Monday, December 10, 2007

Collision Course

Price: 75 centz
Year: 1989 (shot in 1986)
Length: 100 minutes
Director: Lewis Teague
Cast: Pat Morita, Jay Leno, Chris Sarandon, Tom Noonan, Randall "Tex" Cobb, Ernie Hudson, Soon-Teck Oh, Mike Starr

The precise moment that I knew I would love this movie forever came during the opening credits, before a single line was spoken or even a single character spotted on screen: a camera opens steadily on the fender of a speeding muscle car, a saxophone squeals relentlessly as an equally relentless synth line tries to catch up, and the text "Starring Chris Sarandon" appears in big, metallic letters as the camera pulls up and away from the fender to reveal the skyline of an urban wasteland we later learn is Detroit. I giggled ecstatically and started taking notes from which I will try to relate why this forgotten career footnote is perhaps the most important movie I have ever blogged about. And that's motherfucking important.

In any other movie, the sax-fender-Mr. Sarandon trio would be the sort of pinnacle that the rest of the movie hopelessly flounders behind while the viewer impatiently twiddles his or her thumbs while texting their weedman (or weedwoman) every 17 minutes asking if now is a good time or not, but no, Collision Course just takes that opening as a dare for greater glory that it keeps ramping up until the very last frame, which is the most poignant still image this side of both Truffaut and Verbinski.

This is a film that embodies all the tensions that made the 1980's so much fun: xenophobia against the wily Japanese and their intrepid electronics, disturbingly glib treatment of rationalized police corruption and brutality, the effects of white flight on formerly vibrant urban centers, and, of course, the immortal pairing of bushy mustaches and bazookas. To say that this is nothing but a merely a proto-Rush Hour is to do a great disservice to the subtle moments that really make Collision Course thrive, some of which I will recount in list form below.

1. Chris Sarandon's goons are played by Tom "Evil Drug Cult Leader Guy in Robocop 2" Noonan and Randall "Tex" Cobb of "some say I'm part hound dog" fame. Also, Sarandon wears a suit that looks like it's made of dollar bills at one point. Also, his mustache is a dead ringer for John Oates. Crucial.

2. The synth and sax score takes on decidedly Eastern flavors every time as Asian character is onscreen! It really helps keep everyone's race and ethnicity clear!

3. Pat Morita tries to escape from a hotel by placing a garment bag over his body and running, eventually being foiled by the dastardly tactics of a revolving door.

4. At one point, Jay Leno waves a gun in some guy's face and says "Hey Hey We're the Monkees" for reasons never clarified.

5. The main plot concerns a prototype for a supercar that will revolutionize the car industry for some reason that Detroit is trying to steal from the Japanese. The guy who owns the evil American car company trying to rip off the Japanese is named Darrett Jarrett. That's D-A-Double-R-E-Double-T J-A-Double-R-E-Double-T. He resembles the glistening whiteness of deposed former governor Gray Davis, right down to the bureaucratic incompetence and halting speech patterns. Remarkably prescient on the filmmaker's part, if I don't say so myself.

6. From Pat Morita's sensitive portrayal of a Japanese cop we learn the important lessons that Asians both respect their elders and are unfamiliar with the concept of door bells. I found this very helpful and hope to apply it to my own travels in the land of the wise bearded sage. Thanks for the heads up COLLISION COURSE!

7. At some point, someone yells "KARATE THIS!", which I personally think would have been a better title for the movie, but so it goes . . .

8. Pat Morita gets down on a dancefloor.

9. Also, apparently Asian cars are cheap and shoddily put together whereas American cars are sturdy and resilient. I'll make a note of it next time I'm buying. Thanks!

10. 8 mile is a real place where crime happens and stuff. Now I respect that Eminem even more than I did when he made that song about fucking and/or killing his mom.

And that's just ten of 'em!

I could relate so many more, but then I'd just be ruining all the fun for you. Apparently, Jay Leno disowns this movie, but he's a shit head these days anyway.

But really all you need to know is that at one point, Pat Morita reenacts Chuck Norris' immortal windshield kick-thru from GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK and it is breathtaking. He over comes the prejudices placed before him to steal back that Japanese super car prototype and save Japanese industry and for that, I am eternally grateful!

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