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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Rent-A-Cop': B Picture With Two A Stars

January 15, 1988|KEVIN THOMAS | Times Staff Writer

In "Rent-A-Cop" (citywide), Burt Reynolds and Liza Minnelli play off each other beautifully. Minnelli is all super-charged intensity, alternately the tough cookie and the wide-eyed, vulnerable gamin, while Reynolds, a great listener, just leans back, securely underplaying with laconic, affectionate amusement.

What we have here are a pair of star turns in the grand old Hollywood manner, and Reynolds and Minnelli, who were previously teamed in the un-"Lucky Lady," are good company.

"Rent-A-Cop" itself, however, is no more than an unpretentious, pleasant but by-the-numbers genre piece that owes more to old movies--some of them Reynolds'--than to any fresh contact with reality.

Minnelli is a glamorous Chicago hooker whose hotel room assignation takes her right smack into police detective Reynolds' drug bust, which misfires so spectacularly that half a dozen of Chicago's finest lie dead. In fact, as the sole survivor of the team, Reynolds winds up fired under a cloud of suspicion. After much reluctance, the soon down-and-out Reynolds signs on as bodyguard to Minnelli, now an endangered witness to the slaughter.

Comparisons to "Someone to Watch Over Me," in which Tom Berenger's Queens cop falls for Mimi Rogers' Upper East Side heiress, whom he is guarding, are inevitable. The Ridley Scott film is far more sophisticated, but "Rent-A-Cop's" director, Jerry London, a TV miniseries veteran in his theatrical feature debut, and writers Charles Shryack and Michael Blodgett do a far better job of attending to their plot, as standard as it is, which involves a Chicago drug king (John Stanton) and his psychopathic hired killer (lithe, steely James Remar), an ex-cop.

The result is a romantic comedy-thriller that strikes a neat balance between Reynolds' and Minnelli's slow-kindling love for each other and the adventure that overtakes them. "Rent-A-Cop" is a B picture with A stars.

Chicago in winter looks great, as well it should since it was photographed by the Italian master Giuseppe Rotunno. Bernie Casey, Dionne Warwick and Robby Benson are among the worthy supporting players, and the estimable Richard Masur has the pivotal role of a cop gone crooked who tries to hide his bad conscience beneath a breezy demeanor.

Moss Mabry, one of Hollywood's classic designers, has created for Minnelli a smashing wardrobe befitting a high-lass call girl who wants pizazz without vulgarity.

There's lots of talk about cops who've gotten into trouble having no recourse other than to a life of crime, but it's not to be taken seriously: "Rent-A-Cop" (rated R for standard action violence) is essentially an essay in movie-star behavior.

'RENT-A-COP' A Kings Road Entertainment presentation. Producer Raymond Wagner. Director Jerry London. Screenplay Dennis Shryack, Michael Blodgett. Camera Giuseppe Rotunno. Music Jerry Goldsmith. Production designer Tony Masters. Costumes Moss Mabry. Associate producer John D. Schofield. Visual effects consultant Kit West. Stunt coordinators Bill Ferguson, Sergio Mioni. Film editor Robert Lawrence. With Burty Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, James Remar, Richard Masur, Dionne Warwick, Bernie Casey, Robby Benson, John Stanton, John P. Ryan, Larry Dolgin.

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes.

MPAA-rated: R (under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).

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