"Hey look, she knew there were hazards in using nipple clamp
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 06/21/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Punks, freakazoids, geeks, bikers, prostitutes, johns, pimps, skevs, slags, sleazy greaseballs, pushers, users, weirdoes, transvestites, skanks, fiends, pervs, skags, dust heads...according the film Hollywood Vice Squad (1985), they can all be found on Hollywood Boulevard...oddly enough, albino midgets were nowhere to be seen. Directed by Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization, Suburbia, Wayne's World), the film features Carrie Fisher (Star Wars, Under the Rainbow), Ronny Cox (Beverly Hills Cop, RoboCop), Frank `The Riddler' Gorshin ("Batman", Twelve Monkeys), Leon Isaac Kennedy (Death Force, Penitentiary), Trish Van Devere (The Changeling), Evan C. Kim (The Kentucky Fried Movie), Robert Miano (Donnie Brasco), Julius Harris (Live and Let Die), Joey Travolta (They Still Call Me Bruce), former professional football player and wrestler H.B. `Tigerman' Haggerty ("Buck Rogers in the 25th Century"), and Robin Wright Penn (The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump) in her film debut.
As the film begins we see some text stating the story we're about to see is based on actual cases, and soon after we cut to Evan C. Kim as an undercover vice detective, playing the part of an Oriental business man complete with thick, black glasses and a really bad accent, crusing Hollywood Boulevard, eventually picking up someone who's either a man dressed as a woman or one of the homeliest women I've ever seen (given the presence of an Adam's apple, I'm leaning towards the former rather than the latter). After attempting to negotiate a deal for services of the carnal kind, the trannie pulls a switchblade indicating perhaps the bust isn't going to go down as planned, and now we're into a high speed car chase as the Asian detective's partner, played by Joey Travolta, is in hot pursuit...just another BS night on Hollywood Boulevard...as the film caries on we see a number of different vice detectives, including an eager new recruit played by Carrie Fisher, performing their duties, trying to bust up all sorts of vice activity including bookmaking, prostitution, pimping, child pornography, and so on all under the command of their captain, played by Ronny Cox. In between various events the main thread of the story develops, one involving a Midwestern woman, played by Trish Van Devere, coming to town to try and find her wayward daughter, played by Robin Wright Penn. Seems the girl came to Hollywood under the lure of becoming a star, and has since been taken in by a flesh peddler named Walsh (Gorshin), who runs a business called Pretty Girl Escorts. Seems Walsh keeps his girls in line by getting them strung out on smack...the big `H'...ridin' the snake, if you know what I mean...nasty business...anyway, eventually, after a whole bunch of other stuff the film comes down to efforts of the detectives, including Leon Isaac Kennedy posing as an up and coming pimp trying to horn in on Walsh's interests, working undercover, trying to bust Walsh, but let me tell you something, you don't get to the top of the flesh trade by being a fool...
While this was an interesting and sometimes entertaining film, as a whole it didn't work out all that well because the filmmakers tried to incorporate too many elements into the story, specifically drama, action, and comedy...and not just subtle comedy but the usually the slapsticky kind. I mean on the one hand you have a mother desperately searching for her daughter who's tangled up in drugs and prostitution, and then on the other hand you have a couple of vice cop wrapped up in various, zany antics during the course of their duties, one example being them trying to arrest a john who drives around with his doodle, which he called Mike, stuck in a cardboard tube, trying to pick up women...get this, at the top of the tube he had a ping pong ball with a face drawn on it, and inside the ball was a light with a switch at the base of the cardboard tube which he could turn on and off...anyway, in the process of arresting the guy for solicitation, freaky doo throws the car in reverse, with the detective hanging from the window, the result being a rather wacky sequence as the car flies around the city, in reverse, with the cop dangling from the window. Also, I had a hard time buying off on Carrie Fisher playing an undercover vice cop...maybe this was part of a continuing effort to get away from the whole Princess Leia character (Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, had come out about three years earlier), I don't know, but she just didn't fit the part. I did like seeing the late, great H.B. Haggerty (The H.B. stood for Hard Boiled) cracking skulls as a cop, as he was large and in charge with his big, bald head and distinctive mustache. I loved the part where he and his partner were in the process of gaining entry to a house to bust up a bookmaking operation, and Haggerty flattens the front door with a ginormous kick. There's another worthwhile scene where he single-handedly takes on a handful of doped up punks in an alley. It was also fun watching Gorshin play a sleaze ball...and not just your run-of-the-mill sleaze ball, but a really nasty, heinous, ruthless, vicious, contemptuous sleaze ball (apparently after that super villain gig as The Riddler didn't pan out, he went on to more pedestrian criminal enterprises like prostitution)...I did learn a number of things from this film, including the following...
1. Frank Gorshin can sleaze it up like nobody's business.
2. Hollywood Boulevard has some of the most unattractive transvestites I've ever seen (not that I've seen a lot of them, as I'm no Danny Bonaduce).
3. It's okay for Hollywood vice cops to drive on the sidewalks in the execution of their duties.
4. Hollywood vice cops don't need to identify themselves as such when busting into a residence.
5. Everyone likes to make fun of Orientals.
6. A box of super balls comes in handy when busting up an illegal booking house.
7. Hollywood is the porno capital of the world.
All in all it's not Penelope Spheeris' most engaging work (my favorite is 1984's Suburbia), but at least it's better, in my opinion, than some of her later, more commercial features like The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) or The Little Rascals (1994). If you're looking for a grittier feature along the same lines I'd suggest checking out Gary Sherman's Vice Squad (1982) starring Season Hubley, Gary Swanson, and Wings Hauser, as it's a nasty little nugget of joy...
The picture on this Image Entertainment DVD release, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1), looks okay, but could have been better, as there is a consistent `grainy' feel throughout. The Dolby Digital audio track came through well, and with no complaints. As far as extras there's a trailer for this film, along with a few previews for other films including Full Disclosure (2001), Lover's Prayer aka All Forgotten (2000), and Something More (1999).