"Renegades" was directed by Jack Sholder with the same attention to high-tech gloss, meaning harrowing chases and hair-raising stunts, that he managed in the low-budget sleeper "The Hidden" a couple of years ago.
It's unfortunate that "Renegades" also suffers from a story filled with plot holes that are never satisfactorily tied up, ridiculous twists that are are never even remotely plausible and a body count that's so high it rivals the "Rambo" pictures.
Some of these elements are things a science fiction movie like "The Hidden" can get away with by the sheer force of its fantasy. But a supposedly street-wise cop picture needs a little more credibility.
The major compensating factor in "Renegades" is the presence of Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips, who both deliver solid performances, despite the obvious handicaps.
Sutherland plays a sort of "Young Dirty Harry" in Philadelphia, a maverick undercover cop who does things his own way, and at the moment he's hot on the trail of a band of ruthless killers who have an inside track with an unknown crooked cop.
Early in the film Sutherland is chasing the bad guys through the city when they pause in a museum just long enough to steal a sacred lance and kill Phillips' brother, after about two dozen other people have bitten the dust. Naturally, this prompts Phillips, a low-key Lakota Sioux Indian who thinks before he acts, to seek revenge. So he latches onto a reluctant Sutherland, making for an uneasy pair of odd-couple detectives on the run from both crooks and cops as they track down the killers.
How's that for an original plot?
There are a lot of exciting chases in "Renegades" and some nice chemistry and comic dialogue between the stars, but the story just piles one ridiculous element upon another until audience-members are bound to be scratching their heads in disbelief. Not the least of these is the mayhem in the streets and the innocent bystanders who must have been injured if not killed along the way, with seemingly no one in the city as outraged as Phillips is about his brother.
Then there's the love interest between Sutherland and Jami Gertz (reunited from "The Lost Boys"), which starts up out of nowhere and even more abruptly ends. The majority of Gertz's work is no doubt on the cutting-room floor.
On the other hand, maybe all the complaining in the world won't make a bit of difference the those who seek out this film. Perhaps the audience wants mindless action that makes no sense whatsoever. If that's the case, "Renegades" should be a hit.
It is rated R for considerable violence and profanity.
IN BRIEF, SEPARATE interviews in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, Kiefer Sutherland, seen most recently in "1969," and Lou Diamond Phillips, star of "La Bamba" and "Stand By Me," said "Renegades" was the culmination of their desire to work together again after they became friends when they both worked on last year's "Young Guns."
Sutherland explained: "Lou and I had been talking about doing another film together where we'd have more interaction. Lou was asked who he'd like to work with and he said me."
Phillips confirmed: "They brought me the (`Renegades') script first, and I have a feeling it's because they knew they'd have a harder time finding (my character).
"So I said, `It could use some changes, and the most important thing is going to be the relationship between these two guys.' Otherwise, the stunts become the stars of this picture. I don't want to be the guy who leads (the audience) from stunt to stunt to stunt. I want to know that there's a character there and a story.
"They threw a bunch of names at me and I went, `Yeah, I like his work, but I don't know if it's going to click.' And when they said, `Kiefer,' I said, `Yes, please see if he'll do it.' "
After they came on board the name of director Jack Sholder ("The Hidden") surfaced.
"My job basically is to work for a director," Sutherland said. "Jack Sholder . . . is one of the premiere action directors, pacing directors around."
"We both endorsed Jack and he didn't let us down," Phillips added. "It's a very technically adept film.
"What I saw in `The Hidden' was an eye to the character's sensitivity, especially in Kyle MacLachlan. And my role, Hank Storm, is more like that one, so if he (Sholder) managed to hit those notes (in `The Hidden') he should be able to do it in this one."
One of Sutherland's main attractions to the film was its genre. "There was a pacing to `Renegades' that I really wanted. I wanted to do a film that moved that quickly. There is an energy to an action film an all-out action film. To be able to burn from the first scenes straight through. It's just something I wanted to try, something I've always enjoyed watching.
"I've done certain films, be it `Young Guns' or `Lost Boys' that have touched on it, but they've also gone into another area, and this one is just across-the-board that."
But after seeing an early version of the film, Phillips was a bit surprised by the violence. "I saw a rough cut and I think we dwell on the violence a little bit. I was a little surprised. You never know if they're shooting slow-mo (slow-motion), and it's operatic to a certain extent. I don't think it's as violent as `The Untouchables' or, say, `Robocop,' or something like that. And that's not an excuse. I didn't think we needed as much of it.
"What I am most proud of is the work. I think the relationship comes through and I'm very happy with how Hank comes off. This could have been a one-note character, and I think there's more going on underneath the surface."