American Mission (1988)

American Mission (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Derrick Bishop, Crow Frances and Earling Hoh

Get ready for more Godfrey Ho madness as Mr. Ho tries his hand at a full movie for this outing and not a patchwork quilt. That being said, perhaps he should have gone with his more famous cut-and-paste method this time? The plot, as far as we can tell, is this: There are some pro-American soldiers named Woody, Tom Thompson, and Alexander Samson. Maybe it’s because of his name, but it is determined that Samson is the best of the bunch and so he goes undercover in the Commie People’s Freedom Army in order to infiltrate the group, and he travels to Malaysia to do so. Once there, he meets the leader of the PFA, Abdul, who takes a liking to him. After spending time at the Bangsa Moro training camp, he is then shipped yet again to Commander Hajiman’s unit. It’s there he meets the core soldiers of the PFA: Ahmed, Chico, Jerry, and Terri. Trying to thwart the AMERICAN MISSION is a blonde guy with strange speech patterns named Commander Victor, and his second-in-command, Sanderson. All of what you just read is just window dressing for the endless scenes of shooting machine guns in the jungle. Will the AMERICAN MISSION succeed?

If you like unnamed, unidentified people shooting machine guns at each other in the jungle, you will love American Mission. That could get boring after a while, and it kind of does, but because of the insanity with which the interstitial dialogue scenes are executed, the viewers’ interest is kept, but just barely. If you’ve seen Godfrey Ho movies before, you know what we’re talking about and know what to expect. The movie is kept afloat in large part because of the dubbing. The voices put into the characters’ mouths are very silly and ridiculous. Most animated cartoons for kids don’t have such over-the-top ludicrous voice work. So when these very silly people are then shooting and grenade-ing each other into oblivion for many minutes at a stretch, you can’t help but be sucked in to the vortex of sheer senselessness.

When the two sides are shooting at each other, you honestly can’t tell who is who, what side they’re on, or what political cause they’re fighting about. Apparently both sides believe the key to achieving their political aims are to blow up as many huts as possible. Clearly that will change the course of the world geopolitical situation. We also appreciated the multi-colored smoke bombs on display. Of the many smaller-sized blow-ups, instead of the standard white, gray, or even black, here we get orange, purple, and blue as well. It added a visual difference that we appreciated. There should have been more things like that (though the guy with his arm in a cast with a gun was a nice idea as well).

Every now and again in the movie, there’s a white title card saying where we are. Unfortunately, it’s white text set against a largely bright background, so we as viewers can’t read it. It appears on the screen for only a fraction of a second anyway, so it’s kind of a wash. Maybe it was meant to be subliminal.

While the movie itself is all of one piece – which Godfrey Ho later perfected with gems like Honor and Glory and Undefeatable – the music score seems to be a return to his classic patchwork way of doing things. No one person is credited with an original score, so it’s reasonable to assume this. The music is really fun, yet another indication that the audio aspects of this movie are more entertaining than the visual ones, for the most part. If it wasn’t for the colored smoke bombs, you could almost listen to this movie on the radio. 

American Mission is approximately the 40th movie Godfrey Ho directed…in 1988. This fact is almost as ridiculous and hilarious as many of the movies he puts out. If nothing else, you have to respect his work ethic. As for the movie itself, the VHS (or the, oddly enough, German DVD) should come with a sticker on the front: “Must Love Nonsense”. If that’s cool with you, do embark on the AMERICAN MISSION!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Street Law (1995)

Street Law (1995)- * *

Directed by: Damian Lee

Starring: Jeff Wincott, Douglas O'Keefe, Paco Christian Prieto Jonathan Fisher, and Christina Cox

John Ryan (Wincott) is a Toronto-based lawyer. He’s also very adept at kickboxing/Punchfighting. Unfortunately, Ryan’s life is about to come crashing down all around him. He owes $78,000 to a loan shark named Larry the Lender (O’Keeffe), and, whether through his own actions or because of outside forces, he just may lose his prestigious job, his swanky apartment, and everything else he holds dear. When his childhood friend Luis Calderone (Prieto) – now a criminal baddie - buys Ryan’s debt, besides creating strife between the two men, it opens up the only possibility left to Ryan: fight in underground Punchfighting matches to pay off his debt and restore his honor. When Luis’s girlfriend Kelly (Cox), who is basically his kept woman, gets involved, things get REALLY complicated. Will John Ryan win back his own life…and will he use STREET LAW to do it?

Not to be confused with the fantastic 1974 Franco Nero movie of the same name (AKA Il Cittadino Si Ribella), this particular Street Law is yet another disappointing Damian Lee movie that isn’t worthy of the talents of the great Jeff Wincott. Sure, Street Law opens with a lot of promise: Wincott cruising down the streets of Canada on his Harley, wearing cool shades, with both his long hair and the fringes of his buckskin jacket blowing in the breeze. It’s even narrated by Wincott. Soon, however, this promise is squelched.

For no real reason that we can discern even now, we then cut to a scene of Wincott prancing around the forest wearing nothing but a loincloth. Apparently it has something to do with a native-Canadian named Grey Feather (Fisher), who also is only loincloth-clad. Once the actual plot kicks in, there are a lot of dialogue-heavy scenes with unlikable characters the audience doesn’t care about. As much as we may love John Ryan’s lawyerings, we couldn’t help but long for better Wincott outings such as Mission of Justice (1992) or Last Man Standing (1996). Almost all of the fight scenes are officially-organized bouts in the ring (wherein the winner, after defeating his opponent, has to capture a flag tucked into the ceiling above the ring for no real reason) – this is contrary to what the title STREET LAW conjures in your mind.

There are a lot of unnecessary zooms and slo-mo sequences in said fight scenes. Just let Wincott and the other fighters do their thing. Don’t muddy the waters with a bunch of cinematic techniques that just get in the way. And not for every scene, but for too many of them, there is a shotgun noise and a quick flash of light as a transition. Not only is this annoying and unnecessary, but Damian Lee did a similar thing in Fatal Combat a few years later (1997), where instead of a gunshot it was loud television static. And as much as we love Wincott, the movie needed another name, such as a Robert Davi or an Eric Roberts to spice things up. The final nail in the coffin is Wincott’s famed trademark of stickfighting is there in a literal blink-and-you’ll-miss-it two second blip. It looked like there might have been more stickfighting filmed but it was cut. So, put all this together and it’s kind of hard to care about the proceedings. 

However, it’s not ALL doom and gloom. Wincott’s buckskin jacket puts Seagal’s to shame, and he does have a cool long-hair-and-vest combo that is very 90’s and very winning. He also gets to show his acting range somewhat as a lawyer, although he did play a professor in the aforementioned Fatal Combat, a film which does have a lot of similarities to Street Law. Wincott does seem to throw himself into his role, and his Martial Arts are well-executed, but only a handful of moves are really used to their full potential. By far the high-water mark of the entire movie involves a bow and arrow, but we won’t give it away, because if you decide to see this muck, we certainly don’t want to spoil the unqualified best part for you.

Featuring the song “Undertow”, the title track of their 1994 self-released album by Canadian band Big Faith (Tool released theirs in 1993), among other songs by Big Faith, we would say that Street Law is for die-hard Wincott fans only.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett