This Turkey For Hire

The Worst and Most Disappointing P.I. Films

Okay, I know they can’t all be The Maltese Falcon or Chinatown. But these flicks are so bad, so stupid and so poorly-conceived it makes you wonder…

Mind you, it also has to do with expectations. You don’t expect much from some straight-to-streaming or straight-to-DVD B-flick, but big money/big stars/big hype productions? Most of the following were actually released in theatres…

On purpose.

  • Shaft in Africa (1973, MGM)
  • Shaft (2000)
    It’s hard to say which film is worse. The misguided, clumsy — if well-intended — African pride of Shaft in Africa, the third Shaft flick, couldn’t hide a ridiculous plot or the often offensive stereotypes displayed towards women and various races and nationalities (including Africans), and completely missed out on the first two films’ dated but still vibrant gritty urban vibe and the “I’m Black and I’m Proud” big city swagger.
    But nobody really expected the original Shaft films to be more than entertaining B-films, done on the cheap. The much-hyped 2000 remake was a big-bucks affair, stacked with A-listers such as screenwriter Richard Price, actor Samuel Jackson and director John Singleton (all of whom I respect greatly). By all accounts, it should have rocked like a mother, and certainly expectations were high. But it was every bit as dumb, heavy-handed and inept as Shaft in Africa. When the dramatic high point of your film is a reprise of the almost thirty-year old theme from the original film (whose lyrics don’t even make sense anymore), you know you’re in big trouble.
    Sorta makes me wary of the next one, scheduled for 2019.
  • Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1973)
    Originally shot for German television, nobody was doing anybody any favours when this gobbler was subsequently released to theatres in North America. Sam Fuller’s reputation as a filmmaker would have taken a serious ding if more people had seen this one. Inept and amateurish, and done near the end of his career.
  • The Manchu Eagle Murder Caper Mystery (1975, Strathmore Productions)
    A movie even more stupid than its title.
  • Eight Million Ways to Die (1986)
    It’s a wonder co-screenwriter Oliver Stone ever worked again. What a waste of a great book. The hellish claustrophobia of Scudder’s NYC, awash in his own alcoholism and the ever-present violence that figured so prominently in Lawrence Block’s original novel is replaced by the meandering, sun-dappled LA daze of a pre-Lebowski slacker played by Jeff Bridges. Makes you wonder what the occasional haze in some of the shots actually was.
  • From Hollywood to Deadwood (1989)
    The cock-eyed allusion to a Neil Young song may have been the sole evidence of any intelligent life involved with this one, folks.
  • Living to Die (1991, Trinity)
    It doesn’t just STAR Wings Hauser — it was DIRECTED by him. Vanity movie-making at its most inept.
  • Raw Justice (1993)
    Starring David Keith and Pamela Anderson, but not all boobs involved in this one were in front of the cameras.
  • 8MM (1999, Columbia)
    Just a bad, awkward piece of film that was wasted on what could’ve been a solid P.I. premise. There’s a line between hard-boiled and sadistic. And this movie left that line laying bleeding and twitching in the street after half an hour, along with my brain. The neo-noir brigade probably loves it, but this just left a bad taste in my mouth.
  • Once Upon a Time in Venice (2017)
    A straight-to-streaming bit of cheese starring Bruce Willis; the cinematic equivalent of a self-published novel by an enthusiastic wannabe whose only reference point is other straight-to-streaming crime movies starring Bruce Willis. In this one Willis plays Venice beach P.I. Steve Ford on the hunt for his missing dog. Not even the prescence of John Goodman could save this one.

Okay, we’re just getting started on this one. Now that Sam Jackson, Bruce Willis and Oliver Stone will never invite me to their parties, feel free to contribute your own suggestions down below in the Comments section.

Respectfully (well) submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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