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Drug Czar Vs. Kung-fu Cutie In 'Heat'

June 16, 1987|MICHAEL WILMINGTON

The movie is written by Stirling Silliphant, co-stars Rod Steiger and has the word heat in the title--but, unfortunately, it isn't "In the Heat of the Night." We're two decades away from that cop drama, and the one we're discussing, "Catch the Heat" (citywide) is only too reflective of the hard-edged, soft-minded '80s.

Steiger is no longer playing an ambivalent Southern cop against Sidney Poitier. Here, he's dead-eyed drug czar Jason Hannibal, matched up against--hold your breath--an undercover Chinese-Jewish kung-fu cutie named Checkers Goldberg. Don't expel your breath yet: Checkers, who has tracked Hannibal to his Buenos Aires drug lair, is disguised as exotic Hong Kong dancer Cinderella Poo, and eventually she cracks Hannibal's diabolical scheme: smuggling out heroin--cut with silicone?--in breast implants.

Is there any hope for a movie with a plot like that, beyond major surgery? Silliphant's dialogue has snappier rhythms than most work on this level, but director Joel Silberg, hitherto a specialist in break-dancing and rap musicals, takes far too genial a tone. If you walk into a party wearing a polka-dotted barrel, with a cucumber sprouting from your nose--the equivalent of making a movie like this--you better be prepared to go all out.

Steiger's Hannibal looks somewhat miffed. Tiana Alexandria, as Checkers Goldberg, is very cute, though she overacts wildly. Underplaying wildly, perhaps as compensation, is David Dukes, as Checkers' would-be mate. At least one thing is certain: as the only Chinese-Jewish kung fu cutie currently on the market, C. G. really has this game to herself.

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