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‘Loose Cannons’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 09, 1990

The premise of "Loose Cannons," the new cop comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Gene Hackman, is nearly pornographic: A film containing footage of Hitler's final minutes -- including his death at the hands of a young officer named Von Metz, who if he can suppress his Nazi past will almost certainly be elected as the new West German chancellor -- has moved into circulation on the black market. Naturally, Von Metz, who is played as an older man by Robert Prosky, would like to see the film destroyed and has even gone to the extreme of attempting to murder everyone who has seen it.

It's when all the victims of these grisly murders start appearing around the Washington area that Mac and Ellis (Hackman and Aykroyd) are teamed up to investigate. It's an odd pairing, and not a felicitous one. Mac, whose real passions in life are his shiny vintage woody and his cat, is an old pro with a rowdy streak; Ellis, who has lived for the last two years with an order of Benedictine monks, is a full-blown flake who, when faced with violence, begins to slip into alternate identities, taken mostly from old movies and television shows.

This tendency -- which kicks in, say, during a car chase, when suddenly he becomes the members of the crew on "Star Trek" -- is more irritating than it is funny. Watching Aykroyd go through his crazy-man gyrations, you're aware mostly that the film's producers have gotten the wrong comedian for the role. It's Robin Williams, not Aykroyd, who specializes in rapid-fire, channel-switching comedy. And in playing Ellis, Aykroyd seems to be playing Williams. Or trying to. And failing.

It may be that Dan Aykroyd has been a party to more unwatchable films than any other major American star. So far the list includes "Neighbors," "Doctor Detroit," "The Couch Trip," "The Great Outdoors," "Dragnet" and "My Stepmother Is an Alien." And when you consider the numbers of atrocities his director, Bob Clark, has on his re'sume' -- among them "Rhinestone," "Turk 182!" and "Porky's" I and II -- is it any wonder that "Loose Cannons" stinks up the joint?

For his part, Hackman mostly just stands around watching Aykroyd run through his exertions with the look of a man who has something unspeakable on the sole of his shoe. He shouldn't even be here and he knows it. Others who should have known better are Dom DeLuise, who plays a smut peddler named Gutterman, and Nancy Travis, who plays a foxy member of the Israeli secret service. The rest of the cast and crew seem pretty much to deserve each other.

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