, creating the perfect action movie buddy couple. At first they hate one another, then get into the obligatory fight to prove who is best. They then work together, thus realizing they get along just fine, then both make fools of themselves trying to woo the babe who obviously has no interest in either of them. Old hat stuff, but it is done well so why fix what ain’t broke? The two leads seem to be having a ball and the scene where they dare one another to eat dangerously hot Mexican chillis is a hoot. Juan Fernandez (Crocodile Dundee 2) also brings a bit of bite to his role of the bad guy, coming across as genuinely scary as he snarls and kills his way through the movie.

Director Bill L. Norton (who made the underrated, early Gene Hackman flick, Cisco Pike) creates a fine balance between comedy and action delivering just enough of both for a well made TV movie. The action is of the bike and car stunt variety with baseballs and a huge gatling gun also being used to great effect. If the film loses any points, it’s in the unrealistic portrayal of how the kidnapped baby survives so many close calls. Put in harms way more than once and somehow surviving a severe automobile crash the little nipper always (and thankfully) comes out ok. His onscreen mother never seems too concerned, however, especially considering he has been kidnapped by a unhinged killer and whisked away to Mexico.

However, minor nit-picking aside, Dead Trouble is quality action comedy that will leave you with a smile on your face.

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