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)?
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett