American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Rent-A-Cop" is a collision between a relationship and a cliche, and the cliche wins, but not before the relationship has given us some nice moments. It involves an unlikely friendship between Burt Reynolds, as a defrocked Chicago police detective, and Liza Minnelli, as a hooker who wants to hire the ex-cop because she thinks someone is trying to kill her.
Given this setup, can we all anticipate what will happen next? Any frequent moviegoer can complete the scenario: The cop will tell the hooker to get lost, and then she will persist, and then he will soften, and then their lives will both be in danger, and by the end of the film they will have saved themselves and also, of course, fallen in love.
Subplots will involve the bloody destruction of the vice king, the death of a sadistic killer, and the ex-cop's rehabilitation and vindication in the eyes of the police department.
The plot, in other words, is on automatic pilot. To locate the virtues of "Rent-A-Cop," we will have to look into the crevices, where bits of style and flashes of wit have been concealed. I enjoyed, for example, the relationship between Reynolds and Minnelli, who work easily together and establish a bantering repartee (her cynical wisecracks, his bemused refusal to go along). There are even a couple of moments when their relationship shades off into something more personal, and more touching, to suggest what this movie might have become if it had been more ambitious.