10/29/2010

Border Cop (1979)

Border Cop (1979)-* *

AKA: The Border, The Blood Barrier

Directed by: Christopher Leitch

Starring: Telly Savalas, Eddie Albert, Danny De La Paz, Michael V. Gazzo, and Cecilia Camacho












Frank Cooper (Savalas) is a tough guy working border enforcement on the Mexico border. He seems to have an ambivalent attitude about letting illegals cross over, preferring to take naps and let them cross. He is very close to his 20-and-out retirement. When his partner is injured and he gets a new one, Hale (Robin Clarke) he doesn't understand his ways. Cooper has plenty of clashes with Commander Moffat (Albert) - mainly because Moffat is corrupt and in bed with Chico Suarez (Gazzo).  Suarez is an unpleasant and merciless Coyote, spiriting illegals into the USA to work at very unpleasant jobs where they are abused by the management.


One of Cooper's best friends is a young man named Benito Romero (De La Paz). He's a scrappy kid who just wants to have a good life with his new wife Leina (Camacho), so he ends up working for Suarez. Unfortunately, he gets trapped and can't come home. He and his compatriots are abused by their gringo bosses and Romero is seen as a troublemaker. Once Cooper gets wind of what's going on, he tries to sort out the situation in his own way...meanwhile Romero wants to get revenge on his captors. Is that possible in this dangerous world?

Without Telly, there would be no movie. That's really the bottom line. While this is a dark, somewhat violent drama perfect for the drive-in era, only Telly's charisma saves the movie from utter mediocrity. In one of the more interesting turns in the film, Romero and his friends are forced to work in an abattoir - and there are graphic, extended, documentary scenes of cows being slaughtered, skinned and gutted. Why we need to see this, I don't quite know.

Illegal Mexicans come in strapped under a car Sideshow Bob-style at the beginning of the film, and that's when all hell breaks loose. Eddie Albert is a classic actor (not to be confused with Punchy himself, Edward Albert), whose career goes at least back to the 1930's. His role is fairly small, but important and he fills it well. His partner in crime Suarez is played by another classic actor, Michael Gazzo. Despite having a long and fruitful career, his name should be more well known. If you haven't seen it yet, please check out the movie Fingers (1978). He's in it and it's a great film.

Despite its flaws, mainly that the plot isn't as cohesive as it could have been, and could have used some more action, Border Cop is a relevant, serious movie that Telly fans should check out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty




Strategic Command (1997)



Strategic Command (1997)-* *1\2

AKA: Executive Command 

Directed by: Rick Jacobson

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Richard Norton, Paul Winfield, Amanda Wyss, Tim Abell, Larry Poindexter, Gina Mari, Bok Yun Chon, and Bryan Cranston










Dr. Rick Harding (Dudikoff) is a scientist working for the FBI's chemical weapons unit. He also must be the "One Gulf War Hero" of the movie's tagline. All Harding wants to do is get home to his wife Michelle (Wyss) and have a quiet life. But a terrorist organization led by the evil Carlos Gruber (Norton) breaks into the lab and steals "120 Gels of Bromax 365" which is, and I quote, "Potentially the most dangerous element...EVER CREATED." The small team of black-clad baddies then hijacks a plane heading from California to Washington D.C. On the plane is the Vice President of the United States, Charles Baker (Michael Cavanaugh) , his beautiful assistant Amie (Bok Yun Chon), the vain, cowardly news reporter Phil Hertzberg (Cranston), and of course, Michelle Harding! She was assigned to interview the VP when the terrorists struck.

The terrorists demand the release of fellow bad guy Ashrat from prison, and 100 million dollars, or they will blow up the plane with the Bromax on it, which will, and I quote, "Kill every living organism in a 200 mile radius." Now Harding, working with his superior Rowan (Winfield), has to team up with some anti-terrorist agents that don't like him very much, including Rattner (Nick Corri) and Ernie (Marcus Aurelius) to execute "Operation Intercept".Will Harding and his team save the hostages? Will they get the Bromax out of the hands of the bad guys? What will happen to the plane? What writer came up with the name "Carlos Gruber?"


Directed by Rick Jacobson of Ring of Fire (1991) (uncredited) and Night Hunter (1996) fame, and produced by Andrew Stevens which would explain the Desert Thunder (1999)/Stealth Fighter (1999) recycled plane footage (and the "assemble a team" theme), Strategic Command is even more of an obvious ripoff of then-current Hollywood films than usual. Most notably Executive Decision (1996), but also Air Force One (1997), Die Hard (1988), Passenger 57 (1992), The Rock (1996) and Broken Arrow (1996). It even recalls Counter Measures (1999), down to the silly vomiting people that are exposed to the Bromax. Supposedly it even has some music recycled from Counter Measures, and yet again Dudikoff is trapped in an enclosed space, be it sub, plane, or some sort of vehicle.


Old buddies from the American Ninja (1985) days Norton and Dudikoff are back together again. Norton is sinister and not very TV's Andy Levy-like as the terrorist with the slicked-back black hair. Despite some vague talk of his being German, Norton's Australian accent is still proudly on display. Just naming him the confusing and silly "Carlos Gruber" doesn't make him German. Or Mexican for that matter. Plus in Die Hard, Alan Rickman is named Hans Gruber. Of all the German last names that exist, couldn't the writers find another one besides "Gruber"? A funny moment comes when he "disguises" himself as a cameraman to sneak on the plane with the Vice President. All he does is add a funny mustache and glasses, hold a fake camera and say "I'm new". Then he's holding a gun to the VP's head. It is interesting watching a terrorist/plane movie in this post-9/11 world.


Also in the funny department, the evil, deadly substance is called Bromax. The characters all talk about it with dramatic, hushed tones. But every time they say it, it sounds like they are saying "Bromance". "That Bromance is going to kill everyone!" "We have to get the Bromance!", etc.

Dudikoff is his usual cool self, and even has a pre-CSI dramatic sunglass removal line. Clearly the CSI people ripped off Strategic Command. Circle of life. Probably the most interesting casting involves Bryan Cranston as Hertzberg. He's dead last in the credits, but his role is fairly substantial. In any of his interviews, either for Malcolm in the Middle, Breaking Bad or anything else, has anyone ever asked him about Strategic Command? Because they really should. We want Cranston's take.

For a competent, if patently obvious knockoff DTV flick with a cast of familiar faces, check out Strategic Command, but your expectations should not be high.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


10/28/2010

Streets Of Rage (1994)

Streets Of Rage (1994)-* *

Directed by: Richard Elfman

Starring: Mimi Lesseos, Ira Gold, Christopher Cass, Oliver Page, and Gokor Chivichyan














Melody Sails (Lesseos) is a strong, independent woman of the nineties. She is working as a fact-checker for a newspaper in the L.A. area, but hopes to be a reporter. In her quest to get a great scoop so she can impress her editor, Harrison (Tony Gibson) and join the official roster of the newspaper, she begins interviewing street kids and runaways. She goes to skid row, getting down and dirty at halfway houses and seedy pizza joints where these ragamuffins hang out. In the course of her investigation, she meets a 12-year-old panhandler named Steven (Gold) and an older teen named Candy (Juli James). They end up staying at her house and they become close. Because she is a former Special Forces Commando, this high-kicking newsgal can protect them, and herself.

 But interrupting all this is a malevolent presence on the streets. A diabolical pimp with a British accent named Lunar (Page) is killing prostitutes all over town and people are scared. He just sits in his limo and lets his goons do all the dirty work, most notably Gokor (Chivichyan). Meanwhile, Melody is being courted by a number of men, including a cop, a Texas art collector, and a co-worker at her newspaper. Which one will she choose? Is one of them secretly a connection to the diabolical Lunar? What will happen to her beloved street urchins?

Yes, Street of Rage does have a very cheap video look. Yes, it has the "production values" of a family home movie. Yes, that extends to the sound, where you constantly hear cars going by in the background. Yes, almost everything about it is hugely amateurish, especially most of the acting. But as I always say, stop being so critical. You could tell Lesseos (who wore a lot of different hats on the production) was trying. She got this movie out there. You didn't. Stop being such a hater. Lesseos has a likable personality and presence, and she also has some cool moves, even if they are awkwardly choreographed at times. She resembles a more athletic Anjelica Huston. It would be awesome if she and Cynthia Rothrock had a long, intense fight scene in a movie. Maybe that will happen someday.

But the movie just gets everything off on the wrong foot because of the title. For most people, Streets of Rage is one thing and CAN only be one thing. The legendary Genesis game. The game came out in 1991, so here they have no excuse. There's a lot more rage on the streets with Axel, Adam, and, most relevantly, Blaze, than there is here.

Taking a cue from movies of an earlier vintage, the music score is drenched in plenty of smooth sax. Take that, Fortune Dane (1986). Pleasantly, the film ends on a freeze frame, and behind the credits are clips from some of the scenes we just saw. Speaking of credits, a special thanks went out to Joseph Merhi, and it's easy to see why.

As far as Gokor is concerned, perhaps they should have given his character a different name, because it sounds like everyone is calling him "Go-Kart". An interesting name for a baddie, to be sure.

So for Z-grade martial arts action, check in with the good-natured Lesseos...but don't get on her bad side.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Deadly Stranger (1988)

Deadly Stranger (1988)-* *

AKA: Border Heat

Directed by: Max Kleven

Starring: Michael J. Moore, Darlanne Fluegel, and John Vernon












Here's another one by director Max Kleven, whose best movie is Ruckus (1981), which is not yet reviewed on this site. In the tale at hand, Deadly Stranger, a mysterious drifter rolls into a quiet, dusty ol' town in California. His name is J.C. Ryan (Moore), and he is yet another unshaven, mullet-headed goon/hero. The local rednecks have it in for Ryan from the moment he sets his foot in "their" town. Blackmailing him after goading him into a fight, they force him to work in the fields with the illegal Mexicans picking peppers. There, he befriends Juan (Tommy Rosales, of Kleven's W.B. Blue and the Bean, 1989 where he played...The Bean). Ryan soon meets and develops a relationship with the plantation owner, Mitchell (Vernon)'s mistress, Peggy (Fluegel).  Because the owners and union bosses are corrupt, extorting the illegals and killing them if they don't pay up, Ryan and Peggy decide that "union racket money's the only way to fly", and they hatch a plan to steal the ill-gotten gains and ride off into the sunset. But will that be possible, with such muscle as Smitty, Red and Bubba out for blood? Will there be a twist that ensures the scheme doesn't go exactly as planned?

Michael J. Moore, not to be confused with the pompous blowhard without the J, does a competent job as the loner in town whom the authorities are constantly hassling (have we ever seen that before?). Although it would be funny to see the other Michael Moore try to play the role of "the hunk" that MJM plays in this movie. Rather, try to imagine a cross between Lorenzo Lamas, Tom Green and Ron Silver, and you may get the idea. The movie is similar to Lamas' Snake Eater (1989) in some ways, and deals with the Mexican border, in a fairly sympathetic manner, and can also be compared to Border Cop (1979). Ryan is handy in a barfight and the local crackers hate him because, and I quote, he "associates with wetbacks". Ryan cares about their plight and wants to help them, especially Juan...but he gets in a whole heap o' trouble.

Darlanne Fluegel is always nice to see and is a genre staple. She puts in a quality performance here as the sassy, no-nonsense gal with plenty of plans and dreams. The world could use a few more like her. The legendary John Vernon plays the main baddie with barking aplomb, but we don't see hide nor hair of him until 57 minutes into the film. Then he's drinking, smoking, gambling and carousing with prostitutes for the rest of the running time. I'm sure he had fun. Like Rosales, he also appeared in W.B. Another unfortunate character to reappear in W.B. is the extremely annoying Mexican stereotype character. His name in real life is Wayne Montanio, and he is primarily a stunt actor.

While it is funny that the main cadre of rednecks watch Wheel of Fortune round-the-clock (they must tape it), and there are a few fight and chase scenes, the main problem with Deadly Stranger is that it's not really an action film, it doesn't have a real, serious message about the issue of illegal immigration or unions, it's not really anything. Plus it's too long. While it can be unfavorably compared to Road House (1989), it is something of a Bonnie and Clyde tale that is basically a drama that got lost in the VHS shuffle.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



10/27/2010

Quietfire (1991)

Quietfire (1991)-* * *

Directed by: Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs

Starring: Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Karen Black, Lance Lindsay, and Robert Z'Dar














Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, heretofore known as "Washington" on the TV show Welcome Back Kotter, at some point in the late eighties/early nineties hooked up with PM Entertainment to reinvent himself as an action guy. His stamp is all over Quietfire at least, with all sorts of nebulous credits - everything from "additional dialogue" to "additional music". He also stars in the film as the Vietnam vet Jesse Palmer.

All Jesse wants to do is live his life in peace and work at Gold's Gym protecting women working out from come-ons by mulleted meatheads - and represent Gold's Gym on his clothing at all times. Not to mention showing off to the local strippers his ability in killing bugs for them. But trouble arrives in the form of J. William Whelan (Lindsay), an evil, corrupt man running for U.S. Senate. How topical. He has everyone living in fear of him, and even has two cops on the take, Russo (Z'Dar) and Overstreet (Jastereo Coviare, who also did the end credits song).  It seems Whelan is involved in various arms deals with enemy nations. When Jesse's 'Nam buddy Walt is killed, Jesse connects the dots right to the nefarious Whelan. Add to that Whelan was Jesse's Commanding Officer back in the old days. And since Jesse was on a team of elite ops that never failed in their missions, Whelan knows what Jesse is capable of. So now Jesse and his girlfriend Jana (Nadia Marie) are on the run, and Jesse has to elude and/or fight wave after wave of bad guys.

Apparently this incriminating information about Whelan is on a computer disk which Jesse must find and protect. But along his travels of running from the baddies, he meets a lot of colorful characters, such as Walt's friend Kim (Black). She's a hippie that runs one of those hippie stores. Why this minor role needed to be filled by an actress of Karen Black's caliber remains unknown. So as Jesse says, it's like he's "back in 'Nam all over again!" Will he be able to fight all of his assailants and get justice?

Quietfire is nothing but silly - very silly - fun. You can't take it seriously at all. From the first seconds of the film (or video?) it looks like that old commercial for the Viper car alarm system. LHJ (as he, and his production company are known) lives in a purple apartment and when bad guys invade it, he must unleash the awesome power of LHJ-Fu on them. The movie is like a 90 minute commercial for Gold's Gym. There are numerous scenes in the interior and exterior of said gym, and LHJ wears their gear for 95% of the film, except at the end when he changes into his all-black "I'm gonna really get revenge" outfit. That's also when he finally breaks into his secret stash of throwing stars. But what LHJ really brings to the table are his bulging eyes, which do most of the acting. But them together with Z'Dar's famous chin (here mostly hidden by a beard), we have some seriously exaggerated body parts on display.

A news program interrupts something playing on the radio to announce that Whelan's opponent has called him "a wimp". Definitely newsworthy. But in true PM fashion, we get, for no reason really, to see "action Senator (-ial candidate)" when Whelan gets to try out one of the missile launchers himself. And getting back to the phalanx of incidental characters, besides Karen Black's, we also have the beyond-sassy motel manager, as well as Clyde, Walt's brother, who wants nothing more than to offer LHJ a nice "Sparkling Fruitwater", Whelan's assistant who looks exactly like Harry Potter, and lest we forget the legendary Todd McMasters, a bespectacled little nerd who gets mercilessly mocked, behind his back, of course, by everyone throughout the rest of the movie!

We would also be remiss if we forgot to mention Hector and Jax - two transvestite and/or transsexual assassins hired by Whelan to finally off Jesse. In this truly weird and unexplained turn of events, it recalls the grand tradition of "great last minute characters" we've seen added to the last act of movies in the past...Bear, The Cowboy, The Dead Man, Machine Gun Joe, etc. They really add a lot.

Sure, the title makes no sense whatsoever (why is it all one word?), the tagline is really stupid ("When you kill a man...make sure he's dead!!), and certain aspects, especially some of the acting of course, are amateurish, but so what? Quietfire is a ton of fun. It's a hilarious movie, so crack open a few beers, make some snacks and let Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs entertain YOU!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


10/25/2010

Revenge Of The Bushido Blade (1980)

Revenge Of The Bushido Blade (1980)-* *1\2

AKA: The Last Reunion, Ninja Nightmare

Directed by: Jay Wertz

Starring: Leo Fong, Hal Bokar, Cameron Mitchell, Phillip Baker Hall, Stack Pierce, and Joe Mari Avellana






















During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in 1945 (starting exactly like previous Fong vehicle Murder in the Orient, 1974), a group of American soldiers invade the home of Japanese general Matsuda. The soldiers proceed to rape and murder his wife, and eventually kill him as well. A massacre ensues. Sadly, their young son witnessed all the horror. Then we are told it is March 27, 1978 in San Francisco. The boy from that terrible day in the forties is now a grown man, and he has been obsessed with getting revenge on the soldiers that did this to his mom and dad. He has plenty of haunting memories from that time. When Matsuda (Fong) sees that the 33rd reunion of the 75th Rangers is occurring in Manila, Matsuda goes as well, where he attempts to pick the soldiers off one by one who killed his family, making it, for them, The Last Reunion.

The Last Reunion, as it was originally and perhaps more appropriately known (but undoubtedly retitled because it was not exploitative enough), is a fairly serious drive-in style drama, but with a structure not unlike a slasher film. A lone man is picking people off one by one, yes, but here the characters and scenarios have a little more substance and flesh to them than usual.

Among the group of soldiers, the mainstay Cameron Mitchell portrays Lt. Sam Hacker, the most sympathetic of the bunch. As we will see later in Rage to Kill (1987), he gets a chance to dance. The other sympathetic soldier is Frank Washington, played by Stack Pierce. They primarily have to deal with the belligerent, angry, annoying and unlikable Steadman (Bokar). Bokar does a great job because you hate him so much. Famous, respected actor Philip Baker Hall shows up as Sills, the guilt-ridden alcoholic in a pretty early, mustachioed role. In fact, all the men seem to want to do is get hammered, but Matsuda puts a serious wrinkle in their plans.

I know it's an oversimplification, but one thing I personally found distasteful in this film was that the bad guys are American Soldiers. They are portrayed not as heroes, but as amoral rapists and murderers. Not cool. Even after their atrocity, one of the soldiers says "Sorry, Kid", as if they ran over his bike with their car or something. But on a much, much lighter note, when Matsuda decides he is going to get revenge (and later as well, during the "film set" scene), rather than say something that explains his feelings, or explains something, he simply screams "Bushidoooooooo!!! Bushidooooooo!!!!" Man that's funny. You have to see it. Fong really comes alive.

A highlight of the movie are its many musical acts, especially an outfit called the D'Hi Octave Band. They are a Filipino, female-fronted disco act that has matching outfits. They even play at a club called "Disco". Their scene is a film highlight, and fits in perfectly with the seventies feel of the movie.

By today's standards a bit slow, Revenge of the Bushido Blade is a quality production of its kind that is well worth watching.

Comeuppance Review by Brett and Ty

10/22/2010

Murder In The Orient (1974)

Murder In The Orient (1974)-* * *

Directed by: Manuel Songco

Starring: Ron Marchini and Leo Fong













During World War II, When the Japanese were fighting in the Philippines, they buried a stash of gold. They decided to abandon the traditional "treasure map", deciding instead to engrave directions to the loot on two separate samurai swords. Now, in the swingin' seventies, the nefarious Golden Cobra Gang has one of the swords. They desperately want the other one. Gustavo, a higher-up in the organization, really wants to please the head boss, King Cobra, so he pulls out all the stops to get the missing sword: he brings in Kang the Butcher, a ruthless assassin, and of course Turko. But he makes a fatal error in his quest. He kills the sister of Lao Tsu (Leo Fong, not the ancient philosopher...interesting character name choice).

Now Tsu, a peaceful Hong Kong martial arts instructor, must travel to Manila to get revenge. On top of that, the American Paul Martelli (Ron Marchini, in another stretch) is caught up in the madness because he was involved with Tsu's sister. Now Martelli and Tsu must take on the Golden Cobra Gang. Can they do it? Who will get the sword? Who will get the Japanese gold? Where does the gang find an endless array of goons willing to fight Marchini and Fong?

This movie is pretty taxing for your ears. The sound is horrid, it sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom using the first tape recorder ever made. Add to that, most of the cast has a thick accent. Even in the dubbing, which doesn't help. The many jarring jump-cuts don't help either. So a big percentage of the movie is unhearable. And don't try raising the volume. Sure, Ron Marchini doesn't talk much in the movie, but that's probably for other reasons. But every little bit helps.

Acting-wise, it truly is a case of "flat and flatter", as the filmmakers found the two action stars, nay, PEOPLE on the planet with the most flat, wooden delivery ever. And they talk to each other. And we try to hear them. What a mess. But it's a fairly fun mess. Marchini and Fong have one short fight scene, before they realize they must team up, and it's okay, not great. It should have been longer and more dynamic.


A martial arts adventure tailor-made for drive ins, this has a very seventies feel, which is one of the big selling points of the film. People wear shirts and dresses with wild, colorful patterns and huge collars, and the soundtrack is funky. Marchini gets yet another torture scene for his resume. It must be in his contract.

So it's not great, but don't scrutinize it too closely. At a scant 73 minutes, why not add another Fong/Marchini movie to your collection, especially if it's one of those cheap gas-station DVD's?

NOTE: One of the main people the filmmakers choose to thank in the end credits is the "Philippines Mental Health Association, Inc." If you make it all the way through Murder In the Orient to see this credit, it makes a disturbing amount of sense.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

White Fire (1984)

White Fire (1984)-* * *

Directed by: Jean-Marie Pallardy

Starring: Robert Ginty, Gordon Mitchell, Belinda Mayne, Mirella Banti, Jess Hahn, and Fred Williamson













Now here's a weird one. Imagine if someone threw a bunch of film reels from different drive-in movies in the air, and used Robert Ginty's chainsaw you see above to wildly slice them at random. Then they spliced them all together and stuffed the result in a projector. The result would undoubtedly be...WHITE FIRE!

In this highly entertaining monument to nonsensicality, Robert Ginty and Belinda Mayne play brother and sister Boris "Bo" Donnelly and Ingrid Donnelly. When they were children, their parents were killed by soldiers. The man who saved them, Sam (Jess Hahn) is now their friend in adulthood, and they live in Turkey. He has a sleazy associate named Peyton (at least we think that's what his name is). What are they up to?  Apparently, Bo and Ingrid stole some diamonds and some bad guys want them back. Gordon Mitchell plays Olaf, a man who works in a futuristic diamond mine where they wear crazy outfits and torture and kill people. A gigantic diamond called "White Fire" is in the mine, but if anyone touches it, they melt. Then it gets really crazy.


Many bad guys are after the Donnellys, including the Italians Sophia  (Banti), who has a hilarious accent,  and Barbarossa (Benito Stefanelli), not to mention an army of mustachioed Turks. During a brawl, Ingrid is "killed". Bo is crushed because they had such a close relationship (a little too close...more on that later) so he goes to drown his sorrows at the local watering hole. After the prerequisite barfight, a woman named Olga (Diana Goodman) comes home with him. She has blonde hair like Ingrid did, so, naturally, Sam suggests, "She could be Ingrid. We could replace her", or something to that effect. Of course, Olga goes along with the plan and goes to a bizarre castle populated only by women in diaphanous scarves and gets plastic surgery. Now she looks like/is Ingrid. Now Bo can fall in love with her without technically committing incest. But there's yet another wrinkle. Noah (Williamson) is after Olga because he is a pimp and she is a prostitute that escaped without paying him some money (that's the best we could make out of that unfollowable jumble of a subplot).


SO! Will Bo and Olga/Ingrid ride off into the sunset with the White Fire? Or will Olaf and Noah get their way? And one other thing...what the HELL is going on?

I'm sorry if any of the above came off in a negative way. Despite the fact that the "plot" is as jumbled, silly and nonsensical as any Godfrey Ho epic, White Fire is actually a lot of entertaining fun. You just have to be the type of person that can accept the fact that the plot is, let's just say, "non-traditional".


White Fire is a cinematic oddity consisting of crazily choppy editing, nutty sound effects, loud, laughable dubbing, and riddled with bizarre jump cuts. And that's just the technical side. The plot is just a bunch of loose strands that make no sense. Add to that the Jon Lord-related soundtrack (two songs, the fast, title song and a sensitive ballad they repeat over and over, presumably by the band Limelight). It has all the exploitation goodies, over-the-top nudity and violence, and of course the "bad" acting...but what really sets this apart is the relationship between Bo and Ingrid...and Bo and Ingrid/Olga. It's just so weird all the way around.

Fred Williamson is here in a rare bad guy role, and Ginty and the others wear some pretty amazing fashions. For fans of true cinema weirdness, if you haven't already discovered it, there's a rich mine of greatness to be found in White Fire.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

10/19/2010

Snake Eater (1989)

Snake Eater (1989)-* *1\2

Directed by: George Erschbamer

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Josie Bell, Ronnie Hawkins, Robert Scott, and Ron Palillo





"To him, America is just another jungle."







Jack "Soldier" Kelly (Lamas) is an ex-Marine (part of an elite "Search and Destroy" unit dubbed "Snake Eaters") who now works as an undercover cop in the big city. His unorthodox ways and flippant attitude really annoy all of his co-workers, including the two cops in the car clearly meant for "comic relief" and painfully undisguised exposition. Soldier's also pretty handy at making booby traps. When his family is attacked while on a boating trip by crazed bayou folk, and his sister kidnapped and imprisoned by said folk, Soldier must go into the backwoods to find the truth...and his sister. He is helped along the way by kindly boat rental manager King (Hawkins) and his daughter, simply known as "The Kid" (Bell). In fact, the evil rednecks live so far up river, King and Kid trick out his beloved chopper and turn it into what can only be described as a "boatercycle". Surviving on his wits alone, will Soldier be able to defeat the entire inbred family before it's too late?

A tagline on another poster for Snake Eater proclaims "As dirty as Dirty Harry (1971). As dangerous as Deliverance (1972)". This seems to sum up the mindset of the filmmakers. Although neither Clint Eastwood or Jon Voight had to deal with "Torchy", aka Ron Palillo.

It is somewhat interesting to watch Lamas go from the city with its spray painted, run-down tenements and homeless people, to the supposedly "tranquil" countryside. Lamas never misses a chance to be shirtless and oiled up, and his snake belt buckle is usually on display. He's so crafty he hides the surveillance wire in his mullet. He has plenty of catch phrases, and nowhere is the goofy humor more on display than in the comical, prerequisite barfight scene. He's at a roadhouse called The Cage, and he must tangle with a biker who wears a necklace made of teeth. Lamas' biker-dude image here must have proven so successful, it was parlayed not just into the Snake Eater sequels, but the TV show Renegade.

While the similarities to Radical Jack (2000) are somewhat disturbing (of all the movies in the world to borrow from, why would the makers of Radical Jack choose Snake Eater?), the bayou folk really are a cross between stupid and menacing. Junior (Scott) is their leader, along with Slim, Jesse, Sissy, Joe, and of course Clyde, who looks like a Doozer from Fraggle Rock. If they ever make a live-action Fraggle remake (it's really only a matter of time, isn't it?) he has a job secured. One of the more disturbing things they do is gag someone with a live fish, which is actually pretty silly. Interestingly enough, Junior attempts to force feed Soldier's imprisoned sister a snake. This dovetails nicely with the film's strange obsession with feeding people live animals, and the title of the movie itself.

Weirdly paced (some scenes are way too long and drawn-out than they need to be) and seeming somewhat like a TV movie at times, Snake Eater is passable entertainment, but probably won't knock your socks off.

Also check out our buddy Simon's review of Snake Eater!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


10/18/2010

Nine Deaths Of The Ninja (1985)

Nine Deaths Of The Ninja (1985)-* *1\2

Directed by: Emmett Alston

Starring: Sho Kosugi, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi. Blackie Dammett, and Brent Huff














When German, wheelchair-bound terrorist Alby the Cruel (Dammett) uses his team of female soldiers to take a busload of Americans in the Philippines hostage, a team of special anti-terrorist agents are dispatched to save the innocents. Steve Gordon (Huff), Jennifer Barnes (Emilia Crow) and of course Spike Shinobi (Kosugi) are sent in to save the day. It seems Alby is demanding the release from prison of Rahji (Sonny Erang), a grinning, drooling idiot of a terrorist. He's so evil, he goes around popping kids' balloons just for fun. Once he is released, only one group of people can stop the terrorists and free the hostages...Steve, Jennifer and Spike! Did you think it would be someone else?

The fact that Sho Kosugi's name here is Spike Shinobi should tell you everything you need to know about this movie. And that it was shot in the Philippines (and that it's a Crown International production). Knowing these things should help you appreciate the silliness within. This anti-terrorist crew hangs out together by the pool, and Spike practices his sword skills on watermelons, then serves them to his compatriots. Narrowly missing a kitten while blindfolded sword-chopping is an important technique to have. Also they have very snappy matching jumpsuits. But when their boss calls in "Dark Team - Red Option 4" they snap into action. This obviously isn't to be confused with Robert Vaughn's "Control 5" from Deadly Reckoning (1998).


Blackie Dammett chews the scenery as Alby, and his beloved pet, a monkey with a diaper, is a highlight of his terrorist training camp (any bad guy worth his salt has one). But are they any match for the blow-pop loving Spike (he has a special holster on his belt to hold his blow pops)? When the action in the movie turns to a jungle scenario as the team gets closer to the training camp, Huff goes all Rambo with his headband and giant machine gun. They're really pulling out all the stops because Kosugi's sons Shane and Kane are trapped on the hijacked bus. Luckily, they are crafty li'l devils that have some tricks up their sleeve as well.


Sure, many things about this film make no sense, including the fact that Sho isn't technically a ninja in the film, and the title makes NO sense considering the action in the film, but they needed to call it something cool, especially because the ninja boom was in full swing at this time. I guess they figured simply the presence of Sho Kosugi made this a ninja movie. All of the silly stunts and nonsensical actions are completely and totally justified by the amazing opening credits sequence. They really don't make 'em like this anymore. It really should have gone on longer. Sadly, the movie never improves upon this opening sequence. We can't describe it, you just have to see it for yourself. You'll be glad you did.


For pretty ridiculous, pseudo-ninja action, try Nine Deaths of the Ninja. You could do a lot worse. This at least has some crazy, silly, funny stuff, which can't be said about a lot of other movies of its ilk. Plus it has Sho. If you see it, get it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett







Raiders Of The Sun (1992)

Raiders Of The Sun (1992)-* *

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Richard Norton, Ned Hourani, Nick Nicholson, Brigitta Stenberg and Rick Dean



"They Don't Take Prisoners....THEY TAKE LIVES."









Brodie (Norton) is a warrior in a post-apocalyptic world. He works for the Alpha League, a democratic society trying to keep the madness and the roving bands of scavengers at bay. The leader of the bad guys, Clay (William Steis), is a traitor to the Alpha League cause. Since there is constant shooting between the factions, it is discovered that there is a shortage of gunpowder in this barren world, and whoever finds any will rule the wastelands. So the Alpha League sends Brodie in search of the now-precious material. Along the way, he falls in love with a native, mountain girl named Sierra (Lani Lobangco). The primitive society she comes from, of course, has a mine full of gunpowder. They use it for religious ceremonies. Oh, and most of the people in the mountain village are midgets. The baddies just want to plunder it all but now Brodie and his midget army must defend the mine. Meanwhile, the warrior Talbot (Blake Boyd) wants to get back to his wife Vera (Stenberg), but she's kidnapped by the baddies and jailed. Will they reunite? Will the good guys get the gunpowder? Why is this all happening...again?

I'm not sure if it should be applauded or condemned that they were still making Mad Max (1979) knockoffs in the 90's. This Corman production left it in the capable hands of mainstay Cirio Santiago, and I suppose that's the wisest possible decision under the circumstances. He does a competent job, nothing great. If Richard Norton wasn't involved, this would be a real slog. He doesn't do a ton of martial arts in the film. It's different to see him with a beard. That's obviously a character choice, as you can't really shave after the apocalypse and you must protect your face.


The baddies, like in Karate Cop (1991), wear football equipment. There are some interesting antagonists this time around, such as Nick Nicholson from No Dead Heroes (1986), and characters such as Hog Head, Meat Ball and of course the duel between Talbot and Gonzo Gonzales (Hourani) where they swing back and forth on ropes swiping at each other is, well, not memorable, but...something.

Yes, there is the constant shooting and blow-ups, and the standard post-apocalyptic stuff like wacky costumes and cars with weird things attached to them. And yes, it is pretty dumb. It doesn't add much to any of its post-nuke forbears. It holds your interest, only just barely. But it's not really meant as anything other than cheap entertainment, so you can't judge it that harshly.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

10/14/2010

Knights Of The City (1985)

Knights Of The City (1985)-* * *

Directed by: Dominic Orlando

Starring: Leon Isacc Kennedy, Stoney Jackson, Jeff Moldovan, Janine Turner, with Jeff Kutash, and with Special Appearances by: Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, and Smokey Robinson











Could it be that there is a movie that combines Body Rock (1984) with Chains (1989)? Yes, it exists: Knights of the City has to be one of the silliest movies ever, and, coming from us, that's really saying something.

The Royals are a street gang in Miami. The core members are also in a band called the Royal Rockers. The Mechanics are a rival gang moving in on their turf. One night after a rumble, they end up in jail. Like most jails, The Fat Boys and Kurtis Blow are there and everyone in the cell starts dancing and rapping. Luckily, Delamo (Ansara) is in the cell next door for being a raging alcoholic. Of course, he is the head of Twilight Records. He likes what he hears and sees, so he gives the band a business card. The next day, the band shows up at the offices and drops off their demo tape (which sounds exactly like Michael Jackson). His daughter Brooke is in charge of A&R and wants to sign them, but they didn't leave any contact info on their tape. So she starts a contest, "Street Contest", to try and find acts in the inner city. This was pretty ahead of it's time; try to imagine a ghetto "American Idol" or "America's Got Talent". She finds the band, but the leader of the Royals/Royal Rockers, Troy (Kennedy) falls for her. Conflicts ensue when her high class world meets his lower-class one. But wait! There's more!

Joey (Nicholas Campbell) is a die-hard Royal, and, due to the rising popularity of the Royal Rockers, thinks Troy is losing his edge and forgetting his roots. But fellow Royal/guitarist Mookie (yes, Mookie) (John Mengatti) wants to go the music route more, and Troy is torn between them.  But Troy sees winning the Street Contest as his way out of the ghetto. Thanks to Brooke, he's seen the other side of life, and now wants to be a part of it. But there's yet another conflict at hand. Jasmine (Wendy Barry), Troy's former girlfriend is competing against him in the contest...and she's being coached by none other than Carlos (Moldovan), the evil head of the Mechanics! And did we mention their bad-ass gang hideout is an abandoned TUGBOAT!?!?  A freakin' TUGBOAT! As if all that wasn't enough, both gangs are constantly being harassed by grumpy cop McGruder (Floyd Levine)! How will Troy deal with all this, to quote him, "Jive"?

CRUCIAL PLOT POINT THAT I FORGOT TO MENTION: In rehearsing for the contest, they decide their dance moves are not good enough so they hire Flash (Jeff Kutash) to show them how to get down and get funky in the proper manner. Naturally this leads to a montage of dance training. Don't ever forget about Kutash.

Besides the aforementioned Body Rock and Chains, Knights of the City can also be compared to a cross between West Side Story (1961), Beat Street (1984) and The Warriors (1979). There are gangs, and they do gang-y things, but they will throw down some breakdancing moves at the drop of a hat! At any moment, a dance could break out. Even Denny Terrio of Dance Fever fame appears as himself, along with all the other guest musical stars!

Forget all the ham-handed acting (or in the case of Nicholas Campbell as Joey, yelling and screaming) where everything every character says ends in "man!"...the TRUE stars of Knights of the City are THE COSTUMES! The clothes that people wear in this movie are truly astounding. They must be seen to be believed. NO 80's movie or music video you have seen before can prepare you for the awesome outfits. Top honors go to Costume Designers Celia Bryant and Beverly Safier. No wonder it took two people. If there were any justice in this world, they would be more recognized for their abilities. I would try to describe the clothes for you, but not only is that pointless, I think it might also count as a "Spoiler Alert"!

In another completely absurd turn, none other than Smokey Robinson shows up as the MC of the contest. He seems stiff and confused. Maybe getting onstage in front of judges such as Dean Dean made him nervous.

The Royals are a ragtag group of street ragamuffins, and they supposedly are rude, crude and have a dangerous 'tude, but in actuality they are obnoxious and annoying. No wonder Troy wants to drop them like a bad habit. For example, Carlos' big insult to Troy is to repeatedly call him "Fish Lips". But there does seem to be some weird, last-minute editing out of swear words, so that might make sense. But the movie is still rated R, so...why? But at its core, Knights of the City is really a movie with a message. Reach for the stars!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett



10/13/2010

No Dead Heroes (1986)

No Dead Heroes (1986)-* * *

Directed by: Junn B. Cabreira

Starring: Max Thayer, John Dresden, Toni Nero, Steve Rogers, Mike Monty, and Nick Nicholson














Really cool movie alert! Fans of Invasion U.S.A. (1985) (i.e., everyone that's ever seen it) are sure to love this one as well.

When ridiculously evil Russian General Ivan Dimanovitch (Nicholson), who naturally runs a prison camp in Vietnam, is holding an American CIA agent in his horrid cages, badass soldier dudes Richard "Ric" Sanders (Thayer) and Harry Cotter (Dresden) are sent in by their commanding officer Baylor (Monty) to save the man and free the camp - in the next 24 hours. If the man succumbs to the torture tactics of Dimanovitch, he could spill information sensitive to the U.S. Just when we as viewers are acclimating to this, we see a title on screen - TEN YEARS LATER (!)

Dimanovitch has captured Cotter and he makes him undergo a surgical procedure in which a microchip is implanted at the base of his skull. This chip turns him into an emotionless killing machine controlled by a Casio wristwatch. Of course, Dimanovitch is wearing the watch and pressing the buttons. The plan is a total commie takeover of the world, and since he hates religion, to use Cotter to assassinate the Pope. So Baylor sends Sanders, now a private citizen, into the fray to take down all the baddies and stop Cotter. With the help of Barbara (Nero) and of course an arsenal of machine guns larger than most armies, will they be able to stop the nefarious evil planning to take over the world?

If movies were judged by the amount of people that die in them, No Dead Heroes would win awards. The kill count is huge, and there are even surprising lashings of gore. Try to imagine a cross between Wardogs (1986) and Invasion U.S.A. With maybe a dash of The Devastator (1985) thrown in for good measure.

The movie starts with an explosion in the first second, and many more follow throughout the majority of the film's running time. In the funny department, even though he is an evil commie rapist, just look at Dimanovitch's henchman Lopez. He is an obese, bearded man that looks like Castro. Speaking of which, No Dead Heroes shares Invasion U.S.A.'s patriotism, and the prerequisite speeches are made against America, capitalism and religion...all this angers super-patriot Sanders who truly is a one-man army. Additionally, since his buddy's name is "Harry Cotter", every time they say it, it's hard not to imagine the beloved, bespectacled children's character (with one letter different, of course) massacring people and attempting to knock over the PopeMobile.

You're really not a super-villain unless you have a terrorist training camp (or, in the case of American Ninja (1985), a Ninja training camp) and when Sanders and Barbara show up with guns blazin', that will certainly knock you off the monkey bars!

Behind the camera, we have producer Anthony Maharaj, responsible for some Richard Norton epics, including Not Another Mistake (1988). Apparently he likes being involved in movies where there are "No" something or "Not" something. It's quite a formula for success. Also there is a credit in the movie for, and I quote, "Meal Checker". Maybe there was a mad poisoner going around bent on the indigestion of Max Thayer, so it's good the production sprang for him.

For classic 80's uber-patriotic shoot-fests that require zero brain power, (and, thankfully there is zero irony), top marks go to the impressive No Dead Heroes.

Comeuppance Reviews by: Brett and Ty

10/12/2010

Getting Even (1988)

Getting Even (1988)-* * *

Directed by: Leandro Lucchetti

Starring: Richard Roundtree, Michael Aronin, George Ardisson, Deborah Keith and Harrison Muller Jr.










Roy Evans (Muller) is a Vietnam vet who spent five years in a prison camp. He has flashbacks of those dark times often, and he recalls a time when he tried to carry his wounded buddy to a chopper before it took off. Unfortunately, it was piloted by the sinister Slisko (Aronin), a man who you can tell is evil by his name. Slisko literally kicks them off the chopper and he takes off. 

Now, in the present day, some psycho is roaming around NYC leaving a trail of dead prostitutes in his wake. And they all have a unique signature: the knife wounds are made by a curved knife called a "criss". Could it be the work of the nefarious Slisko? Evans and 'Nam buddy Dundee (Roundtree) want answers - and revenge. But they must answer to the mysterious FBI agent Roberts. So after tracking him all over the city, their quest leads them to Bangkok where they meet up with Pearl (Keith), a beautiful woman who's handy with a machine gun. They then learn Slisko is running weapons to the guerillas. So with machine guns a blazin' and huts a-explodin', the deadly trio get to the truth - in the most violent way possible, of course.

Of the two Richard Roundtree/Harrison Muller Jr. team-ups, this one is far better (than its counterpart, Miami Cops, 1989). This one is more of a pure action movie, with plenty of bullet hits and blow-ups, and quasi-Rambo stylings. Muller Jr. and Roundtree should be using a machine gun and a rocket launcher, respectively, not tooling around Detroit pretending it's Miami. Maybe that's a bit unfair, but what's interesting about Getting Even is that they must go back to Asia and defeat the baddies using the techniques they originally learned in 'Nam. Circle of life. Or death, more accurately. It even ends in the time-tested "Final Field Fight". But what is the final twist?

Of course, there is the prerequisite funny dubbing, and the funny dialogue they are dubbing with (in a Vietnam flashback, a character yells out "The Radio Shack is right up ahead!"...that's really funny), and, like Miami Cops, the film quality is not great. Speaking of funny things, you wouldn't think, of Muller Jr. and Roundtree, that Muller would have the thicker, fuller afro, but there it is.

This may seem weird, but in some of the actions of the characters, it resembles the NES game "Renegade". To add weird on top of weird, Muller's character drives a "Renegade" Jeep! Could that possibly be a coincidence? And in the "there were three Vietnam buddies but now one is evil and the other two have to deal with it" sweepstakes, Getting Even certainly gives American Eagle (1989) a run for its money.

So if you must see a team up of the charismatic Roundtree and the "why is he here?" Muller, see this one.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

American Dragons (1998)

American Dragons (1998)-* * *1\2

AKA: Double Edge

Directed by: Ralph Hemecker

Starring: Michael Biehn, Joong-Hoon Park, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Byron Mann, and Don Stark






"East meets West with a vengeance!"




American Dragons is a hugely underrated film that more people should definitely know about.

Biehn plays Tony Luca, an NYC detective working undercover trying to take down the Fiorino Mafia family. When some unfortunate events cause that investigation to "go sideways", he is transferred to another case, in the Chinatown area where there have been some murders. It seems someone is bumping off Yakuza gangsters and leaving a mysterious Black Lotus emblem.  Enter Detective Kim (Park) from the Seoul police department. He comes to America because he has a score to settle with the evil Matsuyama (Tagawa, playing yet another gun-toting bad guy, see Danger Zone etc...). He teams up with Luca, who also has his own score to settle with amoral gangster Rocco (Stark). So it goes that, despite some initial conflicts due to their different cultures, the two pugilistic cops must take down their respective enemies before a mob war breaks out between the Mafia and the Yakuza.

American Dragons is stylish and artsy, yet dark and brooding. It has an engaging storyline, and despite the fact that it has some brutal, gritty violence, it also has some unexpected humor which leavens everything out.

You really get your money's worth, as there are two personal vendettas that must be settled, and two super-evil bad guys that must get their comeuppance. Luckily, there are two heroes, in the form of Park and Biehn. Biehn gets some great lines and seems as intense as the movie itself. Try to imagine a better, more adult, mature version of Last to Surrender (1999). Also, if you can, try to imagine a MUCH better version of Massacre (1985). While 'Dragons shares some plot elements from those two films, what's really interesting is the similarity it bears to Punisher: War Zone (2008), both in the style in which it is filmed and the plot.


The cinematography truly is a double edged sword here, as it is inventive and stylish, but often the scenes are just too dark to see. It's almost funny how every bar, restaurant, police station or anywhere else in the movie never turns its lights on. A lot of the time it looks like they are talking in the dark. The station house resembles the one from the Law and Order franchises, and that adds to the "police procedural on steroids" feel and even the Captain of the Precinct is reminiscent of that show's Van Buren. But here they're clearly trying to save money on electricity.

The whole movie is a of a much higher caliber than the usual action junk, and you can tell some thought went into everything, from the rockin' soundtrack to the fact that even here there's a training sequence! This, and other clues tell me the filmmakers are action fans themselves and know what they are doing. It's nice to know you're in good hands when you watch a movie.

So remember, "So foul a sky clears not without a storm" and watch American Dragons tonight - it's a cut above the rest.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

10/11/2010

L.A. Bounty (1989)

L.A. Bounty (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Worth Keeter

Starring: Sybil Danning, Blackie Dammett, and Wings Hauser















Here we have a fun little film which is easy to like, in which Sybil Danning has not only the starring role, but also is credited with story and co-producer.

When mayoral candidate Mike Rhodes (Robert Hanley) is kidnapped by drug runner Cavanaugh (Hauser) and his team of goons, this raises the ire of one of the toughest dudes around...ex-cop and now bounty hunter Ruger (Danning)! It seems the psychopathic Cavanaugh murdered her partner when she was on the beat. Cavanaugh slipped away and she has been on his trail. Now it's time to get revenge. But Cavanaugh wants to get to her first or she'll blow the whole mayoral kidnap plan, especially since Ruger has teamed up with Rhodes' wife Kelly (Lenore Kasdorf).  So now it's an all-out war between Cavanaugh and his goons and Ruger. Is she woman enough to take on all the evildoers? And what is the final twist in the tale?

In this movie, Danning and Wings are great opposites. Wings Hauser hams it up to the max (in a good way) and chews the scenery to pieces as the flamboyant artist Cavanaugh. It's truly "Wings gone wild" as he laughs, screams, skips (!) and spouts philosophy while wearing his clip-on earring. His lair is a supposed import/export business called "Gothic Imports". In the climax we see it has to be one of the largest warehouses ever.

Danning is quiet and curt as the no-nonsense bounty tracker. She says very little and when other characters say things to her, all we see is a silent, closed-mouth reaction shot. It's all in the name of fun. Just check out her many great entrances in the film. She usually appears silhouetted in a doorway surrounded by smoke as a mighty guitar riff blares on the soundtrack. She probably had a blast as the beer-swilling, leather jacket wearing, trailer-dwelling, shotgun toting "macho" hero. She basically blows giant holes in all the goons with a massive gun. She is funny and engaging as Ruger.


The movie really delivers the goods to the fans and moves along at a brisk pace. There is a standout scene which is an homage to Westerns, watch out for it.  Directed by familiar name (at least to this site) Worth Keeter, don't hesitate to check out L.A. Bounty if you can.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Golden Ninja Warrior (1986)

Golden Ninja Warrior (1986)- * *

Directed by: Joseph Lai (and an uncredited Godfrey Ho)

Starring: Donald Owen, Richard Harrison, Dick Wu, Pansy Pak, Mike Tien, and Queenie Yang













 For those unfamiliar with Godfrey Ho, he has made some of the silliest, craziest movies of all time. He would make a bunch of movies around the same time and slice and splice bits of them all together. Add to that some outrageous (and hilarious) dubbing, and crazy special effects and inventions, sped-up action and a complete and total disregard for formal moviemaking techniques, the result is usually a surreal experience literally like no other. His chosen medium for all this during the 80's was the ninja movie. It's not for everyone, but it's original.

The "plot" (not that it matters to the filmmakers, or the audience) seems to be about a rivalry between the Golden Ninja Warriors and the Red Ninja Warriors. The Red Ninja Warriors want a Golden Ninja Statue that the Golden Ninjas Have, which is never seen by the audience. Then, the action moves to Hong Kong where we see a criminal organization running a prostitution racket, made up of kidnapped women, out of a hotel. They beat and torture the girls, until the organization is broken up by Sherri (Yang), a model and female Kung-Fu expert nicknnamed "The Death Fairy". She dismantles the operation with the help of Michael (Owen). They transform into ninjas at random times. They must fight the evil, cackling boss Mr. Lau and his evil female ninja Sakura. Also, Sherrie wants to avenge the death of her father, on top of getting the mysterious statue into safe hands...(?)


Attempting to write and describe what goes on in Golden Ninja Warrior is an exercise in futility, but the above is my best attempt. Again, the plot, such as it is, is not important in the slightest. Try to imagine a sleazy exploitation movie with zero continuity (or any attempt at it, apparently), ninjas disappearing and reappearing randomly in clouds of yellow smoke, loud, nonsensical dubbing, all sped up, keystone cops style...not just the action scenes...most of the movie!

Richard Harrison appears only in the opening credits sequence (lifted from another Ho feature, believed to be Ninja Terminator, 1985). Owen has a camouflage ninja suit and weird powers, on top of all the other nutty, zany effects. The ninja sequences are the best in the film, but you never know when they will appear! An Asian man, obviously in Hong Kong, shouts on the phone that his name is "Bill Brown"!


The movie is REALLY silly. It's impossible to describe. My attempt at trying to communicate its utter cinematic insanity is just feeble; you must see it for yourself. It's an outpost of cinema most people don't touch. For those in the right frame of mind, Golden Ninja Warrior (as well as other Ho movies, such as the excellent Clash of the Ninjas, 1986) has a lot of laugh-out-loud treasures in store.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Night Hunter (1996)

Night Hunter (1996)-* *

Directed by: Rick Jacobson

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Melanie Smith, Nicholas Guest, Vince Murdocco, Maria Ford, Ron Yuan, James Lew, and Sid Sham












Jack Cutter (The Dragon) comes from a long line of vampire hunters. When he was just a kid, vampires attacked his family farmhouse. The Cutter family has a sacred book all about vampires and how to combat them. His family tells him "don't trust anyone", and he is sent off to be on his own. In 1995, now an adult, Cutter has tracked and killed every vampire in existence - except an elite underground club of nine multiracial vamps, led by the sinister Brit Bruno (Guest). Cutter teams up with Raimy Baker (Smith), a reporter for the "National Inquisitor". But can he get over his deep-seated trust issues? Can he avoid the cops and exterminate the last vampires on earth before the solar eclipse when they will gain maximum power? Will Jack live up to his nickname of "The Hunter"?


Night Hunter is a Ring of Fire (1991) reunion of sorts, as Don The Dragon, Maria Ford, Ron Yuan and Vince Murdocco all return in front of the camera, and Rick Jacobson and Art Camacho behind it. However, there seems to have been a conscious effort to do something totally different and not repeat themselves. They succeeded in that, and it is a nice novelty to see Don in a different kind of role: a dark, horror-tinged storyline instead of a sunny, romantic one like Ring of Fire. Two sides of a coin I guess. Maria Ford is always welcome, and Melanie Smith will be instantly recognized by Seinfeld fans as Jerry's girlfriend in a story arc on that show.


Don doesn't say anything until 20 minutes into the movie, and his character and dress are very clearly influenced by The Crow (1994) and Brandon Lee. It's also one of the better Don performances we've seen, as his wooden delivery is hidden well by a character that doesn't talk much anyway. As this is a Corman production, and he is known for "borrowing" ideas popular at that time, the film also borrows the flamenco music of Desperado (1995) and some ideas from From Dusk Til Dawn (1996). Interestingly it predates Blade (1998) in the fact that it has Vampire POV and Ford's character is similar to Traci Lords'.  


As far as the fights are concerned, it seems to be a mix of gunplay and martial arts, and highlighted by Don's punishing finishing moves and death blows. A positive for Night Hunter is that it seems to have created its own vampire rules and mythos. For example, vampires may come out during the day, especially if they wear special sunglasses. Vampires shoot guns, and there is a gunshot-cure serum. Notably,  you can only kill them by breaking their neck. So that sets the stage for some violent moves. But there is a major downside...

You've heard of "shaky cam" but during the fight scenes, they seem to have initiated something we called "earthquake cam". The screen violently shakes, so much so you begin to feel ill. The attempt to be stylish is somewhat appreciated, but you can't sicken your audience by sticking the camera in one of those paint-shaking machines at the hardware store and not expect a reaction. If this was done to cover up the moves of the actors, there's no need for that as Don's moves are excellent. They really should have reined in the earthquake cam. And sometimes they added a strobe light on top of it!

For a Don The Dragon movie with more of a professional sheen, and featuring Don in an unorthodox role, by all means try Night Hunter...but beware the earthquake cam.

Comeuppance Review by Brett and Ty

Command Peformance (2009)

Command Performance (2009)-* * *

Directed by: Dolph Lundgren

Starring: Dolph Lundgren

 

"Dying's easy, rock and roll is hard."









Command Performance is a nice, entertaining Dolph Vehicle, perfect for people that are already fans of his going in.

At a special charity concert in Russia, many people are in attendance: a stadium of cheering fans, the Russian President, his two daughters, and even the American President. But also evil terrorists, led by Kasov (Legano)  that  hold the officials hostage, as well as the Britney Spears-like opening act Venus (Smith) and shoot up the place. But there’s one thing those evildoers didn’t count on - the mysterious Joe (Dolph) - just Joe - the drummer for hard rock band CMF. He would have been shot, but luckily he ducked into the bathroom to smoke a joint, so his life was spared. Great message for the kids. After teaming up with Mikhail, an FSB (Russian Counter-Intelligence) agent, it’s time to do what Dolph does best: take down the bad guys! But will a dark secret from the past intervene?



Is there anything Dolph Lundgren can’t do? He stars in, co-wrote (with Steve Latshaw of all people, the man responsible for writing Scorpio One (1998), and Extreme Limits, 2000), and directed the film - and did all his own drumming!



The movie is definitely an 80’s throwback, and that seems to be the area where Dolph is most comfortable. That’s fine with us! Kind of in the Die Hard (1988), Sudden Death (1995) ("Die Hard in a hockey rink!") Under Siege (1992) ("Die Hard in a Submarine!"), Executive Decision (1996) ("Die Hard on a plane!") and Anna Nicole Smith's Skyscraper (1996) ("Die Hard in a building!"...oh wait)  etc... school of “antagonists take over a place and one man must stop them”, there’s plenty to enjoy  in Command Performance. Groaners of one –liners (“Watch The Hair, Dude!”), a good pace, and Dolph dispatching the terrorists in novel, creative and music-related (!) ways.  He didn’t expect a terrorist takeover and he didn’t have a lot at his disposal to work with.  He had to be creative and improvise.  Just like a drummer.

Lundgren’s young daughter Ida is on hand as one of the kidnapped Presidential daughters, and she does a good job. Can we expect a Lundgren acting dynasty someday? Only time will tell. But on the slightly negative side, the film quality was a bit video-ish and there is some unfortunate CG stuff floating around...it would have been cool to see better film stock and more emphasis on practical effects, but you can’t have everything these days. We’re just grateful they’re (or should we say he’s) still making movies like this. We can’t complain.



In all, Command Performance probably won’t win over any new recruits to the macho world of Dolph Lundgren or action cinema, but for his fans, it’s a real treat.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Invasion U.S.A. (1985)

Invasion U.S.A. (1985)-* * * *

Directed by: Joesph Zito

Starring: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch, Melissa Prophet, and Billy Drago












Awesome!

Quite possibly Chuck Norris’ best movie, Invasion USA is incredibly entertaining and fun. Completely disregard some of the more boring Chuck-fests you may have seen in the past, this one is a completely different beast and blows them all away!

Former CIA agent Matt Hunter (The Chuckster) just wants to be left alone to live in his shack on the Florida bayou.  But there’s a major wrinkle in his peaceful plan: the diabolical Rostov (Richard Lynch) is planning a full-scale Invasion of...you guessed it...the U.S.A! But before Rostov can achieve his evil ends, he must get one thing out of the way - Matt Hunter of course. Plus they have a history together. With the help of  McGuire (Prophet), who looks like the way Britney Spears may have looked had she been in an 80’s Chuck Norris movie, Matt Hunter takes on more baddies than anyone before or since, but he’s tough. Very tough.

THIS is the way action movies should be done. It has every possible ingredient for success: A tough, no-nonsense hero, an extremely nefarious villain, highly-charged action scenes, and plenty of surprises and humor. Also a large ingredient is the unabashed patriotism. No evil commies are going to come to our shores and take over. Not a chance. At least not while the surly Matt Hunter is in charge. Fan favorite Richard Lynch is evil with aplomb. Chuck Norris is...well...you know who Chuck Norris is. Billy Drago has  an early role here and it would have been cool to see more of him. That’s really the only quibble with this fine slab of entertainment. And even that is sort of unfair because of hindsight.

Invasion U.S.A. is what happens when quality meets quantity.  copious shooting, millions of bullets, endless ammo, tons of explosions and people being blown up by the house-load.  The entire army is called in at the end. It was the 80’s, and action was huge. Why not make a HUGE action movie? Director Joseph Zito, known then for his slasher movie work, brings some of that mentality on board here, with violence, shocks and scares added into the mix. He later directed Red Scorpion, among other action flicks. The man knows his craft, that’s for sure.


A crown jewel in the Cannon canon, Invasion U.S.A. is one of those movies that feels more like a ride than a film. It gets our highest marks. See it tonight!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett

10/10/2010