Search and Destroy (1988)

Search and Destroy (1988)-*

Directed by: J. Christian Ingvordsen

Starring: J. Christian Ingvordsen and Boris Krutonog

It is at this time that quoting the back of the DVD box seems to be the most appropriate course of action. Here goes: “When German terrorists take control of a government bio-research lab and threaten to unleash a deadly virus, the President of the United States is forced to call in retired Delta Force commando Brad “Bone” Jordan. Now Bone must come out of retirement for one last mission.” It goes on, but, like the back of the VHS box for Counter Measures (1999), whoever wrote it simply made up a name for the main character. Ingvordsen plays Bone Conn here, a character he portrays in many of his movies. Brad “Bone” Jordan is a name fabricated by the writer of the back of the box. There is no such character. But back to the plot, Bone Conn goes on the run with Russian terrorist (?) Boris (Krutonog, also a Boris in real life). It seems the “deadly virus” has been released into the air, and then the townspeople go nuts, and there is chaos and quarantining, with soldiers in gas masks, clearly modeled after The Crazies (1973). Then some of the survivors dress up in Old West-style garb and take on the soldiers. If none of this seems to make sense, don’t worry. It basically doesn’t. Will Bone Conn live on?

Here’s yet another Ingvordsen/Kaman DTV piece. It starts with a garbled spoken opening, and the talkiness continues. The color palette used for the film is dull, gray, bleak and depressing. There’s zero character development so you don’t really care what happens to anyone, with the possible exception of Bone Conn if you’re feeling charitable. We never negatively criticize movies for having amateurish actors, but most of the players here certainly are. There are two female characters (who get mere minutes of screen time), one is a waitress named Flo. No joke. The other is a cliched reporter named Lisa. At a certain point you have to ask yourself: who cares about this? Who is watching this? Who rented this? Who is the intended audience? Even with a punishingly unnecessary 98 minute running time, these questions remain unanswered.

Now, all that being said, we actually applaud Ingvordsen and Kaman for actually doing what they do. They have a vision, they clearly work hard to put out their product, and they actually succeeded in breaking through into video stores. So they actually DID something, unlike reviewers like us who have not. It’s just a shame their stuff isn’t a little more watchable. Plus, with the whole concept of “cowboys vs. the army”, there’s a seed of an idea there that is only really touched upon. There’s something interesting about guys in fatigues and gas masks with tanks facing off against guys in duster coats and cowboy hats. But this “throw a bunch of ideas against the wall” style reached its apotheosis with Cyber Vengeance (1997), the 90’s “VR” trend allowing the perfect vehicle for it. They even recycled some of the footage here for it.

With a little more focus and character development, Search and Destroy could have become more of a winner. As it stands, it’s more of a blah entry in the action stakes from the tight stonewashed jeans era. But to quote once again from the literary virtuoso who penned the back of the DVD box, “with thrilling adventure and stunning action, this is one search you won’t want to destroy.” This movie is one search I won’t want to destroy? WHAT? If that makes sense to anyone, write in and leave a comment today.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Expect No Mercy (1995)

Expect No Mercy (1995)-* * *

Directed by: Zale Dalen

Starring: Billy Blanks, Jalal Merhi, Wolf Larson, Laurie Holden, Anthony De Longis, Real Andrews, and Michael Blanks

Warbeck (Larson) and his sidekick Damian (De Longis of CIA II, 1993 fame) run the Virtual Arts Academy, an institution of “higher learning” that teaches its students Martial Arts mixed with heavy doses of Virtual Reality (or “VR”, as seemingly countless 90’s movies and TV shows insisted would be the future). However, as awesome as this place seems, something fishy is going on there, and Federal Agent Justin Vanier (Blanks) is assigned to check it out. So he goes undercover and enrolls as a student. As it turns out, the maniacal Warbeck is training high-tech assassins to go on missions to kill people, including witnesses for potential trials. Along with Eric (Merhi) and Vicki (Holden), Justin must bring down Warbeck’s sinister organization. But first he must figure out the differences between “virtual” and “reality” in this confusing new world.

Like we always used to say about the chain of stores Xpect Discounts, you can expect discounts, but you might not necessarily get any. However, after watching the absurd opening sequence to Expect No Mercy, you realize you are in for a ridiculous romp with plenty of 90’s nostalgia thanks to the plentiful computer graphics. Following Talons of the Eagle (1992) and TC 2000 (1993), Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi team up once again. They must really get along well. Blanks has some funny catch phrases (and funny hair, and funny outfits), and Merhi is just mush-mouthed and incomprehensible.

Take the scene where Justin (i.e., Billy) is going to enter the VR school for the first time. He’s wearing a baseball cap and jacket. Right before walking in, he turns his hat around backwards, and unzips his jacket, exposing a lot of chest because he’s not wearing a shirt underneath. WHY? Did he think this would make him “fit in” at the school? Presumably Warbeck saw this and thus made him his mortal enemy. It would certainly explain their fight scene where for no comprehensible reason, after fighting for a good ten minutes, they then tear each other’s shirts off. Hmmmm...As far as Merhi, one of the scariest things in a non-horror movie is the disembodied Merhi head. You might scream.

As far as the other baddies, we have Damian, who wears a whip as some sort of tie, Real Andrews of Last Man Standing (1987) and Red Scorpion 2 (1994) fame, who would appear with Blanks the next year in Balance of Power (1996), Michael Blanks as Spyder, who is Billy’s brother and appeared in Ring of Steel (1994) and the fascinatingly-named Lazar Rockwood, who looks exactly like Billy Drago. We’re not entirely satisfied that it’s NOT Billy Drago. So the supporting cast is solid, and along with plenty of fights and blow-ups, Expect No Mercy provides the action and (presumably) unintentional comedy that makes for good entertainment.

An example of humor is in the set decoration: there are massive posters of Wolf Larson’s face everywhere. Where are those posters now? Also, since this was made at the height of the Mortal Kombat craze, there are some similarities there, and there’s even a real computer game you can buy based on this movie. But in the VR fight sequences (even the one with the Dee Snider-like villain Fango), are our heroes really punching NOTHING? When Billy Blanks had that fight scene with some steam in Balance of Power, was that a really more substantial opponent than the enemies here? Something to really (not) think about.

It has a memorable score by Varouje Hagopian, and even funny (presumably ADR?) sounds from the fighters, as if the filmmakers thought the fights were too boring, so they felt adding some actors shouting “chaw!” “chaw!” would really liven things up. Unsurprisingly, the movie was shot in Ontario, Canada and has a very Canadian feel (again, not a bad thing, just an observation).

For 90’s action silliness, Expect No Mercy is a solid choice.

Also check out reviews from our buddies: DTVC and Lost Video Archive!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Prayer Of The Rollerboys (1990)

Prayer Of The Rollerboys (1990)-* * *

Directed by: Rick King

Starring: Corey Haim, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Collett, Devin Clark, Mark Pellegrino, and Julius Harris

In the future, the economy has collapsed and so the natural consequence of financial meltdown is increased rollerblade usage. In a world of anarchy, violence, gangs, drugs, lawlessness and uncertainty, Griffin (Haim) just wants to ‘blade it up in peace with his younger brother Miltie (Clark) and his friend Speedbagger (Harris). Trouble comes a-callin’ when Griffin’s childhood friend Gary Lee (Collet) grows up to be the head of the Rollerboys, a gang of murderous, drug-dealing thugs who skate in unison all over L.A. The cops see this as their chance to finally bring down the gang, so they recruit Griffin to go undercover as a Rollerboy. But Miltie gets too close to the Rollerboy lifestyle, and Griffin gets skittish. Especially with new drug “Mist” destroying lives left and right. All this while Griffin is trying to forge some sort of relationship with the mysterious Casey (Arquette). Will this Prayer be his last?

Prayer of the Rollerboys ushered in the 90’s in a big way: video stores were still huge, rollerblades were the future of being radically awesome, and everywhere you looked, skaters and snowboarders alike were slamming their Mountain Dews. The first word uttered in this movie is “Whoa!” - that should tell you everything you need to know. So it was perfect for its time, but ultimately this movie, like compatriots Shredder Orpheus (1990), Roller Blade (1986), and Roller Blade Warriors (1989), can all stand side by side as shelf-filler at your local video store.

Corey Haim has awesome hair. But he also has plenty of charisma and screen presence. This movie would make a decent double feature with Gleaming the Cube (1989), especially considering Christian Slater would have been perfect for the role of Griffin, AKA “Griff”, “Griffy”, and “Ramrod”, other names by which Haim’s character is known in this movie. One of the main problems is that the Rollerboys just aren’t as intimidating as they should be. Their choreographed, simultaneous arm movements as they skate will remind you less of A Clockwork Orange (1971) and more of the sheer intimidation power of Brian Boitano. Plus, with names like “Gary Lee”, “Bango” and the truly fear-inducing “Bullwinkle”, they don’t inspire a lot of competence, much less the terror of a “para-military” and “international” criminal organization. And the idea of a sterilization drug has echoes of Challenge of the Tiger (1980), and, interestingly enough, the adult film Rollerbabies (1976) - which is itself a takeoff of the then-popular Rollerball (1975). But in the movie the Rollerboys produce their own comic book. So, there you go.

While the movie isn’t that bad for a non-Italian post-apocalyptic direct-to-video time/shelf-filler aimed at the teen market, it gets pretty repetitive after awhile. At about the 55 minute mark, the movie begins to spin its wheels, much like a rollerblade itself. But director Rick King followed this up with his next movie, Kickboxer 3 (1992), which is a huge improvement. That movie is more of an audience-pleaser and avoids some of the clunkier moments herein. Live and learn, that’s what we always say.  We wish the kid who played Miltie, Devin Clark, did more acting work. He was really good as Miltie and showed a lot of promise. What happened to him? Additional kudos go to the great Julius Harris as Speedbagger.

While it probably works best now as a nostalgia piece, Prayer of the Rollerboys, despite its flaws, might work for you if you’re in the right mood.

Also check out a review from our buddy, DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Last Man Standing (1987)

Last Man Standing (1987)-* * *

AKA: Circle Man

Directed by: Damian Lee

Starring: Vernon Wells, Franco Columbu, Sonja Belliveau, Michael Copeman, Peter Dempster, Real Andrews, Kim Coates, and William Sanderson

Roo Marcus (Wells) is a down-and-out guy with a troubled past who was recently released from a mental institution, where he suffered through inhumane conditions and shock therapy. Going back to the only thing he really knows, he begins Punchfighting in brutal, bare-knuckle “circle fights” run by Napoleon (Copeman). He tries once again to leave the Punchfighting life behind, working at a gym run by his buddy Casper (Sanderson). He even develops a relationship with local tomboy Charlie (Sonja Belliveau). But due to circumstances beyond his control, he gets sucked back into Punchfighting, having to contend with musclebound maniac Cannon (Dempster), and quick, charismatic, Muhammad Ali-like Razor (Andrews). Will Roo ever find the peace in life he seeks?

Last Man Standing (not to be confused with the Wincott movie - or any other movie - with the same name) was a pleasant surprise. While it contains no shortage of bare-knuckle Punchfighting, if you took out all, or most, of the circle fights, it could stand on its own as a serious and even tender drama. That’s surely the sign of a quality Punchfighter. 

Vernon Wells gives a wonderfully sensitive and nuanced performance as Roo. You really care about him. We were only familiar with his work in Nam Angels (1989), American Eagle (1989) and of course Commando (1985). We didn’t know he could actually ACT. While he was excellent in the role, we also thought Richard Norton could have played Roo. Balancing out the introspective Roo was his friend Batty, played by Franco Columbu. He gives a crazy, unhinged performance and he really lives up to his character’s name.

We were a little wary going in to this movie, as we haven’t had great luck with Damian Lee movies in the past. But we’re glad we went forward, as this, his first movie as director, is his best we’ve seen to date. Lee wrote and produced Busted Up (1986) and Thunderground (1989) but did not direct them. Last Man Standing has a similar vibe and will remind you of those. While Lee would return to Punchfighting later in his career with Fatal Combat (1997) (with Wincott, funnily enough), and make movies that range from funny (Abraxas, 1990) to just plain awful (Agent Red, 2000), if you’re not familiar with his work, here would be a great place to start (and possibly end).

The circle fights, and the crowds that surround them, will remind you of the video for the Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane”. But it predates UFC’s “The Octagon” by many years, and as far as cage fighting movies go, this is probably rivaled only by...well...Cage (1989). And possibly Cage 2 (1994). But beyond the cage, it has other fighting innovations we’d never seen before, such as when two burly meatheads oil each other up (with actual black oil), tie a rope to each other’s arms, and get into a rickety rowboat in a lake and then have at it. You can’t make this stuff up. Or maybe you can. But how did they?

William Sanderson is always great, Damian Lee appears as the pre-Bumfights Bumfighter Sully, and Kim Coates has a cameo, but Real Andrews is keepin’ it Real as Razor. While we’d seen him before in the aforementioned Busted Up, as well as Red Scorpion 2 (1994), and the Billy Blanks vehicles Expect No Mercy (1995) and Balance of Power (1996), here he gives a noteworthy performance, and you’ll love his rapping abilities.

Last Man Standing as a whole, like Wells’ performance, is human and street-level. To be brutally honest, the movie does feel somewhat low-rent, but to put a positive spin on that, we could just say it’s gritty. If you’re a fan of the Punchfighting genre, definitely check this one out.

Also check out a review by our buddy, Cool Target!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Blackbelt II: Fatal Force (1993)

Blackbelt II (1993)-* *
AKA: Spyder

Directed by: Joe Mari Avellena and Kevin Trent

Starring: Blake Bahner, Henry Strzalkowski, Vic Diaz, Paul Holme, Louie Del Castillo, and John Dulaney

Brad Spyder (Bahner) is an L.A. cop with an attitude problem. He must travel to Hawaii to investigate the death of a partner. His “punch first and ask questions later and then punch them again” style means he encounters resistance from the local cops, led by Akida (Diaz). There’s also some nonsensical mumbo-jumbo about Vietnam and POW’s that was only put in because of the piecemeal patchwork that this is...

Technically speaking, we’re not entirely sure this is even a movie. By any rational standard, editing, splicing, and re-ordering film footage doesn’t necessarily make a film, much less a coherent piece of entertainment. The editors here get an A for effort, as they try desperately to make disparate footage fit together, but it’s like trying to join two puzzle pieces together that clearly don’t fit.

Going from L.A. to Hawaii to Vietnam, to a Vietnam that’s supposed to be Hawaii, we get some narration about Vietnam, then some urban cop action with Bahner, then it reverts back to an Exploding Hut jungle movie, and on and on. There’s zero character development along the way, so you cannot become invested at all in what’s going on. Rather than introduce the slightest bit of character for Brad Spyder (aside from his awesome name), the movie just jumps into an overly-long, protracted punching sequence on top of a building. Then there’s the amazingly cliched Irish police chief O’Donnel (Dulaney) - actually a lot of this movie could be a parody.

Bahner yells all his lines, and resembles Andrew Dice Clay (who had a brief action movie career of his own). Presumably Roger Corman felt he could put out this mishmash as some sort of “sequel” to the Don the Dragon movie Blackbelt (1992), seeing as it follows the formula of being 80 minutes and having at least Bahner’s credit also include his kickboxing title underneath it. Firstly, Bahner is no Don the Dragon, but perhaps he’s not supposed to be. 

Corman caught lightning in a bottle with one action star, and he tried again and basically failed. Secondly, releasing this hodgepodge to the public is actually insulting to our intelligence. Did he, or anyone else, not think we would notice all the glaring Frankenstein-like parts to this?

Blackbelt 2 could have used another B-movie name in the cast (aside from the ubiquitous Vic Diaz), or a rockin’ song, or a scintilla of coherence or cohesion - anything except falling back on references to the First Blood series, which it does. But on the bright side it does have a rich businessman named Roderick Pendleton (Holme) and a character named Weasel (Louie Del Castillo), whose hair and mustache out-Oates-es Oates. His entire film career consists of this, the “movie” Spyder, from which the footage for this was taken, and Saigon Commandos (1988). Now that’s a career to be proud of. 

Now might also be an opportune time to mention that there’s always an annoying character named Squid, Spud, Baby, Weasel, or what-have-you. Feel free to write a comment if you can think of another example.

Seeing as this footage (is it really a movie?) consists of nothing, you can’t help but regard it as a waste of time. Sad really, as the name Brad Spyder deserves more.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


A Dangerous Place (1995)

A Dangerous Place (1995)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Jerry P. Jacobs

Starring: Ted Jan Roberts, Corey Feldman, Mako, Marshall R. Teague, William James Jones, Dean Cochran, Erin Gray, Tricia Vessey, and Dick Van Patten

Ethan (Roberts) is a young-looking and precocious high school Freshman. His passion is Martial Arts training with a team called The Lions, led by Sensei (Mako). Just Sensei, no name given. His brother Greg (Cochran) is also into Martial Arts, but is involved with a gang of ne’er-do-wells called The Scorpions, the leader of which is the smug jerk Taylor Dylan (Feldman). During a Scorpions-led home invasion, Greg ends up dead. The Scorpions make it look like a suicide. But Ethan knows better, and he goes undercover and joins The Scorpions to get the truth about his brother. There, he discovers what’s really going on at the dojo - and what evil Sensei Gavin Smith (Teague) is up to. 

With Principal (Van Patten) - just Principal - clearly a lot of time was given to character names here - sympathetic to him, but with pressure mounting from his parents, his Sensei, the cops, and potential love interest Kim (Vessey), Ethan’s going to discover that his L.A.-area neighborhood is indeed A DANGEROUS PLACE.

A Dangerous Place is yet another PM triumph, an amazingly fast-paced and entertaining film for high schoolers and older viewers alike. To state the obvious, yes, it’s clearly modeled on The Karate Kid (1984), but we really enjoy the mid-90’s PM vibe of this. Ted Jan Roberts is likable and charismatic as Ethan. He could have had a major Hollywood career, he’s certainly talented enough. Thanks to him, really, the movie works because you care about his plight. 

This was also the era of oversized clothing, and some of his shirts are gigantic. He looks like a size Small, but seems to be wearing XXXL T-shirts. They’re so big, you can see his whole collarbone. There are other inspired fashions in the movie as well - something to look out for.

That being said, Corey Feldman was an inspired choice as the baddie (or at least one of them). He seems hilariously scrawny to be a Kung-Fu master, and his belt-and-pants combos are pretty amazing. He adopts a curious Christian Slater-like drawl when he’s not wowing us with his Feldman-Fu. Keeping in mind this was the time when 90210 was huge, there are plenty of scenes at an L.A. school, his character’s last name is Dylan, he’s a 26-year-old high school student, and he has impressive sideburns.  His smarmy performance totally works, and he always seems right on the edge of breaking into a Michael Jackson impersonation, and only by sheer force of will is he holding himself back.

If only Dick Van Patten was the Principal for 90210. Van Patten has maybe two lines and seems confused. How - and WHY - they got him for this role is indeed pretty confusing. It’s a total sit-down role. William James Jones as Eddie - who later was a member of Saved By The Bell spinoff/knockoff California Dreams - does some great mugging for the camera with his outrageous facial expressions. 

But the man who steals the movie is Marshall Teague as the diabolical Sensei. (Sidebar: is it just me, or is there something really funny about the name “Sensei Gavin Smith”? Somehow it doesn’t have that ancient Asian feel to it). One of the reasons I personally never took Karate classes is because I was afraid of being just one of a gaggle of teens forced to do the bidding of an amoral, maniacal Sensei. And who’s laughing now?

Seeing as this is a PM movie, it wouldn’t be complete without some car stunts, especially a middle-of-the-street-flip-and-blow-up, and another one on a softball field that viewers of Night Of The Wilding (1990) may find curiously familiar. In all, we give a solid recommendation to this enjoyable movie. Good times.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Expendables (1988)

The Expendables (1988)-* *1\2

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Anthony Finetti, Peter Nelson, Vic Diaz and Nick Nicholson

 “I’m a cool dude because nothing rests on me.”

Back in ‘Nam, Captain Rosello (Finetti) is assigned a rag-tag bunch of misfits to take under his command. Under Rosello’s leadership, they become “The Expendables”, soldiers specifically meant to take on dirty and extremely dangerous missions. These include capturing a V.C. Colonel (Diaz) and saving nurses that have been taken hostage. Will these men accomplish their difficult missions - and will they be able to get along with each other long enough to survive? Find out today!

Man, look at the cast for this one...Stallone, Statham, Dolph, Gary Daniels, the list goes on and on! Wait a minute...you mean in 1988 there was a movie called The Expendables...and it’s a CIRIO SANTIAGO movie? Wow, who knew Cirio was so ahead of his time? Well, this Expendables may not have the starpower of the newer one, but it does have Anthony Finetti. So take that. It also has Nick Nicholson in a tiny cameo role and the ever-present Vic Diaz. So this outing can obviously hold its own. Well, maybe not.

What we have here is your typical jungle/exploding hut/helicopter/machine gun fire movie. Cirio has made more of these than most other directors, and this does have all the standard cliches, such as the barfight, the religious soldier, and of course the ragtag team. This is a standard-issue movie. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it just kind of floats somewhere in the middle.

The movie has enough little moments to keep it afloat, but it doesn’t really distinguish itself in any significant way. It doesn’t have a forceful drive and energy moving it forward. Special mention should go to Peter Nelson, the actor who played Sterling. He did a good job and managed to stand out a bit. He obviously couldn’t get enough of the jungles of the Philippines so he returned for Cirio’s Eye of the Eagle III (1989). Anthony Finetti could have had a long career making movies like this, but it seems he did not. It’s a shame, he could have been the next Tony Marsina.

If we were to rate this on a scale from one to ten, it would be a five. This is what you might call a “neutral” movie, something that’s not one thing or another. Hence, while we can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, we shouldn’t say to totally avoid it either. Cirio has done both better and worse movies, so The Expendables will have to be something of a midway point in his career.

 Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Expendables 2 (2012)

The Expendables 2 (2012)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Simon West

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris Arnold Schwarznegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Liam Hemsworth, Charisma Carpenter, Randy Couture, Nan Yu, ALSO Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Scott Adkins

 "Let's wrap this up" - Vilain

 Barney Ross, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, Gunner, Lee Christmas, Yin Yang and of course TRENCH are back for another round of explosively awesome, over-the-top entertainment you just have to love. This time around, The Expendables are sent into Eastern Europe to get information leading to tons of  Cold War-era plutonium. The last thing they want is for this to get into the wrong hands. Towards that end, they recruit a young new Expendable, Billy the Kid (Hemsworth), a youthful veteran of the war in Afghanistan. As if the team wasn’t powerful enough, when Church (Willis) assigned this mission to them, he also sent along the highly competent Maggie (Nan). But things get complicated when they run into super-evil baddie Vilain (JCVD) and his equally nefarious sidekick Hector (Adkins). 

These two jerks are forcing an entire town to work in their plutonium mines. Without giving away any spoilers, let’s just say something happens that causes The Expendables to want REVENGE! And these are some dudes (and Maggie) that you DO NOT want on your bad side. Expendables away!

We were overjoyed to see the triumphant return of The Expendables. Thankfully, it was done right, which is rare for a sequel - but perhaps this isn’t any ordinary sequel. The writers stuck to the formulas that worked from the first film - what we would call “vehicles and oldies” (i.e. motorcycles, planes, trucks, etc. and songs such as Rare Earth’s “I Just Want To Celebrate” and The Rascals’ “It’s A Beautiful Morning”, among others) - but they smartly didn’t just rest there and they made new improvements such as a young Expendable and a female Expendable. Plus, to the delight of the audience, everything is just BIGGER. Bigger guns, bigger explosions, bigger action setpieces, and a massive body count.  Plus we get more Trench and Church than ever before. So it would be like a master pastry chef making one of his classic cakes, but adding more frosting. You can’t hope for better in a sequel.

While most missions into hostile territory shun violence unless it is absolutely necessary, what’s so great about The Expendables is that they execute their missions with the maximum amount of violence. Just look at the opening raid (which both films have - but this new one is better. For example, their truck says “Bad Attitude” and “Shock and Awe” on it. So there). But this amount of ultra-violence would be a lot tougher to take if the film didn’t have a healthy dose of humor. 

We said everything is bigger this time, and that includes the laughs. There are a lot of truly funny moments, and the men involved even mock themselves at certain points. It looked like everyone involved was having fun, and that sense is extremely infectious and winning. Van Damme surely relished being the baddie, which he rarely portrays. He was perfectly cast as the arrogant Eurotrash guy. And seeing Stallone and JCVD fight - on the big screen no less - was a treat. 

Most action movies have one good one-liner, if you’re lucky. The Expendables 2 is chock full of them. And Stallone continues his streak of giving his characters great names - the “kid” in the movie is “Billy the Kid” and again without subtlety, the villain is named Vilain. As far as Nan Yu’s character, Maggie, we think Stallone might have gotten her confused with Maggie Q. Or possibly Maggie Cheung.

Of course, the whole thing is a complete adolescent male fantasy blown up on the big screen.  But that’s the genius of The Expendables. It taps into the male brain in an extremely effective way. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. As an added bonus, the take-away message of the movie is that “Violence DOES solve problems”. 

Which happens to be true, but is considered politically incorrect in today’s wimpy climate. So the movie has guts, brains and heart, and has plenty of “YES!” moments to boot. And the fact that The Expendables are getting REVENGE just sweetens the deal even more. Now that we’ve given the movie its due props, we have to mention two minor quibbles. The usage of CGI during some of the bullet hits makes it look like a video game at times, and some of the in-jokey humor goes too close to the irony edge for our liking. 

But it’s all in good fun, and, taken as a whole, those small grievances pale into nothing. If the movie didn’t deliver, those complaints would have more merit, but it does deliver, so, we’re more than willing to let them go.

It pretty much goes without saying at this point, but we LOVED The Expendables 2. We applaud everyone involved for doing 99% of everything right, and unquestionably delivering the goods that fans want. It’s a proud moment for the cast, for the crew, and for America. Long live The Expendables!

Also check out reviews from our buddies The Video Vaccum, Explosive Action, and Freddie Young.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Project Eliminator (1991)

Project Eliminator (1991)-* * * *

Directed by: H. Kaye Dyal

Starring: Frank Zagarino, David Carradine, Brett Baxter Clark, David "Shark" Fralick, Joshua Bryant, Hilary English, and Calista Carradine

Much like KFC’s popcorn chicken, John “Striker” Slade (Zags) is back! Did you ever know it/he went away? This time around, the Strikester teams up with a buddy of his, Ron Morrell (Carradine), a Vietnam vet, and tries to rescue a kidnapped scientist, Dr. Markson (Bryant). It seems Markson has invented a flying laser contraption, and in what can only be explained as a fit of doubt, blows up his nifty invention. After doing this, he was kidnapped by a team of baddies led by the sinister Elias (Clark). The only people on earth that can rescue the scientist are naturally Striker and Morrell, and Jackie Markson (English) is helping them out. Will Markson be rescued? Will the world be safe from flying attack lasers once again? Find out today!

Project Eliminator is definitive proof that long blonde hair and Ray-Bans conquer all. Naturally we’re referring to Frank Zagarino, and, judging by the VHS box cover, he’s clearly the ultimate cool dude/meathead, or meatdude, if you will. One of the many lessons you can learn watching this movie is that a shirtless, mulleted hulk with tight ripped jeans, in and of itself, solves problems in life. 

Never mind the fact that Striker (whose nickname is Striker, don’t’cha know) is ex-Army, ex-Marines, ex-Delta Force and ex-Special Forces (we kid you not), always hits his target, and is, according to Morrell, “Bulletproof”. He’s definitely a man you’d want on your side, and Zagarino and Carradine make a winning team. This movie definitely ranks among Zagarino’s finest work, and from the moment you see him on a motorcycle with his long flowing locks in the wind - and especially when he’s wearing a motorcycle helmet, so it looks like just a morass of blonde hair spilling out of a blank head - you know that if you don’t shut off your brain, this movie will shut it for you.

It seems haters of this movie out there do not have the word “Fun” in their vocabulary. That’s just what this is - fun - and it was never meant to compare to the works of Ingmar Bergman. Though Zagarino is certainly blonde enough to be Swedish - wouldn’t it have been something to see him in a Bergman movie? One can only lament the fact that it never happened.

Carradine certainly gives Zags a run for his money the whole way through: we’ve never seen him so animated. He has energy, he actually smiles numerous times, and he even sings and plays the piano at one point! This is the Carradine we want to see, as opposed to his uncaring, listless performances in Future Force (1989) and Future Zone (1990). It’s pretty clear he was having fun here, as his bolo tie and cowboy hat may indicate, and he’s listed, along with Gail Carradine, as an associate producer, so he gave himself some freedom and it’s infectious. Calista Carradine is on board as well as Vanna.

As for the baddies, Brett Baxter Clark of Delta Force Commando (1988) fame stars as Elias, looking like a cross between James Brolin, Bob Vila and the guy on the Just For Men box. What with his well-kept, classy beard and all. Interestingly enough, Clark played Shark in Shootfighter II (1996), and his sidekick in Project Eliminator is none other than David “Shark” Fralick, who is credited as just David Shark, playing...wait for it...SHARK! Seeing as how Fralick is also a muscular, long-haired, blonde meathead, when he and Zagarino fight it’s like a Mortal Kombat "Mirror Match". It’s very hard to tell who’s who. 

Early in the movie, some baddies attempt to rob a store using rubber President masks. Obviously 1991 was a huge year for said masks, as Point Break also was released.

Director Dyal directed Trained To Kill (1990) the year before this and was obviously preparing for the brain cell-depleting fights and shootouts, pew pew laser shots, inane dialogue and unbridled Zagarinoness on full display here. Containing some rewindable moments, Project Eliminator is brainless fun at its best.

Also check out a review from our buddy The Goodkind!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Silent Killers (1988)

Silent Killers (1988)-* * *

Directed by: Lo Gio

Starring: Man Fei, Patrick L’argent, Howard Wang, Kelvin Wong, Henry Kwan, Laura Yang, Daniel Garfield, Lo Kei, Yolanda Kuk, Willie Sun, Martin Chan and Wallace Man

"His Actions Speak Louder Than Words!"

It’s almost pointless to try to recount the plot (?) of this gem, but we’ll try: apparently a man named Tanaka has a formula that will either save or destroy the world, so Larry, Becky and Brenda kidnap him and try to get said formula. The power Tanaka contains comes from some sort of magical mirrored mustache that he must place on a magical mask. So far just your run of the mill day. Tanaka and his captors, who really aren’t so bad after all, end up becoming friends and teaming up against the real enemy: the evil White guy named Martin. Both the good and evil sides of this spectrum have ninjas that fight against each other. Exactly how ninjas are interjected into all this is anybody’s guess...but will the overwhelming power of the magical mirrored mustache drive Tanaka insane?  DARE you find out the secret to the SILENT KILLERS?

Insane movie alert! I guess it probably doesn’t need to be said again, but at the risk of repeating ourselves: THIS MOVIE IS INSANE! If this movie was a person, it would be put in a rubber room for life. It would make Crazy Eddie and his prices look like Al Gore. It’s from Joseph Lai and Betty Chan, the producers of many a Godfrey Ho classic. But this one’s shot on video! Can you imagine an SOV Godfrey Ho movie? Though the director is listed as one Lo Gio, this is perhaps the closest we’ll get to a non-patchwork, video-camera-shot Godfrey Ho movie, and the results are...really something.

There are some amazing 80’s fashions on display, mainly Larry’s shorts...but he’s outdone in the shorts department by Becky’s Confederate flag shorts! Presumably other countries get America’s hand-me-downs and they don’t know the symbolism involved. Either that or Becky fought for the south. Because it was shot on video, it has that Razor Sharpe (1998)-style vibe of “anyone could do it”. But could anyone do THIS? Just look at the “my first editing machine” transitions between scenes. But the Master has magical Ninjitsu powers which have to be seen to be believed, there are some classic “underground ninjas”, the prerequisite “final ninja brawl”, and there’s more slow motion than Hard Target (1993).

If you read the website Bleedingskull.com, you may have some idea of what to expect here. It seems they review things like this and it would be right up their alley. Silent Killers is very fun, highly ridiculous, completely nonsensical, and makes you realize that coherence in movies is just so boring. Sure, so many movies are out there that are “coherent” and blah blah blah. Anybody could do that. It takes something special and different to churn out a mutant like this.

From what we can gather, this movie is quite rare. It’s listed in the VideoHound under the name Silent Killers but its official title on IMDB is American Commando Ninja.  It was released (ironically) on American Video. They make it look like some sort of post-apocalyptic thriller with an American cast. Why they thought that would be more attention-grabbing than the insanity within is unknown. It’s finding rarities like this that make movie watching and collecting a rewarding experience.

If you can find it, definitely see Silent Killers.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Killing Game (1988)

The Killing Game (1988)-* * *

Directed by: Joesph Merhi

Starring: Chard Hayward, Geoffrey Sadwith, and Robert Z'Dar

Max Gilton (Hayward) seemingly has it all: he lives in a huge house in a ritzy part of L.A., and he conducts illegal gambling operations from his house, which earn him millions from an upper crust clientele. Women are constantly coming and going from his mansion, which has his lawyer friend Jeff (Geoffrey Sadwith) jealous. But Max’s life isn’t all fancy parties and working out in his home gym. To supplement his income, he works as a hit man to his rich casino patrons. One day, he receives some photos in the mail of himself caught in the act of execution. Paranoia seizes Max, and eventually he travels to Las Vegas, where mob boss Antonio Markaze (Z’Dar) is more than willing to take advantage of the situation. Adding to that, Max has been accused of killing his wife and sister in law. The police are hot on his trail, but he maintains his innocence. What’s Max going to do?

The Killing Game is a City Lights production - for those who don’t know, it’s PM entertainment’s Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi’s company in their pre-PM years. Looking back now, you can see them finding their footing. For instance, there are plenty of amateurish moments, especially in the technical department, and the movie is filled with strange-looking non-actors. But that’s all part of the overall vibe, which the video look helps convey.  It certainly adds to the unique feel of this movie. But it’s almost as if they were learning on the job, as The Killing Game certainly gets better as it goes along. You have to wait 54 minutes until Robert Z’Dar shows up, but once he does, the movie is in high gear.

Chard “Why Is My Name CHARD” Hayward puts in a surprisingly strong performance. He could have not taken the role seriously, but it seems he did. He’s a suave fellow with a light British accent. There are numerous scenes of him working out, but with no song behind it. Wardrobe-wise, he seems to have a penchant for bowties and short shorts (though not necessarily at the same time). Because of this, as well as his awesome shades and his rockin’ jeep, he seems to make the ultimate 80’s blackmail target. Chard carries this role rather well.  Complementing him is his friend Jeff, and the guy who played him, Sadwith, as far as we know, has never been in any other movies. He definitely could have had a career as an actor. It’s a real shame. He even could have played Raymond on Everybody Loves Raymond.

As far as fan favorite Robert Z’Dar (which is credited without the apostrophe), he’s reasonably menacing here, and to make him more “Mafia-like”, they put some gray touches in his hair and he speaks in a raspy voice. His fate in the movie is definitely worth watching out for. But like all mob bosses, he spends his days in a theater watching dancers rehearse. Nothing says “don’t cross me” like admiring men mincing around in spandex and leggings. But the good news is, just as we thought that this movie couldn’t possibly rival its fellow City Lights production, the awesome Dance Or Die (1987), it actually does! The climax of the movie is even very similar to Dance Or Die, with the action intercut with the dancing! Apparently Pepin and Merhi felt this was an amazingly winning formula, because they went with it on TWO occasions that we know of. Wow. Now that’s something.

In the end, The Killing Game does have its flaws, and it takes a while to get going, but for the prehistory of PM, Robert Z’Dar, Chard, and the sheer 80’s-ness, it’s certainly worth a look. It won’t change your life, but it’s not a bad way to spend 90 minutes or so.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Killing Zone (1991)

The Killing Zone (1991)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Addison Randall

Starring: Deron McBee, Raymond Martino, Armando Silvestre, James Dalesandro, Charles Sullivan, and Melissa Moore

"There are No Rules. There are No Laws."

Carmen Vasquez (Dalesandro) is one of the meanest and most notorious Mexican drug gangsters around. Sam Bodine (Silvestre), in a bizarre incident, was crippled by him while trying to stop him. His nephew Garret (McBee) was sentenced to hard labor for assault on Vasquez. One day while Garrett is shirtlessly breaking rocks in the hot sun, DEA agent Jack Slade (Sullivan) approaches him and tells him he can go free if he tracks down Vasquez in an off the books kind of situation. Garret agrees, probably mainly to see old girlfriend Tracy (Moore). But Vasquez is using all his connections to go around L.A. killing everyone who he believes wronged him or his brother Pablo, who was murdered in prison, thus turning the place into some sort of Killing Zone.  It’s going to take one serious dude to stop him...and clearly no one else but Garret will fit the bill!

Oh Malibu, we hardly knew ye. Deron McBee can, without a doubt, enter the running for the meatheadiest meathead of all time. It’s truly a shame he wasn’t in more movies. One can only submit in awe at his square jaw, long blonde hair, torn muscle shirts, tight acid washed jeans, dangling earring and super-cool sunglasses. He’s one seriously bad dude with an attitude, in true 90’s fashion. He more than carries this movie, and, despite all odds, is a joy to watch.

As if this god among men was not enough, there are plenty of other worthwhile characters in this movie as well: Jack Slade (of course his name is Jack Slade) is the no-nonsense, by-the-book agent who strongly resembles Charles Grodin. It’s about time Grodin got tough and starred in a movie like this. The beautiful Melissa Moore seemingly has no qualms about appearing in some of the most ridiculous movies ever, as just a few years earlier she was in the immortal classic Samurai Cop (1989).

Because this was an early PM, they were still working out all the bugs and kinks of their now-famous formula, and, from today’s perspective, that’s very interesting to watch. There’s even an early attempt at their famous “car flipping over in the street and exploding” stunt. For a low-budget crime drama like this, it’s surprisingly coherent (if completely silly) and the fact that it made it to video stores across the land should be applauded.

So while Malibu mangles the murderous menaces in this movie (when not at Miller’s Gym), once we reach the climax it slows to a crawl. It’s almost like they realized they were running short on time and had to put in some last minute filler. But it’s okay, like we said, it’s a low-budget early PM, so all sins are forgiven. Plus, who could stay mad at Malibu?

The Killing Zone represents a golden time in DTV - see this movie if you get the chance.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Killing Time (1998)

Killing Time (1998)-*

Directed by: Bharat Nalluri

Starring: Kendra Torgan, Nigel Leach and Craig Fairbrass

Reilly (Leach) is an effeminate and super-evil gangster who continually manages to evade the law, so cop Bryant (Fairbrass) hires a hitwoman to kill him in an “off the books” kind of way. The hitwoman in question is Maria (Torgan), and she comes from Italy to England to complete her job. Apparently a lot of British thugs are after Maria as well, and she must use her wiles to dispatch them - but is Bryant behind any double crosses?

There are many types of slogs in Direct-to-Video cinema. There’s the submarine slog, the airplane slog, the jungle slog, and the spaceship slog, just to name a few. But in the later 90’s, a new type of slog emerged: the Tarantino slog. These are Tarantino knockoffs that would not exist if not for that director. They’re characterized by a lot of violence, mainly shooting, and plenty of unnecessarily talky dialogue. Well, Killing Time fits the description to a T. Why ANY filmmaker could think they could replace the all-important character development with a lot of blah-blah-blah jawing from the characters is unknown. This way, when any action does occur, you don’t really care. In this movie, you don’t care about the plight of any of the characters.

Another reason for that is that Killing Time is also a classic case of “style over substance”. There’s almost no substance here, but there is some stylish camera moves, lighting and VHS box art. It just goes to show the old saying about not judging a book by its cover remains true. This movie is just trying so hard to be cool. But because it was the 90’s, it’s trying to be cool in that super-90’s way, and it hasn’t aged well. It uses that Portishead song multiple times and has characters either talking about nothing or doing nothing. Thus the pacing is seriously off. This movie has held up about as well as a commercial for “Buzz Cuts”, “Buzz Jams”, “The Edge” or one of those CD compilations of “edgy” 90’s music that you just can’t buy in stores, so call now.

And the sad part is, we normally love British movies, especially thrillers like this one. But this movie is  the aforementioned Tarantino slog, mixed with a knockoff of La Femme Nikita (1990), so, besides the exteriors and a character wearing a Newcastle shirt, this really doesn’t feel all that British. Craig Fairbrass does what he can here, but it’s tough. He deserves better. In this movie he looks like a cross between Patrick Swayze, Richard Norton and Mel Gibson.

Presumably this movie was for Tarantino fanatics, or younger teens "slammin'" their cans of Mountain Dew and saying “radical, totally awesome 90’s, man”. So sadly we cannot recommend Killing Time.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty