Bloodsport III (1996)

Bloodsport III (1996)- * *1\2

Directed by: Alan Mehrez

Starring: Daniel Bernhardt, Pat Morita, James Hong, David Schatz, Nicolas Oleson, Scott McElroy, and John Rhys-Davies

Alex Cardo (Bernhardt) is a Punchfighter, but he’d rather be having tender heart-to-heart talks with his classically 90’s son Jason (David Schatz). While he trains his tot in the ways of Martial Arts, he regales him with stories of the time he won the Kumite (thus eliminating any sense of suspense or drama and telegraphing a spoiler alert from the get-go). Alex recounts the tale of his time in “the Far East” when he used to frequent casinos while dressed in a white tuxedo. Jason, clearly riveted, continues to listen. Alex tells of the evil fight promoter Duvalier (Rhys-Davies), and how he murdered his mentor Master Sun (Hong). He neglects to mention why Pat Morita is only seen for about 30 seconds and for no apparent reason. 

To win the tournament, Alex goes to the countryside and begins training extensively, which is a prerequisite if you want to win. Alex soon dons his singlet and enters the ring, and proceeds to work his way through a bunch of fighters with no character development beyond their names, such as Bruce Burly (McElroy) (though why J. J. Perry had to play a guy named J. J. Tucker remains unexplained). Finally he faces off against The Beast (Oleson), an almost comically oversized meathead of the highest order. Will Alex live to tell the tale to his son? Well, yeah, of course he will.

Grown men punching and kicking each other. It can take on many wondrous and colorful forms. Apparently there’s no real limit on how many of these types of movies can be made. The original Bloodsport and Kickboxer films truly opened the floodgates during the video store era for Punchfighters for decades to come, even up to the present day. But the problem with movies like this is, during the last half-hour at least, it gets very boring and repetitive. But you have to show the Kumite, right? So on and on it goes.

Before the internet and even Pay-Per-View, renting movies like this was one of the only ways to see fighting of this kind on film. It’s easy to forget that in this day and age. So the movie gets somewhat of a pass, but it really should have bothered to do a bit more character development and maybe concentrated a little less on extended Kumite footage. 

We realize we’re talking about Bloodsport III here, but still, we think that’s a fair criticism. The first half of Bloodsport III is actually a lot of fun. It has that silly, funny, absurd vibe we love so dearly. But then it slows down and becomes more standard, unfortunately enough.

Daniel Bernhardt must have been an obvious choice to fill the shoes of Van Damme, because, let’s face it, he’s basically the same person. We’ve never seen them in the same place at the same time, have we? It must have been tough living in the shadow of JCVD. But somewhere in between Van Damme and Olivier Gruner, the Bernhardt dwells. 

At many points throughout the film, you could swear that it IS Van Damme. But Bernhardt puts forth his best “suave eyebrow” to woo the ladies, and why wouldn’t he go after Crystal Duvalier (Van Lent), with a singing voice like that? In the “white tuxedo” scene, he truly is Daniel BernBond. But the man has his own personal problems and demons as well, as he has nightmares of recycled footage that he has to contend with.

Perhaps, in the end, Bloodsport III raises more questions than it answers (what exactly is the timeline of all these Kumite matches as they relate to parts II and III? Why do deathfights to the death have a ref? And so many others...). 

But it does have a noteworthy end-credits song, “Rhythm of the Kumite” - a techno tune where you think at any moment someone will yell “Mortal Kombat!!!!!” - but they do indeed yell “Bloodsport!!!!!”, so, no harm no foul. So basically the first half is entertaining but it devolves into a slog. So watch it on YouTube and save the money on your credit Cardo.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups by our buddies, DTVC and The Action Elite!


Black Cobra 2 (1990)

Black Cobra 2 (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Edoardo Margheriti

Starring: Fred Williamson, Emma Hoagland, Ned Hourani, Edward Santana, and Nicolas Hammond

Robert Malone (Fred) is back! This time around, his rogue ways make him a prime candidate to be part of an “exchange program” where American cops are sent to international locations. His BYC (Black Yelling Chief) Captain Marton (Santana) (who would re-appear in Black Cobra 3 - even though it looks like his scenes were shot at the same time) ships him from his beloved Chicago to Manila, the Philippines. When he arrives, his contact and partner is the straitlaced Lt. McCall (Hammond), and, wouldn’t you just know it, they have trouble getting along at first. When Malone’s wallet is stolen, it turns into a trek all around the Philippines to track down the baddies responsible. Eventually, a nightclub singer named Peggy Mallory (Emma Hoagland) becomes involved and Malone has to pull out all the stops to protect her and stop the baddies. Can he do it?

We were happy to see Williamson return as Malone, and the two Edoardo Margheriti-directed sequels to the original Black Cobra (1987) are certainly worth seeing. Fred’s charm exudes aplenty and it mixes in an entertaining way with his awkwardly funny way of kicking the baddies. It’s always fun to watch The Hammer, and as he causes havoc in the Philippines, it’s hard to lose. While there is the standard shooting-and-blow-ups combo, there was a pretty slow section in the middle where not a lot happens. But it recovers towards the end with a classic dockside confrontation with some goons. It’s also nice to see a movie shot in the Philippines that actually is set in the Philippines, and isn’t trying to hide it. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Fred Williamson movie without a scene in a nightclub where a female singer belts out a song, and here is no exception. This time it’s performed by Emma Hoagland, in her only screen credit to date.

For the first section of the movie set in Chicago, Fred wears a Cubs baseball jacket. When he arrives in the Philippines, that jacket is never seen again and he switches to a light blue Members Only number. This reminded us of the legendary Chuck Connors, who, in the latter part of his career, was rarely seen without his Brooklyn Dodgers jacket. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the two men starred together in a “battle of the jackets”? It could be a Tough and Deadly (1995)-style situation where they argue about what music to listen to. Too bad it never happened. But, in classic style, Fred does say “we’ve got company!” so there’s that. Also he plays slot cars with McCall’s overly-sophisticated son in a movie highlight.

Featuring a very cool score by Aldo Salvi that alternates between keyboard synths and more guitar-based rock, Black Cobra 2 is a nice anchor between the other two entries in the series. It’s hard not to like Italian-made, Philippines-shot Fred, and here is a prime example.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Driven To Kill (2009)

Driven To Kill (2009)- *

Directed by: Jeff King

Starring: Steven Seagal

Ruslan (Seagal) is a writer and three-cup-monte enthusiast who uses his experiences as a former mobster for his books. While living in L.A., he gets word that his daughter is getting married so he travels to New Jersey. While there, he discovers the family she is marrying into also has Russian mob connections. After some of those baddies put her in the hospital and murder some family members, Ruslan reverts back to his old persona and he goes after the people responsible. Will he get revenge?

It’s best to go into these newer Seagals not expecting much. It truly is a case of managing  your expectations. But Driven To Kill is just dour, bleak and boring. Compare it to the fun of Urban Justice (2007) and you can see the contrast right away. 

One of the main problems is Ruslan is not a hero, not even an anti-hero, he’s just a brutal, amoral, amazingly unlikable monster. You don’t root for him to succeed; in fact, you end up rooting for the people he’s (usually unnecessarily) viciously murdering. Considering he tortures, kills and impales people with the slightest provocation, Ruslan is more like Jason from the Friday the 13th series than an action hero.

But because this movie in general, and Seagal in particular, is so humorless and self-serious, some entertainment can be gleaned from that. Also his voice is funny, as usual - instead of an absurd Cajun accent, now whoever is doing his ADR is trying his hand at an absurd Russian accent. He’s (and by He’s we mean the anonymous voice actor reading Seagal’s lines) is really stretching his acting range. And because his voice is so soft, you need subtitles once again.

Looking at Seagal’s triangle of Eddie Munster hair, we realized he’s just the modern-day equivalent of Jalal Merhi: An unlikable, overweight actor/Martial Artist of limited ability. But Seagal continues to put out product, and Merhi doesn’t. That’s the only difference really. 

As for Driven To Kill, you don’t really care about the characters, especially Ruslan (unless you feel bad for all the basically innocent people Ruslan has mercilessly slaughtered), and at 97 minutes, it truly stretches your patience. That’s a long time to spend with Ruslan, a guy you wouldn’t want to spend 3 minutes with in real life. Add to that some CGI gunfights (complete with CGI muzzle flashes, CGI bullet hits and CGI smoke), some knockoff of a Powerman 5000 song, and some filler, and you’ll be wishing for the days of Seagal’s “Patty Cake” Martial Arts style.

As the latter-day, Direct-To-DVD Seagal output goes, certainly some are better than others, but Driven To Kill represents a low point in this phase of the man’s career. Driven To Kill? More like Drivel to Kill.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out reviews by our buddies, Saturday Night Screening, Cool Target and DTVC!


The Last Riders (1992)

The Last Riders (1992)- *1\2

Directed by: Joesph Merhi

Starring: Erik Estrada, William Smith, Minnie Madden, Mindy Martin, Mimi Lesseos, and Kathrin Middleton

Johnny Wilson (Estrada) is a member of the Slavers biker gang, but after a botched escapade involving money and drugs, some people die, including a cop. After this, Johnny decides he’s had enough, and departs the Slavers for good. Or so he thinks. He ends up in a dusty ol’ Nevada town, working as a mechanic with his old friend Hammer (Smith). He soon meets a woman, Anna (Middleton) and her young daughter, Sammi (Mindy Martin), and he begins to rebuild his life. 

But his past soon comes back to haunt him, as the Slavers feel he betrayed them, and they’re out for his blood. And law enforcement feel similarly, blaming Johnny for the death of the law enforcement officer. Now, as both sides of the law are gunning for him, Johnny must make his final stand. Will he truly be one of the...LAST RIDERS?

We felt that The Last Riders was a rare misstep for the normally-solid PM. It has a weirdly disjointed feel, with a lot of airy, empty space when there should be more forward drive. It essentially becomes a romantic drama at one point, which wouldn’t be so bad, but the filmmakers somehow managed to screw up what should have been a slam-dunk ending. 

We won’t give away any spoilers, we’ll just say it’s edited and paced...unusually, and where there should have been full-throttle revenge, it lacks a powerful momentum. In our world, botching what should have been an appropriate revenge is an inexcusable mistake. As much as it saddens us, we can’t give The Last Riders a very high rating. We love Merhi, Randall and PM, and we love Smith, Lesseos and  Estrada, but something went awry here. It’s unfortunate.

The movie is truly Mimi Lesseos at her best. She has a great look, and as a female wrestler (which she also portrayed in the same year’s Pushed To The Limit) she gets to show off some of her moves both in and out of the ring. She’s only in the first part of the movie, unfortunately, and after she departs, the movie suffers immensely. 

The whole “romance” sub-plot is pretty typical: Middleton plays your classic “annoying woman” who doesn’t get along with Estrada, and they butt heads over disputes like food, but, after a whirlwind courtship, they end up marrying after only knowing each other a few days (?). 

But Sammi, the young tot of a daughter, basically steals the movie. She’s a realistic-looking child, not an overly-cute “movie kid”. She has a Bart Simpson shirt, pajamas that say “KID” on them, and other classic early-90’s clothing. Her facial expressions and line deliveries are priceless.  It’s casting decisions like this (and Lesseos) that make you think...Okay, this movie isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either. But the lame ending puts a deciding nail into this coffin of a movie.

While there is the time-honored barfight, the movie could have used some more action in the middle instead of romance. Or just more of a threat from the Slavers. Slowing the pace even more are two live performances from an all-female band called The Sheilas (which seems to be misspelled in the end credits). Their songs are catchy and professional-sounding, but why are we spending so much time with them? They add nothing to the plot and we don’t know them personally. 

Adding to the confusion, Hammer’s wife in the movie is named Sheila (Madden), but she’s NOT in the band, but they keyboard player looks exactly like Mimi Lesseos, who’s not in the band either. Of the non-Sheilas music, the opening song is very Cameo-like, and William Smith’s voice, which sounds like he gargles with razor blades, is like sweet music to our ears, anyway.

As a biker, perhaps it was thought that Estrada could make an easy job transition from CHiPS to SLAVERS. But regardless, The Last Riders is a disappointment.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Overkill (1987)

Overkill (1987)- * *1\2

Directed by: Ulli Lommel

Starring: Steve Rally and John Nishio

"Different Worlds. Different  Weapons. One War."

Mickey “Mike” Delano (Rally) is clearly a man who wishes his name wasn’t Mickey. He’s also an L.A. Cop On the Edge. Putting him further on the edge than ever before is the recent influx of Yakuza in Little Tokyo. Mickey Mike makes it his personal mission to take down the gangsters that are ruining his beloved city and state. Towards this end, he teams up with Japanese-American cop Akashi (Nishio). Apparently Akashi has his own, more personal reasons for wanting to wipe out the criminals that are running wild in the city. Will Mickey Mike and the funky bunch be able to accomplish their mission? Find out today!

Not to be confused with Overkill (1996), in this particular Overkill, there’s nary a Jack Hazard in sight. Presumably that would count in the movie’s favor, but what we do have is one Steve Rally, of Maximum Breakout (1991) fame. Shirts, but in particular, sleeves, must feel like the equivalent of fiberglass insulation to his skin. When he’s not busy taking off his Powerhouse Gym tanktop, he’s shirtlessly fighting the baddies. 

But he has a lot of shirtless competition, as many shameless men go about their daily business unencumbered by the onerous burden of having a thin layer of cloth on their torso. Imagine a man who finds a half-shirt too confining, multiply awesomex10, add most of the leftover DNA of Freddie Mercury, and you have Steve Rally.  Plus he predates Matthew McConaughey by many years, and his mustache is much cooler.

Clearly director Ulli Lommel, whose name is not a palindrome no matter how hard you try to make it one, wanted to make “Shirts vs. Skins: The Movie”, but couldn’t, as there were no shirts,  so he settled on making a cop movie. Overkill is yet another “White boy in a world of dangerous Asians” movie much like its brethren Year of the Dragon (1985), Massacre (1985), or Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991). But Lommel’s movie is like the distant stepchild to these, even the equally low-budget Massacre. It’s not entirely dissimilar from Samurai Cop (1989), but we don’t want to sing the praises of Overkill too loudly, it’s not really in that classic’s league. 

The main problem is that there are a ton of weird close-ups, and the movie is incoherent because it looks like it was edited with a bandsaw. Plus it could have used a co-star of the caliber of Bolo Yeung or George Chung. Or even a White guy pretending to be Asian, like Robert Z’Dar as “Yamashita” in Samurai Cop, would have helped a lot.

Nevertheless, Mike Delano - or perhaps even Steve Rally himself - is livin’ the dream. He gets to be a rogue cop and defy his WYC (White Yelling Chief), live in a nice house with a hot babe as a girlfriend, and eat sushi while he sits in his hot tub or engages in any other activity that gives him a pretext to be shirtless. Which leads up to an inexplicable (plotwise) scene where Delano indulges in his true calling. We won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll definitely know what we’re talking about when you see it. 1987, the year of this movie’s release, was a big year for Miami Vice-mania and it shows here. You even see a little kid wearing a Miami Vice shirt, in the same scene where Delano wears a white sportcoat with the sleeves rolled up. Coincidence?

In the end, Overkill does have some highly ridiculous moments that make it worth watching, but even at 80 minutes, the movie drags at times. It’s kind of a 50-50 deal.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Kindergarten "Ninja" (1994)

 Kindergarten "Ninja" (1994)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Anthony Chan

Starring: Dwight Clark, Juan Chapa, Vinny Cerrato and George Chung

  “Later, dude.”

 Blade Steel (Clark) is a man who lives up to his awesome name. A football star for the San Francisco “Gold Rush”, he spends his time being an unrepentant womanizer and alcoholic. But he’s living large, so no one seems to mind. That is, until he gets arrested on a DWI beef. Naturally, we then cut to heaven...yes, the heaven, where Charlie Chaplin and Elvis are just hanging around doing what they do. Apparently, in order for a Martial Artist named Bruce (surely not meant to make you think of anyone famous) to become an official angel, he must help a person in need. And that person is...you guessed it, a starving child in Africa. NO, of course it’s Blade Steel. 

Meanwhile, Steel becomes a substitute teacher of sorts as part of his community service for his DWI. Because the tots are obsessed with the then-current game Street Fighter II, he decides to teach them all Martial Arts. But first he needs to learn it himself, so he takes classes with a blind master, named Master Chosen One (Chung). As if that wasn’t enough, evil, Tony Montana-like drug-dealing bigshot Hector Machete (Chapa) is using the community center where Steel and the children are to run his drug operations. 

The new drug on the street is Buzz, imported from China, and Machete isn’t happy that the Master, and Blade, are cleaning up the town of San Leandro, CA. So he sends his army of henchmen, which are mostly children, to settle the situation, and local Detective Antonelli (Cerrato) is trying to make sense of it all. What will happen to the...KINDERGARTEN “NINJA”?

All we can say is...wow. Like all the best films in cinema history, Kindergarten “Ninja” is a co-production between D.A.R.E. and America’s Best Karate. The gold that this unlikely duo produced is exactly what you might expect. The results speak for themselves. The first thing you may notice about this movie is the title, and the fact that the word ninja is in quotes. Try to think of another movie title where one of the words is in quotes. This should give you some indication of the insane originality (or original insanity) of this oddball outing. 

Somewhere in the netherworld between a classroom educational film, a home movie, and a professional production lies Kindergarten “Ninja”. Thankfully there are plenty of intentional and unintentional laughs along the way, and the sheer amazement you will feel that not only was this made, but distributed around the world, will sustain you through its (barely) 80 minute running time.

It’s hard to describe in words what the tone and overall feeling of this movie is, but let’s just say “nonsensical” is an understatement. Thankfully, Dwight Clark is on board. The man is truly a powerhouse. He can sing, dance, do Martial Arts, play football, and, most notably, act. Scenes are shot at his own restaurant, Clark’s By The Bay. (The main scene there is truly a show-stopper). Not to be outdone, the great George Chung plays Master Chosen One. 

We absolutely loved his Hawkeye (1988), and Kindergarten “Ninja” just reinforces our fandom. Chapa as Machete is also worth noting, but all the non-actors here steal the show. Especially the kids. Where are they today? And the man who introduces the movie, San Leandro Police Chief Robert Maginnis, what does he think today of the movie? Has he ever seen it?

The vast majority of the film’s running time is taken up with endless training sequences. Though the musical stylings of one Joel McKellar are inspired by Over the Top (1987), the amount of time spent on watching Dwight Clark do ab crunches with George Chung is, well...over the top. But if you want to be a master playboy like Blade Steel, just learn from his classic pickup lines. His ace in the hole seems to be “Do you like French fries?” so feel free to try that one. 

Despite the film’s unusual nature, it still ends with the time-honored warehouse fight (though we’ve never seen one quite like this), and, to give you a sense of the level of intelligence at work, the mayor of the town is named, and we quote, Mayor Crookalini.

We guarantee you’ve never seen a movie like Kindergarten “Ninja” before. The only question is, do you want to? It can be found dirt cheap most places it is sold. If you have a sense of humor and a taste for the odd, we give it a solid recommendation.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Body Beat (1988)

Body Beat (1988)- * *1\2

AKA: Dance Academy 

Directed by: Ted Mather

Starring: Julie Newmar, Tony Fields, Steve LaChance, Paula Nichols, and Gayln Gorg

Miss McKenzie (Newmar) and her sniveling sidekick Percival “Percy” Granville (???) run an upper-crust dance and music conservatory. When badass, rebellious dance instructor David “Moon” Bronson (Fields) invades their precious sanctuary with his rogue ways, McKenzie and Percy try a number of underhanded means to force him to leave the academy. Meanwhile, Vince (LaChance) is a guy from the wrong side of the tracks who can’t seem to hold down a job, but he’s a good guy with a passion for dance, so he gets accepted into the academy. He tries to strike up a romance with fellow dancer Jana (Gorg) but naturally it has its rocky moments...will their love survive? On top of all that, Moon and singer/songwriter Paula (Nichols) begin a professional as well as personal relationship, but apparently teachers canoodling with students is against the rules, and Percy threatens to blow the whistle on him. All of this romance, intrigue, and of course, dancing, is all leading up to the big, final performance in front of a huge audience, including the board of directors. Will these hopefuls strut their stuff enough to have a happy outcome? Find out today!

If you just discovered this movie on our site from looking through the archives, you might be forgiven for thinking you had stumbled upon a long-lost Punchfighter. But here at Comeuppance Reviews, we also discuss 80’s dance movies, and Body Beat seems to be a piece of the puzzle left behind by  Breakin’, Breakin 2: Electric Boogaloo, Body Rock, and Dance Or Die. Or, to quote the back of the VHS box (released by Vidmark): “Flashier than “Flashdance”, sexier than “Dirty Dancing”, and more fun than “Fame”, Body Beat is a high spirited delight featuring some of the hottest original music and brightest new talent ever to hit the big screen.” Indeed. All that being said, in terms of it’s “80’s-ness”, Body Beat ranks highly, and despite some filler and some scenes that should have been trimmed down for excessive length, it is an enjoyable outing. 

Julie Newmar is decent enough as the stuffy headmistress, Fields plays the Roy Kieffer-like instructor with aplomb, and Paula Nichols is appealing as the Debbie Gibson-like singer. Add to that some great hair and outfits, along with some wacky comedy, and you have this movie. They even found time for the classic Barfight. Of course, the dancing is the main highlight, and the final dance number is very impressive. The music by Guido and Maurizio DeAngelis is quite impressive, but that’s no surprise, they’ve been making awesome music ever since the 70’s. Just check out any of their scores, especially their Poliziotteschi work. And it wouldn’t be an 80’s soundtrack without some blaring sax solos. Not very surprisingly, almost all of the songs on the soundtrack feature the words “love” or “dance” in them. But who’s asking for subtlety?

There are some bizarre moments as well, just look at the scene where a character is trying to teach aerobics to chickens - and the chickens are wearing custom-made sweatpants! Where else are you going to see that? Plus, a male dancer wears a wrestling singlet so skimpy, it can only be properly defined as a “halflet”. Also of note is that Serge Rodnunsky plays one of the dancers, and he later went on to direct Paper Bullets (2000). In movie marquee spottings, we see Crocodile Dundee (1986) was the big box-office hit when Body Beat was being filmed. We can only imagine video store patrons renting Body Beat if all the other aforementioned big dance movies were rented-out at the time. It’s hard to picture a video store-goer in the 80’s consciously choosing this over a myriad of other choices. But if they did, they would find a light, almost inconsequential affair that’s refreshingly inoffensive.

Apparently a sequel was made the next year, called City Rhythms (AKA Dance To Win), but we cannot confirm whether this actually received a VHS release. Regardless, Body Beat is a pleasantly typical 80’s dance-fest. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Italian Connection (1972)

The Italian Connection (1972)- * * *

Directed by: Fernando Di Leo

Starring: Henry Silva, Woody Strode, Mario Adorf, Luciana Paluzzi, and Adolfo Celi 

Two goons, Dave Catania (Silva) and Frank Webster (Strode) are sent from New York to Italy to kill a small-time pimp named Luca Canali (Adorf). Helping out the two men is Eva (Paluzzi). Luca seems to be outsmarting his killers at every turn so the whole situation escalates and Don Vito Tressoldi (Celi) is not happy. Claiming Luca is starting a war, and he “doesn’t want to be beaten by a loser”, Tressoldi cruelly ups the stakes by attacking Luca’s family. Now Luca is out for revenge, as opposed to just deflecting all the attempts on his life. Will he succeed?

Fernando Di Leo cranks out another winner here. Milano Calibro 9 (1972) is better (though it’s always open for debate) but La Mala Ordina, as it was known originally, is a very strong movie as well, with its masterfully shot and edited climax (like the rest of the movie), a similar sense of toughness, the decor, the style, and of course, the movie highlight, the car chase. The chase, along with a fairly tenuous connection to a heroin shipment (it’s not mentioned very much in the movie), were obviously the catalysts to retitle this movie in the wake of the success of The French Connection (1971).

Adorf, who also put in a great performance in Milano Calibro 9, excels in the lead role of Luca Canali. It was wise to put Adorf out front, even if it seems now like an obvious choice. Henry Silva is kind of a fan favorite even though he doesn’t have any facial expressions. But his hair is better here than we can remember anyplace else. 

His partner, played by Woody Strode, seems a bit out of sorts, but Di Leo thought enough of him to put him in The Violent Breed (1984) later on in their careers. Three well-known beauties of the day, Luciana Paluzzi, Femi Benussi and Sylva Koscina are on hand to make things more interesting, as is Cyril Cusack as a mob boss. The whole thing is topped off with one of Armando Trovajoli’s funkiest and best scores.

There’s also a certain counter-cultural element at work here which would be fleshed out more completely in later Fernando Di Leo films, most notably Avere Vent’anni (1978). The underground culture of the day is a recurrent theme in Di Leo’s movies and found its way into whatever he was working on, regardless of the genre. This sets his movies apart to a certain extent and it’s fascinating to see, simply as a document of the era.

If you have seen and liked other Di Leo movies, you will certainly also like The Italian Connection (if you see the Raro DVD that is, not one of the innumerable cheapo VHS releases). If not, this is as good a place as any to start, mainly because there’s nothing really NOT to like about this fine film.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by our buddy, Ruthless Reviews!


Prime Target (1991)

Prime Target (1991)-* * * 

Directed by: David Heavener and Phillip J. Roth

Starring: David Heavener, Robert Reed, Isaac Hayes, and Tony Curtis

Jonathan “Blood” Bloodstone (Heavener) is a cop who plays by his own rules. Sure, he may be a bit crazy, and he thinks he’s a modern-day cowboy, but when Captain Tompkins (Hayes) wants results, he calls in Bloodstone. When the FBI, led by Agent Harrington (Reed) call Bloodstone in to transport a mobster named Marietta Copella (Curtis) on a long car ride to a new, secret location, at first he isn’t interested. But he needs $25,000 or he’s going to lose his house. So, Bloodstone reluctantly agrees to the assignment. Once on the road together, the two men are the original odd couple, Copella a slick-talking, high-class Italian gangster, and Bloodstone a flamethrow-first-and-ask-questions-later good ol’ boy. After some adventures and trials and tribulations on the road, they both realize the truth about this particular road trip. Yes, there’s a TRUTH behind this road trip. Dare you find out what it is?

We’ve always been champions of David Heavener. Anyone who reads this site knows we’re always extolling his virtues - he can act, write, produce, direct, do Martial Arts, and is a musician who plays guitar and writes his own songs. We’ve always said he should have gotten more recognition, both by the Hollywood establishment, as well as the general public. We’ve maintained this attitude towards the man and his work, even through some of his wonkier productions. But now, finally, our outlook has been validated. Prime Target is the best Heavener movie we’ve seen to date.  It has a crisp, professional look, and is snappy, entertaining, and never boring. The plot is actually fairly engrossing, and this would be a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with Heavener. 

Tony Curtis is on board as the garrulous Copella, and the interplay between him and Bloodstone provides a lot of the meat of the movie. Curtis had a hard job, he’s supposed to be the time-honored “annoying” character, but if you’re too annoying, the audience will check out entirely, so you have to balance. We felt he did his best and he does put energy into the role. There’s also fan favorite Isaac Hayes as the police chief, and the Brady Bunch’s own Robert Reed as the FBI guy. They even interact in several scenes. Where else are you going to see that? 

Like a lot of Heavener movies that came out on VHS back in the golden years, this has a commercial before the movie advertising something Heavener-related. These commercials are always awesome, but this one takes the cake. The ad is for...wait for it...a David Heavener HOTLINE where you call 1-900-DAVID! This is absolutely real. Apparently you can get information and behind the scenes info about the movie and even get a Prime Target T-shirt. And here’s the best part - the line “Kids get your parents’ permission”!!!! What KID is a. renting an R-rated movie b. renting a HEAVENER movie c. renting PRIME TARGET and d. the odds of this kid existing and wanting to call the Heavener hotline are...what? We know they have to say that for legal purposes, but has there ever been a young tot who has said, “mom, can I please call 1-900-DAVID? I want to know more about Prime Target.” It boggles the mind.

You’ll be singing “blooood-stoonnnne” (Judas Priest reference) when you see Heavener’s belt with the word “Cowboy” emblazoned into it, and especially when you hear the amazing intro/outro song, “I’m a Honky Tonk Man”, which is this sort of country rap which predated Uncle Kracker and Kid Rock by many years. Yes, as if a hotline wasn’t enough, Heavener actually raps. And you get a movie called Prime Target on this VHS tape as well, so for value-for-entertainment-dollars, you really can’t beat this one.

Watch Jon Bloodstone turn the FBI into the “Federal BLOODSTONE Investigations” with this classic tonight.  

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Silk (1986)

Silk (1986)- * * *

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Cec Verrell, Bill McLaughlin, Joe Mari Avellana and Nick Nicholson

Jenny “Silk” Sleighton (Verrell) is a tough, fearless cop on the Honolulu, Hawaii police force. She stops at nothing to get her man. Whether it’s foiling drug deals, stopping smuggling operations or breaking up cockfights, baddies on every island from Niihau to Kaunakakai to Kahoolawe to the Alenuihaha channel are facing her wrath. When she’s kidnapped by arch super-villain Austin (Shilton), she’s going to need help from her compatriots...but who can she really trust? Find out today!

Silk gets off to a very silly start, with cop movie/TV show cliches galore (someone really needs to invent a word that means “a cliche but with no negative connotation; in fact, you want and even need to see this cliche”. No such word exists in English that we’re aware of. If you have any ideas, please leave a comment today). 

Cec Verrell as Silk is amazing. She’s a beautiful woman in that classically 80’s style, with a smoky bedroom voice, and she always has her hair slicked back and is wearing designer clothes. But no one ever questions why one of the models from behind Robert Palmer in the “Addicted To Love” video is now a cop. (Not literally as far as we know, but it very well could be). The fact that this absurdity is never once brought up makes watching Silk a delight.

The fact that Silk is a woman doesn’t change all the myriad cliches one bit. But we’re just happy this Cirio movie isn’t yet another jungle slog. Plus it has all the Philippines-based B-actors we know and love at this point: Nick Nicholson plays another heavy, Mike Monty is on board again, as is Willie Williams, Jose Mari Avellana, Henry Strzalkowski, and naturally, Vic Diaz. 

The extras in the movie are great too, and the dubbing ties it all together. The guitar-based soundtrack by Willie Cruz keeps the energy up, and there is a truly excellent title song which sounds like if Pat Benatar joined Jem and the Holograms. In a true travesty, we do not know who performs this memorable tune. If anyone out there knows, do tell.

Styles were so cool back then, even teddy bears had sunglasses and mustaches. But besides that, we’re always on the lookout for when video stores pop up in movies, and in Silk, we see one in a mall. There’s even a poster for Ark Of the Sun God (1984), the Margheriti movie, which can be clearly seen. 

In the end, Silk is an enjoyable (probably) one-time watch, because nothing in it really sticks to the ribs. We would like to see more Cec Verrell as Silk, but by the time of Silk 2 (1989) (yes, there’s a Silk two), apparently she’d had enough and was replaced by Monique Gabrielle. She never came back to reprise the role like Sean Connery. But for video-store action with a strong and interesting female presence, it’s certainly worth a view.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, Lost Video Archive and Cool Target!


The Viking Sagas ( 1995)

The Viking Sagas (1995)-* *1\2

Directed by: Michael Chapman

Starring: Ralf Moeller,  Ingibjorg Stefansdottir, Henrik Olafsson and Sven-Ole Thorsen

 "Bad Luck"-Ketil

Set in the Iceland of medieval times, The Viking Sagas tells the story of Kjartan (Moeller), a lone Viking trying to find his way in a very confusing and constantly-changing world. In order to take on and defeat his rivals, he needs a mystical weapon called The Ghost Sword. But even then he is not trained in the ways of battle, so a more experienced Viking, Gunnar (Thorsen) agrees to train him. Making his quest a lot more pleasant is the beautiful maiden Gudrun (Stefansdottir). The forces of darkness are represented by Ketil (Olafsson), and Kjartan, Gudrun and Gunnar must defend their honor, their land, and their freedom, as Kjartan also avenges the death of his father. Will they succeed?

It’s “Brakus The Viking” as Ralf Moeller treks across Iceland in a chain mail vest in this so-so period piece. The locations are visually interesting, and they’re shot well, and Sven-Ole Thorsen is perfectly cast in the role he was truly born to play, but The Viking Sagas lacks coherence. 

The decision to use a narrator who is constantly naming characters and events doesn’t help the confusing factor. The “battle violence” is decent, but it can’t patch over some of the more plain and mediocre aspects of the overall film. There’s a certain earnestness about the whole project, which seems like a misplaced tone. There should have been a bit more verve.

The fact that the movie was directed by Michael Chapman, who is an Academy Award nominee for best cinematography for Raging Bull (1980), among others, and that the film was released on VHS by New Line with a bunch of trailers for more mainstream material such as The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) and Last Man Standing (1996), seems a bit odd. The Viking Sagas seems like it would have been released by Vestron, Academy or Continental in 1989. We’re guessing Harvey Weinstein isn’t constantly name-checking The Viking Sagas at his high-level Hollywood meetings. But, it presaged Game Of Thrones by many years, so maybe there should be some pride there.

Was there a huge demand for Viking-based Sagas in the 90’s? This particular Saga hits all the bullet points of what should be involved, such as a beautiful maiden, axe battles, snow, etc., but it’s unlikely to inspire viewers. 

That being said, the end credits are amazing. We’ve never highlighted that before (nor has any other movie reviewer, probably) - Just watching them, you see a dizzying myriad of crazy letter combinations, accent marks, letters not in English mixed in, and credits such as Robert “Bloodaxe” Brakey - where else are you going to see that? (He was a first assistant editor, by the by). That must be one seriously badass Editor. We’re guessing he edits film with an axe.

The Viking Sagas is completely hit or miss. There are some great moments, but they’re mixed in to an overall project which is...mixed. Fans of this historical period may want to check it out. For others, it’s probably not worth going out of your way for.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Tiger Cage (1988)

Tiger Cage (1988)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Woo Ping-Yuen

Starring: Jacky Cheung, Simon Yam, Carol Cheng, and Donnie Yen

Hong Kong detectives Fan (Cheung), Shirley (Cheng), and Terry (Yen), among others, are a select band of cops set up to be a hard-hitting narcotics squad. As they take down the drug-dealing baddies, they realize there is a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. It even involves police corruption at the highest levels. When it’s discovered that there is a tape that shows some of the illegal doings, all hell breaks loose as the forces of evil vie for the tape, while the good cops must protect it  - at any cost.

We absolutely loved Tiger Cage. If you love those classic Hong Kong police actioners from the golden age of the 80’s/early 90’s, this one is a killer. It’s fast paced, colorful, exciting, and has plenty of bone-breaking action. There’s tons of shooting in a gritty urban environment, but also some top notch Martial Arts battles as well. Donnie Yen’s big fight scene naturally stands out. Speaking of Yen, Tiger Cage is kind of like Flashpoint (2007) before Flashpoint. The stunt work is awesome, as many characters take a lot of punishment and keep on coming. The whole movie has that dynamism and infectious energy that makes these Hong Kong productions so addictive. 

This kind of violent, no-holds-barred style is like manna from heaven for action fans and makes productions from regions other than Hong Kong seem slow and dull by comparison.

It’s not just a mindless shoot-em-up, however. Interwoven are the timeless themes of honor, betrayal and loyalty. This emotional approach gives the film (as well as other HK productions) its unique flavor and gives the violent doings a reason to exist. There are characters you really, really root for, as well as some super-evil bad guys. You never lose interest in what you see on the screen. Adding yet another layer of greatness is the fact that VCRs play a pretty important role in the movie. So it gets in that 80’s flavor as well.

If you can see this on Netflix Streaming, do, because it’s a top-notch stream in widescreen with subtitles. But any way you see Tiger Cage, it truly delivers the goods.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by our buddy, A Hero Never Dies!