What do Nash Bridges, Christmas, puke, alcoholism and white supremacy have in common? If you say “America” you’re right, but you could also say Dead Bang. This 1989 actioner from genre mainstay John Frankenheimer – who would return to lay bullets to the holiday season again in 2000’s Reindeer Games – may not be the most iconic (Die Hard), nasty (Cobra) or fun (Lethal Weapon) of the Cop on Christmas flicks but it is notably the most politically incorrect and is definitely the only one where the lead pukes on a suspect after chasing them down.
Dead Bang opens on Christmas Eve with an armed robbery at a convenience store – not all that dissimilar to Cobra – leading to two murders with blood splattered on holiday decorations and one (a cop) even being dispatched right after saying “Merry Christmas”, this isn’t Prancer. Shortly after, we’re introduced to an alcoholic, profane, bad husband, Christmas hating cop played by a rugged Don Johnson who is assigned to track down the Christmas Eve Cop Killer. Not to spoil much, but the investigation takes him out of LA (why do all of these Christmas action flicks take place in fucking LA?) and around the southwest, eventually landing on a crew of gun totting white supremacists that are just not nice people.
This is pure meat and potatoes genre cinema at its best and lays the holiday trappings on thick. Either they shot this thing around Christmas time or they legitimately decorated every dive bar, diner, police precinct, street and church for it. There’s even a couple solid chase scenes that really show off the season’s staple lights and trees, one of which ends with a nice explosion taking out quite a bit of them. Outside of that, not all that much Christmas-y happens but you do get more awkward Nazi iconography this side of Elves!
Dead Bang may not be on everyone’s list for seasonal naughty viewing, but it should be. It’s almost as mean as Cobra, almost as fun as Lethal Weapon and will never be as iconic as Die Hard, but what could be? It has Don Johnson, neo-Nazis, car/foot chases, blood spattered Christmas decorations and vomit. What more could you ask Santa for?
- Justin LaLiberty