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Film / Beyond the Law

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Beyond the Law is a 1992 crime film by Larry Ferguson. Based on a True Story, Charlie Sheen plays Daniel Saxon, an ex-cop recruited by agent Price (Courtney B. Vance), working for the State Attorney General's Office to infiltrate the gun running and drug smuggling community in the American Southwest. Two problems: while Daniel was a fine cop, he has little idea where to start; and several agents sent before him disappeared without a trace. Daniel hits a stroke of luck when he is approached by Virgil, a jovial if unstable mechanic who agrees to help Daniel move undercover in the world of outlaw bikers, who control the arms and drug trade in the region. Taking the Alias "Sid", Daniel successfully integrates himself into the life of the Jackals; a group led by Blood (Michael Madsen), who takes "Sid" under his wing. As Daniel delves deeper into the underworld, he develops a relationship with a photo journalist documenting the club, Renee (Linda Fiorentino) who is aware of his double life. Daniel quickly finds this new world pushing him to the brink of sanity, surrounded by addicts and career criminals who draw down at the drop of a hat and expect him to be just as unstable and violent as they are.

For the Spaghetti Western with Lee Van Cleef, see Al Di La Della Legge.

This film contains examples of:

  • All Bikers are Hells Angels: Somewhat. Virgil makes a point to differentiate between bikers and "one-percenters", who are part of the outlaw brotherhood. He also identifies the Jackals as top dogs in the area, suggesting them as Daniel's target to find the heart of the black market.
  • Based on a True Story: The film is based on the exploits of Daniel Black, who went undercover and got over 200 people busted out in the desert. The real life Blood is serving three consecutive life sentences; Daniel Black himself acted as a consultant and appeared as an uncredited extra in the film.
  • Becoming the Mask: Daniel takes on the persona of "Sid", a member of the fictitious Pythons club, out of Cleveland Ohio. As the deep cover assignment drags on, Daniel becomes increasingly unhinged and he loses the ability to differentiate between his double life. By the end, he is ready to tip off Blood to prevent him from getting caught in the takedown. One homicide and mental breakdown later, Daniel gets his head screwed on straight and keeps it together long enough to finish the assignment; personally shooting and arresting Blood during the Montage Out.
  • Expy: Blood is basically an Alternate Universe Mr. Blonde who became an outlaw biker instead of a professional thief.
  • Going Native: Daniel has to blend in completely, and the mindset takes an immense toll. Towards the end, he starts losing himself, especially after becoming disillusioned by the blatant preening and political maneuvering of agent Price. This gets so bad Daniel is teetering on the brink of a Face–Heel Turn before Blood murders a convenience store clerk right in front of him.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: Daniel has a minor one as he prepares for his first meeting with the Jackals, combined with suiting up. As Daniel becomes "Sid", he holsters two pistols, a derringer, two full sized combat knives, and completes his biker leathers and jacket with leather gloves, sunglasses, and a necklace of human teeth.
  • The Mole: Daniel, recruited after getting booted from the force by a racist Sheriff who took exception with Daniel's even-handed approach to an armed standoff. His first forays are laughably bad, complete with ugly bowling shirt and Porn Stache. He finally gets lucky when he gets pegged as a narc by Virgil, who gives him some advice and agrees to become a CI if Daniel agrees to "deputize" him.
  • Sanity Slippage: The Movie. Daniel starts the film with some serious baggage due to child abuse, but he becomes legitimately unstable as he takes on the persona of "Sid". As he gets drawn into the lifestyle, his tenuous grip on reality erodes rapidly, and he begins losing the ability to separate his two lives. This comes to a head late in the movie, but how Daniel gets there is harrowing:
    • Daniel starts off throwing Price out of his house and threatening to kill him if his soon-to-be boss ever mentions his past again.
    • As preparation for blending in, Virgil steals a car and gets into a firefight with Daniel on the highway. This is just to get Daniel ready for his first day meeting with the Jackals.
    • To break the ice, Daniel starts shooting cans, which quickly escalates into dynamite and pulling a gun on an aggressive biker in front of the whole club, and being ready to pull the trigger with a gun to his head.
    • When the FBI tries to plant an agent, he is pegged immediately and what starts as a 'stomping' is cut short by the police moving in to pull him out. Daniel grabs a tree branch and continues bludgeoning the agent for over a minute not thirty feet from half the cops in Arizona, then spits in Prices's face and tells the whole lot to GTFO while the entire Jackals club cheers. This incident leaves every member of Law Enforcement in the state gunning for him and lands him in jail after getting worked over.
    • When a member of the Dusters club pulls a gun on him, Daniel pulls over, beats both Dusters senseless and strands them on the side of the road, then drawing his gun on a passing patrolman and daring the man to shoot him. At this point, his CI Virgil takes off because Daniel is fucking nuts.
    • After Blood saves his life, Daniel is trying to find a way to tip off Blood before the crackdown to save his in turn. At this point, Daniel is so far gone that he fails to notice he just got roped into an initiation via robbery, that becomes robbery homicide when Blood murders the unarmed clerk; making Sid a felony accessory, the final requirement for him to become a Jackal. This finally snaps Daniel out of his funk and puts his identity crisis to rest.
  • Trickster Mentor: Virgil, with some elements of Sink or Swim Mentor. Virgil is extremely knowledgeable about the criminal underworld in general and outlaw bikers in particular, and an excellent mechanic-so good that the Jackals let him go everywhere with them and have no hesitation doing business in front of him. He helps Daniel build a custom bike literally from the frame up, teaching him all the knowledge a lifelong bike owner would require in addition providing Daniel with what he needs to know to blend in. Virgil is also a habitual drug user, carries unregistered guns, and is an accessory to crimes too numerous to count. That is before accounting for Virgil's idea of fun; stealing cars, bar fights, and facilitating high risk arms deals and drug deals. The last of his prep work on Daniel involves something straight out of Grand Theft Auto: steal a car, start taking potshots at Daniel's car, and daring the man to stop him.