I've always considered the mid-'90s to be the elephant graveyard of modern cinema. From aging slasher flick icons stuck in sequel purgatory to the countless buddy-cop movie rip-offs of 'Lethal Weapon,' this was the era where old movie genres went to die. For a perfect example of the latter, one need look no further than 'Bulletproof,' a "mismatched buddies on the run" flick so played-out that it makes Sylvester Stallone's oeuvre look good.
Once inseparable pals, Archie Moses (Adam Sandler) and Rock Keats (Damon Wayans) are now on opposite sides of the law, each feeling betrayed by the other. The only person who seems to hate them more than they hate each other is ruthless drug kingpin Frank Colton (James Caan), who wants to put them both six feet under. And so, through a strange twist of fate, Moses and Keats are back together, and on the run. With a little bit of luck, the bungling boys just might get out of this one alive -- that is, if they don't kill each other first.
'Bulletproof' swipes from just about every buddy-cop flick of the '80s -- and badly, at that. Every action scene, every plot twist and every canned joke can easily be spotted as a lift from either '48 Hrs.', Beverly Hills Cop,' 'Lethal Weapon' or 'The Last Boy Scout' (also starring Wayans). Of course, such obvious "homage" wouldn't be so bad if 'Bulletproof' were witty or exciting, but it's neither. Instead, it's just tired, forced and unfunny.
Given the talent involved, the film's failures are particularly shocking. Sandler and Wayans are usually such powerful performers, but neither really lets loose in this movie -- not Wayans, who seems lost without a strong screen presence like Bruce Willis to play off of, nor Sandler, who seems completely out of his league in thus one. Though I've never been a huge fan of Sandler's Forrest Gump style of dumb comedy, he's never been as tone-deaf as he is here. He yells every line, over-emoting to the point where it doesn't come across as cocky bravado (a la the young Eddie Murphy in '48 Hrs.'), but simply fear. And director Ernest Dickerson brings no unique style to the proceedings -- this is rote action-movie banality, staged and executed with little flair or precision.
Is there anything to recommend in 'Bulletproof?' Only the fun of reveling in nostalgia, as the film seems like it was shot in 1986, not 1996. It's amazing how badly the film has aged, from the lame soundtrack tunes by such acts as Salt-N-Pepa and (I kid you not) Mr. Cheeks and Freaky Tah, to the dorky fashions that make Sandler look like Vanilla Ice's older brother. (Wayans even at one point wears 'Breakin'-inspired suspenders-over-T-shirt getup -- priceless.) Such sartorial pleasures aside, you'd be better off passing on 'Bulletproof' and instead just watching 'Lethal Weapon' for the zillionth time.
'Bulletproof' is the latest in a series of middling Universal catalog releases -- the kind a studio usually tosses out when it's trying to launch a new format but doesn't want to waste its big guns on the earliest of early adopters. Though this is another case of an old master being repurposed for high-def, 'Bulletproof' is slightly above average compared to other recent Universal HD DVD catalog titles like 'Daylight,' 'The Watcher' and 'Mystery Men.'
Simply put, the source in this case has held up better than most. There is a film-like grain permeating throughout, but little in the way of dirt, speckles or other blemishes. Blacks are good if not exceptional, and while contrast doesn't have the pop of a modern transfer at least it is pretty smooth across the entire grayscale. The image is somewhat soft, but colors are fairly vivid for a 1996 film, although there is some noise and a bit of bleeding on the most saturated hues. Depth and detail are above average for a flick of this vintage, but again the presentation is not incredibly eye-popping. All in all, a solid triple.
Hardly an earth-shaker, 'Bulletproof' is your typical mid-'90s soundtrack. Sound design is only fairly aggressive and there are enough cheesy pop/rock/hip hop-lite songs on the soundtrack to rival ten 'Beverly Hills Cop' movies. I half expected Bob Seger to make a cameo appearance.
In base tech terms, this Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 track (1.5mbps) sounds okay. Low bass is solid but doesn't deliver anything truly powerful. Surrounds kick in fairly frequently, though discrete effects are reserved largely for bleed on loud sounds, such as explosions and gunfire. The score and songs fill out the front soundstage nicely, but again the rears are somewhat anemic in comparison. Dialogue is balanced pretty well, with only the loudest scenes somewhat overwhelming.
As was the case with the standard-def DVD version, there are no extras at all on 'Bulletproof' -- not even a theatrical trailer.
A pretty lousy buddy-cop flick from the mid-'90s, 'Bulletproof' is only notable because it features a pre-superstar Adam Sandler and Damon Wayans. This middling HD DVD release is rather fitting -- the transfer and soundtrack are obviously dated goods, and there are zero extras included. All but the most diehard Sandler and Wayns fans should steer clear of this one