Edit: Apparently San Francisco Patrol Special Police is a real thing, but I highly doubt it's as Robocop/Judge Dredd as this film makes it out to be.
It seems the actors I drooled over in my adolescence were, for the most part, not self-destructive in the long run. (Though I bet I know at least one person who can be smug at me about it, given that she always preferred Emilio to Charlie!) However, it also seems they haven't had careers that held after they moved out of their teen-idol days. Now, of course, Johnny Depp sidestepped the issue neatly by being a forty-nine-year-old teen idol, and anyway I didn't get much into him until I was in college and discovered that he can act. It's not that Christian Slater has had a terrible career, and certainly he still has one. In fact, he did about a dozen different things last year. The issue is more that they were mostly obscure, and they were not reliably of good quality. He didn't settle into a dignified middle age as a leading man or character actor of repute, is I guess what I'm saying, and that would have shocked me when this movie came out.
In it, he plays George Kuffs, a bit of a gadabout. His young girlfriend, Maya Carlton (Milla Jovovich, then not even out of high school but playing a college student), has just informed him that she's two months pregnant; they've been together for six months. He decides to borrow money from his older brother, Brad (Bruce Boxleitner), and take off to Brazil. Brad offers him a job instead--and then is promptly killed. Brad owned a "patrol special," essentially an independent police force in the City of San Francisco. He has left it to George. George must go through the academy, and then he tries to use the business to bring the killers of his brother to justice. It's the first time George has ever had to be a grown-up, and he starts to realize that maybe he was wrong to run out on Maya and their baby. But first, he has to make the charges against his brother's killers stick, or he won't live to parent anyone.
Patrol specials really do exist in San Francisco. They're one of those weird leftovers of frontier justice that you find scattered throughout the West. The first constables were sworn in in 1847, even before the Gold Rush, and once gold was found, it was just easier to increase their numbers than to hire actual city police, I suppose. Owners are probably better paid than the average San Francisco cop, certainly. It is also worth noting that George is far from being a vigilante. Because he is working essentially as an agent of the San Francisco police, he is required to follow all the same rules as they are. He has to obey the same Fourth Amendment procedures as the city cops, and doubtless there is going to be some kind of official investigation into all those bodies left lying around at the end of the picture. Yes, his apartment is full of bullet holes--and pity the neighbours--so he'll probably be fine. Still, he's operating within the law, not outside it.
Actually, George comes across at times as a guy who's just seen too many movies. Now, one of the movies I thought of while watching this was [i]Tombstone[/i], specifically the line, "No witness, no murder." (Surely you start building your case with a witness, you don't end with it!) However, this is yet another film where a character is essentially a vigilante with a badge. Yes, the villains are operating in his district; that's why they killed his brother in the first place. He was trying to enforce the law there. However, George blithely ignores the orders of Police Captain Morino (Troy Evans), who tells him not to go after the killers. He even drugs poor Ted Bukovsky (Tony Goldwyn), the officer assigned to make sure he follows the rules. Yes, he feels guilty about it, but that's because he's by then discovered that Ted is a pretty decent guy. It's not because that's, you know, illegal and dangerous. George has seen one too many movie about a loose cannon cop, and he thinks that's what they're actually like.
Yes, of course it all works out all right in the end. This movie is a comedy, not a drama. However, this is the kind of movie where, if you know anything about Constitutional law, you start wondering which guys are going to get off. Probably, given how things happen, none of them, not that many of them survive the picture. For the sake of the people in that neighbourhood, though, I hope George never does anything like this again. The plot, as so many movies set in cities with high real estate values do, revolves around someone involved in a land grab. However, if the kind of pitched gun battle that occurs twice in the movie happens anywhere near as often afterward, the land values in that area will end up being the lowest in all of San Francisco. Though of course, that's still a lot higher than in a lot of places outside the city. I guess they hoped that Christian Slater talking companionably to the audience would keep us from thinking about that. If I were the same person I was in 1992, it probably would have worked on me, too.