Black Gunn (1972)

Black Gunn (1972)-* *1\2

Directed By: Robert Hartford-Davis

Starring: Jim Brown, Martin Landau, Bernie Casey, Jeannie Bell, Herbert Jefferson Jr., and Luciana Paluzzi

Tom (possibly Tim, not really sure) Gunn (Brown) is the coolest, smoothest club owner in town. All the hippest people are seen at his Gunn Club, the cleverness of the name alone surely drawing them in. While Gunn is content to run his business and be the life of the party, his brother Scottie Gunn (Jefferson Jr.) is involved with weightier issues. He joins a Black Panthers-style revolutionary organization known as BAG, or, the Black Action Group. It seems BAG has stolen some “payoff books” and money from the mob, notably Russ Capelli (Landau), who most people know as a used car salesman whose TV commercials show him as a trustworthy guy. When tragedy befalls Scottie, the elder Gunn must wage a one-man war against Capelli’s gang. Will he ever get answers, with cops and politicians dogging his every move?

Black Gunn is a typical example of the Blaxploitation of the time, so much so, it seems to be one of the main templates for parodies such as I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988), which also starred Bernie Casey, and Black Dynamite (2009). Jim Brown is beyond low-key as our hero Gunn. He whispers all his lines, but he always looks cool in his fly threads. He even makes bowties look stylish and not nerdy. Martin Landau should have been in the movie more, because Black Gunn as a whole needed a strong, central villain. He’s more than capable of filling that role, but for most of the movie, we actually forgot Landau was on board! He kind of shows up, then goes away and shows back up at the end. Landau should have gotten more screen time.

Highlights include the funky soundtrack by Tony Osborne, the classic evil whiteys, its total lack of political correctness, including racial slurs you could never do today, and some cultural references: there are numerous allusions to Vietnam, and certain characters coming back from that conflict. Additionally, there’s the line “It’ll make Watts look like a Saturday night in Disneyland!” - indicating some of the tensions of the time. But the problem is the movie as a whole is too long and has too many extended, pointless scenes. Yes, it does have some gunplay and explosions, and maybe a few fights, but Black Gunn could have reached a much higher level if the whole thing had been streamlined: shorter running time, more action. Not that the movie is bad, really, but there’s a bit too much fat. And the ending is lame.

Interestingly, and correct us if we’re wrong here, but Black Gunn never received a VHS release during the Golden Age era of the video store, at least here in America. Its cult Blaxploitation status had to grow from other means, such as foreign releases, poster and film prints, and write-ups in such books as That’s Blaxploitation! by Darius James and others. It did get a DVD release in the 00’s, so stateside Blaxploitation fans could finally see it. The results...are mixed. It has a lot of things fans of the sub-genre love, but it’s a bit bloated for its own good.

Fans of Blaxploitation, Jim Brown, Bernie Casey, and even the briefly seen Jeannie Bell (known for TNT Jackson, 1974), and even Luciana Paluzzi will want to check out Black Gunn. Casual viewers might not be as into it. After all, as great as Martin Landau is, as a Blaxploitation baddie, he’s no Monroe Feather.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Bad Blood (1994)

Bad Blood (1994)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Tibor Takacs

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Joe Son, Hank Cheyne, Kimberly Kates, Frankie Thorn, Chuck Zito, Sigal Diamant, Cole S. McKay and Simon Rhee

"It's Killing Time."

Travis Blackstone (Lamas) is a man whose name tells you he means business.  He works in a salvage yard working on trucks and being as manly as humanly possible. Because he has a sweet side, he coaches little league in his spare time. The problem is, he used to be a cop, but when he destroyed evidence to protect his annoying brother Franklin (Cheyne), he went to prison and was kicked off the force. 

Now that pesky Franklin is at it again, owing five million dollars to an underground criminal syndicate populated by baddies Jimmy Chang (Son), Baggy (McKay), Lee (Rhee), and the sadistic enforcer Toots (Zito). As if all this wasn’t enough, Travis’ girlfriend Lindee (Kates) believes he is cheating on her with former love Rhonda (Thorn) so Lindee, in an unjustified act of female revenge, works with the baddies and helps them find Blackstone. Now the stage is set for the ultimate confrontation. Will Travis Blackstone clear up all the BAD BLOOD?

Lorenzo Lamas is truly the man we love to love. As far as we’re concerned, based on what we’ve been viewing lately (his 90’s action output), his star is in the ascendant. We believe he is underrated and underappreciated. He always has a cool quip, some cool Martial Arts moves, is handy with guns, and lest we forget his luxurious hair. What more can the man do to win you over? Here, every time he executes a cool move, there is a corresponding musical sting. Sure, his southern drawl may go in and out, but he pioneers the art of “Brickfighting” - and whether by accident or design, Travis Blackstone can defy gravity. Like how if you were on another planet, you would weigh much less, Travis seems to have less gravity in his body. Maybe he’s from another planet. Just check out the infamous “super jump” (Thank you to DTVC for the hotlink to the pic below) around 64 minutes into the movie. Plus, he’s equally adept at playing jazzy piano as he is beating up baddies at the drop of a hat.

Another nice thing about Bad Blood is its cast of B-movie names. A standout is Joe Son, who also appeared in Shootfighter (1993), Shootfighter 2 (1996), Bloodfist V (1994) and Army Of One (1993), among not too much else. Even though he’d been in a bunch of things we’d seen, it took until us viewing this to really notice him, but to be fair his part is more substantial here. 

Cole McKay finally gets a decently sized part after all his great stunt work, while Simon Rhee’s part is not too big. Cheyne was good casting as Lamas’ brother, that does certainly look possible. And we didn’t even mention John P. Ryan (of Avenging Force (1986) and Delta Force 2 (1990) fame as their father) and Sigal Diamant (who also appeared in Shootfighter and Army of One, as well as other Lamas vehicle Blood for Blood (1995). The list goes on and on! Also we noticed Gordon Hessler was second unit director, who is a great director in his own right, having done the Sho Kosugi movies Pray For Death (1985) and Rage of Honor (1987), as well as the underrated Out on Bail (1989).

The final warehouse shootout certainly gives Hard Target (1993) a run for its money, and the many goons allow Bad Blood to deliver the action goods. The heroic music booms as Lamas proceeds to kill everybody. Just like he did in Blood for Blood. It’s a toss-up as to whether Bad Blood or Blood for Blood is the better Blood Lamas movie - but let’s not forget there is an alternate edit for this movie under the title of Viper. From what we’ve been able to tell, they’re the same except for a sequence of a baddie killing a kid was removed from the Bad Blood edit. So there are no other major differences that we know about. But seeing as how only one character calls Travis “Viper” only once in the movie, perhaps all references to that being his name were taken out, but we don’t know that for sure.

Bad Blood is classic 90’s video-store action all the way and is a lot of fun to watch. We recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by Ty and Brett

Also check out reviews by our buddies DTVC and Cool Target!


Terminal Justice (1996)

Terminal Justice (1996)-* * *

Directed by: Rick King

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Kari Wuhrer, Peter Coyote, Chris Sarandon, Barry Flatman, and Tod Thawley

Sgt. Bobby Chase (Lamas) is an ex-Special Forces veteran of the 2002 Russia Cartel Wars. In that conflict which took place in the future which is now the past, his evil captors destroyed his eyes, and now, in the present/past of 2008, working as a cop, he has cybernetic vision. He’s assigned to protect movie star Pamela Travis (Wuhrer), who is constantly under assault from the goons of scientists who want to clone her. Yes. Scientist goons. The nefarious super-genius-evil-cloner is Deacon Vivyan (Coyote) who is working with fellow baddie Reginald Matthews. You know he’s evil because his name is Reginald. And because he wears high-collared shirts. 

Naturally, Chase and Travis end up becoming romantic, and in order to get to the baddies once and for all, Chase has to reluctantly team up with ponytailed techie Takamura (the awesomely-named Tod Thawley). Living in the future with all this newfangled technology can be a blessing and a curse, as Chase is about to find out the hard way. Will he ever get TERMINAL JUSTICE?

Things got really terminal in the 90’s, what with a spate of “Terminal” movies such as Terminal Velocity (1994), Terminal Impact (1995), Terminal Virus (1995), Terminal Rush (1996) and, of course, the movie on offer today, Terminal Justice (though it’s also known as Cybertech P.D.). And because it was the 90’s, we have another outing that involves VR and Cyber-matters. That truly was the obsession of the day, and Terminal Justice borrows from Demolition Man (1993), Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Virtuosity (1995) and even Hologram Man (1995). But yet, it also has some interesting ideas of its own. The whole “virtual reality crime scene” was a fascinating concept, and there are a few other gems in there as well. So it’s kind of a mixture of forward thinking sci-fi concepts mixed with The Kill Reflex (1989)-style murderous toy helicopters.

Lamas is especially meatheady in this one, almost to Evan Lurie levels. But we’ve yet to see Lurie display the type of emotion Lamas does here, he even cries, showing that he has a sensitive side and isn’t all long hair and comically oversized bathrobes.  His new partner, played by Thawley, is sort of a hybrid Keanu Reeves/Don The Dragon/Jerkface, who starts off as arrogant and unlikable, but you sort of come around. Kudos to Thawley for bringing us along on his character’s arc. Connecticut’s own Kari Wuhrer has never looked better, and though fans know her as Kari Wuhrer, for this movie she took her current husband’s surname and is credited as Kari Salin. Who did she think she was fooling? Regardless, it remains one of Salin’s best roles to date. She even has a talking house (in this case named Ludmilla), much like Ed Marinaro did in The Protector (1999). It should only be a matter of time until we all get our own talking houses.

Director Rick King, who brought us Prayer for the Rollerboys (1990), as well as arguably the best Kickboxer movie, Kickboxer 3: The Art of War (1992) - which singlehandedly saved that series from going into the doldrums - here delivers an unfortunately junky-looking final product. That it’s another “shot in Canada but we’re going to pretend it’s somewhere else” production is one thing, but the constant close-ups don’t really do the movie any favors either. 

But there is some energy and ideas, which is good, but the fact that it was released as a Platinum disc doesn’t bode well for potential viewers. At least he started the movie on an exciting note, with Lamas shooting a machine gun and screaming - and later got into talking about things going “online” with illegal VR games and such.

Despite some of the typical DTV pitfalls, Terminal Justice isn’t that bad. It can proudly stand with all the other Terminal movies of the 90’s.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out reviews by our buddies The Unknown Movies and  DTVC!


Mask Of Death (1996)

Mask Of Death (1996)-* *

Directed by: David Mitchell

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Rae Dawn Chong, and Billy Dee Williams

McKenna (Lamas) is a cop with a rockin’ mustache who happens to be taking a vacation on a remote lake, when baddies fleeing the law disrupt the party. In the ensuing battle, McKenna’s wife is shot and killed, and McKenna himself is shot in the face. While most people would have died from this grievous injury, his mighty mustache protects him from certain death. 

While in the hospital, his boss, Agent Jeffries, (Williams), convinces him to reconstruct his face after super-criminal Lyle Mason (also Lamas). McKenna reluctantly agrees, and now he’s undercover deeper than any cop has ever gone before him. Posing as Mason, McKenna has to navigate the criminal lifestyle without losing his integrity. This is going to be tough, because he can’t reveal his identity to former partner Turner (Chong), for fear of her safety, but she’s getting too close on her own. Will the truth of the mighty Lamas face be revealed?

It’s “two Lamases - no waiting” in this silly, dumb AND stupid production. Truly this is not one of Lamas’ best outings. Perhaps he only did it to compete with Van Damme, who has played two Van Dammes in multiple movies. According to the tagline, “Danger Has A New Face”, so, it might as well be Lorenzo Lamas’ face. Or maybe it was a trial run for the crown jewel of television that he was involved in later in his career, Are You Hot? - and Mask of Death was just Lamas trying to prove that indeed he was hot whether he played a good guy with not just one, but several, stunt mustaches, or his classic baddie with oversized sunglasses and a leather coat.

Billy Dee Williams’ role is minimal and he doesn’t really do that much, but he does mention something about Star Wars. Coincidence? Director Mitchell is also responsible for Thunderground (1989), Last To Surrender (1999), and UKM: Ultimate Killing Machine (2006), and his style is heavily Canadian, as his DTV productions scream “SHOT IN CANADA!” all over them. That’s not an insult, just an observation. Rae Dawn Chong is always nice to see, and her role gives her plenty of chances to get in on the action. But, as always, it’s all about the Lamas. That being said, we would suggest Bounty Tracker (1993), Bad Blood (1994) or Blood For Blood (1995) for better examples of Lamas action.

In the end, Mask of Death may have the prerequisite shooting and stunts and such, but we found it strangely unsatisfying. See above for better examples of classic Lamas.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a review by our buddy, DTVC!


Blood For Blood (1995)

Blood For Blood (1995)-* * *1\2

AKA: Midnight Man

Directed by: John Weidner

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Mako, Arsenio "Sonny" Trinidad, Eric Pierpoint, Sigal Diamant,  Diane Di Lascio, Steven Vincent Leigh, and James Lew

"Survival is the best revenge."

John Kang (Lamas) is a mild-mannered L.A. cop who prefers to teach Martial Arts to children and other cops than being out on the street. When his friend and partner Paddy (Pierpoint) convinces him to get involved in a gang war between the Cambodian mafia and the Russian mafia, Kang has no choice because he speaks fluent Cambodian. As if being caught in the middle of a mob war wasn’t enough, the super-evil Prince Samarki (Lew) is running around killing everyone, including people close to Kang. Samarki has the ancient Cambodian mysticism instilled in him by Lord Mao Tan (Trinidad), but Kang has an ace in the hole with mystic-on-the-side-of-good Buun Som (Mako). So now the stage is set for the ultimate showdown. Will it be BLOOD FOR BLOOD after all?

This is definitely one of Lamas’ best - he has a great entrance and from then on it’s a blur of awesome hair, awesome Karate moves, awesome one-liners (with plenty of 90’s references and humor), awesome gun battles, and did we mention awesome hair? While the casting of Lorenzo Lamas as a Cambodian named Kang may seem odd...okay, it is odd, but who cares? 

Plus the movie is chock full of other fan favorites such as James Lew, who plays a similar character in American Ninja 5 (1993), among other movies - so now you REALLY don’t need to see AN5. We always like seeing Mako, and here he has his usual small role. Steven Vincent Leigh of China White (1989) fame has some great clothes, and fan favorite name Arsenio “Sonny” Trinidad makes a short appearance as well.

Blood For Blood has all the great 90’s video-store action you want, including the time-honored “flying through the air sideways while yelling and shooting” move, and this is one of the first instances of “Lampfighting” that we can recall seeing. Naturally fights occur in bars and abandoned warehouses, where they should. At one bar/club, they’re actually showing Shootfighter (1992) on a screen. Because the same producers are involved, it saves money. 

But Kang also has a sensitive side, as represented by his wife and daughter (DiLascio and Smith respectively). His daughter plays with stuffed bears and adds Kang’s LAPD badge to one of them, while one bear arrests another. Someone should set up a playdate with the “I’m gonna smoosh you” kid from A Time To Die (1991).

While to some, Blood For Blood may seem like standard action material, the presence of Lamas elevates it, as do his co-stars. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and we recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by Ty and Brett


Good Cop, Bad Cop (1997)

Good Cop, Bad Cop (1997)-*1\2

AKA: Black Dawn

Directed by: John De Bello

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Marco Rodriguez, and Catherine Lazo

“I spend my time in the distant past. It’s the recent past I can’t quite stomach.” - Jake Kilkanin

Jake Kilkanin (Lorenzo) is a cool dude and ex-cop who just wants to laze around in his San Diego apartment and eat Nutter Butter bars and drink Jim Daniels brand whisky. But trouble comes a-callin’ when some of his former employers want him to investigate “one last case”. It seems an evil Mexican drug lord named Chapparo (Rodriguez) is involved in not just drugs, but illegal border crossings, kidnap and murder. 

When an annoying harpy named Constance Mainwaring (Lazo) - who used to be a stripper named “Ecstasy” - insists on getting Jake to help her retrieve her missing millionaire husband from the clutches of Chapparo and his thugs, Jake must come out of retirement and make a run for the border. Will Jake triumph? Find out today (?)

Released towards the end of Lamas’ 90’s heyday, with Good Cop Bad Cop, also known as Black Dawn (not to be confused with the Seagal outing of that name), you can start to see the wheels starting to come off the seemingly-unstoppable Lamas train that ran through video stores in the 90’s. Don’t get us wrong, Lamas himself is as good as ever - as the slick and cool, yet literate Kilkanin, he puts in a typically likable performance, but the movie as a whole is talky, slow, and seems to be missing something. 

We’ve all seen a lot like it before, and the structure of the film is very old fashioned. Whether it’s an intentional throwback to the 40’s/50’s style of mystery-adventures is unclear. But it’s not gritty or tough when it needs to be, and it doesn’t hit the viewer hard. It just kind of bounces off your eyeballs, leaving no real impression.

While the movie is well-shot and competently made on a technical level, there is a dearth of action, which is certainly what customers going into a Lorenzo Lamas movie called “Good Cop Bad Cop” are expecting to see. Lamas does no Martial Arts in the movie. But he is seen shirtless...again, so his unbroken record of shirtlessness remains intact. 

For the final third of the movie, when it becomes a desert slog, that seals the movie’s fate as video store shelf-filler. Not offensively bad or poorly made shelf-filler, but shelf-filler nonetheless.  Its more lackluster qualities pretty much turn the movie into a less-wacky Bail Out (1989). But then what would you expect from director De Bello, who has dedicated the majority of his career to making Killer Tomatoes movies? The least he could do is explain exactly who the “Bad Cop” is in this scenario, and what with all the talking being yammered about, you’d think that would have come up at some point.

But in the 90’s nostalgia department, the main baddie wears a VR-esque mask, proving the ubiquity of VR in the 90’s - even in a non-VR-based movie, that style of helmet still makes an appearance. The fact that it looks silly and not at all threatening didn’t seem to factor in when the decision was made to put what looks like an oversized watermelon painted black on the main villain’s head. And because Chapparo and his goons leave Olmec medallions on the dead bodies of their victims, the parallels to Legends of the Hidden Temple are rife. The only remaining question is: when is Kirk Fogg going to make an action movie?

Lamas fans may find some enjoyment here, but on the whole this is one of the weaker movies he’s appeared in.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a review by DTVC!


Snake Eater III: His Law (1992)

Snake Eater III: His Law (1992)-* * *

Directed by: George Erschbamer

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Minor Mustain, Tracy Hway, Tracey Cook, and Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow

Jack “Soldier” Kelly returns - again - in this third and final entry in the Snake Eater series. This time around, Soldier has to turn in his badge and gun - again - after his rogue ways get him suspended - again. During his forced leave of absence, a woman contacts him about a special job. The parents of Vivian Molison reach out to Soldier to tell them their sad tale. Vivian (Hway) was kidnapped, raped, and used as a sex slave by the evil biker gang the Hell’s Furies. She came home, but she’s so traumatized she can barely speak. 

All the Molison parents want is for Soldier to infiltrate the gang and kill them off one by one in a brazen act of revenge. Soldier not-so-reluctantly accepts. He then teams up with sidekick Cowboy (Mustain) and they get to work. Of course, Soldier’s girlfriend Hildy (Cook) doesn’t approve of his dangerous lifestyle. But Soldier meets his match with the imposing Goose (Bigelow), a tough biker dude with a bladder problem. Will Soldier and Cowboy (they’ve really reduced heroes down to the main essentials here) escape alive, and thrive, after they strive to destroy the bikers’ hive? Find out today!

In our humble opinion, this is the best of the Snake Eater series. While some of the wacky humor didn’t quite work in the other two outings, here it does. And while that humor didn’t always gel with the action elements at work, here it does as well. And at a running time of an even 90 minutes (as opposed to the 109 as advertised which is incorrect) it clocks in right where it should be, in contrast to the sequels which tried your patience at times. Granted, there are some pacing issues here too, but they’re reined in. Lamas is charming, as ever, and seems to be having fun. What with some of his clever inventions to off the baddies, he’s sort of like a cross between Renegade and MacGyver.

Interestingly, there’s a scene at a motel where Soldier and Cowboy come under siege from the evil bikers, and they have to bust through the walls of the motel. Such a scene was also seen in that same year’s Universal Soldier (1992) - coincidence? Could this be an indication of a future crossover, Universal Soldier Kelly? Time will tell. Actually, time has already told, and the answer appears to be no. 

In the evil biker department we have Bam Bam Bigelow - oh, excuse us, SCOTT “Bam Bam” Bigelow. Somehow he just doesn’t seem like a “Scott”. But presumably he added his first name so he could seem more professional. If his movie career had taken off, like for example the way it did for The Rock, would it make sense to see a poster and it simply says “Bam Bam” at the top of it? Regardless, it is fun to watch this cartoonish villain with his silly threats and goofy gruff voice face off against Lamas.

Snake Eater III (you gotta love the Roman numerals, it really gives things a touch of class) does indeed give you what you want: an extended barfight, a classic WYC (White Yelling Chief), a rogue cop who has to turn in his badge and gun, and blow-ups and violence by a cop who plays by his own rules. Hence, the Snake Eater series finally comes into its own. Sadly, just as it was warming up, the series ended. Such is life. Apparently this outing was based on a novel, “Rafferty’s Rules”, but the others in the series weren’t (?) but Snake Eater III: His Law is 90’s video store action section fun and you’ll surely be entertained.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out reviews by our buddies, DTVC and The Video Vacuum!


Bounty Tracker (1993)

Bounty Tracker (1993)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Kurt Anderson

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Matthias Hues, and Cyndi Pass

Johnny Damone (Lamas), not to be confused with Johnny Ramone, is a Boston-based Bounty Tracker who always gets his man. When his brother Paul (Paul Regina) has to be sequestered so he can testify against Bernie Madoff-like white collar criminal Sarazin (Glazer), a team of ruthless assassins, who have no problem killing anyone in their path, led by the super-evil Erik Gauss (Hues), tries to find him and kill him. Johnny travels to L.A. to take down Gauss, his hardest collar yet. Helping him on his journey are a trio of homies from the ‘hood who also want Gauss for their own reasons. Inevitably, it leads to the final showdown between Johnny and his boys, and Gauss and his gang. Who will prevail?

Bounty Tracker is a total winner. It delivers everything you want in a DTV movie from this time and place. It has all the traits that make a movie like this successful. It’s always pleasing when filmmakers actually “get it” because so many out there do not. This movie is pure 90’s-action-movie fun and if you’re a fan of that (and why wouldn’t you be?), there is a lot to love about Bounty Tracker.

This truly is Lorenzo Lamas at his absolute best. As the movie kicks off (no pun intended), we see his range as he plays a faux-upper-crust, bowtied nerd. Of course he still has his trademark beard stubble and ponytail. Lamas has a lot of charm, and, in true action-movie style, is always ready with a glib remark. Naturally, Johnny Damone is your classic “ex-Marine, ex-cop, with a black belt in Aikido”, who now is a Bounty Tracker, not to be confused with a Bounty Hunter, or even a “Skip Tracer”. It’s confusing but Reno Raines is a Bounty Hunter. Johnny Damone is a Bounty Tracker. It’s hard to keep it all straight. His superiors even call him a “Karate Cowboy”, whatever that means, but it might make a great movie in its own right. His fight scenes are highly enjoyable, like the rest of this movie.

Fellow fan favorite Matthias Hues once again plays the villain. To see Lamas and Hues face off is truly a DTV dream come true. It’s a good, solid role for Hues, who so often is relegated to the background. Here, along with Lamas, he gets his name top-billed above the title. Ah, the golden age. Can you believe there was a time when a top-billed Matthias Hues was an actual THING? It seems hard to believe now in our cynical era. But here’s the proof.  His female counterpart in the movie, Jewels, is played by Cyndi Pass, who also appeared in Deadly Reckoning (1998), as well as Mission of Justice (1992), which was produced by Bounty Tracker director Kurt Anderson. Anderson also directed Martial Law II (1992) and produced the first Martial Law (1991). So you see the general spirit of what’s going on here.

We actually liked the homies that Damone teams up with. Sure, many punks and/or homies in these movies can be unnecessary or annoying, just look at Esteban Powell from Hitman’s Run (1999). But, the thing is, you have to take these things on a homie-by-homie basis. You can’t just throw the homie out with the bathwater. You have to take the proceedings in the spirit of the time. They just want to turn their lives around and help out Damone. You can’t fault them for that. Even Damone can use a little help against someone as evil as Erik Gauss. Plus you can tell he’s evil because his name is Erik Gauss.

Bounty Tracker is never boring and hits all the right notes. It’s a pleasure to watch. There should be more like this.

Also check out a review by DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Swordsman (1992)

The Swordsman (1992)-* *

Directed by: Michael Kennedy

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Claire Stansfield, and Michael Champion

Andrew (Lamas) is a Toronto cop on the edge...the edge of a sword that is (yuk yuk). When archaeologist Julie (Stansfield) witnesses the theft of a sword thought to have belonged to Alexander The Great, not only does Andrew have to protect her, but he has to explore the seedy Canadian underground fencing circuit to find answers. Thankfully, Andrew is an accomplished fencer, so when he meets Stratos (Champion), a man who stages illegal underground fence-fighting tournaments to the death, he doesn’t stand out as a cop. Adding to all this is the prerequisite romance between Andrew and Julie, and the dreams Andrew has been having, which indicate who he may have been in a past life. Will Andrew be able to solve this “Gordian Knot” of complications? Find out today!

In the 90’s, fencing must have been huge, because there’s also Ring Of Steel (1994). Given the choice, we prefer Ring Of Steel to The Swordsman. One of the few things that stand out in this movie is Lorenzo Lamas’ amazing hair. It almost single-hairedly saves the movie. But sadly there’s more padding in this movie than in the fencing outfits of Andrew and Stratos. And at 98 minutes, there’s just too much filler. 

Probably the movie’s strongest idea occurs within the framework of the no-rules, 2-men-enter-one-man-leaves fencing duels. It’s primarily a swordfight, but it can end with an MMA-style takedown. That’s interesting. That idea should have been developed more, instead of some of the weaker stuff. Thus, the movie could have used a bit more excitement.

But everything Lamas does is cool - from his awesome fencing bandanna which stylishly protects his lovely hair, to the way he flicks on a lightswitch. Stansfield as his female foil provides the eye candy, and she was also in Best Of The Best 2 (1993) and Sweepers (1998). Director Kennedy is also responsible for Red Scorpion 2 (1994), so make of that what you will. While The Swordsman doesn’t really skimp on the swords, it’s a little on the slow side, making the “flashbacks to another age” - which will remind you of The Minion (1998) and The Order (2001), and of course Highlander (1986) - feel a bit odd. Adding to that is the preponderance of nude and seminude men (more than usual). It would be rather easy to see a gay subtext in this movie (you don’t have to be Freud to see the symbolism of “Swordfighting”...) What were they thinking?

The Swordsman is overlong and underwhelming. But there is a behind-the-scenes featurette on the Republic VHS tape, so be sure and check that out. If you could just see the featurette somewhere, it might save you some time. The Swordsman is really for die-hard Lamas fans only.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster (1989)

Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster (1989)-* *

Directed by: George Erschbamer

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Ron Palillo, Larry B. Scott, Harvey Aitkin, Michael Scherer, Michele Scarabelli, Mark Brennan, and Kathleen Kinmont

Jack “Soldier” Kelly (Lamas) - not to mention Torchy (Palillo) - are back in this second installment for some more snake eating. This time around, Soldier’s rogue ways get him in a whole heap o’ trouble: while still on probation from the antics in the previous film, he takes down some baddies in an unauthorized raid, in his own inimitable style: with guns and grenades. 

Now in trouble with the law, his lawyer’s only move to prevent Soldier from going to the big house is to label him as insane and send him to the nut house. While in said loony bin, he reconnects with the aforementioned Torchy, as well as making some new, mentally challenged friends, such as Sidney (Aitkin) and Goliath (Scherer). Also Soldier finds time to hit on his shrink, Dr. Pierce (Scarabelli). 

Meanwhile, street thugs are passing around a new drug laced with poison, and two mob families, the Fabrinis and the Francos, are battling it out for supremacy. While Soldier sneaks out and teams up with his buddy Speedboat (Scott) to right the wrongs of the streets, cops Broderick and Forester (Brennan and Kinmont, respectively) are conducting their own investigation. Will Soldier and Speedboat prove their sanity once and for all?

It’s One Flew Over the Snake Eater’s Nest as Lorenzo Lamas once again tries to shirtlessly work through life’s conflicts. If you ever wished the first Snake Eater film wasn’t Dream Team (1989)-y enough, your strange prayers have been answered. But that’s just the thing about this movie. For the most part, it has a goofy, jokey vibe that doesn’t always mix well with whatever action may be occurring. 

It’s like stirring some Metamucil in a glass of water, but instead of cohesively gelling, it remains a bunch of chunks. Not that we would know from personal experience. The noticeable and disappointing lack of action, or lacktion, kind of puts this into the category of the comedy-based buddy cop movies with a “sassy black guy” that have been churned out since time immemorial. 

The first movie had the boatercycle, and this movie has Speedboat. As long as there’s some kind of boat, surely director Erschbamer is satisfied. Though it is nice to see Soldier Kelly in a more urban environment when he’s not cooped up in the asylum. The problem is, the movie doesn’t concentrate on the right things. What should be happening is, he should be attacking the mobsters throughout the whole film, on the streets, either with or without Speedboat’s help. Instead, there’s a ton of filler with wheelchair races and all the rest of it. But Kelly and Speedboat do get to parade around the streets (of Canada) in a variety of different outfits. That wasn’t enough to make us love the movie, however.

As far as the rest of the cast is concerned, Kathleen Kinmont is (barely) involved, because Lamas apparently can’t make a movie without her. A pleasant surprise was George Buza as the heavy Rico. Though he appeared in Busted Up (1986) as Captain Hook, we had completely forgotten about him. But he was great in both the movies we’ve seen him in, and he really shined as the intimidating baddie with a knack for casual racism. 

The wonderfulness of 1989 is evident once again, and it’s a testament to the power of video stores that there are THREE Snake Eater movies. ‘89 was such a banner year for video stores and their product, we’re still sorting through it all today. SE2 was just one of a many myriad choices in your local video store’s action section. Now with hindsight, we can look back and examine what that mysterious section was all about. That’s pretty much the point of our site, really.

Lamas fans will be onboard with this outing, as will fans of relatively lightweight action, but its lack of seriousness may not sit well with some viewers.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a review by our buddies Explosive Action and  DTVC!


Gladiator Cop: The Swordsman II (1995)

Gladiator Cop: The Swordsman II (1995)-* *

Directed by: Nick Rotundo

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, George Touliatos, Christopher Lee Clements, Garry Robbins, Claire Stansfield, and James Hong

“This is amazing.” - Thug #1

Andrew Garrett is back! Who’s Andrew Garrett? And why is he back? Apparently he’s the Canadian cop played by Lorenzo Lamas who first appeared in The Swordsman (1992). This time around, Andrew is trying to get to the bottom of a missing museum piece, a sword said to have belonged to Alexander the Great. Diabolical museum director - and how often do you get a chance to hear that description of a human being - Chris Kilos (George Touliatos - or is it George Touliatos as Chris Kilos; not really sure) has the sword and does what any rational person would do if they had Alexander the Great’s sword - he gives it to a hulking meathead named Jodar (Clements) so he can win in illegal underground fighting matches that take place in parking lots. 

But when the mysterious fight promoter Parmenion (Hong) enters rival meathead Mongol (Robbins) into the competition, things really heat up because Andrew Garrett must now go undercover and fight him. Also there’s some mumbo-jumbo about how Parmenion and Garrett are reincarnated from past historical figures and Garrett dreams about their historical encounters. What will happen to Jodar and Mongol? Oh yeah, and Andrew Garrett? Find out today, if you can...

The original Night at the Museum (2006), Gladiator Cop - not to be confused with Karate Cop (1991) or Samurai Cop (1989) - is one of those “30% New Footage!” deals, a completely incoherent mishmash of recycled footage from the first movie, cobbled together with some new footage and perhaps some stuff left on the cutting room floor. Odds are it was left on the cutting room floor for a reason, and rehashing and microwaving the blended contents doesn’t necessarily make what you’d call a cohesive film. At least not in the traditional sense of what we’ve come to know that to mean. 

Perhaps the biggest question as to the existence of this thing called GLADIATOR COP: THE SWORDSMAN 2 (which in itself is a pretty big red flag) is...WHY? Was The Swordsman such a huge hit that it demanded a sequel three years later? That all seems weird by today’s standards, but it’s crucial to remember that things were very different in the video store era. People were more willing to take chances. It was probably inexpensive to create this movie, slap a name like Lamas on the box cover, and you might just get a return on a relatively meager investment, what with video stores in full effect around the world. But what exactly is going on?

Evidently the character of the museum director, Chris Kilos, was in the first Swordsman film...and the filmmakers this time around thought, “You know what, let’s tell the continuing story of the museum director. Fans are definitely going to want that.” Then we get to some Lionheart (1990)-inspired parking lot fights, where characters such as Mongol have cartoonishly huge swords and axes. His freakin’ sword is longer than his body height. 

Other fighters have Raphael-style sais or those small crescent weapons on a straight handle. We also get treated to “throwing star vision” so we can know what it would feel like to be flung by, and at, a meathead. 

The fights are announced by an Ernest Borgnine lookalike who speaks not into a microphone, but a small plastic megaphone attached to a rope. His announcements have that fast food drive-thru unintelligible static so you can’t tell what the poor man is saying. But Lamas’ hair remains wildly awesome. So that straightens things out. Much like Lamas might do with his hair.

It seems this movie is fairly comfortable with its incoherence, unlike the first film, which at least tried to be coherent. But this movie is far sillier, which in our book might just make it the superior piece of entertainment, but if the movie had more Lamas (he’s gone for long stretches) and was a little more coherent, it might be better and would appeal to more people. So as a viewer you’re not really hooked in, but you’re not really checked out, you’re kind of left floating in the middle (at least during the less silly scenes). 

So Gladiator Cop: The Swordsman II qualifies as being Grincoherent (which means incoherent in a good way), a term we coined. But while it is Grincoherent to die-hard video junkies like ourselves, to the majority of the viewing populace it will no doubt be confusing and unsatisfying. It all depends on your tolerance for nonsense.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Circuit 2: The Final Punch (2002)

The Circuit 2: The Final Punch (2002)-* *

Directed by: Jalal Merhi

Starring: Olivier Gruner, Lorenzo Lamas, Michael Blanks, Jim Shagen, Jalal Merhi, Chino XL, Gail Harris, and Gary Hudson

 Dirk Longstreet (Gruner) is a school athletic coach and dog lover, and has the pride of knowing he has the most awesome name in town. His girlfriend Nicole (Harris) is a newspaper reporter, and her latest assignment is to find out the dark secrets of Ogden Correctional Institution. While there, she is attacked so badly she’s put into a coma. 

Dirk, with the help of  Nicole’s editor Max (Lamas), 
working as his contact on the outside, decides to enter Ogden and get to the truth. But the corrupt guards are running Punchfighting matches, known as “The Circuit” - they even compete against other prisons’ illegal underground Punchfighting Circuits like it’s some kind of NCAA seed. But Dirk is an able fighter, and he’s going to have to be to take on the reigning champ, the evil Pike (Shagen). What will happen to Dirk - and what will happen to Nicole? We may never know!

The Circuit 2: The Final Punch, whose subtitle contains the word “punch”  which is a surprisingly rare thing, even for Punchfighters. It’s also surprising that there are actually THREE Circuit movies. Why? Can anyone answer this? Anyway, as you’ve already surmised, it’s a combination prison movie/Punchfighter, but it’s no In Hell (2003). 

Olivier Gruner (or is it Daniel Bernhardt, we can’t really tell anymore...) is fairly solid in the immortal role of Dirk Longstreet, but Lamas is underused here, even wasted. You can tell he doesn’t really care, but, in his defense, would you? But his “I don’t care” performance is actually appropriate and one of the better aspects of this movie.

Besides the cheapness, unintentional “laffs” and out-and-out stupidity, which gets pretty grating after a while, there’s a certain dullness about the movie. Sure, it has a cool training sequence, but that’s just not enough. Even the scene where Chino XL and a bunch of his homies show up at the offices where Lamas works to say “we don’t like what you wrote about us” (hey, it’s plausible...doesn’t it happen all the time?) is funny, but we can’t really tell if it’s on purpose or not.

Jalal Merhi, who’s in the movie for a few minutes (and literally phones in his performance) delivers, as a director, a movie with an amateurish structure. Plus you can’t really tell when the movie is from. Apparently it came out in 2002, but it seems mid-90’s. The second half of the movie is largely back-to-back fighting on the beach, strongly reminiscent of The Ultimate Game (2001). When J.D. Rifkin is your role model, there are some serious problems.

As far as the “seedy jail” sequences, most of the major cliches are on show, such as the classic “prison speech” when the inmates first get to Ogden. The prison T-shirts have the name and number seemingly written-on in marker, and Michael Blanks, Billy’s brother who also appeared in Expect No Mercy (1995), plays the sympathetic friend to Dirk. But, Dirk doesn’t use his own name while in prison, presumably not to sully it, much like how a hand model always wears gloves. He goes by the name “Jim Morrison”. Presumably his first choice for a jailhouse moniker, Engelbert Humperdinck, was already taken.

In all, even though the cast is solid, the dumb and dingy Circuit 2 is not. It’s not offensively horrible, but we still felt kind of bad for Lamas and Gruner (and pretty much everyone else), because they should be involved with better projects. Did we mention Gruner’s name in the movie is Dirk Longstreet?

Also check out reviews by our buddies, The Video Vacuum and DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by Ty and Brett


The Rage (1997)

 The Rage (1997)-* * *

Directed by: Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Gary Busey, Roy Scheider,  Kristen Cloke, and David Carradine

Nick Travis (Lamas) is an FBI “Mind Hunter” on the trail of a serial killer named Dacy (Busey) (the changing of a “G” to a “D” in the name was pretty inspired). Naturally, Travis’ ways are unorthodox, so the bureau teams him up with a new recruit, the pretty Kelly McCord (Cloke), a gung-ho agent who wants Dacy and his gang as much as anyone. Second-guessing them every step of the way is Taggart (Scheider), an FBI higher-up. But Travis has just too much integrity to bend to his ways. While the deranged Dacy is putting his team of psychopathic yokels into high gear, Travis and McCord must race against time to prevent any new victims before becoming victims themselves. Not just of the killers, but of federal bureaucracy and corruption. Will their relationship survive against all odds?

In terms of technical qualities, this DTV effort stands above some of its contemporaries. It has a fairly glossy, high-quality look and feel that is just a hair away from being theater-ready. The cinematography is quite good, and the picturesque locales in Utah help that along nicely. The score is also big and booming.
Lamas puts in a personable performance as the FBI Agent On The Edge (not to be confused with his roles as a CIA Agent On The Edge in the CIA films). He has as many cool one-liners as he does snappy ties in his wardrobe. Cloke, as his partner, puts in a good amount of effort and you’ve got to love those bedroom eyes.  Roy Scheider could presumably do better (as he clearly demonstrated by being in Executive Target, 1997) in his career, but at least you get to see a fight scene between him and Lorenzo Lamas. You truly haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed Roy Scheider-Fu.

As far as Gary Busey...if he’s trying to live down his reputation as a raving psycho, movies such as The Rage aren’t helping him too much. We think the filmmakers renamed the film from Word of Honor to The Rage in honor of Busey and his performance. There are plenty of classic Buseyisms on display as he rants and raves with wild abandon.

Also David Carradine is literally wasted in a nothing role that’s almost as senseless as Klaus Kinski’s in The Soldier (1982).

Director Furie has had a long and accomplished career, so that probably accounts for why this film is well-made. There are some good stunts and chases, despite the fact that the plot is pretty by-the-numbers. But it paved the way for TV shows like Criminal Minds, which are just hour-long plots very, very similar to The Rage. Too bad Lamas, in the TV world, is known for Renegade - he should have been a Criminal Minds cast member. But Wings Hauser was on an episode recently. But we digress...

The Rage might be a good movie to see if you want to break someone into the world of DTV movies. Its “not quite ready for the movie theater” feel should help gradually wean a newbie in.

Also check a review by our buddy, DTVC!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty