Saturday, March 26, 2005

Review: Armed and Deadly (1994)


Laurie Weber is having a tough day. Her boss is on her back. Her teenage son is mad because she never has time for him. Frank the janitor is drunk and making passes at her. And on top of it all, she's missing the company Christmas Eve party. Oh, and did I mention that evil terrorists led by a psychotic android have taken over the nuclear defense complex where she works?

The terrorists are trying to steal the "Cobra" - a nuclear weapon so destructive it's basically useless. (Rather than destroying a city it wipes out the whole country.) After shipping themselves into the building in packing crates the bad guys go on a killing spree, taking out all two of the guards (impressive security they have at this place) and mowing down about eight dozen scientists. Laurie, her son - who happened to be visiting her at work - and Frank evade the terrorists and mount an impressive counter-insurgency. Frank, in addition to being a decent janitor and high-functioning drunk, turns out to be a kickboxing champion and he demonstrates his feet of fury on the unsuspecting bad guys.

By this point the government has sent a jet to blow up the complex before things progress any further. The android, perhaps feeling a little stressed, starts to malfunction and instead of going ahead with the plan to steal the Cobra he attempts to launch a nuclear missile at Washington. Frank beats on him (and vice versa) while Laurie disarms the missile. Evidently it's too late to call off the air strike even though the pilot is still ten minutes away. Fortunately the local sheriff flies in with a helicopter and rescues our intrepid heroes. The evil android meets his demise in a big ol' fireball. Laurie gets to slap her unsupportive boss. Merry Christmas!


Obviously, Armed and Deadly is a rip-off of several popular action movies, most notably Die Hard and the Terminator. A woman and her young son/ trapped in a building/ fighting a team of black-clad terrorists/ hunted by a killer android/ etc. etc.. You can sort of mix and match stolen ideas until you get a plot outline. I imagine they even chose the actress who plays Laurie for her close resemblance to Linda Hamilton of the Terminator series. It might have been nice for the audience if the writers had fleshed out the plot A LITTLE. We never even find out why the terrorists want the Cobra thing, who they're working for, or why they sent an android to lead the team when a human would have probably been cheaper and more reliable.

Speaking of which, I just don't understand why you would build your android to look like this one does. It's like someone crossed Dolph Lundgren with a photo-negative of Grace Jones. And why would an android always insist on going shirtless so he can show off his melon-like pecs? Data never did that. Besides, if you're going to put an android in your movie but you don't have the budget to show him with his skin ripped off and metal stuff underneath, I say don't bother with it. You're just creating false expectations.

Frank the kickboxing janitor is one of the better elements of the film. His acting is so bad, it's good. You don't often get the sense that the drunk you're watching oncreen may actually be drunk, but this guy makes you wonder. He doesn't have that many lines, which is probably good because half the time you can't understand what he's saying. Do all movie tough guys have to grunt their lines like congested warthogs? I needed subtitles to follow his raspy mumbles. When he's not kickboxing he gets this glassy-eyed, confused expression which sort of reminds me of George W. Bush.

This is one of those movies that gives the viewer a lot of "Huh?!" moments. In my book the more of these a movie has, the better. One or two just makes a film seem sloppy, but a dozen or more and you're really on to something. Here are a few of the questions I was left with after watching Armed and Deadly: Why does Frank go down to the basement to do some repair work after Laurie has already fired him for drinking on the job? Why, after getting blood on her hands, does Laurie wipe it all over her chest? Why does the nuclear laboratory have a valve on the wall that shoots out huge plumes of fire when turned on? Why is there a big bottle of liquor in the first-aid kit? Why is the sheriff Irish? If I find myself pondering these kinds of questions late at night, I know I've seen a good movie.

Final Analysis

Armed and Deadly features a good mix of mindless violence, cliched writing, terrible acting, and incompetent directing. The air-strike scene at the end of the film is so poorly edited that it reaches bad-movie transcendence. (This is when the viewer can only stare at the screen, shake their head, and whisper "What the hell was that?") You won't find a lot of extra "stuff" cluttering up the action in Armed and Deadly. No character development. No mushy stuff. No subplots. Hardly any plot at all, really. Recommended for fans of Die Hard, the Terminator, and anyone who doesn't mind seeing a guy in a Santa Claus suit get gunned down.


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