McBain (1991)

McBain (1991)-* *1\2

Directed by: James Glickenhaus

Starring: Christopher Walken, Maria Conchita Alonso, Michael Ironside, Chick Vennera, Cris Aguilar, Victor Argo, Luis Guzman, and Steve James

Back in ‘Nam, Santos (Vennera) rescued McBain (Walken) when he was captured and made a prisoner. A bond developed between the two men, as represented by a ripped hundred dollar bill. In the present, Santos is leading a revolutionary army in Colombia against the dictator oppressing their country. When Santos dies in that fight, his sister Christina (Alonso) goes to New York to find McBain. McBain then agrees to help Christina finish what Santos started, and rally the revolutionary rebels to victory. To do this, he re-assembles his team of old ‘Nam buddies, including Eastland (James), Dalton (Patterson) and Frank (Ironside), among other helpers. Will McBain’s team - and the people of Colombia - be victorious?

Thanks to its cast and its professional sheen, McBain was one of the more well-known action titles around video stores back in the golden age. While it may not have had the visibility of a Van Damme, Seagal, Stallone or Schwarzenegger vehicle, it did have Christopher Walken instead, which is interesting - you don’t see him in roles like this too often. The only other one that comes to mind is The Dogs of War (1980). Walken’s square hair and Steve James wearing his trademark Wrestlemania hat brandishing a rocket launcher is a great combination. 

At its heart, this is just another exploding hut/falling guard tower movie, it’s just glossier. Imagine your standard “El Presidente” movie (for an explanation of this, see our review for Hour of the Assassin, 1987) crossed with the camaraderie of Last of the Finest (1990).  The film tries to be all things to all people, throwing a lot at the viewer: A Vietnam movie, an urban thriller, an airplane slog, A Mercenary action movie, and the aforementioned El Presidente and Exploding Hut scenarios are thrown in too, and the movie, trying to accommodate all these things, is overlong.

Alonso is there to provide the societal comment and relevance to supposedly justify all the action, and Steve James proves he’s one of the most under-appreciated and awesomely cool stars of the era. And who wouldn’t want to do what McBain’s team does - get the old gang back together to bust some heads? This A-Team-inspired scenario is appealing, but there’s way too much fat around this steak. The middle section, where the gang is in New York City taking down the baddies, is excellent. The whole movie should have been THAT. But there’s all this other stuff, like an interminable tangent about airplanes and bogeys and such. In our eyes, even though McBain is of a higher quality and budget than a lot of the stuff out there, that ends up being irrelevant because the movie doesn’t live up to its potential. That New York City section, rather than just being a color on the action movie palette listed earlier, should have been expanded and brought to its full flower.

While the movie is called McBain (not to be confused with Frank “Bulletproof” McBain or the Simpsons character), it’s really not ABOUT Christopher Walken’s character per se. We don’t know that much about him, and the movie doesn’t really revolve around him. It’s more about his team and the Colombian rebels scenario.

While there are some cool aspects to this movie, we can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, which is a shame, because we’d like to. But the NYC portion of the film and the presence of Steve James, while they can’t support the whole thing, are bright spots in this mixed bag of a movie.

Also check out our buddy, The Direct To Video Connoisseur's review of McBain!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Annihilators (1985)

The Annihilators (1985)-* * *

Directed by: Charles E. Sellier Jr.

Starring: Christopher Stone, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Dennis Redfield, Andy Wood, and Gerrit Graham

"They fought for their country. Now, They're fighting for their friends."

Starting off in the jungles of Vietnam, we are introduced to a “band of brothers” consisting of  Bill Eckert (Stone), Garrett (LHJ), Ray (Graham), Joe (Redfield), and Woody (Wood). After some shooting and explosions confirming that these guys are an elite fighting unit, the text on the screen then informs us: ATLANTA NOW. It seems the town of South Point, Georgia is now a depressing slum. Rival gangs control the town and keep it in a grip of fear. They shake down what local businesses are left for protection money. The gangs The Turks and The Scorpions are bad, but for pure evil, no one beats Roy Boy Jagger and The Rollers. (It has yet to be verified if they opened for John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band on one of their tours).

When, in the midst of an armed robbery, said Rollers kill Joe, Bill rallies the old unit back together to clean up the streets of South Point. They use their military techniques and camaraderie to not just expel the gangs, but bring hope back to the community. By that, they obviously mean teaching elderly men and confused waitresses martial arts. Will these heroes defeat Roy Boy and get revenge for their fallen comrade?

The Annihilators (great title) is pure 80’s fun from start to finish. It is enjoyable the whole time - this is the type of movie that’s best experienced with a group of friends who are in a good mood. (If you’re not, it will put you in one). The movie seems to be attempting a marriage of two successful action movie sub-genres: the Vietnam shoot-em-up and the urban revenge thriller. The results are humorous. The whole “reunite the old Vietnam war crew to get revenge” was seen in the also-hilarious Kill Squad (1982). What is it about this plot that allows for such laughs? The movie tends toward optimism - only in the 80’s could the message of “believe in your dreams” be tied so closely with flamethrowers and shooting people in the face without a hint of irony. You gotta love it.

Gerrit Graham plays the comic relief jokester, LHJ, in a pretty early role, gets the best Karate moves in the film, along with a memorable neck-snap. Naturally, the heroes are fighting a panoply of middle-aged punks. In the 80’s, it seemed to become a ne’er-do-well later in life was more accepted. The whole “store owners fighting back” angle was a lot of fun and had a Bums (1993) feel. Paul Koslo as Roy Boy is very impressive. He’s a sort of demented Patrick Swayze that goes far off the rails. His performance is inspired and worth seeing.

On the technical side, the opening credits all have a gunshot noise that gets you into the spirit quickly, the music is great in its own way, and the newspaper reads “Vigilantes In South Point”. The box art is very cool, if not entirely representative of the movie itself. There’s no “Annihilator” in the movie that wears a Jason mask, and they mistakenly call the antagonist Roy Boy Jessup. Apparently both the artist and the writer were allowed to just make stuff up. Keep in mind this is a New World tape (Corman for those who don’t know).

Overwhelming silliness ensues - in the best possible way - when you put on The Annihilators. Recommended.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Hour Of The Assassin (1987)

Hour Of The Assassin (1987)-* *

Directed by: Luis Llosa

Starring: Erik Estrada, Francisco Giraldo, and Robert Vaughn

Martin Fierro (Estrada) is hired by some generals to assassinate the new president of the South American country of San Pedro, Roberto Villaverde (Giraldo). They convince him to do this by playing to his sympathies regarding his father, a man assassinated by these very same generals, although Fierro doesn’t know that. According to them, his father was “leftist scum” (which they say behind Fierro’s back, of course). Fierro has his work cut out for him, except for one thing: ex-CIA operative Sam Merrick (Vaughn), who is tracking Fierro and intent on stopping the assassination. It’s a race against time - who will come out victorious?

It’s yet another “El Presidente” movie - A South America-set film about rebels in the streets versus the political establishment. This plotline was more prevalent in video stores than you might think - Cocaine Wars (1985), McBain (1991), Perfect Target (1997) and the latest example, The Expendables (2010). The plot is extremely simple - it’s Vaughn chasing Estrada for over 90 minutes - so after an exciting opening chase sequence and the setup of the plot, the middle section drags heavily. It’s natural that this would happen with such minimal plot. A few interestingly-lit sequences are not enough to solve this problem.

The movie does deliver some standard chases and shooting, but the roles for both Estrada and Vaughn are a little different than usual. The tone is downbeat, serious and low-key. Estrada doesn’t play bad-guy assassin roles too often, and how often do you see “Control 5” himself, Robert Vaughn, at least at the age he was when he shot this movie, running around South America playing the action star?  Of course, Vaughn’s “hair” is odd and is constantly changing from scene to scene, and, like Chris Lemmon in Firehead (1991), whose catchphrase was the ever-present “Jesus Christ!”, here Robert Vaughn utters the word “Bastard!” every other scene. 

This was a Corman production, released in the U.S. in the always cool MGM/UA big-box. Director Luis Llosa shot the film in his native Peru and there are some nice locations. He later had some mainstream hits with Anaconda (1997), the Stallone vehicle The Specialist (1994) and the classic Tom Berenger Sniper (1993). He’s also responsible for the Corman David Carradine film Crime Zone (1989). This was his first cinematic foray, and it’s not bad, it’s just standard, and even tends toward boring at times.

This is the perfect example of video store shelf-filler that, yes, has cool box art and all, but will underwhelm you. It makes true gems like Deadly Prey (1987) stand out all the more.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Ultimate Game (2001)

The Ultimate Game (2001)-*1\2

Directed by: Jack Kaprielian

Starring: J.D. Rifkin, Jennifer Doubleday, Paul Logan, Kevin Ula Christie, Derek Montgomery, Tony O'Brien, Kristy Allen, and T.J. Storm

Jack Grimes (Rifkin) is a martial artist with a wife (Doubleday) and young son (Montgomery). He’s devoted to them, but he’s also devoted to something else...entering a winner-take-all martial arts competition with “fighters from all over the world”. After all the fighters are sent to a remote island by a man named Sato (Christie), promising the winner a million dollars, The Ultimate Game begins. However, it seems a gangster named Ray Ivan (O’Brien) has his own motives, and one of the tournament fighters, Sam (Logan), is in his back pocket. Will Jack ever see his family again?

The Ultimate Game is director Jack Kaprielian’s only directorial effort to date. While we’re sure he put a  lot of work into making this movie, it seems like someone must have commanded him to stop directing movies forever, and he listened. Despite his best efforts, the movie has a junky, homemade look, bizarre dubbing/ADR, and jarring editing decisions. It also has the dreaded “fast motion” effect that ruins movies. On top of the technical issues, the actors involved are more martial artists than actors, let’s just put it that way.

J.D. Rifkin, whose abs do all the acting, plays the John Cena-like main character. The kid that plays his son Joey, who must be like five years old, gives a more energetic and likable performance. Rifkin is also in the hideously awful Total Force (1997), which makes The Ultimate Game look like a masterpiece, as well as the Don the Dragon vehicle Virtual Combat (1995). His nighttime Tai Chi/flexing scenes actually recall Patrick Swayze in Road House (1989). And to top it all off, he’s a stylish man. His choices in vests and purple T-shirts with hiked-up jeans are quite impressive.

T.J. Storm, who plays one of the fighters and has an awesome name, has had a long career and was even in Punisher: War Zone (2008). He’s also supposedly in Mortal Kombat as “Guest Fighter”, which highlights The Ultimate Game’s resemblance to that video game/movie. There’s even an opponent who dresses exactly like Scorpion in the tournament here. And while this was technically released in 2001, it has a copyright of 1998. At that time, while they weren’t really in their prime anymore, people were still playing games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter. Those seem to be the main influences on The Ultimate Game, along with Bloodfist 2 (1990), which also has the “madman spirits martial artists away to an island to make them fight” as its plot. Additionally, Storm wears what must be the first Snuggie seen on screen.

After the “plot” gets out of the way, it’s just back-to-back scenes of the fighters on the beach, well...fighting. And while they do their thing, the other characters stand and watch them. So it’s really about 90 minutes of people with silly hair observing the fighting, and more silly-haired people jumping around and kicking the air.

Granted, there is no CGI or wires, which is certainly a good thing...or is it? Maybe in this case it could have used a little something extra, who knows? Sure, you can see all the moves, as opposed to the “quick cuts” of today but...the movie needed some professionalism. But you’ll be able to find this DVD dirt cheap in places that sell bargain-basement DVDs, and for an amateurish punchfighter, there’s certainly some fun to be wrung out of it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Bloodfist IV: Die Trying (1992)

Bloodfist IV: Die Trying (1992)-* *1\2

Directed by: Paul Ziller 

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Catya Sassoon, Amanda Wyss, James Tolkan, and Gary Daniels

Danny Holt (Wilson) is a good, hard-working guy with a tough job. He’s a repo man, constantly having to deal with irate car buyers who’ve lapsed on their payments. One day he repo’s the car of evil gangsters Weiss  (Browne) and Scarface (Daniels). These dudes are so miffed about it, they go down to Danny’s place of employment and mow down the entire staff with their machine guns. Naturally, Danny was out getting lunch, and missed it all, so the cops think he did it. Seeing as how these gangsters are hiding some nuclear triggers inside a box of bunny-shaped Easter chocolate and Danny has it, he’s now on the run from the gangsters, the cops, the FBI, the CIA, and everyone in between. Weiss has also kidnapped his daughter and won’t release her until he gets the “box of chocolates”.  With no one to trust, can Danny use the help of Shannon (Wyss), a schoolteacher accidentally thrown into this mess? Will Danny get to the truth?

Perhaps as a reaction to the somber tone of the previous Bloodfist movie, this one has a much lighter, and at times even goofy feel. Just check out the opening scene between The Dragon and a man who looks like he could be the father of Wendy of fast-food chain Wendy’s fame. But the overall tone goes back and forth between silly and serious with relative ease.

James Tolkan appears as FBI agent Sterling, and it’s nice to see him, but what fans really want to see are the fights between Wilson and Gary Daniels. We’re treated to two of them, and that alone makes this movie worth checking out. Daniels plays a very amusing villain, with his long hair and snide attitude. But we think his strong suit is playing heroes. He’s just too likable to seem all that evil, though he does very well here. Also female baddie Lisa (Sassoon) adds further appeal because of her outfits and cult appreciation.

Apparently, this movie was remade, again with Wilson, as Moving Target (2000). I guess Don the Dragon had been in every type of movie ever made so the only option left was to redo THIS movie. Seems odd.  Of all the movies to potentially remake...Bloodfist 4: Die Trying?

Bloodfist 4 is a great choice for Don the Dragon fans. If you don’t consider yourself one, don’t “die trying” to pick this one up, but if you  see it somewhere, get it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Bloodfist III: Forced To Fight (1992)

Bloodfist III: Forced To Fight (1992)-* * *

Directed by: Oley Sassone

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Richard Roundtree, Rick Dean, and John Cardone

Jimmy Boland (Wilson) is in prison after a barfight gone wrong. Now in prison, he fights a guy named Luther because he raped his friend and Luther dies because of it. Now the Black gangs on the inside want to kill Jimmy. The White racists welcome him into their camp, but Jimmy refuses. Now he’s got two prison gangs out for his blood, and, being the loner that he is, Jimmy Boland is...forced to fight! Jimmy is put in a cell with the intellectual and respected (by most) Stark (Roundtree) and they become buddies. Also, the pedophile Diddler (Cardone) is portrayed as sympathetic and he and Jimmy also forge an uneasy friendship. Seeing as Wingate State Penitentiary is considered to be a state-of-the-art facility, the higher-ups are hushing up a lot of the corruption and misdoings. As alliances on both the inside and outside are constantly shifting, will Jimmy be able to expose the truth and fight his way to freedom?

Bloodfist 3: Forced to Fight was the first in the Bloodfist series not to be connected to the first two. It really should have been called simply Forced to Fight, but the ever-crafty Roger Corman must have thought they should unnecessarily slap the Bloodfist moniker on it just to be safe. Seeing as how this movie actually went to the theater but tanked, it was the final theatrically-released Bloodfist film. The fact that three made it to the theater is still impressive.

Truly this is Don the Dragon’s Death Warrant, and he carries it off in his own inimitable way. The filmmakers seemingly really tried to make him look like Lou Diamond Phillips this time around. Much like how Frank Zagarino was meant to resemble Dolph Lundgren in Armstrong. But it’s really not needed, The Dragon stands on his own. For this movie, they actually got another name, Richard Roundtree. His role is substantial and he acquits himself well in what is really an ensemble film. 

Then again, he was competing directly against French Fry (Callahan) and Weird Willy (Schott) so all bets are off. But he took the role seriously, which is good. Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham of Above the Law (1986) fame is here as an inmate named Champ. Though he’s not credited in the film, we strongly believe Ian Jacklin is on board as well, as one of the Aryans, or, as they call themselves, “Scooter Trash”. I know, I don’t get it either.

The movie is entertaining, and, for its kind, surprisingly well-written. There was an attempt to be serious here and deal with real issues. We felt that was done well and an interesting change of pace. The pace was to be changed once again with the fourth Bloodfist film, whose tone is much lighter. 

The tradition of the actor/fighter’s championship titles appearing along with their credit is maintained, Eric Lee helped with the fight coordination, and the Michael Elliott score is worth pointing out as well. Also, for movie night, the prisoners all watch TNT Jackson (1974). That probably wouldn’t occur today. In actuality, a lot of the prison scenarios here aren’t completely realistic. But hey, Wingate is a new kind of prison.

This Don the Dragon prison film under the Bloodfist banner is worth seeing.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Phantom Soldiers (1987)

Phantom Soldiers (1987)-* * * *

Directed by: Teddy Page

Starring: Max Thayer, Jack Yates, Corwin Sperry, Jim Gaines, David Light, Richard King, and Mike Monty

A big thank you to Sutekh from Explosive Action for providing us a copy! Here is a link to his review.

***500th Review***

During the Vietnam war, Green Beret Lt. Michael Custer (Sperry) and some of his fellow soldiers go MIA. Custer’s brother, Texas Ranger Dan Custer (Thayer) wants answers, so he travels to the border of North Vietnam. What the Custer brothers don’t know, is that they’re up against the Phantom Soldiers - terrifying, seemingly invincible, remorseless killing machines. They wear gas masks with weird protrusions and have heavy arms. They kill, destroy and explode everything in their path, and no one is safe. Can the Custers, or the entire U.S. Army for that matter, stop them? And where did they come from? What do they want? The secrets of the mysterious Phantom Soldiers will be revealed...

This is the ultimate Exploding Hut movie. You think you’ve seen exploding huts before? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Phantom Soldiers is a feast of massive explosions, constant shooting, guard tower falls and countless deaths. The opening sequence alone is mesmerizing and must be seen. Director Teddy Page was surely in a state of grace when he executed this brilliant sequence.

While the opening sequence is definitely a movie highlight, there’s still plenty of awesomeness on show for the rest of the film. Max Thayer, who must have it written into his contract that he won’t appear in a movie unless thousands of people die - remember this is the guy from No Dead Heroes (1986) - plays a Texas good ole boy with plenty of Dan Rather-style down-home expressions. Interestingly, Phantom Soldiers marries the over-the-top violence with an interesting concept, as well as subtle comments on war. That keeps it from becoming the mindless shooting we always see. Just a dash of originality goes a long way. You won’t forget the Phantom Soldiers.

A true cult rarity, Phantom Soldiers never received a VHS release in America, and as of this writing, has also not received a DVD release. More people stateside should know about this movie. People should have been talking about it since the 80’s, but it never entered our consciousness because in this country, it’s as “MIA” as Mike Custer.

Speaking of which, Sperry as Mike Custer resembles Sgt. Slaughter. No one really talks about Sgt. Slaughter anymore, which is a shame, and, seeing as how this movie is filled to the brim with 80’s awesomeness, the legendary wrestler was surely an influence. 

The funny acting/dialogue/dubbing we’ve come to love in these Philippines-shot productions is clearly on display, along with the ever-present high-quality blow-ups. The choice to name our heroes “Custer” has some interesting historical connotations - was this done on purpose? (Side Note: Hal Moore, the Vietnam hero immortalized in the film We Were Soldiers, headed up the First Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry, the same as George Armstrong Custer).

Nonstop action, ultra-violent in a Wardogs (1986) sort of way, and just plain badass in every manner imaginable, make sure you see Phantom Soldiers.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Driven To Kill (1991)

Driven To Kill (1991)-*1\2

Directed by: John Gazarian

Starring: Jake Jacobs, Michele K. McNeill, Darlene Landau, and Chip Campbell 

A Big Thank you to The Goodkind of Lost Video Archive for lending us the cover art! Here is an link to his review.

JB (Campbell) is the boss of a drug-running motorcycle gang. After a shootout with the Mafia, they steal four million dollars in drug money and are now on the run in the California/Nevada desert. Meanwhile, Harry (Jacobs) and Vivian (McNeill) are a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. In an attempt to save their relationship, they pack up their station wagon and head to Reno, Nevada. One night, Harry comes across JB’s gang and takes the money. Now the mob is after the motorcycle gang, and the motorcycle gang is after Harry and Vivian. After a lot of mindless shooting, it all comes to a head at an abandoned factory in the extreme heat of the desert. Who will end up with the money?

JB’s crew is certainly a gang of goofs and JB himself looks a lot like Yakov Smirnoff. But he has a lot of great yells. Whose voice it actually is remains open to debate. In fact, the majority of his dialogue is yelling at people and telling them to shut up. Most of the dialogue in the movie is pretty inane. The Harry and Vivian section of the plot is at least an attempt to build some sort of character, which is unusual for this sort of movie. That was appreciated, but Harry is just so annoying you don’t really care anyway. Their constant bickering is irritating and doesn’t exactly make you root for them. One of the main problems with Driven to Kill is that there are no likable characters, with the possible exception of Vivian. The movie needed a strong central character the audience can get behind. And Harry certainly isn’t it. He seems like a reject from Frasier.

Unfortunately, a lot of elements of Driven to Kill are just amateurish. There’s the acting, of course, but the direction and editing needed to be faster paced. The movie just kind of plods along, and at about 105 minutes, is overlong to boot. The fact that the movie is too long enhances the dumbness of it all. You can’t have a movie of that length with nothing to justify it.

On the bright side, we were introduced to such stars as “Jake Jacobs” and “Chip Campbell”. If those names don’t draw you in, nothing will. Interestingly, and perhaps sadly, we now know two low-budget action movie-based Chips: Mayer and Campbell. They should really team up. Write in today for what their movie or potential sitcom could be called.

Featuring the fascinatingly-titled, Kansas-like, should-have-been-a-classic song “Lady in the Night (Lady of the Night)” by Jake Hill, Driven to Kill is what happens when you mix Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) into the DTV crime/shootout scenario. The attempt was worthy, but its success is highly debatable.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


C.I.A. II: Target Alexa (1993)

C.I.A. II: Target Alexa-* *1\2

Directed by: Lorenzo Lamas

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Kathleen Kinmont, Pamela Dixon, Al Sapienza, Larry Manetti, Branscombe Richmond, and John Savage

Since the last “CIA” film, Alexa (Kinmont) has given up working for the government and now relaxes in a small town, content to raise her daughter on a horse ranch. She thought she put her former life behind her, but Graver (Lamas) comes back into the picture. He asks her to infiltrate yet another criminal organization, to get yet another microchip, which would control yet more nuclear weapons. This time around, the main baddie is Franz Kluge (Savage), and his henchmen are Straker (Ryan) and Lana (Fetrick). Will Graver and Alexa be able to work together again to defeat the bad guys? And who can you really trust?

Lorenzo Lamas must really care about the CIA franchise (such as it was at the time) and the character of Graver, because he stepped into the director’s chair for this one. Sure, this movie didn’t really need to be made, as it covers very similar ground to the first film while not being as good - but this movie is a lot funnier than the first one. The dialogue is sillier than ever before and some of the situations are pretty ridiculous. But it all has the backing of the classic PM stuntwork and blow-ups behind it.

Alexa’s daughter has a horse named Fred the Horse, Lamas continues on with his tank top/black hat combos for his wardrobe, and his hair is much funnier and more feminine this time around. It’s truly “dueling ponytails” for both him and Kinmont. John Ryan was last seen as the baddie from American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993), and his name in the film, Straker, is one we’ve seen before (last seen being used by Richard Norton in Raiders of the Sun, 1992). John Savage plays a toned-down, but very similar character to the one he played in Red Scorpion 2 (1994), and he even has some dialogue involving scorpions. Weird, eh? Plus his international criminal organization seems like a boy scout camp, and his minions even dress that way.

Lori Fetrick is mainly known to American Gladiators fans as Ice, and her presence here shows this film as pure 90’s. She looks like Jenna Jameson but with much more ripped arms. I wonder why OJ Simpson didn’t return for this sequel?

While not strictly one of the better PM’s, this does have comedy, chemistry between Lamas and Kinmont, and does have the Lamas you want to see, all told. It has another noteworthy Louis Febre score, plenty of blow-ups and shooting, and is still of a good quality all around.

While it can be confusing trying to determine the difference between “Code Name Alexa” and “Target Alexa”, if you must see only one, go with the first (Code Name). But this one isn’t bad at all, it’s still worth watching. It’s just a little bit unnecessary.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


C.I.A. Code Name: Alexa (1992)

C.I.A. Code Name: Alexa (1992)-* * *

Directed by: Joseph Merhi

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Kathleen Kinmont, Pamela Dixon, Jeff Griggs, Alex Cord, and O.J. Simpson

Mark Graver (Lamas) is a mild-mannered CIA agent but also a man of action. He won’t hesitate to jump into the fray and cut through the red tape. Further evidence that he is cool are his ponytail and constant, well-groomed five o’clock shadow. (Graver’s Chief: “I don’t approve of your methods, but you certainly get the job done”.) Graver gets the assignment of a lifetime when he goes up against a gang of terrorists led by the sadistic Victor Mahler (Cord). These baddies shoot up churches, kill cops and are just plain evil in every regard. And now they want nuclear weapons. To get them, Mahler must get a hold of “The Microchip!” and he will go to any ends to get it.

Meanwhile, cops Murphy (Simpson) and Benedetti (Griggs) are also working the case, and they come across Alexa (Kinmont), a ruthless assassin working for Mahler. Soon, Graver realizes he can use Alexa to infiltrate Mahler’s compound but he must undo her brainwashing. So he basically kidnaps her young daughter and keeps them both at a massive CIA compound. So now the feds, the cops and Alexa must work together to bring down Mahler because Alexa’s daughter, and the fate of the world, are at stake. Will she come through, or revert back to her old ways?

A major plus for this PM production is its fast pace. The movie really zooms by, and no wonder, as it has classic Lamas, Kinmont as a very tough cookie (Lamas and Kinmont together once again), Alex Cord, in a very entertaining manner, chews the scenery, a rockin’ score by Louis Febre, a CIA command center that has it all from martial arts training to a gun range to an upscale restaurant - all in one room, and, last but...actually least - OJ Simpson. What other movie could claim these things?

OJ puts in a mush-mouthed and flat performance, and was seemingly bored. Maybe he had other things on his mind? He does mention how he’d love to “beat the information out of her”, referring to Alexa. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

Away from The Juice, this movie actually has some surprise punchfighting. Mahler is so evil, he stages deathfights at his mansion for his, and his guests’ amusement. One of the fighters’ trunks say the word “kickboxing” on them. Guess who wins the match?

The movie has the fun cliches we all love and enjoy, and a climax at an airport you could never do today. That’s why people keep coming back to movies like this. They represent a different time, and it wasn’t even all that long ago. The world is much more politically correct now, which is a shame. So keep watching 80’s and 90’s action movies.

If you’re a fan of the PM style, you will like CIA Code Name: Alexa.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Death Warrior (2009)

Death Warrior (2009)-* *

Directed by: Bill Corcoran

Starring: Hector Echavarria, Tanya Clarke, Keith Jardine, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Georges St. Pierre, Rashad Evans, and Nick Mancuso

Reinero, aka Ray (Echavarria) is a professional Punchfighter on the big-time Punchfighting circuit. His biggest rival is Wolf Jackson (Jackson). Fight promoters have been touting their upcoming battle, but Ray's wife Kira (Clarke) begs him not to do it. Ray, blithely unaware of any past cliches, says the classic line "just one more fight". Before the match can take place, gangster and self-described "businessman" Ivan Mikhailov (Mancuso) kidnaps Ray and injects Kira with a poison that will kill her in five days. Ivan forces Ray to Punchfight for his life against other meatheads while people bet on this activity over the internet on the website gladiatorchallenge.com. Will everybody love Ray? And can he extricate himself from this dire situation?

Echavarria is hilariously wooden, and he wears the same jacket with a yellow stripe for just about the whole movie. He does a lot of flying kicks. He's somewhat likable, but let's just say his fighting nickname of the "Rain Man" is disturbingly accurate. The rest of the cast is rounded out by monosyllabic meatheads with zero acting ability. Except, of course, for Nick Mancuso, who puts in an awesome performance. His over the top, bug-eyed yelling must be seen. He screams and spits all his lines. His energy is welcome, and his performance, which he easily could have phoned in but for some reason chose not to, saves the movie.

As always, this modern-day Punchfighter is TRYING, but there's too much nu-metal and ADD editing. Unlike Beatdown (2010), you can almost see the fights here for five seconds at a time. How far the fighting genre has fallen. Funny fighter names include Rexx, El Croco, The Shaman, and Kang Lai, who is a "Ninja Master" and, of course, "The Best". The following is a list of quotes from the movie:

"Death matches have been going on since the Coliseum. You were born for it."
"He has yet to taste defeat."
"No man has lived until you stare death in the face."
"When you're in a fight, you always get hit."
"I'm going to SLAY YOU!"
"I will rip your heart apart" ...and the all-time, laugh-out-loud classic:

"Someone's trying to infiltrate the MMA!"

THE MMA? Anyway, on top of all that, the film tries to capitalize on the Saw-like "torture porn" trend. For example, the fighters have to fight while in chains. Call it: "Chain-Fighting". But, inadvertently (?) quoting Wayne Newton from Best of The Best 2 (1990), Ivan yells, "The only rule is...THERE ARE NO RULES!!!!"

Despite its shot-on-video look, Death Warrior provides a few laughs and Nick Mancuso at his best.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty


Never Surrender (2009)

Never Surrender (2009)- * *1\2

Directed by: Hector Echavarria

Starring: Hector Echavarria, Patrick Kilpatrick, Silvia Koys, BJ Penn, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Georges St. Pierre, Heath Herring, and James Russo

"I found something worth fighting for."

Diego Carter (Echavarria) is a world-famous MMA fighter who is enticed by a mannish woman named Sandra (Koys) to join an underground Punchfighting circuit. It is run by the ruthless Seifer (Kilpatrick) - ruthless in the sense that what he's really running is a prostitution ring. He calls them "consorts", and if you win a match, you get a consort, or your opponent's consort, or something like that. It's all just a tawdry excuse to have Skinemax-style softcore porn scenes with plenty of unwanted, un-asked for Hector Echavarria nudity. Ew. All this nonsense leads up to "The Tournament", presumably the ultimate battle for the ultimate consort. Also, Carter falls in love with Sandra. What's REALLY going on?

This movie is like a 90-minute training video for Hector Echavarria. Somehow he was allowed to direct this thing, and it has all the inept editing and strange cuts you might expect. You never see blows connect because there's an unnecessary cut right before the blow lands.Undue emphasis is put on the fact that he uses the late night-advertised product the Perfect Pushup in his training rituals. Echavarria invited all his fighter buddies to be in the movie, whether they belong there or not, and they even go by some of their real names.

In the beginning of the film, two burly men in shorts are grappling, grunting and sweating while a song with the lyrics "45 minutes of Loooove" plays. Then they grab each other's legs for the takedown. Wags who would decry these movies as homoerotic...may have a point here.

Also it should be noted that Diego's "...punches carry the dream of a small child who grew up off the coast of La Plata."

Naturally, The Tournament has "no rules and no referees", and Seifer notes, "is tax free". Is this a comment on today's political landscape? I know I go to modern-day Punchfighters for top-shelf punditry.

Patrick Kilpatrick looks like Howie Mandel now, and screams and yells just like Nick Mancuso in Death Warrior. However, this movie makes Death Warrior look like a masterpiece. James Russo is barely in it, which was a disappointment.On the bright side, Crusher's involved.

Overall, this movie is beyond dumb. Its structure resembles a brainless video game, but with more grunting.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty


Beatdown (2010)

Beatdown (2010)-* *

Directed by: Mike Gunther

Starring: Rudy Youngblood, Susie Abromeit, Michael Bisping, Mike Swick, Bobby Lashley, Heath Herring, Eric Balfour, and Danny Trejo

Brandon (Youngblood) is a tough street brawler whose brother Frankie is killed by gangsters. Now the gangsters are after Brandon for the 40,000 dollars his brother owed. Brandon then flees to a small Southern town where he develops a romance and also lives with his paraplegic father (Trejo). It's not long before Brandon enters the underground Punchfighting circuit where the reigning champion is Victor Dean (Balfour). It turns out the burgeoning romance is with Dean's sister Erin (Abromeit), and Victor's not happy. Brandon moves up the ranks and eventually faces off against Victor. Who will win?

The biggest problem with this movie is the editing. There are weird, unnecessary cuts, as well as puzzling camera zooms and spins. The fights are pretty brutal when you can see them, as there are plenty of blood-soaked fences (yes, fences!) to show the extreme nature of the fighting. Also quite extreme is the now-prerequisite playing of the song "Wildfire in the Streets" by Tommy Fields. Surely the makers of all these modern-day Punchfighters must have known that fans don't watch just one of these things. If you like one, you probably will like them all, and fans would notice the constant reappearance of Tommy Fields.

The plot is also haphazard, as there is a quick setup with the gangster Gino Ganz which kind of falls by the wayside until much later. All the cliches you know and love are present and accounted for - the training sequence and the silly love story, with its insipid dialogue. There's plenty of "Barnfighting", as Southern "redneck" stereotypes are beaten by Youngblood. There's, inexplicably, a TapouT octagon in the middle of a state fair in the deep south. Their tentacles reach from there to prisons everywhere, as Locked Down (2010) proves.

Youngblood is relatively likable, but as you might expect, Danny Trejo is the best actor in the movie. He seems like he doesn't care, but it could be his character.

If only the directing and editing were competent, this would be a not-bad modern-day Punchfighter. As it stands, Beatdown is not really a success.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty


Locked Down (2010)

Locked Down (2010)-* *

Directed by: Daniel Zirilli

Starring: Vinnie Jones, Bai Ling, Tony Schiena, Sarah Ann Schultz, John B. Lowe, Dave Fennoy, Rashad Evans, Lance "The Snake" Cartwright, and Kimbo Slice

 "I'm betting my life on it."

In Chicago's Blackwater state penitentiary (not to be confused with the covert ops organization), mob boss Anton Vargas (Jones), rules the roost. Everyone is on his payroll, including the warden and the guards. He runs Punchfighting matches in the basement of the prison. Meanwhile, undercover cop on the edge Det. Danny Bolan (Schiena) is involved in a drug bust gone wrong where he's framed and mistakenly sent to Blackwater.  While inside, he faces off against Vargas and his Punchfighting minions in order to survive. That includes criminals he himself put in jail.

This modern-day Punchighter is another 90-minute commercial for the TapouT brand. While Circle of Pain (2010) has more TapouT product placement than Locked Down, still, somehow, inmates in a maximum security prison have have TapouT shirts and hats.

These TapouT ( we feel very silly adding that last capital T, just so you know) productions always manage to get one B-list name - in Circle of Pain it was Dean Cain, Beatdown (2010) has Danny Trejo, and here we have Vinnie Jones. He is underused as the baddie, and this role doesn't let him live up to his full potential. He wears the same outfit the whole movie and doesn't say that much. As for Kimbo Slice, the filmmakers tacked on some unrelated plot about him fighting people in Florida. The word "shoehorned" comes to mind here. Tony Schiena is such a meatheady dolt - more than usual - I didn't recognize him at first.

 There are a lot of classic clichés on display: Bolan tells Vargas "we have a lot of history together", the scene where a guard says to the incoming prisoners "this is the end of the line" and "you can't do anything without my say so", and at one point Bolan even says "this might sound cliched, but my father was a cop...my grandfather was a cop..." Also, Bolan's shrew of a girlfriend whining, telling him he can't a be an undercover cop because she never sees him anymore. The lifer/trainer of  the Bolan character, and much more.

Despite some of the negative things we've said so far, Locked Down is really not that bad for a modern-day Punchfighter. These movies hark back to a late 80's/90's style of filmmaking, which is decent, but what ruins that is all the horrible nu-metal music over the top of it all. Tunes such as "Wildfire in the Streets" by Tommy Fields, and other bands such as "Stabbed", "Eject", "Dgat" and others offer their selections as well. The most ridiculous song names a bunch of real-life fighters and how they are all going to, and I quote "pop your hood". What this means exactly is open to interpretation.

 As far as the fights, they have all the slow motion and quick cuts you might expect, as well as the choreographed pulled punches, but at least they seem to be TRYING.

Locked Down is worth seeing if you liked Circle of Pain or other TapouT vehicles. It's more of the same.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty