Today, modern audiences are not likely to think twice about the name Mark L. Lester, especially with his recent string of poorly-made, low-budget features like 'Pterodactyl,' but there was once a time, back in the early 80s, when his name slowly grew as a promising action movie director with features like 'Firestarter' and 'Commando.' Then he tried his hand at comedy with 'Armed and Dangerous,' essentially a spoof of sorts on the buddy cop flicks, which were also steadily growing in popularity at the time. Afterwards, he reverted back to shoddy, low-brow actioners that are today mostly forgotten (and for good reason).
But just before disappearing from a brief time in the limelight, he gave audiences one rather decent action comedy, and he did it with a Canadian who was also just coming into his own stardom. The always enjoyable and good-humored John Candy plays LA police officer Frank Dooley, whose kind and caring heart is as large as his girth, but sometimes shows a bit of his darker edge. Being a buddy flick, he is joined by fellow Canadian and co-star of SCTV Eugene Levy as the skittish, easily-flustered defense attorney Norman Kane.
Both men become unemployed for circumstances beyond their control, with Levy's attempt at defending a Charles Manson-lookalike being the funnier of the two. In what is arguably the movie's best and most amusing sequence, they meet formaly for the first time — their initial encounter was an accidental shove in a courtroom — at a job orientation for armed security guards. And I have to point out, this is actually one of the better moments in the script, which was written by James Keach, Brian Grazer, and Harold Ramis. The scene not only provides laughter, but it also cleverly introduces viewers to supporting characters and villains. A little later, we meet Meg Ryan and Robert Loggia.
Unfortunately, neither the comedy nor the action is able to sustain itself. Don't get me wrong. There are still plenty of good chuckles to be had — some a bit more forced than others — such as the scene at the toxic waste dump where the crime plot finally takes shape. After our would-be heroes butt heads with union leaders, the two become determined to uncover an embezzlement scheme involving everyone's pension fund and a string of warehouse robberies. The entire story moves fairly quickly, even if the mystery isn't very engaging. In fact, if not for Loggia, Levy and Candy, 'Armed and Dangerous' makes for an easily forgettable 80s comedy. Ryan is meant to serve a romantic interest, but she and Levy just don't seem interested in each other.
Lester provides very workmanlike direction, but then again, he doesn't have much to work with either. Still, 'Armed and Dangerous' does appear to delve into camp intentionally and even revel in it somewhat. The movie knows it's not breaking any new grounds with the material, but it has fun with it nonetheless. Candy and Levy play up their opposing personalities with a small tinge of tongue-in-cheek sarcasm, like they know they're making one big joke which in turn makes their characters more likeable. Ultimately, this action comedy is a decent flick to enjoy when you're lounging about, looking to kill an hour-and-half.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment brings this Blu-ray edition of 'Armed and Dangerous' on a Region A locked, BD25 disc and housed in a blue eco-vortex case. At startup, viewers are taken straight to the main menu with music and full-motion clips.
'Armed and Dangerous' patrols the Blu-ray aisles with a good and admirable 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.78:1).
Most notable improvements are in the bold colors which give the picture a fun and comical atmosphere. Primaries are especially vibrant and striking without appearing unnatural. Fine object details are surprisingly excellent for a movie of this caliber and age. With a very thin layer of grain, which is made a bit more prominent in nighttime scenes, background info is plainly visible, and textures in clothing and the faces of actors are appreciably distinct. Flesh tones are healthy and accurate. Contrast is spot-on and comfortably bright with clean, crisp whites throughout. Black levels are also deep and true with strong shadow delineation, providing the image with nice dimensionality.
In the end, the high-def transfer shows satisfying video for a mildly entertaining John Candy comedy.
The 80s buddy cop movie also arrives with an enjoyable uncompressed PCM stereo soundtrack that doesn't overly impress but it's appropriate and gets the job done.
The design is intentionally focused in the center of the screen, where dialogue is well-prioritized and intelligible. A few bits of atmospherics are employed to widen the soundstage, and they're rendered pleasantly well with good channel separation. Although the lossless mix doesn't come with moments of immersive action, the track is still amiable and welcoming with a fine acoustical presence. The mid-range is clean and stable, providing perfect clarity detail during those few instances of gunfire and explosions. Low bass is also rarely called upon, but it's there to provide a bit of depth.
Overall, the high-rez track is nothing to write home about, but it serves the comedy flick well.
'Armed and Dangerous' hits Blu-ray for the first time as a bare-bones release.
Director Mark L. Lester delivers a mildly amusing 80s action comedy in 'Armed and Dangerous.' Starring John Candy, Eugene Levy, Meg Ryan, and Robert Loggia, the movie has its moments, with several good chuckles sprinkled throughout, but it ends up working best as something to watch when there's not much elseon. The Blu-ray arrives with a strong and mostly good audio and video presentation, but the overall package is a bare-bones release. Unless you're a big John Candy fan, this is best as a fairly decent rental for a lazy afternoon.