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Movie Reviews : FBI Man, L.A. Cop Team Up in 'Wild Pair'

December 16, 1987|LEONARD KLADY

"The Wild Pair" (citywide) from all outward appearances has the smell of a contemporary movie cop partnership. One instinctively knows that Joe Jennings (Beau Bridges) and Benny Avalon (Bubba Smith) have spent years exchanging endlessly bright, glib banter while defying more death threats than a film critic has eaten tubs of popcorn.

The good news is that this first look is indeed deceiving. Jennings instead is an FBI agent forced to team with Avalon of Los Angeles' finest to crack a nefarious drug ring. The bad news is that by the film's fade-out, the two have defied more death threats than . . . well, you get the picture.

The story is a crazy quilt of ideas vaguely interrelated and wholly illogical. A white supremacy group led by an ex-Marine (Lloyd Bridges) is gearing up to sweep the streets of "undesirables." The supremacists supply the local drug czar (Raymond St. Jacques), and he in turn gives their cause cold, hard cash. But exactly where these drugs come from remains a mystery, as does why the group favors this form of illegal fund raising to robbing banks or knocking over an armory.

Smith, as a character too good to be true, spends his spare time with a community youth program, doesn't fool with women, adores his cat and would rather permanently maim a felon than kill him because there's always room for rehabilitation. He's a deeply caring individual who's naturally upset when innocent women are killed. However, he's a tornado when they kill his cat.

In his feature directing debut actor Beau Bridges demonstrates some skill at pacing action and protecting his actors from total ridicule. But he's no storyteller. "The Wild Pair" (MPAA-rated R, for nudity, violence and profane language) repeatedly stresses the wrong plot point, goes for a joke at inappropriate moments and preaches when it should entertain. This attempt to fool with a timeworn entertainment formula plays against the house odds and loses.

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