Hollywood Cop (1987) – Kidnapping your senses

Here it is, the aptly named beginning of Amir Shervan‘s legendary Hollywood period, and yes, it is everything I’d expected. There are shootouts, fistfights, terrible dialogue, painful acting, a tacky kidnapping plot, and some of the poorest quality production you’ll ever have the pleasure to witness. Hollywood Cop is a trash filled caper that runs in circles for most of its overly long duration, resplendent in all its dirt cheap glory. It’s also backed by some of the best low budget synthesiser ever committed to film, perhaps even more awesome than in his subsequent movies. As far as ranking the Iranian genius’s output, this one comes in predictably low, being his first outing and all. Strangely, though, it features fewer stuffed lines and filler scenes than many of his other productions. He’s created a distinctly wacky vibe here, blending home movie style with mafia drama. There’s a strong opening too, with an apparently opulent and rowdy party scene, one that’s wholly unnecessary, transitioning awkwardly into an armed assault on a ranch. As cap guns spark, and Kung Fu flails, Shervan continues with a regularly relenting display of even more action, dazzling us with his impressive flair for repetitive yet unpredictable drama.

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Being a true film enthusiast, Shervan loves incorporating elements of existing narratives into his own. A lot. For Hollywood Cop he’s gone with a generic ransom plot featuring renegade buddy cops, drawing heavily on police serials and Eddie Murphy movies. Here we have literal kidnapping on our hands, of young Stevie – Brandon Angle, who’s relatively impressive for a low budget minor. His distraught mother, Rebecca – Julia Schoen, also a first and last timer – deals with this by spending an inordinate amount of time hanging around the Hollywood Police Department. I assume it’s her closest one, but who knows? It pays off, however, as she meets the curly-mulleted rebel cop, John “Turkey” Turquoise – David Goss, one of the guys from She.

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A sucker for a lady with a sad story, Turkey and partner “Jaguar” – Lincoln Kilpatrick from The Omega Man and Soylent Green, I guess he likes Sci-fi – offer to help Rebecca delve into the dark world that swallowed her husband and son. Larry Frio, who may or may not be a one credit wonder, plays the dodgy dad in question. It turns out he’s more or less responsible for the whole thing, having ripped a cool 6 million off big boss Feliciano – Jim Mitchum, yes son of actual legend Robert. There are some first-generation, classic actors too, Troy Donahue has fun as the antagonistic Lieutenant Maxwell, Cameron Mitchell has a less interesting turn as police chief, and Aldo Ray has a solid but minor part as a presumably Italian man named Fong. Shervan has given his cast appropriate respect too, with their names rather impressively done up as if on the Walk of Fame during the totally sweet opening credits.

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Either blissfully ignorant or keenly aware of his script’s unoriginality, Shervan chooses to stuff it with nonsensical character motivations, bizarre reveals, and plenty of trashy action. One particularly enjoyable manifestation of this occurs as the flirty hotdog-stand girl introduces Rebecca to the apparently notorious Turkey. He, of course, is across the street in the process of breaking all protocol to diffuse a regular “rape and robbery” situation. Bullets fly, people die, and a wacky looking dude ends up on the wrong end of an honor killing, or something like one. There’s also a clumsy side plot where little Stevie befriends animals, he totally has a bit of a Danny from The Shining going on. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m just obsessed with The Shining, considering how often it’s come up lately. Oh, and I’m not going to spoil it for you, but Frio has a dramatic reveal even more impressive than Carolyn Minnott’s in The Room. I think he’s having us on, though, as we find him partying away with some loose ladies in his summer nook.

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Always at the centre of the narrative, yet rarely seen is Mitchum’s mob boss, perhaps he cost too much to get any more screen time. He does, however, have a fantastically awkward scene where he delivers a hiring pitch to some rather unfortunate looking prostitutes. Clearly a lot of work went into the character too, done up in all the glory of a true Godfather – Hawaiian shirt under open blazer, complemented by Aviators, and a permanent cigar that makes him even harder to understand. He also employs henchmen with such names as Spaghetti – Tony Katsaras who’s recently found work on The Eric Andre Show – Animal, and Ramon. Unfortunately I can’t tell you the names of the latter two, as they don’t seem to actually be in the credits. All I can say is that Animal, whoever he is, probably plays the best part in the movie. I’m never sure what creative orifice Shervan pulls his names from, but this movie really does take the cake. I should mention that Hells Angels – well I assume it’s them, based on their history with such movies – make a totally silly and out of place appearance to aid Turkey as the climax draws near.

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Hollywood Cop may have been Shervan’s first foray into Hollywood, yet many of the names, which you may or may not recognise from his impressive title cards, are present. Iranian film buddy, Peter Palian, is here struggling to contain the impressive events onscreen. To be fair, though, the copy I’ve got is from VHS and not a widescreen print. One can only dream of the day every Hollywood Shervan movie is remastered with as much love and care as Samurai Cop. Most of all I want to hear this soundtrack crystal clear and cranking. Elton Ahi is listed as composer, he’s credited on Young Rebels too, though it is eerily similar to the work of Alan DerMarderosian on other Shervan projects. I’m beginning to question whether the director himself could be the secret genius behind the killer, arcade-style synthesiser tracks he spoils us with. Seriously, the best part about the long run time, and maybe the movie in general, is that the soundtrack runs constantly, never far out of earshot, and boy does it make everything that much better. As you might have guessed, Shervan is never one to follow conventions, or even generally adhere to sensible film practice. It’s clear that blocking, or any other kind of preparation, was given much thought here, and seconds of pre-action footage is left sprinkled through the final cut. The sound design is the other element you’ll really notice, jarring volume changes and all. I never knew how well mumbled dialogue goes with loud, tinny gunshots until Shervan opened my eyes. It’s truly a wonder how this man employs six people in the sound department and has this end result.

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I can only imagine the unique experience of working on a Shervan production, or better still, working with one of his scripts. The dialogue is often otherworldly in quality, in that it doesn’t really make sense. I’m not sure whether to feel more sorry for the real actors in the cast, or the nobodies whose careers didn’t go anywhere after this knockout. I just hope they got paid something. The movie was supposedly financed by Peacock Films, owned by the producers, Moshe and Simon Bibiyan, who apparently had some dealings with the prolific Menahem Golan, so you’d hope at least some fuel money exchanged hands. Anyway, the actors are in an unfortunate situation to say the least, though fortunately some make the most of it – namely Kilpatrick, who for some reason joins in on a jelly wrestling fight. Donahue, Katsaras, and the unnamed Animal, also seem to have a pretty good time, which is more of a feat than that statement usually suggests. Goss, Hollywood Cop himself, seems up to the challenge of a main role, though the script does him no favours. However, he does handle the action decently, going toe to toe with hordes of henchmen, Kung Fu dudes, and a chef.

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I’m not sure how to best sum up the experience that is an Amir Shervan movie. Hollywood Cop marks his arrival in Hollywood, the genesis of a wholly enjoyable and unenviable period of work stretching until he gave it up for good, and the origin of a style that is truly something to behold. It’s in the awkward dialogue, the basic but distracted plots, the mixed bag of acting skill, the infectiously tacky synthesiser soundtracks, and the shocking quality offered by a budget so low it’s almost criminal. Then there’s the man’s narratives, which are so shamelessly generic and derivative. It seems the startling lack of quality he was producing never entered his consciousness, as he was clearly just too enthusiastic about being a part of Hollywood. No, this is not Shervan’s best work, though with the reputation for producing the delightful trash that he does, I’m honestly not sure if that’s objectively good or bad. It’s also prior to hooking up with the mythical Robert Z’Dar, so there’s a distinct lack of his imposing frame and raspy voice. All that said, if you’ve enjoyed any of this trash auteur’s other stuff, do yourself a favour and check this one out.

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