Wanted: Dead Or Alive (1986)

Wanted: Dead Or Alive (1986)-* *1\2

Directed by: Gary Sherman

Starring: Rutger Hauer, Gene Simmons, Mel Harris, and Robert Guillaume

Nick Randall (Hauer) is an ex-CIA agent and bounty hunter. He is asked to track down an extremely dangerous and ruthless terrorist, Malak Al-Rahim (Simmons), who has been killing lots of people and only planning to do more damage. Randall will stop at nothing to track down Al-Rahim, especially after an attempt on his life kills some people Randall cares about. Will Randall succeed?

As you can see from the brief plot description above, the storyline here is pretty cut-and-dry, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the movie should have been shorter, and with Rutger killing more goons. That would have livened things up. But as it stands, Wanted: Dead or Alive has some good 80’s atmosphere and un-PC moments. So that’s a good thing, and they tried to give Nick Randall a bit more character development than usual, which is also good.  He gets plenty of snappy lines and loves the harmonica, which mirrors on the soundtrack. He even has what may be the first car GPS seen on a movie screen.

It was also nice to see Gene Simmons looking slick, and while he himself is Jewish, he plays an Islamic terrorist. The terror aspect of the film is still relevant, but this movie has too much padding and needed more action. Interestingly, in the movie theater scene, they are playing the movie “Rambo” - and while there are many Rambo references in many other 80’s and 90’s action movies, the filmmakers here should have known there was no such movie by that title at that time.

Naturally, it all ends in a classic Steam Factory shootout. So while WDOA has some good moments, the movie should have been tightened up and had some edge added to it. It’s not bad at all, but it’s not very memorable either.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Counter Measures (1985)

Counter Measures (1985)-* *

Directed by: Gerban Ceth

Starring: Monte Markham

Skycrane is a fleet of helicopters that go around Australia solving the types of problems that only helicopters can solve. When there are fires, Skycrane breaks out the heli’s with the large buckets that can release water on command, and when the wheelchair-bound Albert gets challenged to a race and he accidentally falls off a cliff, Skycrane hoists him to safety. The leader of this high-flying operation is Gus (Markham), an American. His sidekick is the comic-relief Ralph. But their greatest challenge comes when James Price, an evil land developer, and Johnson, a man who loves nothing more than deer poaching, start causing trouble in the Outback. Will these helicopters twirl their way to justice?

Counter Measures, not to be confused with the Michael Dudikoff outing with the same name, was made for Australian TV in the mid-80’s. Inexplicably, it was released in the U.S. on the great label Paragon, when they were still doing big-boxes and before they converted to their classic style with the movie title on one side of the spine, and some dots on the other. There are even spots for commercial breaks with light-hearted musical stings where you really want to say, “We’ll be right back”.

Not much really goes on - Counter Measures isn’t the most pulse-pounding action you ever saw, but it’s charming and certainly not bad. This is almost the type of movie they might play in school in the 80’s on a rainy day. It definitely would help if you’re into helicopters. While everything heli is certainly brought to the forefront, this is a long way from Blue Thunder (1983). But then again, it’s not really supposed to be. It’s everything you’d think a TV movie of this type, from this time and place, would be. It certainly paved the way for such items as Airwolf. Without Counter Measures, surely there would be no Stringfellow Hawk.

As far as the actors, Monte Markham is solid, but the guy who plays James steals the movie. But while Counter Measures is pleasant, if a bit bland and slow, the two best things about the movie are the beautiful Australian locations, and the music by Tony Baker. He puts in a nice synth/keyboard score with an appropriate and memorable theme. It seems to be largely based on fellow Aussies Jigsaw and their song “Sky High”, which makes sense . That song is also the main theme for Brian Trenchard-Smith’s The Man From Hong Kong (1975).

So for a Sunday afternoon time killer with some mild 80’s flair, Counter Measures is an inoffensive way to fit the bill.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Evolver (1995)

Evolver (1995)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Mark Rosman

Starring: Ethan Embry, Chance Quinn, Cassidy Rae and William H. Macy as the voice of Evolver

Now here’s a find. You won’t fail to be entertained by the greatness of Evolver!

Teen Kyle (Embry) likes to hang out at “TurboPlay Virtual Excitement”, a Virtual Reality (remember VR?) arcade of sorts. He’s so good at VR games, crowds come to watch him do his thing. So much so that his buddy Zach (Quinn) takes bets on this neo-Tommy and his neo-Pinball machine. It’s also there where he meets the cute Jamie (Rae) and they strike up a friendship/relationship. All seems to be going relatively well in Kyle’s world, and when robotics company Cyber Tronix eyes him as a popular video game fan, they announce him as the winner of the “Evolver” contest. What’s that you ask? Evolver is a robot that lives in your home and you play with him. He has built in “levels” that get progressively harder.

It seems fun, but there’s one problem. Deep in Evolver’s (or “Evo” as the cool kids call him) is government-created warfare technology. Seeing everyone as an enemy, Evo goes off the rails and begins killing and maiming people. Can Kyle and Jamie put an end to the robotic chaos? Find out today!

Evolver is a wildly entertaining movie that everyone should see. It has no fat or filler - and it doesn’t have much time to, as it can only be described as a Sci-Fi Horror Comedy Coming-Of-Age Tale. Amazingly, it all works and is a lot of fun. The movie takes cues from such movies as The Terminator (1984), Robocop (1987), The Last Starfighter (1984), Weird Science (1985), C.H.O.M.P.S. (1979) and most notably the two Short Circuit (1986) movies. But its heart is in lower-budget exploitation like Arcade (1993) or Chopping Mall (1986). The 90’s VR trend allows for some lovably dated graphics, and it all adds to the fun.

As far as the Evolver robot is concerned, this li’l homunculus is like some sort of bizarre melding of Nintendo’s Rob the Robot, a game of Laser Tag, a Tamagotchi, the “Happy Birthday Paulie” robot, a Roomba and Mr. Bucket. But instead of balls popping out of his mouth (remember the song?) - it’s metal ball bearings that shoot at you. Naturally the voice of Evo is none other than William H. Macy. It’s truly a career best performance. We’re not being sarcastic, he’s great as the tricky little bugger. Paul Dooley is on hand as the head of the robotics company, and Ethan Embry does a great job as Kyle. He’s a real teen and not a 37 year old in disguise. He really seems to care about the proceedings.

What’s great about Evolver is that it’s just an insane idea that actually got made. It’s not really that predictable for most of its running time either. It should really be more well-known. But maybe this movie was originally made as a tie-in or potential long-form commercial for a real Evolver you can buy in stores, but it never materialized. Either that, or there are hundreds of them buried in secret in the Nevada desert like the E.T. game for Atari. We just better hope they never wake up and go for revenge.

Interestingly, in Kyle’s living room at home, not only does he have an NES, but a pretty decent VHS collection, and very briefly on screen you can see an assortment of Vidmark titles (Evolver is a Vidmark). One of which is one of the American Kickboxer (1990) movies! So clearly Kyle has good taste.

Featuring the 90’s techno song “Beat the Machine”, Evolver will appeal to just about anybody. But fans of 90’s nostalgia especially will love the movie’s charms. We definitely recommend Evolver.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


American Tiger (1990)

American Tiger (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Sergio Martino

Starring: Mitch Gaylord, Daniel Greene, Sherrie Rose, Victoria Prouty, Michi Kobi, and Donald Pleasence

“Seduction: the greatest ally of death.”

"Miami just got hotter..."

Scott Edwards (Gaylord) (No, that’s his name) is just your typical college kid: to make ends meet he is a rickshaw puller in Coconut Grove, Florida. He’s getting his college degree presumably due to the fact that no one even knows Florida has a rickshaw industry. He attracts all the street business because of his snappy Tiger tanktop. Apparently, he was born in the Chinese year of the tiger. Isn’t your tanktop your preferred method of telling the world of your Chinese animal sign? Anyway, this must have attracted elderly Chinese mystic Madame Luna (Kobi), who Scott picks up one day during a rainstorm, so she watches out for Scott using a cat and a cobra that do her bidding. Meanwhile, Scott gets embroiled in a conspiracy and is framed for murder. Professional hitman Francis (Greene) is after him, so Scott goes on the run with prostitute Joanna (Victoria Prouty) and tries to clear his name. But the power and sway of televangelist Reverend Mortom (Pleasance) is going to complicate matters. And that barely covers the supernatural forces at work, apparently brought about by a “stone of evil”. Will Scott pull his way out of this one?

This movie is very, very weird. In a good way, of course. It probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves because of the title and box art. It seems like a standard type of thriller with no surprises, so customers must have left it on video store shelves.  Thanks to some poor marketing by Academy video, that is what it seems like. But like the world inhabited by Scott, Reverend Mortom and Madame Luna, all is not what it seems.  Anyone familiar with Italian horror and giallos will know the name Sergio Martino - the man is amazing. He’s worked in every genre imaginable - post-apocalyptic, Spaghetti Westerns, sexploitation, Poliziotteschi, the list goes on and on. For American Tiger, he brings the off-kilter sensibility he brought to such movies as After The Fall of New York (1983), Suspected Death of a Minor (1975) and Your Vice is a Locked Door and Only I Have the Key (1972), but this time adds the ultimate 80’s coolguy: one Mitch Gaylord.

Everything from the opening quote by Confucius to the music (featuring a song where the lyrics appear to be “I’m in a restaurant, whoah-oh”), to the utter strangeness of the ending, nothing ever makes concrete sense in this movie, giving it that addictive Italian feel that American filmmakers cannot achieve. It’s almost like Martino was going from his subconscious, almost like a dream, rather than any kind of written script. Thus, the vibe of this movie is impossible to describe, so we encourage you to see it for yourself. The only people that will not like it are filmgoers that demand everything make absolute sense all the time. But doesn’t that get boring after awhile? Movies like American Tiger give us a break from the ordinary and thus have memorable moments we can talk about. So we applaud that, even if it is confusing to our logical minds.

Daniel Greene, whose best role is in Hands of Steel (1986) but also appears in Skeleton Coast (1988) and The Maddening (1996), throws himself into his role and seems to be having a good time. We always love seeing Donald Pleasance, and while wags might accuse him of slumming here, we thought his presence added a lot, and besides, he’s been in much worse. Even Sherrie Rose appears briefly as well. But the man of the hour is clearly Gaylord, and if any gymnast is going to make a movie career, only he and Kurt Thomas should be able to do so. Can anyone explain why they were never in a movie together?

Also known as American Rickshaw (now there’s a title that’ll pull customers in), we definitely recommend American Tiger. We totally loved its unorthodox style.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Street Corner Justice (1996)

Street Corner Justice (1996)-* *

Directed by: Chuck Bail

Starring:  Marc Singer, Steve Railsback, Soon-Teck Oh, Kim Lankford, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Clint Howard, and Bryan Cranston

 "The law of the land just came home to stay."

 The wonderfully-named Mike Justus (Singer) is “The Best”. The best cop in Pittsburgh, that is. Because of his rogue ways and defiance of authority, his higher-ups decide to let him “retire early”. Justus sees this as a good time to fix up and re-sell a house his aunt left him in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Upon arriving in a section of L.A. called Norwood, he finds it overrun by criminals, hoodlums, punks, ne’er-do-wells, scofflaws, loiterers, scapegraces, Sir-Lucius-O’Triggers, delinquents, ruffians, thugs, hooligans, and the like. Not getting any help from local cop Freeborn (Railsback), Justus, along with a rainbow coalition of people in the community such as restauranteur Lee (Oh), stereotypical Irish Priest Father Brophy (Cranston), stereotypical Bible-quoting tough guy Angel (Lister), and video store proprietress/love interest to Mike Justus Jenny (Lankford), form a Guardian Angels-like group called TNB, or “Take Norwood Back”. This doesn’t sit well with the local gangs, so a showdown ensues. Will Justus actually get STREET CORNER JUSTICE?

As far as “take back the community” movies go, Street Corner Justice isn’t as good as The Annihilators (1985) or Private Wars (1993) (which also featured Steve Railsback, who must really care about his community). It’s one of our favorite themes for DTV movies, so we could never get sick of this formula, but this one in particular is just relentlessly dumb. It’s also too long, and oddly paced at that. Even though director Chuck Bail is a veteran of the movie industry, it’s like he was a newbie in the production department. 

That aside, at least he had the raw nerve to name the main character Mike Justus. As if to drill the point home to viewers who may be even dumber than this movie, at one point Justus says, “There’s no justice. There’s just us.” Yes, we get it. But Mike Justus smokes - because he’s cool - and that’s something you’d never see today. No hero would ever smoke in our ridiculously P.C. society of the 2000’s. Also Singer looks a lot like David Spade in this movie. If you’ve ever wanted to see David Spade beat up bad guys and chase rapists that are Clint Howard, this might be your only chance.

‘Justice is riddled with cliches and stereotypes (there’s even a fast montage of nothing but cliches early on in the movie, watch out for it) and these are fun to watch, but is it enough to support a whole (overlong) movie? There are some moments which aren’t in the box of cliches, such as the fact that the main baddie and supposedly the toughest gang member in town wears a sweatervest, and the fact that this whole “citizens vs. punks” war was initiated when a fat guy couldn’t play a game of Street Fighter II. All the way up until the time-honored final abandoned warehouse fight, there’s plenty of unmitigated stupidity on show. But that may be your thing.

There’s also an “evil playground” that we haven’t seen since Balance Of Power (1996) - it might even be the same one as Balance Of Power, which would be weird. That’s one seriously evil playground. We can see why two movies have highlighted it. And the video store that Kim Lankford’s character, Jenny, works at is called Cine-Video, and looks like a real place. Lankford gets to sing not one, but two songs on the soundtrack. But no rockin’ tunes, just ballads. It’s a shame, a faster song might have bumped up the energy level a bit more.

Considering Mike Justus fought his whole life against red tape, it’s pretty ironic that this movie comes housed in a red tape. But no amount of gimmickry or colored inks can blot out the fact that Street Corner Justice is video store shelf-filler and a waste of a nice B-movie cast.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Inside Edge (1992)

Inside Edge (1992)-* * *

Directed by: William Tannen

Starring: Michael Madsen, Richard Lynch, Rosie Vela, Tony Peck, D. Paul Thomas, and David Fralick

"I just want peace of mind" - Richard Montana

Richard Montana (Madsen) is a California detective who always gets himself into big trouble when he goes deep into dangerous situations. When he gets mixed up with Mario Gio (Lynch), an extremely wealthy drug trafficker, and his lady Lisa (Vela), he gets way more trouble than he bargained for. Gio wants Montana to use his police authority to arrest all his competitors. Montana and Lisa begin hatching a plan of their own. Montana’s partner Nealy (Peck) doesn’t like any of this one bit, and Montana’s rival on the force, Henderson (Richmond) has his suspicions. With no one to trust, what will Montana do?

Michael Madsen really turns on the charm this time as the cooler-than-cool Montana. He always has some snappy quips at the ready. His whole look is reminiscent of Billy Joel, and his attitude is beyond laid back. He might be the coolest man ever. Even when he’s a cop on the edge, he’s still cool. He still has to face up to his classic yelling Captain, Reeves (D. Paul Thomas), but he does it with, well...coolness.  Madsen’s acting style is oddly naturalistic and he doesn’t even seem like he’s acting. Maybe that’s why he has fans and they seek out his movies, as we do.

Rosie Vela as the singer in Gio’s club (she actually sang backup for ELO for a time), and female lead will remind you of Kim Basinger. It’s great to see Branscombe Richmond on board, especially as a friend/enemy of Michael Madsen. Let’s not forget David Fralick as one of Gio’s goons - he was in fellow Madsen vehicle Executive Target (1997) as well as crud like Deadly Reckoning (1998). Inside Edge has good music and was going for some Film Noir-ish elements, and for the 90’s, we can compare it to Genuine Risk (1990).

Interestingly, even though this film has Madsen, Lynch, and Richmond, among others, and got a U.S. (and international) release, it seems Inside Edge is not widely seen. Even fans of the above names don’t really know about this movie. Maybe that can change. And while the pace of the movie is a bit slow, especially before the climax, at least it’s only 80 minutes (despite what some sources say).

For an under-the-radar DTV “neo-noir”, Inside Edge really fits the bill.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


L.A.P.D.: To Protect and to Serve (2001)

L.A.P.D.: To Protect and to Serve (2001)-* *

Directed by: Ed Anders

Starring: Marc Singer, Steve Bacic, Wayne Crawford, Michael Roberds, Kiara Hunter, Charles Durning, Dennis Hopper, and Michael Madsen

Wade (Bacic) is a young L.A.P.D. cop, and his partner and mentor is Sam Steele (Singer). When their fellow cops Alexander (Madsen), Sextram (Crawford), and Meyerling (Roberds), among others, begin throwing wild parties at a house in the Hollywood hills, and getting involved in illegal activities, Wade doesn’t like it and it begins tearing his professional and personal life apart. Steele is more conflicted, and his father (Durning) and Alexander’s father have histories on the force. When all this affects his girlfriend Kimberly (Hunter), things get personal for Steele and it leads to a showdown. Also, the captain at the precinct is Elsworth (Hopper) - even though it’s fairly irrelevant to the plot, it’s Dennis Hopper, and he’s front and center on the box art even though he’s only in the film for a few minutes. 

Anything else you may have read about how bad this movie is, is more than likely true - it has an incredibly cheap, junky look, and even the music feels very low budget. Not that low budget on its own is a bad thing - but what clearly happened here was that all the money the filmmakers had was spent on corralling all these great actors together. Sure, the movie has a killer cast...but at what price?

Probably the most offensive thing about LAPD is that it portrays cops in such a negative light. It tends to leave a bad taste in your mouth. This movie was obviously influenced by such films as The Choirboys (1977), The New Centurions (1972), and Extreme Justice (1993), but it’s all done so ham-fistedly. If someone tried to film a James Ellroy story like Dark Blue (2002) on their video camera, something like LAPD might result. 

The only snag with it being an Ellroy-style out-and-out L.A. story is...wait for it...it was shot in Canada! That’s right, except for some exterior shots (we think), the whole thing was done in Vancouver. Why didn’t they just change the storyline to be about Mounties?

Special note about the locations: In one scene you can see the video store Video Update - their stickers are on many used VHS tapes. We have some in our collections, and you probably do too. Also, there’s a scene at an “adult” movie theater and some characters spend a lot of time in front of a poster for the Romp Screwball Hotel (1988). 

It's all pretty light on action, and what action remains is pretty ridiculous - they were trying for a cop drama sort of thing apparently. There are plenty of cliches, and not all good ones either. Crawford as Sextram looks exactly like Robert DeNiro (or perhaps a lost Baldwin brother). 

Michael Madsen, who’s cool all the time (possibly because of his love of stealing 2 liter bottles of Pepsi), and all the other names (why is Charles Durning here?) make the movie at least watchable - and it is fairly coherent - so this isn’t the worst movie ever made but it’s still pretty mediocre. It was released as a budget-priced (probably a dollar or so) DVD with an unflattering cardstock sleeve. 

We wouldn’t tell you to put LAPD at the top of your list, unless you are an extreme fan of any of the names involved.

Also check out DTVC's review

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Surface To Air (1998)

Surface To Air (1998)-*

Directed by: Rodney McDonald

Starring: Chad McQueen, Michael Madsen, Melanie Shatner, Teri Thompson, and Larry Thomas

 “All this waiting for something to happen is driving me crazy." - Zach Massin

Lt. Dylan “Raven” Massin (McQueen) has just finished his Navy survival training. He must leave his loving wife Clarissa (Thompson) and go live on an aircraft carrier and go on flight missions with his partner Lt. Lori “Dakota” Forrester (Shatner). When trouble brews in Iraq in the form of a guy who looks nothing whatsoever like Saddam Hussein but is in fact the Soup Nazi (Thomas), U.S. forces are marshaled to go fight in that part of the Middle East. But that also includes surly Gunnery Sgt. Zach Massin (Madsen), who is the estranged half brother of “Raven”. Estranged because they don’t get along well and they had a fight over a girl many years previously. They’re the original odd couple! Can the two bickering brothers come together long enough to be victorious in the name of their country? (don’t bother to) find out today!

Surface To Air is one of those movies with more airplane and military jargon than much-needed character development and exciting situations. While characters are spouting some meaningless gobbledygook during some stock footage of aircraft carriers, the audience is bored to tears. Who exactly is the intended audience for this sort of movie? Laypeople will be bored, and servicemembers surely won’t want to see Chad McQueen Chadding it up with some CGI/green-screen plane explosions. It seems movies like this were pretty prevalent at the time: Desert Thunder (1999), Stealth Fighter (1999), later Air Strike (2002), etc. It’s nice that they are patriotic, but they’re not doing patriotism any favors.

As far as Chad McQueen is concerned, Raven is obviously the new Skylord. If that sentence immediately made any sense to you, be afraid. It means you’ve seen at least one of the Chad movies at hand. But it’s hard to take him that seriously. He just has a goofy presence, and Madsen has his usual “I don’t care” attitude, so seeing as they made a bunch of movies together around this time, someone thought they made a good team?

Speaking of slogs, both this movie and Submarines (2003) both use the made-up news station “ZNN” for their news reports. Coincidence? As this is an Andrew Stevens production, don’t expect much. But maybe some people at Nu-Image saw this and loved “ZNN”. This should tell you how little both this and Submarines have going on. But what this movie really needed was a strong, super-evil bad guy for Raven and Zach to rally together against. Charles as the “Wacky Iraqi” (or, given his pedigree, perhaps he’s more of a “Soup Iraqi”?) should have done more to make the audience hate him. Simply having a very familiar-seeming mustache is not enough.

Sadly, despite the presence of fan favorite Michael Madsen, Surface To Air is your standard airplane slog that really has no reason to exist. He can’t save this boring, boring crud that lacks excitement at every turn. If you’ve never heard of this movie - especially mentioned in conjunction with Madsen - there’s a reason why. Avoid.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Detour (1998)

Detour (1998)-*

Directed by: Joey Travolta

Starring: Jeff Fahey, James Russo, Robert Miano, Tim Thomerson, Gary Busey, Evan Rachel Wood, and Michael Madsen

Danny Devlin (Fahey) and his buddy Ziggy Rotella (Russo) are in a small-time gang, and they decide to rob 1.2 million dollars from mob boss Gianni Grasso (Miano). However, Mo (Busey), who works for Grasso, double-crosses him by talking to Danny and Ziggy. Grasso’s men go after them, and eventually Danny, Ziggy, and Gillette (Williams), the third gang member, end up in small-town Rosalia, where Danny grew up. It turns out his mother died and left him the family dairy farm, and it’s in her will that he must tend to it. While back in his old stomping grounds, he reconnects with past family members such as Mel (Thomerson), Daniella (Wood), and his brother Burl (Madsen), who is the sheriff in town. Will Danny go straight, or will the temptation of future heists and crimes be too strong?

When we first saw that there was a movie that had this amazing cast, obviously we were intrigued. And the icing on the cake comes when you’re watching the opening credits, and after the extensive list of familiar names, the final credit is “Directed by Joey Travolta!” (I added the exclamation point. Sadly that’s not on his actual screen credit). You’d think, “how could this possibly go wrong?” Well, unfortunately, Detour falls prey to Lone Tiger (1999) Syndrome, which we’ve talked about before, which means that just because a movie has an impressive cast, doesn’t mean the movie itself is going to be any good. Sometimes it’s even a substitute for good writing and direction, and they hope the audience won’t notice.

Joey Travolta seems to be more talented in front of the camera than behind it, as evidenced by his role in Wilding: The Children Of Violence (1991). Disappointingly, Detour is just one of many 90’s Tarantino knockoffs. It tries too hard to be cool, and every other scene has some annoying “alt-rock” song of the time on the soundtrack. No one in the cast of fan favorites can save the uninspired writing. Busey and Madsen come off best, however - Busey slightly more low-key by his standards, and Madsen does what Madsen does, that is, look bored and contemptuous of even having to be there. But somehow when he does it, it totally works. Fahey goes a bit over the top at times, and even though this is supposedly an action movie of some kind, there are scenes of farm work - yes, FARM WORK - when other stuff should be going on to capture the viewers’ interest and imagination.

The movie also falls prey to some other common DTV pitfalls, such as the fact that many scenes are underlit and it’s too dark to see anything. That just adds to an overall junky look and feel. But on the bright side, Gary Busey wears pajamas the whole time, and James Russo has an evil hat. Take for instance a scene in a kitchen where Fahey and Thomerson are talking. On top of the refrigerator, there is a can of a Mr. Peanut product that we think are called “Zonks”, but it’s too dark to really tell. This can of Mr. Peanut Zonks (?) steals focus from the supposed drama going on. “Does that really say ‘Zonks’?” “I don’t know, I can’t read it...I hope it says Zonks...but I’ve never heard of Zonks...” “Maybe they’re only sold in Canada.” “Who is a better mascot, Mr. Peanut or the Pringles man?” “Mr. Peanut, because he has a top hat, a monocle, cuffs, a cane, and can do things, like dance around. All the Pringles guy has is a mustache”.  That’s OUR dialogue, not from the movie. In other words, Mr. Peanut out-acts some of our favorite people this time around.

An amazing, once-in-a-lifetime cast is squandered because they didn’t have good material to work with. Ultimately, this is wasteful of the talented cast, so avoid this Detour into lameness.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Man On Fire (1987)

Man On Fire (1987)-* * *

Directed by: Elie Chouraqui

Starring: Scott Glenn, Joe Pesci, Jade Malle, Jonathan Pryce, Brooke Adams, and Danny Aiello

John Creasy (Glenn) is a grizzled ex-CIA agent who has seen it all. Thanks to his friend David (Pesci), he takes a job in Italy, protecting a 12-year-old girl, Samantha (Malle) from the kidnapping danger sweeping Italy at the time. Her parents, Jane and Michael (Adams and Pryce, respectively) are never around so Creasy ends up spending a lot of time with Sam, as she likes to be called. 

At first he resists the relationship, but eventually he warms to her and they forge a real and solid bond. It’s just at that point, of course, that baddies get the jump on Creasy and indeed kidnap the girl. Now with nothing to lose, Creasy loads up on guns and sets out to find Sam and get revenge on her captors, especially ringleader Conti (Aiello). Will he do it?

We really liked Man On Fire. It’s sort of the Taken (2008) of its day, mixed with a little Death Wish (1974)...alright, maybe it’s not quite as awesome as a mixture of those two classics might imply, but it is a worthwhile movie with a classier-than-usual vibe, and the top-notch cast and Italian settings add a lot. 

Truly the star of the show is Scott Glenn, who puts in a great performance as the troubled Creasy. Even his name sort of implies the world-weariness you can see on his face (“creases”). At first, he resembles Chuck Norris, but what’s cool is, when he sets out on his revenge mission, he shaves his beard, cuts his hair and starts wearing sunglasses, as if to say, “No more games. You’re all gonna die”. The movie is worth seeing for Glenn alone.

Acting as his foil is Joe Pesci, who really rocks out on his own version of “Johnny B. Goode” on acoustic guitar. This display of musical talent was obviously a precursor to his eventual CD release. That aside, what sets apart Man On Fire is the fact that it takes its time to develop the relationship between Sam and Creasy. And because it’s European, it’s all done very artistically. Perhaps the only drawback is there should have been a little MORE revenge (and there are some parts that are a little confusing) but all in all Man On Fire is definitely worth seeing.

For a quality revenge thriller, Man On Fire fits the bill.

NOTE: The movie was released on Vestron on VHS in the U.S., and before the movie there is a trailer for Amsterdamned (1988). This is the only place we know where you can see this particular trailer.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Extreme Justice (1993)

Extreme Justice (1993)-* * *

Directed by: Mark L. Lester

Starring: Lou Diamond Phillips, Scott Glenn, Chelsea Field, Yaphet Kotto, Andrew Divoff, Ed Lauter, and Stephen Root

Jeff Powers (Phillips) is an LAPD detective known for his aggressive streak. Rather than be a detriment to his career, it enables him to join the SIS, or Special Investigative Section, an elite team of cops given a wider berth to take down repeat criminal offenders by any means necessary. The group is led by Dan Vaughn (Glenn), a charismatic but violent man. Other members of the team include Angel (Divoff) and, as Larson, Yaphet Kotto in one of his best roles we’ve seen to date.  As Vaughn and his ethical issues become darker and murkier, Powers, spurred on by his reporter girlfriend Kelly (Field), becomes wary and spirals into a moral conundrum - remain true to his brotherhood and its camaraderie - after all, they ARE stopping crimes, or, blow the whistle because their crime-stoppery knows absolutely no limits and at times comes with a very high price? What will Jeff Powers do?

There are a lot of really good things about Extreme Justice, starting with its title. This was before “extreme” things became the norm. The SIS gets EXTREME justice. But besides that, it has a top-notch cast, and the excellence of fan-favorites LDP, Yaphet Kotto, Andrew Divoff, Ed Lauter and Scott Glenn raise the bar considerably. The movie has back-to-back scenes of awesome cliches (someone should invent a word that means “cliche” but doesn’t have a negative connotation, because that’s what we’d use here) - everything from a female BYC (Black Yelling Chief), to Jeff Powers being called “A Loose Cannon” - but Extreme Justice really does provoke thought, as well as conversation with whoever you’re watching it with.

We talked about the fine ethical line some of the characters walk - and Powers, Vaughn and others deal with their issues in their own ways. We also talked about the nature of law and justice and things of that nature. This movie really does bring them up, which is more than you can say about a lot of other cop dramas of this type. Plus it has Yaphet Kotto dressed as a cowboy complete with hat, belt buckle and six-shooter.

The ubiquitous Ed Lauter’s role here (as well as the plot of the movie) is a precursor to the great The Sweeper, 1996 (note the “Cloak and Dagger” business card), and Scott Glenn’s role as Vaughn also is a precursor to another career-best role as Cole McCleary in The Last Marshal (1999). This is a manly movie about dudes who drink at bars, go to strip clubs, and shoot their guns at their steak-fueled cookouts.  But this Brotherhood Movie, as we call them, has an uglier side and themes of adult peer pressure are explored.  Try to imagine a cross between the TV show The Shield, The Last of the Finest (1990) and The New Centurions (1972). Now add to the mix the L.A.- based cop dramas of James Ellroy such as Dark Blue (2002) and Street Kings (2008), and you have an idea of where this movie lives.

Director Mark L. Lester, who has given us such gems as Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) and Commando (1985), delivers a refreshingly-adult drama, a far cry from the stupidity of his later Hitman’s Run (1999). Here, there are no stupid, wisecracking teens or kids.

Extreme Justice is solid and recommended.

Also check out RobotGEEK's review!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Last Marshal (1999)

The Last Marshal (1999)-* * *

Directed by: Mike Kirton

Starring: Scott Glenn, Constance Marie, Raymond Cruz, Randall Batinkoff, Vincent Castellanos, Lisa Boyle, Ralph Wilcox, Wayne Duvall, and William Forsythe

Cole McCleary (Glenn) is a tough, racist, hard-drinkin’, hard-fightin’ and hard-swearin’ Texas Deputy Marshal. Naturally, his superiors and colleagues don’t approve of his rogue ways. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that he always gets results. When super-evil bad guy Torres (Castellanos) and his “weak link” partner T-Boy (Cruz) do some REALLY bad stuff and abscond to Miami, Cole follows them.

Now a complete fish out of water, this throwback of a Texas lawman must contend with a multi-racial environment and a lot of bright colors and upbeat people. He’s NOT happy about this. His new partner is Jamie (Batinkoff), a young, hip dude who Cole doesn’t really take a shine to. It turns out the criminal mastermind behind all the murder, drugs, kidnappings and probably a lot of other things is DeClerc (Forsythe). Cole must take down the evil empire in his own way - as well as get involved with Rosa (Marie) in a romantic relationship, showing he may have a soft spot after all.

Scott Glenn is simply awesome in his role as Cole. He’s completely believable as the old-school Texas badass who hates everyone in equal measure. He’s grizzled and plays by his own rules. You should watch this movie for his performance alone. Sure, towards the middle of the film there’s some unnecessary justifications/psychological explanations for his ways, but you kind of HAVE to do that, and it doesn’t take long. One of the more interesting aspects of The Last Marshal is how true it is to its title - Cole truly is the last of a dying breed, and a man out of time. The movie should have explored this aspect just a little bit more - how no-nonsense enforcers like Cole are slowly being replaced by pretty boys who are just prissy and ineffectual.

Speaking of the title, it is misspelled in the film. Director Kirton (also responsible for the Forsythe vehicle Strike Force 2003, and who has an extensive stunt background) finds some good locales - from the Texas-set opening of the film, to the Miami “Steak n’ Strip”, a combination steakhouse and strip joint, one of the most macho eateries we’ve yet seen on film. Kirton scores big points for releasing such a politically incorrect (for the most part) film in 1999. In fact, except for the music, this movie could have been made in the 80’s.

We can’t forget William Forsythe with his “German” accent and his sidekick Sunny (Boyle). He and his goons certainly raise a high bar for pure evilness. But Cole only wants the goons. He’s not interested in solving every single problem in life. Just the ones that came to his Texas turf and ruined his day.  The Last Marshal has DTV violence and fun cliches in equal measure. Just check out the classic-of-all-classic Black yelling police chief Lukowski (Wilcox).

What the world needs now, more than ever before, is Cole McCleary.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett