Film review: Loose Cannons

Published: Friday, March 2 1990 12:00 a.m. MST

This may come as a bit of a shock, but in "Loose Cannons," Gene Hackman, as a slovenly down-on-his-luck veteran cop, is much funnier than Dan Aykroyd, as his partner who suffers from a multiple-personality syndrome.

Not that Aykroyd doesn't show remarkable talent as he mimics, among others, the Road Runner, Pee-wee Herman, Dirty Harry and the more prominent characters from "The Wizard of Oz" and "Star Trek." But then, this is no surprise to those of us who first came to know him on "Saturday Night Live."

But his material in "Loose Cannons" is of the silly run-around-and-be-an-idiot school. And Aykroyd, under such circumstances, needs to be controlled. Under the heavy-handed direction of Bob Clark ("Porky's," "Rhinestone"), the gimmick loses whatever comedy potential it might have had on the written page. (The script is credited to veteran fantasy movie/TV writer Richard Matheson, his TV-writer son Richard Christian Matheson and Clark.)

Hackman, however, plays his role with a wry, off-the-cuff nonchalance that affords him much more success as he tosses off muttered quips, one-liners and sarcastic commentary. Unfortunately, that's not nearly often enough.

"Loose Cannons" is yet another in the loose canon of buddy-cop pictures, an odd couple of homicide detectives thrown together as they track down killers. And, true to the current nature of the beast, the film alternates between wild slapstick and gruesome violence. (The opening scene features the villains in a boat holding out a severed head on a fishing line.)

Hackman, whose apartment has been burned, lives in his old, restored "woody" station wagon, complete with his belongings strapped to the roof. Aykroyd, who's been in a mental institution run by monks (!) is assigned as his partner and initially shows great "Sherlock Holmes"-style powers of observation, though that aspect is dropped rather quickly.

Together they try to solve a multiple-murder that leads them to Dom DeLuise, a pornographer who seeks police protection. DeLuise explains that the bad guys are German hit men and they are after an old homosexual porno film featuring Adolf Hitler. Right.

Eventually, they also run into Israeli secret service agents who are also after the film. They are led by Nancy Travis ("Internal Affairs"), who never seems to notice her blouse is unbuttoned to the navel as she runs around the city.

There are also some wild stunts, including a man flying through a high window in Grand Central Station, speeding car chases through rural and urban areas and a helicopter-train chase. These are obviously not cheap stunts, but they are also less than exciting in their execution.

All of this must have looked wonderful on paper, but somehow the joy of it got lost in the translation from page to screen. There are a couple of chuckles here and there, but most of it is so dull the mind begins to wander. For example, I began to worry about the health of Dom DeLuise — boy, he's put on weight.

"Loose Cannons" is rated R for considerable violence, profanity and vulgarity.