Armstrong (1998)

Armstrong (1998)-*1\2

Directed by: Menahem Golan

Starring: Frank Zagarino, Joe Lara, Kimberley Kates, Charles Napier, and Richard Lynch

"The Cold War Has Just Heated Up"

Charles Napier plays Robert Zorkin, a man who travels to Russia with his wife Susan (Kates), supposedly for a vacation. But it turns out he has a VHS tape that shows the Russians dealing in nuclear warheads with the mob. It seems Zorkin was the mentor to one "Rod Armstrong" (Zagarino). Armstrong is an ex-Navy SEAL who now trains people in Russia and is "very expensive". Joe Lara, appropriately enough, plays "Ponytail", the head of the gangsters who is menacing everyone in sight, not the least of which is Susan, who he chases all over Russia. Richard Lynch is the Russian General Zukov, who is a major part of the insanity. Will Rod Armstrong be able to stop the gangsters and evil Russians from stealing the nukes and perhaps launching them, and save the kidnapped Susan in the process?

I know action movies don't have to be intelligent, but Armstrong is just so dumb it's really unbelievable. Zagarino usually brings the dumb, and here is no exception. In fact, if anything, he's outdone himself in the dumb department. He's beyond wooden. 

Rod Armstrong is stupid, unlikable, arrogant and annoying, and he usually has some sort of "shirt problem". Either his shirt is ripped, comes off, becomes unbuttoned, or he just plain forgets to wear one. It seems the filmmakers wanted very badly for him to be Dolph Lundgren, as his hair, makeup, and what's left of his outfits strongly recall Dolph. But Zagarino is not Dolph. Not by a long shot. Also he has numerous pictures of himself on his wall. Armstrong makes Project: Shadowchaser (1992) look like a masterpiece.

One of the better things about Armstrong is its cast of familiar faces. Joe Lara goes over the top as Ponytail, but his unfinished beard really left a sense of incompleteness in the viewer's hearts. He resembles a mid-90's Dennis Miller. We liked him better as the good guy in such films as American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993) and Hologram Man (1995). Napier gets slightly more screen time here than in Center of the Web (1992), and he even gets to do some "Napier-Fu", but the extreme sweatiness is unpleasant. Kimberley Kates was a great choice for the eye candy, and Richard Lynch proves he's the most versatile guy in DTV cinema, here living it up as a drunken, carousing Russian military general, the next day playing an Italian gangster with aplomb.

But sadly, try as they might, even the mightiest DTV cast cannot overcome the inanity of Armstrong. Whoever wrote the dialogue, you'd think they would be satisfied by the fact that is completely mind-numbing, but no, it's incredibly repetitive too! Many things are said more than once. I don't know which is worse, if it was unintentional, or if they were so proud of their great writing, the writer thought we should hear it multiple times. Or they could have assumed their audience is just stupid. Big mistake. The dialogue alone detracts major points from Armstrong.

Because of the dialogue and dumbness, not to mention how irritating Rod Armstrong is, almost in a Sloane (1984) sort of way, you really don't care about the characters and situations. Add to that a jumbled and unclear plot and you have a serious mess on your hands. Perhaps the ultimate "turn off your brain" movie, unless you are a die hard fan of any of the actors here or DTV movies themselves, it might be wise to steer clear of Armstrong.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Special Forces (2003)

Special Forces (2003)-* * *

Directed by: Isaac Florentine

Starring: Marshall R. Teague, Tim Abell, Danny Lee Clark, Troy Mittleider, Daniella Deutscher, Eli Danker, and Scott Adkins

"They fight for your life."

Far and away the best of the American Heroes series. If the other films only followed this one's lead, the series as a whole would be a lot better. But luckily for Special Forces, it stands alone as the clear winner.

Jess (Abell), Bear (Clark), Wyatt (Mittleider), and Reyes (T.J. Rotolo) are an elite counter-terrorism team. They are under the command of Major Don Harding (Teague).  When megalomaniacal dictator Rafendek (Danker) kidnaps and imprisons American journalist Wendy Teller (Deutscher) in exchange for some of his "freedom fighters" to be released from Guantanamo Bay, the Special Forces are sent into the eastern European town of Muldonia to rescue her, and take down Rafendek and his men. Rafendek is the type of guy who massacres his own people for fun, and Wendy caught it all on film. He's also a Bosnian refugee that has a history with Maj. Harding. Not to mention the corrupt government officials in his back pocket. With the help of a British martial arts expert with motives of his own, Talbot, (Adkins) will they be able to take down this evil warlord gone rogue and save the girl - or will Harding relive his previous Bosnia experience all over again?

Special Forces is much more watchable than the others in the series, even enjoyable! The plot is clearer, the camerawork is actually interesting, and there are hand-to-hand martial arts fights that really work, thanks to Scott Adkins, a likable presence who clearly could be the next Gary Daniels. The movie really stands on its own from the series, thanks to the capable direction of Isaac Florentine. We actually know who the Special Forces are, thanks to the very simple but tide-turning idea of showing their names on the screen when we first meet them. It may seem obvious, but it makes ALL the difference. Now we know who they are, as opposed to the mess of the other American Heroes films.

The movie starts with more murders than ten movies of its kind put together, and the plot basically is these few Special Forces versus an entire army of bad guys. So needless to say there are countless deaths during the progress of the movie, and plenty of guns going "pew pew!", and the necessary guard tower falls and blow-ups, but you care more this time around. Especially with the revenge subplot involving Harding and Refendek. And with the addition of Scott Adkins, we get some well-staged hand-to-hand combat, not just mindless shooting. The final fight with Rafendek's beret-ed henchman is certainly a standout.

We also get some classic catchphrases such as "Smoking will kill ya!", and some more tastefully done patriotism this time around. There's also some good atmosphere, and everything is just more competent here than in the other films. It should have been released during the golden video store era of the 80's/early 90's, instead of being lumped with the other "American Heroes" movies.

If you watch one from the American Heroes series, make sure it's Special Forces.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Riot (1997)

Riot (1997)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Joseph Merhi

Starring: Gary Daniels, Sugar Ray Leonard, Paige Rowland, Patrick Kilpatrick, Kenneth Tigar, Dex Elliot Sanders, and Charles Napier

We here at Comeuppance Reviews would just like to say Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of our readers. Thank you so much for your support, it means so much to us.

Keeping with the theme of Christmas, today we have the PM gem Riot - a film that takes place during the "Christmas Eve Riots". Shane Alcott (Daniels) is a former SAS soldier in America to train U.S. forces. All he wants to do on Christmas eve is do a little training, rescue the neighbor kids Sue and Johnny after Johnny stupidly puts a microwave pizza in the oven while still in the box, and have a beer at the local hangout with his buddy Maj. Williams (Leonard). But OH no, Shane can't get a moment's peace. During the riots ravaging the city, an evil gang of Crips, working in conjunction with the IRA (bet you never thought you'd see that combination) kidnaps Anna Lisa Gray (Rowland), the daughter of Ambassador Gray (Ron Barker), and love interest of Shane. So, Shane ventures into this urban war zone to rescue the girl. With some help from his compatriot Williams, Shane must battle an army of street thugs, Crips and IRA, led by the sinister Bryan O'Flaherty (Kilpatrick). Will Shane prevail?

Riot's plot is as standard as they come - action hero must rescue the girl - but it is cloaked in the device of the "Riot". PM, staying attuned to the times, was obviously trying to capitalize on the L.A. Riots, Rodney King riots, and the riots that occur every time the Lakers win or lose any of their games. Throw in some elements from The Warriors (1979), Escape From New York (1981), and Jungleground (1995) with Roddy Piper,  add Gary Daniels and Voila - you have a movie perfect for the direct to video market.

Additionally, the solid B-movie cast helps things a lot. Patrick Kilpatrick is dependable in anything we've seen him in, and the puzzling, but successful casting of Sugar Ray Leonard of all people works because he's a great counterpart to Daniels in the fight scenes. Daniels' style is more Asian-influenced, while Leonard brings the boxing flair. Dex Elliott Sanders as the evil Leon "Shy Boy" Hughes is also worth mentioning . And let's not forget Charles Napier cast once again in a nothing role as a commander, this time named Devaney. The cast tries to bring as much emotion as possible to the proceedings. But really, the film is non-stop action. The desolate urban landscape with its burnt-out cars provides a great obstacle course for our hero. Some of the stunt scenes are absolutely amazing and the people that worked on them deserve all the accolades in the world. Special mention goes to the scene towards the end where a bunch of baddies on motorbikes attack Shane. PM outdid themselves on that one.

Another thing PM was trying to do here is explore the so-called "urban" markets (this also includes the Master P-helmed No Tomorrow and Hot Boyz - both 1999).  Racial tensions are played up in the film, but what the audience really wants to see is Gary Daniels do what he does best. In this case, it's decimating entire baseball and hockey teams with his awesome moves. Also the audience wants to watch Sugar Ray Leonard pilot a helicopter. And speaking of giving the audience what they want, it is worth noting that the kid from the beginning, Johnny, has a framed picture of a hamburger on his wall. If you can explain this, please write in today.

For a CHRISTMAS-themed action-packed thrill ride, look no further than Riot.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Air Strike (2002)

Air Strike (2002)-* *

Directed by: David Worth

Starring: Robert Rusler, Jennifer Gareis, Benjamin Burdick, Fredric Lehne, Pepper Sweeney, and Ivaylo Geraskov

"The Spirit Of This Country Will Not Be Defeated!"

The second-best of the "American Heroes" series (the best being Special Forces), Air Strike is a cliche-ridden mess, but it's not boring. At least not most of the time.

When evil drug lord Ivan Stefanovich (Geraskov) and his nefarious army, the Tiger Guard, start causing trouble in the Eastern European country of Petrovia, the American helicopter pilots are called in to start shooting and missile-ing everything in sight. Ben Garret (Rusler) is called out of retirement to handle the situation because apparently his brother Jack was a legendary soldier. When Charlie (Gareis) (who turns out to be a...woman *gasp!*) joins the squadron, Top Gun-style sparks fly. Just because she is General Cornelius Jones' daughter, she doesn't want any special treatment. Garret is eventually captured and tortured by the baddies, but then he rejoins his team to exact an explosive revenge.

Now, I'm all for patriotism. We probably love America more than anyone you'll ever meet, but this is just ridiculous. It's like director David Worth was given the mandate "make it patriotic", and he went so far over the top it almost seems snide. It's as if he saying "Oh, they want patriotism, I'll give 'em patriotism..." There's an American flag in almost every scene in the movie, and the characters chant "U-S-A! U-S-A!" so much it's actually embarrassing. Interestingly, if you look at the end credits, the films in the American Heroes series are not made by Americans so I wonder what they thought about all this. But then again, I suppose no one's stopping them from making their own movie about Bulgarian pride.

It's hard to tell what's worse: the CGI missiles and helicopters, or the fact that they were mixed with actual explosions and stunts in an attempt to fool the audience into thinking it's all seamless. And while the character of Walker (Burdick) is constantly reading Lord of the Rings, and the character of Perez (Ivo Tonchev) is simply cliche-fodder, our hats should go off to Robert Rusler as Garret. We all know (or should know) Rusler from 80's classics like personal favorite Thrashin' (1986). Even though the one-liners he says to himself are not clever in any way, shape or form, his charm and charisma almost saves Air Strike. That's paying the man a great compliment. He all but triumphs over impossible odds. He deserves a lot of credit for making the film less of a slog of CGI doom. But saying any one actor or performance could transcend, and make Air Strike a good movie is like asking someone to go up Niagara Falls in a barrel. But kudos for Rusler for almost pulling it off.

Other things worth noting are the funny, overly deep and gravelly overdubbed "bad guy voice" Ivan Stefanovich has, the TV monitor that the military brass are constantly watching that says in giant letters taped to the screen "DRONE SCREEN" (maybe the film of Air Strike was playing on it...ha!), and the fact that Garret's team in the film is called "Blue Thunder". Why would they make the audience recall in their minds a good helicopter movie, thus making the one they are currently watching seem even worse by comparison?

But the bottom line is that Air Strike has every cliche in the book and a lot of flaws, but Robert Rusler does his best.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Talons Of The Eagle (1992)

Talons Of The Eagle (1992)-* * *

Directed by: Michael Kennedy

Starring: Billy Blanks, Jalal Merhi, Priscilla Barnes, Master Pan Quing Fu, James Hong, Eric Lee, Gary "Si-Jo" Foo, and Matthias Hues

"When You're Fighting Crime, Killing is a Way of Life."

Tyler Wilson (Blanks) is a tough New York City cop who is also proficient in martial arts. Because he is such a "loose cannon", he is shipped off to Toronto to team up with Michael Reeds (Merhi) because he is dubbed a "loose cannon" as well. This police chief is quite a matchmaker. It seems a Mr. Li (Hong) has his hands in drugs, prostitution, gambling, and the like, and, as we've seen before, Li is taping Councilmen and other government officials indulging in these vices, and the corruption goes...wait for it...all the way to the top! But wait, there's more! Li also holds punchfighting competitions to find new recruits for his organization. When the dynamic duo of Reeds and Wilson foil a plot to assassinate Li, Li hires them to be his personal bodyguards. Now they're on the inside, and they team up with Cassandra (Barnes) to bring down the evil empire. They must do so before Li can annex the evil Fong Wai Hut (Foo) and his gang.

Additionally, since Master Pan (Quing Fu as himself) is a noble monk who won't take bribes from Li, and they are at odds, Wilson and Reeds go through rigorous training sessions at Pan's monastery. Here they learn the secret of the "Eagle Claw", which is not to be confused with the "Tiger Claw" from the other Blanks/Merhi production TC 2000 (1993). Master Pan commands an army of bald, white, mustachioed monks that really help out Wilson and Reeds. They're going to have to train hard to defeat Li's henchmen Khan (Hues) and Eric Lee (credited only as "bodyguard").

You've gotta love Billy Blanks' wide-eyed, childlike delivery of his lines. He has some great martial arts moves in the film as well - doesn't everyone kickbox with a white collared shirt buttoned all the way up? - luckily Blanks makes his trademark funny faces and sounds. Just look at the above picture. Gaze upon Blanks' facial expression for 10 seconds and try not to laugh. And that's just a still shot from the poster!

As far as Jalal Merhi (whose hair appears painted on, so we started calling him the Painted On Hair Guy), try to imagine a cross between Steven Seagal and comedian Nick DiPaolo. His "loose cannon" status mentioned earlier is clearly evident in his ponytail and leather outfit. As seen in Tough and Deadly (1995) Reeds loves hockey (this is Canada, don't forget) and Beethoven, and Wilson loves beer and urban R&B music.Will they ever be able to get along? Painted On Hair Guy is smarmy and unlikable, and his fighting is somewhat lackluster. Wilson even calls him, and I quote, a "Bubblehead". Does anyone know if he's related to PM's Joseph Merhi? It couldn't be a coincidence that there are two men named Merhi in the direct to video world, could it?

Matthias Hues as Khan snaps his fingers and commands a kung-fu army. With this one snap, he displays ten times the charm of Painted On Hair Guy and we remember why we love Hues. Seeing as the film is set in Toronto, they don't have to hide the fact that it actually is Toronto. That seems like a wise move. The extended (read: most of the movie) training sequences strongly recall the other Blanks vehicle Balance of Power (1996), especially the beach scenes.

For a professionally-made production featuring some familiar faces and, to quote the VideoHound book, "Featuring the most advanced fighting techniques ever filmed", and with a memorable title song by Jonas J. Patricko, do check out the silly fun of Talons of the Eagle.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Marines (2003)

Marines (2003)-*1\2

Directed by: Mark Roper

Starring: Brant Cotton, Frank Sallo, Lawrence Monoson, Andrew Bowen, and Lou Hirsch

"Courage has no limits."

After 9/11, Nu-Image apparently decided to do their part and make some patriotic movies based on each branch of the military under the banner of the American Heroes Series - Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. At least we think that was the idea. Unfortunately, these films, while extremely well-intentioned, are without character development and thus you cannot care about what goes on. The exception that proves the rule is Special Forces, which is actually good. The movies are Submarines (2003), Marines, Air Strike (2002) and Special Forces (2003).

This time around, in Marines, it seems some, well...Marines are caught behind enemy lines in Chechnya. They must team up with some Russian soldiers to defeat the the enemy. But who can they really trust? Also there's a shipment of gold bars in the mix that are complicating matters for everybody. So out in the field, there's plenty of shooting, explosions, light gore, and gobbledygook dialogue but somehow they couldn't find twenty seconds for even some basic character development.

Back at the base, Everett (Cotton - at least we think this is who this is, if we are wrong please tell us) is in some sort of struggle with Mr. Flanders (Hirsch) about protocol or something like that. It's really tough to decipher. What does Mr. Flanders have to hide, if anything?

So once again we have a situation, like Submarines, where the actors look like other people, we don't really know their names or backstories, and so interest wanes fast. Speaking of names, when the end credits rolled we were informed there was a main character named "Hamburger" in the movie we just saw. We're pretty sure this was never said once in the movie. Maybe they were worried that would come off as funny. God forbid there would be even a modicum of humor in this overly-serious and unfun production. But yet they had no problem with a character named "Mr. Flanders", which Brant Cotton (we think) shouts over and over again. At least then you can make Simpsons-related jokes.

It seems Marines took the movies Saving Private Ryan (1998), Savior (1998) and Behind Enemy Lines (2001) and mashed them all up and hoped for a good result. With a few slow motion sequences and some violence perhaps they were going for some sort of grit, but it takes more than just aping other movies for the audience to get behind what you're doing. If anything, this movie could be insulting to actual Marines because there are some technical errors with the uniforms and behaviors, and the Marines are primarily portrayed as lunkheads.

The practical effect of all this is that Marines comes off as a neo-Vietnam movie, sort of a lost sequel to Eye of the Eagle (1986). Just imagine a Cirio Santiago movie - but not as good! With no real force or energy driving the plot forward, sadly Marines truly is another slog through the woods.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Revolt (1986)

Revolt (1986)-* * * *

Directed by: J. Sheybani (Also spelled "Shaybany")

Starring: Rand Martin, Fattaneh, and Guest Star Sepehrnia

COMPLETE CAST LIST: Jerryd Luck, Lee Buck, Tom Weigand, John Marrzeli, Reza Rasouli, Steve Sharmand, Barbara Day, Ron Lapere, Sandy Stutz, Jerry Cataldo, Connie, Ricci De Rausso, Jim Manganaro, S.G. Munichiello

Starting like a classroom scare film about the evils of drugs, we get some hilarious narration from a very serious announcer (There's a drug dealer on that train!). It seems like a documentary, but then we are thrown into the tale of California family Steve Brown, his wife Mina and their son Jeremy. All Steve wants to do is run his Iranian restaurant "1001 Bites" (groan) with his wife and her Iranian family. But there's only one problem: the drug kingpin and anti-Iranian bigot MacIntosh. Since times are tough, Steve's brother George agrees to become a driver/drug runner for the nefarious MacIntosh. But George gets killed in action. There's the evils of drugs again. After some more characters bite the dust, it's "Action Restauranteur!" as the mustachioed Steve snaps into action and takes on MacIntosh, the corrupt and ineffectual sheriffs, all their goons, and, of course, the evils of drugs.

Revolt is a hidden gem if there ever was one. This movie is genius, and laugh-out-loud funny. Starting with some crazy credits (Screenplay by Shield, Still Photography by D. Victory, etc.), through to the industrial film-style first section, through to the unbelievably wooden non-acting, funny dubbing, wacky feigned punches and fights, and let's not forget about the out-of-left-field subplot about the Iranian hostage crisis of the late 70's/early 80's. "There's something about Iran on TV!" young Jeremy yells out, and pretty soon Jeremy is the target of schoolyard bullies who call him an "Iranian pig". This is, of course, just a by-product of drug smuggling as you will see when you watch the movie.

Of course, there's a wacky Chef Boyardee-like chef, and the main hero (Rand Martin?) is firmly in the Tom Selleck/Burt Reynolds mold. The movie is incredibly preachy and stilted, but that just adds to the fun. There's no end credits, just some synthesizer music over a black screen for a few minutes, and even still, the running time is 72 minutes. But it's 72 minutes of Awesome!

It's reasonably safe to assume this movie was made by amateurs, if not absolute beginners, but that rough-and-tumble, mistake-ridden style is fun and almost as addictive to watch as the drugs it so vehemently condemns. Interestingly enough, the film that Revolt seems to be most influenced by is the film noir The Phenix City Story (1955),  but imagine that crossed with Death Drug (1978), and you'll have some starting point to the insanity of Revolt, and there are elementary school plays that have more convincing acting and production values. But no matter, this is perfect for the waning drive-ins of the 80's and pure cinematic fun.

Adding to it all is the mysterious nature of the film. No one knows anything about it. There's no background information anywhere. If you have any information at all about Revolt, J. Sheybani or Rand Martin, or anyone else attached to the production, please write in right now! We have to know more about this film!

If you want to laugh, and you can find it, definitely check out Revolt!

OTHER NOTES/CREDITS: The Production Manager was Sharmahd, the Assistant Cameraman was B/Boatman, The Assistant Producer was Sha Zoria, the Assistant Director was Anusheh, the Technical Advisor was Ruben - Zadourian, and it was produced at Movie Tech Studio in Hollywood. According to the poster, it was released by Sandy Cobe, the head of Intercontinental Releasing Corporation. That's literally ALL we know about Revolt. Again, if you know anything about the film, contact us!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Fatal Combat (1997)

Fatal Combat (1997)-* *

AKA: No Exit

Directed by: Damian Lee

Starring: Jeff Wincott, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Joseph Di Mambro, Guylaine St-Onge, and Richard Fitzpatrick 

"It's Illegal. It's Immoral. And It's Always Deadly."

Professor John Stoneman (Wincott) is a college professor who gives a lot of homework, but is a man of peace and nonviolence. He teaches his students about tolerance while hurling an unending stream of racial epithets against fellow student/friend Jason Samuels (Di Mambro). Luckily he was just playing a character to prove a point. Stoneman's wife Carmel  (St-Onge) is also a professor at the same university and pregnant with their first child. Things are looking up for the Stonemans, but suddenly Carmel is attacked in the parking garage of the hospital after getting a checkup about the baby. Gangs of punks that hang out in hospital parking lots are a menace in Canada, so John, who is also like a 200th degree black belt, dispatches them easily...but Carmel loses the baby in the process.

The story of the attack was on the news, and evil mastermind Houston Armstrong (Fitzpatrick) was watching. You see, he runs his own underground TV network which has one show - No Exit. It is a fight-to-the-death tournament where people Armstrong has kidnapped and imprisoned on his compound in the middle of nowhere fight and die on live TV. The problem is, as you might think with underground death matches, that the losers keep dying, so there is the need for fresh blood to enter the competition. So both Stoneman and Samuels are spirited away to the compound and locked up. They must fight to survive. The star fighter of No Exit is the hulking, evil brute Darcona (Thorsen). He is known for being tough, being the biggest jerk ever, and shouting "Yahhhhhhh!!!!" a lot. So will Stoneman be able to beat Armstrong, Darcona, and Armstrong's second-in-command Tayback (Douglas O'Keeffe)?

Basically an over-intellectualized punchfighter crossed with a prison movie, and as much as the filmmakers probably wanted to reference Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit, Fatal Combat is something of a cross between The Running Man (1987) and Death Warrant (1990). The movie suffers from a lack of originality, and the constant disjointed cuts and cutaways to a screen blasting with static as transitions between scenes make it seem like it is trying too hard to be cool.

The movie starts with a "Nooooooo!!!" and Wincott says "Nooooooo!!!!" many times throughout the film, and a few of the times, it is in slow motion, so the "NO" is a few octaves lower than it would normally be. This is more funny than serious and the filmmakers should have known that.  Fatal Combat has an unnecessarily dark and super-serious tone that we felt did not serve the film that well. For instance, after Darcona is already established as the ultimate villain, is it absolutely necessary that he rape one of the other characters? Another thing we noticed is Fatal Combat is especially gay. Not a negative criticism - just an observation. Yes, there are the normal greased-up, shirtless men grappling with each other, but the male-male rape scene and some of the other prison antics made it seem gayer than usual. Wincott has a montage training scene in tight spandex (to the catchy rock tune "No Exit" by Ken Greer, Phil Naro and Myles Hunter - no band name listed).

Sadly, because of the largely negative tone of the film, and the stylistic touches falling flat, we found we were not that invested in the final fight or the final outcome. Wincott probably relished the role of playing a professor that can also fight, and he was probably desperate to tell the world he's not your average meathead, and if the movie has a saving grace it's him. Fitzpatrick is well-cast as the evil mastermind who has a command center - and what baddie worth his salt doesn't?

Not Jeff Wincott's best - check out Last Man Standing (1996). There are plenty of flaws in Fatal Combat but punchfighter completists could do worse.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Last Man Standing (1996)

Last Man Standing (1996)-* * * *

Directed by: Joseph Merhi

Starring: Jeff Wincott, Jillian McWhirter, Steve Eastin, Jonathan Banks, Robert LaSardo, Ava Fabian, and Jonathan Fuller

Truly the Street Kings (2008) of its day, if any direct-to-video product ever deserved a theatrical release, this is it.

In this fast-paced and highly entertaining tale, Detective Kurt Bellmore (Wincott) is a tough L.A. cop who plays by his own rules. His partner Doc (Banks) is retiring soon and wrote a tell-all book about the LAPD's corrupt practices. This doesn't please Lt. Darnell Seagrove (Eastin), who is mired in corruption and kickbacks that go all the way to the top. He's even BFF's with ultra-violent, crafty, diabolical and just downright super evil bad guy Snake Underwood (Fuller). Once some missing money is involved, Bellmore, who is an honest straight-arrow, will stop at literally nothing to take down the bad guys and expose the truth. Even if it means exposing not just himself, but also his wife Anabella (McWhirter) to not just Underwood and his underlings Lucretia (Fabian) and Kazz (LaSardo) -  but also the corrupt cops. So they go on the run together. Will they get the justice they seek?

This is how all action movies, direct to video or not, should be done. On top of the completely over the top car, gun and action set pieces PM is known for (here they really pull out all the stops), here you also have good acting and an involving plot. Add some silly humor and all the elements come together beautifully.

Wincott is in rare form as Bellmore. He has a great, no-nonsense, tough persona. From the minute we see him in his giant yellow suit in the opening chase, we know we're in for something special. He only hijacks awesome vehicles from innocent motorists in the name of the law for his death-defying chases. He might be the most tenacious, determined cop ever. Wincott also does a much better "Noooooo!" in this movie than he does in Fatal Combat (1997).

Snake Underwood is the best name PM has come up with for a bad guy since Hologram Man's (1995) Slash Gallagher. Jonathan Banks as Doc should also be singled out for his excellence. Because of his quality performance, it helps invest the audience in the plot. As I believe we've said before on this site, there are such things as GOOD cliches, and not all cliches are bad. It's all in how you do it. Director Merhi seems to understand this, so he delivers explosions and action to the max and killer chase scenes, but it would all mean nothing if we didn't care about Bellmore, Doc and Anabella. So he made sure we do care about the fates of the characters, and that helps immensely. One way Merhi turned convention on its ear, however, is that usually in cop movies and TV shows, IA (Internal Affairs) is portrayed as bad or annoying. Here they are the good guys. So we thought that was interesting. Add that to the expertly-done stunts and you have a definite winner.

One of the best PM's and a certified pleasure to watch, make sure you see the rockin' Last Man Standing!

Comeuppance Review by Ty and Brett


Submarines (2003)

Submarines (2003)-*1\2

Directed by: David Douglas

Starring: Robert Miano, Stephen Ramsey, Jim Davidson, Jodi Bianca Wise, and Rufus Dorsey

"The War On Terror Has A New Hero"

After 9/11, Nu-Image apparently decided to do their part and make some patriotic movies based on each branch of the military under the banner of the American Heroes Series - Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. At least we think that was the idea. Unfortunately, these films, while extremely well-intentioned, are without character development and thus you cannot care about what goes on. The exception that proves the rule is Special Forces, which is actually good. The movies are Submarines, Marines, Air Strike and Special Forces.

In this mindless undersea outing, Robert Miano plays basically the same character he does in Ministry of Vengeance (1989) - a cloak-wearing Islamic terrorist named Sajid Kahn. He loves filming his murder and mayhem on a little video camera and seems to be obsessed with CNN. He mentions it often and even namechecks Wolf Blitzer. Terrorists being fans of The Situation Room explains a lot, actually.  So naturally this baddie hijacks a submarine and makes life a living hell for the crew of a fellow sub populated by the good guys.

But our heroes have enough problems as it is, as the Captain crashed into a Russian sub and his crewmates have nicknamed him "Captain Crunch". Besides dealing a crushing blow to his ego, it has severely impeded his ability to fight The Soggies.

Thus follows a lot of chasing, shooting, water filling the sub and other pitfalls that can befall a submarine. That includes a lot of CGI water and torpedoes. Yes, I said CGI WATER. Also not only is the dialogue complete gobbledygook (and from what some sources say, completely inaccurate), but it is also garbled and hard to hear. Perhaps they were ashamed and they turned the volume down.

This is another straight to video product where the cast all closely resemble other stars. The lead guy (sorry we haven't mentioned his name, but names are either never said or impossible to hear), SHOULD have been played by Treat Williams. The presence of Treat would have added a lot. But in actuality this is nothing more than a standard, dumb sea slog that makes Counter Measures (1999) look like a masterpiece. Heck, it makes the little-seen William Shatner vehicle Falcon Down (2000) look like a work of art.

Submarines has no human interest, no personality and no reason to watch. You're constantly shouting at the screen "who are these people?" - referring both to the actors and the characters they are playing. At least Counter Measures has the presence of Dudikoff. Submarines has nothing to recommend it, really.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


On The Edge (2002)

On The Edge (2002)-*1\2

Directed by: Fred Williamson

Starring: Fred Williamson, Ice-T, Gary Busey, Ron O'Neal, Jim Brown, Bernie Casey, and Gloria Allred

"Nobody Escapes The Streets."

 Willie Jo Harris (Derrick Franklin) is a young, star basketball player on the rise. His dad Frank (O'Neal) is very proud of him. But he did a stupid thing. He bought some drugs from local hood Slim Jim (Ice-T). Now he owes him a lot of money. But some goons dispatched to kill him accidentally got the wrong house and kill the wife and son of Rex Stevens (Casey). Harris asks Dakota "Dak" Smith (Williamson), an ex-cop, golf enthusiast, and private eye, for help. Now old buddies Frank, Rex and Dak have to team up to fight the gangsters and corrupt cops. One of the main targets is the ruthless assassin Felix (Busey). Will these "Original Gangsters" be able to take down the baddies and win the day?

Also it is worth mentioning that Jim Brown is on hand as Chad Grant (doesn't he just look like someone named "Chad"? Come to think of it, Bernie Casey doesn't scream a guy named "Rex", so there you go), an ex-football player who runs "Challenges" Community Center. Not typecasting at all. And none other than Gloria Allred has a small role as "Councilwoman Gloria Johnson". I guess she has to get herself in front of a camera at all costs. ALL costs. Where else would Dakota go for info about the streets?

Director/Star/Co-Writer Williamson corraled his old pals to appear in one last blast, and sadly, it was the last appearance of Ron O'Neal. As we've mentioned before on this site, "never have a last movie". Williamson has a nice anti-crime/drugs message here, in what can only be described as a "neo-blaxploitation" (or neoblax, for short) film. It seems to be an attempt to marry the old-school blaxploitation style of the 70's, with the newer, direct-to-video brand, represented by such titles as Dead Homiez (1993), State Property (2002), Paper Soldiers (2002), etc. Unfortunately, it has a cheap, junky feel to it, and in many scenes, the dialogue is nigh-impossible to hear because there is also some rap music blaring on the soundtrack, and it actually drowns out the actors. And don't try to turn up the volume, because the overly-loud music comes with it. So while we want to hear what The Hammer is saying, instead we hear the jam "Everybody Wants To Be A Gangsta". Luckily, it is my jam. But it just seems like a blatant attempt to "be cool" and stay hip with the kids. We, the audience, know Williamson, Casey, Brown and O'Neal don't listen to this "rap-music noise".

There are some entertaining and funny things about On the Edge, not the least of which are Willie Jo Harris' hair, Ice-T's absurd suit, the usage of the (years-old by this time) "Whhaaazzzzuuuupppp?" - I assume that's how you spell it, and the presence of Gary Busey. Sure, he's not using his classic word he pioneered in Bulletproof (1988), "Butthorn", but luckily he has a great mixed-metaphor line with: "This has all the makings of a setup...but I'm holding the ace." And if you've ever wanted to see Busey do a drive-by shooting in the same movie as Williamson's classic "Fred-Fu", this is the movie for you.

But the true headline for On the Edge should be "Bernie Casey with a rocket launcher". 'Nuff said.

Inexplicably ending with the word "Gone!", On the Edge is notable for its cast of lovable favorites, but it might be wise to stick with the more classic-era Fred Williamson titles.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty