1982 - 97m.
If you've ever wondered why Wings Hauser has the cult following he does these days then all you have to do is watch Vice Squad and fully immerse yourself into the sleazy, often batshit crazy, world of Ramrod. A combination of police procedural, exploitation, over-the-top camp and a few earnest moments; Vice Squad would have been a grand slice of the 80's world of the Hollywood strip but it's given that extra boost (or blast of cocaine if we're to fully immerse ourselves in the decade) by Hauser doing what Hauser seems to do best - steal every damn scene he's in.
The opening credits give us a glimpse into the rough side of Hollywood as a raucous punk tune plays on in the background. It's a smorgasbord of drugs, homelessness, prostitution and deadly vices. It's the kind of place where the police do their best to contain the anarchy bubbling beneath the surface. It's in this boiling pot that 'Princess' (Season Hubley) is a regular. After she tearfully sends her young daughter away on a bus this struggling single mother hits the streets becoming a highly in demand hooker who's not above humouring her johns weird fetishes. This, of course, gives director Gary A. Sherman the chance to deliver an awesomely grotesque scene where one of them propositions her for golden showers (and the amazing line "I've got a six-pack and a hundred dollars...") and pepper in some set pieces involving toe sucking and a mock wedding.
As if being a hooker wasn't bad enough, Princess soon runs afoul of the cowboy garbed pimp Ramrod (Hauser) who, as shown with a whole lot of misogyny and wire hangers, has just beaten and raped her prostitute friend Ginger (Nina Blackwood). Into the picture comes Detective Walsh (Gary Swanson) and he soon recruits her to help stop Ramrod and his psychotic streak only for things to soon go wrong when, after being brought in with her assistance, he manages to escape police custody to go after some good, old fashioned, bloody revenge.
Vice Squad is a complete product of its decade. The 80's was all about abundance and that's what we get here. Sherman has crafted a highly entertaining action flick that pummels its way through 97 minutes due to a giant helping of grunge, such memorable moments like Walsh setting up a sting that contains mild suspense and an awesome Hauser freak out, a karate kicking hotel clerk who makes Bruce Lee jokes, and a final third so nutty it has to be seen to be believed. And all of this is even before I mention that the catchy ditty playing over the opening and closing credits (entitled "Neon Slime") also happens to be sung by Wings himself!
Hubley, a familiar TV face who co-starred with George C. Scott in Paul Schrader's difficult-to-watch 1979 gem Hardcore, alternates between being a victim and smirking at her clients and she has some good interplay with Swanson's solid and believable enough detective. Blackwood is dished out some brutal abuse that I'd (jokingly) like to think is punishment for being one of the original MTV "vee-jays". This brings me to Wings. His Ramrod is probably the most memorable, and menacing, villain of ANY 80's action thriller. He gives off this odd charm at times but we just always have the feeling he's likely to snap at any moment. It's definitely his career role and when you consider he'd spend most of the time following this in such generically titled flicks like Deadly Force and L.A. Bounty (co-starring Sybil Danning!) playing one form or another of a cop - apart from his campy turn in the 1989 slasher The Carpenter - it makes it all the more impressive. He's the kind of guy you can easily hiss at every time he's on screen.
Also being partially responsible for the memorable and entertaining 80's efforts Angel, The Boys Next Door and Blue Monkey producer/co-writer Sandy Howard would try and dip back into the Hollywood sleaze pit with Penelope (The Decline of the Western Civilization, Suburbia) Spheeris' similarly titled Hollywood Vice Squad with less success. In fact, before revisiting Vice Squad here, I even got the two of them confused at times. It's also worth noting that co-scripter Robert Vincent O'Neill would make the aforementioned Angel after this - and for that I thank him wholeheartedly! (Chris Hartley, 7/21/15)
Directed By: Gary A. Sherman.
Written By: Sandy Howard, Kenneth Peters, Robert Vincent O'Neill.
Starring: Season Hubley, Gary Swanson, Wings Hauser, Pepe Serna.