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Night Patrol
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by Jack Sommersby

"Hit-and-Miss 'Police Academy' Knockoff"
2 stars

If you're looking for intelligence and nuance, you'd best look elsewhere; if you're in search of a strictly hit-and-miss cinematic endeavor with a few laughs, you could do worse.

Jackie Kong's Night Patrol is a few light years from a classic and isn't recommendable simply because it just isn't funny enough, but, flaws and all, it isn't a complete waste of time. Directed, co-written, co-produced and edited by Kong, it's a follow-up to her occasionally-entertaining creature flick The Being, and she hasn't lost her touch for the unsubtle. Released eight months after Hugh Wilson's uproarious Police Academy, it tries functioning as a laugh-a-second lowbrow comedy, with an endless array of verbal and visual gags piled on so uncouthly into its eighty-five-minute running time that you certainly can't fault Kong for not trying hard enough -- there's a certain perverse fascination in witnessing such an unapologetic gross-out assault on our senses. And it doesn't hurt that, even though two cinematographers are credited, it's a consistently good-looking production despite its obvious low budget. Kong is one of those moviemakers incapable of separating her bad ideas from her good ones; that there was anything resembling contemplativeness during the screenwriting and production phases would wow even an inebriated Okie. To give an idea of the level of bottom-feeder humor, when bumbling patrol officer Melvin White (Murray Langston) walks by a line outside a sperm bank on his crime-ridden beat, he asks a woman what she's doing there, and she makes a gurgling sound. When he investigates a crowd surrounding two naked men engaged in an advertised "cock fight," we discover it's to be taken literally. Back at the station house, Langston's newly-assigned ladies-man partner Kent Lane (Pat Paulson) says he just screwed a fellow officer's brains out, and we witness her stumbling down the hallway brain-dead. Then there's the precinct's forever-shouting Captain Lewis (Billy Barty) a flatulence-spewing midget whose incessant shouting could shatter copper plating. The only semi-normal officer is dispatcher Sue Perman (Linda Blair), who's got the hots for Melvin, who's secretly moonlighting as a night-club performer called The Unknown Comic who performs a comedy routine with a brown paper bag over his head that's managing to win over the tough crowds ("Ever hear of the guy who had herpes in his eyebrows? He was looking for love in all the wrong places"). If Melvin's something of a cross between a Keystone Cop and Inspector Clouseau while in uniform, he's an absolute natural on stage -- in fact, a big-time manager has sat in on his act and promises him bigger gigs and a multi-million contract. All the while there's a serial robber plaguing the area who wears a paper-bag on his head as well, and Melvin, having to keep his secret so his captain who disapproves of moonlighting won't find out, finds himself caught up in quite the thorny predicament.

For anyone who saw The Being, it was difficult to deny Kong possessed some semblances of talent (the way she shrouded that small-town Idaho setting with ominous atmospherics in the opening scenes was very well done), with some sneaky humor popping out from unexpected places. But as was the case there as here, she doesn't bother exerting much in the way of control over her material, so whatever little potential there is in her story premises steadily slips right through her fingers. It's not lost on the audience that Melvin is a hundred times more assured and efficient as a vulgar comic than he is as a righteous cop, and we expect some of that on-stage skill to spill over into his police work, and nothing comes of it. Why couldn't Kong have concocted at least one situation where Melvin diffuses a dangerous situation using his crackerjack joke-telling? And when Melvin's assigned to stake out a club where his The Unknown Comic is set to perform, he has to deftly duck out of sight in uniform and reappear on stage so his police partner is none the wiser, but Kong's abysmal timing flubs the scene. There are also mind-bogglingly unfunny bits involving The Karate Kid's Pat Morita as the victim of a rape who relates his ordeal to Melvin in a high little-girl voice, and the always-sleazy Sydney Lassick as a window peeper delighted he'll be sharing a cell with men even more perverted then him. Lesbians in a bar so tough the pool table doesn't have any balls and a couple of flamingly-fey policemen who hold hands during duty call are shown no mercy, yet, amazingly, excepting the captain's knows-no-bounds gas-passing, Kong rarely repeats a gag, which is to be somewhat commended in that we'd rather see a new gag fizzle as opposed to a repeated gag fizzle for the umpteenth time. (Kong and three others, included Langston, are credited with the screenplay, and they must have brainstormed out the kazoo during several getting-high sessions.) It also helps that Langston, who also played The Unknown Comic in Chuck Barris's equally-tasteless The Gong Show Movie, is a fairly appealing actor. He doesn't display the physical variety and imagination that would give his dual role some vim, but his easygoing charm is welcome amid the movie's ultra-crudeness; and he and Blair, atypically cast as the straight-laced romantic interest, share a couple of flirtacious exchanges that are actually kinda sweet. The Unknown Comic always has reliable zingers up his sleeve ("What do you call a nurse with dirt on her knees? The head nurse."), though they have the unintended effect in making us all too aware of how much funnier they are than the non-standup jokes -- though they're not that funny; it's that they're up against such inferior competition. Night Patrol has its moments, but it's really nothing more than an R-rated extended Saturday Night Live skit chock-full of gratuitous nudity and cuss words.

Well, I'll take it over the majority of the "Police Academy" sequels.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=25392&reviewer=327
originally posted: 07/03/13 11:45:47
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USA
  16-Nov-1984 (R)

UK
  N/A (18)

Australia
  07-Mar-1985 (R)




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