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Film / Final Justice

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"The story of a large sweaty man who goes to Malta to sweat."

Final Justice is a 1984 Italian-American action movie directed by Greydon Clark and starring Joe Don Baker.

One dark and stormy night, Palermo and his brother Tony, two mob hitmen, are blundering around south Texas trying to get across the border to escape the heat from their last job in Dallas. They end up gratuitously shooting a motorist they crash into; then, needing wheels, they decide to try hotwiring a police car in front of a police station. Of course, they're discovered, but they manage to kill the sheriff of the town. His deputy sheriff, Thomas Jefferson Geronimo III, chases them all the way to and across the Mexican border, where he kills the younger mobster for trying to pull a gun. Palermo, outraged at his brother's death, swears vengeance on Geronimo, but refuses to rise to the challenge of a showdown; instead, Geronimo just knocks Palermo out and drags him back.

Well, for some reason Geronimo is asked to escort Palermo back to Sicily as a publicity stunt. Of course, this is all part of an Evil Plan, as the mafia's already arranged to fake a malfunction on their flight that requires an emergency landing, bringing Geronimo and Palermo to Malta instead. There, operatives are ready to help Palermo get free. The Maltese police, led by Superindendent Mifsud, are adamant that Geronimo stay out of the case and let them handle it, as he is well out of his jurisdiction. But neither Geronimo nor Palermo are willing to just let it end like this...

The rest of the movie is essentially repeating the same sequences over and over.

  1. Geromino is told not to go after Palermo by Superintendent Mifsud.
  2. Geronimo ignores him and attempts to chase Palermo down.
  3. Geronimo causes a major disturbance that usually involves a lengthy chase sequence (two of which are on speed boats).
  4. Geronimo is arrested.
  5. Geronimo is escorted from his prison cell to speak with Superindendent Mifsud.
  6. Return to Step 1.

Rinse and repeat until Geronimo finally gets his man and the credits roll.

Not to be confused with:

  • the 1988 Hong Kong movie starring Stephen Chow and Danny Lee
  • the 1997 Hong Kong movie produced by Johnnie To
  • the 1998 made-for-TV movie by Tommy Lee Wallace
  • the eighth novel of the Badge Of Honor series by W.E.B. Griffin

For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode see here.

This film contains the following tropes:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: Palermo holds Maria hostage at gunpoint and threatens Geronimo with "I'll blow her brains OUT!"
  • Achey Scars: Geronimo always requests Maalox (or if that's not available, milk) after every meal as a result of a not-entirely-healed gunshot wound.
  • Action Girl: Maria, in an upgrade from nearly Neutral Female.
  • Anti-Hero: Geronimo openly disdains the idea of legal protections for suspects and pretty much just shoots people for the sake of it. In fact, he never even tries to arrest anyone in the entire movie, challenging them all to gunfights instead. The only reason he arrests Palermo at the beginning of the film is because Palermo refused to draw.
  • Arson Murder And Life Saving: Geronimo's modus operandi — he pretty much ignores any and all laws or safety and just opens fire on "bad guys" (his words), even shooting into crowds of unarmed civilians. At the same time he is trying to catch a dangerous psychopath, and he does try to help people when he can.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The flight from America to Sicily gets rerouted to Malta. Which is farther south and (depending on where they were headed) farther east.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • A mob boss, even one wanted for crimes in his home country, wouldn't be deported until after standing trial and serving his sentence for the murder of a Texas sheriff and other crimes he'd committed on US soil.
    • Par for the course for a Dirty Harry ripoff, but why in Sweet Jesus wasn't Geronimo deported immediately, especially after he's threatening to seriously maim your citizens? He'd be out of his jurisdiction in a different county, much less a different country — across the Atlantic ocean. The movie does show that the Maltese authorities are trying to get him off the island as quickly as possible (and the irregular flights out of Malta don't help), but he's largely allowed to roam free — to the point where his "jail cell" is a revolving door using the same stock footage of him being escorted out of the cell over and over again when by rights they should have left him in the cell until his flight arrived after the second incident at the latest.
    • For that matter, the movie's entire premise falls somewhere between dubious and completely absurd. It's never really explained why a small-town Texas Sheriff is assigned, alone at that, to transport Palermo to Italy instead of, say, the FBI or U.S. Marshals. Especially considering that Geronimo has a personal grudge against Palermo and is already known as a Cowboy Cop with a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later. It is revealed at the very end that Wilson and the Mob deliberately set Geronimo up to fail, but even by the standards of villain logic it's hard to buy such an elaborate ploy instead of, say, Wilson assigning his own henchmen to guard Palermo and release him upon reaching Malta.
  • Badass Boast / Catchphrase:
    • "You think you can take me? Go 'head on. It's your move!"
    • Geronimo actually subverts his own line at the end.
    • The end credits song acts as a Badass Boast as well.
      You better run
      While you can.
      You've crossed the maddest guy,
      His gun in hand.
      You better run
      While you can.
      Cause he won't stop till he gets his man.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Geronimo's dealings with the Maltese police are in a class of their own.
  • Bad Habits: Palermo attempts to hide out in a church by wearing a priest's robe, but gets caught when a woman seeking confession keeps him around so long he ends up drawing attention to himself in his desperation to escape her. Responding to her confessions with lines like "Yeah, whatever" wasn't exactly the smartest move.
  • Bar Brawl: One erupts in Smugglers' Tavern after a patron pours beer over Geronimo's boots.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: Palermo murders innocents for little to no reason and (in the uncut version of the film) forces himself on at least one woman. Geronimo kills suspects he could have just as easily arrested and has no problem firing wildly into a crowd in an attempt to shoot an enemy. This was apparently unintentional — we're supposed to think of Geronimo as pure good, but it just doesn't work.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Palermo squanders numerous opportunities to kill Geronimo when he is captured, held up at gunpoint, or knocked out. His boss calls him out on this, but can't persuade him not to.
  • Bowdlerization: The TV print used for the MST3K episode not only uses Curse Cut Short and Pixellation to tone down the language and nudity, but it's also missing a rather brutal rape scene of the blonde dancer by Palermo. This turns into a bit of a plot hole as it explains why the dancer is both frightened of Palermo and willing to switch sides when Geronimo promises to keep her safe.
    • The version available through Rifftrax kept the language and nudity from the theatrical print but still cuts the rape scene, likely due to the hosts not wanting to tell jokes during such a brutal event.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Geronimo. It's quite an experience to make you actually start to pity a Jerkass Cowboy Cop with a case of Plot Induced Stupidity.
  • Car Chase: One right at the end of the film's first act, when Palermo escapes custody. And for a bonus, there's not one, but two boat chases in the second act.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Geronimo subverts his catch phrase at the end by cutting it short and blasting the main villain in the head as he's distracted. Quoth Servo: "Our hero; a big, stinky cheater!"
  • Confessional: Palermo tries to evade cop Joe Don by dressing as a priest. It might have worked, except a distraught old woman then begged him to hear her confession. He attempts to get it over with ("Sure... whatever you want") only to draw more attention to himself.
  • Cowboy Cop: Literally! He pretty much just shoots suspects for the sake of it, and his backstory is that he got bumped to a piddly out-of-nowhere sherriff's office because he shot the brother of a senator. Most of the movie is him chasing down Palermo and causing numerous fatalities in the process. Oh, and he's wearing a ridiculous cowboy suit for the entire movie. Even so, Geronimo has the nerve to be offended when a friendly cab driver jokes about him knowing John Wayne.
  • Creator Cameo: Greydon Clark as Deputy Geronimo's sheriff with a case of Retirony.
  • Curse Cut Short: In the TV print, the last word in this phrase: "son of a bitch!"
  • Death by Cameo: And since Greydon Clark does play the sheriff, who exists only to get killed and give Geronimo a reason to hate Palermo...
  • Determinator: What Geronimo lacks in grace, skill, intelligence, talent, physical fitness, looks and likability, he almost makes up for with his bull-stubborn determination to solve the case when both the Maltese and American law enforcement forbid him to do so. Almost.
  • Didn't Think This Through: So, so many.
    • So at the beginning, Palermo and his brother got into an auto accident while trying to flee the U.S. They shoot the other driver to cover their escape but their own car is totaled so they need a new one. Fine, but why in the Hell did they think hot-wiring a police car in front of the police station was a good idea? Especially egregious considering we see only a few minutes later that they were already within jogging distance of the border!
    • When Palermo is fleeing from Geronimo in Malta and disguises himself as a monk to escape, a woman comes to him and tries to confess her sins. He tries to dismiss her, instantly outing himself. Why not just go to the confessional with her, then just sit in the closed booth with her and pretend to listen until Geronimo leaves?
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: According to Geronimo's sherrif, donuts are Geronimo's Trademark Favorite Food and the source of his weight problem.
  • Eagleland: The film would like Geronimo to be Mixed Flavor rather than Type 2, but the guy really puts the "ugly" in "ugly American".
  • Exact Words: Invoked. "I gave him my word as an American police officer. I'm a Texas lawman."
  • The Faceless: For some reason the movie goes out of its way to avoid showing the face of Wilson's lady friend.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Accounts for at least two of Geronimo's failures.
  • Failure Hero: Geronimo. It really undermines your movie's hero's effectiveness when you show him getting thrown into jail again, and again, and again. Not only that, but Geronimo essentially fails every task and objective given to him, except during the last seven minutes of the movie.
  • Fair Cop: Maria is unusually attractive for a police officer (especially compared to her hideous co-workers).
  • Fatal Family Photo: Results in a case of Retirony for Geronimo's partner! While looking at the photo, Geronimo says "You're a lucky man, Bob." Not ten seconds later, the man is dead.
  • Friend to All Children: One of Geronimo's few redeeming qualities as he gets his Pet the Dog moments with kids, to the point where holding a child at gunpoint is one of the few things to get Geronimo to show some restraint in a gun fight.
  • Food Slap: One the patrons in the Smugglers' Tavern pours his beer over Geronimo's boot.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Maria uses a hairpin to pick the lock to the door on Don Lamanna's mansion, then says she has been doing this since childhood.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Geronimo tries to find out where Palermo is by dunking the bartender's head in a fish tank.
  • Jerkass: Sheriff Geronimo makes Mitchell look like a big, cuddly Teddy Bear. He's sexist, a bully, occasionally rock stupid, and he looks like three hundred pounds of cottage cheese in an oilskin bag. But he's treated like the Only Sane Man by the film.
  • Lawful Stupid: Mifsud clearly wants Geronimo out of his hair and Palermo in jail, but is clearly too wimpy to do either effectively. It takes several instances of Geronimo going on a shooting rampage before he finally locks Geronimo in a cell for good, but then he only posts one guard and Maria simply pulls a gun on the cop to break Geronimo out.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Geronimo doesn't seem to bother replacing his luggage after it's blown up when Palermo escapes his custody, as once he arrives in Malta he wears the same Western-style suit for the rest of the movie's runtime, which is shown to take place over at least a few days. Lampshaded in the MST3K cut:
    Crow: "Day 7 of his shirt!"
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Despite being billed as an expert hitman, Palermo's first response to any minor set back is to pull a gun and shoot somebody dead, which is what brought the heat on him to begin with.
  • Named After Somebody Famous:
    • Geronimo is an actual descendant of the Geronimo, but his first and middle names are "Thomas Jefferson".
    • Palermo is also the name of a city in Sicily.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Geronimo is trapped in the Big Bad's dungeon, so naturally he draws on his Native American ancestry and appears to communicate telepathically with a woman he met earlier, who then comes and frees him.
  • Noodle Incident: How Geronimo got booted out of Dallas is not elaborated on, but it apparently involved a shootout with a bunch of criminals, including a senator's brother.
  • No One Could Survive That!: Geronimo appears to die on a boat and Palermo leaves him for dead. As it turns out, he actually just washed up on shore and was nursed back to health by some locals.
  • Pet the Dog: Geronimo gets one of his few sympathetic moments when he hides out with and befriends a Maltese family, teaching the kids how to shoot slingshots.
  • Pistol Whip: Geronimo delivers one admittedly good looking pistol whip on a patrolling watchmen to knock him out just before his final meeting with Palermo.
  • Pixellation: The TV prints put an obvious blur over the chest of the two strippers in the tavern (with the red-clothed dancer getting it most of the time).
  • Police Are Useless: Pretty much every cop except for Geronimo and Maria is incompetent or corrupt in this film.
  • Pragmatic Villain: Of the three principal villains, only Lamanna has a realistic grasp on the situation, working to get Geronimo arrested or expelled from the country, then when that doesn't work, urging Palermo to kill Geronimo outright rather than toying with him. Palermo, of course, completely ignores his advice.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Nobody Geronimo meets in Malta ever says his name correctly: It's "HAY-ronnie-mo" rather than "jurr-ONNA-mo." After a certain point he gives up on correcting people.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The uncut version of the film includes a brutal rape sequence in which Palermo forces himself on the blonde stripper, who later turns on him and breaks Geronimo out.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Geronimo, before the beginning of the story, was booted out of Dallas and reassigned to a hole-in-the-wall sheriff's office near the border.
  • Red Light District: Geronimo asks Maria where the red light district in Valletta is, and she takes him to an area known as "the Cauldron" Here, a prostitute directs him into an ambush.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Geronimo shooting down Palermo's brother Tony provokes him to carry out a one-man vendetta against Geronimo, even after the taxi escape alone makes him a wanted murderer in Malta, fails to kill the sheriff, and implicates Palermo's previously untouchable capo, Don Lamanna. Lamanna offers to send in a hitman from Rome to handle the situation, but Palermo still pleads with him to be the one to do it instead, insisting "it's family" and giving his word. Even when he's got Geronimo at his mercy later on, Palermo locks him up before executing him just to make him suffer, allowing Geronimo to escape and ruin everything.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Geronimo carries an old-fashioned single-action gunnote  as his service pistol. Palermo and most of his men carry revolvers as well, but at least they are smart enough to carry modern double-action ones.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: In theory, Geronimo professes to believe in this, telling Maria that the law can sometimes be used to obstruct true justice, and having taken down a crime ring to the detriment of his own career. In practice, this means that he ignores due process and the orders of his superiors to run around shooting people in cold blood, without any remorse whatsoever.
  • Shout-Out: In order to distract the officer who is guarding him, Geronimo asks if there really is a Maltese Falcon.
  • Sleeping Dummy: Palermo places pillows under the bed covers to fool Geronimo when Geronimo invades his bedroom in the mansion.
  • Spanner in the Works: Geronimo is supposed to be a patsy to ensure Palermo's easy escape, but because he simply won't let the guy go, he ultimately undoes the entire mob operation in Malta.
  • Spotting the Thread: When Palermo draws attention to himself during his Bad Habits scene, what actually tips Geronimo off is that this "priest" is wearing expensive Italian leather shoes.
  • Stating the Simple Solution: Don Lamanna as he chastises Palermo for abducting Geronimo but not killing him, leaving him in the mansion's basement. Guess what happens! Palermo tries to justify his decision by saying he wants to make Geronimo squirm, but this is still an idiotic move on his part.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Some dialogue near the start of the film explains that Geronimo was involved in a shootout in Dallas, during which he killed a lot of people ("I bagged my limit that day, that's for sure!") including a senator's brother who was "doing dirty." Sounds like the climax of a typical cop movie, except that instead of riding off into the sunset as the big hero, Geronimo ended up Reassigned to Antarctica, and with an Achey Scar inside him that forces him to drink Maalox or milk after every meal to prevent it from hurting too much.
  • Underestimating Badassery: Palermo and Lamanna's fatal flaw: they keep acting like Geronimo is a harmless doofus when he's a dangerous Cowboy Cop who will stop at nothing to get revenge.
  • Trigger-Happy: Geronimo loves challenging the criminals he encounters to to quick-draw shootouts so much that he does it in situations where he could have easily arrested them instead. The most notable case is when he spots three of Palermo's men shortly after Palermo's escape in Malta. Rather then simply follow them to find Palermo's hideout or approach them with a drawn gun so he can arrest them and interrogate them for information, he challenges them to a gunfight and kills them all.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Geronimo's planned role in breaking Palermo out, since he's clearly not qualified to escort a prisoner.