'Bulletproof' is shot full of holes

Movie review

September 06, 1996|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,SUN FILM CRITIC

You could blow "Bulletproof" out its socks with .22 blanks, that's how weak it is.

A ninth- or 10th-generation clone of "48 HRS.," all those years ago, it's thinly imagined and pedestrianly engineered chase melodrama about a black guy and a white guy, one a cop, the other a crook, who find they have more in common than not, and bond to bring down a really nasty villain. Main difference between then and now: this time through, the cop is black and the crook is white.

The two guys are potentially amusing but the screenplay is so naked in its manipulation of emotion that it feels infantile. "You hurt my feelings," bawls car thief Archie Moses (Adam Sandler) when it turns out that his best buddy Keats is actually an undercover cop (Damon Wayans). "You hurt my head," responds Wayans, after Sandler has shot him there.

So the movie is bathos and gunfire, a long wahhhhhhhh! punctuated by bangs and those irritating sparks that low-rent FX guys use to simulate bullet strikes.

For reasons that never make any sense, Sandler's ditzy, feckless car thief is also a right-hand man to a powerful drug dealer played by James Caan so well that you wonder, what is this guy doing in this movie?

When Wayans manipulates Sandler into bringing down Mr. Big, the bust goes sour and everyone is messed up, Wayans with a bullet in the brain that he miraculously recovers from in two or three days, and Sandler on the run with an ugly dog and all the beer in Los Angeles.

The story proper starts when Sandler is apprehended and demands that Wayans be the cop to bring him back to testify. Bad guys find out about it and go after them so the journey back becomes an ordeal by machine gun.

It's just awful. In the first place, far too many people die in a movie that's basically a comedy. Did a whole Arizona State Trooper detachment and DEA back-up team have to be wiped out to get the two stars on the bus?

Then, neither character has much complexity or psychology, particularly poor Sandler who just makes funny noises all the way through as his contribution to the proceedings. Wayans at least makes some sense but he deserves a much better vehicle than this Edsel running on fumes and rims.

Finally, the poor director Ernest Dickerson -- once Spike Lee's cameraman -- is unable to find one single fresh gimmick, image or gag in the entire film. Everything is old but he's not even stealing from the movies, he's stealing from bad TV.

'Bulletproof'

Starring Damon Wayans and Adam Sandler

Directed by Ernest Dickerson

Released by Universal

Rated R (violence, language)

Pub Date: 9/06/96

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