Underrated Gem: Renegades (1989)

Plot: While no-nonsense Philadelphia cop Buster McHenry (Kiefer Sutherland) is going undercover to investigate a gang headed by the ruthless Marino (Robert Knepper), he’s forced to take part in a robbery that ends with the theft of a sacred Lakota artifact and the death of several onlookers. After the incident, Hank Storm (Lou Diamond Phillips), whose brother was killed during the robbery, teams up with Buster to recover the artifact and avenge his brother’s death.


Sitting at a hilarious 20% on Rotten Tomatoes Renegades from 1989 wasn’t all that popular when it was released and even now few people still talk about it which is a shame as I personally think it’s rather awesome.


I always thought the story was kind of cool and a little different from your average buddy flick. Kiefer Sutherland’s awesomely named Buster McHenry is kind of an asshole so for the majority of the film you aren’t quite sure just how much of a good guy he really is. He is responsible for several deaths all to bring down a corrupt cop and you do tend to wonder if it’s all worth it.


Lou Diamond Phillips is essentially the noble hero who needs to bring back the Lance of Lakota as it has always been with his tribe for as long as anyone can remember. You wouldn’t get away with half of the dialogue that is said in this film today with everyone referring to Hank as “Chief” or “The Indian”… even the good guys. Hank also seems to have some mystical powers and always appears to be one step ahead of everyone else.


A very young Robert Knepper is on villain duties and he never fails to entertain; he isn’t quite as overly theatrical as he has been in recent years but Marino is a great greaseball bad guy.


The late great Michael Kamen provides the score and it is immediately recognizable; it sounds similar to his work on Lethal Weapon with the twanging guitars but it’s sadly not all that memorable.


There is a rather spectacular car chase which is arguably the action highlight but there are several shoot-outs and an explosive finale which deliver the goods. The film was set in Philadelphia but the majority was shot right here in Toronto which is a not very interesting tidbit of information for you.


The tone is mostly serious with a few one-liners which may be why it still holds up today; Sutherland and Phillips are both very watchable on screen together and would later work on the TV series 24 many years later.


Overall, if you’ve never seen Renegades then you might be in for a treat as it’s got some great action, memorable characters and an interesting story. Oh and Kiefer does indeed shout “Dammit!” at one point…


Check out the classic VHS trailer below.