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Movies From the Black Lagoon: Bulletproof

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Bulletproof - 1988, Rated R
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

An L.A. detective with a long history of surviving bullet wounds is recruited by the Army to retrieve a high tech tank, and rescue the crew that was guarding it, in this late 80's action flick.
Like any good action movie this one starts off with a pointless set piece that gives us a look at our hero in action. Here the hero is Mcbain. He is a one of those rogue cops who tears his Chief away from poker games and drives his partner to a Pepto- Bismol addiction while breaking all the rules in his passionate pursuit of justice.
The scene involves taking down arms dealers who are operating out of an Ice Cream truck. Mcbain aims to chill the bad guys out and he is able to do just that thanks to his marksmanship being even better when he is shooting through spider webbed auto glass while simultaneously piloting an automobile and chucking a hand grenade into the back of a van.
Now the movie lightens thing up by introducing Mcbain's vaguely Eastern European girl friend. She is, of course , naked when we first meet her and she basically stays that way to prove Mcbain is a hot item. The he movie switches gears, yet again, by flashbacking to Mcbain's military career where he pined for his buddy's girl friend and finally won her over after accidentally shooting his BFF while the guy was being used as a human shield by a Russian terrorist.
At this point our film leaves L.A. and decides it wants to be "Rambo." Mcbain is recruited by the Army to rescue the "Thunderblast" It is a bulletproof tank that can do anything except bake lasagna (so it's probably smarter than our lead character). He parachutes into Mexico and discovers that the country is crawling with Middle Eastern terrorists who are working for Russian Generals that want our hardware. There is a bizarre subplot about the U.S. arranging this hijack but that thread is ignored once the action starts. It is tough when your movie suffers from a short attention span.
The terrorists grab the tank and the girl that Mcbain loved, and apparently lost, from his flashback. Mcbain sneaks into the village where his compatriots are being held and is promptly captured. The bad guys strap him to a giant wooden wheel and plan to kill him after describing their evil plan. Mcbain foils their plan when his ex-girlfriend tosses a grenade at him (this sequence has to be seen to be believed) and the wheel then rolls away allowing him to escape. It is a sublimely goofy moment that seems to have dropped in from a "Little Rascals" short.
Eventually he gets the tank running and teams up with his ex to lay waste to a border town before stepping out of the tank to kill the chief bad guy (who of course turns out to be the Russian who grabbed his buddy in the flashback). This is by the numbers action stuff that can't move quickly enough to obscure the scores of plot holes you could steer a tank through.
That said the film does boast an exceptional genre cats that includes phoned in villain performances by genre staples Henry Silva (The Manchurian Candidate) and William Smith (Falconetti in "Rich Man, Poor Man"). The main reason to see this though is the stunt casting of Gary Busey as the hero. Busey is a sort of poor man's Joe Don Baker though he does rock a better hair-do and somewhat slimmer physique He just doesn't have a whole lot of charm and comes off as a schmuck who is incredibly lucky. His signature move involves labeling a guy a "butt horn" before lighting him up with lots of lead. The term never caught on(perhaps it was undermined by the makers of 'Beano') and one can only guess how much easier the film would have fared if people had heeded the Busey rally cry and taken to calling road hogs "butt horns" whenever they cut them off in traffic.
Best Lines: "You treat women like camels."
"I'm the Game Warden. Bird season is over butt horn."
"You don't blow off a dude like Mcbain."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to:

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