This 1987 film was written and directed by Dennis Feldman. I don’t remember when I first saw it, but I’ve had it recorded on a VHS tape (yes, I still have a lot of those around) and rewatched it at least one bajillion times over the years. The premise, the characters, and everything else about this film is blatantly absurd, yet SOMEHOW it works.
Jim Belushi plays Nick Pirandello, a secret agent with the C.I.A. There’s an important meeting in Washington D.C. that he must attend in a week. This meeting was expected to be attended by another special agent, who was recently murdered. So Nick is instructed to kidnap a civilian named Bob Wilson, who just so happens to look exactly like the dead secret agent, and take him with to D.C. for this meeting. John Ritter plays Bob, a mild-mannered insurance agent, living with his wife Barbara (Isabella Hofmann) and two young children Bob Jr. (Matthew Brooks) and Heather (Mariah Dobson). We get a glimpse of Bob’s home life, and see that he’s not used to standing up for himself. When some neighborhood bullies steal Bob Jr.’s bike, Bob goes to confront them but just gets beaten up for his troubles. His life turns upside down when Nick shows up one night, and forces him at gunpoint to leave with him, and they are soon caught in a shootout with some Russian agents. It sounds dramatic, but the whole thing is played for laughs, and it works.
What follows is sort of a Buddy/Road Trip story, as Nick and Bob drive across the country, hoping to avoid the Russians, to get to D.C. in a week. Along the way a lot of absurdities happen, as they get caught in a couple of more shootouts with Russian agents, and at one point stop by Nick’s parents house to borrow a car, and meet Nick’s mother (played by Barbara Barrie) and Nick’s father, who has had a sex change operation and is now in the body of a voluptuous older woman (played by Dyanne Thorne) who tries to seduce Bob. All the while, Bob still keeps trying to get away from Nick and return home, until Nick finally reveals to him why their mission is so important and why he needs Bob to help him.
Some scientists have accidentally released some deadly chemicals into the Ocean which is going to wipe out all life on Earth in 5 years. The Government has been communicating with aliens, who have the means of stopping the effects of the chemicals, they call that “The Good Package” and they have arranged to meet with the aliens in a week in D.C., to make an exchange. The aliens will give us The Good Package, in exchange for one glass of water. The aliens are expecting the secret agent who was killed to be the person they meet with, which is why Nick has to find and bring Bob along, to take the agent’s place, since he looks just like him. If they don’t make it to the meeting point in time, or if someone other than the agent is there, the aliens will just leave, and the Earth is doomed. This all sounds totally insane to Bob, but Nick shows him proof of alien technology, and he is convinced. The problem is, both the Russian government and a faction of the C.I.A. have decided that instead of The Good Package, they want to ask the aliens for “The Big Gun”, which is a weapon powerful enough to destroy the world, which makes no sense to Bob, but that’s why they keep running into Russian agents who are trying to stop them.
Bob now realizes how serious the mission is, but still doesn’t think he’s right for it, so Nick lies to him and convinces him that he’s really a bad-ass top secret undercover agent himself. With this new knowledge, Bob becomes confident and starts beating up bad guys with unforseen fighting skills of his own. The highlight is when Nick and Bob are ambushed in an alley by a group of rogue C.I.A. agents who are dressed in clown suits and make-up. Then, later, Nick meets and falls in love with a dominatrix (Gail Barle), while Bob single-handedly stops a group of armed robbers, and then quits the mission and so Bob is left to finish it on his own. That’s all I’ll reveal, you’ll have to watch it yourself (& you should) to find out how it ends.
The whole film is, as I said, utterly absurd, but it works because it doesn’t take itself seriously, and is helped by the excellent chemistry between Belushi and Ritter, who display perfect comedic timing in their roles, especially in their banter with each other. The scene where they first meet in Bob’s house, as Bob keeps trying to attack Nick, whom he thinks is a crazy criminal, and then later when Nick convinces Bob that he’s a secret agent, are priceless. As is the scene where Nick explains his father’s sex change to Nick. A great action/comedy film with a little bit of science fiction thrown into it.
REAL MEN is available on DVD via AMAZON.