9/30/2010

Deadly Reckoning (1998)

Deadly Reckoning (1998)-*1\2

AKA: The Company Man

Directed by: Art Camacho

Starring: Frank Zagarino, Don Stroud, Elizabeth Giordano, Bryan Genesse,  Matthias Hues, and Robert Vaughn as "Control 5"










"Deadly Reckoning" is an oddity that sadly is too junky and downmarket to be all that interesting.

A block of wood, excuse me, Frank Zagarino, plays Ernest Gray, bespectacled owner of the Either/Or bookstore (apparently a real place in Hermosa Beach, CA). He just wants to be left alone to raise his young daughter, Jennifer, and get her into Julliard. Unfortunately, he is menaced for $50 in protection money by a trio of middle-aged "homies". Their big threat is to call him "Book Boy". I know, I know. As if that wasn't enough, it turns out Gray - if that's his REAL name - was the "greatest spy of them all" for the CIA with the code name of Napoleon.  One of his big achievements was to dismantle a terror cell named...The Cell. Now the evil Control 5 (Vaughn - that's his actual name in the film) and his henchmen, one of which is the beefy, shotgun-wielding Van Guilder (Hues) are after Ernest and Jennifer. Luckily, Ernest's compadres Lewis (Genesse), The Mule (Stroud) and  Marianna (Giordano) are helping them out. Will Gray and his daughter Jennifer Gray beat The Cell?


Frank Zagarino, who resembles a cross between Dolph Lundgren and Brian Bosworth, with the square-headedness of Howie Long, shows little-to-no emotion and his voice is weirdly monotonous. Matthias Hues joins the fray as Van Guilder, and he has some similar issues but he makes it work because he's charming. He is a hulking brute, and one of his "disguises" is to wear glasses and put his Fabio-like hair in a ponytail. But he still wears his trademark sleeveless shirt. The actress that plays Gray's daughter, Rebecca Ayre Doughty, gives far and away the best performance of the film and acts rings around everyone else (it's not her fault her violin playing is an obvious keyboard). Her beloved bear, Chewy the Bear has some sort of secret to it which is never fleshed out.

Robert Vaughn- yes, THE Robert Vaughn, shows us the definition of "slumming". He's gone from being nominated for Oscars to Control 5. How the mighty have fallen. In the end credits, there is a credit for "Special Effects Hair Stylist". We can only assume this refers to Vaughn's hairpiece. We love Vaughn and we want the best for him. Why is he here?

Director Camacho, despite the nil budget, cheap feel  and dingy "film" quality, still tries for some John Woo-style flourishes but they are pretty ham-handed. Note the bookstore and abandoned warehouse (of course) shootouts. Actually a lot of the movie is padded out with brainless shooting. 

It seems the only people that should see "Deadly Reckoning" are die-hard Zagarino, Hues or Vaughn fans. Anybody who watches this glop will get their intelligence insulted.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


9/29/2010

Out For Blood (1992)

Out For Blood (1992)-* * *

Directed by: Richard W. Munchkin

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Robert Miano, Shari Shattuck, Aki Aleong, and Robert Delano












John Decker (Don) is a troubled lawyer with a tragedy in his past. He's trying to sort out his troubles with his friend and psychologist Dr. McConnell (Ron Steelman), or Mack as Decker calls him. Mack takes him to an art opening where he meets the beauty Joanna Montaigne (Shattuck) and wise old man Hiroshi (Aleong), who both influence his life in different ways - but at night, figuring he has nothing left to lose, Decker puts on his purple and black Nike running jacket and becomes...Karate Man! He goes around the city beating up and shooting bad guys and drug dealers. The media, based on the drunken ramblings of a homeless woman, runs with the "Karate Man" moniker and soon the whole city wants to know who he is, including Decker's friend on the police force, Lt. Croft (Delano). With both the cops and the baddies on his trail, will Decker/Karate Man win the day?

We love Don "The Dragon" Wilson and anything he's in, we'll watch. Here, he's as delightfully wooden as ever. It's great when Don wears glasses, and here he has some funny ones during his lawyer persona. This is a funny plot point - he's not a cop, he's not in Intelligence, CIA, FBI, etc...he's a LAWYER! Action Lawyer away! He even says at one point "I feel naked without my beeper!" Interestingly, Don gets the credit "Based on a Concept By Don The Dragon Wilson" - so he was involved in the creation as well. Director Munchkin strikes again and his movies are usually better than average. Here he goes for something a little less linear, with some weird scenes and flashbacks.


Speaking of which, the main influences here seem to be Batman (1989) and Robocop (1987), but without all the fantastical elements - it's just a man in a jogging suit. Oddly enough, Out For Blood prefigures Kick-Ass (2010), in the sense that it is about a self-made 'superhero', with no actual super powers, that becomes more and more popular as he is swept along by a wave of media interest.

Robert Miano stops by as Geisler, the evil mastermind. He has plenty of goons, not the least of which is a "Cowboy of the modern day" who doesn't seem to have a name. But he does have two of the biggest, stupidest meatheads ever. These two dunderheads are so ridiculously dumb they make the Barbarian Brothers look downright sophisticated. I guess they give the film some humor, which is always welcome.

For some rock-solid Don, with a cool vigilante/revenge theme, look no further than Out for Blood!



Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out our buddy Direct To Video Connoisseur's review!

Avenging Force (1986)

Avenging Force (1986)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, James Booth, and John P. Ryan















Here is a prime slice of Dudikoff/Cannon action from the golden year of 1986.

It seems a nefarious, underground organization called "The Pentangle" are plotting to rule the world. In their spare time, they go into the woods and hunt human beings. The mastermind of it all, Professor Elliott Glastenbury (John P. Ryan) is a snobby, elitist racist who physically resembles Johnny Cash. Commander Jeb Wallace (Karl Johnson) is his second in command and looks like a cross between Jesse Ventura and G. Gordon Liddy. There's also crazed redneck Charlie Lavall (Marc Alaimo) and Wade Delaney (William Wallace). When they do their hunting, they wear masks - Mardi Gras Mask From Hell, S&M Leather Dude, Kabuki Ninja, and Evil Indian, respectively. The baddies even have a Dudikoff Doppelganger for their side - a blonde pretty boy! I guess they figured if they want to win, they should have a Dudikoff too, but he's no match for the original.

Meanwhile, good-natured Army Intelligence Officer Capt. Matt Hunter (Dudikoff) just wants to relax on his family farm and wear his cowboy hat and Bolo tie. He's off spending some quality time with his young sister Sarah (Alison Gereighty) and of course Grandpa (Rick Boyle), as everyone calls him. When the Pentangle goes after Hunter's close friend and former Secret Service Partner Larry Richards (James) because he is a Black man running for Senator, Hunter snaps into action! After further attacks on both the Richards and Hunter families, including the kidnapping of Sarah, it's time to unleash the AVENGING FORCE of Matt Hunter!


Dudikoff and James have really good chemistry in the film, and it's refreshing to see them actually working together in a friendly way, with no bickering. We liked that. Too many "team-up" movies feature the lead good guys squabbling the whole time - but not here. Larry Richards is what's needed in Washington right now - what you might call an "Action Senator"! Sure, he's running for Senate, but if needed he'll rip his shirt off and shoot bad guys!

Another big plus, besides the good character development (especially between the Hunter and Richards families) is the high level production values. The movie looks great, especially when it captures the New Orleans flavor. From the Mardi Gras city scenes, to the deep-in-the-Bayou climax, everything is top notch. Director Firstenberg is an experienced action director and it shows. Once again Kane Hodder appears in the stunt department. All the actors, from Grandpa on down have unique personalities. And it doesn't skimp on the action. It's all good.

Both foreign and domestic box art is awesome. Check out the detail in the U.S. VHS released by Media - you can see each bad guy's individual mask!


For - dare I say - classy 80's action fun, check out Avenging Force!

Comeuppance Review: Ty and Brett

Sloane (1984)

Sloane (1984)-*

Directed by: Dan Rosenthal

Starring: Robert Resnick, Joonee Gamboa, and Debra Blee






"He Takes Over Where The Law Leaves Off!"







Philip Sloane (Resnick) is a Tae Kwon Do instructor in L.A. who lives on a houseboat named the Dragonfly. His former girlfriend, named Janice, has been living in Manila with her new boyfriend, Richard. It seems Richard tried to rip off the main gang boss in Manila, Chan Se (Gamboa) by stealing some of his drug money. So the gang kidnaps Janice. Janice's father hires Sloane to go to Manila to save her because he used to live there for 17 years. Once there, he teams up with Richard's concerned sister Cynthia (Blee). They bicker and fight incessantly but eventually forge a relationship. They're the original "Odd Couple"! Or something like that. They team up with Sloane's friend Pete (Raul Aragon) and his contact on the local police force, Sal (Vic Ordonez) to take down the crime syndicate and rescue Janice. Can they do it?

The main problem with Sloane is that he is such a major jerk! It is quite perplexing why the filmmakers thought the audience would root for a man who is such a shrill, smug, arrogant, conceited, misogynistic, unlikable preppy A-hole. It's never explained why Sloane is such a jerk. He informs his actions - every thing he does - with jerkiness. Imagine if Trevor Gottitall from American Shaolin: King Of The Kickboxers II (1991) was the HERO of a film. All Sloane does is punch the baddies with no flair or skill. Sadly, nothing Sloane does in the movie is cool. When the main villain is more likable than your supposed 'hero', you've got a big problem on your hands. I'd love to know what the behind the scenes team was thinking with this character decision on Sloane's part.

Apparently the filmmakers also believed the name "Sloane" was the coolest, most awesomely original name ever, because besides naming the film simply "Sloane" (thus drawing all undue attention to this awful, awful man), the other characters say the name "Sloane" about a million times, and there's even a completely gratuitous scene in a bar where two hookers ask what his name is. Then nothing else connected to that happens. The scene was there solely to say "Sloane" a few more times.

Someone throws a cobra into Sloane's jeep. Sloane shoots a bunch of people, possibly some innocents, with a machine gun. He goes in a cave and fights, according to the back of the box, "crazed pygmy cannibals". In between each scene is some super-smooth jazz that sounds like a TV soundtrack, possibly Hill Street Blues. It seems Sloane and Fortune Dane's (1986) soundtracks are in a war for the ultimate in smoothness.

There's no excuse for the fact that the film is a brutal 95 minutes. Besides some pacing problems that slow things down unnecessarily, Sloane is in almost every scene. That's 95 minutes with SLOANE! That's way too much time with Sloane. By far the best thing about this film is the box art. Save yourself 90 minutes by staring at the box art above for five minutes. It would be preferable to sitting through all of Sloane.

Released on VHS by Vestron Video in the U.S., do you dare to watch the man you love to hate?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

9/28/2010

Fortune Dane (1986)

Fortune Dane (1986)-* *1\2

Directed by: Charles Correll

Starring: Carl Weathers















Det. Fortune Dane (Weathers) is a hotshot on the Washington D.C. beat. He's a former pro football player that decides to go into law enforcement. When an assassin named Warlock opens fire on everyone in an illegal gambling house with a machine gun, he didn't count on one thing: FORTUNE DANE! Dane is especially mad because Warlock murdered his midget friend Augie. Unfortunately Dane was on the premises when it happened, questioning the pit boss of the gambling house, who claims the mastermind of it all, who Warlock works for, Dexter, tried to involve him in a point-shaving scandal.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the investigation, Dane develops a relationship with big-haired D.A. Steiner (Alberta Watson). On top of all that, there is a very dramatic showdown between Dane and his elderly father. Dane was adopted and became an overachiever in order to please his father, a bank owner. Dad got in some trouble because he wouldn't accept illegal bailout money. How relevant to today.

Dane gets a suspension from the case because Internal Affairs is on his back. He ends up in "Bay City" where the Warlock chase continues. The Bay City cops don't believe he's a cop at first (probably because he's so smooth) but let him go on his merry way because they really want to take down Warlock and Dexter. What will happen next?

It seems Fortune Dane was a short-lived TV series, and Vidmark video released "parts I & II" on VHS. Apparently there are five episodes, which makes sense because the tape ends with some unanswered questions!

The intro is worth watching because it repeats the words "FORTUNE DANE" over and over again while Carl Weathers works out and gets dressed. Something for the ladies. It's pretty funny. It looks like an 80's workout video more than anything. Hey, it's a great name. It's funny when his young nephew, in a high, squeaky voice says "Hi Fortune!" They say the name a lot, but why not? It's fun to say.

Weathers is charming and likable as Dane. Apparently he was involved behind the scenes because Fortune Dane is a "Stormy Weathers" production. He wears a different stylish outfit in every scene. This is, in retrospect, a precursor to Action Jackson (1988) and Hurricane Smith (1992)

A highlight is the sax-blaring soundtrack. Not to fear, the jazz is as smooth as Fortune himself. Practically after every scene, there is a quiet storm. Mellow.

A TV show cut down before its time, I tell ya. The question isn't why Vidmark released it, but why they only released part of it. While it isn't extreme in one direction or another and there are some run-of-the-mill moments, if you ever run across it, don't run from this great 'Dane.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Back In Action (1993)

Back In Action (1993)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Paul Ziller

Starring:  Roddy Piper, Billy Blanks, and Rob Stefaniuk

"One Cop. One Vigilante.

Alone They're Unstoppable. Together They're Invincible."










In 1958, Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier starred in The Defiant Ones (later remade as Fled in 1996). A decade later, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr. starred in Salt and Pepper (1968), the title of which pretty well spells out its intentions - in our overly-PC society we won't be seeing anything like that anytime soon. Then we saw Robert Culp and Bill Cosby team up for Hickey & Boggs (1972). But then "Black and White Action" reached its highest pinnacle to date in 1993 with the titans Billy Blanks and Roddy Piper in...BACK IN ACTION!

Roddy Piper plays Frank Rossi, a cop on the edge on the mean streets of Toronto. He's trying to stop a crime syndicate run by the evil Kasajian (Nigel Bennett) and his ultra-sadistic henchman Charles "Chakka" Bender (Matt Birman). When the gang shoots Rossi's beloved partner Wallace (Barry Blake) during a graveyard shootout, and then Chakka savagely eviscerates Wallace in front of Rossi's eyes, Rossi vows revenge.

Meanwhile, ex-Special Forces soldier, and now cab driver Billy (Blanks, who must have a Tony Danza-like contract wherein he can only play characters named Billy) gets swept up in the mayhem when he attempts to protect his sister Tara (Kai Soremekun). Her boyfriend is in the Kasajian gang, and she witnessed plenty of murder, and now she's the gang's number one target.

It thus transpires that Rossi and Billy come together, initially with different goals, but now with the same one: eliminate the Kasajian gang. But will their incessant bickering do them in before the gang does?

Back in Action delivers the goods. There is plenty of action and they sure don't skimp on the violence. The young-looking Piper is extremely charming, and has genuinely great comic timing and charisma. and this is easily Blanks' best performance. His karate moves are done with aplomb (and with a lot of growling and grunting). The filmmakers give the viewers a lot of what they want here - a REALLY evil villain that will elicit boos and hisses, constant action and violence, and a bit of nice camaraderie between the lead dudes.

What's weird is that this is the first Blanks/Piper vehicle, yet it is called BACK in action. Shouldn't the follow-up, Tough and Deadly (1995) be called Back in Action? What are they back from exactly? Anyway...

Bizarre antics ensue when two men, who can only be described as "The Karatio Brothers" invade Blanks' apartment. They seem to be twins with beefy physiques who wear striped spandex and seem like a meathead version of Mario and Luigi. Luckily Billy fights them, gratuitously (?) in his underwear. Another great (?) Blanks moment is when he runs in slow motion while screaming and shooting two machine guns. Compare that to self-indulgent dreck like Ticker (2001) where Steven Seagal simply walks down a hall and does nothing action-related. The villain Kasajian in some sort of trance, chanting "smoke is death" over and over again. And watch out for "The Giant"...

Piper's contract must include a 15-minute fight scene, which occurs during the prerequisite bar brawl. He gets to employ some of his wrestling moves such as a sleeper hold and a choke slam. Roddy and Billy should have been the "Wesley and Woody" that swept Hollywood in the mid-90s. Alas, it was not to be. Can you imagine these two in Money Train (1995)?

For a fun, entertaining time, with a lot of high-quality technical elements like good camerawork, Back in Action is prime stuff.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

9/27/2010

Merchants Of War (1990)

Merchants Of War (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Peter M. Mackenzie

Starring: Asher Brauner, Jesse Vint, and John Barrett


"He was the one man who made war on the war makers."










He's back...for some reason! The monosyllabic mullet-head returns for the better of his two headliners. And you thought his hair was his only headliner (Groan).

Asher Brauner, of American Eagle (1989), as if you didn't know, is back this time as Nick Drennen, a mercenary badass called in to do "one last mission"  - dismantle a middle-eastern terror sect in Angola. While there, he is captured and subjected to the prerequisite tortures. While there, he befriends a young boy and names him "Bugsy" because his African name is too complex for him (and because when they first met Drennen was eating bugs to survive. Bugsy gave him some Ostrich jerky and their bond was formed).

Let's not forget Drennen has some brothers in arms from his days in 'Nam to help him fight his way through the baddies. Jesse Vint plays Frank, and John Barrett appears as Tom. Barrett is always nice to see and has had a relatively under-reported-on career in action cinema. He also has a credit as Stunt Adviser on the film. Click on his tag to read more about his other films on our site.

Will Drennen and the gang be victorious against the legions of anti-American baddies after the Government cuts their ties with the mercs?

The good news is that this film is a pretty big improvement over American Eagle. Interestingly, it seems that THIS movie should have been called "American Eagle" and the other one should have been called "Merchants of War". But anyway, the direction is tighter and more professional, and the whole production seems more controlled. And it all kicks off with one killer of a theme song. Imagine a cross between Final Mission's (1984) immortal "Always on my Mind" crossed with "Livin' on a Prayer". The singer, Chris Thompson, bellows about "Merchants of Waaaaaarrrrr" with an almost-perplexing level of passion. He really cares. A little too much perhaps. But we loved the enthusiasm of it all.

Luckily, Merchants has some of the things that make action films worth watching. For some unexplained reason, a team of drunken rednecks is assembled to fight international terrorists. During a recon mission where Drennen gets some local help, he just happens to have an exploding camera. Drennen should have gone after Castro. Another great weapon in his arsenal is a dart in a slingshot. Hey, it's more original than a gun. One of the main baddies, Abdul, has absurd hair that seems to be one of the more obvious wigs we've seen. One of Drennen's comrades is oddly named  "Vincent D'Onofrio".

During the extended torture/imprisonment section of the film, Drennen is subjected to the dreaded "daily laughing". Every day, a man appears in a window solely to laugh at him, then he walks away. Chilling stuff.

It all comes to a head at the "Third World Convention". Just imagine a convention of all the hellhole countries where the leaders come to the podium and rant and rave against America. Actually you don't have to imagine the U.N. Just try and keep me away from this convention. Where do I sign up? Drennen isn't having any of this anti-American dross so he crashes the party and lets his missile launcher do the rebuttal.

For classic-era dumb action entertainment, Merchants will fit the bill solidly.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

Revenge of the Ninja (1983) -* * *

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg

Starring:  Sho Kosugi, Kane Kosugi, Keith Vitali,  and Professor Toru Tanaka










Living legend Sho Kosugi portrays the similarly-named Cho Osaki in this classic Ninja Boom outing that helped kick off the aforementioned boom.

Cho is a mild-mannered man living in Japan who is also a ninja. When baddies kill off his family, except for his son Kane Osaki (real-life son Kane Kosugi) the two move to the U.S. to start their lives over again in the face of the tragedy and get on with their doll-selling business. Little do they know that some nefarious men are importing drugs in the dolls. When Kane sees what's going on, it fuels a war between the Osaki's and the drug peddlers. Add to that, there is a traitor in Cho's midst.  Will Cho Ninja his way out of this mess and finally have peace?


It's easy to see why this is one of the most popular Ninja titles from the classic era. Sho is at his best here. He says little, but that works in his favor. His son Kane takes after his dad, and nowhere is that better seen than when he fights some schoolyard bullies. Those kids never saw NINJA moves coming their way. Don't mess with pint-sized Kane. Maybe this was the seedling that later sprouted the 3 Ninjas franchise (the first one of which features Prof. Toru Tanaka, as does this film...coincidence?) and, of course, Little Ninjas (1990).


The movie is surprisingly brutal, with ninja stars embedded in foreheads and all, but it's all in good fun. Fun really is the name of the game here, as the simple plot allows for the maximum amount of Ninja action. It's well-shot and everything is very pro. This obviously raised the bar for Cannon Films.


Watch out for the aforementioned Toru Tanaka who is always fun to see, and Keith Vitali of American Kickboxer 1 (1990) fame is on hand as well.  This is a great place to start for those unfamiliar with Ninja movies and are looking for a good way to kick off a potential obsession. For further "Sho"-times check out Enter The Ninja (1981). Go Sho!



Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett




9/22/2010

The Patriot (1986)


The Patriot (1986)- * *1\2

Directed by: Frank Harris

Starring: Gregg Henry, Jeff Conaway, Michael J. Pollard, Simone Griffeth, Diane Stevenett, Stack Pierce, and Leslie Nielsen



"A Fight For Freedom On The Ocean Floor!"







When smugglers sneak into a nuclear storage facility and steal some nukes, only one man can stop them: ex-Navy SEAL and Vietnam vet Lieutenant Matt Ryder (Henry). Back in 'Nam he was known as "The Patriot". He assembles a team to help him, which includes Howard (Pollard) and Kenwood (Mike Gomez). The top Brass, Admiral Frazer (Nielsen) and Commander Mitchell (Conaway) oversee Ryder, who is one bad dude with an attitude. He wears his shades and rides his Harley to bars and picks up chicks. Will Ryder be able to stop the smugglers?

Somehow this movie manages to fill up 90 minutes with not very much happening. There are only mere strands of a plot with some filler in-between. Sure, there are some familiar faces, which is nice, but it's not enough. NOT ENOUGH HAPPENS! However, if you want to see Michael J. Pollard play Twister with a cheerleader you can see it here.

There's a Barfight at The Chili Factory (that should have been the title for this movie, come to think of it) which is pretty lackluster, like the rest of this dull film. The dummies that steal the nuke, the guys that look like David Spade and Andre Agassi, are so dumb, it's hard to believe that A. They could break into ANY kind of facility and B. That they are a serious threat - so the movie has no suspense. The bad guys just dance around to the song "Dance the Night Away" by Randy and Liz Jackson. They're not exactly Ahmadinejad.

The babyish, cackling Pollard is always nice to see, as was Leslie Nielsen in a serious role. It was before he was typecast as a wacky comic actor. It's hard to believe, in 2010, that there was ever a time before Wrongfully Accused (1998) and 2001: A Space Travesty (2000), but there it is for the world to see. There was a scene with just Henry, Nielsen and Conaway in a room talking, which was cool, but it could have been awesome if there was some tension or fireworks.

The action largely takes place on an oil rig, and has to do with explosions. Is BP aware of this? It's almost eerie to watch. Almost. Technical notes: John Barrett of American Kickboxer 1 (1990) and Shootfighter (1992) fame and Kane Hodder of Friday the 13th fame are listed as Stuntmen. The screenplay was co-written by Katt Shea Ruben of The Devastator (1985) fame.

In all, this bland film could have used MORE - more action, more tension, more violence, more edge, more Nielsen, more ANYTHING! It's not BAD per se, but despite the good cast, The Patriot is, sadly, lacking.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

9/20/2010

American Streetfighter (1992)

American Streetfighter (1992)-**1\2

Directed by: Steven Austin

Starring: Gary Daniels, Ian Jacklin, Tracy Dali, and Gerald Okamura






"Protect Your Turf"




Jake Tanner (Daniels) is just a guy with silly long hair who runs into tragedy when he and his friend Ito's (Roger Yuan) plan to blow up a jukebox (?????) goes horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Tanner is a high-powered businessman in Hong Kong and has gotten a haircut. He receives word from America that his estranged brother Randy (Jacklin) is now an underground boxfighter (like punchfighting but in a warehouse of boxes...there may also be some boxing involved). This upsets Tanner, who is also a Karate master. He comes home and tells Randy not to sign a fight contract with the evil Ogawa (Okamura). Randy disobeys, but Tanner agrees to fight in underground matches in Randy's place. He takes on the baddies while reconnecting with lost love Rose (Dali) and her ten year old son Billy. Of course his name is Billy. When Tanner is injured when Viper (Dennis Reese) fights dirty, he must recuperate and re-train. With the help of the plucky Billy, who he forges a sweet relationship with, he comes back stronger than ever for the final showdown with Ogawa.

The most important thing to mention about American Streetfighter is that Gary Daniels single-handedly carries the film. Without his charm and fighting skills, this movie would be nothing. I.e., it would be Expert Weapon. It's by the same director and also has Ian Jacklin. It even has the same scene: a motorcycle breaking through a wall and going around in circles. Director Austin must think that is the most awesome stunt ever. The baby-faced Jacklin has zero acting ability, but that makes it all the more fun to watch. Every word he says just sounds wrong somehow. Ian Jacklin makes Asher Brauner look like Andy Bauman. His silly fighting pants have more personality than he does. While this movie does share the cheap, shoddy, low-budget quality of Expert Weapon (1993), thankfully this movie features Daniels, which saves it.



You may be wondering why, if the film stars Gary Daniels, it is called AMERICAN Streetfighter. There is a good explanation for it, but you have to watch the movie. However, he gets a great quote with "I like the sound of breaking bones!" Billy, the squeaky-voiced ten year old is obsessed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (which were very popular in 1992, don't forget). He even says to Jake Tanner, "You're no ninja turtle!" The fight announcer looks exactly like Ryan Seacrest. Maybe it is him. He has a lot of jobs.

Okamura is great, but incoherent, as the main bad guy. His bellowing "Noooooo!" is one of the best we've heard.

Sure there is flat acting, dingy film quality, and the punches don't always connect, but the presence of Daniels rises above it all. With just a LITTLE more professionalism, American Streetfighter could have been better, even rising to more prominence in people's minds. As it stands today, it is a film for Daniels fans and has very little else to recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett



American Eagle (1989)


American Eagle (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Robert J. Smawley

Starring: Asher Brauner, Robert F. Lyons and Vernon G. Wells





"Take Cover, The Eagle Flies Again!"

"When You're The Best In The Business, There Are Only Two Choices...Win Or Die."

 



Max "The Eagle" Shane (Brauner) is a surly mercenary with a mullet. He goes around the world to hellholes like Angola and Nicaragua cleaning up problems - with bullets. He's a Vietnam vet, and his fellow Vietnam buddy Johnny Burke (Wells) is now a high-powered bad guy who runs drugs, guns ("war is a very profitable business") and is involved in kidnapping. He also hates Shane because of an incident that occurred back in 'Nam. So Burke kidnaps Rudy's sister Angela (Baker) and a bunch of other fashion models, and Shane goes on a mission with his friend Rudy (Lyons) to the Ivory Coast in Africa to stop the bad guys and end the conspiracy.

Asher Brauner makes quite the hero. All he does is smoke, drink and eat meat. He even asks Rudy at one point "Got any bacon?" This proves to be his catch phrase. It truly rivals "I'll be back". He loves sports and wears plenty of jerseys and caps. Interestingly, he seems a bit confused a lot of the time and says plenty of malapropisms. When someone says "news travels fast", instead of saying "what news?" (he's trying to get info), he says "how fast?" And when another character is dead silent, saying nothing, Shane says "I'll be the judge of that". Huh?

He makes a lot of funny faces and has a cool jacket. He looks like a cross between Nick Nolte, Stallone, Michael Madsen and David Hasselhoff. He gets into a grenade/knife fight. By that I mean he holds a grenade and his enemy holds a knife and they fight. We've never seen that before, I don't think. Pretty original.

Shane's partner Rudy basically IS Bob Eubanks. He looks so much like him. He and Shane are the original odd couple, as Eubanks, I mean Rudy is a health nut that exercises and drinks power-shakes made of fruit. But they work well together as they discuss sports as they torture a bad guy for information. If you've ever wanted to see Bob Eubanks shoot a machine gun and kill people, this is the movie for you. Notably, there are some pop culture references and even waterboarding in American Eagle. How ahead of its time. Asher is a visionary I tell you.

Normally we don't go into nerdy stuff like this, but you have to watch out for something really funny at an hour and seven minutes into the movie. There is the single most OBVIOUS dummy you've ever seen. It's laugh out loud funny. It's like something from a sketch on Conan.

Ending with a stirring, moving, tearjerking title song by Lionel Petersen, American Eagle is stupid (in a good way) action fun.

SPECIAL NOTE: The back of the DVD from Platinum disc is hilariously over the top and also riddled with errors. Firstly, the pictures shown are NOT from this movie, but the other Asher movie on Platinum, Merchants of War (1990). According to the person who wrote the back, "Asher Brauner wrote the BONE CHILLING screenplay". Also they misspell Spielberg as "Speilberg" and they even made up their own word: "Wearly"! And I quote (I couldn't make this up if I tried):

"The action avalanches from spectacular car crashes to fiery shootouts as Max, the wearly Eagle, must sharpen his talons anew for the most brutal fight of his life. Nothing has prepared you for the awesome impact of this adventure classic's explosive climax."

Are they overstating the case? Find out for yourself tonight!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

9/16/2010

American Commandos (1985)


American Commandos (1985)-* *

AKA: Back To Hell

Directed by: Bobby A. Suarez

Starring: Christopher Mitchum, Franco Guerrero, Willie Williams and John Phillip Law








"They're in a rage for justice!"

American Commandos is an interesting hybrid of two favorite B-action genres: the revenge movie and the back-to-Vietnam tale (with a bit of the old "ragtag team" thrown in for good measure).

Chris Mitchum plays Dean Mitchell (I know, quite a stretch), the one gas station attendant you don't wanna mess with. He's a taciturn Vietnam vet who doesn't say very much. When some stupid baddies DO decide to mess with him, they end up in a world of hurt. They try robbing his beloved gas station, and then they go after his family. Big mistake. Chandler, Speck and Buck (the evildoers' names) live to regret the day they went after him. So ends the Death Wish (1974) section of the film.



When "The Man" also known as Brady (Ken Metcalfe) who works for the government, gets wise to Mitchell's technically-unlawful revenge methods, he leverages that against him so that he can send Mitchell to the "Golden Triangle" to destroy a drug operation there. He literally asks them to "blow it up". Radical! ("You don't have a license to kill anymore" Brady tells Mitchell. Mitchell disagrees.) So he teams up with his old buddies Kelly (Law), Brutus (Robert Marius), Somsak (Guerrero of the Richard Norton classics Kick Fighter (1987) and Cross Fire (1988)) and Creeper (Williams). They have an awesome tank, much like the one in Bulletproof (1988) (But in this movie no one gets called a "Butthorn" - make of that what you will) that has missile launchers, hidden guns, cool armor and a space for a motorbike to bust out! Will this team survive not just the countless amounts of people shooting at them, but all the twists and turns in the plot as well?

We love Chris Mitchum. He closely resembles his father and also shares his trait of being a man of few words. It's a good antidote to the overly-verbose post-Tarantino movies of today. The character of Creeper dresses in sleeveless beer shirts (Olympia and Budweiser) or no shirt at all. He also has some cool slang ("Why you payin' cool green for a snap job?"). Speaking of cool clothes, John Philip Law - another one we always love seeing - has an extremely awesome T-shirt that simply says "AMERICA RULES!" I guess that's for when he goes to foreign countries so the baddies know who to shoot at.



So while the movie is an entertaining time, with the revenge movie section, the Golden Triangle section where they shoot millions of thugs and attempt to dismantle the heroin operation (all this when they're not getting numerous "massages" at the local whorehouse run by one of the heroes), there is one scene in particular that stands out - the one that is REPEATED! Yes, probably by accident, about an hour into the movie we see the same scene twice. Literally. This editing-room mistake makes for some laughs and extends the running time quite unnecessarily. It's really weird.

So if you want some kind of cross between Death Wish and Codename: Wildgeese (1984) starring some familiar faces, you'll surely like American Commandos.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty & Brett

Bail Out (1989)


Bail Out (1989)-* *
AKA: W.B., Blue and the Bean

Directed by: Max Kleven

Starring: David Hasselhoff, Linda Blair, John Vernon, Gregory Scott Cummins, George "Buck" Flower, and Danny Trejo




Bail Out is a silly action/adventure/comedy which isn't very funny, at least not intentionally. The original title "W.B., Blue and the Bean" (which appears after the end credits, while "Bail Out" is the title in the opening credits. Did they forget to change it?) should give some indication of the movie's intentions.

Roger "White Bread" Donaldson (or W.B. for short) (The Hoff) is a part-time tennis instructor and part-time bounty hunter. He has two associates - you guessed it - Mason "Blue" Walcott (Tony Brubaker) and, of course, The Bean (Tom Rosales). When heiress Nettie Ridgeway (Blair) is abducted by drug lords (led by Cummins of Action U.S.A. (1989) fame as Zaldizar) and spirited away to Mexico, it's up to our three heroes to save the day. They have to get her to court on time in order to collect a million dollars. The three buddies want to open their own bail bondsmanship so they can stop working for the haranguing Aram Haronian, their boss. Will they succeed?

While it is funny to see the mighty Hasselhoff with his mullet and giant cell phone hamming it up for all the world to see, and an attempt is made at politically-incorrect humor ("these guys drive worse than the Orientals!", "Roasted Colombians, nothin' finer!", etc.) sadly it all seems a bit forced and unfunny. Once they get to Mexico, there is a stereotype Mexican character that is very, very annoying. The movie was already on pretty thin ice by then, and the addition of this character did not help at all.



There are some car chases, shootouts and horseback riding, and the cast is full of familiar faces such as Trejo, Flower, the Hoff, Blair, and a surprising appearance by Gregory Scott Cummins as the drug lord. We were so used to seeing him as the all-American good guy from Action U.S.A. He truly has a lot of versatility. John Vernon is also on hand as Linda Blair's father. What is he truly up to?

Nothing really weird or truly noteworthy happens in Bail Out. It's all pretty standard fare, so stupid at times it almost insults the audience's intelligence. We know it's a direct to video movie starring The Hoff, but come on. Give us some credit here. But then again it was directed by Max Kleven, the "mastermind" behind Fugitive Champion (1997). At least Chip Mayer was nowhere in sight. So if you can survive all the groaners for jokes and some middling action, you MAY be entertained by Bail Out if you are in the right mood (i.e., a really goofy mood).

Bail Out was released on VHS in the U.S. on the great Vestron label. We couldn't find any commercially-released version of the film under the "W.B. Blue and the Bean" moniker. If you have a picture of that, please send it in.
NOTE: Because there are so many boxcovers for this title, we have decided to change things up and are pleased to present...the BAIL OUT GALLERY! Enjoy!


















Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

9/14/2010

Balance Of Power (1996)


Balance Of Power (1996)-* * *
AKA: Hidden Tiger

Directed by: Rick Bennett

Starring: Billy Blanks, Mako, James Lew, Adrian Hough, Dennis Akayama, and Lisa Boynton









In what must be one of the last punchfighters released direct-to-VHS before the DVD era, Billy Blanks shows up right before his Tae-Bo fame.

Niko (Blanks) is a kindly Karate instructor in the ghettos of Canada. He runs this inner-city dojo with his partner Charlie (Walker Boone). He's a firm but fair taskmaster to his kids. All the funny stereotypes are there, including the fat kid. Niko even takes on a mentor role for the wayward Billy (Adam Bonneau). Billy even sometimes hangs out at the dreaded "playground". Apparently this playground is riddled with drug dealers and thugs.

Meanwhile, Hastishita (Akayama) is the ringleader of...wait for it...UNDERGROUND PUNCHFIGHTING MATCHES TO THE DEATH! The crowd enthusiastically holds their cash in their hands and yells and places their bets. Hastishita is in cahoots with evil Brit Slater (Hough) in the drug dealing game. Hastishita has an ace in the hole: vicious punchfighter Takamura (Lew), a man who you know is evil because he chants his own name.

Unfortunately, the problem with death matches is that, well, the opponents keep dying. So a search goes out for a new brawler. Because Hastishita's goons keep shaking down Niko's dojo for protection money, they know of him, so they recruit him. Niko then goes under the wing of kindly elderly master Matsumoto (Mako) and trains like he's never trained before. Matsumoto convinces him to fight so he can take down the evil Hastishita's empire. Niko then develops a close relationship with Matsumoto and his granddaughter Jasmine (Boynton). When Jasmine is kidnapped, he is forced to fight. Will he succeed? Does any of this sound familiar?




Fans of the punchfighting genre should like this because of the weirder touches, such as the secret cave tended to by mysterious monks, which has TV's hooked up inside it. The acting overall is incredibly stilted and awkward. Usually actors get better as their careers progress. Blanks actually, somehow, has gotten WORSE. He literally has a "blank" stare. But no one really cares about that. If you are a Blanks fan, this is the movie for you, because he shows off his prowess in almost every scene. He has a boxing match with some steam (literally), he can't pronounce the name of his nemesis Hastishita, he has some funny screams, is usually dripping wet, and does a double ear clap to an opponent - with his feet.



Watch out Sarah Dampf and Lauren Levy, here comes a new verbose, precocious pre-teen girl: Lisa Boynton as Jasmine! Who knew this was a trend in action movies? Mako is great as the wise old master. You end up loving him as much as Niko does. The extended training sequences are a bit different than the ones we usually see, but it could have used a song with lyrics, like "He's a Man" (American Kickboxer 1) or "Fight for Power" (American Kickboxer 2).

There is some pre-Lone Tiger (1999) "poolfighting" and the whole movie is very similar to the classic Shootfighter (1992). Instead of Bolo as Shingo, it has Mako as Matsumoto.

There is some nice Asian philosophy included, and the title refers to the eternal balance of Yin and Yang. There are some quotable lines such as "A sword is tested by fire, a warrior is tested by his actions".

This advice clearly applies to Niko as he goes on his spiritual journey. Go on a journey of your own tonight with this silly classic!


Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Field Of Fire (1991)


Field Of Fire (1991)-* *

AKA: Battle Gear

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: David Carradine, Joe Mari Avellana, Henry Strzalkowski, and Eb Lottimer









It seems our friend (at least he seems like our friend after spending this much time with him) Cirio H. Santiago can't leave the jungles of Vietnam. So many of his movies are romps in the jungle. Here we go again.

When Wilson (Jim Moss) AKA Ironhand, is stranded in the dense jungles of 'Nam, General Simmons (Carradine) (NOT "General Corman" as he is listed in some sources...remember Counter Measures (1999) and "Zach Silver"?) and his aide Willy send in yet another elite team to rescue the lost and nervous soldier. Meanwhile, the VC is closing in and they lose their radio communication. They have to get to the Laos border to a special meet point. Will they make it?

Unfortunately, Field of Fire AKA Battle Gear retreads a lot of the same ground we've seen before. It's not BAD per se, but it's pretty mediocre. For most of the movie, Carradine barks orders in one room. He does leave that room eventually, and it's a great moment. He also wears a funny Hawaiian shirt. Interesting.

There's also a lot of Vietnam slang. Characters mainly talk about LURPS and their Sandy's while Jolly Greens chase their Ironhand. I know, I'm confused too.

The leader of the jungle group is Duncan (Lottimer), or "Dunc" for short. I believe he was cast because he resembles Bruce Springsteen. Plus he has an interesting name. Then there's Jefe, a token man who speaks Spanish. He uses his language to confuse the enemy. Senator is played by Scott Utley. It's not one of the better 'Nam handles we've heard. Jimmy T is Don Barnes, the African-American who yells loudly while shooting his machine gun. Hawk is Henry Strzalkowski (a man who has been in a lot of DTV action movies but isn't a prominent name). Captain Phat (Avellana) is the evil baddie. Avellana also has a long and storied history as an actor/director in the DTV world.

Also, when the VC talks, there are WAY too many subtitles on the screen. We're pretty sure they're not saying all that stuff. Someone grunts and there's a paragraph.

You'd think a movie with this pedigree would be better. Field of Fire is generic Vietnam stuff with all the standard moments and no surprises and nothing memorable.

You could do worse, but this is pretty bland. For better Cirio, check out Final Mission (1984) or The Devastator (1985).

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Action U.S.A. (1989)


Action U.S.A. (1989)-* * * *

Directed by: John Stewart

Starring: Gregory Scott Cummins, William Hubbard Knight, Ross Hagen, Barri Murphy, Cameron Mitchell, William Smith, and Hoke Howell












Action U.S.A. is simply awesome! From the title on down, the movie delivers in every possible way.

Truly the Crank (2006) of its day, the plot blasts off when rockin' dude with an attitude Billy Ray (who drives a hot Corvette with the license plate SLEEK 1) is offed by some gangsters and his girlfriend Carmen (Murphy) goes on the run and goes into the police protection of FBI agents Clay Osborne (Cummins) and Panama (Knight). The bad guys bring in the big guns with Drago (Hagen), a cowboy with a big gun and a bad attitude. They are on the trail of some stolen diamonds Billy Ray supposedly had, and that the gangsters want, including Frankie Navarro (Mitchell) and corrupt agent Conover (Smith). Will Osborne and Carmen develop a relationship while on the run? Will Panama be okay? Hang on to your seat!

One of the genius things about Action U.S.A. is that the filmmakers were smart enough to give it a simple plot so they could include the maximum amount of action, and the film is a speedy 80 minutes. The film is by stuntmen, and for the fans. Because they worked in the stunt industry, they had a firm grasp on what the audience really wants. On top of the non-stop crazy stunts, chases, helicopter stunts and blow-ups, there is actual chemistry and humor amongst the cast! The good guys are likable and the bad guys are evil/funny. This movie truly has it all.

The characters of Clay, Carmen and Panama work off each other perfectly, as do the baddies Drago and his henchmen Lucky and Hitch. Clay and Panama have a pre-Roddy Piper/Billy Blanks thing going, but with less bickering. They also have some great outfits, such as Panama's black suit and pants with white socks. He also has a belt AND suspenders. Those pants aren't going anywhere. But I digress.

Shot in Texas, the film bears a bit of a resemblance to Sno-Line (1986) in some ways. There is a much better than average barfight, but everything in this movie is above average. The game is really stepped up here. If you see this somewhere, you must buy it because it has a lot of re-watchability. If this ever was to be remade by Hollywood, it would be filled with CGI junk and stupid tricks. This has stunt after stunt made by the pros, and it's great to watch. It's the real thing. It's refreshing.

There are some great songs to complement the action, and the music is by Del Casher, the inventor of the wah-wah pedal (although no wah's are heard on the fist-pumping soundtrack).

This movie is a hidden gem and a true fan favorite. It has to be the best thing ever put out on the Imperial label.

The presence of genre favorites Cameron Mitchell, Ross Hagen and William Smith brighten the movie even more. They all look like they are having fun. If this movie has any flaws, it's that it could have used a bit more Cam. That's really the only negative to this engaging, thrilling, fun and upbeat experience!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

9/08/2010

Scorpio One (1998)


Scorpio One (1998)-* *

Directed by: Worth Keeter

Starring: Jeff Speakman, Robert Carradine, George Murdock, Lance Legault, and Brent Huff




"At the edge of space, patriotism and terrorism are about to cross the line!"







Ugh. Another space slog. Have you ever noticed most movies set on a space station are kind of boring? Well, even though it was written by Steve Latshaw of Counter Measures (1999) fame, and directed by Worth Keeter of Unmasking the Idol (1988) fame, this one succumbs to the same fate as their space-sloggy brethren...they're bloody boring. 

The plot involves a U.N. Space Station (they do nothing on earth but now they do nothing in space!) and a computer disk with the secret to cold fusion. People are dying on the spacecraft "Scorpio One" so CIA agent Stone (The Speakster) goes into space to investigate. He must battle the evil Till (Huff) and save the world. Meanwhile, on earth, the corrupt senator Treadwell (Legault) is up to his old Gary Condit-like tricks, and CIA director Wilfrid (Murdock) is an old salt with a bowtie who is on to him. Will Wilfrid save the day? Will Stone save space...and earth? Who really cares?

You might not know it from watching the movie, but Robert Carradine is here too! He's criminally underused. The filmmakers could have gotten any novice actor to play the role of Carter. But his character is not fleshed out at all. It's really a shame to treat Carradine that way.

Like with Emmanuelle, Leprechaun, Pinhead and Jason, when a franchise starts to run out of steam, they launch them into space. Well, here we have Jeff Speakman in space. While Jeffrey does do some of his trademark moves (here you could call it "space Kenpo"), it's not enough to satisfy the action fan. There is a short scene where he's in Iraq taking on the baddies, but it should have been bigger and a bit longer. Like with Dudikoff and Midnight Ride (1990), viewers want to see their hero beat up the bad guys with aplomb. Here it's a bunch of people wandering around a space station with a lot of talking.


See, there's the problem. In place of the characters relating on a human level, they mainly spout scientific space-mumbo jumbo. It's set in the present day, not the future, but the U.N. has a space station and people have laser guns (that are very Q-Zar-esque)?

The special effects are pretty funny and there are some very obvious models to represent space stations and rocket ships. It's very 50's in that way. The sets look like they have been used on many Fred Olen Ray/Jim Wynorski productions of this type, and that's quite possible with Latshaw involved. For all the movie's flaws, it's still superior to Falling Fire (1997).

The lovable Wilfrid makes the movie much, much better and his presence improves the film immensely. The movie needed more Wilfrid! He should get his own spin-off film.

Perhaps Speakman wanted to get out of the beat-em-up roles he's known for. He should stay there.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Danger Zone (1996)


Danger Zone (1996)-* *

Directed by: Allan Eastman

Starring: Billy Zane, Robert Downey Jr., Ron Silver, Lisa Collins, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa





"Action at Point Blank Range."



"Captain" Rick Morgan (Zane) works as a mine operator in East Zambezi, Africa (where they shot Damned River (1989) (?) where he sings with his African buddies and minds his own business. When his old pal Jim Scott (Downey Jr.) shows up at the mine with a truckful of toxic waste barrels, havoc ensues. Due to a mix-up, everyone blames Morgan for deaths due to the toxic sludge. A year later, Maurice Dupont (Silver) approaches Morgan, who is now a disheveled drunk. He recruits Morgan and Dr. Kim Woods (Collins) to investigate the truth of the matter. Even though Morgan enlists the help of his friends Nando (Russel Savadier) and Madumo (Patrick Shai) things get complicated because the ruthless and evil Chang (Tagawa) shows up everywhere they are and shoots up the place. Will Morgan clear his name? Will he survive the country where the rebels are fighting the government? What really happened to Scott? How did Robert Downey Jr. spend his $500,000 for his two weeks on the set?

Danger Zone is more of an ADVENTURE film than an action film. You wonder how Morgan will get out of all these cliffhanger-like scrapes. Just imagine a direct-to-video cross between Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) and Broken Arrow (1996).



Nu Image produced the film, and Live entertainment released it, and it has some names, so they hoped it would be classier than the normal DTV project, which it is.

It has some blow-ups, rocket launchers and fight scenes, as well as some silly humor. It's all very palatable.

Billy Zane is funny as the man with the "alcoholic hat". It's a tan cap he wears to let the world know he is a raving drunk. There is even a scene where he retrieves the hat a la the aforementioned Indiana Jones. It's weird seeing a top name like Robert Downey Jr. in this type of product. He admits he did it for the money, but he probably had fun, if he remembers doing it. It was definitely a career low for him. His performance is more Jay Roberts Jr. than Robert Downey Jr. He has a ridiculous southern accent and every line he says ends with a drawling "Maaaan!" The nadir is reached with the line "This sucks, man!" We love Downey Jr. so it was unusual to see him like this.

Ron Silver puts in a quiet performance which could be construed as having no energy. Shot on location in South Africa, Danger Zone is a cut above the normal DTV actioner in terms of quality, and might be a good intro to people who are not familiar with the crazy world of direct-to-video films.



Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Fugitive Champion (1997)


Fugitive Champion (1997)-*1\2

AKA: The Hunted

Directed by: Max Kleven

Starring: Chip Mayer, Thomas Burr, Johnny Venocur, Charlene Blaine, and Bethany Bassler




"On the Run ... With No One Left to Trust!"







Jake McKnight (Mayer) is the ultimate meathead who is also a motocross champion. He is framed for being involved with a stolen motorcycle ring and for this grievous crime against humanity he is sentenced to hard labor on a chain gang for at least fifteen years. In the middle of his fifteenth year of breaking rocks in the sun, some mysterious men break him out of prison. Apparently McKnight inadvertently helped some gangsters and they owed him a favor. Now free, he goes on a search for his kidnapped daughter Annie (Bassler). Teaming up with the token computer nerd (Venocur) and token woman Trish Van Devere (Blaine) (not to be confused by the real person, actress Trish Van Devere, apparently), Jake has to avoid the stupid policemen on his trail and get involved with the seedy world of "Visual Dreams" to find his daughter. The main baddie is sniveling jerk Brad Chandler (Burr) who kidnaps women. Will Jake be able to rub his two brain cells together with enough force to save the day?

We've seen some dumb, moronic meatheads in our time, but Jake McKnight takes the cake. Mayer is so unbelievably wooden in this role, he makes Dale "Apollo" Cook look like John Leguizamo. Fugitive Champion has all the stiff, bad acting we've come to expect but...wow. Interestingly, not once, but TWICE in this film, McKnight cries. You read that correctly. He bawls like a baby. Rather than "feel his pain", it looks freakish, as if to say: "Tonight on FOX, when meatheads cry!"

Brad Chandler is not an intimidating villain. He looks like he's about ten years old. He whines and screams in a very effeminate manner. Actually, Burr does the best acting job of the movie, because we really hate Chandler. Venocur as Jimmy spouts a lot of computer gobbledygook. That's one of the problems with 'Champion. The dialogue and situations feel amateurish and like they were written by children. I think a Baio was involved. The characters don't relate to each other in a normal, adult manner. It's so babyish. Perhaps the script was a middle school project.

There is no action to speak of in this film. There is an impressive motocross chase that looks like a Mountain Dew commercial. That's about it. The motorcycle stunts in Cool As Ice (1991) were more cutting edge. The easily distracted cops don't really help. McKnight's "daughter" looks older than he does. The computers are funny to see and you gotta love 90's dial-up modems. Visual Dreams is actually a prehistoric version of Streaming. This movie was pretty ahead of its time.

In this sub-skinemax production that is riddled with dumbness and cliches, there is also the dreaded "fast motion". Weirdly, 20 minutes in, there is a man in the background of a scene with a blurred face. A BLURRED FACE! Is this a person who became famous and then sued? They couldn't take the scene out because it was integral to the plot.

This tape was released on the Aurora label. If anyone ever saw this in a video store, please write in and leave a comment. I'd love to know how much distribution this film had. How many stores ACTUALLY had this? And did anyone pick up the box and go "whoa, CHIP MAYER is in this? Let's rent it right now!" Aurora's tactic seems to be make him resemble a lost Baldwin brother on the box cover. Mayer doesn't really look like that. But would that really help?

A new winner has emerged in the doofus sweepstakes. This Chip only leaves crumbs of action.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Kick Fighter (1987)




Kick Fighter (1987)- * *1\2

AKA: The Fighter

Directed by: Anthony Maharaj

Starring: Richard Norton, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez,  Franco Guerrero and Steve Rackman











In "Bangkok today", a young, scrappy street kid named Ryan Travers (Norton) accidentally kills a gambler and goes to jail. Five years later, he gets out of Thailand's Tan Pun prison and is a new man (literally - there are rumors that Kick Fighter was stitched together from different sources, which would explain why at the beginning, Norton, supposedly playing a nine year old, DOES look younger and has longer hair, and when he emerges from prison, looks like the Norton we all know and love).

When gangsters blow up his parents' antique store, and his sister (Erica Van Wagener) falls ill with a heart condition, Travers needs money. Unfortunately his skills as a dockworker are no longer needed anywhere around town. So he puts his fighting skills to use in outdoor shipyard brawls. He soon rises through the ranks of boxcar joes thanks to his friend August, a character similar to Punchy from Fist Fighter (1989). Travers is scheduled to fight Jet (Urquidez of Bloodmatch (1991) fame, portraying himself?) in an actual ring. The match is dubbed the "Killer in Manila". Hm. But gangsters kidnapped his sister and want him to throw the fight. Will Travers emerge victorious?

It seems AIP invented "kickfighting". As we all know, they released the classic Night of the Kickfighters (1988), and turned this movie, originally just called "The Fighter" into "Kick Fighter". It seems to have been some sort of branding, but I don't think it took off. No one says "Oh, I saw that great kickfighting movie last night". This particular kickfighter is pretty entertaining, but it just seems like regular fighting, where the fighters use their arms and legs. It's not like Soccer-fighting where you're not allowed to punch.


There are some interesting characters and situations, such as the cage match with the hulking brute Bodo (Rackman), who is similar to the beast from the aforementioned Fist Fighter. This toothless dum-dum's big move is to stand on Travers' chest. Travers also fights in a private match in a closed nightclub to only a few men. Who is the man in the ski mask he must fight? Could it be his friend Chai Wat (Guerrero)?

It's bad enough Travers must endure the locals constantly calling him a "yankee" (are Australians yankees?) but he doesn't really train, he just sits around in a surly mood drinking beer. That is, until the training sequence with the kickfighting master, also a beggar on the streets of Bangkok.

So here we have another team up of Norton with director Maharaj. They must have been buddies, because the later team up of the two, Crossfire (1988), is very similar (it even seems to have some of the same scenes), but Crossfire is more professionally done. Kick Fighter is like a cross between Fist of Glory (1991) (a "yankee" in Bangkok forced to fight; dingy film quality), and Massacre (1985) (basically ditto), and what's interesting about that is that David Heavener is listed as a producer of Kick Fighter in some sources. That might explain the similarity, especially in some chunks of the film that may have been stitched in.

Interesting note about the credits: This one referee must have been pretty famous, because he gets a lot of fanfare: Carlos "Sonny" Padilla, Jr.

And this is a real credit from the end of the film:

"In real life, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez is a true undefeated world champion kickboxer with a ring record of 57-0 with 49 knockouts. The final bout in this film is dedicated to all of his opponents who wished they could have a similar result in their bout with The Jet."

I'm sure his opponents appreciate that.

If you are a fan of Richard Norton or AIP product, you will like this exercise in silliness. If not, you may be really confused.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

9/05/2010

Midnite Spares (1983)


Midnite Spares (1983)-* * *

Directed by: Quentin Masters

Starring: James Laurie, Gia Carides, Max Cullen, Bruce Spence, David Argue, and Tony Barry










Steve (Laurie) is a young race car driving man who believes his father Red was kidnapped or perhaps killed by gangsters. Steve wants to get to the truth, but first he must prove himself in the world of "sprintcar drivers". Meanwhile he and Ruth (Carides) get together romantically. His team is called "Team Rat" and the movie Midnite Spares primarily revolves around this world and its crazy denizens, including the comic relief team of soot-encrusted Wimpy (Spence) and his friend Rabbit (Argue).

What's interesting about 'Spares is that it is a character piece. It is a slice-of-life sort of thing that revolves around the interpersonal connections between the characters. There is a lot of quirkiness going on here. But while the movie takes time and care with the characterizations, and that is nice, the public probably will come to 'Spares seeking the car stunts and action scenes. There are some real gems, including a car that lands on another car and blows up, but the movie is about people, really.

There are a lot of interesting and wacky details, such as the main hangout for the characters, Grubb's Grub, and the overall feeling of the car-racing underbelly, as expressed through all the garages, warehouses, mechanics, grease monkeys, racetracks, chop shops and junkyards we see. Max Cullen plays Tom, the man who repaints all the cars and always has paint on his face and gives Steve some of the info he needs. John Clayton plays Vince, the head of the car-theft ring. The aforementioned Wimpy brings a lot of color and humor, and the rubber-faced Spence does a fine job bringing this character to life.


 There is some good car mayhem at the end, followed by a sitcom-style multiple freeze frame setup of highlights from the movie while the end credits roll. The catchy soundtrack includes the gem "Love Is The Law".

Something like a less-intense version of Paul Verhoeven's Spetters (1980), we recommend Midnite Spares if you are looking for something different and more character-based. It's definitely not your average brainless crash-em-up. Released in the U.S. on Virgin Vision, try Midnite Spares for a quirky detour.


Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

The Retrievers (1982)


The Retrievers (1982)-* * *

AKA: Hot and Deadly

Directed by: Elliott Hong

Starring: Max Thayer, Shawn Hoskins, Harry Shapiro, and Randy Anderson










"The Company" is an elite team of top-secret mercenaries who go around the world dispensing death in a ruthless manner. When nice guy Tom Cattrall (Thayer), who is an unassuming TV repairman and resembles author Stephen King, gets ensnared in this dark organization because they want his wiretapping skills, he soon gets on their bad side. A former member of The Company, Danny Burke, wrote a tell-all book about their dirty dealings and now The Company is after him big time, and Tom and Danny's sister Jan (Hoskins) have fallen in love. As if that wasn't enough, Tom and Jan enlist a book publisher and a cadre of hobos they hired to rent out an abandoned warehouse and SELF-PUBLISH Danny's book. Can they finish the book and get it out to stores in time? Or will they all fall prey to The Company's nefarious tactics?

In the first five minutes of The Retrievers we get some classic staples some movies don't have in their whole running time: the classic neck snap, guy falling out of a guard tower, fan favorite decapitation (this time with garden shears) and someone yelling "noooooo!" -- that's what's good about The Retrievers - it's fan-pleasing fun from start to finish.


 Even though the film was released in 1982, it has a pleasant 70's feel to it and the movie does resemble Death Machines (1976) in many ways. It has some funky tunes on the soundtrack and shag carpet graces many floors in the film, among a lot of other 70's decor and clothing. We loved that alone, but it's also violent, fast paced and has plenty of funny dialogue. What's not to love?

It is worth noting that there is a last-minute character we all love, in the vein of Bear, Machine Gun Joe, The Dead Man and The Cowboy (Maximum Force (1992), Provoked (1989), Chains (1989) and Maximum Breakout (1991) respectively) - this time it's a morbidly obese man named Big Mac (can they do that?) he eats apples and throws them at bad guys. Also tuba music plays when he walks. Fat guy humor for ya. Go Big Mac!

There are some cool moviemaking techniques used in The Retrievers: hand-held camera for some fight scenes and some tastefully-done sped up action. There is a very cool montage during the bookmaking sequence. It ends on a freeze frame as all action movies should. Also in the credits there are some interesting things: Katey Sagal of Futurama fame sings the stirring end credits song and future Road House (1989) director Rowdy Herrington also gets a credit. And in case you wanted to know who played the "Wetbacks", that's there too. "WETBACKS" gets a credit!!!! We didn't make that up, it's an actual credit. You won't see that again in these PC times.

This seems like it would have played at drive-ins at the time. It was also released on Vestron in the 80's. Sure, it falls prey to some low-budget trappings such as seeing the boom mike/mike shadows, underlit scenes and some terrible acting/non-acting (watch out for the book publisher saying "your work ethic is terrible")...but The Retrievers is cool, entertaining fun that 80's action fans should love. It would make a great double feature with Kill Squad (1982).

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty