Kuffs is a uniquely fun nineties action comedy everybody forgot about

It was about time we talk about a movie from the nineties instead of eighties here. And don’t worry, we will be back to our regularly scheduled programming sooner than you think. Kuffs is a quite peculiar and highly entertaining buddy cop action comedy starring Christian Slater. It marks a significant shift from the familiar formula so many similar movies used in the previous decade. You’re not sure if this is a parody, farce, or a simply a new variant of an action movie. Whatever it is, it sure is a lot of fun.

There will be cool one-liners, a lot of action, including some pretty brutal shootouts, and all of that is topped off with a memorable San Francisco setting. The story is relatively original as we will be following George Kuffs, a strapping young lad who finds himself in a strange position. You see, he’s about to run one of the San Francisco Patrol Special Police district. He has no experience in law enforcement, no special training and no high school diploma. To quote the movie’s tagline: When you have attitude, who needs experience?

Throw in an evil gang, goody-two-shoes cop, a shady businessman and we’re in business ourselves. If all of this sounds a bit over-the-top and tongue-in-cheek, it’s because it is. However, Kuffs has a lot more things we need to talk about. Things like breaking of the fourth wall, sexually explicit controversy, graphic violence controversy, and one of the first, if not the first instance of bullet-time. The cast is just as good featuring now-established actors like Milla Jovovich, Ashley Judd, Leon Rippy, and Troy Evans. So, let’s dive straight into this glorious and highly underrated nineties movie.

The Origin Story

Writers Bruce A. Evans (Stand by Me) and Raynold Gideon (Mr. Brooks) wanted to make an action comedy with Christian Slater in a lead role. He was the hot new young guy on the block having beaten Brad Pitt for the role in a popular teen comedy Heathers. And just one year earlier he starred alongside Kevin Costner, Morgan Freeman and Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Fresh off the set of not one but two period movies (the other one was Young Guns 2), Slater was anxious to star in something hip and modern.

However, Kuffs does have strong western vibes. After all, the original title for the movie was Gun for Hire. As I already mentioned, young Slater gets to run a San Francisco Patrol Special Police district. SFPSP is not a part of a regular police force but a special unit in charge of security of various businesses and establishments. I had no idea such a thing exists in the real world. Moreover, SFPSP is active now more than ever, constantly expanding and improving its functions.

In an interview, Evans says he was fascinated by these special patrols and decided to make a movie about them. After securing a $10 million budget, the production was in full swing. The story wasn’t the greatest and it features several plot holes nicely covered up by Slater’s charismatic performance. Kuffs is a reimaging of classic buddy cop action comedies of the eighties but aimed squarely at the new and edgy nineties teen demographic.

I’m talking about movies like Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hours. It’s trying to pit the well-meaning naivety of our loveable loser protagonist against the corrupt system letting evil criminals do their thing. The “throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks” approach seems to have worked well here.

The Cast of Kuffs

Kuffs features a pretty strong and unique cast. Apart from Christian Slater, we also have young Milla Jovovich playing his girlfriend and Leon Rippy playing Kane, the main bad guy. You’ll easily recognize him as he’s wearing all these bizarre outfits. I wonder if this is helping or not helping his criminal activities. Rippy is one of those underappreciated supporting actors and you know from a thousand other movies. He’s like a much meaner J.T. Walsh. Speaking of underappreciated supporting actors, Troy Evans plays the police captain Moreno. Troy’s been in a lot of movies although I know him best from ER and Bosch.

After his breakout role in the nineties classic Ghost, Tony Goldwyn got the role of the real cop in this buddy cop movie. However, everything depended on the Slater’s performance. And he fucking nailed it. Finally, we also have two minor roles that went to actresses that would go on to become quite famous. We can see Ashley Judd in her film debut (paint store owner’s wife) and Alexandra Paul from Baywatch playing the Chief’s wife. However, there’s something we need to talk about before we go any further. We need to talk about Milla Jovovich.

The Milla Jovovich Nudity Controversy

Just to be clear, I have not found a single reference to this, to the Milla Jovovich Nudity Controversy. And yet I feel compelled to talk about it. First of all, the opening scene of the movie Kuffs features Milla goofing around with Slater wearing just her white panties and a shirt. You can argue that the scene is somewhat tastefully sexually innocent. Especially if compared to some of the other eighties and nineties movies. However, after a couple of moments you start wondering just how was she during the production.

The truth is that Milla Jovovich was just 15 years, 3 months, and 29 days when the filming began. She’s not in the movie much although every scene she’s in was excellent. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. This is not the first time I noticed something like this as I distinctly remember writing about Melanie Griffith in Night Moves. She was just a year older than Milla in that movie, having just turned sixteen. To make things even more controversial Christian Slater said that the producers demanded that he appears too wearing only his underwear. Something he outright refused.

After all, he was the star of the show and he could do anything he wanted. The entire movie depended on him and he was already a minor star at that point. Finally, remember how this was Ashley Judd’s debut role? Well, it’s a minor role but she would’ve gotten a much bigger part if she was willing to show some skin. She said to the producers “not no, but hell no”. To get back to Milla for a bit, she was filming two movies at the same time. This one and the ill-fated Return to The Blue Lagoon. Now in that movie she did appear relatively nude which caused quite a controversy as she was just sixteen years old.

Just like Brooke Shields in the original movie The Blue Lagoon which came out back in 1980. And I dare not to go into the Pretty Baby territory, a 1978 movie she shot when she was just 12 years old. As you can see, there’s a theme developing here that deserves a much better coverage. In the end, I just want to point out that her goofing around in what could’ve been a swim suit doesn’t seem so outrageous when compared to the rest of these cases. It’s important to be aware of this, let it go and don’t let it distract you from this nineties oddity. Especially since have so much more to talk about.

The Uniqueness of Kuffs

The first strange thing you’re going to notice about Kuffs is the breaking of the fourth wall. Christian Slater’s character talks to the audience several times during the movie. They’re trying to squeeze every last bit of charm out of him and force him to carry the movie. And this works surprisingly well. This is quite a silly movie and you can clearly see it’s not taking itself too seriously. There are a couple of scenes that look, sound and feel like they’ve taken straight from some cartoon. And again, this element works surprisingly well.

I also can’t help but notice just how much this movie is trying to distance itself from the eighties. Wait, let me rephrase that: Kuffs is very much a nineties movie, for better or for worse. The soundtrack is not prominent and everybody has a decent sense of style, without any weird fashion choices or hairstyles. Moreover, the only guy who’s wearing these tacky outfits is the main bad guy and they end up killing him. He’s basically the representation of the eighties although I do remember those t-shirts with your face on them being popular in the nineties.

Just compare this movie to the utter bizarreness of The Wraith for example. And that movie came out just several years before this one. It stars Charlie Sheen and features a somewhat similar story of new guy in town settling scores. Only he’s avenging his own death while trying to finally finish having sex with his girlfriend played by Sherilyn Fenn. Yeah, I know, the eighties. Finally, Kuffs is the first movie ever to feature a “bullet time” scene although that term first appears after the release of The Matrix, several years later.

Not only does Kuffs has a scene where you can see bullet travelling in slow-motion toward its target but that scene was shot in a dimly lit room! Yes, I don’t know how they did it and why they chose this night scene to do it but they fucking pulled it off. If I had to bet, Dine de Laurentis, the executive producer had something to do with it. He’s one of those guys who are willing to take risks and try out new things. As you can see, even if you don’t like the general vibe this movie is putting out, it might be interesting to check it out.

An Incredibly Violent PG-13 Movie

Why don’t we start from the middle and talk about that bullet time scene. After convincing a suicidal jumper to come in, Kuffs is waiting for him inside the room. Just as he’s about to climb in through the window he pulls out a gun, fires a slow-motion bullet and then jumps to his death defiantly. The first shootout, however, takes place just after five minutes. And it ends with a guy slowly mixing his blood with the yellow paint he’s laying in. In the best tradition of old school action movies, this is just the beginning.

After a brutal murder in a church no less, we’re off to one of the main shootouts in the movie. The main bad guy Kane, played by Leon Rippy, breaks into Kuffs’ apartment holding a suppressed Heckler & Koch SP89. He proceeds to absolutely wreck his crib, spending hundreds of bullets. During all of that time Kane changes just one magazine. Don’t get me wrong, all of this looks juicy as fuck, it’s just that it belongs in an R rated movie. And can you guess how that scene ends?

Kuffs, sporting a Berreta M9 brutally kills Kane shooting him at least five times before putting one straight in his heart. Of course, the final showdown is just as violent as you think it would be. We’ve got shotguns, Uzis, and all kinds of pistols creating absolute mayhem on top of a building. Even the poster for this movie features our main character holding a gun. This brings us to another controversy, regarding Kuffs and another 1992 movie that was actually rated R.

Juice, starring 2Pac, also had a poster featuring a gun but Paramount airbrushed it in an effort to get that coveted PG-13 rating. That didn’t help, ultimately leading to accusation of racism towards MPAA. Jack Valenti, the president of MPAA denied these allegation but the evidence is overwhelming. At least in my opinion. The fine people in Dallas, Texas were thinking the same as they overrode the MPAA ruling and declared Kuffs an R rated movie.

San Francisco Setting

Finally we’re in San Francisco chasing bad guys and not in overused Los Angeles! Kuffs is a movie almost completely filmed in San Francisco and it manages to capture the spirit of this unique city quite well. The opening scene was filmed on the Russian Hill (1020 Filbert St.), with the famous Coit Tower visible in the distance. Alfred Hitchcock chose this location for his classic Vertigo for some pretty odd but compelling reasons. He said: “It’s a phallic symbol.” Some of the interior shots were filmed in L.A. but you simply can’t tell that by looking at them.

Since the story follows special patrols who guard small businesses we’ll see a lot of them. It’s interesting to see how these places looked like more than thirty years ago. Maybe you were right there, in the nineties, buying some flowers or paint, in the Sunset City. Of course, there will be a couple of scenes featuring the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Too bad we won’t get too many chases as I think that this city is perfect for them. After all, 48 Hrs. and Dirty Harry proved this many years ago.

In fact, Dirty Harry features a couple of same locations. The final shootout in the movie Kuffs also happens near the Saints Peter and Paul Church, overlooking the harbor. However, my favorite location from the movie Kuffs is the one you can see right after our protagonist startles the shady businessman Sam Jones in his car. Sam drops him off at the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts.

That imposing European-looking rotunda with the lake right next to it looks absolutely marvelous. And it’s been featured in many popular movies. You can, of course, see it in the above-mentioned Vertigo but also Bicentennial Man and The Rock. Finally, it also makes an appearance during the ninth episode of the first season of the popular TV show Game of Thrones.


Kuffs is a mixed bag. I even contemplated not writing about it at all. It feels like watching someone have some really fun delusions of grandeur. In the end, the nostalgia, dedicated cast, and absurd nature of the storytelling won me over. And all the shootouts definitely helped, we shouldn’t forget about them. This is a nineties oddity that feels like a movie fans will only now begin discovering. After you’ve seen all your favorite buddy cop action comedies, it’s time to dive deeper and really scrape the barrel.

Bruce Evans, who wrote and directed this movie, was hugely disappointed with his movie. He actually refused to watch it for more than ten years. However, once he finally checked it out, he realized it wasn’t half-bad. Finally, I think you should check out this movie. If for nothing else than for this quote: Life is what happens while you’re making other plans.