5/30/2011

Mission Of Justice (1992)

Mission Of Justice (1992)-* * *

Directed By: Steve Barnett

Starring: Jeff Wincott, Brigitte Nielsen, Karen Sheperd, Luca Bercovici, Tony Burton, James Lew, and Matthias Hues


"A rainbow often follows a storm."









Kurt Harris (Wincott) is a cop on the edge. He and his partner Lynn (Sheperd) do their best to stop crime in the city of “Eastgate” California, and luckily they both know martial arts, so they make a formidable team. But there are some other supposed "crimefighters” in town - a group called “The Peacemakers”. This group, reminiscent of Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels, patrol the streets and try to stop crime as well. They train at the Mission of Justice, where they practice their karate moves and wait for crimes to occur.

Enter the sinister Dr. Rachel K. Larkin (Nielsen) and her brother Titus (Hues). Larkin is a ruthless politician running for mayor. She will use any lethal tactics necessary to get to the top, using the Mission as a front for her dastardly operations. Meanwhile, Kurt Harris quits the police force in disgust at its red tape and bureaucracy, and its many other problems, not the least of which is jerkface Sgt. Duncan (Kriesa). Because Harris lives to fight crime, he goes undercover at the Mission and becomes a “Peacekeeper” himself. He wants to not only stop Larkin, Titus and the Mission, but get revenge for the murder of his friend Cedric (Burton). But he’ll have to fight his way through many baddies to do so...

It’s fun to watch Jeff Wincott's vigorous, energy -packed fighting style. He makes a good hero. And yet another one named “Kurt”. After he becomes a Peacekeeper, he must wear the official goofy white T-shirt of the group. When he and his two compatriots patrol the streets, passing kids on bikes acknowledge them. It will remind you of Lenny, Carl and Homer in the “cat burglar” episode of The Simpsons. The way Cedric is killed and the presence of Brigitte Nielsen will remind you of Rocky IV (1985). Speaking of Nielsen, she was an interesting choice as the duplicitous, Hillary Clinton-like politician. For example, when she’s evil, in private, she has sinister-looking short hair. When she’s putting on her benevolent, public face, she has her “nice hair” on, which is long. Additionally, an Aryan foreigner running for public office in California predates Schwarzenegger by at least fifteen years.


But back to the action, Wincott is in top form, Karen Sheperd (remember her from Above the Law in her fight scene with Cynthia Rothrock?) also displays some great moves, and we can’t forget James Lew in a supporting baddie role. Wincott fights Hues in the final battle, naturally, and there’s even some stand-out stick fighting. But like the movie Riot (1997), which is filled with great scenes but has the one stand-out, they-outdid-themselves fight scene (the one with the motorbikes), Mission Of Justice has a similar gem: the absolutely killer fight scene in the chop shop. The movie is worth tracking down for that scene alone.

The title is has a clever double meaning, there are painful-looking hits in the fight scenes, and the main cast really makes it all work. We give our full blessing to Mission of Justice.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


5/28/2011

Fists Of Blood (1988)

Fists Of Blood (1988)-* *1\2

AKA: Strike Of The Panther

Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Starring: Edward John Stazak, John Stanton, Zale Daniel, Rowena Wallace, Jim Richards, and Paris Jefferson



"Jason Blade...Every Woman's Dream...Every Criminal's Nightmare!"





Jason Blade is back! As is the rest of the cast, crew, music and backdrop to the opening credits, as this and Day Of The Panther (1988) were shot back to back. In true “45% New Footage” style, Fists Of Blood opens with a recap of the events from the previous film, with some handy narration by Anderson (Stanton). However, it seems to me that if you watch this one first, you would still be confused by this unnecessary and time-killing, money-saving exercise.

Continuing exactly where its predecessor left off, Jason (Stazak) and Gemma (Jefferson) have gotten serious in their relationship - so serious in fact that they are now working together on an anti-crime task force in their hometown of Perth. Despite some rockiness in their relationship, Gemma is still dancing up a storm and Jason is still foiling the bad guys with his martial arts skill. When the nefarious Baxter (Richards) escapes from Fremantle prison, he kidnaps Gemma and hides her away in an abandoned “steam factory”, the type of abandoned warehouse action movie fans know well. Jason must fight through an army of ninjas in multi-colored hockey masks to get to the final room to save the girl, just like in a video game. However, two new elements are introduced into this mix - while only touched upon in the first film, the idea of the psychic relationship between Anderson and Jason is fleshed out more. From his hospital bed, Anderson is able to telepathically communicate with Jason and warn him of dangers Jason can’t necessarily see, but Anderson can. We thought this was a fascinating and original concept that brought the level of the movie up. Additionally, there is the character of Sgt. Lucy Andrews (Wallace), who is working on dismantling the time bomb Baxter set. Oh yeah - if Jason doesn’t save the Gemma on time, a bomb will blow them all to smithereens. Can Jason Blade tangle with Baxter once more?


This time around, director Brian Trenchard-Smith delivers a bit more offbeat humor. The brothel scene is wacky, and the aforementioned “Jason Ninjas” add to that. Wouldn’t you be scared if you were all alone in a steam factory with a time bomb about to blow, and a ninja with a multi-colored hockey mask starts moonwalking with a baseball bat? Jason Blade faces his toughest challenge yet as he tirelessly faces off with these and many other punks until the final confrontation with Baxter.

Jason gets to do yet more training in his gym, Baxter takes a lot more punishment, and elements of the hostage drama are introduced in this installment. The idea of a bunch of special ops officers going into a booby-trapped warehouse while a mastermind picks them off one by one was later used in Jackie Chan’s New Police Story (2004). But like a lot of things in life, Jason Blade did it first.

There are a lot of funny sounds in the movie, and I don’t know who won the Oscar for best sound editing that year, but it should have gone to the sound effects department of Fists of Blood.  The original title of the movie was Strike of the Panther, which makes a lot of sense, but it was changed (there is a video-superimposed title) to Fists of Blood by Celebrity Video in the U.S. In other nonsensical box art news, it appears the British DVD tried to market the film as some kind of slasher horror, but that’s just misleading.

The directly continued storyline means the two films make a great double feature, which is perhaps what was intended. This would be the last we would ever see of Jason Blade, and, just as mysteriously as he arrived in all our lives, he now departs.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett



5/26/2011

Day Of The Panther (1988)

Day Of The Panther (1988)-* *1\2

Directed by: Brian Trenchard-Smith

Starring: Edward John Stazak, John Stanton, Jim Richards, Zale Daniel, and Michael Carman









Jason Blade (Stazak), William Anderson (Stanton) and his daughter Linda (Megier) are members of a secret warrior clan known as Panthers. Anderson is a member of the Hong Kong Special Branch of Australian law enforcement. While in HK, he, his daughter, and his protege Blade found the time to go through the rigorous martial arts training of the secretive Panther clan. Back in Perth, Western Australia, it seems there is a new bad guy causing all sorts of trouble - the dastardly Damien Zukor (Carman). He’s into racketeering, drugs and any number of nefarious activities, and the ultra-wealthy Zukor has cops and politicians in his back pocket, allowing him to continuously expand his criminal empire, with the help of an army of rubber pig-masked goons brandishing machetes. But he didn’t count on one thing: JASON BLADE. After the murder of Linda by the super-evil number two man to Zukor, Baxter (Richards), Blade decides to go undercover as a thug and infiltrate Zukor’s organization from the inside. Gaining access to Zukor’s world proves complicated, especially when a team of law enforcement officials that disapprove of his rogue ways is constantly tailing him, and he manages a romantic relationship with Anderson’s niece Gemma (Jefferson). Will Jason Blade be the new action hero of the 80’s?

Fan-favorite director, Brian Trenchard-Smith here delivers the fun and the silly martial arts/stunt filled goods.  Edward John Stazak sadly falls into the camp with Jay Roberts, Jr. and Matt Hannon and never made any other movies (unless you count the made-at-the-same-time sequel, Fists Of Blood (1988). Obviously the filmmakers hope you like the name “Jason Blade” because you hear it many, many times throughout the course of the film. Sinister, Peter Cushing-like bad guy Zukor even gets off a witty, perhaps unintentional one-liner when, impressed with Blade’s intelligence (?), he tells him, “You’re sharp, Blade”.



Blade is a stylish man of the 80’s, but in the slick department, it’s hard to beat Baxter, a man who looks like a cross between David Hasselhoff and Ricky Gervais dipped in a rich, thick coating of eighties.  And let’s not forget that this movie came out around the time of the then-current exercise/aerobics boom. There are plenty of scenes in Blade’s gym, including a show-stopping moment involving Gemma. Let’s just say that woman was born to dance.

80’s fashions aside, what’s also good about movies of this time were that you could actually see all the stunts and all the martial arts moves.  It might not be the best kung-fu movie ever committed to celluloid but at least there’s no CGI garbage or annoying, eye-irritating “quick cuts”. Actual effort was put forth to make it all come together and the result is quite entertaining.


Naturally, there’s an extended, knock-down drag-out fight at the end between Blade and Baxter. Baxter’s main strength as a fighter seems to be his ability to withstand seemingly-endless kicks and punches to the face (although what you see here pales in comparison to what he endures in the follow-up). Harking back to the good old days of cinema good and evil, Blade wears white pants and Baxter black as they gleefully punch away the running time.

Featuring the memorable song “Take me Back” by Colin Setches, and released on Celebrity Video in the U.S. (as was its sequel), dare you enter the glorious world of Jason Blade?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/23/2011

Deathfight (1994)

Deathfight (1994)-* *1\2

Directed by: Anthony Maharaj

Starring:  Richard Norton, Chuck Jeffreys, Tetchie Agbayani, Cris Aguilar, Joe Mari Avellana, Franco Guerrero, Karen Moncrieff, and Ron Vreeken









 While in Bangkok on business, young Jack Dameron’s (Norton) parents are brutally gunned down. He is then raised by Papa Fung (Avellana) along with Fung’s son, now Dameron’s “step brother”, Chiang (Guerrero). All the while, Dameron immersed himself in the ways of martial arts.

Now, in the present day, Dameron is poised to take control of the lucrative family business, Bangkok Mercantile. He has a successful wife (Moncrieff) who is a lawyer, and things are looking up. But Chiang is an evil, corrupt man who, rather than climb the corporate ladder like his step brother, felt more at home staging illegal underground Deathfights. While the audience for these matches enthusiastically holds their cash in their hands, punchfighting isn’t enough for Chiang. He wants the corporate control as well. So he frames Jack for murder. Jack spends some time in prison, befriending Wiley (Strzalkowski). Once out of jail, Jack is on a search for the truth - but it’s going to involve putting his lifetime of martial arts training to use.


Here we have another Maharaj/Norton vehicle, and judging from the VHS box art, they were trying to make Richard Norton a more noticeable name for video store patrons perusing the shelves. While he certainly deserves it, he somehow never reached the level of the Seagals and Van Dammes in America. For Norton’s character, Dameron, shirtlessness is a way of life. His shirt, gratuitously or not, is either off or coming off, and there’s even some pre-Transporter (2002) shirtfighting. Rather than Guerrero’s character Chiang being the real nemesis to Dameron, it is in fact Chuck Jeffreys as I-Ron. Sure, his voice sounds dubbed and his hairstyle is ridiculous,  but the fight between Norton and Jeffreys is by far the high point of the film.

Deathfight needed a bit more energy, and actually it could have used some more punchfighting. Interestingly enough, Chiang calls it “Shoot Boxing”. This as opposed to Shootfighting. I know, it all gets very confusing. That’s why everyone should call it punchfighting. That would make all our lives easier. But there are other action bits as well, such as the classic barfights and fruit-cart style car chases. There’s a shootout at the end with a unique shot of a baddie falling out a building, seen from a unique point of view. That was noteworthy.

The movie is filled with “just bubbling under the radar” names such as Cris Aguilar from Savage Justice (1988), Raw Target (1995), some Bloodfist movies and Blood Ring (1991), Strzalkowski, also from Savage Justice and Raw Target, appeared in the other Norton vehicle Raiders Of The Sun (1992), and Ron Vreeken as Manson, who appears some kind of cut-rate Matthias Hues, was in Norton’s Under the Gun (1995), as well as Hurricane Smith (1992). Avellana and Guerrero are well known to B-movie fans, having been in countless productions, Filipino and otherwise.

Deathfight is so-so in most departments, but the presence of Richard Norton raises the watchability level considerably, and the fights, especially the Norton/Jeffreys brawl, raise it further.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



5/21/2011

Hurricane Smith (1992)

Hurricane Smith (1992)-* *

Directed by: Colin Budds

Starring: Carl Weathers, Jurgen Prochnow, Cassandra Delaney, Tony Bonner, and David Argue












Carl Weathers is Billy Ray "Hurricane" Smith, a construction worker from Marshall, Texas who receives word that his mother just died. Wishing to tell his sister Sally Mae the news, he travels to her last known whereabouts: the Gold Coast of Australia. While there searching for his sister, he becomes embroiled in a drug-fueled gang war between Howard Fenton (Bonner), with his merciless 2nd in command Charlie Dowd (Prochnow) and a gang called The Gillespies. With the help of a “hooker with a heart of gold”, Julie (Delaney) and her “Pimp with a heart of gold”, Shanks (Argue of Midnite Spares fame), Hurricane takes on the gangs in the search for his sister.

A mustache-less Weathers makes the most of what he can in this fish-out-of-water tale. He is likable as the Texas boy caught up in the “criminal syndicate of South East Queensland” - but the film needed more action in its lagging middle section. Prochnow plays the classic villain tailor-made for audiences to boo and hiss at. You really hate him, but you have to wonder if he remembers anything about making this movie. Our guess is that he probably didn’t see it as anything special. After the success of Action Jackson (1988), Warner Brothers seemed to just dump this movie into video stores with little or no fanfare. True, it’s not as good as Jackson but perhaps they snubbed this film in the promotional department.



The best things about Hurricane Smith are the Australia locations, according to the credits primarily filmed in Brisbane, and the colorful characters. Besides the aforementioned Shanks with his over-the-top attitude and Warrant T-shirt with red suspenders, there’s cranky old salt Griffo (Ewart), and you know Howard Fenton is evil because of his dastardly bolo tie.

Also of note is the unabashed racism in the movie, which they would never do today in our P.C. times. There seems to have been no shame or attempt to hide it, but it’s all coming from the baddies, so it’s okay. Such things in the script would never fly today, so Hurricane Smith shows the time and place in which it was made, which is always good. Also Americans are disparagingly called “Septics” - some sort of Cockney rhyming slang-type insult for “Yank” - “Septic Tank” or just “Septics” for short.  Are we still being called that there?

It must be in Weathers’ contract that if he is in a starring role, the movie must be named after him (and have a colorful name at that) - Fortune Dane (1986), Action Jackson, and now Hurricane Smith. Also the soundtrack must be drenched in sax.

There’s a lot to like about Hurricane Smith, but there are some flaws that kept us from being entirely satisfied with the end result.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


5/18/2011

Warrior Of Justice (1996)

Warrior Of Justice (1996)-* *

AKA: The Steel Ring and Invitation To Die

Directed by: Jorgo Ognenovski and Mike Tristano

Starring: Jorgo Ognenovski, Jorge Rivero, Shari Blum, Nick Hill, Ian Jacklin, and Richard Lynch









Oh dear. Normally this is where we would give a brief plot outline, but, like trying to describe the plot of Samurai Cop (1989), it’s truly a fruitless effort. Warrior Of Justice is one of THOSE movies. A movie that, by any standard at all, is “bad”. But what is “Bad”? Sure, the movie has a horrendous shot-on-video look, atrocious sound, hacksaw editing, embarrassing lighting, Casio-keyboard music, actors that should be banned from attempting their craft, the supposed fight scenes have blows that don’t come close to connecting, and the movie as a whole is amateurish, childish, inept and mind-bogglingly stupid on every conceivable level...but this movie is hilarious! It’s truly a case of “so bad it’s good”. Well, maybe not GOOD, but certainly entertaining.

Apparently, George (Ognenovski) is a martial arts instructor (dubbed “the Lone Ranger of Karate”, whatever that means) who is searching for a missing student, Tony (Jacklin). Along the way, he discovers an evil, underground punchfighting ring where, naturally, meatheads fight to the death for the amusement of the paying customers. This is all organized by the evil *sigh* Verdugo (Rivero)...yes...VERDUGO. Because being a professional jerkass is such a trying task, George consults The Master (Lynch, with noteworthy hair), his old trainer. George actually spends so much time doing ab crunches, his fiance Sara Douglas (Blum), an LAPD cop,  feels neglected and their potential marriage is on the rocks. That’s an actual plot point. So then George teams up with martial arts student Gary (Hill) and they try to take down Verdugo’s evil operation. But there’s a sinister secret behind this punchfighting ring...will George be able to get to the bottom of it? And will anyone understand what he’s saying?


Everything Jorgo says, does and wears is laugh-out-loud funny. His accent is so thick he makes Sho Kosugi sound like Alistair Cooke. All the dialogue in the movie is amazingly stilted. You’d think a reunion of the cast of Death Match (1994) (except for Matthias Hues, who probably ran screaming in the other direction) would be on board for a film of at least comparable quality. It’s not a shining moment in any of their careers. Beyond low budget and low quality, this is NO budget and NO quality.  It has that “home movie” feel and it makes Streets of Rage (1994) look like a masterpiece.

We don’t want to beat up on the movie too much, because it provides about 90 minutes of laughs, but let’s be honest. It’s pure incompetent junk. Most of the movie you will be wondering why...why...WHHHYYYYY???!!!??? Where do these people come from? How did this get made?...most human beings never sink this low in their entire movie-watching lives, so if you do see it, you should consider yourself lucky (?)...you are now part of an elite club.

Featuring the highly appropriate main song “Let’s Make Love” by Helena Kevorkian, Warrior of Justice is a deformed mutant baby of cinema. If you enjoy that sort of thing, and you are a masochist, do seek it out. But be forewarned. You may never be the same again.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett



5/16/2011

Instant Justice (1986)

Instant Justice (1986)-* *1\2

AKA: Marine Issue

Directed by: Craig T. Rumar

Starring: Michael Paré, Tawny Kitaen, Tony Bingham, Peter Crook, Eddie Avoth, Scott Del Amo, and Charles Napier











Scott Youngblood (Pare) is a Marine with an impeccable record - a true American hero. When he hears that his sister Kim (Bridges) is in trouble and mixed up with evil gangsters/drug runners Dutch (Del Amo) and Silke (Avoth), he travels to Madrid to save her. Sadly, he’s too late. Dutch and Silke killed her, as part of their phony modeling/prostitution scam. Now burning with revenge, he finds a contact in Spain, Jake (Crook) and together they go looking for Dutch and Silke.

Meanwhile, since the death of Kim, a new model has come in to take her place, Virginia (Kitaen), but Youngblood tries to rescue her from her dismal fate. Because Youngblood is a model Marine, he realizes some of his tactics may be contrary to the code of ethics of the Corps, so he goes to Maj. Davis (Napier) and resigns. Davis is confused, but warily trusts Youngblood. Now totally rogue, Youngblood is free to dispense some INSTANT JUSTICE.


You’ve heard of Instant Oatmeal. Now prepare yourself for Instant Justice. Pare puts in a Dolph Lundgren-esque performance as the wooden, no-nonsense Youngblood (you gotta love those hero names).  The fact that he’s the ultimate Marine allows for some classic 80’s patriotism along with the barfights and one-liners.  Not to mention the car chases with rockin’ guitar solos. It’s nice to see Tawny Kitaen, who doesn’t appear in a lot of these types of movies, along with familiar faces like Napier and Pare. Kitaen’s hair certainly typifies the “big” style of the time.

This was Director/writer/producer Craig Rumar’s only film to date. Surely he was inspired by the action boom of the day. His story of a lone hero who tries to go to the authorities and go through the proper channels but comes up against maddening bureaucracy and has to take on the baddies alone is always a nice story to see.  But, it must be noted that one Anthony "Tony" Bingham steals the show as Sgt. Walker. For no conceivable reason, Pare tells him he has stains on his uniform. Bingham’s line, delivered in a way that is a classic for the ages, replies, and I quote, “My hamburger spilled ketchup”. I’ll just let you mull that over in your mind for a while. We rewound that great cinematic moment.


Youngblood is a man of action with an 80’s soundtrack behind him (not the least of which is “Danger in the Streets” by Lee Hart). While maybe some of the talkier/unnecessary bits could have been trimmed, making the movie just a bit leaner and meaner, Instant Justice is a decently entertaining and typically-80’s action film - and that’s just what we’re normally after.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

-------------------------------------

NOTE:  On January 27th, 2013, we got the following email from the one and only Tony Bingham:

I read your review of the movie Instant Justice and I appreciate your comment regarding my performance of Sgt Walker. At the time, I was assigned to Torejon AB (just outside of Madrid, Spain) while serving in the US Air Force.  I was lucky enough to get involved getting this role and had a lot of fun doing it. I also had one other scene where Michael Pare's accomplice crashes through the gate, I'm the one shooting at them and jumping out of the way of the gate as the car crashes through it. 

Best regards,

Tony Bingham


Thanks to Tony Bingham for this contribution.




 

5/13/2011

Queen's Messenger (2001)

Queen's Messenger (2001)-* * *

Directed by: Mark Roper

Starring: Gary Daniels, Trie Donovan, David Westland, and Christoph Waltz













Gary Daniels is Major Anthony Strong of the SAS - and he must deliver an important message to the British Ambassador in Kazakhstan, Sir Desmond Grey (Westhead), who will then deliver it to the President of Kazakhstan, Kasym (Georgi Gasov). This crucial suitcase handcuffed to his arm can only be trusted to the most elite of special ops, in other words, a “Queen’s Messenger”. Along the way he must fight off an unending stream of thugs and baddies.  But the kicker is evil terrorist Ali Ben Samm (Waltz), who is described as a “Saddam in waiting” and leads the so-called “revolution of the faithful”, also wants Strong dead. So he then unleashes his army of “Motorcycle Muslims” as they are called (and probably wouldn’t be called today). Along for the ride is “ZNN” reporter Alexi Jones (Donovan) and her wacky cameraman Klaus (Ivanov) - the love interest and the comic relief, respectively. Can Captain Strong battle his way through wave after wave of baddies and accomplish his task?

The first in a two-part series of Anthony Strong films (the other being Witness to a Kill, 2004), strangely Queen’s Messenger was not released in the U.S., but Witness was.  That’s unfortunate for Daniels fans who aren’t as intrepid as we are, because Queen’s Messenger is quite competent, with well-staged stunts and fights. Daniels is charming, and he plays the epitome of cool as the motorcycle-riding, sunglasses-wearing Strong. The name “Captain Strong” is said many, many times throughout the film, and as a showcase for Daniels’ talents, it’s..well...strong.


 Try to imagine some sort of cross between The Transporter (2002), Special Forces (2003), and The Peacekeeper (1997) - the latter especially comes to mind because he MUST deliver the suitcase at all costs! Both he and Major Frank Cross (Dolph’s name in Peacekeeper, as if you didn’t know...coincidentally also a Major) have unbelievable tenacity. While any normal person, after the FIRST bad guy trying to kill you, would have said “that’s it, I’m outta here”, Cross and Strong battle through an army to get the job done. They should really get employee of the month.

Christoph Waltz raises the level of his fairly one-dimensional bad guy, and he has the same problem Robert Miano has had in the past - try to play a Middle Eastern terrorist if you’re not Middle Eastern. Interestingly, references are made to Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, showing that in the pre-Iraq War year of 2000, the world really thought he had them. That aside, there is a tank chase, which you don’t see every day, and plenty of missile launchers in play. Plus it’s different to see Gary Daniels romping around in the snow.

Listed as a Canada-UK-Bulgaria co-production, it does have that bleak Eastern European look to it which fans of any low-budget movies of the last ten years or so are familiar with. At least the movie is set in Kazakhstan (I’m not going to make any Borat jokes), and not “New York” or “Los Angeles”.

Gary Daniels fans will find a lot to like with Queen’s Messenger. It remains in question whether anyone else would get much out of it, but it’s reasonably entertaining, if a bit by-the-numbers.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

5/09/2011

Perfect Target (1997)

Perfect Target (1997)-* *1\2

Directed by: Sheldon Lettich

Starring: Daniel Bernhardt, Robert Englund, Jim Pirri, Dara Tomanovich, Julieta Rosen, and Brian Thompson













David Benson (Bernhardt) is a former CIA official who is down in the small, sleepy South American town of Santa Brava. All he wants to do is sit and drink his beer and enjoy a good cockfight, but oh no. He is recruited by Maj. Oxnard (Thompson) and Col. Shakwell (Englund) as part of a ragtag team of mercenaries to help protect an idealistic politician, President Casillas (Martinez) from potential assassins as he gives an address in the town square. Naturally, Casillas is shot - and Benson and his associate Ramirez (Pirri) are blamed. Now on the run, they end up in the jungle. They end up training a team of rebels to help overthrow the corrupt government, led by Casillas’ wife, Isabella (Rosen). Will Benson get out of this mess alive?

What’s so funny about this movie is how much Bernhardt resembles and sounds like Van Damme. Perfect Target was directed by Sheldon Lettich, the director of Lionheart (1990) and Double Impact (1991). Supposedly Bernhardt was discovered by the same guy that discovered Van Damme, and Bernhardt appeared in some of the Bloodsport sequels. For all intents and purposes, he IS Van Damme...yet he’s not. Every few minutes while watching this movie, you have to ask yourself, “is that Van Damme?” But, even though some wags might say Bernhardt is a low-rent JCVD, Perfect Target is actually a better movie than some Van Damme vehicles.


Bernhardt, from such movies as The Cutter (2005) and Strike Force (2003) (and even the Mystery Science Theater 3000-mocked Future War), appears more like JCVD here than ever before. Everything from his hair to his voice will remind you of the man. The role of David Benson also could have gone to Mark Dacascos or Olivier Gruner.

Interestingly, David Benson  smokes and drinks. This would never happen today. It’s pretty surprising this movie came out in 1997, it seems like it could have come out in ‘88 or earlier. It has that kind of feel. Brian Thompson, last seen as the baddie from Cobra (1986), enhances that fact. He is solid as the baddie here, as is Robert Englund, who gets to sneer away to his hearts’ content. He was probably relieved to not be doing a pigeonholed horror role. Plus, since their names are the mildly silly Oxnard and Shakwell, you can say, “Oh no! Oxnard and Shakwell are coming after you!”  The only one missing from the potential trifecta is Patrick Kilpatrick.

 

There’s plenty of shooting and hand-to-hand combat, and even one fight that recalls Operation Warzone (1988) of all things. The classic barfight is also here, and Benson is, of course, “the best” at what he does. But it seems an attempt was made to put in some decent dialogue and put in some plot twists. But it just may be too little too late.

This is the type of movie you feel you’ve seen before even if you haven’t. The whole “South American-corrupt government-rebels” formula has been seen in everything from Cocaine Wars (1985) to One Man Out (1989) to The Expendables (2010). The movie, shot in various parts of Mexico, has an appropriately hot and sweaty atmosphere, which is conveyed well.

Perfect Target, while sporting a nice, professional look and feel, is, sadly, standard fare and underwhelming.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/08/2011

Operation Nam (1986)

Operation Nam (1986) -* *

AKA: Cobra Mission 

Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Ethan Wayne, Christopher Connelly, Manfred Lehmann, John Steiner, Oliver Tobias, and Donald Pleasence



"In the John Wayne Action Packed Tradition Comes His Son Ethan Wayne..."






A group of disgruntled Vietnam vets, led by Mike (Wayne), Roger (Connelly) and James (Steiner) decide to go back to ‘Nam and find, then free, missing POW’s. Once “in country”, they get their guns and ammo from Father Lenoir (Pleasence), a priest willing to help the “five men against all”, to quote the Italian title of the film. Once loaded up with their supplies, it’s like the war never ended, as Viet Cong soldiers battle them every step of the way to protect their camps, seemingly unaware that there had been a ten-year break in the action. Naturally, the discovery of the POW’s leads to a government conspiracy that goes all the way to the top - and is the gruff Colonel Mortimer (Mitchell) involved?  Will the men free the hostages and make it back home? And if they do, what then?

Operation Nam (or Cobra Mission) is a standard jungle action/drama you’ve seen before, but it does have its moments, as well as a cast familiar to anyone who loves Italian exploitation films. Besides familiar faces Steiner, Connelly, and Luciano Pigozzi (AKA Alan Collins), we also have cameos by Enzo G. Castellari and Ennio Girolami, and the whole affair was directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (the infamous “Larry Ludman”) without much panache. He’s a better producer than director, most people would agree.


While the idea of moody, misfit Vietnam vets adjusting to a changed society is a fascinating idea for a film, these ideas are only touched upon in the first half. The second half is the mindless shooting, guard tower-falling, hut-exploding, grenade-throwing, bar-fighting action expected of this type of film. It would have been nice if the psychology and emotion of the men was explored more, but perhaps I’m asking too much of a churn-’em-out genre film such as this.

In the plus column we have the fact that the film was made pre-political correctness, a character plays Pole Position on his Atari 2600, and one character insults another by calling him, and I quote, a “Suckfish”. Speaking of awesome dialogue, we also get an interesting glimpse into the future: right before one of the protagonists throws a grenade at a baddie, he says “You’ve got mail”. This comment, which precedes AOL by many years, must have served as an inspiration to that company. Not to mention inspiring the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan crudfest, as that was a “bomb” as well! Ha!


In the minus column we have the silly, Southern yokel-y dubbing for John Steiner's character, and some overall malaise. But John Wayne’s son is in it! Anybody? Anybody?

If you liked American Commandos (1985), you’ll also probably like this film, as it has a similar concept and execution, but this is not a prime example of Italian action.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


5/04/2011

Cyclone (1987)

Cyclone (1987)-* * *

Directed by: Fred Olen Ray

Starring: Heather Thomas, Jeffery Combs, Ashley Ferrare, Troy Donahue, Dar Robinson, Michael Reagan, Huntz Hall, Tim Conway Jr, and Martin Landau












Cyclone is the tale of a radically awesome motorcycle and the people that want to get their hands on its secret energy source. Jeffrey Combs plays Rick Davenport, a nerdy, scientific type who has developed the multi-million dollar “Cyclone”, and even its helmet, which shoots lasers. For some reason, this dork’s girlfriend is Heather Thomas, who’s the hottest thing on two legs. When evildoers kill Rick (not a spoiler because it happens so early on in the film), it’s up to Teri Marshall (Thomas) - presumably no relation to Joe “Samurai” Marshall of Samurai Cop (1989) infamy - to protect the “clean energy” source. Everyone wants this thing, and there’s a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top - the big boss causing all the conflict is one Bosarian (Landau), the man sending out all the goons. Will Teri ride off into the sunset on the Cyclone?

Director Fred Olen Ray assembled a major cast for this one - besides the aforementioned Thomas, Combs and Landau, we also have Martine Beswicke as a police chief, Troy Donahue as Rick’s old contact, and they even dug up the legendary Huntz Hall, whose extensive career goes back to the thirties. Tim Conway, Jr. and Michael Reagan are teamed up as two of the dumbest cops in movie history. I wonder what their fathers would have thought. Bruce Fairbairn is on hand as Lt. Cutter, while Dawn Wildsmith plays one of the female baddies.


A standout scene occurs when Rick and Teri pay a visit to the Lava Club to see a band called Haunted Garage. A lot of funny dancing is seen, as well as Teri’s memorable outfit. The band doesn’t seem that talented musically, but they are able to crank out their signature tune, “Devil Metal” with aplomb and it will be stuck in your head for days. Speaking of the music, Joe Pizzolo provides the moody anthem “Are You Too Tough” as well as the memorable “Riding on the Edge of Night”, which provides the soundtrack for Teri riding the Cyclone down the streets of L.A. This guy could easily be the next Robert Tepper.


Because some of the themes in the movie revolve around clean energy and leaked information, Cyclone seems pretty ahead of its time. But really, it’s just comic-booky good fun and not meant to be taken all that seriously. It appears fairly tongue-in-cheek in the classic Fred Olen Ray way.  Thomas carries the movie on her looks alone, but she is amply supported by an army of B-movie names in this somewhat fluffy outing.

It ends with some impressive stunts and explosions, after the prerequisite chase scenes. I think there’s even a “NOoooooo!” somewhere in the mix, but the beeps and lasers coming from the soundtrack/Cyclone are pretty distracting.

Lastly, the film is dedicated to Dar Robinson, the legendary stuntman and actor. His final acting role was as Rolf in this film.

For the cast and to see Heather Thomas, Cyclone is worth it. Also helmet lasers.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/03/2011

Bloodfist II (1990)

Bloodfist II (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Andy Blumenthal

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Rina Reyes, Joe Mari Avellana, Maurice Smith, Richard Hill, Ned Hourani and Cris Aguilar












Jake Raye is back, and in kickboxing-related trouble once again! Since the last Bloodfist film, Jake became a legit kickboxer, in state-sanctioned bouts with boxing gloves, etc., and put his punchfighting past behind him. When he accidentally kills his opponent in the ring, he vows never to fight again. After about two years have passed, Jake has hit the skids. His apartment is in disarray and he’s not in shape.  One day, he gets a call from his friend, a Black man inexplicably named Vinny Petrello (Smith), who lures him back to Manila once again. Once back on his old stomping grounds, Jake and a bunch of other fighters are kidnapped and spirited away by boat to the private island home of sinister kickboxing fan Su (Avellana). He forces the men to take part in an “illegal high stakes tournament” - death fights, or as Su calls them, “gladiator fights”. But Su’s men have an unfair advantage. He pumps them full of a special steroid that makes them impervious to pain. So the good fighters don’t know what they’re up against. Luckily, the plucky Jake Raye and love interest Mariella (Reyes) get to the bottom of it. Will Jake live to see another sequel?

For those that don’t know, only the first two Bloodfist films are truly sequels. The Dragon plays Jake Raye in the first two films only. The other 897 Bloodfist movies are basically separate entities but renamed under the Bloodfist banner because presumably Roger Corman felt fans would rather see an eighth sequel to something, whether it’s truly a sequel or not, than a new movie with an original title. Interesting logic.

Nevertheless, the first half of Bloodfist 2 is very similar to the original film - the same locales are used and some of the situations seem oddly familiar. But once the fighters are on the boat to Su’s house, things change. The movie somehow becomes dumber, yet more fast paced, even though a huge block of time is spent in one room as the fighters fight. Yet it never becomes a slog. That was pretty impressive.  It was here that the film developed its own, more original personality.  And of course, the film ends with a big, final brawl.



Avellana is back as the bad guy, but not the same one from the first movie. And the rankings of the fighters/actors are back in the credits, but the movie outdoes itself in introducing these men to the audience, as Su names them all, and their titles/rankings in the movie as well. In the order Su introduces them, they are: John Jones (Warring), Manny Rivera (Samson), Bobby Rose (Hill), Ernest Santana (Rogers), Tobo Castanerra (Del Rosario), and Sal Taylor (Baker), the last of which sports a spiffy shirt throughout the entirety of his screen time. Additionally, Ned Hourani and Cris Aguilar return from the first movie, but in different roles. Don The Dragon gives his delightfully wooden delivery we all know and love.

Bloodfist 2 is more of a typical punchfighter, but the action and humor elements are ramped up more, and the plot is tamped down to a minimum. Since all Bloodfist movies apparently had to be 85 minutes, the filmmakers decided to try a new structure, at least for the second half of the film.

If you watched the first Bloodfist movie and wished it had MORE punchfighting, as well as more silliness, this, the only true sequel, is the movie for you.

NOTE: in the end credits, Wes Craven and Stephen Tobolowsky are listed as “advisors”. If anyone knows how Craven or Tobolowsky advised this movie, please write in today.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett