dir-scr Dax Shepard
prd Ravi D Mehta, Dax Shepard, Andrew Panay
with Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Jessica McNamee, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Jane Kaczmarek, Maya Rudolph, Adam Rodriguez, Ed Begley Jr
release US/UK 24.Mar.17
17/US Warners 1h41
Let's ride: Shepard and Pena

donofrio whitlock brody
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Chips Aside from the lead characters' names, this movie has no connection with the beloved 1977-1983 TV series. Writer-director-star Dax Shepard doesn't even bother to capitalise the title correctly. Instead, it seems designed merely to mix gross-out humour into Fast & Furious action. But it's never funny, and the action is a chaotic mess. Drunken guys may chuckle, but everyone else should steer well clear.

A Miami FBI agent is sent undercover to Los Angeles, posing as California Highway Patrol officer Francis Poncharello (Pena), partnering with rookie Jon Baker (Shepard), a former off-road cycling champ who's on probation as he starts his job. Their investigation leads to menacing cop Kurtz (D'Onofrio). But Ponch is distracted by his sex addiction, while Jon is trying to save his marriage to the vile Karen (Bell), oblivious that she's moved on. Meanwhile, Kurtz's villainous gang is planning another big heist, and Ponch's FBI boss and partner (Whitlock and Brody) arrive to complicate things.

The script is painfully lazy, never bothering to string together the series of smutty jokes, running gags and violent set-pieces. There's so little to the central plot that it barely exists; it's just good guys and bad guys spiralling around each other (the only question is which side the smaller characters are on), setting up random bits of bigotry-based comedy, noisy stunt driving and explosions. In other words, it's on about a 15-year-old boy's level, with rampant ignorant misogyny and dialog straining to assure us that this isn't homophobic when it clearly is.

It doesn't help that the characters are breathtakingly unlikeable. Shepard and Pena set their usual charm aside to play guys who are so self-involved that they'd never be able to solve even this idiotic case. Cocky and dim-witted, their conversations are excruciatingly corny discussions of sex that are smutty without ever being witty. It's not as if you expect character depth, but a tiny bit of complexity might have made them amusing. And a flurry of small side roles and starry cameos never deliver much of anything.

What's left is little more than a loud, lifeless collection of car crashes and shootouts with a liberal scattering of grisly gore and smirking vulgarity. It's unclear why anyone bothered to hark back to the original series at all (Eric Estrada's cameo is particularly humiliating). So the main mystery is why this under-imagined mess managed to find funding in the first place. At least it's so vacuous that it'll fade quickly from memory.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 20.Mar.17

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Chips Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall