Armed and Dangerous (1986)

Mark Lester can do a buddy cop movie. But a comedy? A movie that starts with John Candy’s character sent up the river and Eugene Levy as the worst lawyer ever throwing himself on the mercy of a judge — Stacy Keach Sr.! — to keep the mob from killing him, with Candy in a Bill Murray role instead of the likable everyman?

If anyone can handle it, it’s Lester.

With no job prospects, Dooley and Kane (Candy and Levy) apply for work at Guard Dog Security, run by Captain Clarence O’Connell (Kenneth McMillan, Cat’s Eye) and supervised by Maggie Cavanaugh (an impish and delightful Meg Ryan).

Their first night on the job, some goons take advantage of them when lead guard Bruno makes our heroes take a break. He’s Tiny Lister, better known as Zeus from No Holds Barred and Deebo in the Friday movies.

This launches them on a quest to see who has set them up — again in Candy’s case — you get plenty of great casting to help the story move, a hallmark of Lester’s work. There’s Robert Loggia as corrupt union head Michael Carlino, Brion James and Johnathan Banks (both strangely with full heads of hair) as his goons, James Tolkan (Strickland from Back to the Future), Don Stroud (Stunts), Steve Railsback (Turkey Shoot) pretty much playing the same character as he did as Manson in Helter Skelter, Tony Burton (Duke from Rocky), Teagan Clive (yes, Bimbo Cop from Vice Academy 2 and The Alienator), Tito Puente, Judy Landers (Dr. Alien!), Christine Dupree (who was one of the models for the aborted video game Tattoo Assassins) and even a blink and you’ll miss him appearance by David Hess as a gunman.

You may watch this and say, “Robert Loggia has a nice, if familiar house.” That’s because Jed Clampett used to live there. The Sport Pit, the gym that gets messed up in the film, is also in the same strip mall that D-Fens shot up the phone booth in Falling Down.

By all accounts, this movie sounded like a mess to make. Originally written by Harold Ramis as a vehicle for Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, it was resurrected by producer Brian Grazer.

Candy and Tom Hanks were cast, but Hanks dropped out, and Candy recommended Eugene Levy. Of all people, John Carpenter was initially attached to direct.

Ramis disliked the final film, saying: “It was not good. I tried to take my name off it. I took my name off in one place.” That said, he’s credited as a screenwriter, despite his demands.

As for Grazer, Lester demanded that John Candy call Meg Ryan a bitch in a scene. Candy refused, Lester walks and Grazer had to finish directing for the day. Keep in mind, this is an alleged story.

It’s an alright movie that moves fast enough. It doesn’t feel like Lester’s other films, but that may be because of studio pressures. I had difficulty locating a copy and the one I did find had Russian actors speaking over the English soundtrack, even reading out loud the credits. I think it made this a much better film.

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