Kuffs (1992)


I have a long history with “Kuffs.” Back when I was a kid I didn’t have cable so I watched movies on local television. “Kuffs” was one of my favorite movies as a child. It was that kind of kick ass crime thriller and buddy comedy that I loved. I must have seen it a thousand times as a child, and I loved how bad ass Christian Slater was in it. He was just so cocky and charismatic that it always kept me coming back again and again. Yeats later, watching “Kuffs” without the nostalgia glasses on, it’s a movie that’s just… pretty okay. It’s not a masterpiece, but it has its merits.

Tonally it’s a confusing movie that never decides what it wants to be. Is it a coming of age comedy? Is it a buddy cop comedy? Is it a violent crime thriller? It tries to be all three failing to achieve any kind of balance. And it doesn’t help that character Kuffs breaks the fourth wall for reasons never quite clarified. Truly you could have the character obtain the narrative without narration, and the movie would feel just about the same. George Kuffs is charming slacker afraid of life, whose girlfriend just got pregnant. After leaving her, he turns to his cop brother Brad for a loan, and accidentally witnesses his murder by the hands of a mysterious assassin. George’s brother was a private patrol man who owned a district in San Francisco and patrolled it for its citizens.

He’s now left it to George, who vows to find the man that murdered Brad. Faking credentials, Kuffs is given a probationary period to help keep the streets safe, and is teamed with a tightly wound partner (Tony Goldwyn) who insists on following the rules and clashes with Kuffs when he goes rogue attempting to find the killer. As I said, “Kuffs” is a perfectly fine movie that thrives on riffing from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “48 Hours,” and even “Beverly Hills Cop,” all the while never quite being sure what kind of movie it wants to be. We follow Kuffs as he barely makes it out of many cases and obstacles that lead him to eventually discovering the man who killed his brother.

This leads in to a wider plot involving police corruption and illegal art theft that keeps him constantly in the eye of armed gun man that want him dead. “Kuffs” has a lot going for it; mainly there’s Christian Slater’s performance which is based around his charismatic turn, and the charm of the character, despite his dickish treatment toward other people. That said, there are some really bad moments that keep the film bogged down in more tonally confused territory. Despite Tony Goldwyn’s best efforts, he just cannot pull off slapstick humor, and this role requires that he provide a lot of it for the audience. There’s also the lack of interesting side characters, all of whom are either under developed or never developed. Despite that, “Kuffs” is a perfectly action comedy that still entertains to this day, and it’s a nice vehicle for Slater and Goldwyn.