Hardcase and Fist (1989)

Hardcase and Fist (1989)- * * *

Directed by: Tony Zarindast

Starring: Ted Prior, Carter Wong, Christina Lunde, Vincent Barbi, Tony Zarindast, and Beano

Bud McCall (Prior) is a good cop. But he was framed on a drug charge and sent to prison. The only person that believes he’s innocent is his hot wife Sharon (Lunde). His cellmate turns out to be none other than Eddy Lee (Wong), a trained Martial Artist. Bud’s main goal is to testify against Vincent Ciccetti (Barbi), the man that put him in prison. That would end his nefarious Mafia dealings, as well as clear Bud’s good name. To prevent this from happening, Ciccetti sends out crime lord Tony Marino (Zarindast) and his goons to take down Bud. However, Tony and Bud were in ‘Nam together and have a history. So who will win out: The gangsters over here, the gangsters over there, or the newest, most heroic crimefighting duo in town: HARDCASE AND FIST?

Not to be confused with Hardcastle and McCormick, from the opening shot of Hardcase and Fist, you know you’re in for a completely inept treat. The amateurish cinematic stylings of Tony Zarindast must be seen. While he doesn’t quite reach the heights of fellow traveler Amir Shervan, Zarindast certainly creates a silly world of his own, probably unintentionally.

Ted Prior, in a fairly unusual non-AIP role, has a killer mullet and also sports a beard, which is a change for him. He has strong screen presence as always, but he whispers/mumbles his lines. Add to that the fact that Carter Wong has serious issues with the English language, as does Zarindast, and the sound on this movie is horrible (it sounds like the actors are in a tin can in a bathroom). So from an audio standpoint, Hardcase and Fist leaves a lot to be desired. On the pure stupidity factor, this movie is pretty high up there - for the prison sections of the film, try to imagine a DUMBER Bloodfist 3 (1992). Let’s just put it this way: The warden’s name is Borden. That’s right, Warden Borden. The sight of this man certainly would strike fear into the heart of any new prisoner.

As far as Carter Wong is concerned, despite  his English deficiencies, he more than makes up for it with a panoply of hilarious faces and gestures, not to mention noises. It seems he can’t hit an opponent without belting out a hearty “Bllooooaaeeeeeaahhhh!!!!” As far as his acting ability, he’s from the same school as Leo Fong and Don "The Dragon" Wilson in the wooden-monotone sweepstakes. However, it’s great company to be in. Plus, there’s a pre-Mike Tyson ear bite. So...there’s that.

The eternal question of who exactly was the boss on “Who’s The Boss?” kept viewers debating for years with their own theories, which kept the show going in the hearts and minds of viewers for decades, ensuring its longevity. It truly was a shrewd move for the writers of that show. Truly Tony Zarindast had the same ploy in mind for the power-team of Hardcase and Fist, because it is never actually explained who is Hardcase and who is Fist. Neither of those names are uttered in the movie. So it is up for viewer debate: Is Ted Prior Hardcase? Or is he Fist? What about Carter Wong? He makes a good (hard)case for having the title of Fist...or maybe it’s a surprise move: TONY ZARINDAST! Or maybe it’s Beano as Bruno (don’t you dare confuse them). We welcome your theories on why you think who is who.

Other highlights include a killer aerobics scene (we’re suckers for those) and the great song by Debbie Tucciarone, “I’ll Be Coming Back”. Also, Fritz Matthews is credited as a stuntman.

For a funny, ridiculous good time that only could have been confected in the golden year of 1989, and released by Forum on VHS back in the day, don’t hesitate to pick up Hardcase and Fist.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Strike Commando (1987)

Strike Commando (1987)-* * * *

Directed by: Bruno Mattei

Starring: Reb Brown, Edison Navarro, Luciano Pigozzi, Alex Vitale, and Christopher Connelly

"He's A War Machine on the Warpath!"

Sgt. Michael Ransom (Brown) is THE BEST. He’s the finest example of an American soldier...maybe ever. He goes behind enemy lines to rescue some Vietnamese civilians, and even becomes friends with a young boy, Lao (Edison Navarro). His guide in this rough terrain is Frenchman Le Due (Pigozzi) - but maniacally evil Russian Jakoda (Vitale) will stop at nothing until he tortures and kills his nemesis, the “Americanski”. And even though Col. Radek (Connelly) may have suspicious motives, nothing, and we mean NOTHING - will stop this true American hero from getting revenge on the baddies. One way or another, you WILL pay Ransom.

Now THIS is what Comeuppance Reviews, as a website and as an overall entity in the universe, is all about. Ignore anything negative you may have read about this great movie. For pure, uncut, unadulterated entertainment, this level of awesomeness is possibly only rivaled by Deadly Prey (1987). This movie gives jungle action movies a GOOD name. It has countless, high-quality explosions, guard tower blow-ups/falls, non-stop action, stunts, and shooting, waterfalls, and of course the prerequisite torture scene. But it has a ton of weird/funny/off-kilter moments that truly make it rise above the pack. We won’t spoil them for you here, but trust us, you will love this movie and you have to find it if you don’t already own it.

While we also strongly support the later collaboration between the great Reb Brown and director Bruno Mattei, Robowar (1989), we believe this is the superior team-up of the two men. If you can’t get enough of that trademark Reb scream, you won’t be disappointed, as he really yells it up here. That includes a specific line reading of his enemy’s name, “Jakoda”, that you won’t soon forget. Probably because your ears will be ringing for days afterwards. But yet, Reb displays his sensitive side here too. For all his ultra-macho shirtless carnage, his relationship with Lao is tender and even tear-jerking. Lao wants to go to Disneyland where the popcorn grows on trees. For some reason, this really appeals to him. But, you see, Ransom is not an inhuman monster like Jakoda. He may have killed a few thousand people, but he’s a real human being who you grow to love. You definitely want Ransom on your side. God help you if you get on his bad side.

Like Jungle Assault (1989), the soundtrack is inappropriately 80’s  (it being the Vietnam war and all) - but here the music cues are just so great it doesn’t even matter. The soundtrack by Lou Ceccarelli is pure genius. It features a killer opening song and it doesn’t stop there. Nintendo was huge at the time, and the music plus the action is almost like a live-action Contra movie. It truly is violent 80’s heaven that you can really sink your teeth into. Is there a CD of this? 

The worst thing you could say about this masterpiece is that the editing can be a bit choppy at times, but even that adds to the overall charm. Strike Commando delivers the goods in spades. Rock on!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Death Of A Soldier (1986)

Death Of A Soldier (1986)-* * *

Directed by: Phillipe Mora

Starring: Reb Brown, James Coburn, Bill Hunter and Maurie Fields

In Melbourne, Australia, in 1942, World War II is raging. Thousands of U.S. servicemen are in Australia to help combat the Japanese. But there’s a black sheep among the many uniformed soldiers: Private Eddie Leonski (Brown). It seems Leonski has strangled three local women. This is causing big problems between the Australians and the Americans, who seem only to have an uneasy alliance as it is. This incident could damage relations so badly, the Americans might have to leave, allowing some Japanese victory. So detectives Adams and Martin (Hunter and Fields, respectively), are civilians trying to catch the killer, while the U.S. army is also trying to find him. Among those who want Leonski’s head is Maj. Dannenberg (Coburn). But due to a twist of fate, Dannenberg must defend Leonski when the case goes to trial. Dannenberg then begins to believe that Leonski might not be fit to stand trial, even though many forces want to make him a sacrificial lamb to save face.  Will there really be a DEATH OF A SOLDIER?

Death Of A Soldier isn’t the typical type of film we review - but we checked it out because it stars fan favorite Reb Brown. We’re certainly glad we did, as the film, which is based on a true story, is well-thought out and well-nuanced. It has great period detail in the production design, but also from a scriptwriting perspective, it explores the tensions between the Australians and Americans during a time when everyone was on edge, but without showing either side as a caricature. The movie gets into moral, legal, political and personal sides to the Leonski case in a way that is skillful and never jumbled. Truly this is a movie worth seeing.

Reb Brown is perfectly cast as the big lummox Leonski. One minute he’s sweet and innocent, another he’s a menacing serial killer. He plays the role with a lot of sensitivity and understanding. It really shows that Brown can act and should have had the starring role in more movies. Those who only know him from his more meathead-y roles should really see his fine performance here. Even still, in this more “serious” role, he does his trademark scream. But to counterbalance his more wild side, he also sings. James Coburn puts in a very human performance as well, and his weighty presence anchors the movie. We also loved the perpetually grumpy Australian cops, and pretty much everyone involved fits and does a great job.

When we first found this movie, we thought that because it is a movie that came out on VHS in the 80’s and had Reb Brown, it was going to be a Vietnam shoot ‘em up. But really it’s a quality mystery-drama. But it even has some mild horror elements. Leonski compares himself to Jekyll and Hyde, specifically pointing to a movie poster for the Spencer Tracy version of the film. Further driving home the theme of the psyche with two sides, he also compares himself to a werewolf. Interestingly, director Philippe Mora the next year directed Howling III (1987) - and Reb himself was in Howling II (1985). Coincidence? But Mora uses close-ups (an especially memorable one of Frank Thring of Man From Hong Kong, 1975 fame stands out) and odd angles to flesh out the story of Leonski psychologically. It’s a shame he went from well-handled material like this to utter dreck like Mercenary 2 (1999). It happens, we suppose.

Released on Key Video here in the U.S., Death Of A Soldier is recommended, simply because it’s a well-made historical drama that’s thought-provoking. And where else will you see Reb Brown and James Coburn together?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Robowar (1989)

Robowar (1989)-* * * *

Directed by: Bruno Mattei

Starring: Reb Brown, Cathrine Hickland, Max Laurel, and Jim Gaines

Major Murphy Black (Reb) and his team are sent into the jungles of the Philippines to track down and destroy a rogue robot.

Much has been made that this is just an Italian knockoff of Predator (1987) and Robocop (1987) (but especially Predator)...that’s all well and good, but, that aside, is this movie worth seeing? The answer is definitely yes! For a movie with almost no plot, it‘s surprisingly fast-paced, and rather than have a lot of dialogue, it’s mainly yelling and shooting machine guns. However, there are some gems, such as “You walk like a ruptured duck!”. Maybe something was lost in translation, but we’re sure glad it was. There are other silly one-liners, but this was our favorite.

Fan-favorite Reb Brown is out in force here - looking especially ripped in his child-size half-shirt, he gets to command his team with his trademark screams. But let’s not forget about the cool nicknames of the people he’s stranded in the jungle with - “Blood”, “The Hunter” and “Papa Doc”. Naturally, they were picked for this mission because they’re “The Best”. As for the robot, we get some pixelated “robo-vision”, and it seems like a guy in a motorcycle outfit. But he also has a confused, scrambled, “robo-voice” as well, which seems heavily influenced by Buck Rogers’ Twiki and his famous “bidi bidi bidi”. It doesn’t exactly inspire terror, but hey, who’s to say how we’d feel if we were in that situation?

As if this wasn’t awesome enough, the robot can shoot lasers. Of course, they’re of the “pew pew” variety! That alone raises the coolness quotient of this movie. And because this never received a VHS release in America (maybe they didn’t want to roll the dice with rights issues?), we were sadly deprived of this minor gem in the 80’s and 90’s. Honestly, it’s still pretty hard to find, presumably having been released largely in Japan and Italy, and we thank Sutekh over at Explosive Action for hooking us up with a copy.

If you ever wished Predator was an Italian-made Exploding Hut movie shot in the Philippines, and had a robot instead of a “Predator”, this is surely the movie for you. Featuring a great synth score by Al Festa and released in the golden year of 1989, Robowar is shameless...ly entertaining fun.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Killing Streets (1991)

Killing Streets (1991)-* *

Directed by: Stephen Cornwell

Starring: Michael Pare, Jennifer Runyon, and Lorenzo Lamas

Chris Brandt (Pare) is a high school basketball coach from Ohio. His brother Craig (also Pare) is a Marine who was kidnapped by Lebanese terrorists. Running into a wall of red tape from the government, Chris travels to Lebanon to fight the baddies and rescue his brother. Once in Lebanon, he teams up with the classic wacky taxi driver to get results. He also finds time for a romance with government employee Sandra Ross (Runyon). But Charlie Wolff (Lamas) keeps telling Chris to go away and mind his own business. Will the Brandt brothers make it out of the middle east alive?

Here we have some classic Michael Pare woodenness - times two! Anyone who’s seen any of the five Van Damme movies where he plays a dual role knows that it’s done in the classic “Patty Duke Show” way where you see the back of one’s head, etc. Double Impact (1991) is probably the best example of that. But like we said for that film, “Double the Van Damme, Double the Running Time”, and that’s exactly the case here. Killing Streets is way too long at almost two hours. This extensive length not only tests the audience’s patience, but we would care more about the proceedings if it was at a sensible running time. 

But our theory about this is, movies like Killing Streets are primarily made for overseas audiences, especially in depressed countries. These people don’t want to go back to their miserable lives, so every second counts when they’re sitting in a darkened theater trying to forget their troubles. So they demand longer movies as a longer escape. And Golan (of Golan & Globus fame) certainly delivers that.

Pare looks like Michael J. Fox as Alex P. Keaton, Lorenzo Lamas doesn’t do all that much but he has a spiffy haircut and an unnecessary southern accent, and the wacky taxi driver is a little less wacky this time around. The main baddie should have been MORE of a baddie, and he also should have been played by Adrien Brody. Killing Streets is an exact cross of two other Pare vehicles: Deadly Heroes (1993) and Instant Justice (1986) . It has the same middle east locations as 'Heroes but almost the same plot as 'Justice. In Instant Justice he’s looking for his sister. In Killing Streets he’s looking for his brother. Did they think fans wouldn’t notice the difference?

Interestingly, BJ Davis of Laser Mission (1989) and White Ghost (1988) fame was the stunt coordinator and second unit director on this film. And what action there is, is good - there should have been more of it. But they should have cut a lot of other stuff to make room for it. Don’t get us wrong, there are some cool parts in Killing Streets, but it’s an 85 minute plot stretched out to the breaking point.

Killing Streets isn’t bad, it’s just too long.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Short Fuse (1986)

 Short Fuse (1986)-* * *

AKA: Good To Go

Directed by: Blaine Novak

Starring: Art Garfunkel, Harris Yulin, Robert DoQui, and Richard Brooks

In Washington, D.C. in the 1980’s, Go-Go music was huge. Go-Go is an urban cross between funk, R&B, soul and dance music with extended songs meant for the largely African-American audiences to dance the night away to. Some of the most famous practitioners of this genre of music include Trouble Funk, Redd & The Boys, and Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers. Max (DoQui) is a music impresario and label head who is trying to make this music go global and has a large record deal in the works for Redd & The Boys.  

Spoiling this dream, a rape and murder occurs outside a club that caters to the music, called, you guessed it, The Go-Go. Or did it? Trying to get to the truth, alcoholic newspaper reporter S.D. Blass (Garfunkel) calls Chief Harrigan of the local police precinct. Harrigan leads Blass to believe Chemist (Brooks) was involved in the crime. But along the way, Blass befriends Chemist’s little brother Beats (Daughtry) and begins to question Harrigan and his motivations. After a lot of chaos and confusion, Blass begins to sort things out - but he’s going to have to do it fast before a race riot occurs in D.C. Can he do it?

Please read in a gravelly, portentous, gravely serious Don LaFontaine-like movie trailer announcer voice: Art Garfunkel. Has a: SHORT FUSE. Coming this summer. When we think of actors that could be chosen for the lead role in a movie entitled Short Fuse, names like Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson or Jason Statham come to mind. But for some reason yet to be fathomed by mankind, they chose noted badass Art Garfunkel for the role. And true to form, in this movie he’s such a wet noodle that he makes Toby from The Office look like The Ultimate Warrior. But in all fairness, this movie was originally titled Good To Go (and characters do say that a lot and there’s a song of the same name on the soundtrack as well).  Adding weirdness to inappropriateness, the main thrust of this movie is urban, street-level crime, in the era of boomboxes, graffiti and Kangol hats. Again...Art Garfunkel? But seriously, we could see what they were thinking because “Bridge Over Troubled Water” has some fresh beats.

And if they were so gung-ho for Garfunkel, why hire Harris Yulin as the only other White guy in the cast? They look very, very similar. So much so it’s hard to tell them apart in some scenes. But the tell is Garfunkel’s bizarre combover. It makes Donald Trump’s look positively normal by comparison. Plus the movie has a lot of product placement for Pepsi. It’s practically a 90-minute commercial for Pepsi. But it’s hard to imagine the Pepsi people being very happy that a movie about a drug-fuelled rape and murder with a bunch of shootouts and car crashes is so tied in with their product.  That observation aside, by far the best thing about Short Fuse is not, as you might expect, the length of the fuse of one Arthur Ira Garfunkel. It’s the music!

In all seriousness, the soundtrack and the live performances are uniformly excellent. All the bands mentioned above are excellent, both musically and from a showmanship perspective. We really were dancing in our seats! As a concert film documenting the Go-Go phenomenon, Short Fuse is actually an important “Art”-ifact. Robert DoQui, who was in Diplomatic Immunity (1991), and resembles Richard Roundtree but is an accomplished actor in his own right, is always worth seeing, as is future Law & Order star Richard Brooks, who also appeared in Shakedown (1988). Short Fuse is listed in some sources as a “concert drama” and seems to be little-seen, even though it was released on the Vidmark label. But the cast, as well as the musical performances keep it from ever getting boring.

Witness Art put the “funk” in “Garfunkel” and watch this oddity today!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Ultimate Fight (1998)

The Ultimate Fight (1998)-*1\2

Directed by: Ernie Reyes Jr.

Starring: Ernie Reyes Jr., Corin Nemec, Ernie Reyes Sr., and Kimo

When Pinoy (Inocalla), a Martial Arts fighter, leaves his home country of the Philippines for the first time and heads to Seattle in America, he gets more than he bargains for. He ends up meeting Jesse (Reyes Jr.) and befriending him, and ends up in his circle of buddies, all of whom love Martial Arts. But there’s a problem: a man who just happens to be named Hitler (Nemec) is a cross-dressing drug kingpin who is using the Crazy Dragons gang to do his bidding. Hitler’s bodyguard is one Kimo (Kimo), a guy who isn’t afraid to use his scary bulk at the drop of a hat. Eventually, Jesse and his buddies must face off against the Crazy Dragons and stop Hitler’s drug running. Can they do it?

With the storyline of the rural Asian fighter coming to the big city and impressing everyone with his skills, try to imagine a much, much, MUCH stupider Ong Bak (2003). The Ultimate Fight is an extremely amateurish, even babyish movie. With its many scenes in the backyard (or interior) of a house, it seems like if you gave a 5 year old a crayon and paper and asked him to write a movie script, and the kid was into Karate, this movie would be the result. 

The Ultimate Fight suffers from many things: its low budget, a horrendously written script, stilted performances and disjointed editing. We seriously want to give every benefit of the doubt to this movie, but the weight of its sheer dumbness is overwhelming.

As for Corin Nemec...maybe Parker Lewis couldn’t lose, but Nemec certainly can. His self-consciously “wacky” performance is not quirky, it’s just annoying. His over-the-top mugging gets tiresome fast. His hand movements even have that cartoonish “whooshing” sound, but it’s just insulting to Isaac Florentine. But it might be all worth it for a scene where he’s talking to his African-American drug associate on the phone, and he says, in a cool, casual and laid-back tone, “Hitler, my man.” It’s not everyday you hear those words coming from a Black man. Nemec’s performance might be at home in a Troma movie. To see an awesomely OTT performance, check out Sam Jones in In Gold We Trust (1991).

In the positives column, there is some cool Martial Arts, including some stick-fighting, and they even use the term Arnis, which we learned when we watched the movie of that name. There are a couple of classic meatheads, including a goon with a face so square he gives Howie Long a run for his money. There’s a scene in a game room which is cool because our hero uses all the things in the room to fight the baddies, including a pair of cleats, leading to the new phenomena of “Cleatfighting”. In the plot department, there’s some half-hearted attempts to add some Jesus references, but none of that makes much sense. But that’s the overall problem. The Ultimate Fight becomes hard to watch because it’s not really a cohesive movie, it’s more a collection of random scenes that aren’t connected to anything.

This movie was originally entitled The Process, and when you watch it that makes sense because characters say those words many times. But it was retitled to cash in on the emergence of UFC at the time, which Kimo was involved in. The box art features the classic The Wild Pair (1987)-esque formula of son-funny name-father: in that case it was Beau Bridges-Bubba Smith-Lloyd Bridges, now it’s Ernie Reyes Jr.-Kimo-Ernie Reyes Sr. Plus the tape is printed in this weird gloss that makes it hard to read, but somehow they managed to paint/superimpose a knife in the hand of a certain character. But it’s not all bad, as there is a trailer on the tape for the Steve Guttenberg vehicle Airborne (1998).

We can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, but The Ultimate Fight might work for you if you’re in dire need of some “Kimo-therapy.”

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


City Limits (1984)

City Limits (1984)-*

Directed by: Aaron Lipstadt

Starring: John Stockwell, Rae Dawn Chong, Robby Benson, Kim Cattrall, Darrel Larson, and James Earl Jones


In the future, two rival gangs are vying for turf: the Clippers and the DA’s. Lee (Stockwell) leaves his rural life behind and heads to the big city to be part of the action, and gets embroiled in the gang warfare. Mainly this includes riding around on modified motorbikes and wearing silly outfits. But their masks are pretty cool. Even more trouble forms in the guise of Carver (Benson) who wants to control the city, or possibly the world, and is willing to use the gangs towards his evil ends, even pitting them against each other. Will Lee and his buddies prevail?

At the outset of this movie, we’re informed that what we’re seeing is “fifteen years from now”, but the Vestron VHS box tells us the movie takes place in the distant future of 2003. But one character’s Masters of the Universe coat really tells us what decade we’re in. But apparently Steven Seagal’s personal style had an impact, as a lot of people in the future wear fringed jackets. 

While City Limits isn’t quite in Shredder Orpheus (1990) territory, it is a bit reminiscent of Wired To Kill (1986). These are not favorable comparisons, as this movie seems like it could have been directed by Albert Pyun. When are filmmakers going to learn that annoying characters doing annoying things does not a movie make, and you cannot skip character development. Isn’t that movie-making 101?

This movie makes no sense, and it’s hard to imagine anyone, whilst making it, thinking it was a good idea, much less NOT a total waste of everyone’s time, but here you go. It’s total shelf-filler tailor made for the expanding video store market in the 80’s. It seems only the Italians can make entertaining post-apocalyptic movies. 

Basketball fans may get a kick out of the fact that one of the roving street gangs in this movie are called the Clippers, but it falls on deaf ears for mostly everyone else, including us. Also Robby Benson does what we call a “sit-down” role, where a character never moves from his seat.

Why did James Earl Jones agree to be in this? Sure, this movie may be boring, pointless and adds nothing new whatsoever to the post-apocalyptic genre, but the filmmakers were shrewd enough to realize Jones has a commanding voice, so they had him narrate this slog. 

Seeing as how it was the 80’s, and JEJ wears this brown fur coat in the movie, and how he’s the narrator of course, only one thing comes to mind: Teddy Ruxpin. But this movie is an insult to Mr. Ruxpin as whoever wrote the cassette that was placed in James Earl Jones did a horrible job. Only Jones’ professionalism prevails.

It’s easy to see why MST3K chose to do this movie. It’s just weak on pretty much every level.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)-* * *

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg 

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Larry Poindexter, Michelle Botes, Gary Conway, and Jeff Celentaro

It’s easy to see why people have such fond memories of the American Ninja series after watching this enjoyable movie.

Sgt. Joe Armstrong (The Dude) and Sgt. Curtis Jackson (James) return, this time sent to a Caribbean island to find some missing Marines.  What they find defies all their expectations, as the super-evil villain known as “The Lion” (Conway) is breeding a new race of genetically-modified superninjas. Now Armstrong and Jackson must fight their way through them to save the day, and shut down the nefarious operation. Can they do it?

Because it takes place in a sun-drenched location, the visuals are bright and appealing. When our two heroes fight the evil ninjas, they don’t need a lot of fancy tools and tricks - just, in the case of Jackson, red shorts, and Armstrong, a Body Glove wetsuit. This REAL sequel (as opposed to the miserable American Ninja 5, 1993 thankfully Cannon didn‘t decide to go all “30% new footage” on us) delivers the goods, as it doesn’t retread the first film, but still provides all the best elements that fans want to see: cool stunts, well-timed moves, barfights, chases, blow-ups, tasteful humor, and Dudikoff’s cool hair. It certainly goes in the right direction, as the alley fight sequence about 48 minutes in proves.

It was the 80’s, and the idea to set the movie in “paradise” (supposedly “The Lion” owns a place called “Blackbeard Island”) was a natural one. You have to remember, this was at the height of party-animalism. People were cutting loose. Now add to that some out-and-out ninja fighting, and the chemistry between Dudikoff and James and you have a winner. The icing on the cake is the violence, which is brutal at times, but it’s FUN brutality. The whole movie has a sense of fun to it, which is refreshing, and due in large part to the underrated Steve James. He looks like he’s having a blast. James should be more well-known by the general public.

While the movie is highly entertaining, the worst thing you can say about it is that it hits a bit of a slump pre-climax. It’s a fairly common problem, but the sawdust-covered arena where the final battle takes place is an ideal location for the inevitable “Confrontation” we were promised in the movie’s subtitle.

The time flies by as you watch American Ninja 2 because it satisfies all your action needs.  If you haven’t already, pick it up today!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Airborne (1998)

Airborne (1998)-* *

Directed by: Julian Grant

Starring: Steve Guttenberg, Kim Coates, Colm Feore, Torri Higginson, Philip Akin, and Sean Bean

"Pray It Doesn't Land..."

Bill McNeil (Guttenberg) is the head of a Special Ops team known as “Mach 1”. His compatriots are Sara Gemmel (Higginson) and Romeo Cortez (Akin). There’s an evil canister with an evil virus that a lot of evil people want to do evil things with. Head of said evildoers is the ominously-named Dave Toombs (Bean). When certain people end up dead, McNeil thinks it may be an inside job. So he goes on the run with Gemmel to get to the truth. Also Colm Feore and Kim Coates are on board.

Airborne is an unintentional (?) laugh riot. One of the main things that makes it funny is not just the presence of Steve Guttenberg, but his gruff, overly-serious performance. Obviously trying to shed his Police Academy “Mahoney” image, The Gute opts for an unshaven, laconic, cliche-action-hero style. Just check out the way he does a simple task like answer the phone. The phone rings. There is a pregnant pause as Gute takes the phone off the receiver. There is another pregnant pause before he speaks. Then, in a low, portentous, drawn-out tone, and speaking as if his throat is filled with gravel, he simply says, “Yeah”. While it may seem like nothing, this scene brought the house down with laughs. So that’s a microcosm of what to expect in Airborne, the movie that takes itself wildly seriously, even though it’s a shot-in-Canada, cliche-ridden turkey with bad sound, low production values and CGI airplanes.

In fact, while there is low-key, “smoldering” (harsher minds might say “emotionless”) acting by just about everyone involved, the movie could have used more Sean Bean. He is a bright spot in this dour production, and Kim Coates also tries to inject any energy he can, but it’s to no avail. You’d think the power team of Steve Guttenberg facing off against Sean Bean is the match-up the world has been waiting for - and it clearly is - but somehow Airborne doesn’t capitalize on this meeting.

And while Gute’s co-star Higginson resembles a DTV Sigourney Weaver, it’s hard for her to compete with his slow-motion, “cool” walking and other “cool” activities like putting on/taking off sunglasses. In fact, the importance he places on this action predates David Caruso and CSI Miami.

Plus you know it’s the 90’s because of the high-waisted jeans and unnecessary, Tarantino-esque cultural references. Also Sean Bean has an intimidating bad-guy mullet. But the Mach 1 team wears some impressive outfits: helmets that look like they are from the 80’s Laser Tag competitor Photon, and head-to-toe spandex. There’s one disturbing scene in particular where Guttenberg’s spandex pants don’t leave much to the imagination and...yecccchhh.

So while wags might say this is just another stupid, brainless ripoff of The Rock (1996) that is so riddled with cliches it can’t possibly add anything new to the genre, we say it’s the most dramatic retelling of the story of how that teacher invented his own cold medication yet put to film.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


American Ninja 5 (1993)

American Ninja 5 (1993)-*

Directed by: Bobby Gene Leonard

Starring: David Bradley, Pat Morita, Lee Reyes, Anne Dupont, Clement von Franckenstein, and James Lew

Did you know there is an American Ninja FIVE? Apparently there is, even though it was meant to be something called American Dragons and perhaps they didn’t want to confuse it with the other, better movie of the same name.

In this anti-climactic ending to the American Ninja franchise, David Bradley plays Joe Kastle (not Davidson as in prior A.N. films), a guy who lives on a boat and likes to work out. One day, Master Tetsu (Morita) pawns off his “grand-nephew” Hiro (Reyes) on Joe and leaves to go to Greece for a vacation. While Joe is learning to cope with babysitting this annoying brat, it turns out that his new girlfriend Lisa (Dupont) is kidnapped by the evil Viper (Lew) and his gang of ninjas. Viper works for the nefarious Glock (von Franckenstein), a man who is using scientists to develop an insecticide named ZB-12. Lisa’s father is a scientist but refuses to work on the potentially dangerous project. So Joe and Hiro must go through a bunch of travails in Venezuela to rescue Lisa who is kidnapped there. Along the way, Joe and Hiro forge a friendship based on the ways of the ninja.

Rather than be loyal to the fans that have followed the series through the years, Cannon pawns this juvenile, watered-down, PG-13 rated dreck on the audience like Pat Morita does his bratty relative onto David Bradley in this patience-testing exercise.

Bradley is likable enough and he looks like a young Craig Ferguson, although he is your classic action movie dum-dum. His young foil is another matter. Hiro is a precocious 12 year old whose presence in this movie is not needed. He says “whoa!” while Bradley fights the baddies, who are purple, green, and white ninjas, as if this was a video game. Speaking of which, Hiro’s Game Gear plays a surprisingly big role in this film. Hiro has a matching Miami Dolphins baseball cap/coat and, sadly, brings this movie into the current “ADD generation”.

 The movie as a whole could have been better, even if it was aiming more for the family market, but this Hiro kid gets on your nerves. Plus the whole daughter/scientist father aspect was already done in American Ninja 2 (1987). Couldn’t they come up with something new? It’s director Leonard’s only movie to date and you think he would be familiar with past entries in the series, but maybe he never watched them. That’s certainly what it seems like; he didn’t try to impress with his knowledge of past A.N.‘s, that’s for sure...which seems odd. Having American Ninja 5 be the only movie on your resume is indeed a bizarre way to enter movie history. The whole Karate Kid aspect of the film is even further enhanced by the presence of Pat Morita. Did any kid ever see this movie...ever?

The baddies are more interesting, as Glock strongly resembles Bernie Madoff and James Lew’s entrances and exits are by far the best part of this movie. It’s here that this film becomes utterly absurd. They should have gone in that direction more, if you see the movie you’ll know what we mean.

The jaunty flute music enhances the mild nature of the proceedings, and it’s unfortunate that the mighty American Ninja franchise fell victim to the old sitcom trick of “Addakid”, that is, when all the sitcom kids grow up and aren’t cute anymore, to simply add a newer, younger, cuter kid regardless of whether it makes sense plotwise. It’s an ignominious way for this beloved series to go.

Even though this movie came out in 1993, it looks and seems older, but maybe that’s because it’s pretty lame and impotent, not to mention way overlong.

You’d have to be a die-hard fan of the American Ninja films or any of the actors involved to sit through this insult to people who followed the original four films in this series.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Death Wish V: The Face Of Death (1994)

Death Wish V: The Face Of Death (1994)-* * *

Directed by: Allan A. Goldstein

Starring: Charles Bronson, Lesley-Anne Down, Robert Joy, Kevin Lund, Kenneth Welsh, Erica Fairfield, Chuck Shamata, Miguel Sandoval, Saul Rubinek, and Michael Parks

It seems things are finally going right for Paul Kersey (Bronson). Far from his past troubles, he’s now in the witness protection program, assuming the pseudonym Paul Stuart and the role of architecture professor. He’s engaged to the lovely and successful fashion designer Olivia Regent (Down), and enjoys a great relationship with her young daughter Chelsea (Fairfield). But, once again, problems arise as super-evil gangster Tommy O’Shea (Parks) and his gang of thugs want control of the fashion house, and, oddly, Tommy is Chelsea’s father and wants to take her away. After several events push him to the breaking point, Kersey dispenses his own brand of justice on the bad guys.

Judging by his relationship with Lesley-Anne Down, Paul Kersey’s still “got it”, even at his advanced age. Because the movie is a series of murders surrounding a fashion house, it is reminiscent of the Mario Bava classic Blood and Black Lace (1964). Interestingly, neither in the opening credits or the movie’s trailer is the number five or “V” shown. It simply says “Death Wish: The Face of Death”. The filmmakers were clearly trying to distance themselves from the fact this series, like the aforementioned Bronson, is also reaching an advanced age. Possibly because of this, the filmmakers were forced to make the deaths more creative, so it’s not just shooting all the time. Paul Kersey actually wields that most sinister of all instruments of death: a remote-control exploding soccer ball. Because of this, Kersey’s antics are more reminiscent of Kevin’s injury (or perhaps death)-inducing “pranks” in the Home Alone series.

Luckily, however, the movie has a really good pace and is entertaining, so it goes by in a flash. Helping that is Michael Parks as O’Shea, who resembles Adam West, and his goons, such as Chicki (Lund) and all the other baddies who all let out silly yells during the action scenes.  Adding to the silly factor, besides some of the deaths and yelling, is the fact that it is Canada masquerading as New York.

It was trying for low key, but some of the more ridiculous deaths go against that. We noticed some abrupt cutting during some of the death scenes - we’re not sure, but there is a chance the U.S. DVD is cut.

So, despite some of its sillier elements, Death Wish V: The Face of Death is actually a briskly-paced movie with some pleasantly-familiar faces, and of course it has a strong pro-revenge philosophy behind it. It’s good stuff, especially if you’re in a mood that is leaning towards the more cartoonish side of things.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Hollywood Cop (1987)

Hollywood Cop (1987)-* * * *

Directed by: Amir Shervan

Starring:  James Mitchum, David Goss, Brandon Angle, Julie Schoenhofer, Tony Katsaras, Aldo Ray, Lincoln Kilpatrick, and Cameron Mitchell

John “Turky” Turquoise III (Goss) is the titular Hollywood cop, and you better believe that a. He’s on the edge and b. he plays by his own rules. When Rebecca (Julie Schoenhofer), a woman from a rural area of California, finds out  her son Stevie (Brandon Angle) has been kidnapped by gangsters because her former husband Joe Fresno has made off with six million dollars and the baddies want to exchange the kid for the loot, she comes to “the big city”, Hollywood, California, to right the situation. She quickly runs into Turky (why wouldn’t he be named “Turky”?) and he agrees to help her. Teaming up with his partner Jaguar (Kilpatrick), the duo not only have to face angry chief Bonano (Mitchell) and the questionable fellow cop Lt. Maxwell (Donahue), but they also must do battle with crime lord Feliciano (Mitchum) and his army of goons. Will Turky save the boy and woo his comely mother...all in time for Thanksgiving? Find out today!

God bless Amir Shervan. We should all pause just one minute in our busy lives to honor this great man. He’s an unheralded cinematic genius that has enriched all our lives with awesome entertainment. Both this and Samurai Cop are must-see, one-of-a-kind films. There are many similarities plotwise between his two “Cop” movies...so many that it would be pointless to run them all down, but Samurai Cop (1989) is kind of a remake/re-imagining of Hollywood Cop, and we should all be glad Shervan took this route. If he felt this formula had some more juice, we applaud him for trying it again. We’re just happy he continued/was allowed to make more movies after Hollywood Cop.

Shervan assembled a killer cast this time around to help execute his singular filmmaking vision. David Goss, who has a criminally small filmography, but also appeared in Armed Response (1986), plays the main hero we all want on our side. If only his Samurai Cop counterpart Matt Hannon would team up with Goss in a movie, we’d all be the better for it. Hopefully they’re not rivals. Fan favorite Cam Mitchell appears as the forever-disgruntled police Captain. He puts in an appropriately irritated performance. Remember, he has no patience for Turky’s rogue ways. Troy Donahue is on board as well and it’s nice to see him, and Aldo Ray has one scene as a man inexplicably named “Fong”. He doesn’t seem to be channeling Leo J. James Mitchum plays the gang boss role, and he does a good job, but the kid, Brandon Angle, who plays Stevie, practically steals the movie. He’s a talented child actor that sadly didn’t seem to pursue a career in acting after this. Maybe he figured he couldn’t possibly top Hollywood Cop. He reached the pinnacle of his profession as a tot.

Special mention should also go to Lincoln Kilpatrick as Jaguar, a man with a long and distinguished career that goes back to the 50’s. When he wasn’t starring opposite Charlton Heston in The Omega Man (1971) and Soylent Green (1973), he was playing some of the best BYC’s on film in such classics as the Gary Busey Bulletproof (1988) and the Wings vehicle Deadly Force (1983). The plot of Hollywood Cop basically stops at one point so he can hot-oil wrestle with some bikini’d babes. His name should be more well known.

It’s slightly more coherent than Samurai Cop, but Hollywood Cop truly has it all from an entertainment perspective: the B-list stars you know and love, a killer score (by Elton Ahi), tons of laugh-out-loud moments, sleaze, violence, and top-flight ridiculousness. It’s all pretty inexplicable. The main song, “Restless” by Andy Madadian, is a catchy winner that puts the icing on an already heavily-frosted cake.

When you pop the Celebrity Video VHS in your VCR, there Goss the neighborhood. Don’t be a turkey and check out the awesomeness of Turky tonight!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett