K-9 (film)

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This article is about the film K-9. For other uses of K-9, see K9.
K nine.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Rod Daniel
Produced by
Written by
Music by Miles Goodman
Cinematography Dean Semler
Edited by Lois Freeman-Fox
Gordon Company
Distributed by Universal Studios
Release dates
  • April 28, 1989 (1989-04-28)
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $17 million[citation needed]
Box office $78.2 million[1]

K-9 is a 1989 American action-comedy film starring James Belushi and Mel Harris. It was directed by Rod Daniel, written by Steven Siegel and Scott Myers, produced by Lawrence Gordon and Charles Gordon, and released by Universal City Studios.

Belushi plays bad-tempered San Diego police detective Michael Dooley, who has been tagged for execution by a major international drug dealer named Ken Lyman (played by Kevin Tighe). To help, K-9 Sergeant Brannigan (played by Ed O'Neill) gives Dooley an unorthodox drug-sniffing police dog called "Jerry Lee" (named after rock-and-roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis).[2] The duo attempt to put Lyman behind bars but Dooley quickly learns Jerry Lee is a mischievous smart aleck who works only when and how he wants to. Many of the movie's gags revolve around Jerry Lee's playfully destructive episodes.

The film has two sequels, K-911 (1999) and K-9: P.I. (2002), both being direct-to-video.


San Diego Police Detective Michael Dooley leaves his car to contact his girlfriend, Tracy, when a helicopter suddenly appears and opens fire on his car, which ignites. Presuming him dead, the assassins leave the scene. At the police station, Dooley argues with his captain, refusing to take a partner; instead, he decides to get a police dog. At home, he finds Tracy with another man and spends the night in his new car. The next day, Dooley coerces Freddie, an informant, into revealing that the drug lord Ken Lyman is responsible for the attack. Dooley is assigned a German Shepherd named Jerry Lee,[2] whom he dislikes.

Dooley and Jerry Lee head to a warehouse assumed to be filled with drugs. When Jerry Lee does not follow Dooley's orders, the workers laugh at him. Dooley is forced to leave after Jerry Lee finds only a cigarette when commanded to find drugs. The duo drive to a pub where Dooley stakes out Benny the Mule in an attempt to charge Lyman. When his cover is blown, Jerry Lee saves Dooley from a beating; with the dog's help, Dooley subdues Benny and learns the location of Lyman's next shipment. Meanwhile, Lyman kills Freddie and demands that his henchman Dillon kill Dooley before the shipment arrives.

At Dooley's apartment, Jerry Lee steals the spotlight after Tracy accepts Dooley's story that he rescued the dog from the streets. The next day, Dooley and Jerry Lee bond when they eat together and spy on Lyman. The two are nearly killed when someone shoots at them, and the two chase the assailant to an empty building. Jerry Lee leads Dooley to the man, who falls to his death after a fistfight with Dooley. In the man's car, Dooley finds a clue that leads him to an auto-dealer shop. There, Jerry Lee identifies a red Mercedes owned by Lyman, and Dooley learns from Halstead, the owner of the dealership, that he works for Lyman. Later, Jerry Lee falls in love with a poodle to the disapproval of its owner.

When Dooley returns home, he discovers Lyman has kidnapped Tracy. Infuriated, Dooley crashes a party at Lyman's mansion and demands her return. Lyman pretends to know nothing, and Dooley is arrested by an officer from his own department and put in a squad car. Angry, Dooley's captain calls him crazy. When Jerry Lee's flatulence annoys the other officers, Dooley uses it to his advantage and escapes with the dog. As Dooley tells Jerry Lee how he met Tracy, he spots a truck driven by Halstead that is pulling a trailer with Lyman's Mercedes. Dooley purses the truck, and Halstead blows a tire. After Halstead shoots at Dooley, Jerry Lee kills Halstead.

Meanwhile, in a stranded desert in San Diego, Lyman holds Tracy hostage in his limo and becomes suspicious when Halstead is late. Dooley arrives with the truck and trailer, which is revealed to be the next shipment of drugs. Not worrying about the case anymore, Dooley orders Lyman to surrender his girlfriend to him, or he will blow up the truck. Lyman calls Dooley's bluff, and a shootout ensues. Dooley kills Lyman's henchmen, and Jerry Lee chases Lyman as he runs for his helicopter. Unable to outrun the dog, Lyman shoots Jerry Lee; enraged, Dooley shoots and kills Lyman. Dooley and Tracy rush Jerry Lee to a hospital, where the reluctant surgeon operates. In the recovery room, Dooley delivers a eulogy to Jerry Lee, not knowing that he is alive. When the surgeon tells him he is going to be fine, Dooley responds in anger, thinking he was speaking to a dead dog. Jerry Lee licks Dooley's face out of love, making him give in.

To take a break from police work, Dooley, Tracy, Jerry Lee, and a poodle spend a vacation together in Las Vegas.


The role of "Jerry Lee" was played by more than one dog, including backups and stand-ins.[3][4]


Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times praised the actors but not the routine plot. Thomas wrote, "It's enjoyable, thanks not only to its charismatic duo, but also to the skilled comedy direction of Rod Daniel."[5] Additionally, Stephen Holden of The New York Times gave the film a mixed review, stating it had "no shred of credibility", yet contains "cutesy, surefire dog tricks" and a "breezy pacing".[6] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film "2 stars".[7] Rita Kempley of The Washington Post complimented Jerry Lee's performance.[8]

K-9 currently holds a 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on nine reviews; the average rating is 4.1/10.[9]

Although K-9 was released exactly three months earlier, Turner & Hooch (with Tom Hanks) became more popular, even though they had very similar plots.


Music composed by John Williams / Courtesy of MCA Records

Written by Barbara Ann Hawkins (as Hawkins), Joe Jones (as Jones), Rosa Lee Hawkins (as Hawkins), Marilyn Jones (as Johnson), Sharon Jones (as Jones) and Jessie Thomas (as Thomas) of The Dixie Cups / Performed by Amy Holland

Written by James Brown / Performed by James Brown / Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.

Written by Boris Blank and Dieter Meier / Performed by Yello / Courtesy of PolyGram Special Products, a division of PolyGram Records, Inc.

Written by Norman Whitfield / Performed by Rose Royce / Courtesy of MCA Records


  1. ^ "K-9". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Thomas, Kevin (April 28, 1989). "Movie Reviews : 'K-9' a Serviceable Outing for Belushi". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved Aug 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ Neill, Michael;Marie Moneysmith (1989-05-22). "Get Used to It, Cybill—there's a New Shepherd in Hollywood". People. Retrieved 2011-12-21. 
  4. ^ Hearne, Vicki (1988-12-11). "The Cruelty Question : How Do They Get a Horse to Flip Flapjacks, an Elephant to Ring for Champagne, a Chimpanzee to Sit Still? Hollywood Animal Trainers Explain Their Side of the Controversy.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-12-24. 
  5. ^ Thomas, Kevin (1989-04-28). "Movie Reviews : 'K-9' a Serviceable Outing for Belushi". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen (April 28, 1989). "K 9 (1989) Review/Film; A Canine Constable and Partner, in 'K-9'". New York Times. Retrieved August 21, 2012. 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 28, 1989). "K-9". rogerebert.com. Retrieved August 21, 2012. 
  8. ^ Kempley, Rita (April 28, 1989). "K-9 (PG-13)". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 21, 2012. 
  9. ^ "K-9 (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 

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