Saturday tea times on TV in the eighties was populated by a wealth of imported American series whether it be ‘The A Team’, ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ or ‘CHiPs’ amongst many others. All were bizarrely and inexplicably popular. The first two have had failed big screen versions and the latest to have a belated go is CHiPs an acronym for California Highway Patrols.
The TV series had a Spanish cop Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Erik Estrada) and a white cop Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) working together in racial harmony because as we all know American cops are not racist – just ask Rodney King. Here though we have Michael Pena as an FBI undercover cop who assumes the mantle of ‘Ponch’ to investigate a series of robbery’s that corrupt traffic cops led by Vincent D’onofrio. To that intent he becomes a member of CHiPs and teams up with rookie cop Dax Shepard who is trying to salvage his marriage as well as pass his police probationary period. What follows is the usual series of action sequences and comedy.
What sets the tone from the start is a mistimed and tasteless joke about Oscar Pistorias murdering his girlfriend because everything else after this is equally unamusing and the film has a queasy whiff of homophobic jokes about it too. In it’s defence there some decent enough action scenes with some impressive explosions (although both heroes seem to survive a ware house being consumed by a monumental explosion) and there are sequences featuring the bikes travelling at speed that are impressively handled and this is the second film in two weeks to use Black Sabbath’s, ‘Paranoid’ though not as well used as it is in ‘Kong:Skull Island’. Unfortunately the rest of the film is not as good as the bike sequences and Dax Shepard who directs from his own script must take the blame for what is an unedifying spectacle and seems to be a showcase for him being stripped to the waist and baring his scarred and tattooed torso. Perhaps worst served of all is Vincent D’onofrio who has been great in films like Full Metal Jacket, JFK, and the recent Magnificent Seven remake but is slumming it here.
There’s an uneasy balance of lame jokes with some extremely violent moments including a character getting his fingers shot off in graphic detail combined with a whole load of F-bombs that bump its certificate up a notch whereas if Shepard had left out the swearing and violence and get it more in keeping with the spirit of the TV show this should really be a 12A rating. Quite why it felt it needed to up the ante so much is curious because the TV series, which ran for over 130 episodes, never once had the heroes use their guns and the violence here is really to the films detriment and if they had to use acronyms then perhaps thefilm would have been better named after the California Response Armed Patrols.
Here’s the trailer……