Dead Heat (1988)


If I was making a list of movies that would benefit from a remake, “Dead Heat” would be  somewhere near the top. It’s a noble-ish failure, a cross between the buddy cop genre and a remake of “D.O.A.” with a fun extra twist. And it’s got Joe Piscopo in it! If you remember him at all, it’s for being the guy who very sensibly clung onto Eddie Murphy’s coattails during his time on “Saturday Night Live”, because once he struck out on his own, the 90s and onwards were a very lean time for him – now he joins such uncelebrated SNL alumni as Jim Breuer, Victoria Jackson and Chris Kattan as people who seem a bit too “big” to be playing the random comedy club in your town, and still trot out their very old impressions.


But enough about failed comedians! We’ve got a movie to cover. Piscopo and Treat Williams are a cop team, in the straight-man / lunatic style of the time. Piscopo goes by the perfectly reasonable name Doug Bigelow, while Williams is…Roger Mortis. It’s like if Dirty Harry’s name was “Colt Fortyfive”, for heavens’ sake! They try and stop a couple of blokes from robbing a jewellery store, but wonder why the two of them get shot hundreds of times and don’t go down. Well, this leads to a science lab, and a gun battle, and Mortis getting killed and then brought back to life thanks to the wonderful machine the lab has.


To go back to my first sentence, this is a surprisingly good idea for a movie, and would make a fine TV show too. Mortis only has 12 hours to solve who’s really behind all this, and there’s a hint from their coroner friend that there’s a way of extending this time with some treatment or other – in the theoretical show that could spring from this, the replenishment could form the end of every episode, or something like that. The movie has fun with the concept too, having the two cops get involved in all manner of firefights that Mortis doesn’t need to worry about – and there’s a fantastic scene near the end where he and one of the villain’s goons just stand ten feet apart and fire hundreds of bullets into each other. The concept of him being dead and not exactly loving it, but not being all that worried either, is a fun one.


But there’s a reason it’s got an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, unfortunately. The plot is just all over the place: for example, they introduce a sort-of love interest only to kill her off with no fanfare a little over halfway in (so I can’t be accused of spoiling this near-30-year old movie, I won’t tell you which of the two main women dies); and the villain…well, it feels like there’s five of them, all with slightly different motivations. It just doesn’t make quite enough sense, and feels like it was heavily edited after testing poorly, or something. Then there’s Joe Piscopo, who disappears for the last half hour of the film too, if you’re still looking for strangely handled bits. After leaving SNL, he evidently started working out, leaving him looking a little like a mulleted Sylvester Stallone – but didn’t bother getting better at delivering jokes or acting or anything like that. Treat Williams is great, the rest of the cast is largely fine, but it’s rough having such a non-presence as Piscopo as one of the two leads of your movie.


If you like good special effects, and one or two remarkably effectively gross scenes, then “Dead Heat” has them. Unfortunately, if you like any of the other things cinema can offer (fun, good acting, a coherent story) then you’ll have to look elsewhere. Although who am I kidding? What are the chances of you happening upon an old, poorly regarded movie and just deciding to pop it on? If you’re reading this, chances are you already saw it. Crap, eh?


Rating: thumbs down