2/5/07

1008 Final Justice

(1985, Crime Drama/Western-ish, color)

You think you can take me? Go ahead on. It’s your move.

Rating: **

In a nutshell:

A violent Texan kills an Italian Mafioso and a lot of Maltese citizens.

Summary:

Our hero guns down more random Maltese citizens.You can tell what kind of movie this will be when the expository opening banter between a pair of deputy sheriffs paints one of them as a maverick gunslinger (i.e. our hero) and the other as a gentle family man (i.e. the possessor of a severely truncated life expectancy).

Sure enough, a migrant worker’s vehicle breaks down less than a mile away, accidentally running a pair of Italian hit men off the road. The older hit man, Palermo, shoots the innocent Mexican for no apparent reason, only to discover that his getaway car won’t start. You’d think even the most arrogant of Italian Mafiosos would know better than to try and jack a car right out of the county sheriffs’ parking lot, but no. He makes the attempt; the ensuing gunfight kills a deputy (guess which one); and his surviving partner chases the fugitive pair across the nearby Mexican border. At this point, Deputy Geronimo (Joe Don Baker) holsters his gun, and says, “You think you can take me? Go ahead on. It’s your move.” Palermo’s little brother tries to draw his pistol, and is gunned down. Geronimo holsters again and tries to goad Palermo into drawing his weapon. Palermo spits curses but does not rise to the bait.

Later, Police Chief Wilson puts Geronimo in charge of escorting Palermo to the authorities in Italy. Palermo’s accomplices scuttle the plane en route, forcing it to land on the island of Malta, and then help him escape from a highly explosive taxicab. What follows is an almost endless sequence in which Geronimo is arrested by the local authorities, scolded long distance by Chief Wilson, scolded from across the room by the Maltese police superintendent, given a fragile young policewoman as a guide, sees someone he recognizes from the escape, shoots a lot of Maltese people, gets arrested again by the local authorities, gets scolded long distance again by Chief Wilson, etc., etc. I lost count of how many times the movie takes us through this loop. Sufficeth to say that Geronimo gets arrested a lot, spends an inordinate amount of time chasing a man dressed like a priest, and amasses a body count of Schwarzenaggerian proportions.

Eventually, Palermo captures Geronimo and takes him to a dungeon in the basement of a Maltese villa. Fortunately, Geronimo crudely threatened a stripper in a previous scene; she takes an inexplicable shine to him and lets him out in exchange for a promise of protection. Of course she gets her throat cut at the beginning of the very next action sequence. Joe Don Baker leaps out a window for the second lengthy boat chase of the film. He falls overboard during an explosion and is presumed dead by all.

Except us, because we can see the video timer and can, by the application of simple plot mathematics, extrapolate the content of the remaining twenty-five minutes. Sure enough, after five minutes wasted on the shaking of minor characters’ heads, we discover that Geronimo did not drown after all. He washed ashore on a nearby island, and was nursed back to health by friendly natives. He returns to Malta for one more half-hearted trip through the scolding/shooting/incarceration loop. His fragile policewoman sidekick frees him at gunpoint so they can storm the villains’ stronghold together. Several shootings, captures, escapes, and gratuitous attempted rape scenes later, we discover it was the traitorous Chief Wilson who set the whole thing up in the first place. The fragile policewoman helps Geronimo shoot all the remaining characters, and our hero says something profoundly irrelevant right before the end credits roll.

Introduction:

Goosio: friend to all children.Tom Servo recalls YES!’s declaration that “The owner of a lonely heart / Is much better than / The owner of a broken heart.” He takes this postulation further by wondering how “The owner of a lonely heart” stacks up against such persons as “The owner of a broken gas fireplace,” “The owner of a pencil,” and “The owner of a parcel of land in Montana.”

Host Segment One:

Servo’s musings have somehow realigned the cosmos so that every time someone on the Satellite says “Owner of a broken heart,” the universe immediately follows up with a YES! orchestra hit. Pearl interrupts from Castle Forrester to tell them about the positive effects of humor in the workplace. She tries to elaborate, but Mike and the ‘Bots won’t stop telling her how funny they are.

Host Segment Two:

Tom and Crow draw Pearl’s attention to a bit of bad editing, where the same shot of the dying family man deputy is shown twice in quick succession. Mike trips in the background repeatedly, frustrating Pearl’s numerous attempts to respond. Pearl finally gives in and promises to never, ever send them another bad Joe Don Baker movie in which a small, dark-haired deputy sheriff slides down a wall twice. The ‘Bots celebrate the concession while Mike trips in the background one more time.

Host Segment Three:

The ‘Bots meet Goosio, the lovable papier-mâché waterfowl seen momentarily in a Maltese parade scene. Assuming him to be a creation of Mike’s, the ‘Bots rip the brightly colored goose-like creature to shreds.

Host Segment Four:

Crow gives a short but informative oral report on Malta, and then proceeds to cast aspersions on the masculinity of its inhabitants. (He calls them “womany flaccid ninnies...famous for breath so bad it could melt steel,” among other things.) Mike tries to solve this anti-Maltese behavior by swapping out one of Crow’s processing chips. It doesn’t work.

Host Segment Five:

In a reprise of the final host segment from the last Joe Don Baker movie, Mike presents the ‘Bots with an inspirational plaque and goes looking for an escape pod. The ‘Bots gently talk him out of his escape delusion. Down in Castle Forrester, Pearl is back on the subject of humor in the workplace. She’s dressed in goofy mismatched clothes to lighten the office mood, while Bobo has dressed in a stupid fringed Wild West outfit, a la Joe Don Baker. Brain Guy shows up with a large mustache and studded leather biker outfit, but he hasn’t heard about goofy dress-up day. He’s just on his way out for a date.

Stinger:

“You think you can take me? Go ahead on. It’s your move.”

Thoughts:

Ben Gazzara vs. Julia Louise-Dreyfus.Comparisons with the previous Joe Don Baker film are unavoidable, so I might as well give in and make them.

Ahem.

Final Justice, though inarguably, excruciatingly bad, is a much better film than Mitchell. For our purposes, this is not a good thing. Mitchell (the movie) was a big, sloppy mess that wallowed in its own incongruities, painful and laughably goofy in equal measure. Final Justice knows its genre—Revenge Thriller with Western elements—and sticks to that template like gospel. Even when it botches an element (e.g. the badly edited family man’s death, the interminable priest-chasing sequence, and the strange, blurry strippers) it always gets back on track by moving to the next item on the checklist. Thus it is painful, but not in any way laughable or goofy.

Likewise, the boozy, disgusting Mitchell (the character) was pathetic enough for his slovenly antics to warrant the occasional condescending chuckle. In Final Justice, we’re actually supposed to root for Geronimo despite his clearly stated guiding philosophy. To wit: uphold the law by breaking the law. In practice, this handy little non sequitur amounts to wandering outside his jurisdiction to shoot people more or less at random. I vastly prefer the Maltese Superintendent of Police, who recognizes Geronimo for what he is—a brutal, murderous vigilante—and acts accordingly. In his place, I would have locked the interloping Texan in a cramped Maltese prison and thrown away the key.

My favorite host segment also makes comparisons to Mitchell; Mike assumes that, since Joel escaped the Satellite after a Joe Don Baker movie, he will too. (I also like the little dig at that episode’s “touching” farewell. Where Joel’s farewell plaque quoted the insipid Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, Mike’s quotes the even more insipid Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.) You can’t help but feel sorry for him when the ‘Bots have to point out that what he is sitting in is not an escape pod, but is, in fact, a water heater. Mike’s repeated pratfalls in host segment two are executed well, and are thus much funnier than they deserve to be. The remaining segments are competent enough.

Wall-to-wall shootings are difficult to make fun of, but Mike and the ‘Bots do their best in the film segments. When Palermo dons a hooded priest outfit, Mike calls him a “Felonius monk.” When Geronimo’s boat sinks, Crow says, “His heart will go ahead on.” Much of the mockery focuses on insulting Joe Don Baker, such as Tom’s “Halt or I’ll fart,” and Crow’s “I’m scared of heights—where there’s no food!” The problem with this is, while Mitchell was an angry, slovenly drunk, Geronimo is merely angry and slightly overweight. It’s a competent episode, but you really need to see their prior foray into Joe Don Baker territory to understand why they hate him so much.