Written by: Carroll Jenkins on December 10th, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1993
Director: Larry Ferguson
Writer: Larry Ferguson
Cast: Charlie Sheen, Linda Fiorentino, Michael Madsen, Courtney B. Vance, Leon Rippy, Dennis Burkley, Rip Torn
DVD Release Date: August 14th, 2001
Approximate Running Time: 108 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterboxed Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Lions Gate
Region Encoding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $9.98
Synopsis: A cop is driven by his inner demons to go deep undercover to infiltrate an outlaw motorcycle gang that distributes drugs and illegal guns.
This is a must-see movie on many levels, the first being that it’s based on a true story. The names have been changed, and most likely the story has been embellished in typical Hollywood fashion. After all, it is mighty hard to believe that a boy was locked in an old bomb shelter in the middle of the desert handcuffed to a chair and beaten every day for 3 years by his policeman stepfather still dressed in full-blown C.H.I.P.S regalia. This back-story is a focal point of the movie using the trauma to increase the dramatic impact and to excuse our protagonist hero from his excessive behavior while undercover (along with the very real possibility of imminent death).
Another likely fabrication is the character of Virgil, a Harley Davidson mechanic whom the bikers tolerate because he’s useful. He serves to indoctrinate the cop and the audience into both the outlaw biker and Harley Davidson motorcycle cultures. His character functions as sort of Greek chorus [Virgil, get it?] to help punctuate and emphasize the developments as they unfold. As played by Leon Rippy (Universal Soldier, Star Trek TNG), he provides the primary comic relief as well. The romantic interest presented by Linda Fiorentino seems more than a bit contrived; she had a similar token love interest role in Men In Black, but her presence does add an element of hope to the rather grim proceedings that dominate the second half.
Rip Torn is excellent as mentor to Sheen and Dennis Burkley essentially reprises his biker character from Mask (Dozer there, Oatmeal here). The best character actor performance in the film is by Charlie Sheen. Yes, in the brief romantic comedy situations his performance is practically a carbon copy of that from Men At Work, but he is quite effective portraying a conflicted biker. He’s also quite convincing being stoned out of his mind.
The best performance award must go unquestionably to Michael Madsen (Kill Bill, Hell Ride) in the role of Blood, president of the Jackals MC. He follows in the footsteps of Adam Roarke, Dennis Hopper, Jeremy Slate, and William Smith as a believably badass bastard ‘leader of the pack’.
There have been other international releases of various versions and differing lengths, but the Region 1 DVD is a very old Lions Gate release from the turn of the century (2001). Too bad it’s still in print because what we need here is a new edition with subtitles and a modern transfer from the best and most complete available source. Better still, a Director’s cut version, please.
This film obviously served as a blueprint for Donnie Brasco (also with Michael Madsen), and though it shares a very similar plot to Stone Cold, that was a rather shallow action oriented vehicle that pales in comparison. Writer / director Larry Ferguson brings all the intricacies together in one of the finest examples of an outlaw biker epic ever made.