Lady Dragon 2 (1993)

Lady Dragon 2 (1993)-* *1\2

Directed by: David Worth

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Billy Drago, George Rudy, Bella Esperance, and Sam Jones

Susan Morgan (Rothrock) has a happy life: she has a career as a successful female boxer, and her husband Sonny (Rudy) is a soccer star who plays for Jakarta. They live in a beautiful house, and they have a maid/friend, Sari (Esperance) who helps them out. But their lives are turned upside down when a gang of three thugs, led by the psychotic Diego (Drago) (his right hand man is Reb, played by Sam Jones) temporarily stash their stolen diamonds in their luggage at random, in order to evade detection, as well as cops, with the intention of picking them up later at their house. They do indeed show up at the Morgan residence, but Sonny claims he doesn’t know where the diamonds are. After some unpleasant events, as well as some twists and turns, Susan decides to go after the baddies one by one and deal with them in her own way. Will she survive? And will her husband live to Socc again?

We all know Billy Drago plays a bad guy 99% of the time, but here he outdoes himself, putting in an especially creepy, scary and weird performance. As his sidekick, interestingly named Reb, Sam Jones can’t really hold a candle to it, but for an excellent Sam Jones baddie performance, check out In Gold We Trust (1991). Also, Cynthia Rothrock puts in one of her most powerful and emotional performances. One of the main problems, however, with Lady Dragon 2, is that it is very repetitive. There are so many scenes of Drago saying “I want the diamonds” and Rothrock saying “No”, you can’t help but think that maybe the structure of the plot could have gone another way. Considering the movie as a whole could have used some more Martial Arts fights, it would have made sense to have Cynthia fight more goons. But it doesn’t quite work that way here.

Director David Worth, who in a row directed Soldier’s Revenge (1984), Kickboxer (1989), Lady Dragon (1992), Lady Dragon 2, and Chain of Command (1994), allows some interesting touches, such as the fact that Drago’s gang wear shiny Jason-style hockey masks, and Sam Jones wears his with sunglasses. He even adds some horror movie-style touches at times to keep things lively, but the aforementioned repetition hurts things. With tighter writing and direction, and maybe a bit more energy and pep, and with less repetition and a shorter running time, Lady Dragon 2 could have been awesome - like a DTV action version of I Spit On Your Grave (1978). Alas, it wasn’t to be. And to add insult to injury, there are some very cheesily animated muzzle flashes during the gunplay scenes. You can’t help but wish for a little better this time around.

We remain huge Rothrock fans, but we wouldn’t recommend this one if you’re just starting to watch her movies yourself, or want to turn a friend on to her work. For that we’d go with Honor and Glory (1993) or Angel of Fury (1991). If you want to watch this one later on, fine, but we wouldn’t start with it.

Also check out write-ups by our buddies Explosive Action and DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Lady Dragon (1992)

Lady Dragon (1992)-* * *

Directed by: David Worth

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Piet Burnama, Tanaka, H.I.M. Damsyik, Diaz Tangkilisan, and Robert Ginty

Kathy Gallagher (Rothrock) thought she had it made in life. She had a good job as a CIA agent, and was just married. Her world gets turned upside down when super-evil arms dealer and Martial Arts expert Ludwig Hauptman (Norton) kills her beloved husband. Now on a revenge mission to kill Hauptman, she’s living in Indonesia and earning her living as a Punchfighter for a ringleader named Chin (Damsyik). Just when she thinks she’s got him, the ever-sinister Hauptman rapes her and beats her within an inch of her life, then leaves her for dead on a country road. There she is nursed back to health by a young boy (Tangkilisan) and his kindly but mute grandfather (Burnama). She ends up forming a strong, even familial bond with them, and she trains there for the final showdown with Hauptman. After infiltrating his corporation, she finally gets that chance. Will Kathy succeed?

In the Cynthia Rothrock/Richard Norton team-ups of the past, they were on the same side, working together as good guys - think Rage and Honor (1992) and Rage and Honor 2 (1993). Here, they are mortal enemies and they’re fighting against each other. It’s an interesting change-up, but we prefer to see them join their forces. That said, they are two of our favorite action stars, so it’s great to see them both onscreen in any configuration. Richard Norton even gets to say “Show me the money!”, pre-dating Jerry Maguire (1996) by many years. But does he get any credit? Both of them get to display their Martial Arts prowess, the movie doesn’t skimp in that department. There’s other action as well, including your classic “Fruit Cart” chase.

Lady Dragon was directed by David Worth, the man behind Soldier’s Revenge (1984), Kickboxer (1989) and Chain of Command (1994) - and the plot here is very similar to his Kickboxer, what with all the rural training sequences. But Cynthia Rothrock has too much dignity to do a wacky dance in a roadside diner, that’s pure Van Damme. The film itself opens with a warrior crying out a mighty “YAAAaaaaaa!!!!!”, which is clearly the best way to start a movie. Another fan favorite, Robert Ginty, is also involved. Wearing a white sport coat and smoking a cigarette, he proves that smoking is cool. But notice he doesn’t get into any hand-to-hand fights. Plus he looks alarmingly like Paul McCartney (moreso as the movie goes along), so this might be the only chance to see “The Cute One” in an action movie setting.

The music played during the fighting and chases is that classic “rockin’ guitar” that is really the only choice for sequences like that. The end credits song, “Courage To Fight” by Susan Guterres, can proudly join the pantheon of great action movie songs, but it should have been played during at least one of Kathy’s many training sequences. As for the muzzle flashes and bullet hits, they’re not nearly as bad as Hangfire (1991), but they’re pretty ridiculous. And it should be noted that the front business that the evil Hauptmann works for is called Imperial Exports - and this VHS was released by Imperial Home Video. Coincidence? Or maybe Ludwig smuggled it?

Lady Dragon is more classic early-90’s action from fan favorites Rothrock and Norton. It’s a solid entry into their canon.

Also check out DTVC's review

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Honor and Glory (1993)

Honor and Glory (1993)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Godfrey Ho

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, John Miller, Chuck Jeffreys, Donna Jason, Leo Rocca, and Robin Shou

“TAAAAAPE”-Slade's Goon

When a Bulgarian General steals a nuclear trigger and it goes on the black market, everyone’s after it, from the U.S. Government to the lowliest street criminal. But the guy who wants it the most is the unbelievably evil banking financier Jason Slade (Miller, in truly a star turn). Hot on his trail is the Pride family: FBI agent Tracey (Rothrock), her sister, a TV news reporter, Joyce (Jason), and their father, a CIA agent (Rocca). Also helping them out is Dragon Lee (Shou), Tracy’s old associate from Hong Kong. But Slade’s got more bad news coming his way: his former bodyguard Jake Armstrong (Jeffreys) has defected to the good guys, and they’re all coming for him and his evil empire!

This movie is pure genius. It really is. Godfrey Ho (here working as Godfrey Hall) manages another winner for his hit-or-miss repertoire. Featuring a lot of the cast and spirit as Undefeatable (1993), if you liked that, you’ll love this. It seems his shot-in-America stuff  (in this case Maryland) that isn’t cobbled together from a myriad of sources is his best material. From the first minute, when we see it is produced by Action Star pictures, and we see a boardroom of politicians who are the weirdest-looking gaggle of dudes maybe ever, you know you’re in for something great.

A lot of what makes Honor and Glory shine are the line readings from the actors. It’s kind of hard to explain, but the way the actors talk, and their deliveries, are simultaneously hilarious and mesmerizing. Add to all this the winning presence of Cynthia Rothrock, well-supported by Robin Shou, and Chuck Jeffreys, and you have a fun time had by all. As far as the relationship between the two Martial Arts-trained sisters is concerned, Tracey says to Joyce, “I chase honor, you chase glory”. But their last name is Pride, so it’s surprising this movie wasn’t called “Pride and Glory”. The thing about Chuck Jeffreys is, not only is he like Eddie Murphy, he’s BETTER than Eddie Murphy! Jeffreys deserves all the fame and fortune Murphy has. It’s just not fair. But top “honor” s go to John Miller as Jason Slade. The man is truly a national treasure if there ever was one. You thought you’d seen a movie villain before. You were wrong.

Aside from being the best movie baddie we’ve seen in quite some time, it would be awesome if Jason Blade fought Jason Slade. Alas, only in our dreams. But Honor and Glory is great as it is, so we have no complaints. Even the fast motion, and other things that happen plot-wise that we’re normally against, don’t seem to matter in this insane world. From the opening boardroom scene to the inevitable abandoned warehouse-set climax, Honor and Glory delivers the goods, with plenty of rewindable moments to boot.

We have the VHS released by Best Film & Video Corp/Imperial, and even though it’s in EP speed, the tape is surprisingly high-quality. And to quote the back of the box, “The action is non-stop and the challenge is ultimate”. Need we say more?

Also check out our buddy, Karl Brezdin from Fist Of B-List's review

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Night Vision (1997)

Night Vision (1997)-* *1\2

Directed by: Gil Bettman 

Starring: Fred Williamson, Cynthia Rothrock, Robert Forster, Frank Pesce, Willie Gault, Robert Prentiss, and Bushwick Bill

When a sadistic serial killer starts stalking the streets of Dallas, Texas, only one man can stop the madness: Dakota “Dak” Smith (Williamson). But before he can fight this antagonist, he must fight his inner demons: he’s been living in a sober house and going to AA meetings. His alcoholism even got him demoted from detective to motorcycle cop working the graveyard shift. But his Commanding Officer, Teak Taylor (Forster) believes in him, so Teak teams Dak up with the enthusiastic Kristin O’Connor (Rothrock). Despite his initial misgivings, they forge a solid relationship. Dak’s buddy Newt (Bushwick Bill) also is supportive. Can Dak turn his life around and catch The Video Stalker (Prentiss) - so named because he videotapes all his murders - at the same time?

The presence and charisma of Fred Williamson completely carries this movie. In his first go as the recurring character Dakota Smith (later to be reprised in On the Edge 2002, among others), Fred gains your sympathy as the hard-working guy who loves Twinkies and root beer. Inexplicably, there are multiple scenes where he appears pantsless, but maybe that was to underline his slide from hero detective to living on the skids - the media even gives him the nickname “The Skid Row Cop”. He even gets his own, ultra-catchy theme song, “Dakota Smith - You’re 12 Steps Away”, which was co-written by music legend Andre Williams of all people (assuming it’s the same Andre Williams whose career goes back to the 50’s).

We all love Cynthia Rothrock, and we were definitely happy to see her here, but she seems miscast as O’Connor. Her martial arts talents are severely underused. This part could have been played by many people - this movie doesn’t highlight her particular talents and abilities. Even still, it was nice to see her alongside Fred and Robert Forster (whose part is pretty minimal but still does a competent job). Bushwick Bill, of Geto Boys fame, basically steals the movie as Newt. You really like Newt and Bushwick does a great job.

The great cast notwithstanding, this is still late-90’s DTV crud. It’s ultra-low budget, and the mixture of simplistic plot - a cop drama/serial killer chase - means it gets a bit slow at times. It really seems like it could have been made in the 80’s, thanks mainly to the cast. It was directed by Gil Bettman, the same man who directed Never Too Young To Die (1986). How far the mighty have fallen. What would Stargrove think?

The DVD contains the trailer, which we would advise watching after the movie because it gives away pretty much everything. That’s why we always watch the trailer after the movie. In order to hook the potential viewer in, they have to give away all the best parts. Too many spoilers.

In sum, the cast is strong but the movie itself is not. So it’s kind of a wash, but Fred and Rothrock fans still might find this entry worthwhile, if not ideal.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Irresistible Force (1993)

Irresistible Force (1993)-* * *

Directed by: Kevin Hooks

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Stacy Keach, Christopher Neame, Michael Bacall, and Paul Winfield

Harris Stone (Keach) is a Police Detective who has put in 23 years on the force and is close to retirement. He’s always getting himself into dangerous situations, so after he reads that female partners are less likely to get into shooting incidents and aren’t risk-takers, he requests one from Commander Toole (Winfield) and he agrees. Even though she was one credit shy from graduating from the academy, Stone meets with Charlotte Heller (Rothrock) and they seem to hit it off. As it turns out, Heller was one of the only female Navy SEALS and is a bad-ass Martial Arts master. This unlikely team, described by one of their fellow officers as “she’s a hot dog and he’s way past his prime!”, get put to the ultimate test when baddie Barron (Neame) shuts down the newly-built mall and holds the people inside hostage - which just happen to include Governors, Senators, and other important lawmakers who were there for the ribbon cutting ceremony. Meanwhile, local punk kid Jesse Delvechio (Bacall) was kidnapped by Barron’s men, and on top of everything else, Stone and Heller have to find out why, and save the kid. Will this unorthodox duo succeed?

Irresistible Force was originally produced for CBS for a potential TV run. It’s truly a shame it never took off - Cynthia Rothrock could have become a household name. Plus it would have been cool to see what other adventures Stacy Keach and Rothrock get up to on a weekly basis. What a missed opportunity. But if you’re rolling your eyes thinking this is just a boring, watered-down TV slog, unroll them. This brief 77-minute excursion is very enjoyable and entertaining. There are a few downright awesome moments and it has snappy dialogue and a nice pace. Plus it has all the fun cliches we know and enjoy. From the first minute of the movie when Jesse is playing his Game Boy, it’s easy to like Irresistible Force.

The fact that this is a “DieHardInA” movie is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, because it’s Die Hard in a mall (just filling in the blank), it can join the proud 1990’s pantheon of DieHardInA movies that were such staples of the video stores of the day. Hotels (Crackerjack, 1994), water treatment plants (Lethal Tender, 1997) and so many other seemingly innocent locations were turned into areas of terror by baddies the world over, seemingly inspired by Hans Gruber. Here it just happens to be a mall. On the other hand, it seems a bit confining, especially for a pilot episode, or whatever this was. The parts before Heller is trapped in the mall were better and less claustrophobic. Again, it would have been nice to see other non-trapped-in-a-mall adventures the two of them could have gone on.

Plus, if it’s in a mall, that allows for Cynthia Rothrock to take advantage of the situation, pioneering “Pan-fighting” after confronting some baddies in a housewares store and beating them up with frying pans. Ideas like this go a long way, and the only possible complaint you could have about the movie is that, perhaps if it WASN’T a TV movie, and was allowed to be darker and more adult, it might appeal to die-hard (no pun intended) action fans more. But that’s kind of missing the point. Rothrock’s Martial Arts skill is as good as ever, and though there is a pretty annoying punk kid involved, he’s not that bad, especially compared to the pain of Esteban Powell. Both the leads are likable and seem to have good chemistry.

It could have - and should have - been the new Martial Law or Nash Bridges. Sadly, it was not to be, but if more TV shows were like this, the world would be a better place.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Guardian Angel (1994)

Guardian Angel (1994)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Richard W. Munchkin

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Marshall R. Teague, Daniel McVicar, Lydie Denier, Art Camacho, and Robert Miano

Cop Christine McKay (Rothrock) is hot on the trail of a counterfeiting ring and is working the case with her partner and fiance Nick Taylor (Teague). Behind the operation are the criminals David (Miano) and the super-evil Nina Lindell (Denier). After some tragic events perpetrated by Nina, Christine gets kicked off the force and hits the skids. She ends up living in a trailer with her dog Flash, who she has conversations with about her life. But she vows revenge on the sinister Nina at any cost. Christine ends up taking a bodyguard job for a rich, cocky playboy named Lawton Hobbs (McVicar). Nina was his ex-girlfriend and so there’s a personal stake there. Christine will have to use all her skill as a Martial Artist to get to the bottom of this tangled web. Can she do it?

We really enjoyed this Rothrock vehicle. PM rarely disappoints, and with a team of PM mainstays both in front of and behind the camera, you really can’t lose. Director Munchkin applies the same techniques with Rothrock as he did with Don the Dragon Wilson or Jeff Wincott in the past, and the result is an entertaining movie with plenty of shooting, chases (of the car, helicopter, boat and horse varieties), Martial Arts fights, and Cynthia Rothrock getting off some cute catch phrases after she beats up her assailants.

Marshall Teague gets to show off his range - we hadn’t seen him play the charming cop before this. We mainly know him as the evil dojo master/teacher from the great A Dangerous Place (1995). Robert Miano pops up constantly and we know him and love him, he does his standard good job. A nice surprise was Lydie Denier as the baddie-ess. She was cold, heartless, and dastardly, and a perfect enemy for Rothrock. Christine’s Captain in the movie was female but looked and dressed a lot like David Coverdale. And while McVicar did a decent job as the Hugh Hefner-like lothario, we felt Bruce Campbell could have also played that part.

Guardian Angel is also filled with amazingly 90’s-looking people. Some of the fashions and hairstyles are pretty impressive and are worth seeing in their own right. Most of the fight/chase scenes have some wailin’ electric guitar behind them which underlines the fact that PM knows its audience and wants to give them what they want to see: 80’s/90’s action in its most uncut form. We definitely applaud that. But this movie also has some comments about the battle of the sexes and some points of view which keep it from getting overly dumb. Plus, Lawton Hobbs (nice name) predates Muammar Qaddafi by many years in initiating the idea of a female bodyguard. Finally, we noticed in the credits that the fight choreographer was Richard Norton. Too bad he couldn’t have appeared in the film, even if it was just a cameo.

In the end, there’s very little NOT to like about Guardian Angel. Cynthia Rothrock is one of our favorite action stars, and here she’s backed up by a competent team. You gotta love it.

Also check out reviews from our buddies, Cool Target, The Video Vacuum, and DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Martial Law II: Undercover (1992)

Martial Law II: Undercover (1992)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Kurt Anderson

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Jeff Wincott, Paul Johansson, Evan Lurie, Nicolas Hill, Sherrie Rose, Max Thayer, and Billy Drago

Cops Sean “Martial Law” Thompson (Wincott) and Billie Blake (Rothrock) are back in this sequel which is a quantum leap ahead of its lackluster predecessor.

When one of their fellow officers ends up dead, the trail leads to a popular nightclub run by the smarmy Spencer Hamilton (Johansson). His muscle includes meathead Tanner (Lurie) and other sidekick Bree (Rose). To get closer to the truth, Billie goes undercover as a bartender. Naturally, all manner of illegal doings are emanating from the club, not least of which is high-stakes, underground Punchfighting. But why is Captain Krantz (Drago) so touchy about this subject? It’s now up to Sean and Billie to take out the trash.

As stated earlier, this installment in the Martial Law trilogy is far superior to Martial Law one. The colors are brighter, it has a more professional sheen to it, and not only do the main stars Wincott and Rothrock really shine, it has a solid supporting cast featuring Billy Drago, Evan Lurie, Sherrie Rose, Max Thayer and Nicholas Hill in a small role.

The decision to replace Chad McQueen with Jeff Wincott was an inspired choice. Wincott is a lot more charming, and has Martial Arts skill to spare, and we just love his energetic style. As in the follow-up to this film, Mission of Justice (1992), Wincott gets to do some stick-fighting along with his traditional vigorous style. Seeing as he resembles - in this film at least - Matthew McConaughey, rather than being a laid-back “surfer dude” who’s just "livin’ life, and lovin' life", he’s breaking the arms and knee joints of baddies.

Evan Lurie, Slash Gallagher himself, lumbers into view in an extra-meatheady performance. He has strange speech patterns in this movie. He sounds like Stallone on half speed. But his clothing choices are pretty...well...choice. It’s odd seeing Billy Drago as a police captain, as he looks like an emaciated gargoyle, but you’ll see why he was cast in the role. Hopefully these descriptions don’t come off as too crass, we love these actors and we’ve seen them so many times, they’re like our friends.

But the main reason to watch Martial Law 2 are its quality fight scenes. It has the fights you want from the stars you like. That could almost be a tagline. Wincott and Rothrock get off some great moves, and what’s cool about their scenes, is that you can see they are really doing the moves - as you all know, the way to see if a actor/Martial Artist is genuine is to see how many moves they do without a cut. For example, in some of the best Shaw Brothers movies, there are anywhere from 8-12 or more moves with no cut and it’s extremely impressive. Wincott and Rothrock can also achieve this level of prowess, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.

And while there is a lack of Wincott in the middle of the film, and it would have been nice to see a much longer fight scene between Rothrock and Sherrie Rose, this is a classic early-90’s “abandoned warehouse” actioner with a lot to offer.

NOTE: Fascinatingly, there is an introduction on the U.S. VHS tape with Cynthia Rothrock advertising some of her movies. That’s a really cool feature on the tape.

Also check out DTVC's review

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Martial Law (1991)

Martial Law (1991)-* *1\2

Directed by: Steve Cohen

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Chad McQueen and David Carradine

Dalton Rhodes (Carradine) is the leader of a large and growing criminal syndicate. Cop Sean “Martial Law” Thompson and his fellow police officer/girlfriend Billie Blake (Rothrock) are trying to shut him and his cohorts down. When Martial Law’s brother Mike falls under the spell of Rhodes, it becomes personal.

As far as plot is concerned, it gets off to a slow start and then continues on at an odd pace, like an athlete that begins sluggishly and because of that, can’t maintain his momentum or “get his groove back”. Martial Law is unfocused and you don’t really know what’s going on at any time in any clear, defined way. The elements are certainly there, but it doesn’t pull together. Seeing as Chad McQueen (yes, Skylord Harris himself) is an emotionless lunkhead, it pretty much falls on the shoulders of the always-great Cynthia Rothrock to carry the movie. But she’s in a supporting role, criminally playing second-banana to a man with a wardrobe filled with silly shirts. Although, to be fair, he does have a cool, fur-lined coat he wears during the day in L.A. and has a rockin’ motorcycle.

It’s nice to see David Carradine as Rhodes, the classic baddie, looking dapper in his suits. Of course, more than simply an evil businessman, Rhodes knows the “forbidden” Martial Arts Technique “Dim Mak”, or Touch Of Death. Never before has there been such a disparity between attempts at realism during the dialogue scenes, and utter silliness during the fight scenes. Martial Law (the movie, not the clunky, overly-long nickname) could have used some car chases and blow-ups to liven things up. The movie lacked a certain fun element that really should have been there. We blame Skylord Harris, and this is one of his BETTER movies.

When he first appears on screen driving up in his Dominos Pizza car and in full Dominos regalia to trick a baddie, our initial thought was, “that seems about right”. He seems well suited for that kind of work. And while Benny The Jet Uriquidez appears briefly, as does his famous training center (also seen in Death Match, 1994), and the final fight scene is cool, as is a short training sequence, it’s too little too late.

About the music, there’s a scene in a club where 80’s hair metal band Tempest plays, and the score by Elliot Solomon is lively and amusing, but not memorable. But there’s plenty of classic sax to go ‘round. But seeing as the VHS released in the U.S. is in EP speed, both the sound and picture leave something to be desired.

While this first installment in the Martial Law trilogy (the third one is Mission of Justice, 1992) is largely mediocre, this would be rectified in the sequels. Starting with Martial Law 2: Undercover, things improve hugely. Luckily this franchise got a chance to grow - but we don’t know why. WHY are there two sequels? Were audiences clamoring for more Sean “Martial Law” Thompson? How did this come about? But, fortunately he does return later - as Jeff Wincott. So start at part 2, unless you are a Cynthia Rothrock die-hard.

Also check out DTVC's review

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Liebster Awards Answers!

Thanks so much for Nominating Comeuppance Reviews for a Liebster Award!

Here are our answers:

1. Favourite James Bond and film?: Pierce Brosnan\Goldeneye

2.  What film has the best sound track ever?: Braveheart

3.      If you could cast one leading lady and one leading man who would they be?: Jason Statham and Gina Carano

4.      Which is the film you secretly love, but feel you should hate?:Showgirls

5.      If you had the casting vote at the last Academy Awards, which film would you have win best picture?: The Tree Of Life

6.      Who would you chose to play you in a biopic of your life?: Sylvester Stallone

7.      What is your favourite movie scene of all time?: True Romance end Shootout

8.     In your opinion, who is the most overrated director ever?:  George Lucas

9.     Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings?: Harry Potter

10.  If you could only ever watch comedies or action films for the rest of you life which would it be?: Definitely action films!

11.  What was the last movie that made you cry?: Schindler's List

Yes, Madam (1985)

Yes, Madam (1985)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Corey Yuen

Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Cynthia Rothrock, Tsui Hark, John Sham, Mang Hoi, and Sammo Hung

Everyone’s afraid of super-powerful gang boss Mr. Tin (Tien). He’s got three bumbling goons fumbling around for some secret microfilm that could sink his gangland operations: Aspirin (Hoi), Strepsil (Sham), and Panadol (Hark). But there are two Hong Kong cops that aren’t afraid of him at all - Inspector Ng (Yeoh) and her partner Inspector Morris (Rothrock)! These “lovely and lethal ladies” will stop at nothing to bring down Mr. Tin - and that means using some of their most powerful and effective Martial Arts moves to get the microfilm. Will they be successful in ending his reign of terror?

Yes Madam is an extremely entertaining winner, thanks mainly to Corey Yuen’s dynamic and over-the-top energetic filmmaking flair, and the two leads. Michelle Yeoh is a joy to watch as the beautiful but tough and no-nonsense cop with the acrobatic and graceful moves. Counterbalancing her sweet style is fan favorite Cynthia Rothrock as the pugilistic Morris, who gets up in people’s faces and has a harder style. Tsui Hark is known for being a great director, and it’s nice to see him in front of the camera, bringing his unique look and quirkiness to us Westerners. Sammo Hung, who also had a part in producing the film, has a pretty silly cameo as an elderly gentleman in an old folks home (!) - it looks like he just put some talcum powder in his hair to gray it up and off he went. Again, it is always nice to see him. In an interesting connection, the climax to this movie bears a similarity to the much later Hung vehicle Kill Zone (2005).

The final brawl at the end is awesome and is a highlight in an already lovable movie. Yes Madam contains plenty of that wacky, silly, knockabout humor that many HK films tend to have. It doesn’t bother us, we think it’s something certain audiences expect. But just be advised that being far from a grim and dour cop drama, at times this resembles more of a slapstick comedy. But it’s all in good fun and is pretty harmless. The movie as a whole has a very cool 80’s vibe, what with the outfits, popped collars, club scenes and aerobics. That was a big plus for us. Add to that the very cool music by Romeo Diaz, and you have a winner. What this movie may lack in terms of a coherent plot (who cares anyway?), Corey Yuen more than makes up for with his style, which has energy to spare. Yuen has had an amazing career - from directing No Retreat No Surrender (1986) and No Retreat No Surrender 2 (1987), as well as the all-time classic Above The Law (1986), to his later Jet Li films and The Transporter (2002). He was also Martial Arts choreographer on American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II (1991), and supposedly had an uncredited bit in another all-time classic, The Man From Hong Kong (1975). And these credits barely scratch the surface. And Yes Madam remains another satisfying gem from his fevered brain.

Also there seems to be some confusion between this and the In The Line Of Duty series. From what we can gather, this was NOT part of that series. It was, however, confusingly, called “In The Line of Duty 2” in some territories. While many entries in that series are worth seeing, especially the first one, this is actually not part of it. Just a confusing retitle to cash in on the success, popularity and beauty of Michelle Yeoh.

Needless to say, Yeoh and Rothrock make a killer team and for that reason alone Yes Madam is worth seeing.

Also check out DTVC's review!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Tiger Claws II (1996)

Tiger Claws II (1996)-* *

Directed by: J. Stephen Maunder

Starring: Jalal Merhi, Cynthia Rothrock, Bolo Yeung, Eric Lee, Han Soon Ong, and Evan Lurie

When evil arms dealer Victor (Lurie) joins forces with the sinister Chong (Bolo), presumably to start some kind of criminal empire, and people are found dead all over San Francisco, cops Linda (Rothrock) and Tarek (Merhi) want to get to the bottom of it. Also they are in a romantic relationship. Things get really complicated when Dai Lo Fu (Ong), using his Chinatown restaurant as cover, is staging underground martial arts contests - with a supernatural twist. Now, to get to the truth, Linda and Tarek must compete. Will any of this make any kind of sense?

Clearly the world was asking - nay - BEGGING for one more Tiger Claws movie. And there’s even a third one after this! This movie is a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas that make no sense. It feels like the filmmakers were just kind of flying by the seats of their respective pants and kind of making stuff up as they went along. Probably not a good idea, especially if your choice for the male hero is the unintelligble, mumbling, personality-less, unlikable Jalal Merhi. He looks like a Balki-era Bronson Pinchot crossed with Night of the Wilding-era Erik Estrada. One of the biggest plot flaws is why Cynthia Rothrock is in love with him. And the scene in which he must use his awesome martial arts prowess to “save” Cynthia Rothrock is just preposterous. It should have been the other way around.

We like Evan Lurie, especially after American Kickboxer 2 (1993), and he was a good choice for one of the villains. He is charismatic and perhaps a member of the Trenchcoat Mafia. How his illegal gun shipment has to do with a “secret passage” and a mystical prisoner (Lee) cannot be explained. Han Soo Ong, who we’ve seen in Last to Surrender (1999) and King of the Kickboxers (1990), we believe is Korean, so why is he the crime boss here?

The presumed Punchfighting sequences are just cash-ins for video games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, and are just silly and nonsensical. Additionally, the film is filled with funny continuity errors and has that Canadian feel. And while Merhi isn’t quite as sucky as he was in Talons of the Eagle (1992) (which was written by director Maunder, as was TC 2000 (1993), as well as the other Tiger Claws movies and other Merhi vehicles - he must have really believed in the “Tiger Claws” concept, as well as Jalal Merhi, so his judgment is certainly in question), he’s no prince here either. Even Rothrock, who we love, can’t save this one.

Also check out our buddy DTVC's review

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Cop Game (1988)

Cop Game (1988)-* * *

Directed by: Bruno Mattei

Starring: Brent Huff, Max Laurel, Romano Puppo, Candace Daly, and Werner Pochath

During the Vietnam war, a group of elite soldiers seemingly are going around killing civilians. Their uniforms indicate they are part of something called The Cobra Force. MP Morgan (Huff) and his partner Hawk (Laurel) are assigned to investigate. But it’s not going to be easy to get to the truth, not with Captain Kirk (Puppo), (“Like from Star Trek!” Morgan says), Col. Kasler (Pochath) and the even more mysterious Annie (Daly) providing twists, turns, and misdirections for Morgan and Hawk. Who is really behind this COP GAME?

The greatness of Bruno Mattei seems to know no bounds and this is yet another example of said greatness. The movie starts off in a Phantom Soldiers (1987) style, moves to an Off Limits (1988) pastiche, and then indulges in some good old fashioned Exploding Hut action, which no Italian action movie from the 80’s can legally be without. Throw in some footage from other movies and some miniatures, and voila, instant classic.

Brent Huff appears to really be giving this his all, yelling most of his lines. It seems he’s trying to out-Reb Reb Brown. But Huff (or at least his character, Morgan) is cool and slick in between his yelling fits, with a Hawaiian shirt and rockin’ sunglasses. He also has plenty of silly lines, many of which are like Dan Rather-style folksy colloquialisms but shouted at top volume. Huff is backed up by a nice cast of Italian movie regulars, including Brett Halsey in an uncredited role.

No mention of Cop Game would be complete without talking about its amazing title song. It’s never credited to any one particular artist, but Al Festa is credited with the music, so perhaps he’s behind it. It’s a pumping, driving tune that really gets you into the spirit. And if your spirit starts to flag, the song plays multiple times throughout the film - in two different versions. Bar patrons even play it on the jukebox! The ultra-catchy chorus appears to say “Cop game! You’re livin’ in a blame game!” Despite the genius of rhyming “game” with “game”, those lyrics might actually makes sense, as there is plenty of blame going around in the military hierarchy which make up some of the dialogue scenes in this movie. But if anyone out there has another idea of what the lyrics are (or how to get a hold of the soundtrack), please write in today. Right now!

Containing enough funny/worthwhile moments to be worth a view, especially if you’re familiar with the Italian action movies of the 80’s, Cop Game is another worthy entry in the Italian output of the day. In the U.S. it was released on VHS by 3 Star Releasing, a company we’re not really familiar with. Cop Game!

Also check out Explosive Action's review!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Land Of The Free (1998)

Land Of The Free (1998)-* * *

Directed by: Jerry Jameson

Starring: Jeff Speakman, William Shatner, Charles Robinson, and Chris Lemmon

Politician extraordinaire Aidan Carvell (Shatner) is running for the U.S. Senate. His campaign manager, Frank Jennings (Speakman) is dedicatedly working to make sure Carvell achieves his goal. However, in the course of working on his election bid, Frank discovers that Carvell is the secret head of a militia group that wants to overthrow the government. 

Now he knows too much, and he goes on the run. Carvell’s people, including McCaster (Robinson), and Thornton (Lemmon) are spearheading the “let’s chase down and kill Frank Jennings” initiative, so he takes his wife and son and joins the witness protection program. But that’s not enough for the megalomaniacal Carvell, who wants Frank, a serious thorn in his side and sole blocker of his evil plans, dead. So who will come out victorious, and who will live in the LAND OF THE FREE?

Wait. You mean to tell me there’s an actual movie where Jeff Speakman and William Shatner co-star, they get into confrontations with each other, and eventually fight? Where do I sign up? In truth, Land Of The Free isn’t quite as awesome as the presence of the aforementioned power-duo might imply, but it’s still entertaining and worth seeing. Chalk it up to PM, they really have a winning formula and they stick to it. Plenty of car chases and exploding, flipping cars are the order of the day once again. But as we’ve said before, PM has turned it into an art.

As for Shatner, he’s looking quite robust and apple-cheeked here. His classic herky-jerky line reading delivery of course is on show. Be it Star Trek, Land Of The Free, TekWar, or any of his other projects, Shatner always speaks the same way. So it’s nice that, even in a DTV PM movie, he’ll say a line such as “I don’t believe it” like “I-don’t-believe...it.” Does anyone else find it amusing that in this movie he plays a supposedly pro-American guy, but he’s really Canadian? That truly is range. And yes, his name is Carvell, which will inevitably remind you of ice cream. Adding an extra “L” isn’t the cleverest way to cover that up. Judging by the pounds that both Speakman and Shatner put on, maybe Carvel sponsored this movie. Perhaps naming Shatner’s character that is just an homage to Cookie Puss and Fudgie the Whale.

Cleverly, the filmmakers never assign a political party to Carvell. You can read your own biases into him. He’s sort of a melange: they call him a “Maverick”, which will remind you of John McCain, but his enthusiasm is very Howard Dean-esque. His political stances seem to be in the Ron Paul camp. So he’s a little bit from every party, and even the name Carvell, after all, maybe isn’t from the ice cream, it’s a sly reference to James Carville? We may never know. 

Like the world in general, the movie needed more Shatner. There are large sections where he’s not even involved with the plot. But we know one thing for sure, he really loves his antiques.

So Frank Jennings, Speakman’s character, is constantly beating people up with his trademark Kenpo style, shooting people, and using renegade tactics like jumping off buildings and wild car chases to evade the baddies. Keep in mind he’s not Carvell’s bodyguard, he’s his campaign manager! That’s one badass campaign manager. He should run for a new political position: Speakman Of The House!  But he does wear a red shirt, blue jeans, and his skin is white, so we can only assume he is, without saying it, more “American” than the evil Carvell, at least based on his wardrobe choices. And that really is the best way to express your patriotism.

People shoot their guns sideways in true “gangsta” style, there’s a restaurant that sells something called “pastrami shrimp”, and the movie is more relevant today than ever before. It’s all underpinned by inappropriately patriotic musical stings, even during car chases. Are they supposed to be especially patriotic car chases? Again, we may never know.

Especially in this election year of 2012, more people should see Land Of The Free.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


B.O.R.N. (1988)

B.O.R.N. (1988)-* * *

Directed by: Ross Hagen

Starring: Ross Hagen, William Smith, P.J. Soles, Gregory Scott Cummins, Hoke Howell, Claire Hagen, Clint Howard, Rance Howard, and Russ Tamblyn

Buck Cassidy (Hagen) is a big-hearted cowboy who, with his wife Della (Claire Hagen) have, over the years, adopted seventeen foster children. When three of his adopted daughters are kidnapped and thrown into an unlicensed ambulance, the nightmare begins. It turns out innocent people are being taken from off the street, put into dingy operating rooms, and their organs are removed and sold to the highest bidder on the black market. 

Dr. Farley (Smith) is the sinister surgeon, Jerry (Clint Howard) is the creepy male nurse, Liz (Soles) is the secretary, and the super-evil Hugh (Tamblyn) is the agent that acts as the liaison between the desperate families that need the organs and the unwilling participants. So Buck contacts his old buddy Charlie (Howell), a retired LAPD cop, and the two of them search all over the L.A. area for the missing girls. But will they be too late?

The main reason we sought this movie out is because it contains most of the cast and a lot of the crew from one of our favorite movies, Action USA (1989). B.O.R.N. is almost like a dry run for their later masterwork. Ross Hagen, Claire Hagen, Gregory Scott Cummins, William Smith and Hoke Howell all reconvened the next year after B.O.R.N. to make the great Action USA, and the second unit director for B.O.R.N., John Stewart, became the director for Action USA, and later Cartel (1990). So when we heard that the Action USA team had tried their hand at a horror-themed film about a “Body Organ Replacement Network”, obviously our interest was piqued.

But you can tell they wanted to do an action movie all along, because there are shootouts, fisticuffs and car chases in B.O.R.N., making it less a straight-up horror movie and more a thriller with some action and horror elements.

William Smith is delightfully unintelligible as the main surgeon. Sure, it’s odd to see Smith as a surgeon, but that adds to the weirdness. PJ Soles is almost unrecognizable as the big-haired Liz. Russ Tamblyn stands out as one of the more evil baddies we’ve seen in a while. Clint Howard, playing, surprisingly, a creepy rapist, later reprised his role in Street Corner Justice (1996) (and probably a lot of his other roles as well). Rance Howard is also on board and he resembled Night Court’s Harry Anderson more than his brothers Ron or Clint.

At first it’s hard to tell who’s who in the movie, because everyone is inexplicably wearing cowboy hats in modern-day L.A., but eventually you can discern who the characters are. The editing is almost as choppy as Dr. Farley’s scalpel-work, but then there are some oddly funny moments to distract you from that, such as when Buck and a large group of people are at a large dance called “Adopt A Grandparent Day” and they’re all dancing in a circle singing “Beautiful Dreamer”.

 And sure, there’s a bit of what you might call “surgery gore”, but the main problem is that the movie needed to be tightened up. Most of the running time consists of Hoke and Hagen searching around town for the missing daughters. It’s almost like the B.O.R.N. concept couldn’t fill 90 minutes on its own. There should have been more going on plotwise. But there are enough silly/Un-P.C./worthwhile moments to keep the movie afloat.

In the music department, a band called Pigmy Love Circus plays at the aforementioned “Adopt A Grandparent Day” (good gig!) and Dawn Wildsmith is uncredited as the singer. Wildsmith was also in Cyclone (1987) with Russ Tamblyn and John Stewart, not to mention Armed Response (1986) with Ross Hagen. The end credits song (which also appears in one of the many scenes when Hagen is searching the city in his van) is “sung” by Ned Albright. It seems this was his first attempt at singing. Not just in front of a microphone at a recording session...I mean EVER. Is this the best they could have gotten? NED ALBRIGHT?

In all, B.O.R.N. is an amusing curiosity, and its claim to fame, besides its cast, is that it paved the way for Action USA.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Excessive Force II: Force On Force (1995)

Excessive Force II: Force On Force (1995)-* *

Directed by: Jonathan Winfrey

Starring: Stacie Randall, Dan Gauthier, Bradford Tatum, Dan Lauria, Mandingo Warrior, Tom Wright, and James Lew

"Once you cross this special agent, you've crossed the line!"

Harly Cordell (Randall) is a highly-trained Special Forces warrior. She leaves her army base to do some investigating when she realizes the super-evil Lydell (Gauthier) is on the loose. They were once a couple when they were in the army together. But Lydell went to the dark side, and began doing deals with mobsters like Franco (Lauria). Lydell even shot Harly in the head at one point in the past, and she still deals with dizziness and disorientation because of it. Her cranial condition is going to make her quest for revenge even tougher. So after traveling through the seedy areas of L.A., the final confrontation ensues. How much force will be enough?

You might be surprised to know that there is a sequel to Excessive Force (1993). It’s in-name only, as T.I.G is nowhere in sight. While it may seem odd that the first one warranted a sequel, keep in mind there are THREE Crackerjack movies. T.I.G. must leave ‘em wanting more, but then others, such as Judge Reinhold, or, in this case, Stacie Randall, must take his place. But surely a Guinness world record must have been won here for “most times a single word appears in a movie title”, with an impressive THREE times for the word “Force”. What if there was a third film? Would it be called Excessive Force III: Force on Force on Force? While three times might seem like a lot of force, the movie itself is run of the mill, by the book action with nothing to make it rise above the pack.

That being said, Stacie Randall as the lead is certainly attractive enough, but is she up to the standards of a Cynthia Rothrock? We say no...but maybe she wasn’t trying to be. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying to position her as an “anti-Rothrock”, or at least an alternative to her. The fact that Randall didn’t continue in the action world indicates her heart might not have been into the beating up and shooting of baddies. Shame, she might have come into her own later, especially if she had gotten a better project than this. But we’ll never know. But she does wear this indescribable silver outfit which makes her look like some kind of superhero, but for her it’s just everyday wear. She’s backed up by some good people, such as Dan Lauria, Tom Wright and the ubiquitous James Lew, who seemingly was in every 90’s action movie. We were happy to see him, and he even worked as a fight choreographer. Gauthier, who plays Lydell, was charismatic, and his sidekick Yates (Tatum) was...sleeveless, so there’s that, but the movie is so straitlaced.

It’s a professionally-made product, and the New Line widescreen DVD looks nice, but the movie is just so perfunctory. Like it’s ticking off the boxes of what the filmmakers were told that action fans were supposed to like. But where’s the heart? Where’s the originality? Sure, the fact that the hero is a hot chick with a brain condition sounds novel enough...but it’s just not enough to keep the entire movie afloat. We really, truly WANTED to like Excessive Force II: Force on Force - the title alone certainly floats our boat - but the movie just didn’t have it.

We really were hoping for better here...but unfortunately, and sadly, Excessive Force II: Force on Force is the action movie equivalent of flavorless mush.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett