The world of Hollywood movies is larger-than-life, contrived,
implausible, formulaic, and over-the-top. Therefore, there are some things
which the studios do not do well. They almost always screw up serious drama,
by extending it so far beyond reality that it is barely recognizable as
human activity. They can't seem to relate to normal people facing normal
problems, but always have to resort to outlandish Oscar-baiting themes like
tormented suicidal gay junkies with AIDS.
And I don't have to tell you how outrageous and grim horror stories have
We could continue with that thread, but it makes more sense to accentuate
the positive. What is Hollywood good at? Certain genres actually benefit
from or are unaffected by the characteristics I described above. Escapist
action/adventure films and high-concept comedies are the sorts of films
where contrivance is expected and welcome. It stands to reason, then, that one of
Hollywood's consistently strongest genres is the mismatched buddy film,
which naturally combines the two things Hollywood does best: action and
humor. The mismatched buddy film is always formulaic, but that doesn't
matter, because that type of film succeeds or fails based on the execution
rather than on the premise. We know before the action begins that the
Russian cop is going to make a fool of himself in Chicago, and vice-versa,
but that predictable formula can still result in a great film or a poor one,
depending on the actual jokes and stunts.
In this case, the set-up follows the usual formula. A prissy, dandified
L.A. cop (Anthony Edwards) ends up in Louisiana by following the trail of a
dangerous new designer drug. He has long hair, an earring and a few
suitcases full of fancy shoes, body sprays, and pastel suits. He drinks
vintage wine by decanting it properly and says things like, "I don't eat
shellfish. They're scavengers." As you can imagine, the New Orleans cops,
who have yet to evolve opposable thumbs, ridicule the man they call
"Hollywood," and think he's a pretentious douchebag - and one who's likely
to starve if he stays in New Orleans too long, since the entire city lives
on stale beer and shellfish. Following the formula to a "T," the local
police captain assigns Hollywood to partner up with grungiest possible
local, "Swamp Rat", a growling, possibly psychotic ex-cop (Lance Henriksen)
who lives deep in the bayou, carries knives the size of Samurai swords, and
has a hook for a hand as a result of an unplanned encounter with an
The plot basically makes no sense at all. The N'awlins police captain
tells Hollywood and Swamp Rat that they have only 24 hours to investigate
the case before Hollywood is shipped back to California, whereupon they
proceed to pick up some chicks, get into fights with the bumbling local cops
whose case they have usurped, bag some z's, drink and eat in the local bistros, and (in
Hollywood's case) change suits several times. Little did the captain know
the partners didn't really even need that 24 hours to crack the case. They actually
worked on it about two hours, in between getting laid, kicking ass, and
getting drunk. And during those two hours they basically just followed some
useless leads waiting for the drug lord to reveal himself on his own.
Which, of course, he did.
Let's just say this is not the film for you if you're seeking a
thoughtful crime-solving procedural. Does
that really matter? All of the detective work is really just a vehicle for the film to
exhaust all the "fish out of water" possibilities of a yuppie wandering
through the swamp, and the Henriksen/Edwards team pulls it off. Some of the humor is trite (Hollywood commenting with no
special wit on the incomprehensibility of the local accents), but some of it
is effective as well.
The film is also very sexy. Betsy Russell, former teenspoitation queen, made what was essentially the last gasp of her career
before she retired to raise a family, and she went out with real pizzazz.
There is no actual sex scene, but the foreplay and afterplay are excellent. Prior
to having sex with Hollywood, she seduces him by stripping down to a bikini
which is barely there, then does a little exotic dancing which promises some
light bondage. After the sex, she gets out of bed stark naked and walks past
the obnoxious local cops. And she looks mah-velous!
Delta Heat is rated in the fours at IMDb, but I'd peg it about a point higher.
Is it a mismatched buddy classic? No, it's not Lethal Weapon or Beverly
Hills Cop. It's not even Shanghai Noon or Rush Hour. It's more on the level
of Red Heat, the Chicago/Moscow mismatch which I described above. But
because Hollywood is good at comedy and action, even an inferior mismatched
buddy film can still be a watchable, entertaining film if it includes enough
guilty pleasures, and in this regard Delta Heat overcomes its inane plot to
deliver just enough lurid entertainment to justify a quick watch when you're
in the mood for some mindless fun.