The Wild Pair (1987) – By Jonathon Pernisek

In the summer of 1987, your socks will be knocked and your world will be rocked by The Wild Pair, an action-adventure so wild…your local zoo could not contain its carnal nature. How could any moviegoer turn away from a classic screen duo like Beau Bridges and Bubba Smith, actors of such high caliber they find it hard to breathe because the air is so thin? Think about it: he’s white, he’s black. One plays an FBI agent, the other plays a narcotics street cop. The former is straight-laced, the latter does not, will not, and furthermore, cannot play by the rules. They’re different in so many ways, but if they wanna solve the case of their lives, this oil-water combo is gonna have to mix. … Well, I’m sure this sounded original at some point.

What you have to understand about a movie like The Wild Pair is its complete reliance on the Buddy Cop formula while occasionally deviating into a realm known as insanity. Not only does Beau Bridges star in this picture, he sat in the director’s chair, and something tells me he had a bit of fun behind the camera. There’s a sense of ease in how the plot points follow each other, and when the conventions are bucked you can almost imagine Bridges giggling to himself with glee. Examples, for the purposes of emphasizing, will appear in italics in the following synopsis:

It’s your average day in a rough city neighborhood. Benny Avalon (Smith), street-wise officer and friend to animals and children, is teaching at the local youth center when a band of Green Beret-types invade, lobbing explosives into open windows and mowing down innocent bystanders with stray bullets. One of the bystanders is a kid, so Benny valiantly takes on the case to avenge the boy’s death in the name of justice. Little does he know FBI agent Joe Jennings (Bridges) is conducting his own investigation, and the two inevitably find themselves working together. Talk about ensuing hilarity, am I right?

Archetypes abound in the form of the ceaselessly angry police captain, played here by Gary Lockwood, who is always complaining about property damage and is secretly corrupt. Then there’s the weasly, stick-thin snitch who our heroes track down and harass until he spills the beans, leading to his untimely, but all too expected death. Finally, there are the main villains: a Bill Cosby look-a-like/drug pusher named Ivory and a racist military guerilla who dreams of conquering America and ridding it of Jews, Communists, and the “yellow race.” Oh yeah. What’s more, this nasty fellah is played by none other than Lloyd Bridges. Keep in mind this movie was made five years after Airplane!, so I highly doubt anyone took his menacing performance with anything more than a chuckle.

So how do our heroes get to know one another so as to find out what they have in common? Well, Avalon decides to take Jennings to the youth center, where he shows him “Emotional Chorus.” Emotional Chorus, for the uninitiated, involves Avalon conducting a group of children so they scream, cry, and laugh to his heart’s desire. I guess this is supposed to help them…vent. Or something. Then we’re treated to a totally useless scene where we watch a kid do the Robot for a minute and a half. Yes, truly Jennings will learn to appreciate the ways of the street through the Robot.

Of course there’s plenty of action and nitty-gritty investigation, but even these scenes are spliced together with random moments of oddity. Imagine, if you will, Avalon and Jennings going to a soft-core porn theatre as part of their dealings with the criminal underbelly. Avalon is watching the film, eating his popcorn, when a very effeminate man with a curled mustache sits in the next seat. Thinking it’s his partner, Avalon hands over the popcorn without turning away from the screen. By the time he’s noticed the wily-eyed gentleman a trench coat has already been placed over both of their laps, and to top it all off, the guy starts waxing the ol’ cinnamon stick. Yeesh. Oh, then there’s the scene in the porno shop where an Asian midget is dusting dildos. Uh-huh.

The consequence of taking on the criminal underbelly is usually the repeated deaths of several protagonist side characters, and this is where I really thought the movie become patently bizarre. See, Avalon comes home to check on Debby and Fern, who were on a double date with him and Jennings in an earlier scene. Suddenly this action extravaganza becomes a slasher film, with Avalon walking up to Fern’s seemingly alive body only to discover that, yessiree, it’s a corpse. Then he goes into the bathroom and he finds Debby bloodied in the shower, which is followed by a complete recreation of the shower kill from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Then (yes, another then), he opens the door of the bathroom closet, and his cat has been impaled on the other side. Sorry, but if the cat’s death is the peak of horror, you’ve sold me.

Can I talk about Lloyd and Beau Bridges again? I just can’t get over this father and son being in the same movie, especially a violent buddy cop flick. But not only are these guys related, there are a couple of other Bridges running around as well. There’s the very irritating Dylan Bridges, here playing the key role of Little Billy, who runs on screaming and mumbling incoherently in two too many scenes for comfort. Child actors can easily make me want to wring their necks, and this tot was no different. Then there was Casey Bridges, who played…Paul. Honestly? Don’t recall this character, so the performance must not have been very memorable.

If you like your movies filled with heated banter between men’s men fighting the good fight, I guess I could recommend The Wild Pair. For the most part there’s nothing new being presented here, but like a lot of movies I’ve reviewed lately, the bits and pieces of loopiness make up for the generic foundation. So while I’m not exactly giving this one a thumbs up, I would recommend fast forwarding through the car chases and fist fights for the Asian dildos. … I need to stop writing that phrase.