“Terror in Beverly Hills”

terror in beverly hillsYou know what you’re in for very early on with “Terror in Beverly Hills.” Not only does the name “Frank Stallone” appear almost immediately on screen, but the rest of the credits unspool while Palestinian terrorist mastermind Abdul runs his daily errands. He reads a newspaper, he goes to a shop, and he visits his local mosque. No dialogue, no action, just a man going about his business at a leisurely pace. When he finally boards a jet for the United States, you wonder if you’re going to watch him sit through the entire 14-hour flight.

Mercifully, we don’t. But it would be hard to imagine that flight being any less interesting than what we do get. “Terror in Beverly Hills” is an action movie with almost no action, and everything else is so bad that you’re praying for someone to fall over a railing. Abdul and his cohort Mohammed are traveling to Los Angeles, where their plan is to kidnap the president’s daughter. Standing in their way is the LAPD, portrayed in this film as about a half-dozen patrolmen and Cameron Mitchell constantly complaining about his pension.

But hold on a minute, you might be saying, isn’t Frank Stallone in this movie? Shouldn’t he be the hero of this picture? Yes he is, and no he isn’t. Frank plays Hack Stone, a former Marine counterterrorist specialist who now teaches karate to cops. I image they came up with “Hack Stone” by asking a three-year-old to pronounce Frank’s name. Hack and Abdul used to be partners and best friends, but Abdul went over to the dark side after an insurgent Hack showed mercy to killed Abdul’s wife and son. This gets you thinking Hack and Abdul are going to spend the rest of the movie playing a deadly game of cat-and-mouse, but you’d be wrong.

In fact, after appearing early on to deliver that bit of backstory, it takes Hack until one hour and five minutes into the movie to finally get involved in the operation to save the president’s daughter. The movie is one hour and 35 minutes long. As soon as Hack arrives on the scene, his wife and son are kidnapped by the terrorists, just so he can argue with Cameron Mitchell a little bit before going to work. Imagine “Die Hard” if John McClane waited until after Hans Gruber blew up the roof to come out of the executive bathroom. That would still be a better movie, because at least you’d have Alan Rickman.

Even without broken glass in his feet, though, Hack is a lousy hero. Late in the film, the president’s daughter manages to break free of Abdul while Hack has a gun on him. Inexplicably, Hack just stands there while Abdul catches up to her and grabs her once again! Hack doesn’t even have anything to do with how the whole situation ends. Abdul dives out a window and is immediately gunned down by the LAPD, who I guess were on standing orders to instantly kill anyone who stepped out of the building.

“Terror in Beverly Hills” has so many baffling script choices it’s hard to know where to begin describing them all. Despite the title, most of the movie takes place in a rundown location referred to as “the old bean factory.” They could have called it anything. Why a “bean factory?” The California Bean Growers’ Association is thanked in the credits, so perhaps there were some promotional considerations involved? Hack tells Abdul “no cause is worth dying for,” which is an odd thing for a member of the armed services to believe, in my opinion. Dying for a cause is kind of in the job description, isn’t it?

I will give the movie credit for featuring one of my favorite bad-movie elements – a script that has a nine-year-old’s understanding of grown-up jobs. A TV reporter tells his cameraperson to “make sure you focus on those guys.” A police dispatcher says, “Paramedics, go!” and “Return to home base!” The TV reporter is also the anchorman, and he leaves the studio in the middle of the broadcast to report on-site.

It’s in these moments alone that “Terror in Beverly Hills” becomes worth watching. But those moments are few and far between. The movie just lacks the type of energy and earnestness that makes something like “Miami Connection” a bizarro classic. There’s far too much hiding out in bean factories and creeping around hallways. I didn’t think I’d be in a position to say this, but do you know what this movie could have used more of? You guessed it, Frank Stallone. Let’s run this movie up the Schlock Index:

Blood – All of the violence is badly staged, with a lot of guys being shot through doors so they don’t have to use squibs. Stallone is supposed to be karate expert, but the only time we see his character use karate he’s wearing a full face mask for “protection.” Very convincing, Frank. 2/5

Breasts – There’s the prerequisite amount of nudity for a 1980s action flick, including a scene set at a strip club that serves no purpose. Bonus points are awarded for featuring two topless ladies sunbathing in the bed of a moving pickup truck. This actually does serve a purpose, as they are the reason the LAPD helicopter loses sight of the terrorists’ limo on the freeway. 4/5

Beasts – None to speak of, unless you want to count Frank’s hair. It kind of looks like he’s wearing one of those Russian fur hats with the flaps. 1/5

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