Counterforce (1988)

Counterforce (1988)- * *

Directed by: Jose Antonio De Lama

Starring: Jorge Rivero, Andrew Stevens, Isaac Hayes, George Kennedy, Hugo Stiglitz, Simon Andreu, Susana Dosamantes, Louis Jourdan, Kevin Bernhardt, and Robert Forster

Somewhere in a foreign land, The Dictator (Forster) is causing trouble. No real surprise there, unless you consider the fact that he's known only as "The Dictator". Even the news reports about him call him that. Because there's a pro-democracy politician named Kassar (Jourdan) who opposes The Dictator, the U.S. sends in the COUNTERFORCE to protect him because he now has a target on his back.

Counterforce, who have their own, specially-branded hats and jackets so you know it's them, is an elite squad of soldiers who are the best of the best. They consist of Colby (Kennedy), their leader, Nash (Stevens), the spiritual guy who likes zen and meditation, Ballard (Hayes), the muscle, Harris (Rivero), who leads the men in the field, and Sutherland (Bernhardt), who everyone calls "flyboy" because he likes planes. Will the Counterforce protect Kassar and put an end to the reign of terror of The Dictator?

If you like the A-Team, you'll probably like Counterforce. It's very, very A-Team-esque. The whole movie plays out like a feature-length version of the show. Each member of Counterforce corresponds to an A-Team character. Instead of Mr. T, they got Isaac Hayes. Instead of George Peppard, they got George Kennedy. Of course, for the characters of Face and Howling Mad Murdock, they got Jorge Rivero and Andrew Stevens. And Kevin Bernhardt. Even the shooting, car stunts and blow-ups seem heavily inspired by a certain 80's TV show. And it's not Mama's Family. 

Now that that's out of the way, we can talk about the main reason why anyone would go out of their way to see Counterforce: the cast. It's an impressive lineup of B-Movie favorites and regulars. You get Robert Forster as an out-of-control Arab dictator, complete with an indefinable accent and a proclivity towards wearing capes over his normal clothes. There's Jorge Rivero, who last starred in director De La Loma's Killing Machine (1984), AKA Goma-2. He's very no-nonsense this time around, and his ability to load a pistol one-handed is very impressive.

Andrew Stevens and Isaac Hayes are the original odd couple and provide most of the humor in the film. George Kennedy, as usual, holds things together. At this point in his career, Kevin Bernhardt was on the ascendancy, as Counterforce was sandwiched in between Kick Or Die (1987) and Midnight Warrior (1989). Whether those qualify as video store classics is debatable, but it seems Bernhardt was everywhere in the late 80's. 

As if all that wasn't enough, familiar faces such as Louis Jourdan, Simon Andreu, and Hugo Stiglitz round out the cast, which was truly international. The only real female cast member, Susana Dosamantes, was a mainstay in Mexican movies and TV but is probably best known for being in Rio Lobo (1970) with John Wayne. 

While there are a handful of cool bits and some nice, mild humor, it's all very standard. It's an El Presidente slog by any other name. Yes, the scene in the gym where the Counterforce are all lifting weights, except for Andrew Stevens, who is meditating, is a highlight, but it's all so middle of the road. 

Counterforce is by no means a failure, or even unpleasant to watch, but nothing about it stands out enough for us to give it a wholehearted recommendation.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Fatal Deviation (1998)

Fatal Deviation (1998)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Shay Casserley and Simon Linscheid

Starring: James P. Bennett, Mikey Graham, Nicole O' Sullivan, and Johnny Murray

After ten years in a reform school, a young Martial Artist named Jimmy Bennett (Bennett) returns to his hometown of Trim in County Meath, Ireland. It's not long before trouble finds him. The evil gangsters that killed his father are harassing him and his newfound love, Nicola (O'Sullivan). Jimmy is invited to take part in a local no-rules Punchfighting tournament called The Bealtaine. 

The baddies don't want him to win, but Bennett plays by his own rules. Also, thankfully, he and Nicola befriend a wise monk from the abbey (Murray), and he helps Bennett train and train and train. It all comes to an explosive head when said baddies kidnap Nicola and Bennett is forced to go into overdrive to save her - and save the day. What in the world is a FATAL DEVIATION? All will be explained...

What can we say about the great Fatal Deviation that hasn't already been said? It's billed as "Ireland's first Martial Arts action movie" and this shot-on-video project has a DIY feel and a ton of heart that's easy to love. It's funny and fantastically entertaining. It's unique and one-of-a-kind. We here in the U.S. had Razor Sharpe (2001). Ireland had Fatal Deviation. It's the movie that dares to make the natural connection of "County Meath, Ireland" with "Martial Arts". You've got to see it. You just have to!

The star of the show is, of course, James "Jimmy" Bennett. He was born to be an action star. He clearly has spent the time working on not just his physique, but also his technique. His line readings are gold. If Schwarzenegger can come from Austria to make it big in the U.S., why not Bennett? It was nice to see such a Van Damme fan get to indulge his fantasies (VanTasies?) - Bennett:

- Does splits like Van Damme

- Stands on a motorbike and shoots his pistol like JCVD does in Hard Target

- Wears a similar blue shirt to Chance Boudreaux

- Fights in a tournament as Van Damme does in The Quest (1996)

- Has flashbacks to childhood training like in Bloodsport (1988)

- He leaves St. Claude's Academy at the beginning of the film

...and we could probably go on. Yes, there are monks, but since Dennis Rodman was not involved, they're not of the Cyber variety. They may not have been able to get Rodman, but they did get Mikey Graham from the boy band Boyzone.

One thing we have yet to see is Van Damme riding bumper cars at the Funfair or beating up miscreants at the local market. There is a lot of charm on display here, and it's just fun to see. 

There are many more examples, but another one is, when the gangsters are threatening Bennett to take a dive in the tournament, they hand him a note that says "Loose or Else". At first we weren't sure what sort of threat that could possibly be. But, then again, baddies aren't known for their spelling. 

Featuring an unknown song that's a lot like "Young, Cool, and Groovy" from Houseboat Horror (1989), A better Ireland tourism video you could not find. Fatal Deviation almost inadvertently combines the natural beauty of the Emerald Isle with the awesomeness of Jimmy Bennett. Fatal Deviation is a must-see.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty