Bullet Points: Number One With A Bullet
Cannon Films were always right on the pulse of the movie going public. Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus knew how to make magic, whether it was by giving actors their big break, like Jean-Claude Van Damme, or finding a theme that is new and fresh that John Q. Movieticketbuyingpublic would love, like breakdancing (coincidentally both of these were introduced in the same movie, Breakin’.) In 1987, Cannon took two of the stars from a couple of extremely popular 80’s film franchises to create the police action drama Number One With A Bullet.
Cannon didn’t stop with the actors, they also took ideas and themes from other movies (some that hadn’t even been created yet!) to produce this underrated film whose biggest flaw is the unwieldy title. If using other movies is good enough for Cannon Films, it is good enough for Bulletproofaction.com!
- Revenge of the Nerds: Robert Carradine, most famous for either playing Lewis Skolnick or coming from a famous film family with a brother who died in a dubious manner, plays Detective Berzak, the crazy cop who plays by his own rules. He is the kind of character that only has beer in his refrigerator and has a motorcycle in his living room, which is exactly what Berzak has in both. Berzak is obsessed with DeCosta (Barry Settels), who appears to be an upstanding member of the community, but Berzak is convinced he is the head of a major drug ring. Berzak is such an unpredictable tough guy cop, the criminal element give him the nickname Berzerk. There is nothing I love more than a creative nickname.
- All That Jazz: Billy Dee Williams plays Detective Hazeltine, Berzak’s partner. Hazeltine is the suave, taekwondoing, jazz playing ladies’ man that is always willing to help his partner. Williams is very effective in this role because I don’t think he had to do much acting to pull off this character. The movie starts with Hazeltine playing trumpet in a jazz band, has him listenting to jazz in his car, and has a jazz soundtrack when Hazeltine is in action. Did you know that Billy Dee Williams has a jazz album in real life? Check out his album Let’s Misbehave to listen to him sing some jazz swing standards.
- The Usual Suspects: The use of red herrings is classic plot twist device used to trick the audience. Sometimes the audience is left with their mouths agape after such a shock. Other times, like in Number One With a Bullet, the deception is fairly obvious. Peter Graves plays Captain Ferris, and the animosity and dislike of Berzak and Hazeltine makes the idea that he is also the mole in the precinct too elementary. I don’t know who is surprised when the jovial and loyal Lt. Kaminkski (Ray Girardin) is revealed to be the insider (and now no one who read this will be surprised, Spoiler Alert!) This is only a minor quibble, because Number One With a Bullet is more about the journey than the destination.
- A Woman’s Tale: Just because Hazeltine is the ladies’ man of the pair, and he has dates with different women throughout the film, it doesn’t mean Berzak has nobody. He has two ladies that play important roles in his life. Valerie Bertinelli plays Teresa, Berzak’s wife although they are separated when the film begins. They split because of his obsession in catching DeCosta, but he tries hard to get back together. She eventually realizes that he is the one for her again and they get back together. Teresa even survives an attempted car bombing intended for Berzak. The second important lady in Berzak’s life is his mother, played by Doris Roberts. She plays an overbearing needy mother in Number One With a Bullet long before a TV show that everybody loved. Mrs. Berzak gets into the act and helps out Berzak and Hazeltine with their case. Special estrogen infused recognition should go to Berzak who goes undercover as a female at the local fair to capture some drug dealers, one who is another man dressed as a woman. I think the only person who got more of a kick out of this scene than me was Hazeltine.
- Forrest Gump: Berzak and Hazeltine, like all good cops that skirt the legality of their job, use informants to aid their investigations. Mykelti Williamson plays Casey, the thief who is guilty of more than one crime. Williamson is no stranger to being on the wrong side of the law… allegedly. First, Casey has an apartment filled with stolen high end VCRs. The last time I used high end and VCR in the same sentence was when I told that grifter at the flea market that a dollar for a VCR was a little on the high end. Second, Casey is guilty of wearing the shortest shorts possible while riding a bike. Also, while it might not be a crime, he shouldn’t have been riding his bike in a zoo. Third, he has the worst high pitched yelping scream while breaking into a police evidence locker ever hear. That, that’s about it.
- Napoleon Dynamite: One of the criminals that Berzak and Hazeltine coerce into giving information is Bobby Sweet (John Gries.) Berzak chases Uncle Rico into a bathroom stall that has a giant heart with Pedro + Tina written inside. Those happen to be two of Napoleon’s friends, but I don’t think there was any inter-species romance going on, so you are not 100% accurate in fortune telling, Number One With a Bullet. Sweet ends up being left dangled from a skyscraper by Berzak and Hazeltine only to be cut loose by DeCosta’s hitman. Unfortunately, in a move that probably made him bitter, Sweet (Get It!) was still hanging over the edge when cut loose.
- Stripes: Berzak and Hazeltine find Sweet playing the drums in a band at a bar that features mud wrestling. What ever happened to mud wrestling that was so popular in 80’s movies? Stripes, …All The Marbles, and Duran Duran’s “Girls on Film” all feature this should be sport of kings (Horse Racing? Pshaw!) Now that I think about it, all those were from the same year. 1981 truly was the zenith of mud wrestling on film. Number One With a Bullet carries on the tradition, even if the scene is ruined by having movie referee extraordinaire, Know Your Role’s own, Gene LeBell being tossed into the mud.
- Number One With a Bullet: If I was forced to make a hit list for movies where the top movie on the list to be whacked equals the movie that I most want to watch, Number One With a Bullet would be number one with a bullet. Number one with a bullet? What a dumb saying. I won’t use that phrase again. Luckily the movie is far more enjoyable than the title, check it out and make it number one with a bullet on your list. Ugh! I did it again.