Dead Aim

This above-average action escapist fare may seem a bit dated as the Berlin Wall comes tumbling down, but its attempt to meld a cold-war thriller with a cop drama isn't totally behind the times. Paranoia about US governmental meddling in world affairs and the questionable ethics of such exclusive boys' clubs as the CIA, the FBI, and the KGB can never be...read more

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This above-average action escapist fare may seem a bit dated as the Berlin Wall comes tumbling down, but its attempt to meld a cold-war thriller with a cop drama isn't totally behind the times. Paranoia about US governmental meddling in world affairs and the questionable ethics of such

exclusive boys' clubs as the CIA, the FBI, and the KGB can never be considered out of fashion. Cold wars may end, but international conspiracies and screw-ups like the one portrayed in DEAD AIM will probably always be with us.

Why are so many topless dancers dying of drug overdoses, and what do these untimely deaths have to do with the latest case for maverick cop Mace Douglas (Ed Marinaro)? How will the surveillance team (headed by Corbin Bernsen and William Windom) that's conducting an undercover investigation of

prostitution rings fit into this mystery? Demoted from the police force's homicide division, Mace is a streetwise cop with an unfortunate habit of killing perpetrators before they can be turned over to the courts. As punishment, he's assigned to work with Mark Cain (Darrell Larson), a

college-trained procedure fiend with a high arrest record. Interwoven into the story line are Bulgarian diplomat Androsov (Harry Goz) and his pet hit man, Epi Flexner (Rick Washburn), as well as a drug pusher with ties to Androsov and a planned Third World revolution. In pursuit of drug dealer

Alvarez (Mike Russo), Mace finds an empty diplomatic pouch from Bulgaria and the body of a man just shot by Alvarez (later revealed to have been a spy), and discovers that the film in his surveillance camera has been confiscated. Meanwhile, independent of Mace's investigation, Mark has obtained

the name of a hooker who knew some of the deceased strippers from news reporter Sheila Freeman (Lynn Whitfield). When this prostitute is found dead of an overdose shortly after questioning, Mace and Mark pool resources and team up in their investigation. Meanwhile, Androsov has asked his hit man

to eliminate all the exotic dancers that attended a wild party with him and the dead spy, and a drug dealer associate of Androsov plots to assassinate a prominent drug lord. After the cops discover that a fingerprint on Mace's camera belongs to KGB hit man Flexner, Mace goes undercover as a

bouncer and befriends topless talent Amber (Cassandra Gavas). Although she gives him important information about the party (whose guest list now resembles an obituary column), the investigation is set back when the FBI arrives and pulls rank on the local cops. After another stripper is killed in

an explosion, Amber arranges to meet Mace (in defiance of FBI requests), but is run over by Flexner en route to the rendezvous. Surreptitiously, Mace removes a cleaner's receipt from the dead girl's hand, but his chief is forced to suspend him for butting into the FBI's jurisdiction. As the

international espionage hits the fan, Androsov's pal puts the hit out on the drug lord but fails to get the big man. Mace obtains Amber's dress from the cleaners, finds inside it a photo of the party that shows Androsov in attendance, and discovers that the Bulgarian is not only a diplomat but

probably a KGB plant. Unfortunately, Mace's vice-squad pals are investigating a hooker on the party list and are wiped out by Flexner, who also attempts to garrote Mark. Back on the case, Mace intercepts Androsov as the latter attempts a getaway. After killing Flexner and the chauffeur, Mace

drives his car into the escape plane. While Androsov cries "Diplomatic immunity!" Mace blows him away, and shows little remorse when he learns that Androsov was a double agent for the FBI who has badly bungled this entire secret mission.

While DEAD AIM's script is cleverly conceived, it doesn't maximize suspense by tying up its numerous loose ends. The film fails to juggle its various subplots with enough skill to keep them all up in the air at the same time--not every payoff hits the audience with as much impact as it should. On

the other hand, DEAD AIM deserves credit for refurbishing the buddy-cop formula, jazzing it up with foreign intrigue. The police work itself is depicted engrossingly--though one laments the standard sexism of the " pretty young things getting dispatched in various states of undress" story line and

the generic casting of the actresses in these roles (each looks as if she has the designation typical victim sewn into the sequins on her G-string). The film's most glaring weakness, however, is its utter failure to integrate the drug-world plotline into the central story. These scenes seem

extraneous--as if they were filmed at another time and place and inserted into the film as an afterthought.

Nonetheless, the film sometimes hits the mark in making all its intricate investigative twists and turns; the manner in which the vice-squad surveillance team's activities are woven into the central story line is especially surprising and exciting. Capably directed by William Van Der Kloot and

persuasively acted by its leads, DEAD AIM is gut-grabbing action moviemaking. It lacks polish, but it's not that inferior to such big-budget celebrations of machismo as RED HEAT or TANGO AND CASH. If you're an action aficionado, DEAD AIM delivers the goods often enough to make it good police-work

escapism that niftily reworks genre expectations. (Substance abuse, profanity, nudity, violence, sexual situations.)

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