Cop Game (1988)

“You’re saying Shooman is a KGB agent, out at the front, countering Vietcong attacks! Sounds like science fiction!” Sure does, but you know what else it sounds like? A Bruno Mattei movie! The fact that it was Romano Puppo who spit out this bit of soft-headed, hard-boiled dialogue only confirms it! (Puppo  (Escape from the Bronx, 2019: After the Fall of New York) spends most of his scenes chewing out Brent Huff for calling him “Skipper” prompting the classic line, “this isn’t a goddamn yacht club!”)

The movie is littered with great lines that probably don’t come off like Mattei intended, but come off just fine for the rest of us. Where else can we see Brent Huff as a military investigator yell unconvincingly, “cut the crap, colonel! We’re talking homicide, here!” Well shoot yeah, Brent! It’s not like this a goddamned yacht club or something!

I also admired his interrogation skills when he shouted at the female suspect in the spy ring, “I’m gonna blow a fuckin’ hole in your head, Barbie doll!” It’s that sort of gritty, potty-mouthed realism that’s missing from such mainstream military cop shows like NCIS!

Cop Game takes place during the waning days of the Vietnam War. Saigon is about to fall, but rogue American soldiers are killing other American soldiers! Only two cops are rough enough to go up against the members of Cobra Force who are pulling the trigger! And their credentials speak for themselves!

Brent Huff is Morgan, a surly dude prone to wearing sweat-stained, mostly unbuttoned shirts, an earring and big ass sunglasses. Huff worked with Mattei in Strike Commando 2, Born To Fight, with Sergio Martino in After the Condor, Sho Kosugi in 9 Deaths of the Ninja, and with Jeff Speakman in Scorpio One so bad dialogue and fight scenes are his specialty!

His partner is a native named Hawk, played by Max Luarel. Hawk is decked out in jeans, headband, and tight black wife beater! He also worked with Mattei and Puppo on Robowar, making both of them among the few to have shared the screen with both Strike Commandos!

Once Morgan and Hawk begin their investigation, things prove to be not always what they seem. For instance, the really huge guy that Morgan is trying to arrest by himself (Hawk is home with a sick kid!) turns out not to be going quietly after all! Several thousands rounds of ammunition later, Morgan finally manages to arrest him by shooting him to death!

Then there’s club full of dancing girls. Despite the movie supposedly taking place in 1974, the music is distinctly late 1980s synth and drum machine pop, including the movie’s own theme song. (The theme song is played several times during the movie and never fails to be anything less than totally rocking! If only I could just decipher the lyrics!)

After a military officer is wounded by a would-be assassin that according to Morgan, had a face that looked like he lost an acid fight, the real story about what’s behind Cobra Force’s killings is revealed! It seems that Cobra Force is lead by Shooman who is at the forefront of fighting Charlie and is the only thing preventing the collapse of the entire American effort in Vietnam.

Shooman and his boys destroyed an entire village, chopping the heads off babies, raping women, and doing whatever else goes along with wartime atrocities. Cobra Force is trying to cover this up and no one in the military wants to do anything about Shooman until after the war is over.

Later though, the second real story of what’s behind the killings is revealed! At least it might have been – I had a little trouble following the details of much of what was happening, but with all the cussing and people getting shot, I didn’t mind too much. It seems that there is a KGB agent in the army and despite the general in charge of rooting out the spy not believing that either Shooman or some other guy is the spy, he wants Morgan to bring Shooman back to confront the other guy in an effort to smoke out the spy. At least I think that was the plan. In any case, it gave Morgan and Hawk a chance to kill Charlie, blow up a bunch of huts and even participate in a helicopter attack!

By the time Morgan gets back to civilization to attend Hawk’s funeral and uses the old “the sling I’m wearing for my supposedly injured arm is just a trick to allow me to hide a gun inside of it” gag, I knew that I was in for one hell of a slam bang finish! When the true spy is revealed, followed by the shocking revenge unleashed on said spy and Morgan walks away, I pointed heavenward, silently saluting Bruno Mattei for another job well done! But wait! The job wasn’t quite done yet!

Just when you think that the credits are going to roll, a sniper’s target is superimposed over Morgan! Oh no! After enduring so much, is it all to be lost now at the last possible moment! A gunshot rings out! I can’t swallow! And then…the sniper is dead! Romano Puppo appears on screen, having taken him out before he could get Morgan! Puppo then smirks, we go to freeze frame, blast theme song, and roll credits! You want the epitome of cool? Nothing beats the Puppo smirk!

Cop Game sometimes gets tagged as an Off Limits knock-off. I remember watching Off Limits when it came out. Willem Dafeo and Gregory Hines as cops during the Vietnam War. I don’t remember anything else and I’ve never felt compelled to watch it again. Calling Cop Game a copy of that movie is a bit like saying the personal computer is a copy of the abacus. Hines is a tap dancer. Huff will tap dance on your face! Besides, the only ripping off that Cop Game did that we really care about was the car chase scene. As soon as I saw some model cars jumping through trains, I thought, this is like something out an Antonio Maghereti movie! Which it was! Lifted straight from The Ark of the Sun God! I’ll bet Luciano Pigozzi’s head was spinning since he was in both films!

Finally, the movie isn’t just fun and cop games. There’s also some social commentary about the war. When an MP sees Hawk with Morgan he says, “Gook cops! Shit! This war sucks more and more everyday!” Clearly, Mattei wants to make us think about America’s quixotic foreign adventurism in the name of containing Communism. And also about mismatched buddy cop movies! Okay, Bruno, I’ve thought about it. And I love it!

© 2017 MonsterHunter

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