Before SWAT, Hawaii Five-O, MacGuyver, Lethal Weapon, and Magnum P.I. were remade as television dramas, studios seemed fascinated with remaking old television shows into slightly more offbeat films. In between films like I, Spy, and later films like The A-Team and 21 Jump Street, Starsky & Hutch took the old 1970s buddy cop show and twisted it, hard. Thanks to Warner Archive Collection, the Blu-ray allows audiences to dive back into a world where Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are crime-stopping cops… sometimes.
Stiller plays straight-laced detective David Starsky and Wilson plays his new (criminally-infused) partner Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson. The two of them have completely different takes on how to combat crime, from opposite ends of the spectrum which might not even be in the same book of police procedural. Starsky is all rules and no nonsense, shoot first and write a report later; Hutch wants to soften every blow and maybe even make a little extra money on the way. But they’re still driving around in the red and white Gran Torino.
Tracking crime in fictional Bay City, Starsky and Hutch end up on the trail of crime boss and cocaine dealer Reese Feldman (Vince Vaughn), whose politeness and violence comically clash. Feldman is pushing “New Coke,” a tasteless and odorless version of cocaine developed by Kevin Justsum (Jason Bateman). Snoop Dogg gets involved as informant Huggy Bear, while some peripheral characters have had bigger roles since and provide some spice on the side, like Chris Penn, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, Amy Smart, Carmen Elektra, Juliette Lewis, and … Will Ferrell.
Todd Philips, the writer and director who connects the dots here, was fresh off his Old School success, prior to his run with Borat, The Hangover films, and Due Date. But while the characters are ripped from the 1970s original and the film is set in the 1970s, this has a completely Philipsian feel, mashing the ridiculous and the mundane, the absolutely hilarious and the deeper-than-expected heart. Don’t expect to get any huge life lessons out of this one, but the overall package is significantly more than the sum of its parts.
Did I mention there’s a classic Gran Torino?