Adventures in Spying (1992): My Little Eye

Dave dives into this teen-driven action movie, and casts his eye over the colourful life of its lead actor.

Anecdotes about the eyebrow-raising lifestyle of Bernie Coulson often overshadow the few achievements he had as an actor, with pre-fame days holed up in an apartment with jobbing wannabes Brad Pitt and Jason Priestley supplying a bounty of crazy tales. “Bernie had a penis pump that he bought because he thought it was going to make his cock bigger,” recounted Priestley to talk-show host Andy Cohen back in 2014. “He used to go into the bathroom, put this thing on, and we could hear it making this pumping noise and stuff. Me and Brad used to sit outside and be like ‘What is going on?’”

Whether Pitt was inspired by his cohabitant’s junk-enhancing endeavours has not been confirmed, although the A-lister did use another attribute of his flatmate to lay the foundations for the role of Floyd, the oblivious stoner in Tony Scott’s True Romance (1993), whom Pitt acknowledged was based on Coulson’s predilection for the wicked weed. Sadly, as The Province noted in 2013 [1], Coulson’s marijuana usage led to heroin, and, by the time he was a regular on small screen crime-drama Intelligence, word got around among the cast and crew that no one was to give the troubled actor money or a cell phone while he was on set.

A sad episode for a talented guy who showed so much promise in films like The Accused (1987), Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives (1989), and this, ADVENTURES IN SPYING, where he plays the lead role. New Line may have christened the film so to ride the coattails of Adventures in Babysitting (1987), but despite the similar title card, they’re very different movies. Adventures in Spying lives up to its VHS over-sticker, which promises ‘action for the entire family’ and in turn quells its comedic aspirations – although the few jokes that do seep through are DOA.

The mullet-haired Coulson plays Brian McNichols, riffing with a Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1987) style narration, and portraying a college boy who’s roped into doing his ailing kid brother’s paper round. Ever inventive, he hooks up with his best mate Shoup (Corey Gunnerstad) so he’s got four wheels at his disposal, and heads to the harbour of their fishing village to pick up the day’s sheets. It’s here that he crosses the path of Al Dorn (G. Gordon Liddy [2]), a drug kingpin that faked his own death, and who’s come to the sleepy hamlet of Rockwater to lay low. Naturally, Brian is champing at the bit to expose this elaborate ruse and bag the bounty too, but the local cops are having none of it. Thankfully, Lt. Ray Rucker (a brunette Seymour Cassel) is heading in from the big city to satisfy his nagging suspicions about Dorn’s demise, while Brian and Shoup set about a stakeout with the able assistance of Chemistry student Julie (the effervescent Jill Schoelen) in the hope of bringing the felon to justice.

The sole credit for mysterious writer-director ‘Hil Covington’ [3], there was a rumour that New Line had, in fact, hired Chris Columbus to pen the film as a companion piece to his directorial debut, the aforementioned Adventures in Babysitting. Poppycock is the likeliest answer to this baseless theory, not least because even Columbus’ infernal Christmas with the Kranks (2004) has a boatload more laughs than this. If anything, Adventures in Spying is more of a modern-day chapter of The Hardy Boys: a goofy and inoffensive romp, where those pesky kids ruin it for the hoodlums.

USA ● 1992 ● Action, Comedy ● 92mins

Bernie Coulson, Corey Gunnestad, Jill Schoelen, Seymour Cassel ● Dir./Wri. Hil Covington

[1] Troubled Actor Bernie Coulson Gets a New Friend and a Movie Role by Glen Schaefer, The Province, 7th November 2013
[2] Yes, the G. Gordon Liddy, chief figure in the Watergate scandal. He turned to acting in the mid-80s, and the year prior to Adventures in Spying bagged a prominent role in Greg Dark’s Street Asylum (1990).
[3] For what it’s worth, we’ve approached a handful of crew members over this likely pseudonym, but we’re still none the wiser.

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