Directed by: Mark Roper
Starring: Gary Daniels, Carol Campbell, and Bashar Rahal
“Funny what life kicks up, you know?”
Steve Roberts (Daniels) is a journalist who is summoned to Sofia, Bulgaria by his friend Charlie Venco. When it turns out that Charlie has mysteriously died, it opens up a world of intrigue involving the Bulgarian government, the military, and the medical establishment. Not to mention thugs and the Russian mob. Luckily he has Alexa (Campbell) on his side. What is the secret of the “blood medication”? Steve Roberts certainly wants answers - and he’ll have to use his wits, as well as his fists and kicks - to get to the truth.
Of course this movie is set in Bulgaria - but at least they don’t try to hide it. Even in the fight scenes, dust is used for effect when blows land, but it just makes Bulgaria look like an unnecessarily dusty country. Maybe our Bulgarian readers can write in to see if the rumors are true. But Nu-Image always shoots there, and this one in particular has a low-budget feel compounded by its location.
Besides directing utter crud like Warhead (1996) and Marines (2003), Mark Roper also directed Gary Daniels the year after City of Fear to make the similarly-Bulgaria-shot Queen’s Messenger (2001). But what’s weird is that City of Fear seems to be directed...somehow wrong. There are a ton of unnecessary close-ups, the pacing is oddly stilted, and the minimal, weak action is more funny than hard-hitting. Plotwise, this movie is not very exciting or crowd-pleasing. It’s wildly overwritten and needlessly complex. This leads to many dialogue scenes when there should be fight scenes. Maybe they were going for something a little more serious and dour here, but...why? Either way, it doesn’t work.
The problem with "No"-Image is that most of their movies kinda suck. They’re trying too hard to be PM. But there’s no sense of fun here. It’s just “eh”. For every one good bit there’s about ten bad-to-mediocre bits. The lack of a strong, central villain helps undermine the movie, as it usually does. Sure, Gary holds it all together, but as strong a screen presence as he is, he can’t save it. City of Fear could have used another name in the cast to help out. Richard Lynch, Robert Z’Dar, Martin Kove...even Frank Zagarino might have added something. Well, maybe not. But Daniels and Scary Spice running around Bulgaria talking for over 100 minutes isn’t what you’d call must-see.
Compare this to other Daniels movies, and you’ll see the disappointment here. It’s truly a missed opportunity. As strong as Daniels’ repertoire is, we guess they can’t ALL be winners. Unfortunately, this is one of the rare non-awesome Gary Daniels movies.
City of Fear is recommended for Gary Daniels die-hards only.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett