The Best Movies Never Made: ’89 Bullets

John Flynn

Emily Brontë (novel), Justin Robinson (adaptation)

Justin Robinson, Marc Yamashita, Dante James, Anthony Robinson, Seth Linker, Bryn LaFollette, Matt Wilson, Eric Kanke

Los Angeles, 1989. Homicide Detective Jack Sato (Yamashita) stumbles on the case of a lifetime when he learns that a Jamaican Voodoo Posse is taking over the drug trade in Los Angeles and systematically buying off police detectives. He takes his off-the-books investigation to his partner and best friend Detective Hunter Hart (Robinson), who dismisses Sato’s concerns and refuses to accompany Sato on a meeting with an informant. At this meeting, Sato is ambushed and killed by the brutal members of the Voodoo Posse, including King Dante (James) and Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen (the other Robinson). During his death scene, Jack Sato fires over a thousand rounds and racks up a body count well into the double digits. He is hit twenty-seven times, but not killed until the coup-de-grace in which a faceless man we later learn to be King Dante draws his signature swordcane and stabs Sato through the heart.

Hart arrives at the crime scene too late, where, upon finding his dying partner, must be forcibly restrained in the midst of histrionic action hero posturing. The funeral takes place entirely in the rain and in slow motion. As befitting Sato’s Japanese heritage, his family is dressed all in white. Afterwards, Sato’s father presents Hart with the family’s ancestral katana and asks that Hart exact vengeance. Blaming himself for Sato’s death, Hart agrees. Neither man cries.

Hart returns to the police station, where Internal Affairs Division Detective Omar Rosenthal (Linker), confronts Hart about Sato’s alleged corruption. Hart recovers Sato’s badge from the evidence locker (after Sato’s killers, due to corruption and bureaucratic incompetence, have gone free), which still has some of his best friend’s blood on it. Armed with this symbol, around twenty guns and a samurai sword, Hart embarks on a brutal campaign of vengeance against the Jamaican Voodoo Posse. Things go well until an encounter with Hazen, the Posse’s head enforcer, a pothead who uses a flamethrower and speaks only in marijuana/fire one-liners. Hart is beaten, because he no longer has his best friend at his side. His defeat, for no clear reason, causes The Chief (Bryn LaFollette) to take away Hart’s badge and throw him off the case.

A perfunctory romance with aerobics instructor and unlicensed acupuncturist played by Lauri Veverka momentarily distracts the audience from the simmering homoeroticism in every other scene.

Omar Rosenthal, the mustachioed IAD agent, continues his investigation. He soon learns that Sato and Hart were clean and the real corrupt officers were resident clowns Detectives Pogue (Wilson) and Mahone (Kanke) and they had something to do with Sato’s death.

Meanwhile, Hart tracks Hazen to his hideout in a foundry located in the middle of an ostrich farm. After a harrowing shootout, Hart appears to be on the ropes again, when the fortuitous arrival of Omar Rosenthal distracts Hazen at a crucial moment. This allows Hart to spray Hazen with a fire extinguisher, which freezes the enforcer solid. Hazen falls from the catwalk to shatter on the floor of the foundry.

Rosenthal and Hart, now united, go after King Dante in his combination strip club/tiger habitat/voodoo temple/abandoned bakery. Using his now trademark Uzi SMG, Hart chews his way through an army of Jamaican Voodoo Posse enforcers, white tigers and drug-crazed strippers on his way to the confrontation with King Dante.

King Dante draws his swordcane and attacks! Despite this never being an issue previously, Hart has run out of ammunition. He must use the Sato ancestral katana to defend himself. Dante attempts the same move that killed Sato: the single sword thrust to the heart, but Sato’s bloody badge deflects the voodoo king’s strike! Hart lands a killing blow. Hart and Rosenthal walk out of the villain’s lair with some sequel-friendly dialogue.

At sunset, Hart tells Sato’s badge (twice, the second time whispered) that, “I’ll miss you,” before throwing it into the ocean, all to a reprise of the theme. Credits roll over that freeze frame.

Seth Linker, who plays IAD agent Omar Rosenthal, also wrote the Oscar-nominated theme song “My Heart is on Fire (Put It Out with Your Love)”

Jack Sato’s badge number is 714, the same as Detective Joe Friday’s on Dragnet.

Patton Oswalt and Michael Chiklis were attached to play the two leads. Oswalt left over a contract dispute. Chiklis left after someone realized he wasn’t Japanese.

Originally, the filmmakers wanted to cast Marc Yamashita’s own father as Jack Sato’s father. Unfortunately, Yamashita’s father rejected the character’s dialogue and accent as “beyond racist.” He was subsequently replaced by Yamashita’s younger brother in old age make up.

Although Lauri Veverka’s character is in several key scenes, her character is never named. She is credited as “Woman.”

Anthony Robinson (Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen) wrote his own dialogue.

The Bon Jovi song used during the gearing up montage was never successfully licensed, which is why on the home release an Andrews Sisters song was used instead.

The film was initially supposed to be an adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. The studio hired writer Justin Robinson to adapt it, he waited well past deadline, and while strung out on trucker uppers, wrote this adaptation in a single evening. Due to a combination of nepotism and intrigue, Brontë’s name remained on the credits.

The flamethrower used by Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen actually belonged to actor Anthony Robinson.

Plot holes: Jack Sato survives for a half hour with a sword wound through his heart.

Boom mic visible: during the “shithouse rat” sequence.

Factual errors: In the LAPD graduation photo that Hart looks at while drinking scotch and contemplating violence, Hart and Sato wear a kind of shoelaces that were not used in police uniforms until 1988.

Factual errors: fire extinguishers are not filled with liquid nitrogen

Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers): Hart claims that voodoo as a religion was founded by Martin Luther

Revealing mistakes: When Rosenthal is mauled by the tiger, the man being attacked is clearly not Seth Linker

Errors in geography: Santa Monica is not Downtown

Memorable Quotes
Sato: [dying] It… was… the voodoo posse… [dies]
Hart: Noooooooooooooo!

Rosenthal: Sato was a dirty cop, and I’ll prove it!
Hart: All you’ll prove is that Jack Sato is ten times the cop you’ll ever be. And a hundred times the man.

Woman: You have to turn back before it’s too late!
Hart: [mumbling] It’s already too late.

Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen: How ‘bout a light?

Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen: Hey man, mind if I spark one up?

Thug #1: Which one do we kill first?
Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen: Always pass the dutchie on the left hand side.

Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen: Smoked him out.

Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen: Mind if I hotbox this one?

[King Dante stabs Sato]
Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen: Quit bogarting!

Blazin’ Jimmy Hazen: Hope you don’t mind if I’m blunt.

Hart: [sprays Hazen with a fire extinguisher] Chill out.

[Hazen has been frozen and shattered]
Rosenthal: Where’s Hazen?
Hart: He went all to pieces.

King Dante: You got a badge?
Hart: [touches Sato’s badge] This is the only one I need.

Selected Reviews
“Revels in so many action clichés, one wonders if the film wasn’t assembled by Mad Lib.”
-The Daily Bugle

“Calling the acting amateurish is an insult to local theatre.”
-Mort Guffman

“Like getting shot in the face with a thousand gallons of pressurized liquid awesome.”
-Emily Brontë


About Justin

Author, mammal.
This entry was posted in Projected Pixels and Emulsion, Puffery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Best Movies Never Made: ’89 Bullets

  1. Louis says:

    Can we film this?

  2. Erik says:

    Y’know, there is a way to shoot a trailer.

  3. R. Marcus Yamashita says:

    Hai. Is Good.

  4. Pingback: The Best Movies Never Made: Caveman Cop | The Satellite Show

  5. Pingback: The Best Movies Never Made | The Satellite Show

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