Silk 2 (1989)

Silk 2 (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Monique Gabrielle, Peter Nelson, Jan Merlin, and Maria Claire 

Jenny “Silk” Sleighton (this time, Gabrielle) is back for this second and final installment. For this outing, the beautiful and tough Hawaii cop is out to bring down criminal mastermind Hancock Gish (Merlin), the interestingly-named art enthusiast whose goal is to steal precious, ancient Japanese scrolls. Silk ends up meeting a spunky tourist, Holly (Claire) and a guy who really hates art forgery, Tony (Nelson) and the three unlikely allies end up working together to stop Gish. In the meantime, Silk does what she does best, take down baddies in her own inimitable way. Will they succeed?

It was a surprise to us too, but, yes, there is, in fact, a Silk 2. Apparently the first one was enough of a success to spawn a sequel, but not successful enough for Cec Verrell, the original Silk. Why they didn’t make it a trilogy remains unknown. 

The by-now-well-known Monique Gabrielle steps in, and does a fine job. Her completely wooden, flat affect is a lot of fun to watch, and her outfits, such as an acid-washed jean jacket and matching skirt (or is it stone wash? Not really sure...) complement her beauty nicely and firmly place this movie in the 80’s. It came out in the video store golden year of 1989 - as if to prove the fact that the video store was booming then, Silk 2 is the first of FIVE movies that star Peter Nelson appeared in just that year.

 Once again, none of the other characters comment on the seeming misplacement of Jenny Sleighton on the police force, which is good, and the combination shower scene/fight scene is without a doubt a movie highlight.

There are plenty of classic cliches that we now know and love, such as the time-honored Wacky Taxi Driver, among many others. It all adds to the sense of fun. Like we’re always talking about, the word “cliche” need not have a negative connotation. 

And since this is a Corman production, there are plenty of connections to be made, such as: Sally Mattison is credited as Associate Producer, and she was the director of Slumber Party Massacre III (1990), which featured Silk 2’s Maria Claire. Claire only had a small handful of roles, which is sad, because she has a very winning look and personality. She also chose interesting roles, because besides the two already mentioned, she was in Society (1989), once again a 1989 classic. As far as other cast members go, Avellana plays a guy named Kashi, and based on this we assumed his last name was “Go Lean Crunch”. I think we were wrong.

The movie has a great opening...in fact, it’s the same opening sequence as Silk 1. (This time it’s Arab terrorists, and Monique Gabrielle is fighting them, but still, it’s the same). We still need to see that Silk is a woman of action who takes no prisoners, so...here we go again! Silk 2 is filled with dumb, seemingly random scenes, but it has a lot of blow-ups, stunts, and shooting, with the classic Cirio touch. Whether that’s a good thing or not is only for you to decide. But there are some cool keyboards on the soundtrack, and with an impressively accessible running time of 75 minutes (and that includes credits!), there’s really no reason to avoid Silk 2.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Skinheads (1989)

Skinheads (1989)-*

Directed by: Greydon Clark

Starring: Chuck Connors, Barbara Bain, Brian Brophy, Liz Sagal, Jason Culp, and Dennis Ott

A small group of skinheads led by Damon (Brophy) are apparently tired of harassing elderly store owners, so they take a skinhead vacation to the rural mountains. When further harassment of the locals such as restaurant owner Martha (Bain) leads to murder, a young couple who witness the incident, Amy (Sagal) and Jeff (Culp) go on the run in the woods trying to stay one step ahead of the skinheads and their underlings such as Brains (Ott). Luckily Amy and Jeff run across the cabin of Mr. Huston (Connors), a grizzled World War II veteran. Together they alternately fight and run away from the skinheads until the final confrontation. What will happen?

Unfortunately - very unfortunately - Skinheads is a huge disappointment. Rather than seizing this opportunity to say something incisive, unique, interesting or different about skinheads, instead here they are just generic baddies. They just as easily could have been bikers, crazed backwoods folk, a militia group of some kind, or a group of enemies with no affiliations whatsoever. Most of the movie consists of Amy and Jeff running away from the skinheads, and it gets very repetitive. Skinheads - the movie - has the wrong plot for its idea. By that we mean, you think it’s going to be an urban tale about the evil of neo-Nazis and those who stand against them. Instead, improbably, it’s a wilderness slog where characters come face to face with bears and sleep in sleeping bags on the forest floor.

 As the evil racist leader of the skinheads, Brian Brophy looks alarmingly like “Vinny” from Jersey Shore. (Don’t worry, we're ashamed we know what Vinny even looks like). His skinhead buddies have swastikas tattooed in the corner of their foreheads, and drive around in a white van with a huge swastika painted in black on the side of it, next to a circle-A “Anarchy” symbol. These anarchist-fascist youngsters have named this completely inconspicuous vehicle the “Death Van”, just as the Scooby Doo gang have named their van the Mystery Machine. They have also spray painted a swastika on their blinds at home, so you know they’re serious. They also have a poster of Hitler on their wall (where do you shop for one of those?) next to an S.O.D. poster, which truly shows the cluelessness of this production, as anyone who knows that band would know that placing them in this context is a complete absurdity, they are about as far from a skinhead band as it’s possible to get.

Interestingly enough, fellow on-screen skinheads Brian Brophy and Dennis Ott were both in the classic Road House (1989) - the same year as Skinheads. The great year of 1989 of course. The movie industry sure is funny, isn’t it? The main reason we rented this is because of the presence of fan favorite Chuck Connors, and while he’s decent in it, it’s not really one of Chuck’s best. The movie on the whole doesn’t SAY anything about the skinhead subculture, it doesn’t illuminate anything, or offer any solutions. But it does have a Motorhead-like song that plays often  with some crazy guitar solos.  Not that a low-budget exploitation movie directed by Greydon Clark has to be some sort of socially redeeming thing, but there’s seriously nothing here except mindless chases that wear on the viewer very quickly.

Far from the “Second Coming of Hate”, as the movie’s subtitle promises (unless it’s referring to how you’ll feel about the movie after watching it), Skinheads is dumb when it doesn’t have to be. A shame, really.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by our buddy Keith from The Unknown Movies!


Lady Terminator (1989)

Lady Terminator (1989)-* * *

AKA: Nasty Hunter

Directed by: H. Tjut Djalil

Starring: Barbara Constable, Christopher J. Hart, Adam Stardust, and Claudia Rademaker

All hell breaks loose in Indonesia when an American anthropologist named Tania (Constable in her only credited movie role) travels there to uncover the legend of the South Sea Queen. It turns out the myths and legends of the area are true when Tania becomes possessed by the Queen’s malevolent spirit. Before you know it, she’s dressed in black leather, has an assault rifle with endless ammo and will go in any public space and begin shooting up the place. When she attacks an up and coming pop star named Erica (Rademaker in her only movie) while she’s performing live, a cop named Max (Hart in HIS only movie) comes to her rescue and they go on the run. Ignoring the fact that Tania cannot be killed, Max assembles a team of his finest warriors/buddies and they break out the tanks and missile launchers on her. Because her “spirit is too strong”, it’s going to take more than brute force to stop this particular reincarnation. But can she be stopped? Find out today!

Lady Terminator is a wildly entertaining and fun movie that you just can’t resist. It has plenty of exotic charm, thanks to its Indonesian locales and indigenous legends (and a cool 80’s look to go along with that), but since the movie was primarily made to be exported, it’s interesting to see the filmmakers give what they thought the rest of the world wanted - endless machine gun shooting with super-high body counts, nudity, and off-kilter weirdness a-plenty. Thankfully, this mixture of local culture and international aspirations resulted in a one-of-a-kind movie that must be seen.

The movie doesn’t skimp on the action, and plenty of our favorite items are on show: screaming while shooting a machine gun (in this case in a tank!), an exploding helicopter, the disco scene (this one in particular is a winner because it mixes in some action to an extended version of Erica’s song), some awesome Aerobics clothing that Erica and her friend Marianne wear, and the icing on the cake is the killer acting/dubbing, featuring some memorable lines that deserve to be quoted (“Does this place serve beer or just milk?”, “I’ve seen more dead bodies than you’ve eaten hot dogs”, etc.). It’s easy to see why the producers PROUDLY present the movie, as it states in the opening credits. And in case you get confused, there’s a few sentences of voice-over narration at the beginning and end of the movie from an unknown, unseen voice. It will send you into a philosophical tailspin if you let it.

While Constable does a bang-up job as the Lady Terminator - and her pre-Terminator phase of innocence (her strange insistence on being known as an anthropologist even takes precedence over her gender) - truly the movie belongs to Snake. Who is Snake? He’s one of Max’s cop buddies on the force, and a more totally radical, awesome dude you have not seen. He wears only tight denim, has amazing hair, and talks like Michaelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There’s a name in the credits, Adam Stardust, and we’re sincerely hoping that’s the guy that plays Snake, but we’re not sure. But who else could it be?

God bless Mondo Macabro for releasing this on DVD. Their support for this movie made it possible for the maximum amount of people to see it in its correct version, and we truly salute them for it. And there are some nice extras on the disc too. So if you don’t own it already, go on Amazon post-haste and add this gem to your collection!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


City Cops (1989)

City Cops (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Chia Yung Liu

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Ken Tong, Suki Kwan, and Michiko Nishiwaki

Cindy (Rothrock) is an American FBI agent who is currently in Hong Kong seeking arch-criminal Kent Tong (played by Ken Tong, just to make sure you’re paying attention). In order to bring down Tong and his criminal organization, she teams up with local HK cops David and Johnny (at least those were their names in the dubbed version we saw) and hilarity (?) ensues. Thankfully, many fights ensue as well. But in the spaces between these top-notch fights, a variety of comedic and/or romantic situations entangle the three main characters - mainly between Cindy and David, and Johnny and sister-to-baddie and police witness May (Kwan), who Johnny falls for during the course of the investigation. Naturally it all comes to a head in the final warehouse fight, where Cindy has to face her toughest opponent yet - the baddie-ess Michiko (Nishiwaki). Will our beloved City Cops make their ultimate arrests? Find out today!

While City Cops relies a just a bit too heavily on setting up and executing supposedly comedic scenarios and banter-filled dialogue scenes, luckily, the movie delivers the goods where and when it counts. There are some really cool, well-executed fight scenes, all done in that fast, kinetic, inventive late-80’s/early 90’s HK style we all know and love. The movie overall looks great, with top-notch cinematography and interior decor. May’s apartment is a standout, with a cat painting like you’ve never seen before. The dubbing is of the typical loud, brash style but that contains some humor of its own this time around.

As we noted earlier, the movie could have used a few more fight scenes, and/or a few more scenes with Cynthia Rothrock, but the ones we have are excellent and we choose to concentrate on the positives, which, thankfully in this case, outweigh some minor negatives. The cops have a killer beeper, and there’s yet more working out to synthy 80’s keyboards which have become synonymous with aerobics. Let’s not forget this came out in the great year of 1989, and the exercise craze was still huge. This when our city cops aren’t dealing with transvestites and “molesters”...all keeping us in suspense before the big blowout fights.

Despite a few actionless passages that seem to go on a bit long, City Cops redeems itself with some killer fight scenes nestled in with some of its other, more positive attributes. In the end it comes out a winner.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


River Of Death (1989)

River Of Death (1989)-* *

Directed by: Steve Carver

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Donald Pleasence, Herbert Lom, L.Q. Jones, and Robert Vaughn 

 At the end of World War II in 1945, Heinrich Spaatz (Pleasence) vows revenge on evil Nazi doctor Wolfgang Manteuffel (Vaughn). Twenty years later, in 1965, we’re introduced to “adventurer” John Hamilton (Dudikoff), a guy who knows the Amazon river like the back of his hand and gives tours through the dangerous jungles. In his latest tour group are people that want to find out the origins of a mysterious disease that’s been ravaging the local population, as well as some Nazi hunters that believe Manteuffel is hiding out in the area. All want to find the legendary “Lost City” which should hold the key to pretty much everything. But along the way, they’re going to have to face many pitfalls and challenges - everything from “river pirates” to the unknown jungle disease. Will they succeed?

I guess Firewalker (1986) wasn’t enough of an overlong jungle slog for Cannon, so they decided to make another one a few years later. Why they thought audiences had such an appetite for jungle slogs is unknown, but here’s another one. Take the aforementioned Firewalker, add some Golden Needles (1974), and maybe some Skeleton Coast (1988), and you have a plot you’ve seen many times before. If you really want to see a quest for the lost city, see Quest For The Lost City (1990). Sure, River of Death might be based on a story by the acclaimed Alistair MacLean, but it lacks a Zap Rowsdower. Or even a Mike Pipper. So can it really compete?

Dudikoff is as cool as ever, and his gruff narration adds...something...but honestly this isn’t really an action movie, it’s more of an old-fashioned “adventure” movie. Why the filmmakers thought that would be better, we don’t know. It seems like a bit of a cop-out. Dudikoff doesn’t even do any Martial Arts. Due to the length of the movie, and the quality cast, we presume Cannon was going for some very mainstream material. What they came out with is pretty boring, because there isn’t really any character development, so you don’t really care what goes on, and even what little bit of gunplay and explosions there happen to be don’t help things.

Robert Vaughn - yes, Control 5 himself! - is on hand as a Nazi. We always love seeing him, and he clearly is enjoying himself here, probably because he doesn’t get too many Nazi roles. Maybe there’s a reason for that? Perhaps the good lawyers at Mark E. Salomone and Morelli liked what they saw and decided to give the poor guy a break. We kid Vaughn because we love. We’re also big fans of Donald Pleasence, and he gets to do a lot more here than, say, in the entertaining (but largely Pleasence-less) American Tiger (1990). Herbert Lom is also onboard with the cast of older gentlemen, which adds to the Skeleton Coast vibe. Too bad they couldn’t get Borgnine.

The bottom line here is that this movie should have been snappier, with a more vibrant pace and about a half an hour chopped out of the running time. We see what the filmmakers were trying to do, but it’s all so bloated. Director Steve Carver, who only a year previously directed the fun Bulletproof (1988), should have taken a page out of his own handbook and livened things up a bit like he did with that Gary Busey vehicle. He truly shouldn’t have been such a “Butthorn”.

We’ve seen a lot worse, and this movie is fine for Dudikoff completists or even Pleasence fans, but casual viewers will probably be turned off by River of Death’s sluggish ways.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a review by our buddy, DTVC!


Tripwire (1989)

Tripwire (1989)-* * *

Directed by: James Lemmo

Starring: Terence Knox, David Warner, Charlotte Lewis, Yaphet Kotto, Sy Richardson, Tommy Chong, Meg Foster, and Viggo Mortensen

Jack DeForest (Knox) is a take-no-prisoners FBI agent who’s out to stop an international ring of terrorists led by the fanatic Szabo (Warner). Szabo’s goal is world domination by means of smuggling all kinds of dangerous arms. Helping him are his henchman Hans (Mortensen) and the beautiful Trudy (Lewis). Even street thugs like Turbo (Richardson) go up the ladder to Szabo, who has his fingers in all sorts of illegal activities. 

Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with the tough, no-nonsense DeForest, whose rogue ways...well...cause him to go rogue in pursuit of justice. Captain Pitt (Kotto), of course, doesn’t approve of his “cowboy” tactics. But in a weirdly personal twist, while in pursuit of Szabo, DeForest kills his teenage son. So in revenge, Szabo kidnaps and brainwashes DeForest’s son and forces him, through constant druggings, to be a part of Szabo’s criminal network. So now DeForest must rescue his own flesh and blood, while attempting to “deforest” the terrorist network. Can he do it?

Tripwire is a minor undiscovered gem in the world of video-store action. It starts with a bang, an extremely impressive chase sequence. After this wheelie-poppin’ intro, the stunts and parade of familiar names in the cast keep things afloat. Truth be told, it does sort of run out of steam in a couple of places, but on the whole, Tripwire is a strong entry in the “I’ve never heard of it” action sweepstakes. Another thing that helps the movie is some of the more off-kilter directorial touches, thanks to James Lemmo, a man known for his associations with Abel Ferrara and William Lustig. For example, for the first seven minutes of the movie, there is no dialogue. There are some unusual camera moves as well later on, and the performance of Yaphet Kotto is oddly naturalistic.

The movie continues to hit all the right notes, as exemplified when DeForest is kicked off the force, and becomes a down and out...wait for it...PUNCHFIGHTER! We always appreciate some unexpected Punchfighting. Knox plays an impressive hero, and gets in some good dialogue. Rounding out the impressive cast are cameos by Meg Foster and none other than Tommy Chong. Of course, DeForest has a young punk son who cranks up his 80’s metal on his boombox and has Frank Zappa posters on his wall. But all of that aside, if you were in a video store in the golden year of 1989 and saw Tripwire’s box art, how could you NOT rent it? It’s impressive - and also similar to the Lemmo/Lustig vehicle Hit List (1989). Something about dudes being dragged from cars must really fire them up. Well, color us impressed.

Tripwire is another example of why the 80’s were so fertile and rich with entertaining action. It’s only now that we’re sorting it all out and enjoying everything from that time period. And despite a few minor missteps, it’s finally time that Tripwire had its moment in the sun.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Blood Red (1989)

Blood Red (1989)-* *

Directed by: Peter Masterson

Starring: Eric Roberts, Dennis Hopper, Giancarlo Giannini, Julia Roberts, Burt Young, Elias Koteas, and Michael Madsen

Sebastian Callogero (Giannini), the patriarch of the Callogero clan, has brought his family to Brandon, California in search of a better life. They, along with other Sicilian, Italian, and other immigrants work hard to produce wine in that part of the country. But seeing as it’s 1895, railroads are being built all across the country, and it just so happens that the land the Callogero’s use is blocking the way for W.B. Berrigan (Hopper) and his dream to plow his railroad right through their precious wine country.  Sebastian won’t budge, so the ruthless Berrigan calls in Andrews (Young) and his goons, to use force and intimidation to get them to relent. After some more escalations in unpleasant events, it’s up to Sebastian’s son Marco (Roberts), who formerly was rebellious against his father, to rise up and fight back against Berrigan and Andrews’ reign of terror to save his land and protect his father’s good name.  Helping him is Enzio (Madsen), among other compatriots. Will they get their revenge?

Blood Red is a decent movie, nothing great. It feels like a TV movie a lot of the time, and judging by the killer cast,  it should have been a more exciting and worthy outing. Its slow-paced, old-fashioned style might appeal to fans of classic Westerns. Not that any of this is offensively bad in any way, it’s all just a bit bland. A few blow-ups and maybe a bit of gun-shootin’ doesn’t really help much.

Eric Roberts continually has a smug look on his face and is consistently shirtless throughout the movie (we’re assuming just suspenders doesn’t count as a shirt). Also we didn’t know mullets existed in the 19th century. You learn something new every day. And despite the fact that this is likely to be the only Julia Roberts movie on this site, as well as Burt Young ALMOST rescuing the movie, truly the star of the show is Dennis Hopper as Berrigan, the classic Carpet Bagger/Robber Baron/Captain Of Industry (or what-have-you) of the day. When he first appears on screen, your first impulse will be to say “Is that Willy Wonka?” - but once you  get past his fancy suit and top hat, there’s the Irish accent. Yeah.

Interestingly, if you watch the AMC show Hell On Wheels, you may have some idea of what Blood Red is about - immigrants and the birth of the American Railroad, with all the conflicts that ensue. Blood Red may have paved the way for it, but Hell On Wheels is done much better. If you’re interested in that subject matter, check out that show instead. Blood Red is just an immigrant-based variant of your classic “Get Off My Land” movie. Party A tells Party B to get off their land. Party B refuses to get off said land. Conflict ensues. The stereotype is that “GOML” would traditionally be said by a man with a Southern accent holding a shotgun. Here at least it’s some different ethnic groups.

Blood Red appears to be an oddity in the careers of most of the people involved. It might be worth checking out just to see them all interacting in a low-budget Western setting, but on the whole, Blood Red seems a bit lackluster.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Gleaming The Cube (1989)

Gleaming The Cube (1989)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Graeme Clifford

Starring: Christian Slater, Steven Bauer, Art Chudabala, Max Perlich, Ed Lauter, and Tony Hawk

***800th Review***

Brian Kelly (Slater) is a teenager and radically awesome skateboarder who just lives to be rad in that awesomely 80’s kind of way. He has a close relationship with his Vietnamese adopted brother Vinh (Chudabala) and has a close circle of skateboarding-obsessed friends which include Buddy (Hawk) and the wonderfully-named Yabbo (Perlich). Brian’s life is turned upside down (in a bad way, not a skateboardy kind of way) when he witnesses a murder and must piece together how his beloved brother was involved in the shady dealings. Det. Al Lucero (Bauer) is officially working the case, but Brian goes rogue, or, more accurately, goes rad to uncover the truth by himself. But it’s going to take all his gleaming power to solve this cube. Can he do it?

If you love the 80’s as much as we do, you’ll be in hog heaven watching Gleaming The Cube. The clothes and hair alone will send you into a state of awesome overload. Not to mention the music, most notably the title song by James House and “Brother to Brother” by Billy Burnette. The set design is also great, especially the posters in Brian’s room. 

Christian Slater as Brian is the ultimate California 80’s cool kid, sort of a cross between Zack Morris and Bart Simpson. Plus, if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like if Jack Nicholson was a skateboarding teen, here you go.  Brian listens to skate rock on his walkman and T-shirts/posters are seen for The Cramps, D.R.I., Megadeth, Suicidal Tendencies and many more. One of Brian’s best fashion statements is his acid-washed dark denim jacket with a Metallica patch on the sleeve. We want to be Brian Kelly.

Interestingly, Vinh works at a Vietnamese video store called Balsa Video. It looks like it was a real location. I wonder if anyone who grew up in the L.A. area can confirm this? In other location news, Yabbo (we all need a friend named Yabbo) doesn’t have a room...he has an underground bunker, sort of a converted bomb shelter! How cool is that! Also, skateboarding isn’t just a mode of transportation or lifestyle for Brian. Whenever he’s feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, he skates hard to release his aggressions.

As far as the movie is concerned, you’ll be riding high with all the music, cool hair, clothes, decor, skateboarding and nostalgia, but if truth must be told, it is a little bit repetitive, especially the relationship between Brian and Lucero, and the running time could have been trimmed by a few minutes, but these are minor quibbles. No movie is perfect. 

There’s really a feast of things to enjoy in GTC, it almost feels disingenuous to point out any of its tiny flaws. There are some very cool stunts and even a blow-up or two. You just have to love it.

We definitely recommend this slice of 80’s magnificence to everyone.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Kickboxer (1989)

Kickboxer (1989)-* * *

Directed by: David Worth

Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Alexio, Rochelle Ashana, Dennis Chan, and Michel Quissi

Eric Sloane (Alexio) is a champion kickboxer in the United States, so, seeking new triumphs in the ring, he travels to Thailand. With his brother/ringman Kurt (Van Damme) by his side, he feels he cannot lose. That is, until he faces off against the most fearsome fighter in Thailand, if not the world: the dreaded Tong Po (“himself”...actually Qissi). 

Despite Kurt warning him to not get in the ring with him, Eric pridefully ignores his brother and fights Tong Po. The evil Po mercilessly beats Eric so badly he paralyzes him for life. Seeking revenge for his brother’s crippling, Kurt sets out to learn Muay Thai and beat Tong Po in the ring. No school will accept him, so, working on a tip from ex-Special Forces Vietnam vet Winston (Anderson), Kurt goes into the Thai countryside to receive lessons from master Xian Chow (Chan). Chow puts him through his paces, but Kurt ends up falling in love with Mylee (Ashana) in the meantime. Gangster Freddy Li (Lee) has bet millions on the upcoming fight between Kurt and Po. After Tong Po assaults Mylee, Kurt wants revenge, so with all the pressure building, will Kurt defeat Tong Po?

Here’s another Van Damme classic from the golden year of 1989. Most people, even if they’re not action fans, are at least aware of Kickboxer. Even a David Letterman “Top Ten List” of the day featured the topic “top ten things overheard while waiting in line for Kickboxer”. Underground fighting movies had hit the mainstream and had their brief moment in the spotlight. And Van Damme was spearheading the trend, thereby becoming one of the faces of the action movie movement of the late 80’s/early 90’s. 

While Kickboxer falls squarely in the middle in terms of the quality of his Punchfighting era (the best being Bloodsport, 1988 and the weakest being The Quest, 1996 - as always it’s open for debate but that’s our opinion), it has a “much imitated, never equaled” kind of feel to it and even though it’s a little on the long side, it never really gets boring.

It may be a bit of a stretch to believe Alexio and Van Damme are brothers, but, that aside, in the movie, Eric disregards Kurt’s advice to not fight Tong Po, thus reinforcing the old saying “always listen to your Van Damme”. But the brothers in Bangkok do share a genetic sense for fashion, as stonewashed denim vests and half-shirts seem to be the order of the day. 

But Van Damme steals the show in the wardrobe department when he unleashes what can only be described as a tanktop with suspenders for straps. And for no explained reason, for the final face-off with Tong Po, they are BOTH wearing silly loincloths that leave criminally little to the imagination. How did they both know to wear a freakin’ loincloth to this particular battle? Presumably they didn’t talk beforehand and arrange it - it’s surprising they both weren’t embarrassed, like two women who wear the same outfit to a party.

There are some excellent and picturesque Thai locations, there’s a great song at every turn which smartly keeps the energy going (most of which are by AOR artist Stan Bush), and at one point one character says to Van Damme, “I’m not signing your death warrant”. Seeing as the movie of that name came out the next year, could this line be an inspiration? 

Also in 1990 came a similarly-themed movie to Kickboxer, The King of the Kickboxers (1990), where Keith Cooke takes over the rural Thai trainer role. But one thing that movie does not have, nor any of the myriad “training sequence” movies that followed in its wake has, is one very important element: the “Van Damme” dance. Yes, part of Kurt’s training is to go to a roadside cafe, get drunk, then bust a move with some local ladies. The movie pretty much stops - as it should - so we can see Van Damme get funky on the dance floor. Not since Breakin’ (1984) where he claps along to the beat in his wrestling singlet have we seen his expertise with rhythm. Definitely a movie - nay - a career highlight for JCVD. He should have danced more in his movies.

One other note: like how in Best of the Best 2 (1990), the name “Brakus” is constantly and continuously said throughout the movie, here the name “Tong Po” is the constantly-said name. These writers were sure proud of their bad-guy names. While the popularity of this movie led to the inevitable flood of sequels (where Sasha Mitchell replaces Van Damme), this original is truly a “video store classic” and a worthy movie in its own right.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Violent Zone (1989)

Violent Zone (1989)-*

Directed by: John Garwood

Starring: Chard Hayward, John Jay Douglas, Christopher Weeks, Jack DeLeon, and Cynthia Killion

Charles “Daddy” Townsend (DeLeon) is an ultra-rich businessman so he decides to assemble a team of people with various strengths, and pay them each a lot of money to rescue his missing son. The island they’re all located on was the site of “one of the bloodiest massacres of World War II” back in 1945. It was then that a Japanese soldier and an American soldier vowed revenge on each other. Steve Ryker (Douglas) is the trustworthy Chicago cop, Norman McKloskey and Linda Blomberg (Hayward and Killion, respectively) are journalists meant to make a record of the events, and those are just some of the characters who get thrown into this situation - and then things go haywire. Will anyone escape the island alive? Will they escape the VIOLENT ZONE?

We expected Violent Zone to be an 80’s Vietnam slog, but it’s not. It’s still a jungle/mercenary slog, but it doesn’t have much to do with ‘Nam, except for the fact that some of the mercs are ‘Nam vets. It doesn’t factor into the plot too much. But it doesn’t really matter, as the “assemble a team” movie was done much better in past years, the most shining example being Kill Squad (1982). We should have been wary about the name John Garwood, because we weren’t exactly fans of A Taste of Hell (1973), but we decided to give him another chance. Well...despite a couple of decent moments (we really enjoyed the guy who looked like David Crosby, but we don’t know his name) Violent Zone is a dud. It’s not very engaging, and its level of dumbness was just too high. A lot of times dumb can be good, but here, without too many other redeeming factors, it’s not.

We also wanted to see Chard again after The Killing Game (1988), and he puts in one of the best performances here. Coincidentally (?) enough, Cynthia Killion was also in The Killing Game. Naturally, Townsend, as the mastermind who assembles the team, only selects these people because “they’re the best”, a time-honored cliche we all know and love. It was interesting that the main hero, Steve Ryker, was played not by some young punk, but by a middle-aged man who looks like Ned Beatty. Douglas, the guy who played him, never did any other movies. Perhaps he felt Violent Zone could never be topped. Nevertheless, he does have a T-shirt that says “Have You Hugged A Bad Guy Today?”, so maybe he was hired for his big heart.

Whether for good or for bad, Violent Zone is just another movie shot in the Philippines that came out in 1989. Plotwise, it loses a lot of steam towards the middle and doesn’t really recover it. Because 1989 was a golden year for VHS product in video stores, it did receive a VHS release. But the DVD is one of those one dollar jobs without even a menu. Despite its eye-catching title, Violent Zone is really for only the most die-hard completists of the jungle slog genre.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


China White (1989)

China White (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Ronny Yu

Starring: Russell Wong, Steven Vincent Leigh, Lisa Schrage, Frank Sheppard, Saskia Van Rijswijk, and Billy Drago

Brothers Bobby Chow and Danny Chow (Wong and Leigh, respectively) want control of Amsterdam’s Chinatown for their drug trade. Seriously hampering that is Italian crime lord Scalia (Drago) and his minions. In one of the many gambling houses the brothers frequent, Danny meets card dealer Anne Michaels (Schrage) and they strike up a romance. As it happens, Anne is an undercover DEA agent working with her partner Rasta (Sheppard). Amidst all the shootouts, both Anne and Danny are torn between their respective professions and their love for each other. If the Chow brothers are going to control their turf, it’s going to take a lot more than CHINA WHITE...

Kicking off with a shot of some Asian tattoos and some classic wailing 80’s guitar, it sets the scene for what we’re about to see. There are a lot of ethnic tensions at work in Chinatown, and some classic racism along the way. 

One of the best things about this movie is Billy Drago as Scalia (although wouldn’t it be weird to see Jack Scalia as Ivan Drago?)...anyway, he puts in a strange and menacing performance. Since he almost exclusively plays bad guys, he’s probably always thinking about how he can put some kind of twist on it. Here he speaks quietly and has many strange mannerisms. He’s definitely a highlight.

While China White is a gangster drama, it features some very impressive stunts in the mix. There’s one especially great action scene, but there are a few others as well. Once the action moves to “The Golden Triangle”, the pace slacks considerably, and you realize this movie is too long. 

Other things that stand out are Ricky Ho as Kong, and his amazing wardrobe. The “nothing stereotypical going on here” character of Rasta, and Scalia’s bodyguard Saskia (Van Rijswijk) are also memorable. Saskia makes Brigitte Nielsen look like a wimp. There could easily be a movie where Van Rijswijk plays the starring role. More Saskia would have been a good thing for China White.

A great moment in the dialogue department comes when Danny tells Anne all his heroes are American. When she assumes he’s talking about John Wayne and Ronald Reagan, he retorts, “H. Ross Perot”! First of all, it’s great that Perot finally gets a mention in a foreign 80’s violent gangster movie. Secondly, he used his proper name, utilizing the “H”. Has Perot himself ever seen this movie? That was a great moment. Too bad there weren’t more of them.

While China White should have been shorter, with the brighter elements turned up like you would the “brightness” on a TV, it would still make an interesting double feature with Amsterdamned (1988). Just be sure to watch China White first.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Out On Bail (1989)

Out On Bail (1989)-* * *

Directed by: Gordon Hessler

Starring: Robert Ginty, Kathy Shower, Tom Badal, Dewaal Stemmit, and Sydney Lassick

 John Dee (Ginty) is a drifter who isn’t looking for trouble, but trouble always seems to find him. He rides the rails into the dusty ol’ town of Fairfield (we don’t know what State it’s set in, but the movie was shot in Johannesburg, South Africa) and instantly runs afoul of the corrupt cops, led by Sheriff Taggart (Badal). Dee forges a relationship with innkeeper Sally Anne Lewis (Shower) and her mute son Jimmy (Dewaal Stemmit), and just while they’re learning to love John Dee, he gets put into the local jail and needs local attorney Otis T. Smiley (Lassick) to defend him. But John Dee is a man who can defend himself, so to clear his good name and get to the bottom of the conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, he takes the law in his own hands. But will he be OUT ON BAIL long enough to get to the truth?

Out On Bail is fan-favorite Robert Ginty at his best. He delivers an intense performance and the audience grows to really like him. Under the direction of Gordon Hessler, an experienced guy who also directed Sho Kosugi at his best with Pray For Death (1985), and another Sho vehicle, Rage Of Honor (1987), among many other things, he brings out the best in Ginty. The movie itself has a cool, tough vibe, and is underrated. Despite a valley of slowness in the middle (brought on by its slightly excessive running time), a DVD release should be in order, because this is a film more people really should see.

Besides the great Ginty, Tom Badal puts in an excellently smarmy and hate-able performance as Taggart. It’s always nice to see Kathy Shower as well, and, as if her name subconsciously leads to this, there’s a shower scene with her (yay!) and Ginty (boo). Sydney Lassick is also a name that continually pops up. Take The Art Of Dying (1991), for example. His personality is pretty funny and wacky - he truly was the Rich Fulcher of his day. Plus the fact that his name is Otis T. Smiley should tell you all you need to know about his character. But Out On Bail on the whole is not comical, It’s just Lassick who provides a bit of comic relief at times.

The movie has a great opening, and it’s hard to maintain that energy level throughout the entire film. There are plenty of stunts with shreddin’ guitars behind them, both at the beginning and the The Gauntlet (1977) - inspired ending. Out On Bail does inDeed deliver the goods, as it’s a well-written and executed action film, that packs a surprising emotional punch as well. We give our full blessing to this highly entertaining film.

Released on the TransWorld label, and featuring the end credits song, “Now You Want To Leave” by Bridget Michele, Out On Bail is worth seeking out.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett