Two-parts entertainment to one-part frustration, Jim Kouf's Gang Related is like a diver who leaps promisingly into a triple twist - - only to smack his head against the board on the way back down. For an hour it manages to be a tight and funny black comedy: Belushi easily slots into the sort of wise-cracking cop role he played in Red Heat, while Shakur (in his last turn before he was murdered) tries to build on his likable Gridlock'd turn by playing the moaning conscience to his co-star's arrogant, dirty immorality.
The characters may barely fill out two dimensions, but Gang Related tries to make up for its lack of depth with an intriguing plot: Belushi and Shakur accidentally murder an undercover agent and are assigned to investigate his death. The police chief is desperate for an arrest and the only hope the two bad cops have is to put the blame on someone else. They try everything to save their rotten hides, including lying, cheating and planting false evidence. Hilariously, they attempt to frame three known criminals (all of whom have iron-clad alibis), before settling on street-bum Dennis Quaid. Little do they know, however, that he has a hidden, plot-twisting past.
But then Gang Related self-destructs; the last 30 minutes take on a much darker tone, stripped of the humour that initially made it appealing. It was on dodgy moral ground from the start (Belushi and Shakur are thieves who kill an innocent policeman), and whatever little sympathy you had for the two central characters quickly evaporates.
Ultimately, there's nowhere for Belushi and Shakur to go. Kouf clumsily and quickly ties up the script's loose ends, and Gang Related sprints towards a wispy, unsatisfying finale that pierces the fun bubble and drains you of all feeling. If only I'd left after the first hour...
A promising film that's forced to commit big-screen suicide due to the nature of its unethical, immoral plot. Only the star presence of the late Tupac Shakur bolsters what is essentially a straight-to-video cop movie with two-dimensional characters.