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Film / K-9

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K-9 is a 1989 thriller-comedy film starring James Belushi and Mel Harris, and directed by Rod Daniel.

San Diego Police Detective Michael Dooley (Belushi) has a problem: He's been tagged for execution by a major international drug dealer named Lyman (Kevin Tighe). In order to help him put Lyman away for good and thereby save his bacon, Dooley's friend Sergeant Brannigan of the K-9 unit (Ed O'Neill) gives him a drug-sniffing police dog named Jerry Lee (played by a real-life police dog named Koton), with whose aid Dooley attempts to put Lyman in prison for good. Now Dooley has another problem: Jerry Lee is a Deadpan Snarker with a mind of his own.

K-9 received mixed reviews and was followed by two direct-to-video sequels, K-911 and K-9: P.I.

Not to be confused with the occasional robotic companion of Doctor Who, nor with said tin dog's eponymous spinoff series. The film was released the same year as Turner & Hooch, an unrelated film with a similar premise.


This movie provides examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: When Kevin Tighe's Big Bad is holding a female character at gunpoint. He has a line that goes "After I shoot her I'm going to call Rampart and ask to start a IV of Ringers". Obvious Emergency! reference.
  • The Cameo: The bystanders at the SWAT standoff heckling and insulting the cops were played by the real SDPD K-9 officers who advised the production.
  • Cowboy Cop: Dooley doesn't like to play by rules. Roughen up suspects? Yep. Hijack the police car after being arrested? Typical for him.
  • Damsel in Distress: The only role for Tracey in the movie, it seems, is to be kidnapped.
  • Faking the Dead: Dooley thinks that Jerry Lee died in surgery, and makes a heartfelt apology for having been such a Jerkass. Jerry Lee lifts his head each time Dooley turns his back, then plays dead when he turns around. It's heartwarming until the doctor walks in and tells Dooley that the dog is alive and awake. He turns around and mutters, "You asshole!"
  • Groin Attack: Threatened. Tough guys tend to get real chatty when they have their junk in a police dog's jaws.
    • Dooley gets one himself after he forcefully kisses a girl on the beach to keep drug dealers from noticing him.
  • Hollywood California: Zig-zagged. The movie takes place in San Diego and was filmed there. The city does get a fairly glamorous presentation, but it's notable since Hollywood usually likes to pretend that San Diego (a major city much larger than San Francisco with a much longer and deeper history than Los Angeles) doesn't exist.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: When Dooley's girlfriend Tracey is kidnapped, the captain points out that it was Dooley's "seat of the pants bullshit" that got Tracey involved in the first place. At the very least, the stunts Dooley pulled to antagonize Lyman at every turn, such as holding him and his guests at gunpoint during a dinner party, didn't help.
  • Oh, Crap!: The thugs in the bar throw a cue ball at Jerry Lee to scare him off. He catches it. And crushes it with his teeth.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Towards the end of the movie, Jerry Lee is shot, and Dooley takes him into a human emergency room for treatment. The surgeon initially refuses to operate, until Dooley threatens to shoot him if he doesn't.
  • Period Piece: Khaki uniforms and all-white police cruisers. SDPD switched to dark blue uniforms and black&whites in 1991. Also Dooley plays a handheld electronic game and is denied a request to patch a personal phone call through police dispatch rather than having a cellphone that would make both of these redundant.
  • R-Rated Opening: The film’s opening has two couples indulging in Auto Erotica in a car park on a rainy night where Dooley is on stakeout. Since they are both fairly explicit and serve no plot purpose the sequence is often cut for television broadcast.
  • Shout-Out: Dooley is in the middle of getting his ass kicked by some gang members in a bar when Jerry Lee walks in and starts growling. Dooley introduces him as "Officer Lewis".
  • You Have Failed Me: Double subverted by Lyman. He intimidates Freddie and it seems he's going to kill him, until he pulls the trigger and it's revealed that the gun is actually a water squirter. Then he pulls out a real gun and shoots Freddie.

Alternative Title(s): K 9


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