Street Crimes (1992)

Street Crimes (1992)- * * *

Directed by: Stephen Smoke

Starring: Dennis Farina, Michael Worth, Max Gail, Joe Banks and Patricia Zehentmayr

Brian (Farina) is an L.A. cop and Tony (Worth) is his new rookie partner. Tony takes a lot of good-natured ribbing by his buddies on the force, especially Flannigan (Gail) and Happy (Banks) due to the fact that he disdains the use of guns and prefers Martial Arts. That, and the fact that he’s a teetotaler who doesn’t constantly slam brewski’s at the local bar. To add insult to injury, he also loves healthy food.

Almost by chance, Tony and the local “homies” turn an abandoned boxing gym into a community center by staging bouts for everyone to come and see. Little by little, the place gets fixed up and the homies get a true home. Meanwhile, Tony and Brian’s daughter Susan (Zehentmayr) strike up a romantic relationship. Susan just happens to be blind, but that doesn’t get in the way of their love. 

The crime boss of the area, Gerardo (Morris, a dead ringer for Ernie Hudson, not the Rico Suave guy) doesn’t like that people are now helping in the community instead of buying his drugs, so naturally his solution is to kidnap Susan and challenge Tony to the big final fight, settling a score from years earlier. Will Tony clean up the streets…and the STREET CRIMES?

PM delivers the quality yet again with Street Crimes, a completely enjoyable outing that really delivers the goods. Dennis Farina is perfectly cast as Brian, and he’s as charming as all get-out, whether he’s happily chowing down on a burrito with uncommon gusto, busting the baddies, or cheering on his friend and partner in the kickboxing ring. You really care about him and his daughter, and by extension, his partners, especially Tony. 

Tony is the kind of young man who takes milk cartons out on patrol and still shouts HI-YA! while he’s fighting the baddies. You have to appreciate his youthful enthusiasm. Like any of us, he goes to buy a new car at night right before the dealership closes, and gets involved in thwarting a holdup of said car dealership. He also wears what appear to be acid-washed sweatpants. While on duty. We didn’t realize you could acid-wash cotton, but, hey, you learn something new every day.

What’s interesting about Street Crimes is that it’s a mix of cop drama, straight-up action, Punchfighting, Martial Arts, and clean-up-the-community movie, with a healthy streak of humor in there to leaven it all out. Max Gail provides a lot of the comic relief, but it’s running through there subtly, as are the more romantic bits between Tony and Susan. 

There’s even some social commentary about drugs, child abuse, racism, and community-police relations thrown in for good measure. Somehow, it’s all seamless. It never once feels like a mishmash, despite all the disparate elements. That was super impressive, and easily could have gone south. Thankfully, not only does it all hang together, it ensures the viewer never gets bored. You’re really invested in what’s going on.

Street Crimes is classic 90’s video store action fun. It’s bright, everything works well, and the time flies by. Stephen Smoke only directed two movies in his career, this and Final Impact (1992) – both in the same year! 

Looking back, it is hard to beat 1992. All we can say in closing is that, when Tony is walking to the final fight with Gerardo, and all the local homies suddenly join him out of the steam and smoke of the night, and they’re all walking with determination towards their destiny as the John Gonzalez music pumps on the soundtrack, you realize that Street Crimes is nothing less than a triumph.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Bloodfist 2050 (2005)

Bloodfist 2050 (2005)- *

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Matt Mullins, Glen Meadows, Beverly Lynn, and Joe Mari Avellana

Plot: See Dragon Fire (1993). Or, better yet, see Bloodfist (1989).

Okay, okay, we won’t be as lazy as Roger Corman and we’ll do our job. Sometime in 2050, Los Angeles is still a hellhole. (It was a hellhole in 2032 in Dragon Fire). Alex Danko (Mullins) travels to L.A. to get to the truth about his murdered brother. In order to get closer to the underground Punchfighting circuit where his brother fought, he gets a trainer and begins fighting in “The Pit” himself. After many bouts, which honestly don’t have much to do with his slain brother, he finally figures out the nefarious plan. But will it be too late?

Despite what you might, understandably, be thinking, this is not the 2,050th sequel to Bloodfist. It’s only the ninth installment in the series. Noticeably, the great Don “The Dragon” Wilson is nowhere in sight. Perhaps he cottoned on to the fact that this is as junky as all get-out and has a downmarket and cheap look to it.

It all opens with some stock footage from Dune Warriors (1990) and there is some attempt at marrying this with the 2005-shot footage. Some of it looks sped-up, as do some of the fight scenes. It’s also highly likely that there are repeated and/or stock shots of crowds as they cheer on the fighters. Edited in to all of this are the Corman specialty, stripping scenes. Between the stock footage, recycled footage, sped-up footage, and stripping footage – and keep in mind this movie is (mercifully) only about 75 minutes, we as viewers aren’t left with a whole heck of a lot.

Plotwise, Bloodfist 2050 is the same movie as Dragon Fire. It is a lower-rent version of Dragon Fire. Think about that for a second. When you’re a lower-rent version of Dragon Fire, there is a definite problem. Yes, it’s post-apocalyptic for no discernible reason. Yes, it’s a Punchfighter. Yes, all the exact same plot points are covered. But the question is: why? Instead of Dominick LaBanca, now we have Matt Mullins in the lead role. It’s clear he can do Martial Arts – but the attempt to do Hong Kong-style heavily choreographed, heavily stylized, fast fight scenes come off as humorous because they’re unnecessarily acrobatic for the cheapjack overall vibe.

Also, Mullins looks like a skinnier Freddie Prinze, Jr. but with Obama-styled ears. To make matters worse, his buddy in the movie, Randy (Meadows) looks exactly like him. At least the buddy role in Dragon Fire was filled by a dude who looked nothing like the main dude. Here they’re practically twins. Philippines movie mainstay Joe Mari Avellana did his best as the ring announcer and he resembles Johnny Depp here, strangely enough. The elderly assistant from Dragon Fire is nowhere to be seen. Just another example of how Dragon Fire is better (we never thought we would ever say that…)

Honestly, this is not Cirio’s finest hour. He let us off the hook somewhat because the movie is so short, but the whole outing is amazingly dumb and unnecessary. Does Corman think so little of us as viewers that he can just regurgitate the same movie again and again, and we’ll just consume this stuff and thank him for it? It would have been nice if we, the loyal viewers of this type of material, were given a little more credit. But, oh well, they can’t all be Stick Fighter (1994), I suppose. 

Bloodfist 2050 is a stain on the series as a whole, and only worthy if you are a completist of Punchfighters, a completist of the Bloodfist series, or you want to watch something short that’s so dumb it’s almost funny. Or you want to do an A-B comparison with Dragon Fire. Otherwise, it’s probably best to avoid this one, which shouldn’t be too tough.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty