REVIEW: Beyond The Law (1993, Larry Ferguson / C. Sheen, M. Madsen)

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


Ahh, Beyond The Law, one of the less known movies of early 90s that was one of my favourites out of that era when I was a teenager. I finally managed to pick up this movie in DVD format quite cheap and have been eager to see the movie for a while, since last time I saw this was, what, fifteen years ago? At least.

Beyond The Law holds quite 80s-flavored vibe within, presenting long asphalt roads in beautiful desert-filled environments, motorbike gangs, leather jackets, guns and drugs. But this movie is not quite as speedy as it sounds. Beyond The Law can't be called an action movie exactly. As much as the setting of the movie screams for high speed action sequences, the movie is more of an crime/drama-type movie with some comedy and no-guts-no-glory-attitude thrown in. But mostly, the very vibe of it is quite dark and serious, drama-like. The movie is based on true story, but quite loosely.

Beyond The Law is being starred no than Charlie Sheen, who finally picks up a bit more serious-toned, gutsy role after his comedic run on previous roles in Hot Shots! and The Rookie. Sheen plays a police officer who goes undercover to bust an infamous motorcycle gang for guns and drugs. Other stars feature Michael Madsen as motorbike-gang leader "Blood", Courtney B. Vance as agent who hires "Dan" for undercover work, sexy Linda Fiorentino as a photographer who makes a document of Blood's gang, and Leon Rippy as "Virgil", a nut and goofy mechanic who introduces "Dan" into motorbikes and gangs.


Sheen plays Daniel "Dan" Saxon, a police officer, who wrestles with nightmares and trauma of his childhood. Dan's uncle was a police officer too, and his mother was of native blood. Therefore his uncle used to lock Dan up in a cellar and beat him up for years while handcuffed, leading Dan eventually to steal a gun and shoot his own uncle. Due his painful memories, Dan has grown up hot-headed and short-tempered man. 

When he gets fired from police due brawl between him and his commanding officer, he is offered another chance to work for police force as an undercover agent. Dan's new task is to bust local gun- and drug-dealers. After hesitation, Dan agrees the job. He meets a guy, biker named "Virgil" in a bar, who has a dream to become a deputy sheriff, and after Dan naming him such, he agrees to teach Dan thing or two about local motorbike-gangs and motorbikes.

Soon after Dan learns that the biggest drug- and gun-markets are running wild within local motorbike gangs. Assigned to bust one of such gangs, Dan comes up with false identity and personality and goes to infiltrate a local motorbike-gang called "The Jackals"  (lead by "Blood" starring Madsento stop gun and drug business, introducing himself as "Sid" from now on. After getting himself sucked too deep into the gang's criminal business and becoming some sort of friends with gang-leader "Blood", Dan who is already struggling with his childhood trauma and hatred towards police, becomes hesitant to turn Blood and The Jackals in. Who are the real friends of his now?


When I was a teenager, this movie was one of my favorites at the time, which I recorded into VHS when it aired on television, and watched the movie over and over several times. I can see why. There's rock'n'roll, motorbikes, some tough attitude (could had been pushed even more far), few but clever parts of comedy, and nice desert views.

Lets start with the image quality, however. This version is nowhere near a "DVD standard" that you would expect from a DVD-movie. Image is even slightly pixelated in some scenes that's clearly visible with my 42" regular television,  and it's overly soft and blurry too. It's not totally bad, but it sure as hell doesn't look like something standard that could be cranked out with DVD from a movie from 1993. Was the original movie this bad image-quality-wise too, or is it just this DVD-version? However, it's still watchable, but surprisingly blurry. Also Finnish version was cut to 97minutes. Not sure what they cut out here, as I cannot remember (hopefully not much of the best parts!).

Charlie Sheen plays Dan Saxon and his fake-personality "Sid" very well. I can only think quickly one role that I remember, where he acted even more better, and that was in Platoon. The "childhood-trauma" of Dan does make sense, but it perhaps contains too little underlay. The trauma could had been used more effectively, and it could had played perhaps bit more large part. It had more potential to Sheen's character than how much was used. 

Sheen plays hot-headed undercover officer "Dan" very well, and it's enjoyable ride to see him adapt his undercover-role of a tough motorcycle-man, while being mentored by a nut mechanic called "Virgil". Dan starts to struggle between the line of his two personalities: his own as a cop, and his fake-personality as a motorbike-gang member called "Sid". Being constantly demanded to act respectably towards the two, his supervisor, agent Convey Price, and his new friends in "The Jackals" keeps things interesting all the way until the end of the movie, as Dan tries to hang on with the both of the parties, who tear him into two morally different directions. 

Madsen also plays "Blood" enjoyably well, certainly much better than in the much newer "Hell Ride" where he played a bit similar role. Well, Madsen always almost plays this sort of a though-guy. If you've seen his role once, you know what to expect. Well, at least in Beyond The Law it works. Madsen is calm, but insane and evil similarly. He could kill you just like that, smoke a cigarette, and walk away. As a gang-leader his quite believable.

But perhaps even more shining star is Leon Rippy as that goofy and nut mechanic "Virgil", who introduces Dan into the world of gangs and motorbikes, but then realises that the going gets too tough, and he isn't enough of a bad-ass himself after all. Lets just also add that Linda Fiorentino is quite sexy in the movie with her long legs and wicked smile.

The plot in Beyond The Law is very enjoyable, although what shines the most is bad-ass setting of the movie that almost screams for "cult" with it's bikes, guns, and the endless desert. The setting and Sheen's more thoughtful yet hot-headed role-play are truly quite memorable. Although the setting is quite dark, the vibes in the movie are really more "uplifting". This is not your violent movie number one, where motorbike gang brutality is shown realistically per se. Not, even though some gutsy scenes included. The style actually works great in Beyond The Law, and doesn't leave me complaining for more violence. The movie is more like relaxing ride than hectic adrenaline rush, with some great scenes to laugh at and it works like charm. Beyond The Law is more attitude, and how far it can take you within the motorbike gang hierarchy, than about actually showing the gruesome deeds done by the members.

As much as I love the plot about a trauma-driven police officer going for undercover work in the world of motorbike-gangs, so deep that he actually starts to forget who he really was, I think that the movie falls a bit short on it's underlay-work with the plot. Plot's idea is great, but it should had been expanded! Movie is just a bit short in terms of running time, because I feel that there's a HUGE potential in Beyond The Law that could-had-been, and partly it was left unused by shortening/cutting the plot down from it's potential length. Still, the attitude of the movie and Sheen's acting as well as the fantastic setting makes this movie very enjoyable.

Beyond The Law deserves more recognition than it got. It has all elements to make a true classic, but it falls a bit short on plot underlay and cut length making now "only" a good movie. The movie mixes well darker more thoughtful drama-like side of things with uplifting feeling of good old 80s-style biker-gangs, balls, and some gutsy comedy. It's not a violent way "gutsy" movie, but more like attitude based way. Beyond The Law comes with a few flaws but leaves you wanting more. Recommended!

The Good
  • Sheen's memorable role
  • Bikes, guts, and rock'n'roll
  • Desert-setting is beautiful
  • Dark, thoughful, yet uplifting plot

The Bad

  • Falls a bit short on length
  • Unused potential is huge
  • Bad image-quality (at least reviewed version)

6 Bullets out of 10

(memorable and fun even with unfilled potential)
Buy Beyond The Law as DVD disc from

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