What a gloriously stupid movie. The Killers Edge, from writer/director Joseph Mehri, has everything I’ve ever wanted out of a 1980s-90s-era straight-to-video action flick. A hunky leading man called from the lower depths of Hollywood, a screenplay that could double as a McBain sequence from The Simpsons, a soundtrack made by one guy with a synthesizer, and plenty of casual gunplay. Sure, fans of hoity-toity cinema will turn their noses up at such trash as this, but we shitty movie fans, we know better. There’s something they will never see in a film like The Killers Edge, and that’s their loss.
Wings Hauser plays Jack Saxon, a cowboy detective in the LAPD. He’s the type of cop who finds trouble wherever he goes. In the scene Jack is introduced to the viewer, he’s trying to propose to his girlfriend when a pair of thugs attempt to rob the restaurant the couple is in. Jack shoots them both in the chest, and later gets yelled at by his lieutenant for the effort. Is that great, or what? Just this one scene has enough cliché in it to make tvtropes.org crash.
Jack is later called in to be part of a task force investigating a massacre at a counterfeiting operation. The counterfeit cash, in the words of the federal agent leading the investigation, Barrett (Karen Black), is the best she’s ever seen. Miller Richards (the legendary Robert Z’Dar), agrees, which is why he and his underlings shot up the counterfeiting operation and stole all the fake cash to begin with.
After his little incident in the restaurant, Jack is saddled with a partner, Burt (Joe Palese). Burt’s job is to keep an eye on Jack and make sure he doesn’t kill too many innocent bystanders. Burt is also a nifty way to turn this into a buddy cop flick. That’s a good thing, because Jack needs someone to bounce his personality off of. If it were just him running around Los Angeles shooting bad guys and making quips, he’d just end up looking like a madman. At first, of course, Jack is resistant to having a partner. But, if a viewer is at all familiar with this type of flick, they will know that’s only temporary. Going to war against a gang of lethal criminals tends to foster some camaraderie.
The investigation proceeds apace, and Jack discovers that it was Miller who carried out the murders and theft of the fake cash. This is a problem for Jack, as Miller is an old army buddy from Vietnam. The two of them have since fallen out of touch, but Jack is haunted by memories of their experiences during the war. Helpfully, Mehri shows us these memories in flashback form, and gave us my favorite moments of shitty in this movie.
Vietnam flashbacks weren’t uncommon in films of the time, what with vets of that war only being in their 40s or thereabouts. When a shitty film, like this one, had a ’Nam flashback, some things were guaranteed. One is that no one gets hired to play younger versions of the leads, meaning they all look like forty-year-old privates. There’s also no extra money to spend on these sequences, so there is rarely more than three or four people in these flashbacks. What we end up getting is a couple of guys in cheap army costumes staring intently into some jungle growth while a soundtrack of guns and artillery plays in the background. Maybe one guy dressed like a Viet Cong will come running out of the underbrush and get shot, but that’s about it. These scenes could have been filmed in someone’s backyard in the Hollywood Hills, and probably were.
Jack now has a crisis of conscience. He will do all he can to take Miller down, but he feels he owes Miller for saving his life during the war. It’s a good thing, then, that Miller is a cartoonishly sinister bad guy. Jack doesn’t need to approach him with any sort of nuanced outlook. He can feel free to kill Miller and all of his henchmen with abandon should he choose to do so. Mehri’s script helps Jack come to this decision by having Miller kidnap Jack’s fiancé. Now…it’s personal. I suppose it was kind of personal before, since Jack and Miller had such a deep connection. But, now…it’s PERSONAL.
We all know how this movie ends. Our brains get filled with this type of schlock by osmosis here in the United States. It’s part of our cultural heritage. There are a whole lot of bullets fired (some rockets, too, if we’re really lucky), an explosive climax, some quick reflection by the surviving cast members, then roll credits.
There is only one thing that makes this shitty movie worth the time, and that’s Wings Hauser. He knows exactly what type of movie he’s in, and he rolls with it. He has an infectious mood that makes it easy to root for Jack. He’s also the only person in this film who can act. He has natural talent whereas everyone else, and I mean everyone, feels forced. Hauser was far better than the material, but also perfect for it. Watch this movie and that contradiction will make sense.
The criminal element in this flick is precious, even if none of them can act a lick. The guys playing Miller’s henchmen all goombah-up their performances to Joe Piscopo-type levels, only this is a drama. It shows that Mehri was also in on the joke.
Wade through enough shit, and one will find a pearl. From an objective standpoint, Alien: Resurrection is a better film than The Killers Edge, but it’s not nearly as fun.