Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Catch The Heat

It occurred to me last night that, by the year 2012, I will likely have seen every single action movie made in 1987. It's not a goal I've set for myself or anything. It's just something that's bound to happen on its own if things continue the way they've been going.

Last night's epiphany-inducing Class of '87 alumnus was Catch the Heat, an almost entirely forgotten action programmer about a buxom Chinese-Jewish lady cop named Checkers Goldberg who has minimal kung fu chops and even less acting talent. She's introduced on an undercover sting operation, dressed up as Madonna's aerobics instructor as she tries to buy heroin from the over-faced guy who played the Night Slasher in Cobra. He admits somewhat sheepishly that he never made it with a "China chick" before, so he pulls a pistol on her and tries to get her to go down on him in his pickup truck, but then fifty cops pop out of the woods and slap the cuffs on him. Then her partner—a wisecracking white guy who wants to jump Checkers, if you know what I mean—interrogates him by pointing his service revolver at his junk and saying "Give me a name or I give you a vagina."

That's the one thing that Catch the Heat has going for it: a hilariously overwritten script. It was penned by Stirling Silliphant, the absurdly prolific Hollywood hack behind such cheese classics as The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Shaft In Africa, and, of course, Over the Top. His style is what I like to call Mid-Twentieth Century Ecstaticism, which is characterized by the writer being so in love with the sound of the customized hepcat argot he's concocted that he forgets to ever write a line that could possibly be spoken by a live human being. By 1987, Silliphant had been put out to stud on the Elderly Screenwriters Dude Ranch, so he hadn't spoken to another person in years, which led to him having hundreds of terminally witty conversations with himself. After he'd collected enough of them, he cut-and-pasted them into the Movietron Cliché-O-Matic 9000 (of which he was co-inventor), turned up the Quirk Index to 8 or 9, and pumped out Catch The Heat.

He wrote a hell of a part for the lead chick, which is understandable, since she was his wife at the time. She gets to do kung fu, ride a dirt bike, perform a gymnastics/jazzercise routine, do a kabuki tango, and go undercover as a ditzy showgirl from Hong Kong named "Cinderella Poo." It's a star-making role, indeed, but it's too bad they didn't get a star to play it. This chick is semi-cute, I guess, but she looks like she's trying to give herself a hernia with her ham-fistedly sarcastic line readings. She says every sentence like it's "Yippee kay yay, motherfucker." But the jewel of the movie is her astonishingly shrill performance-within-a-performance as Cinderella Poo (considered an aphrodisiac in some circles). Her wide-eyed fembot expression, cutesy-pie vocal tone, and stereotypical docile Asian sex slave demeanor made me so uncomfortable that I had to reorganize my DVDs whenever she was talking so I wouldn't have to look at the screen.

Anyway, the plot: Checkers' partner flies down to Buenos Aires on a tip from the Night Slasher and discovers that Rod Steiger (playing what the back of the DVD box describes as "a ruthless talent agent") is somehow smuggling heroin into the States. So the partner calls up Checkers—who's fresh from a motorcycle chase that ended with her in the river—and talks to her on the phone while a uniformed cop stares at her titties through her wet wifebeater. It turns out that this scene isn't gratuitous, though, because her ample bust is actually part of the plot. In order to go undercover in a modern dance troupe, she has to pretend to be small-chested because the way that the bad guy is sneaking his product into the country is by giving the models he represents heroin-filled breast implants. The conversation he has with Checkers about how having big knockers will make her a star is like Curb Your Enthusiasm it's so embarrassing. When Checkers finds out his evil scheme, she gets so pissed that her eyes bug out like Jean-Claude Van Damme's and she yells "Talent agent?! He's a monster!"

But before that happens, she has a kung fu fight with legendary character actor Professor Toru Tanaka, the Hawaiian man-mountain with a Ph.D. in Ass-Kicking who brought some gravitas to The Running Man, The Perfect Weapon, and Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Unfortunately, since he once again plays a bad guy, he gets killed when Checkers wraps her legs around his head like her crotch was an Alien Face-Hugger. Then one of the other henchmen recognizes her and says, "It's Checkers Goldberg! That fucking Chinese Jew! Half-heeb, half-chink!" So Checkers takes that racist prick out and goes undercover at the paramilitary compound where Rod (who is hilariously bored through the entire movie) gives the girls their H-injected boobies. Then there's your standard two-pronged action climax, in which Checkers karate chops all the villains inside Rod's palatial, pillar-strewn mansion while her horndog partner (who's in the middle of a half-assed buddy comedy with a Brazilian detective who can't pronounce the word "lobster") leads the SWAT team against the dozens of goons on the outside. I don't want to give anything away, but somebody may or may not get shot and fall over a second-story railing.

In conclusion, Catch the Heat is fucking retarded and thus highly recommended.

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