Saturday 26 June 2021

Movie Review: K-9 (1989)

A trivial crime comedy, K-9 stitches together a barely-there plot around the more-silly-than-clever antics of a police dog.

San Diego police detective Michael Dooley (Jim Belushi) survives an assassination attempt ordered by his nemesis Lyman (Kevin Tighe), a seemingly respectable wealthy businessman involved in large scale illegal drug shipments. Dooley recruits the help of drug-sniffing police dog Jerry Lee, who has a stubborn and quirky personality. Dooley's obsessive pursuit of Lyman causes a rift with his girlfriend Tracy (Mel Harris). But with Jerry Lee's help he makes progress towards uncovering Lyman's shipment methods and schedule, setting up a final showdown.

One of two detective-with-dog films released within three months in 1989, K-9 features an excellent dog performance as it surrenders to canine urges and hardly bothers with much else. Once Jerry Lee makes his appearance, the script by Steven Siegel and Scott Myers just agitates for the next four-legged highlight. Dog ignores all Dooley's orders, dog disrupts Dooley's sex life, dog wins a bar fight, dog discovers love, and, of course, dog saves the day. 

All of the escapades are vaguely watchable as pet tricks, but are also as obvious as they are mundane. Director Rod Daniel does not help by extending each sequence longer than necessary to wring 102 minutes out of the scant material.

The plot involving Dooley's dog-with-a-bone pursuit of a drug kingpin is a flimsy narrative device, most investigative logic bypassed in favour of short-cuts to scenes borrowed from other movies. By the third act Dooley is an unhinged man on a mad mission, police work be damned. Jim Belushi has the misfortune of being the dumb cop trying to match wits with a smart dog, human dignity and pride eviscerated early.

K-9's bark and bite are about the same, prosaic rather than penetrating.

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