It may be hard to believe, but in the 1980s Jay Leno was one of the top comedians in the world, carving his path to fame with his insightful and pretty damn edgy material. His increasing popularity led to him becoming the guest host for NBC's The Tonight Show in 1987, filling in for the legendary Johnny Carson in a highly coveted role. This led to him vastly toning down his act to fit in with Carson's audience, and this led to his star rising even higher as he now crossed over to numerous audiences. He scored a huge Dortios endorsement deal in the late 80s, which was one of the biggest advertising campaigns at the time so he was EVERYWHERE.
Naturally, the suits that run Hollywood wanted to capitalize on him as much as possible so they went digging and found an unfinished movie Leno had filmed in 1986 that ran out of money on the very last day of shooting. Figuring that'd easily make a quick buck, they turfed it out to some poor interns for editing and post production and unleashed it upon the world in 1989. Jay himself has gone on record numerous times about his dislike for the movie, going as far to call it “horrible”.
Does Jay Leno deliver a convincing performance as an action star? Is this a lost gem of the buddy cop genre? Or is this a stereotype filled horror show that paved the way for the Rush Hour franchise? Let's find out with A Ghoul Versus Jay Leno's Collision Course!
We open with Leno driving down the streets of Detroit in his 1959 Corvette, listening to the Eightiest Song That Ever Eightied. At a stoplight, a muscle car pulls up to him with its passengers blasting some “cool” music on their radio. Leno tries to tune his radio to the same station but can't find it. He asks them which station they're listening to, and they tell him he can't get it because it's a “black station” and burst out laughing. Cos they're black! ….that's funny, right?
At least I think that's what they said, the director of this movie thought it'd be a great idea to place the microphone into the car's engine block to record sound. I'll do my best to transcribe the rest of this scene:
“Tesfjskg skdjgsdka sdj frequency?”“Rcvdsjd jsidgsdk!”
“Hey, how about a slice of that pizza?” (they're eating pizza in the muscle car)
"Wsfdjgsdjk expensive gsktjdf sggsk!”
“Tell ya what, why don't I sdjksj sdkjgseirj sidjgkd?”
“Vfsdkr skjsdft for?”
“Ah, I'll put up twenty bucks! Ten bucks for sdkgjsd jgkdsj and ten bucks for sdklg dpfdrots there!”
“Yeah, but you gotta spot me a couple of lengths here. Tjdsklgjsd skjgsdi js-”
“Qtjkg dkg jiesi!”
“Cjbfslk rejsgs lkdsf!”
All this means they're racing for the pizza and some money, I guess? I am so not joking about this being impossible to understand. The race is broken up by a cop car who pulls over Leno. He GETS OUT OF THE CAR and walks up to the police, who promptly don't pull out their billy clubs and beat him to death. Not even five minutes into this movie yet and my suspension of disbelief is already shattered.
He reveals to the cops he's an undercover detective and starts going off on them for ruining a bust he's been working on for six months. At least I'm pretty sure that's what he said. Leno has this habit when his character gets excited, he starts talking faster than that Micro Machines guy on speed. Leno threatens to report the officers, then notices one of them just happens to be an attractive young woman after checking out her body with all the class of a sex offender. He takes her phone number, and suddenly she's all smiles and into him. Sigh, this is gonna be a long movie. We cut to the Tokyo Police Industrial Espionage Division in Japan, which I highly question if it's really a thing. We meet our co-star, Pat Morita- Waitaminute, what's he doing back in Japan?! Doesn't he know Sato is going to try to kill him now that he's returned?
You ever notice how messed up the Karate Kid II is? It's like Sato and Miyagi were best friends their whole life until Miyagi tried to marry the woman that Sato was arranged-to-be married to. Miyagi and the woman were deeply in love, whereas Sato didn't know her from Eve. But this dishonoured Sato, so he challenges Miyagi to a fight to the death. Miyagi leaves the country rather than fight his best friend. Decades go by, and Sato becomes this massive multi-billionaire who owns like half of Japan. But the SECOND Miyagi returns Sato's ready to give all that up and try to kill him over a woman HE DIDN'T EVEN END UP MARRYING! Oh, hold on. I'm supposed to be reviewing Collision Course, aren't I? Sorry, the first six minutes are so bad I instantly started thinking about better movies.
Morita meets with his commander, who is played by Soon-Tek Oh. He's one of those “Hey, It's That Guy!” actors whom I most remember from a made for TV movie called The Master. It was actually made from the first two episodes of a TV show of the same name, starring Lee Van Cleef as a FREAKING NINJA and Timothy Van Patten- ah dammit, I'm doing it again.
So Morita's commander introduces him to the head of Kodama Motors, who wants the Espionage Division to find their chief engineer Oshima, who has stolen a “top secret turbo charger prototype” and fled to Detroit. The executive asks Morita how his English is, and he replies it's “adequate”. Morita tries to crack a joke about how he wishes he was going to Hawaii instead of Detroit, and- no wait, that's the entire joke. Morita is kind of a bumbling idiot in this movie, so I'm wondering if Soon-Tek Oh isn't in on the theft and is having Morita put on the case because he knows he won't solve it.
Speaking of Oshima, he arrives at a junkyard in Detroit to meet with someone named Madras but instead walks into an ambush led by Tom Noonan and Randall Cobb. While Cobb is playing a stupid thug for the millionth time in his career, Noonan is WAY TOO GOOD to be in this movie. The same year he played Frances Dollarhyde in the excellent Manhunter for crying out loud!
Cobb knocks out Oshima with the Most Unconvincing Headbutt Ever Captured on Camera. He takes his belt off and Oh God what kind of movie is this?! Oh wait, he's just using his belt to tie up Oshima's legs so they can hang him from a crane. They threaten to drop him unless he tells them where the prototype is, but he dies of the Most Unconvincing Heart Attack Ever Captured on Camera. Their boss Madras appears, telling them to do whatever they can to find the prototype. Madras also might be John Oates of Hall And Oates. Guess that “Out of Touch” money couldn't last forever.
The idiots put Oshima's body into a car crusher to get rid of it, despite the fact there's a nice lake right next to them. Naturally this alerts the guard on duty, but Noonan shoots him with a... flare gun? No, that's a gun. He must have modded it to fire mini rockets or something. Either that or the guard was trying to transform into Captain Marvel before he got shot. If you've been paying attention, Oates and his crew just killed two men over a freaking CAR PART. Compelling!
Morita arrives in Detroit, hailing a taxi to go to the Riverside Hotel to see a “friend of his”. I was really hoping he was kidding about his English being adequate, but he was lying. It's Godawful. I'm just going to be honest here, half this movie is impossible to understand between his “I Don't Give A DAMN Just Give Me My Paycheck” acting and horrible audio tracking. I was just complaining about how hard the dialogue in the last two Prophecy movies was to understand, this makes them look like Glengarry Glen Ross in comparison.
We catch up to Leno and his partner Ernie Hudson- Ernie Hudson's in this too?! From Ghostbusters to this, really? That is just sad. What was everyone else from that movie up to in 1986?
-Bill Murray, Little Shop of Horrors. YIKES. Okay, maybe 1986 was a cursed year for great actors.-Dan Aykroyd, working on getting the AWESOME Ghostbusters cartoon out. That's more like it.
-Harold Ramis, helping to write Back to School. Hilarious movie, we're doing better now.
-Sigourney Weaver, ALIENS. BOOM HEADSHOT!
Leno and Hudson break into the apartment of a wanted criminal, using a battering ram to bust down the door. They find a lady inside watching three TVs, causing Leno to quip they must be a Nielsen family. In all fairness, that's same joke I would have made. The criminal pulls a shotgun on Leno, Hudson pulling his gun on the criminal for a little face off. Leno tells Hudson to show him the warrant, but Hudson reveals he forgot it. The guy starts laughing and surrenders since this will be a nice lawsuit for it, so he lets Leno handcuff him. As Leno does, they show him they had the warrant all along. HA! That was actually clever, so I'm going to assume it was all Hudson's idea. Leno's police chief arrives on the scene, played by the eternally typecast John Hancock as Angry Black Police Chief.
Hancock tells Leno about the dead guard at the junkyard, who was Leno's friend Mack. He warns Leno not to get involved so Leno immediately gets involved. Leno and Hudson go to see Mack's body. The officer on duty tells them he was shot with a “Gyrojet Rocket Gun”, which is a 100% real thing it turns out. They actually do fire mini rockets, which is BAD ASS. Another cop asks if Leno “saw the Jap”- Oh Good God. Yeah, get ready for this folks. This movie is about as progressive as a 1940s Propaganda Poster when it comes to the Japanese. From here on out, every chance they can get to use a racial slur directed against the Japanese they cram it in there. This is absolutely vile, especially by 1986 when people REALLY knew better. Or should have...
Leno and Hudson look at Oshima's body, Leno finding a key card for the Riverside Hotel, which is where our next scene takes place. Morita uses some kind of electronic device to hack into the key card protected lock on Oshima's room, and here we have one of the biggest plot holes in the film. Not why Morita's character is all of a sudden intelligent, but how did he know where Oshima was staying? He comes to Detroit and immediately knows where he is. I know it's stupid to bitch about any kind of logic in a Straight to Video movie starring freaking Jay Leno, but this really bugged me.
Oshima's room is trashed, as the idiots must have already been here. Morita finds a roll of film in a chair that he pockets, as well as finding the blueprints for the turbocharger just lying on the floor. You think that would have been good enough for the idiots as they could just use these to build a new one, but then I guess we wouldn't have a movie if they thought this way.
Morita hides when he hears Leno entering. Leno finds nothing, faking leaving the room to draw Morita out. Dammit, Leno's character is pretty smart in this movie. Leno draws his gun on Morita and says “Hey hey, we're the Monkees!” Uh... okay? Actually I did some research, and 1986 was the twentieth anniversary of the Monkees and they were EVERYWHERE at the time. They had a hugely popular reunion tour, their music was back on the charts, and their TV show was getting rerun day and night, so this joke probably was funny back then. Well, funnier at least.
But not now. This is why you don't put pop culture references in your movie kids, no one's going to get them years later. Feel free to insert a TOTALLY unrelated photo of Mike Myers here if you'd like. Leno tries to handcuff Morita but he escapes and the chase scene is on! Leno, once again, displays how pretty damn smart he is and outwits Morita to capture him. I really wanted to go into this seeing Leno acting as stupid as a Kevin James movie, but he's really disappointing me by being a very capable cop. I mean he's still sexist and racist as all hell, but still...
They arrive at the police station so Leno can process Morita, and I'm left wondering why hasn't Morita just told Leno he's a freaking cop? For that matter, why wouldn't Morita's boss have called Detroit to give them a heads up? Maybe Soon-Tek Oh isn't a criminal mastermind and is just stupid. Hmm... based off what we've seen so far I'm going with that.
Hancock yells at Leno for not listening to him while Dingman interrogates Morita. Probably sick and tired of the nonstop Asian bashing going on here, Morita finally reveals he's a cop just to get them to shut up. Oh calls to speak with Morita, as they talk on the phone Leno uses this as an excuse to get in on the oh so hilarious racist jokes everyone else has been making. He pretends they're talking about Godzilla attacking the city. God, I wish Godzilla was in this movie. Although by the look of Detroit, maybe he already was.
Oh orders Morita back to Japan for being a screw up, but Morita pretends they have a bad connection and hangs up. Morita tells the cops Oshima embezzled money for a business and he's here to make him return it instead of telling them the truth. Why? I guess because Oh told him to keep it a secret, but I don't know... this is one of those movies where if they used common sense they could have avoided so many problems.
Leno gets fed up with all this and leaves the office. He talks to Hudson, telling him he doesn't believe Morita's story because what man with a ton of stolen money would come to Detroit for fun? DEFINITELY got to give Leno that one. Hudson does some research on Oshima while Leno tails Morita. Leno gets to a stalkin', following Morita to a one hour photo booth where Morita has that film developed that he found earlier. Leno tries to hit on the young woman working the counter, but she SHUTS HIS ASS DOWN. Best character in the movie, hands down. He tries to get the photos but they won't be ready for an hour. We then learn Leno isn't that great of a cop after all, as he SUCKS at stalking. His idea of following someone is walking right behind them in plain sight apparently. Morita is easily able to lose him.
We cut to a press conference, where car mogul Derek Jarryd is announcing his latest car: the Starburst. He says it's going to make his company in the world thanks to a “top secret discovery”. Jarryd is played by Dennis Holahan, who was the banker in the movie Scarface. The whole time he's on screen I find myself wishing this was Godzilla Vs. Scarface. Or maybe Scarface 2: Enter Godzilla, where Tony would have survived the shootout at the end and gone to get revenge on Sosa. It'd be worth it just for Tony to go “Say hello to my little friend!” and have Godzilla pop up and step on Sosa.
Back to the movie, Jarryd goes to meet with Oates. He's upset that Oshima was killed and says their partnership is over, but Oates pulls a gun on him and says that HE'S in charge now. He has Noonan stick very close to Jarryd to make sure he doesn't change his mind. I just can't get into any of this. All of this is over a car part! Not a NOC List or microfilm or an alien artifact, but something to make cars go vroom vroom faster. Morita picks the film up, Leno hiding there to follow him again. This is kind of weird because wouldn't have Leno looked at the film when it was ready? It's like this movie has the pieces but just can't put them together right. Morita breaks into Jarryd Motors thanks to Jarryd hiring his security guards from The Two Dumb Guys Company.
Naturally, Morita discovers the Sunburst's engine matches that of the blueprints he found earlier. What the film doesn't tells us is how Morita knew Jarryd Motors was the place to go. Sure, he could have seen the press conference but once again it comes off as him knowing stuff he really should have no way of knowing. Leno arrives to arrest him, thinking he's a spy of some sort. Morita offers to help him find the man who killed Mack, but Leno ignores this. On their way back to the police station AGAIN, they witness a robbery. Morita taking out the mugger convinces Leno to give him a chance.
Leno takes Morita back to his apartment, which is an absolute pit. They proceed to get hammered on whiskey and I'm HORRIFIED at Morita's acting in this scene. This is the same man who was rightfully nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the Karate Kid? Speaking of which, they blatantly rip off his “Banzai!” toast scene from that movie only with Leno standing in for Daniel-san. Which is actually an improvement I suppose, because it takes away Morita giving booze to a minor.
It's funny though, in that movie Morita was drunk but you could still understand him. Here, he might as well be speaking in tongues. Maybe he was so depressed that he was in this movie he got drunk for realsies, I don't know. We soon find out Leno is getting him drunk on purpose so he'll tell him the truth about what he's doing in Detroit, even taking out a tape recorder to tape him. But what good is that going to do when Morita is all “Mhkfdjpidf dfjsspv jhdfpa mnnsoojsd!” However, this is pointless as Morita passes out face first into an old KFC box, the soundtrack playing a “GONG!” sound effect as he does. This is the worst movie I've reviewed yet, Man Of Steel hand in your crown. Well, maybe not... let's go with that was the worst SCENE I've reviewed yet. It's sad when Leno isn't even the WORST ACTOR in a scene.
The next morning Leno wakes up to his apartment now completely spotless, finding Morita washing his dishes. He tells Leno he wants to go to an auto show. As they drive, we get the movie's most WTF scene. They're driving through a particularly run down neighbourhood of Detroit, Leno telling Morita it used to be really nice until Japan started selling “tin can cars” and taking away the jobs here. Morita laughs, saying this is why Leno doesn't like him because he blames all the Japanese people for the state of Detroit. Leno replies with:
“I don't blame all Japanese, I just blame YOU.”“Huh?”
“Blame yourself for getting fat and letting it happen.”
End scene. Not played for comedy at all. I don't even know what to say here, the only thing I can think is this was one of the scenes they ran out of money for and couldn't finish, so they just had to edit together whatever they had. Maybe Leno was still drunk from the previous scene, all I know is I really really want this to be over already.
At the auto show, Leno sees a model and tries to hit on her because that's all he knows how to do. Like my hero Film Girl, she also blows Leno off. This is funny, but it really throws the scene at the beginning of the movie into sharp contrast. The cop Leno hit on should have ALSO rejected him, because it creates a funny running gag of Leno always getting shut down by all the women he hits on, and then at the end when he hits on one she says yes and he's all surprised. But you can't really expect this movie to do the basics of anything right I suppose.
Morita talks to Jarryd, saying Oshima was his business partner. Jarryd gets nervous and plays dumb as to who that is, Noonan stepping in to talk to Morita. Morita introduces himself as “Dwayne Johnson” ...who probably is in talks to star in a remake of this movie with Jet Li co-starring. Morita leaves after sharing an awkward handshake with Noonan, Leno telling him “nice going DWAYNE” despite the fact he was nowhere near Morita to have heard him use that name. Unless it's something they cooked up earlier and why am I trying to rationalize this movie? Morita points out how out out of place Noonan seems, so they follow him as he drives away. Of course since it's Leno they follow RIGHT behind him. As they do, Leno calls the police station to run Noonan's plates but they find he has no record and only a P.O. Box address. Remember this for later.
They follow him to a bowling alley, where everyone starts making racist jokes at Morita. You stay classy Collision Course! We then go back to WTF Territory, as a group of meathead looking bowlers start arguing with him about fair trade and Japan flooding the market with underpriced microchips. What? I think the joke here is we're supposed to laugh because the bowlers look stupid and shouldn't be talking that smart, but I'm more mystified by the fact they're holding Morita responsible for all the actions of Japan.
But we're not done yet. Noonan and Cobb appear, backed by a legion of cronies. They go to grab Morita, but the bowlers stop them saying “every American should be an ambassador of good will”. So what was with JUST being complete racist assholes to Morita? Whatever the hell is going on here leads to a massive fight set to another glorious Eighties tune. You know the drill, a whole bunch of punching mixed with “funny” slapstick that ends with Noonan escaping. Morita tells Leno he now trusts him, and tells him everything. It's way way WAY too late for any of us still watching to care, Pat.
Leno calls Hudson, who tells him Noonan has a record so bad that he's done everything except “rape Bambi”. He also gives him Noon's address... um, so how come earlier Noonan had a clean record and no address? Was the cop Leno called earlier too lazy to look stuff up so they just made something up? Or were the screenwriters too depressed they were writing a Jay Leno buddy cop movie they just didn't care?
They break into Noonan's house, finding more guns in there than a Call of Duty game. Noonan arrives, sees them inside and calls Oates for instructions, Oates tells him to kill them. Searching the house, Morita finds the Gyrojet Gun used to kill Mack. They look out the window and see Noonan aiming a rocket launcher at them, which is pretty stupid because he likely could have snuck in and killed them without blowing up his own house. But this is an idiotic action movie, so... explosions!
Leno and Morita escape in time, Noonan chasing after them with the legendary Shotgun of Infinite Ammo. They engage in a firefight until Leno finally takes Noonan out with a grenade Morita found in the house. We're a little over an hour into the movie by this point, but it's felt like at least five. Days. This has gone from “Jay Leno was in a movie?! LULZ I gotta see that!” to “Wow, this is stupid” to “Wow, this is BAD” to “Call the UN, we have a war crime going on here”.
Leno and Morita search Noonan's car, finding his last call was to a free clinic. They go there, where they find Oates is giving a press conference about him donating money to the clinic for a new wing or something. Leno tells Morita that Oates is one of the most famous people in Detroit, but not for what. Like it matters. Leno walks up to Oates and calls him out for being crooked, going into Busta Rhymes mode and yelling at him in hyper speed. Oates has the cops drag Leno away, Leno oddly not bothering to pull his badge out to stop them. He must have forgot he was a cop. Back at the station, Hancock is REALLY pissed now. How pissed is he? Oh, I bet you can guess. Yep, “turn in your badge and gun”.
In the ONLY spot of the entire film I actually made any kind of sound similar to a laugh, Leno doesn't turn in his gun because he paid for it himself. Hancock quips “I doubt it!”. R.I.P. John Hancock, you were truly a master of your craft. But since he got rid of that cursed badge, surely Leno will be free now to solve the case! Dingman handcuffs Morita and takes him to a cell, but Leno slips him a lockpick and he easily escapes. The two jump into Leno's Corvette and take off, secretly being followed by Cobb. It's pretty bad when the dumb thug is better at cop stuff than the actual cop.
They go to a club/bar/restaurant to get something to eat. I guess they're in no hurry whatsoever and the cops have no interest in capturing a man so just escaped custody, so it's a great time to get some ribs! They FINALLY look at the photos Morita had developed (I guess they did briefly glance at them in Leno's apartment, but they were too busy getting drunk to care), finding nothing of interest. The club has a live band, and they're playing so loud it pretty much drowns out Leno and Morita's dialogue. I commend the band for doing this, they probably read the shooting script and knew they had to do everything in their power to try to save the audience from having to endure another painful line reading or racist joke.
Morita goes to dance with some of Leno's friends because an Eighties movie without a pointless dance scene is like cake without frosting. As Morita gets his groove on with a couple of lovely young ladies, Leno nails down our next cliché with the “hey I just noticed something that no one in the world EVER would notice” moment as he notices something in one of the photos links it to an auto shop in Detroit. Leno figures the prototype has to be hidden in there, so they head there. This is a strange scene as they break into the auto shop and the screen fades to black.
It was the middle of the night when they entered the shop, but in the next scene it's bright as day. Cobb is waiting outside, calling his boss. The mechanic of the shop enters, catching Leno and Morita searching the place. Maybe they were just searching for like eight hours? Oates arrives with his crew, and they're all heavily armed. The mechanic tells them Oshima rented one of the shop's bays to work on his rental car, everyone realizing that's where he must have hid the prototype.
Leno grabs one of Oates's goons, telling them he'll shoot if they don't drop their guns. The thugs look at each other and shrug, shooting their fellow thug multiple times when they could have EASILY shot Leno instead. Leno and Morita escape on a motorcycle, Morita making sure to put a helmet on Leno so we can't tell it's his stunt double driving. This leads to a very lame chase scene topped off with an Eighties song that tries its hardest to make the scene seem more exciting, but it fails.
Our heroes... no, that's not appropriate at all. Our stars make it to the rental shop first to find the car, which has just been rented to a little old lady. They jack the car from her just in time for Oates to arrive for ANOTHER chase scene. Luckily for us, this one is cut pretty short as Leno wrecks early on. He and Morita run down an alley, Oates managing to shoot Leno in the leg to stop him. Oates jumps back in his car and starts driving towards the two at full speed. Leno, who can't stand, tells Morita to leave him and run. Morita does just that, however he starts running TOWARDS Oates. Oh no, they're not... they wouldn't DARE...
Nope. They are. Ye Gods. Have you ever seen the Chuck Norris movie Good Guys Wear Black? It's one of his earlier movies, made way back in 1978 and oddly enough, also features Soon-Tek Oh. It would have been a long forgotten film, but it's managed to become legendary due to one specific scene: Chuck Norris runs at a car driving towards him and does a FLYING KICK THROUGH THE GODDAMN WINDSHIELD TO TAKE OUT THE DRIVER. This is so freaking awesome in a “I know this is beyond logistically stupid but I don't care because he just did a FLYING KICK THROUGH THE GODDAMN WINDSHIELD OF A CAR!” kind of way. The best kind of way, really.
So yeah. Morita does a flying kick through the car to take out Oates. Here, he uses both feet so it's like this awkward looking dropkick that's just nowhere near as cool because it looks SO BAD. Oates's car gets hit in the back by another car passing through the alley, Leno struggling to get up and drag Morita out of the car before it explodes. Why does it explode? COLLISION COURSE!
We FINALLY wrap this turkey up with Leno seeing Morita off at the airport. The blonde cop from the beginning shows up and gives Leno a bag, saying she could get in a lot of trouble for this. He assures her she won't, telling her to go back to the house and he'll call her later. Yikes. He hands Morita the bag and OH WOW it's the turbocharger. I NEVER EVER saw that coming! Was M. Night Shymalan one of the screenwriters for this movie? Have I used that joke yet? Morita goes to board his plane, Leno saying “see ya later, pal!” to which Morita replies “sayonara, my friend” and we end in a freeze frame shot of them both smiling. Awwww.....
Cue the credits Sweet Lord, cue the credits! Deniece Williams of Footloose fame gives us the closing song, “Back Together (Theme From Collision Course)”.
I don't care how morbidly curious you are about seeing Jay Leno in an action movie, DO NOT WATCH THIS! I don't even have anything to say after enduring it, I do believe I covered all of my thoughts on this movie in the actual review. There's nothing to redeem this movie, absolutely nothing. Not even Pat Morita ripping off Chuck Norris or... yeah, absolutely nothing. Until I review Transformers, consider this my textbook definition for "lowest common denominator".