Blue Tiger (1994)

Blue Tiger (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Norberto Barba

Starring: Virginia Madsen, Toru Nakamura, Henry Mortensen, Dean Hallo, Brenda Varda, Yuji Okumoto, Harry Dean Stanton, and a cameo by Michael Madsen

Gina Hayes (Madsen) is a loving single mother to her young son Darin (Mortensen). When Darin is shot in the crossfire of a Yakuza war, Gina drops whatever it was she was doing, learns Japanese, dyes her hair black, and puts on her leather revenge jacket. She obsessively and single-mindedly attempts to track down her son’s murderer, and her only clue (because the assailant wore a mask) is that he has a very recognizable tattoo on his chest.

She gets a job as a waitress in a dance club where the Yakuza hangs out, then begins the laborious process of coming up with reasons for all of them to get shirtless so she can identify the killer. When ailing tattoo master Smith (Stanton) emblazons her body with a certain red dragon, it signals that she is close to fulfilling her mission. But the Yakuza is getting wise, her friend Emily (Varda) is against her, and “Asian Crimes Inspector” Lt. Sakagami (Okumoto) is on her trail. With time running out, she must unravel the true nature of her newfound relationship with Seiji (Nakamura). Who – or what – is the real meaning of BLUE TIGER?

Virginia Madsen versus the Yakuza. Killer idea. Thankfully, the movie more or less delivers. It’s well-shot and technically is quality all the way around. It can certainly stand with other movies cut from a similar cloth such as American Yakuza (1993), American Dragons (1998), and White Tiger (1996). It’s noticeably better than Distant Justice (1992), another American-Japanese co-production from the same era.

While it does feature some beat-ups and shooting (including a noteworthy, classic-90’s drive-by), we’re not in PM territory here. The movie concentrates largely on drama, but is punctuated at appropriate times with well-executed action scenes. The Japanese actors acquit themselves well as usual, and the presence of top-flight actors like Madsen, fan favorite Harry Dean Stanton, and No Retreat No Surrender’s Dean Hallo really help things. Virginia’s brother Michael has a cameo as a gun dealer for the classic scene where the revenge-seeker (in this case Virginia, of course) goes to a gun range and learns to shoot.

Blue Tiger is a worthy addition to the revenge movie canon. Thanks to films like this one, video stores in a now-bygone era had added color and interest. It’s all very professional and serious-minded. Perhaps too much so: it actually could have been more exploitative and trashy, but that was eschewed. The plot is a bit slow-moving in the middle, but it rights itself. 

Blue Tiger is recommended, especially for revenge film fans.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Shadow Warriors (1999)

Shadow Warriors (1999)- * *1\2

Directed by: Jon Cassar

Starring: Hulk Hogan, Carl Weathers, Shannon Tweed, and Martin Kove

Mike McBride (Hulk), Roy Brown (Weathers), Hunter Wiley (Tweed), and possibly some other guy are the SHADOW WARRIORS. They’re a team of mercenaries, but they’re good mercenaries who rescue kidnapped children and fight terrorists. But that’s only, in true A-Team fashion, “if you can find them”. Tasked with fighting some baddies with chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, our Shadow Warrior team snaps into action. They even enlist the help of their buddy Andy Powers (Kove), sort of an auxiliary Shadow Warrior. The only problem is McBride was injected with some sort of poison and is slowly dying. Can he get an antidote in time? Will they stop the launch of the missile? Will they save the children? WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN?!?!

Shadow Warriors is a made-for-TV (TNT to be exact) outing, and you can really feel it. It feels like a pilot for a show that was never picked up, and it would have been (and should have been) a syndicated series that would air after Xena or Hercules or Relic Hunter on channel 9 on Saturday afternoon. That’s not to say there isn’t action – there are plenty of shootouts, fights, chases, blow-ups and the like. But it feels sanitized, and the whole outing is very paint-by-numbers.

That being said, there are plenty of funny moments to be had. Hulk Hogan attempting to act “troubled” is worth the price of admission alone. The Hulkster mows down middle-Eastern terrorists holding two large machine guns, and later gets the old Prerequisite Torture treatment. Carl Weathers brings his trademark charisma, and Shannon Tweed practically salvages the whole thing just by being there. Of course, you do get some classic Tweed-Fu. Martin Kove seems to be going for the David Letterman look of the day. They all walk in slow motion away from an explosion, and Hulk Hogan punches people on a hovercraft. So it’s not a total loss.

The whole thing is rife with stereotypes and stupidity, as you might expect from another pairing of director Cassar with Hulk Hogan around the same time as The Ultimate Weapon (1998). But you shouldn’t go in expecting more than that, and there is fun to be had with what’s there. 

So, if you’re willing to accept “The B-Team”, you could do a lot worse than Shadow Warriors.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum!