Saturday, September 09, 2017

Under Cover

If I were casting the leading role in a movie about a cop who goes undercover as a high school student, I probably would not hire someone with a receding hairline. Even if the cop’s boss (the dependable Carmen Argenziano) does mention that he’s bearded and balding, it doesn’t take the film off the hook. But that’s the way producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus rolled at Cannon.

After starring in Cannon’s DANGEROUSLY CLOSE, which was written by Scott Fields, John Stockwell convinced Golan and Globus to let him direct this one from a script by Fields. Stockwell went on to do bigger films like CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL and INTO THE BLUE, but he already seems like an assured director with UNDER COVER. Star David Neidorf (PLATOON) doesn’t look the part, nor is he a particularly charming lead, but it’s interesting that his character, named Sheffield Hauser (good grief), isn’t a badass cop and is awkward in his new assignment.

Hauser is actually just one of many young police officers working as narcs in high schools under the command of Sgt. Irwin Lee (Barry Corbin). Another is Tanille Laroux (Jennifer Jason Leigh, of all people), who works with Hauser in the guise of a braless fox. The case that brings Hauser and Laroux to school is a drug ring that killed Hauser’s partner on the Baltimore force.

You would expect UNDER COVER to be a lark, but despite its far-fetched premise and the presence of humor, Stockwell takes the case seriously. Some nudity and racial material give the story necessary weight, but not enough for a successful film. Give UNDER COVER credit for aiming higher than Cannon’s usual action trash.

1 comment:

Felicity Walker said...

I have this movie on VHS. It’s so-so.

There are a few things they could have done about the main character’s unpassability as a high school student. They could have had the character wear a wig for the assignment. They could have had the actor wear a wig and make that the character’s real hair. They could have set it at a university, so it could be like 21 Jump Street meets Animal House.

I misremembered that Abe Vigoda was one of many beloved character actors who played teachers in this, but that was the similarly-premised, same-year-released Plain Clothes. Between that, the aforementioned Jump Street, and Jon Cryer in Hiding Out, there was some serious going-back-to-high-school content happening around that time!

Speaking of which, Jon Cryer, despite being in his mid-20s and starting off the movie with a beard, is passable as a teenager thanks to his soft, youthful features and his character giving himself a punk hairstyle. His widow’s peak hairline was not quite so accentuated back then. The same year he played Lex Luthor’s teenage nephew in Superman IV. He was the Seth Green of his day!