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Film / Short Time

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Getting killed isn't as easy as it looks.

Short Time is a 1990 comedy action movie starring Dabney Coleman and Matt Frewer.

Burt Simpson (Coleman) is an extremely risk conscious cop whose constant worrying about the future makes him unable to enjoy the present, which has strained his relationship with his wife and young son. That changes drastically when he goes to a routine check-up and a bus driver secretly swaps Burt's results with his own in order to hide his recent use of marijuana. Unfortunately, said bus driver turns out to suffer from a terminal illness and thus Burt is told he only has two weeks to live. While Burt is obviously upset, his main concern is his son, since Burt's dream is that he one day attends Harvard and he finds that his regular life insurance will only pay a rather small amount. His police officer's insurance is much higher though...


...unfortunately, said insurance only covers "professional damage" i.e. dying in the line of duty. Oh, and did we mention Burt only has a few days left until retirement? Hilarity Ensues as Burt becomes a reckless supercop, much to the confusion of those around him, especially his partner Ernie (Frewer).

This film contains examples of:

  • Artistic License – Medicine: An otherwise-healthy cop suddenly having a terminal illness with two weeks to live? Surely, someone would've consulted for a second opinion.
  • Badass Driver: Burt becomes one. Justified because he has got little to lose. Also, the driver of the car he chases.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The scene on a scaffold ends with Burt falling off and then cuts to the funeral of a man, "who served the city well" as the priest says. Half a minute later Burt is shown, telling his son the deceased is the bus driver.
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  • California Doubling: The story is set in Seattle but most of the film was shot in Canada.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot: If the bus driver hadn't been so drastic in hiding his use of marijuana, this movie would've ended right away.
  • Do Wrong, Right: The car chase ends with Burt intentionally parking his car in front off the gangsters' car in order to egg the driver into ramming into him at high speed. While he managed to accomplish that much, after their car crashes, Burt climbs out of his wreck and, annoyed he's still alive, yells "Can't you idiots do anything right?!"
  • Drives Like Crazy:
    • In a high speed chase, Burt overtakes all police cars during a regular chase, has his car rammed and riddled with bullets, rolls it over, still drives on in all-out kamikaze mode and finally "wins" the chase by having the gangsters T-bone his car at full throttle.
    • One of the latter scenes showcases that the man who is actually dying of the condition Burt was mistaken to have, who is a bus driver, was struck blind (one of the condition's symptoms) while he was doing his route. Meaning that he's swerving his bus like a complete maniac all over the street with the passengers holding on for dear life.
  • Last Day to Live: Between his attempts at suicide, Burt manages to reconnect with his family and fulfill his dream of getting a classic Mustang.
  • Lemming Cops: Burt's attempts to get killed result in him becoming this.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Burt wants to die in the line of duty, but luck keeping him constantly alive regardless of how insane his stunts become have him getting praise from his fellow officers as a devil-may-care Super Cop.
  • Mistaken for Dying: Because of a mix-up of a blood test, Burt believes he has only a few more days to live.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: When visiting two of Starks' goons in the hospital, both of whom are in traction, Burt tries to get his location out of them. When they refuse, Burt pretends to give up, opting to instead write his phone number on one of the goons' leg cast.
    Burt: Can you read that number? (goon struggles to look) Oh, you can't see from there, can ya... (takes stock of the bed's pulley system) Oh, wait a minute... (yanks down on a rope, roughly pulling up the goon's leg)
    Goon: (yelps in pain)
  • Retirony: Deconstructed. After learning of his "condition," Burt is intentionally trying to invoke this, and ultimately fails. At the start of the movie, though, he's going out of his way to avoid danger precisely because he's so close to retirement.
  • Spoiler Cover: And how. The cover image is actually the photo shown at the very end of the film and spoils the "did he fall or not?!" semi-cliffhanger during the climax.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Burt constantly attempts to get killed by his reckless actions but keeps unexpectedly succeeding and getting commendations.
  • Stupid Crooks: A major reason why "getting killed isn't as easy as it looks" - the criminals Burt pursues are too incompetent to kill him.
  • Suicide by Cop: Inverted, since it's the cop trying to get himself killed in the line of duty.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: Justified when Burt drives off without his snack in hot pursuit of some crooks. Ernie's reaction is perfect, though:
    "Burt! ...Your yogurt!!"


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