Film Review: Dead Heat (1988)
When mixing different genres is not done carefully, it could lead to a film equivalent of a Frankenstein monster. In 1980s this happened with two genres characteristic for decade – gross out zombie horror and buddy cop action comedy. The result was Dead Heat, 1988 film directed by Mark Goldblatt.
The plot begins in Los Angeles when two LAPD detectives – Roger Mortis (played by Treat Williams) and Doug Bigelow (played by Joe Piscopo) – are called to help handling two armed robbers at jewelry store. The criminals appear impervious to police bullets and it takes Mortis and Bigelow to use some extreme methods to take them out. While examining their bodies, coroner Dr. Rebecca Smythers (played by Claire Kirkconnell) claims that she saw them before at autopsy table. Both bodies contain traces of substances produced by Dante Pharmaceuticals company, so Mortis and Bigelow go to its headquarters when they find more that they expected – Bigelow has to fight strange creature, while Mortis gets asphyxiated to death in decompression chamber. Thankfully, Dr. Smythers has also found strange device that apparently serves as resurrection machine so, in desperation, she uses it on Mortis. He wakes up, seemingly healthy, but Dr. Smythers discovers that he lacks heart pulse and is actually dead. Apparently, the procedure allows only twelve hours before Mortis’ body completely decomposes. Using company’s PR official Randi James (played by Lindsay Frost) as a lead, Mortis tries to use remaining time to unravel conspiracy that involves mad scientists creating zombie armies and offering rich people immortality.
Produced by New World Pictures, B-studio specialised for low budget genre films, Dead Heat represented directorial debut for Mark Goldbatt, editor with rather impressive resume in 1980s Hollywood action and science fiction cinema. Film features some dynamic and few spectacular action scenes and is well-paced, ending with short running time that hides many of the film’s flaws. Dead Heat, despite low financial resourecs, also features some impressive special and make up effects, especially in scenes featuring decomposing zombies and various dead creatures brought to life. What this film lacks is proper balance between horror and humour; script by Terry Black, brother of much more successful screenwriter Shane Black, isn’t that funny and the relationship between Mortis and Bigelow is reduced to often irritating cliches and weak one-liners. It doesn’t help that Joe Piscopo is quite miscast and that he lack proper “buddy buddy” chemistry with more dependable Treat Williams. However, few truly outrageous scenes and somewhat unconventional semi-ironic ending with all major characters ending dead is enough for Dead Heat to serve as guilty pleasure for less demanding audience.
RATING: 5/10 (++)
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