Acclaim from “Boogie Nights” was strong enough to buy Burt Reynolds a cop pic trilogy at TNT, this first of which finds him starring in and directing a mostly lukewarm actioner that smells an awful lot like the second coming of ’70s series “Dan August.” Here, Reynolds plays a renegade cop surrounded by corruption, who could use a chill pill or two.
Calling this series “Hard Time” carries an unfortunate double-meaning, since the audience will have a hard time buying this demographically suicidal setup. Reynolds begins life here as Detective Logan McQueen, who cruises the mean streets of Miami with his creaky partner Charlie Duffy (Charles Durning). Welcome to the Geritol School of Law Enforcement.
The film isn’t 30 minutes old before the 62-year-old Reynolds is sprinting after some lowlifes, wheezing and appearing on the verge of collapse. At this pace, his only arrest is liable to be of the cardiac kind.
Apparently, Reynolds is determined to show the world that he’s still as macho as ever, since his character later beats the crud out of a couple of thugs and blows holes through chests using weapons powerful enough to bring down a superpower or two. Even the 75-year-old Durning gets to rough up some undesirables.
Adding to the cardiac quotient are Robert Loggia and Billy Dee Williams in a pair of key roles — Loggia as a bad guy, Williams as politically motivated prosecutor.
Primary storyline that runs through the three-pic “Hard Time” series surrounds the hard-bitten McQueen and his various attempts to see justice done by his own rules. In the opener, it’s his own name that McQueen must clear after a shady character with a glass eye named Catarato (Paco Christian Prieto) frames him for murder in a stakeout gone bad. McQueen gets imprisoned. Things don’t look good.
There is actually some decent action and good fight scenes to be found in the serviceable teleplay from producer David S. Cass Sr. and Steve Wesley, and there are a few nifty finger-pointing twists we can’t see coming. Too, Reynolds has enough charisma to pull off the cranky cop shtik despite his whitened hair and world-weary countenance. What largely undercuts the good intentions is tepid dialogue:
Loggia: “Are you an aficionado of flamenco dancing?
Reynolds: “I was until I found out Jose Greco was born in Brooklyn.”
If Reynolds and cohorts were trying to ape Elmore Leonard, they clearly came up short.
There is further a totally preposterous cop shoot-out at the end that showcases the pitfalls of directing oneself. Plus, is there a reason why they need to play salsa music every time a dark-skinned individual appears on screen, or that seductive “wah-WAH-wah” instrumental (complete with a camera panning up a woman’s shapely, pantyhose-clad leg) when the fetching femme makes her first appearance (as happens here with potential love interest Mia Sara)?
For this and other reasons, “Hard Time” is a throwback to an era predating awareness of sexism, ageism and ethnic stereotyping.
Tech credits are sharp, if sometimes overdone.