Beyond the Law (1992) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Tuna's notes


Beyond the Law (1992) is based on the true story of a cop who was raised by an abusive cop uncle, was fired by a corrupt police chief, and became an undercover narc infiltrating a biker gang. Along the way, he nearly decided that he liked bikers better than cops, but his work eventually led to record-breaking numbers of arrests.

There is more character development than is usual for this genre, and the cast is good. The head of the bikers is played by Michael Madsen, and the cop is Charlie Sheen. Along the way, the cop meets and beds a photo-journalist doing a story on the bikers, and this role is played by Linda Fiorentino. '

It is more than just an action film, and includes some symbolism in the form of a parable told by an old Indian about a brave who chased away his shadow, and then missed it. He descended into hell to reclaim it, but found that climbing back out of hell was much more of a challenge. This symbolizes the cop's struggle with his childhood, and deciding between good and evil in his own life.  


DVD info from Amazon

  • No significant features
  • No widescreen



  • Linda Fiorentino has some great peek-throughs and upskirts, and some dark breast exposure.
  • There is also an anonymous topless stripper.  

Scoop's notes

Beyond the Law is "based on a true story," which is to say that the names and places have been changed, but the essential core of the story really happened. Given that fact, I tried to find out more about Dan Black, the real-life cop who was the model for "Dan Saxon," the main character in the film. I couldn't find a damned thing. The only relevant result from Google is a listing for Dan Black as a technical advisor on this movie. According to the DVD special features, writer/director Larry Ferguson found out about Black's story from an article in Playboy. The same "production notes" mention that the story actually took place in Northern California around 1975.

Irrespective of its other merits as a film, Beyond the Law has been widely praised for realism by both law enforcement officers and those familiar with biker gangs. Both groups agree that Charlie Sheen and writer/director Larry Ferguson went to great trouble to portray the details accurately. The law enforcement types feel that the film did a good job of showing the physical and psychological perils of undercover police work, and Dan Black himself praised both the director and Charlie Sheen for an accurate recreation of the traumatic experiences he faced. The bikers were equally impressed by the film's presentation of motorcycle gang life. An Arizona biker gang called the Dirty Dozen acted as technical advisors on the film, and were well satisfied with the results, including Sheen's appearance and behavior.

If it were my call, I'd prefer the 108-minute film to be shorter and the script to be more economical. I do appreciate the film's in-depth development of character and atmosphere, and I was at least neutral about its symbolism, mysticism, and dime-store psychology, but I could have done without the long, wordless shots of guys, riding ... riding ... riding. (Or assembling engines!)

Having made that point, I should add that the film has some great moments. My favorite scene occurred when Sheen tried to warn his biker pal about an upcoming police raid. He had told his girlfriend the previous night that he had to try to warn the man because "He saved my life." She responded, quite properly, "He saved SID's (his biker alter ego's) life. Do you even know the difference any more?" Unconvinced by that argument, Sheen did try to warn the biker, only to have the guy put off their heart-to-heart so he could rob a convenience store and kill the young female clerk mercilessly. Sheen, of course, was shocked by the murderous action, but also shocked at himself for ever having thought that the cold-blooded psychotic was his friend. After the murder, of course, he scrapped his plans for a warning. That sequence of events seems to me to capture perfectly the inner conflicts facing those who do undercover work.

The Critics Vote

  • Maltin 2.5/4

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.8


Miscellaneous ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a C+, a good to top-notch genre effort. As a biker film, it is one of the best and most realistic. As an undercover police story, it is quite satisfactory, with a good cast and plenty of characterization and atmosphere to warrant a watch.

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