Tornado (1983)

Tornado (1983)-* * *

AKA: The Last Blood

Directed by: Antonio Margheriti 

Starring: Tony Marsina and Giancarlo Prete

 Set during the final days of the Vietnam war, Tornado is the tale of one Sgt. Sal Maggio (Prete), a man embittered by war. Compounding the situation is the hard-ass (to the point of being sinister) Captain Harlow (Marsina). The two men are always at odds, and their conflicts continue to escalate, with a court-martial looming for Maggio. When Harlow’s decisions leave people dead in their wake, Maggio doesn’t take kindly to that. But then he’s captured by enemy forces and tortured. Harlow decides Maggio is a deserter and orders his men to shoot on sight if they see him. Meanwhile, Maggio escapes from his imprisonment and takes revenge on all of those who wronged him.

If it’s anyone who truly understands the Vietnam experience, it’s the Italians. we’re being facetious, but director Antonio Margheriti is amazing and his killer body of work speaks for itself. While his The Last Hunter (1980) is superior to this, Tornado is a decent, watchable Exploding-Hut jungle movie. There are slo-mo runs from explosions (and quality explosions at that),  tons of southeast Asians with those bamboo cylindrical hats bite the dust, stock footage from the aforementioned The Last Hunter, and naturally there’s plenty of shooting, helicopters, and the prerequisite torture sequence. None of it is really new, but it’s not bad.

There’s the time-honored disco scene, which we always love seeing, and because this is an Italian production, they’re going to add a bit of their trademark gore to some of the violent scenes. Here, it’s not over the top however. This movie would seem to be highly influenced by Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), if it didn’t predate it! But its First Blood  (1982) inspirations are made explicitly clear on the movie’s alternate title: The Last Blood. As if that wasn’t enough, check out the burst on the lower right of the box art: “All the action of Rambo - set in the steamy jungles of Vietnam.” Such is the gigantic influence Stallone left on the action genre.

The year following Tornado, Tony Marsina would appear as the title character in Rolf (1984), extending his action cred. Giancarlo Prete (here as Timothy Brent) as Maggio is enjoyable to watch as the unshaven soldier with the big insubordinate streak. It’s pretty surprising his character wasn’t named “Stryker”. Luciano Pigozzi (here as Alan Collins) is an actor who’s been in pretty much every Italian movie...we think it’s been said before, but he’s like the Italian Vic Diaz. Here he gets a reasonably good role as the Hemingway-like war reporter named Freeman.

Released on VHS in the U.S. on the great Lightning label, Tornado features some memorable music, notably the end-credits tune “Holdin’ On” by Chris J. King.  It’s a GOOD movie - not bad, not great - and it lacks many distinguishing characteristics. Thanks to its director and cast, it’s capably handled and rarely boring, but needed something to set it apart.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Warhead (1996)

Warhead (1996)-*1\2

Directed by: Mark Roper

Starring: Frank Zagarino, Joe Lara, Elisabeth Giordano, and Todd Jensen

When the diabolical villain Kraft (Lara) takes over a missile silo and threatens to launch an ICBM at Washington, only one man can stop the madness: Jack Tannen (Zagarino), of course. He assembles a team which includes Jessica Evans (Giordano), an MIT-educated scientist. Kraft kidnapped her father and forces him to help him, so Jessica has her own reasons to go on the incredibly dangerous mission to take down Kraft and his army of no-good-niks. Will Jack and Jessica succeed?

In the first part of Warhead, we can tell director Mark Roper, director of Queen’s Messenger (2001) and Marines (2003), among other DTV action outings, was trying to ground his movie in serious, topical themes. Raw news footage of neo-Nazis and references to such events as Ruby Ridge and the Oklahoma City bombing make the viewer think Warhead is going to be a gritty, “ripped from the headlines”-type film. However, once the silly action scenes begin, and Zagarino and Lara show up, we know we’re in for something else entirely.

The stars (and possibly some of the same sets) of Armstrong (1998) reunite! Zagarino is sub-Lundgren once again, and the dark haired, dark-featured Lara cast as some kind of white supremacist is just odd. Lara’s forced “quirkiness” falls flat. His “seriousness” is, well...not so serious. And if they were going to make his political views abhorrent, they should have done a better job. His positions on taxes seemed right to us. He’s pretty ahead of his time, that Kraft.

Sure, Armstrong wasn’t the best movie in the world, but it had Richard Lynch. Elizabeth Giordano, who teams up with Zagarino all the time (including Deadly Reckoning, 1998), doesn’t add much to the equation. Because Warhead is filled with the aforementioned silly action scenes, as well as goofy dialogue, and relentless cliches, we can honestly say this movie is stupidity at its most dumb.

But it’s important to remember: you absolutely know that going in. Whoever acts shocked that a Zagarino/Lara vehicle is dumb should probably have their head examined. If you’re in the mood for something very dumb, Warhead fits the bill well, because for most of the movie, it’s just stupidly funny and reasonably entertaining. To expect more - or something else - would be wrong.

Somehow, even the Jetskis with missile launchers attached to them seemed too little too late. That being said, the stuntwork should be applauded, but Nu-Image is really hit or miss. They’re not a powerhouse like PM.

If you feel you might have too many brain cells, check out Warhead.

Also check out Direct To Video Connoisseur's take on Warhead!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Subterfuge (1996)

Subterfuge (1996)-* * *

Directed by: Herb Freed

Starring: Matt McColm, Amanda Pays, Jason Gould, Glynn Turman, and Richard Brake

Jonathan Slade (McColm) is a retired Military hero whose current profession is listed as “Beach Bum”. His brother Alfie (Gould) is your classic computer nerd who uses his skills to become a petty criminal. When a plane carrying something valuable (no spoiler alerts here) crashes into the Black Sea, the CIA, and Stallworth Hubbs (Turman) in particular says “Get me Slade!”

So the Slade brothers go to a resort town in Russia to fight the baddies and get the black box of the airplane to try and find some answers. While there, they team up with Alex (Pays), and a series of fights, car chases, underwater scenes, boat chases, and complete silliness ensues.

Subterfuge is a lot of bright, upbeat fun and truly is a rollicking adventure. You know when you see the barfight introducing Slade, which is the wackiest we’ve seen since Radical Jack (2000), that you’re in for a funny good time. Matt McColm is a far better central hero than, say, Frank Zagarino, and his meatheadiness contrasts well with his brother in classic “odd couple” fashion. Jason Gould, the son of Barbra Streisand and Elliott Gould, steals the movie with his quasi-annoying yet somehow likable performance. He resembles Bill Schulz from TV's Red Eye. His scientific ideas sure do come in handy, especially in a scene involving a whale which may be a first in an action movie (or any movie). Amanda Pays does well as the action heroine/love interest for McColm, and Richard Brake as “Pierce Tencil” really throws himself into his role. Director Herb Freed is probably best known for the 80’s slasher Graduation Day (1981), but is also responsible for the Mike Norris vehicle Survival Game (1987).

The movie is filled with funny incidental characters as well, everyone from the standard “wacky taxi driver” to the nightclub singer. Thanks to the humor, as well as some “memorable” editing, Subterfuge is an enjoyable romp. Plus it has great “90’s tech” such as CD-ROM-style computers that beep and make “thwacking” sounds when you use them, as well as 90’s fashion choices like hiked up jeans with a T-shirt tucked in. McColm’s signature fighting move seems to be to fall on his opponent from a high distance up while yelling.

Sure, it may have a low budget (just check out the opening plane sequence with its Star Trek-style camera shaking to indicate turbulence, as well as the plentiful stock footage, the fact that it was released by Platinum Disc, etc., etc, ), but Subterfuge is, against all odds, a winner. For hilariously implausible fun, check out Subterfuge.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Soldier (1982)

The Soldier (1982)-* * *

Directed by: James Glickenhaus

Starring:  Ken Wahl, Joaquim De Almeida, Steve James, Alberta Watson, and Klaus Kinski

Evil Russians steal some nukes, plant them in an oil field, and threaten to detonate them, thereby contaminating a large part of the world’s oil supply. For some unexplained reason, they are anti-Israel bigots who want to move the Israelis off the West Bank. Sadly, The President (that’s actually his credited character name) (Prince) is all too willing to comply. But there’s one more ace up the USA’s sleeve: The Soldier (Wahl). He’s a highly-trained agent who controls a super-secretive and elite unit, and he’s working with the Israelis to save the world.

This movie has a killer opening sequence that really pulls you in. Its themes of terrorism and anti-Semitism (even from the highest levels of government) are, disturbingly, quite relevant and even prescient for today. The Soldier, for all it’s 80’s-style anti-commie plot threads (not that those are a bad thing in any way), was ahead of its time. Plus it has an unbeatable combination of Ken Wahl and Steve James fighting the baddies. So for that alone The Soldier is worth seeking out.

Of course, there is some top-notch stuntwork as well. The ski chase sequence is a movie highlight, and director Glickenhaus must have loved it so much, he also included it in his movie Shakedown (1988). Sam Elliott is watching it in the movie theater. It’s truly Glickenhaus on Glickenhaus. And it’s top-notch Glickenhaus. He’s only directed eight movies, and out of those, The Soldier stands out. He’s adept at action sequences, as amply proven here.

Wahl is cool, and he’s as cool here as we’ve ever seen him. He should have done more projects like this. His sweaters are very stylish and we liked his attitude. As for Klaus Kinski, one of the most underrated actors of all time, he does about a five minute cameo and has no spoken dialogue. Hmmmm...talk about a paycheck role. The Soldier could have been improved if Kinski was the main bad guy and Wahl had to face off against him. That would have been awesome. Chalk that up to a missed opportunity.

Loaded with three of the best things you can ask for in a movie like this: top-quality stunts, over-the-top action violence and 80’s atmosphere, these elements overcome some plot weaknesses. Additionally, the soundtrack by Tangerine Dream rules.

You should definitely enlist The Soldier into your collection.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Devil's Sword (1984)

The Devil's Sword (1984)-* * *

Directed by: Ratno Timoer

Starring: Barry Prima and Advent Bangun


When a mystical, magical and powerful sword is forged from a meteor that crashes to earth, everyone wants to get their hands on it. That includes the evil Banyunjaga (Bangun), as well as a host of other baddies. Luckily, the brave hero Mandala (Prima) is going to try to make sure the sword falls into the right hands. Master Abirama trained both men, but one chose the path of good, and the other evil. Meanwhile, underneath the earth, the Crocodile Queen reigns. She abducts men from the surface world to satisfy her urges. When she spirits away the innocent Sanjaya, his wife, Princess Retaloca hires Mandala to rescue him. Many fights and battles ensue...who will take possession of the DEVIL’S SWORD?

Here we have a wild and wacky Indonesian adventure. It’s impossible not to love the spirit of downright weirdness and the homemade special effects. Sure, the dubbing is preposterous and the many fight scenes are ridiculous, but that’s what is so enjoyable about a gem like this. It shows that every country in the world loves action movies, and what makes this movie so special is that it displays its own ethnic quirkiness and charm onto what they produced. Nowhere else in the world could have produced something like The Devil’s Sword.

Barry Prima deserves more visibility as an action star. In that corner of the globe, he was the man. Some of his movies came out on VHS in the golden age in various countries so people do know who he is. But more of the movie viewing public should be aware of him.

Seemingly inspired by myths and legends, there are some fascinating sets and great costumes. The visuals are great thanks to the organic special effects. The whole thing is exotic, inventive and fun. It’s very entertaining. You gotta give it up to Mondo Macabro for putting this out. Us westerners (or anyone for that matter) are lucky to see this movie. Rapi Films productions never really made it to the U.S. in any significant way back in the 80’s. Thanks to Mondo Macabro and other DVD labels, the world is truly getting smaller and we can see movies we never thought possible.

Beware of crocodile men and stone giants and see The Devil’s Sword.

Also check out our buddy, The Video Vacuum's review!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


L.A. Vice (1989)

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

Directed by: Joseph Merhi

Starring: Lawrence Hilton Jacobs, Jastereo Coviare, Bernie Angel and William Smith

***600th Review***

Chance (LHJ) is a Los Angeles detective who shoots first and asks questions later. When the daughter of a wealthy newspaper magnate named Johnson (Angel) is kidnapped by mobsters who demand millions for her return, the FBI - and Johnson himself - call Chance in on the case. Requesting he have a partner for this operation, he turns to the “only man he can trust” - his now retired Captain, Joe Wilkes (Smith). Wilkes now lives a quiet, peaceful life in a very rural area. He has a Native American friend named Bear (Coviare), and all is right with the world - until Chance shows up asking for his help. 

Shortly thereafter, tired of all the bureaucratic red tape in the LAPD, Chance quits in anger. They were really cramping his style. Johnson hires him on a private basis - so now Chance is rogue and can do whatever he wants. Will his renegade ways land him in hot water? Or will he, perChance, win the day?

Here we have a fairly early PM outing, with all the familiar names behind the camera we all know and love. PM improved on many levels later in its career - but L.A. Vice is like an early album by a band that later got vastly more sophisticated, or even early seasons of The Simpsons or South Park - by later standards they seem primitive, but they were just starting out and had the drive to succeed, and luckily no one pulled the plug so they were allowed to develop and get better.  Sure, this movie has a rock-bottom budget look to it, but it’s more entertaining than many higher-budget productions.

We always love seeing LHJ, and he’s great as the cooler-than-cool cop with tons of smart-aleck comments. He’s too radical for red tape, too badass for bureaucracy, and he lets his marksmanship do the talking. He truly is a rockin’ dude with a bad attitude. We also love William Smith, and the two guys make an interesting pair - Smith is gruff and gravelly (to the point of comical incoherence), while LHJ is slick and streetwise. Regardless of Smith’s occasional unintelligibility, he has a great screen presence and it’s always a treat to watch him. 

Jastereo Coviare, who appears in pretty much all the LHJ PM’s (that’s right, Chance comes back), plays Bear with quiet aplomb (as opposed to Quietfire, 1991, we suppose). Interestingly, when Chance teams up with Bear, the whole “city cop meets rural Native American” thing is strongly reminiscent of the Lou Diamond Phillips film Renegades (1989), which came out in the same year - the magical year of 1989. LHJ and LDP should be in a movie together as cops on the edge. It could be called “Initial Danger” or something to that effect. And one more note about the cast: there’s a cop on Chance’s “team” with amazing hair. You’ll know him when you see him. We’ve seen some awesome hair over the years but...wow. 

So, while L.A. Vice does fall prey to some of the standard low-budget pitfalls, this minor issue is more than corrected by the cast, and the PM team, who turn out an entertaining piece here.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


To The Death (1993)

To The Death (1993)-* *

Directed by: Darrell Roodt

Starring: John Barrett, Michael Quissi, Claudia Udy, Michelle Bestbier, Robert Whitehead, and Ted Le Plat

In this REAL sequel to American Kickboxer 1 (1990), “Quinn” (Barrett) retires from Punchfighting and lives a peaceful life with his beloved wife Carol (Udy). “Denard” (Qissi) is seemingly obsessed with taking on Quinn in one last match (don’t worry, we’re going to explain why the names are in quotes later in the review). Quinn refuses to fight, which upsets maniacal millionaire Dominique Le Braque (Whitehead), who stages fights.  It angers him so much, he kills Quinn’s wife. Now distraught, Quinn hits the skids, living in a seedy motel and drinking himself to death. Preying on Quinn’s new vulnerability, Dominique invites Quinn to live at his palatial estate and train to get back into shape so he can fight and win a lot of money. Quinn agrees, not knowing they are Punchfighting matches...wait for it...TO THE DEATH! (In a slight twist on that tale, you don’t actually FIGHT to the death, if you lose the match, an evil ref just comes in and shoots you in the face.) 

After a some plot padding, Quinn develops a relationship with Dominique’s wife Angelica (Bestbier), and the sinister Dominique doesn’t take very kindly to that. Will Quinn ever escape his clutches?  Or will Quinn don his craziest Punchfighting Pants and fight his way out?

About the names being in quotes above, confusingly, even though there were characters BJ Quinn and Jacques Denard in American Kickboxer 1, Here, for some unknown reason, Barrett here is Rick Quinn and Qissi (a different actor) is some other Denard. Why this happened, we don’t know. Maybe Cannon demanded it.

We like John Barrett, but this movie never really rises above decent. Whitehead as the over-the-top baddie is like some kind of cross between Raul Julia and Tim Curry. He chews the scenery well. Rather than give a thumbs up or thumbs down as to whether the fighter will live, he delicately throws a rose. Now we know where the producers of The Bachelor get their ideas. 

Le Braque even dresses in a Clockwork Orange-style getup. In another absurd device, the ring announcer is none other than a man in harlequin makeup reminiscent of The Joker (he even tells really bad jokes and tries to outdo Whitehead in the crazy sweepstakes). He’s truly one of the original Insane Clown Posse.

Willard the reporter who looks like Owen C. Wilson is back (Le Plat), but presumably it’s some OTHER Willard. Quinn trains for his Punchfighting matches in dress pants, but really, if you look objectively, the Punchfighting in this movie is not that great. Additionally, the plot suffers from all sorts of maladies, but mainly  pacing issues, and the script should have gone through a few more drafts - there’s a good movie in here somewhere but it’s buried in a few layers of crud.

One of the better aspects of this movie, as we’ve seen so many times before, is the title song. The rap by Edward Jordan is a lot of fun. But really, the main flaw here is that the original Jacques Denard did not return. He really brought a lot to the table in the first film.

If you’re just itching to see the continuation of the saga of Quinn, Denard and Willard, by all means, seek this movie out - but as an example of an entirely cohesive film or an example of a great Punchfighter....this sadly isn’t really it.

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

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Postmortem (1998)

Postmortem (1998)-*1\2

Directed by: Albert Pyun

Starring: Charles Sheen and Ivana Milicevic

James McGregor (Charles Sheen) is a former San Francisco cop who is now a celebrity serial killer profiler. He goes to Scotland to discover his Scottish roots and also to try to get away from his demons, which seem to be alcoholism and...well...alcoholism. When a serial killer begins killing the women of Glasgow, at first McGregor is a suspect but then he begins working with the authorities to try to apprehend the evildoer before he strikes again. Will Charles use all his serial killer knowledge to prevent another killing?

Albert Pyun once again proves - as if further proof was needed - that he’s a talentless human being with this dour drama that struggles to hold the viewers’ interest. Sure, it might be a mild improvement on earlier Pyun disasters, but that’s not saying much. The fact that it’s a Charles outing should be another red flag. Of course, once we see him smoking, drinking and acting crazy, we thought Postmortem might be a documentary about Sheen’s life, but that turned out to be a false alarm.

This is a very standard “chasing a serial killer” movie, and this plot has been done countless times, and it was perfected by TV shows like Criminal Minds. Pyun brings nothing new to the table. The Scottish locations are somewhat interesting, and the movie is certainly buoyed somewhat by them and the Scottish actors. But Sheen seems miscast as someone named “McGregor”. It seems to be something of a misuse of Sheen.

Sheen was hitting the skids, Pyun is usually on the skids, and the whole thing is kind of a mess. Postmortem has zero sense of pacing and thus “PostBoredom” is a more accurate name.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Fireback (1983)

Fireback (1983)-* *1\2

Directed by: Teddy Page

Starring: Richard Harrison, Ann Milhench, Jim Gaines, and Mike Monty

Jack Kaplan (Harrison) was a weapons specialist in Vietnam who invented the most awesome gun ever - a gigantic combination grenade launcher/bazooka/missile launcher that’s loaded with other surprises and goodies.  One day he’s showing off his prize possession, and the next he is imprisoned in a P.O.W. camp. When he is released, he finds his beloved wife Diane (Milhench) has been kidnapped. For the remainder of the film’s running time, Jack runs around from place to place beating people up, and avoiding grievous bodily harm by many baddies, while trying to find the whereabouts of his wife. Additionally, the police are after him, and Jack must avoid them as well. The Police Chief (Monty)  - (that‘s his credited name in the film) is spearheading that operation. Will Jack find his wife, and while being shot at every day, will he...FIRE BACK?

A Teddy Page movie shot in the Philippines, starring Richard Harrison and Mike Monty...if you rent or buy FIREBACK, you know what you’re in for: exploding huts and guard towers, oceans of mindless shooting, hilariously hilarious dubbing, and a ton of absurdity. This time around, the exploding hut scenario is married to a revenge plot, so that was a cool twist.  Ann Milhench, who plays Jack’s wife, was in the horrendous Sloane (1984), as well as Nine Deaths of the Ninja (1985). Who knew?

As far as Jack’s super-gun, displayed prominently on the box art, it’s like one of those toys you might have had as a kid - that combination of guns that they would never make today. But at least it’s actually in the movie, however brief. Also as part of Jack’s revenge, he makes a souped-up car version of his old weapon (if that makes any sense). And watch out for the bad guy with the golden claw, as well as Harrison dressing up as a ninja for no explainable reason. I guess he can’t get enough of doing that. But the relative immaturity of Fireback is one of its more endearing qualities.

The many flashbacks and the “lost love” scenario, among other off-kilter elements, give Fireback a somewhat Italian feel, although no Italians were involved. The score is so booming and loud, it gets grating at times, and the dubbing, while entertaining in its own right, contains those voices you’ve heard many times before. Also, after the climax, there is a very stupid and unnecessary on-screen addendum telling us what happened to Jack Kaplan. Why they thought to add this, no one can say. Although Jack’s post-Fireback adventures are still a mystery to us all, so it didn’t even really help.

If you can’t get enough Filipino insanity, Fireback will fit the bill.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Nam Angels (1989)

Nam Angels (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Brad Johnson, Rick Dean, and Vernon G. Wells 

During the Vietnam war, Lt. Calhoun’s (Johnson) men are taken prisoner by a tribal group run by “A mysterious white man” who is also a “round-eye”, named, oddly, Chard (Wells). The top brass considers the trapped men “expendable” but Johnson does the only logical thing: he recruits four Hell’s Angels for a five-day mission and bribes them with millions of dollars of gold dust hidden in the hills of ‘Nam. All they have to do is help Calhoun rescue his men. The ‘Angels reluctantly agree, and there is some trouble and strife along the way, but a badass from West Texas who fights with a lasso and sawed-off shotgun (that would be Calhoun), teaming up with some tough biker dudes is going to be a double-team that will prove tough to beat. Will Calhoun’s gamble work?

At first, this Cirio movie seems to be yet another Vietnam/jungle slog that seems very familiar. But once the bikers come into the equation, things change for the better and you realize that you should be giving the filmmakers points for originality. It was only natural: take two exploitation genres - the (Vietnam) War movie and the Biker movie, and simply find a way to mash them together and make it work. Thankfully, it does, and Roger Corman can put this one in his win column.

Brad Johnson looks like a young Tom Berenger, but this isn’t exactly Platoon (1986). Vernon G. Wells is properly evil, especially with his ponytail. Amidst the classic barfights and “pew-pew!” shooting scenes, at least on the Corman-released DVD we saw, we noticed some odd editing. It looked like the opening credits and perhaps some other scenes were re-edited for this DVD release. We can’t confirm this, and it’s doubtful they cut out anything good, but it would be interesting to see a different print.

If you read our Operation Warzone (1988) review, you’ll remember how we discussed that movie’s highly inappropriate soundtrack, with 80’s synthesizers blaring in ‘Nam. Well, Nam Angels falls into that same trap. But if you’re looking for logic, why are you watching this movie in the first place?  There are a lot of nonsensical things going on here, from the plot itself to the John Milton quote at the end. But bikers poppin’ wheelies in the jungles of ‘Nam is cool enough to make up for it.

Nam Angels is worth checking out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Skeleton Coast (1988)

Skeleton Coast (1988)-* *1\2

Directed by: John "Bud" Cardos

Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Robert Vaughn, Leon Isaac Kennedy, Arnold Vosloo, Herbert Lom, Daniel Greene, and Oliver Reed

When his son Michael, who is an undercover CIA operative, is kidnapped and imprisoned by the Angolan army, his father Col. Bill Smith (Borgnine) snaps into action and assembles a team of inter-racial mercenaries to travel deep into Africa to free his son. This team includes, but is not limited to: Smith himself, Blade (Vosloo), Toshiro (Kwong), Sam (Mulford), Chuck (Kennedy) and Rick (Greene). All have their specialties in the fighting arts. On the side of the baddies we have Col. Schneider (Vaughn), supposedly an East German with some interests in the Angolan army vs. the rebels, and Capt. Simpson (Reed), yet another character who has his own interests. Add to this mix Elia (Lom) and you have a desert/jungle adventure best suited to Saturday afternoon viewing.

Clearly, the only real reason to see this movie is its incredible cast. Our hometown hero Ernest Borgnine leads the pack with his engaging and always-upbeat performance. It really is a pleasure to see him shooting machine guns along with all the younger cast. We also always love to see Oliver Reed doing what he does best - yelling crazily - whether he technically has to be there or not. He plays a very similar character here as he does in Rage to Kill (1987). Robert Vaughn brings his distinct voice to the proceedings, and a fairly early performance by Arnold Vosloo completes the picture. Interestingly enough, he met and married co-star Nancy Mulford when they met on this film. See, Skeleton Coast really brings people together.

While the many stars on show will draw viewers in, and there is plenty of beautiful scenery and such, the movie is kind of flat and feels like filler at times. It also has some wacky musical stings that seem inappropriate. Really, this is just a star-studded Exploding Hut movie, and it’s also a bit overlong (probably to try to accommodate all the characters).

On the technical front, if you watch this on Netflix streaming, the colors are soft and faded. On the Nelson VHS, that is not the case. The movie looks a lot more normal, with sharper colors. If you opt to buy this movie, look for the Nelson VHS.

While the wonderfully jolly Ernest Borgnine is a personal hero, Skeleton Coast really is nothing overly good OR overly bad. It’s kind of somewhere in the middle. If you’re a fan of any of the stars involved, and you’re okay with that, do proceed.  If not, your time might be better spent elsewhere. If Skeleton Coast was The Expendables (2010) of its day, then Ernest Borgnine truly is the original Stallone.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Kickboxer: The Fighter, The Winner (1991)

Kickboxer: The Fighter, The Winner (1991)-* * *

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Wayne Archer, Richard Brown, Richard Edwards, and Ant Rivers

Here we have another Godfrey Ho concoction, seemingly made from a patchwork quilt of sources, as is his way. There’s what seems to be a Philippines-shot production about an escalating gang war between the Antonio gang and its rivals. Apparently a gang lord named Luke must defend his turf from such other quintessentially-Filippino names such as Alan, Dave, and the Yul Brynner-like bald guy named Brownie. Don’t forget their lawyer, Barry. Stitched into this plotline we have the tale of Buster, a short, stocky, balding man with eye problems who is an expert kickboxer (think of him as a more violent George Costanza). His corrupt manager Mr. Crocker wants him to take a dive, but Buster is incorruptible and pure, and won’t do it...or will he?

And as if that wasn’t enough plot for you, there’s also the story of Gordon, a white man in Hong Kong (or perhaps the Philippines, it’s impossible to tell), a man who used to be on the underground fighting circuit (WAY underground - they fight in abandoned castles, structures and buildings for very limited audiences, but perhaps pioneering the genre of “Castle-Fighting”). He quits the Punchfighting life and becomes a construction worker. But his old life may come back to haunt him...Will any or all of these plotlines come together - or make any sense whatsoever? And who would care or notice if they did? Find out tonight!

When you put on a Godfrey Ho movie, you never know what you’re going to get. I believe that line was in the movie Forrest Gump (1994). We’re happy to report that Kickboxer: The Fighter The Winner (you wouldn’t dare confuse that with the similarly-named Van Damme vehicle, would you?) is an amazingly fun great time. It’s not QUITE up to the par of Clash of the Ninjas (1986), but it’s close. The movie is filled with uproarious dialogue/dubbing, a bizarre structure, an odd pace, memorable music, and hilarious implausibilities. In other words, great entertainment from start to finish.

We guarantee there are things in this movie you have never seen on screen before. Don’t worry, no spoilers are forthcoming. But while the gang war plotline is entertaining on its own - the clothes alone are mesmerizing - every time the character of Buster appears on screen, everything brightens and the movie is at its best. It needed more Buster! Other movies need more Buster as well. He’s a very flexible man who has a punching bag in the middle of a boxing ring, which seems to be in the middle of an existential nowhere land. He won’t compromise his principles. He’s an everyman, not some Hollywood pretty boy. Buster shows us you can be comfortable with who you are as a person and maintain your integrity. God bless this wonderful man. Buster, we hardly knew ye.

Godfrey Ho makes movies that are basically unexplainable. Just see Kickboxer: The Fighter The Winner. See it!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Hitman's Run (1999)

Hitman's Run (1999)-*1\2

Directed by: Mark L. Lester

Starring: Eric Roberts, Estaban Powell, Brent Huff, Damian Chapa, Farrah Forke, Robert Miano, and C. Thomas Howell

Former hitman Tony Lazorka (Roberts) (how do they come up with these names?) is now living as a happily married family man in the suburbs of L.A. He thinks he’s far from his past, having worked has a hired killer for mob boss Dominic Catania (Miano), but when yet another “Disk” (as in, “we’ve got to get The Disk! - which we’ve all seen so many times before) surfaces that contains other people in the witness protection program, Lazorka must team up with annoying punk kid Brian (Powell) to save his father, and Lazorka’s kidnapped family. And what do FBI agents Tom (Howell) and Randall (Huff) have to do with all this intrigue? Will Lazorka be successful?

This movie is very, very dumb. That’s not necessarily an insult - there are varying degrees of dumb. There’s dumb dumb, there’s just plain bad dumb, there’s funny dumb, etc. Luckily, Hitman’s Run falls into the “yeah, it is very dumb but there are plenty of unintentional (probably) laughs” category...but there are some major caveats here - read on...

Eric Roberts is definitely a major meathead in this one. His hair, clothing and demeanor are all very silly, and he strongly resembles Antonio Banderas, especially from Assassins (1995). Don’t forget, Roberts also plays an assassin here. Why the filmmakers decided to use a dud like Assassins as their template for greatness is somewhat puzzling. During all the blow-ups and shooting, the bad guys constantly have terrible aim and Lazorka’s is always right-on. Sure, that’s fairly common I suppose, but there are a lot of just hilariously implausible scenarios on show here (again, not necessarily a negative).

And while C. Thomas Howell looks like a young kid here, this was actually released three years after the great The Sweeper (1996), where he plays a macho tough guy. It really shows his range. This movie could have used more Howell. Brent Huff and Damian Chapa are also on display, and it’s nice to see them, as well as fan favorite Robert Miano. Unfortunately, the movie makes a major mistake with the kid. Why, again, would the filmmakers use such poor judgment in thinking any audience any where would like this irritating punk, much less not want to twist his stupid head off like a bottlecap, remains unknown. All he does is spout grating cliches, or, when Lazorka is doing his action stuff, say “Whoa!” and things like that. Sure, the kid from American Ninja 5 (1993) did the same thing, but he was a kid. As an older teen, he has no excuse. We’d love to know what the writers were thinking with this Poochie-like decision. Importantly, he also wears a sleeveless sweater throughout the whole movie. A SLEEVELESS SWEATER. Who even knew they existed?

Hitman’s run is fairly cartoony and could have used some grit. Then just dump the kid and have Eric Roberts go on a solo revenge mission to save his family. THEN Hitman’s Run would really have something. But the quality is junky, and the unnecessary addition of the stupid punk kid really sinks things.

We all love Eric Roberts, and all the other names in the cast as well, and the aforementioned dumbness alone is no big deal, but, married to the addition of the kid, Hitman’s Run might be very trying to the patience of viewers. When the dumbness is the SAVING GRACE of the movie, there’s a definite problem.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out our buddies Direct To Video Connoisseur and Eric Roberts: Our Movies reviews!