Collision Course (1989) – A Review

Jay Leno Pat Morita Collision Course 1989 cop buddy movie
Collision Course

A Japanese engineer goes to Detroit to sell plans for a top secret car part. It can potentially revolutionize the car industry. However, the deal goes south and he ends up dead. Brash Detroit cop Tony Costas (Jay Leno) has an interest in the case since his nightwatchmen buddy has become a dead victim to this crime. He wants to know who killed his pal and why.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo police assign Investigator Fujitsuka Natsuo (Pat Morita) to the case. Now it’s East meets West as Costas and Natsuo have to work together and try to overcome not only cultural differences but also their much different approaches to police work.

It stinks.

There’s really not much to say about this movie – which I had never, ever planned on watching in my life. But you know how it is, you’re doing some exercise, doing some cleaning, you’re not being that picky about what’s on the tube. Oh a Pat Morita/Jay Leno cop movie, sure let’s put it on. And it was embarrassingly bad, as I fully expected.

The thing I most took away from this flick was reflecting back how popular the ‘cop buddy movie’ was in the 1980’s. It was the go-to genre. Those of us who were around saw a barrage of every kind of combination of cop partners annoying, arguing, shooting, arresting and sharing a smile in the end that anyone could dream up. They milked that concept cow for all that it was worth back then.

So I guess it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see the pairing of Leno and Morita right. Who are you kidding? I remember seeing commercials for this when it finally got released and even back then me and my friends were confused by the idea and wondered who came up this pairing. The whole movie looked bad then and age has only made the phrase ‘Leno and Morita as cops’ even more goofy and surreal sounding.

It’s sorta like a bizarre ancient artifact you find buried deep in the sand that would never have been created in our time but somehow way back in 1989 seemed like a good investment to someone, somehow.

Pat Morita Jay Leno Collision Course 1989 cop buddy movie

Actually I read this movie was filmed in 1986, sat around for acouple of years until it was finally released in 1989. So even when it opened it was still an antiquated idea!

But the whole movie is one that you can probably envision without the benefit of a trailer. Leno and Morita take an instant disliking to one another. Subsequently they each show to the other one that they’re pretty good at their cop jobs and have some skills as they go around to bars and apartments following clues.

There’s some forced comedy regarding Morita’s unfamiliarity with the American culture. There’s the expected jokes about Japanese bowing and pronunciation. Racial jokes that was already decades old. Between that stuff they investigate and the trail leads to the big bad guy played by Chris Sarandon.

As they face off with henchman Tom Noonan there are shootouts and scenes that are meant to be exciting and tension-filled with a sprinkling of one-liners and comedy – that all fails miserably. Then heading to the climax more shootouts in a warehouse filled with bad guys, another henchman Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb is among them.

Things really pick up when Leno and Morita move from a motorcycle to a souped up car and get chased all around town. Cars bang into empty crates, bystanders jump out of the way, leaves of lettuce get tossed onto the windshield, some slo-mo crashes.

Jay Leno Pat Morita Collision Course cop comedy 1989

I have to admit some of the chase stuff with the cheesy 80’s music blasting on the soundtrack is amusing to watch unfold in a terrible bad movie kind of way. And when things take a dramatic turn and it looks like our two heroes might actually be killed – they’re sweaty, bloody, hurt and Sarandon looks to be in an unbeatable position – is downright hysterical. I fully admit I was enjoying a hearty laugh watching them try to sell the drama and the way Sarandon is defeated…it is one memorable scene.

To wrap things up we get the inevitable final airport scene – you know what it is – Morita flies back to Japan, Leno says goodbye – is a nice cherry on top of this cliched piece of junk. It’s eerily similar to the ending of Black Rain.

This is not a good movie. It is a fun time capsule of what an action comedy once was. It’s amazing to think how someone thought up pairing stand-up comedian and Doritos pitchman Jay Leno and Morita as cop partners. I’d love to read a detailed history of how this flick all came about.

So if you’re expecting anything good don’t watch, but if you have the hankering for some really bad 80’s cinema you’ll get your full with this flick. At the very least I’d recommend checking out the last fifteen minutes of the climactic action just for the unintended comedy it provides. It’s funnier than any of the actual jokes in this movie.

“Two lawman as different as hot dogs and sushi…”
What a terrific tagline!


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1 Response

  1. spaceodds says:

    Never heard of this film until I've read your post. It does sound pretty awful. However I find it ironic that this film came out the same year when Black Rain was released. In case you haven't seen it, Black Rain is a cop thriller directed by Ridley Scott and starring Michael Douglas as a disgraced NY cop who, along with Andy Garcia, transport a Yakauza memeber back to Japan to face trial. Only he escapes. Black Rain also contains culture clashes, scenes of difference… However I imagine it's better than this tripe.

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