Short Time (1990) – ripper car movies

Getting killed isn't as easy as it looks


WITH only a matter of days before his retirement becomes official, Seattle police detective Burt Simpson (Coleman) has every intention of finishing his ‘short time’ as quietly and injury-free as possible. But when a routine blood test for his life insurance policy gets sneakily switched for that of drug-positive bus driver Spivak (Jackson), Burt is mistakenly told he has only a few weeks to live.

First published in the February 2022 issue of Street Machine

He soon learns that his insurance payout will increase tenfold if he gets killed on the job. He springs into action, responding to every dangerous call-out in the hope of getting shot and better feathering the financial nest for his ex-wife Carolyn (Garr) and young son Dougie (Eriksen).

Burt tricks his best friend and work partner, Ernie (Frewer), out of harm’s way so that Burt can tackle the city’s crime head-on, with unexpectedly stellar results.

His fresh ability to apprehend violent offenders and diffuse threatening situations is matched only by his inability to get himself killed, and he soon learns that his death-wish attitude is ingratiating him both with his squad captain (Corbin) and the Seattle community, who are fed up with crime.

A final showdown with criminal psychopath, Stark (Berkeley), coincides with the revelation that Burt is in fact not dying, leaving him desperate to now live with a fresh attitude to his life.

Being 30-odd years old, Short Time is of an era where movie car action was realistic and raw, so the awesome car chase here steals the show – those stunt drivers must have been having the time of their lives! The sound of those glorious police-pack small-block Chrysler V8s kicking down the transmissions will be music to many ears. The only drawback for those with a keen eye is the presence of the phenomenon known as the ‘Bullitt Beetle’ – when the same supporting car makes repeated appearances in different scenes. Damn you, beige Plymouth Volaré!


A STILL-fresh and funny movie, Short Time boasts a great cast, witty dialogue and plenty of action. The plot is clever, but momentum somewhat stalls midway through due to the ace-up-the-sleeve car chase being played out too early. It’s a bit of a shame, as the film’s premise and sense of humour is entertaining. Nevertheless, this is a simple, good-fun flick the whole family can enjoy.


  • 1984 Dodge Diplomat
  • 1984 Plymouth Gran Fury
  • 1976 Pontiac Catalina
  • 1966 Ford Mustang
  • 1988 Lincoln Town Car
  • 1980 Chevrolet Impala
  • 1980 Buick Century
  • 1978 Plymouth Volaré
  • 1974 Dodge Tradesman


  • Dabney Coleman
  • Matt Frewer
  • Teri Garr
  • Barry Corbin
  • Kaj-Erik Eriksen
  • Xander Berkeley
  • Dee Jay Jackson

Gregg Champion

One of the most entertaining and funny car chases you’ll ever see; the two lead cars cop an absolute hiding!

A retiring police detective, who believes he only has weeks to live, tries gallantly to get killed on the job to maximise an insurance payout for his family

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Actor Matt Frewer (above), who stars as Burt’s work partner, Ernie Dills, played the 1980s TV icon Max Headroom