G. I. Executioner (1971)

The G. I. Executioner (1971)- *
AKA: Wit's End

Directed by: Joel M. Reed

Starring: Tom Keena, Angelique Pettyjohn, Janet Wood, and Victoria Racimo

Dave Dearborn (Keena) is a Vietnam vet who currently resides in Singapore. He runs a nightclub on a boat and has relationships with seemingly every woman in the area: Bonnie (Pettyjohn), Cindy (Wood) and Mai Lee (Racimo). Life seems good for old Dave Dearborn, but he wants more. 

When some mysterious individuals offer him the chance to investigate a case of a missing and perhaps kidnapped defector from communist China, Dearborn accepts the job. But things get (overly) complicated very quickly, and after some murders occur, he realizes he’s caught in a dangerous web of intrigue. Will he escape and live to carouse again?

Shot in 1971 but not released until Troma picked it up and it came out on Vestron in 1984 (back when Troma had a partnership with Vestron), “Wit’s End”, or as Troma misleadingly re-titled it, The G.I. Executioner, is a bland, dull, middling, mediocre affair, but it has some mildly exploitative elements (mainly nudity), and if it didn’t throw those crumbs to the audience, there would be nothing here. 

Director Joel M. Reed is primarily known for having directed Bloodsucking Freaks (1976), also reinforcing his relationship with Troma. Reed only directed six films in his career, and having seen four of them by now, I think it’s pretty safe to say there’s not a lot of meat there. When Bloodsucking Freaks is the crowning achievement of your directorial career, there’s definitely a problem.

As for our “hero”, Dave Dearborn, a (seemingly) 52-year old gentleman with thinning hair, who wears tan sansabelt slacks and white boat shoes, does indeed appear to be miscast as an action hero. Also he occasionally wears an ascot. He looks like he would be more at home with a cocktail in his hand at the golf club’s bar. Hey, Clint Eastwood is one of our all-time personal heroes, so it’s not his age we object to it’s just...he seems out of place, that’s all. Note that an accurate rendering of Dave Dearborn does not appear anywhere on the Troma-produced artwork for the film. 

Plus, in the movie (or possibly in real life as well, there’s no way of knowing) he both lives and works on a junk. We know that’s a type of boat, but it leads to strange dialogue such as “why did you come to my junk last night?”, etc. Notably, this is Tom Keena’s only film role to date.

The movie would be almost completely lifeless if it wasn’t for the music by a band called The Jason Garfield. It’s classic 60’s garage punk, and the title song, “Wit’s End”, with its chorus of “Wit’s E-e-e-nd, ah, ah, ah” is very catchy. Thankfully, a few of their songs play throughout the movie, which is good, but not enough to save it. 

In other opening credits news, there is a montage of things you’re about to see, including a few potential spoilers! It also says it was shot entirely in Singapore, but there may be some Philippines content as well. During the prerequisite torture scene, Dearborn is, inexplicably, forced to wear a tiny pink vest with gold sequins which barely fits him and looks like it belongs on a doll. Then another character enters the room, also wearing a tiny pink vest. No explanation is ever given as to why. Just one of the many mysteries in the story of the existence of The G.I. Executioner. The whole endeavor has a very flat, John Garwood-y feel, which is not a good thing.

You’ll be at your “wit’s end” by the end of this tough sit.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Men From The Gutter (1983)

Men From The Gutter (1983)- * * *

Directed by: Ngai Choi Lam

Starring: Pai Piao, Parkman Wong, Lung Tin Sang, Billy Lau, Miu Kiu Wai, and Lo Meng

A recipe for mayhem on the streets of Hong Kong gets set in motion when a ruthless killer named Zijian (Pai Piao) shows up seemingly out of nowhere, looking to get revenge against Xu Wen (Wong Yung) and his associates, especially since he’s now “Mr. Xu”, a corporate bigwig. Meanwhile, a gang of three lower-level thugs, Ah Tai (Wong), Ah Long (Lung Tin Sang)and Brainless (Lau), along with female accomplice Lily (Chen Pei Hsi) are planning a heist after all getting out of prison, but the head of the ragtag gang, Ah Tai, shoots a police officer and then has to reassess the situation. 

Thrown into this volatile mix is the sensible, even-tempered cop Qiu (Miu Kiu Wai), and his more hot-headed partner Zhao (Meng). The two cops have to get to the bottom of this entanglement of betrayals, backstabbing, drug violence and insanity. Can they do it?

Shaw Brothers enters the 80’s in a big way with this gritty urban crime drama/thriller. Probably the SB’s were trying to shake off the specter of their reputation for period pieces - which in the wake of their competitors such as Golden Harvest and other studios who were turning out more contemporary fare, probably seemed like a good idea. They more than likely didn’t want to bee seen as old fuddy-duddies churning out product that was stuffy and not relevant to what the moviegoing public of the day wanted to see. Thankfully, they nailed it with their response - Men From the Gutter.

Hiring director Ngai Choi Lam as director was certainly an inspired choice - even though this was only his second film as director, he shows a ton of energy and verve which infuses the movie from start to finish. The whole venture is very well-shot, with many cool camera moves and angles which suck you in to the proceedings. 

He handles the chaotic situations well - there are plenty of violent escapades thanks to the busy plotline (s). Lam would later go on to well-known fare such as The Seventh Curse (1986) with Chow Yun-Fat and Maggie Cheung, Erotic Ghost Story (1987), Her Vengeance (1988), The 1000 Years Cat (1992) and of course the legendary Story of Ricky (1991). So you can see there’s really no end to his directorial style and flair.

The movie is filled with awesome 80’s style, as both the hero, Qiu, and his arch-nemesis, Zijian, both have stylish glasses and wardrobes. The set decorations are always interesting, and there’s even a memorable scene where the quintessential 80’s sport/trend, racquetball, gets turned on its ear. Just more proof that the 80’s rule, no matter what country you live in. Adding the icing on the cake is the cool soundtrack music. The whole thing is very fast-paced, mirroring the rhythm of the city the film takes place in.

We give a solid recommendation to this fine film. Right now the DVD is only available as a region 3 import, but if you have a region-free DVD player, it’s well worth finding online. It’s definitely one of our favorite SB’s, and a relentlessly entertaining one at that.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddies 10,000 Bullets and  A Hero Never Dies!


Overthrow (1987)

Overthrow (1987)- *1\2

Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Lewis Van Bergen, Roger Wilson, and John Phillip Law

****1000th**** Review!

John Teller (Van Bergen) is a reporter who primarily covers sporting events, and he heads down to South America on assignment, along with his photographer partner, Bob Norton (Wilson). These two buddies get more than they bargained for when the small country they end up in ends up in the midst of an “overthrow”. 

Apparently communists are vying for control against the cocaine barons, and, as we’ve all seen many times before, a new “El Presidente” must be installed so a kind of peace can return to the country. That’s why the mysterious Shaw (Law) is involved. Apparently he’s an ex-CIA mercenary who causes governments to collapse. He’s a dangerous man, as Teller and Norton are about to find out first hand. Will Teller live to tell his tale?

Here we have another mainstay of video store shelves in the 80’s: the “El Presidente” slog. We have yet to come across one that is actually, solidly good, and when the best example of the genre is Cocaine Wars (1985), you have a problem. Although, to the movie’s credit, if you read the back of the box, at least they’re honest about their intentions: they even use the phrase “El Presidente”! We found that amusing because we coined the term “El Presidente movie” (or slog as the case may be) - way before coming across Overthrow at a local video store (in the adult section no less - our guess is that the owner was trying to hide the movie, so that he might spare the time of potential viewers).

While there’s nothing “adult” about Overthrow, the movie does play out like a stupider Salvador (1986), except this time around, our two “heroes” are about as likable, interesting, complex, tough, manly or inspirational as two bags of styrofoam packing peanuts. Lewis Van Bergen, if that’s his real name, refuses to take off his suspenders, whether he’s wearing a shirt or not. The man is truly dedicated to keeping his pants up.  But thanks to his resemblance to TV’s Mark Linn-Baker, as well as his appearances in this, Savage Dawn (1985), and Street Knight (1993), that officially makes him the Larry Appleton of action. A title to hold dear to your heart.

 A significant amount of the movie’s time is spent on the Prerequisite Torture of Teller and his pal Norton. But director De Angelis, using his standard nom de plume Larry Ludman, was not able to give this movie any spark, unlike the car battery clamps used on our unfortunate protagonists.

By far the best character in the movie is an elderly man named Kerslake. Unfortunately we don’t know the name of the actor who portrayed him. In just the same way that Wynn Irwin stole the movie Bloodfist VI: Ground Zero (1995) simply by being an angry, crotchety, and dare we say “grumpy old man”, here too Kerslake does the same. It’s all about Kerslake as he blows away the two dudes who are supposed to be the heroes in the acting department. With his powder blue suit, wide tie and utter resemblance to Phil Rizzuto, you think at any moment he might encourage someone to come down to the Money Store. 

But as for the movie as a whole, there is some shooting and mild blow-ups, and the Stefano Mainetti music is nice, but the entire affair is just so blah, the low quality of the VHS (it was released by 3-Star Video, who also released fellow Italian production Cop Game (1988), but not much else) only reinforcing the matter. Whether the dubbing also contributes to your hatred of the proceedings depends on your tolerance for such things.

John Philip Law (or JPL as we call him) doesn’t do all that much, finally putting the last nail into the coffin that is Overthrow. We say avoid.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Last Match (1991)

The Last Match (1991)- * *1\2

Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Oliver Tobias, Ernest Borgnine, Melissa Palmisano, Henry Silva, Charles Napier, Jeff Moldovan, and Martin Balsam

Cliff Gaylor (Tobias) is a football player with an attitude. When his daughter Susan (Melissa Palmisano in her only screen credit) gets framed for having illegal drugs while on vacation in either a Caribbean or South American country (not really sure), and is imprisoned, Gaylor at first tries all the traditional channels to free her. He first goes to see his American Consul (Napier, here credited as “American Consul”) but he’s useless. He then goes to see a local lawyer (Balsam, credited as “Lawyer”), who also is incapable of helping him. So Gaylor then does the next natural thing: he calls his football coach (Borgnine, here credited as “Coach”. Sensing a pattern here?) - and gets his entire football team to stage a commando raid on the prison, but not before arming and training them in the usage of machine guns. 

Of course, the whole team agrees and Coach “coaches” the mission. But they’re going to have to get past sadistic prison warden Yashin (Silva) and his underling Prison Guard (Moldovan). Will the team be able to punt, spike, blitz, sack, snap, and tackle their way towards reaching their (field) goal? Find out today!

The Last Match had a lot going for it: a strong cast, an amazing concept, and the football players in full regalia brandishing machine guns and grenade launchers visually just looks awesome. Unfortunately, the movie only really kicks into high gear in the final third. 

Most of the movie is a staid and bland “My Daughter’s In Prison” drama with echoes of Midnight Express (1978). One thing Midnight Express did not have is a bunch of crazed footballers on the rampage shooting machine guns at Henry Silva while Ernest Borgnine happily gives instructions through a headset as to what to do next. Unless we blinked and missed that part. But because of the rarity of this movie, most people haven’t gotten to see the cast of Borgnine, Balsam, Silva, Napier, Moldovan, and the footballers do their thing so audiences can decide for themselves. Had this been released on VHS in America during the golden age of video stores, it might have had a shot at being a well-known cult movie. Now it’s just a not-so-well-known cult movie, which is only really justified by the last third.

Also of note are the “whosh-whosh” sounds on the soundtrack that sound like someone is waving a piece of cardboard in the air, Borgnine being especially jovial about his wartime experiences, the evil drug dealer who has a shirt that says “NEWS”, and the subplot about saving an Elian-like kid from the third-world hellhole that is the unnamed country they’re trying to escape from. 

Also there’s a guy in the cast named Jim Kelly who’s a White guy and not the Jim Kelly we all know and love. So to recap, the country is unidentified, half the characters don’t have proper names, and the football team also has no name. We realize they didn’t have the budget to use an NFL team name, but it would have been funny if they had come up with an attempt, like the “New York Sharks” or something to that effect. But then again, the way it is is pretty funny.

Another good thing about the movie is that the whole “Football Commandos” idea is played completely straight. It doesn’t appear that the filmmakers thought this was a wacky or ironic idea - they seemingly thought it was a perfectly sane concept for an action movie. And thank goodness for that. We get more than enough irony these days as it is. 

Just look at the training sequence where fully suited up football players shoot machine guns at targets. That’s why we keep going back to these Italian productions. They always seem to deliver in some way, shape or form. But the fact that a quality idea like this didn’t really take off to its full potential shows that by 1991 things were starting to run out of gas. Much like Martin Balsam, who gives a bizarre, stuttering performance in a complete sit-down role. He seems really confused as he reads his lines off a piece of paper. Compare that to Borgnine, who injects the movie with some much-needed energy during the interminable first and second portions.

In the end, The Last Match has a killer concept, but ultimately doesn’t hit the mark. Or score a touchdown, if you will.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddies Outpost Zeta and Good Efficient Butchery!


Moving Target (1988)

Moving Target (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Marius Mattei

Starring: Linda Blair, Janine Lindemulder, Charles Pitt, Kurt Woodruff, Stuart Whitman, Gabriella Giorgelli, and Ernest Borgnine

“Someone’s shootin’ at us!” - Van Driver

When her boyfriend is shot in the head by a mysterious assailant dressed in black leather and wearing a motorcycle helmet, the beautiful Allison Spencer (Lindemulder) goes on the run. After suffering some form of amnesia after the boyfriend-shooting incident, she ends up going to live with a man who may or may not be related to her - tennis star Perry Spencer (Pitt). This is to the dismay of Perry’s girlfriend, Dr. Sally Tyler (Blair), who initially treated Allison. Meanwhile, Captain Morrison  (Borgnine) and his awesome partner (Woodruff) are trying to solve the case of the dead boyfriend, the girl with amnesia and the armed killer stalking the streets of Miami. He’s also trying to figure out how the gangster Joe Frank (what? No Reynolds?) (Whitman) plays into this whole scenario. What will happen?

This particular Moving Target (not to be confused with the Dudikoff or Don The Dragon movies of the same name) is total video store shelf-filler of the highest (or possibly lowest?) order. The 80’s were an amazing time when all you had to do was corral a few stars, such as Ernest Borgnine, Linda Blair and Stuart Whitman, guarantee them a paycheck, and then, voila, your movie is in video stores across America and the world. It was a unique time never to be repeated - a world in which Borgnine, Blair, and Janine Lindemulder could appear in a scene together and nobody bats an eyelash. 

There’s no question that the camera loves Janine, and Moving Target, if it’s nothing else, is an unabashed celebration of her beauty. While she’s credited as Janine Linde (perhaps someone thought the “Mulder” was too much for audiences to wrap their heads around...which is ironic considering the popularity of the X-Files shortly thereafter in the 90’s), fans who didn’t know she had a pre-porn acting career need to check out this movie.

So when director Marius Mattei put all his eggs in the B-star basket, he forgot to concentrate on just about everything else that directors normally concentrate on. While less forgiving viewers might condemn Moving Target for being shoddy and incoherent, we truly celebrate the priceless line readings and actor reactions Mattei captures. 

You know you’re in for something special when the movie starts with a meatheaded moron in a leopard-print speedo chasing Janine around an apartment. It then goes to a TV news reporter named Billie Cody (Giorgelli) who can barely speak English. Surely when she was hired at the TV station, her bosses figured the best way to win the trust of audiences is to get a reporter with an impenetrable Italian accent. You see it all the time. Not to mention her cameraman Chico, who wears some seriously rad necklaces. Then we go to Stuart Whitman in a tracksuit (shades of Bo Svenson in The Kill Reflex?) and that brings us to our “hero”, Perry...

Perry now runs a tennis school named Perry Spencer’s Tennis Clinic, which apparently does well - well enough to keep him in Veryfine juice, anyway - but they only have one tarp sign advertising the place. He dresses in tennis whites ALL the time, and his remote control-handling skills give Marion Cobretti a run for his money. He has amazing shorts. He doesn’t really have a finished haircut, it’s more of an asymmetrical hair pile. It’s easy to see why Allison is so attracted to him.

As for the music, it helps the movie: the opening tune, “One More Try” by Dee Lewis helps set the mood and the “totally 80’s” vibe. The main keyboard theme of the film sounds suspiciously like “Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)” and you think at any moment you might hear an anguished Steve Perry do his trademark “Ohhhhhhhh!!!!!” Well, someday love will find you. That seems to be the message of Moving Target, after all. 

Hurting the movie is the fact that Perry is supposed to be the hero, when it should have been Borgnine’s partner, who exudes cool from every pore. The man was totally snubbed. Helping the movie is the time-honored disco scene, and the constantly naked Janine, including some pre-Baywatch slow motion beach running.

Moving Target isn’t likely to be appreciated by too many people - but they’ve got to be out there. VHS junkies should try giving this movie some love.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Nightforce (1987)

Nightforce (1987)- * * *

Directed by: Lawrence D. Foldes

Starring: Linda Blair, James Van Patten, Claudia Udy, Chad McQueen, Casey King, Bruce Fisher, Dean Miller, James Marcel, Cameron Mitchell, Richard Lynch, and Rambo The Monkey as Pin

Christy Hansen (Udy) is a beautiful equestrian rider who seemingly has the perfect life: she’s about to marry Bob Worthington (King), a member of the prestigious and wealthy Worthington family. (Don’t they even sound rich?) - the only problem is, she’s in love with Bob’s rough-and-tumble brother Steve (Van Patten). She thinks this is the worst problem in her life, until she’s kidnapped and held captive by the San Felipe Anarchist Army. They’re a south of the border terrorist organization led by the sinister Estoban (Fisher) who doesn’t at all resemble any Cuban dictators we might know, and his army of thugs. 

Getting the typical run-around and red tape from the government - which includes Christy’s own father, Senator Adam Hansen (Mitchell) - Christy’s friends decide to become a makeshift mercenary force and go and rescue her themselves. Despite having no experience in the violent arts, the aforementioned Steve, plus Henry (McQueen), Eddie (Miller), Mack (Marcel) and Carla (Blair) attempt the rescue mission nevertheless. Along their treacherous way, they meet the mysterious but extremely helpful Vietnam vet Bishop (Lynch). Will this ragtag band of amateur vigilantes rescue their friend? Dare you find out?

A very impressive B-movie cast filled with fan favorites just kind of wade around in the mush of this colorless outing. It starts off in a very disjointed manner, and steadily becomes a more coherent, but more standard exploding hut/fruit cart chase actioner that doesn’t really offer anything new for diehard action fans. 

Sure, the opening bit has plenty of slow-motion mindless shooting set to the synthesized main theme and you think “this has promise”. but then a certain blandness and repetition sets in. 80’s staples such as the disco scene and aerobics help matters, but not enough to save the movie in its entirety. The movie needed more Cam Mitchell, who basically does a “sit-down” role. Chad McQueen brandishes a rocket launcher, and, after some initial fears, he does indeed maintain his trademark: no sleeves. McQueen’s arms must always be unencumbered by any form of cloth.

Richard Lynch puts in a likable performance, and he even plays the flute and has a pet monkey. Where else but here will you see the movie credit “Rambo the monkey as Pin”? Pin, or should we say Rambo, wears camo pants like the rest of the cast. His performance really stands out. Van Patten also appeared in director Foldes’ Young Warriors (1983), and seems like a young, confused Treat Williams. Linda Blair plays the “tough chick”, playing against the more girly Christy. It could almost be said that her character here could be a continuation of Brenda from Savage Streets (1984). Carla could be like what Brenda would have turned out as later in life. Adding to the positives column is the end-credits song, “I Still Remember”, sung by Linda herself.

Despite its mediocrity, items like Night Force actually did their own little part to make the video stores of the 80’s great. They added their own brick in the wall of mind-boggling choices the best video stores had. Not every movie ever made is going to be an awesome life-changer. Sometimes corraling some familiar names together and having them engage in some mindless shooting and blow-ups is enough. Clearly the filmmakers knew this, as indicated by its 79 minute running time. It was all good enough for Lightning Video to release it (it was produced by Vestron Pictures) - and as long as you don’t expect too much, you might be able to wring some enjoyment out of the rag that is Night Force.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Cool Target! 


Savage Streets (1984)

Savage Streets (1984)- * * * *

Directed by: Danny Steinmann

Starring: Linda Blair, Robert Dryer, Linnea Quigley, Sal Landi, Rebecca Perle, Brian Frishman, and John Vernon

Brenda (Blair) is a tough, streetwise chick who loves nothing more than hanging out on the streets of Hollywood with her group of friends named The Satins (remember when friends used to do that?) - but her one soft spot is for her deaf/mute sister, Heather (Quigley). 

Trouble arises when a group of no-good street toughs called The Scars, who do nothing but annoy and harass everyone, cross paths with The Satins. Led by the sinister Jake (Dryer), he and his boys continually up the ante, until they go WAY too far, and Brenda, who was already on the edge and getting into catfights at school with the cheerleader Cindy (Perle), snaps and begins wearing black fingerless gloves. Suspended from school by Principal Underwood (Vernon), she is free to use her time to get her revenge against The Scars. Will she complete her mission? Find out today!

This movie is so, so great. Imagine if Foxes (1980) was an exploitative revenge movie. The awesomeness of the 80’s is cranked to 11, and the film seemingly makes no apologies for its unabashed, for lack of a better word, raunch. To the delight of viewers, political correctness is light years away, and everything from the dialogue on down has a wickedly entertaining power that is impossible to resist.  

Linda Blair has absolutely never been better - her level of sassiness is off the charts, and her exchanges with just about everybody give her some great lines - but her best on-screen partner is John Vernon, and their scenes together are priceless.

The fashions not just the Satins, but everyone wears are mind-boggling, and the music is perfect, especially the songs by John Farnham. You thought the songs he did for Rad (1986) were great, just check these out. Someone needs to do a CD reissue stat.  Whoever created the signs in the movie truly outdid themselves - “Doctors Hospital” and at the club MX there is a sign on the wall that simply reads “Rock and Roll”. You truly cannot beat that. 

Outside of a record store there are posters for Kiss, Def Leppard and Motley Crue, and it wouldn’t be a high school-set movie without a 42-year old student, this time it’s Cindy’s boyfriend Wes (Frishman). Or at least that’s how it seems.

We really have nothing negative to say about Savage Streets. If you love awesome things and fun times, you will love it. Not to mention 80’s nostalgia. The movie truly shows why revenge movies are among our favorites. It delivers exactly what you want, and then some. If there are any haters out there, don’t listen to them. Savage Streets is an out-and-out winner!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum! 


Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976)

Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976)- * * *

Directed by: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Marc Porel, Ray Lovelock, Adolfo Celi, Silvia Dionisio, and Renato Salvatori

Alfredo (Porel) and Antonio (Lovelock) are cops and partners assigned the tough jobs in Rome. Their captain, known simply as “The Captain” (Celi) is caught in a bind: he knows about their reckless and violent ways, but he can’t deny they get results. So he tolerates them, as does Norma (Dionisio), The Captain’s secretary. So he designates the two men as a “special squad”, which allows them pretty much free reign in Rome, which means not just legal rules, but perhaps even moral ones are broken. 

The rest of the movie is almost like a series of vignettes as they go to different crime scenes and solve the problem in their own inimitable no-mercy, no-prisoners, no-conscience, no-problem style. These situations range from a hostage showdown to an illegal gambling ring, and beyond.  It all comes to a head as our two anti-heroes finally confront a crime boss named Pasquini (Salvatori) on his yacht. Will living this type of lifestyle finally catch up to Alfredo and Antonio? Find out today!

Here we have noted director Ruggero Deodato’s entry in the Poliziotteschi sweepstakes of the day. So you’d have to figure Mr. Cannibal Holocaust (1980) himself would turn in a particularly hard, violent, brutal and uncompromising entry. And you’d be right.

There is certainly a strain of nihilism that runs through Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man, and it’s not to everyone’s taste. Especially since the tone of the movie and the actions of the characters are so alien and unfamiliar to American audiences of today. We’re so unused to seeing behavior like this on screen, it’s hard to know what to think. While no doubt an acquired taste, Deodato was simply reflecting what was going on in Italy at the time and, presumably, his rage about the conditions in society then, especially as it relates to crime.

Moral considerations aside, there’s plenty for genre fans to enjoy here, such as the insane motorcycle setpiece at the beginning of the film (which provides a killer kickoff to all that we‘re about to see - letting viewers know this is no run of the mill crime drama), as well as other well-staged and well-shot violent moments. From the title on down, you know that you’re in macho territory here. 

While it may be in dispute whether that’s Deodato subtly mocking (Italian?) machismo, or he’s legitimately going for it, the movie delivers the goods nonetheless, from start to finish. Ray Lovelock himself sings the Bob Dylan-like songs on the soundtrack, and the movie works on at least two levels: as a comment on the society of the time and the behavior of men, or simply as a violent actioner. It doesn’t take much to read into the movie just a tad, and the fact that you never really root for and get totally behind Alfredo and Antonio is most likely not an accident. It’s probably more an indicator that there may be more brewing beneath the surface.

Released on DVD by Raro, Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man may not be for everyone, but viewers will see a movie ahead of its time, and a Poliziotteschi that will make you think. We recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Death Before Dishonor (1987)

Death Before Dishonor (1987)- * * *

Directed by: Terry Leonard

Starring: Fred Dryer, Brian Keith, Sasha Mitchell, Joesph Gian, Paul Winfield, and Joanna Pacula

When Col. Halloran (Keith) assigns Gunnery Sgt. Burns (Dryer) and his young Marines - including Ramirez (Gian) and Ruggieri (Mitchell) - to the turbulent middle east country of Jemal, despite the willingness of the local military to use their help, at first they don’t get to do too much. This is thanks to the politically correct, out-of-touch views of Ambassador Virgil Morgan (Winfield), who doesn’t want to step on any toes. 

But Morgan, and the rest of the Americans, get a rude dose of reality in the form of a terrorist named Jihad (Tarkington) who is orchestrating acts of terror in the region. A photographer, Elli Baumann (Pacula) is documenting his rise to power. When he and his goons kidnap some of Burns’ men, including Halloran, Burns decides to take matters into his own hands and becomes a one-man army bent on revenge! Will he face death, dishonor, or NEITHER? Find out today!

Death Before Dishonor is a classic example of the Reagan-era patriotism film. It features good, noble Americans doing heroic deeds - and in this era of cynicism, irony and anti-Americanism, movies like this are not only highly refreshing, but also needed. It was just nice to see America portrayed as upstanding good guys for a change, something you rarely, if ever, see on TV these days.  Based on the subject matter, the movie is perhaps more relevant today than it was back when it was released. They should release Death Before Dishonor back into theaters! Now wouldn’t that be something?

The great Fred Dryer is always cool, whether he’s initiating his new Marines (which mainly involves a lot of beer-chugging and grunting), or chasing/shooting the baddies.  The movie is peppered with little standout moments, and it all plays out as if an episode of Hunter took place in Iraq or Afghanistan. It was nice to see Dryer act out his personal vendetta, with the full might of the 1980’s-era military. Of course, you know the main baddie is really bad when his name is Jihad. Kind of a dead giveaway that he might be a dangerous Arab terrorist. Of course, there is the prerequisite machine gun shooting, as well as the prerequisite torture, but Dryer gets off some great lines and is a leader you can believe in.

It was also cool to see a young Sasha Mitchell here in the ranks, before his Kickboxer 2 (1991) and Class of 1999 II (1994) (and of course Step by Step) fame. Joanna Pacula did the best she could in kind of an unnecessary role, and an off-camera Franco Columbu is credited as “body building coach”. Because you’re definitely going to need Columbu to work your quads so you can be in the proper shape to stop the terrorist bad guys. 

In all, “Death Before Dishonor” is sort of “What you see is what you get”. It’s a nice package of action where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad. And in our uncertain, confusing times that we live in today, that’s a comfort. Recommended.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Cool Target!


T-Force (1994)

T-Force (1994)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Richard Pepin

Starring: Jack Scalia, Deron McBee, Evan Lurie, Jennifer MacDonald, Martin E. Brooks, Bobby Johnston, Erin Gray, and Vernon Wells

At some point in the future, a scientist named Dr. Gant (Brooks) creates “Cybernauts”, robots with very human characteristics used for law enforcement. Adam (Lurie), Zeus (Malibu, or McBee, or perhaps Malibu McBee), Mandragora (MacDonald) and Cain (Johnston) are bulletproof, never miss when they’re shooting their guns, and have super-strength, among other superlative characteristics. 

However, when they’re told the program that created them is going to be shut down, their “self-preservation” instinct kicks in. Zeus, Mandragora and Adam then proceed to go on a robot rampage. But Cain separates himself from the murderous bunch. He ends up teaming up with Lt. Jack Floyd (Scalia), a man who initially hates robots but eventually warms to Cain when Mayor Pendleton (Gray) ensures they have to work together as partners. Can anyone – or anything – stop these super-strong, deadly and emotionless killbots? Find out today!

T-Force is an excellent example of what PM does best. It delivers the goods – it provides tons of viewing enjoyment, and totally fulfills what this sort of movie should be. Of course, the “T” in T-Force is short for Terminal, going along with what can only be described as the “Terminal” craze of movie titlings in the 90’s. Terminal Force would have been a cool title, but shortening it to T-Force is even cooler. It starts with an amazing intro where the Cybernauts are posing in front of explosions, and we’re treated to many more blow-ups where that came from.

Casting Malibu and Evan Lurie as robots was a stroke of genius, and these robo-meatheads (or MeatBots if you prefer), of course, have long hair. Why long, lion-like manes (and in the case of Cain, a propensity for wearing tight jeans) was part of the intentional design of the Cybernauts remains unexplained. 

But in addition to the plentiful shooting, blow-ups and fights, there are actually ideas and concepts embedded herein that make you think. No, seriously. The screenwriters must have been reading their Socrates, because there are some Crito-like meditations on the nature of law and society. Not to mention humanity. So, there are more real explosions – and ideas – in the final third of T-Force than in the past 20 years of Hollywood pap combined.

Playing the archetypal American man that the audience can identify with (he even has an all-American car, a 1977 Cadillac he names Ol’ Betsy) Jack Scalia is at his absolute best here. Endowing Jack Floyd with a lot of energy, not to mention groany one-liners, he provides nice counterpoint to the robotic action. This blows away his performance in Dark Breed (1996). I think we can safely say this is Classic Scalia. But giving him a run for his money is the guy who plays Alderman Peter (we think his name is Sean Moran). He gives everyone a run for their money, including two meatheads exchanging quasi-Shakespearan-style dialogue. Malibu and Lurie together is almost too much meathead for one movie, but at least T-Force reconstitutes the meat into something a little different this time.

So in classic 90’s fashion we have tons of mindless killings and blow-ups, dialogue that’s silly when it’s not intellectual, exploding helicopters (and everything else), sax on the soundtrack, and of course the 90’s-future-movie staple, VR. It’s hard to ask for more, and the confluence of classic elements puts this ahead of the pack. PM delivers yet again, with a winner that is indeed T-Forceful.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, Exploding Helicopter and The Unknown Movies!


Soldiers Of Fortune (2012)

Soldiers Of Fortune (2012)- * *1\2

Directed by: Maxim Korostyshevsky

Starring: Christian Slater, Oksana Korostyshevskaya, Colm Meaney, Ving Rhames, Sean Bean, James Cromwell, Charlie Bewley, and Dominic Monaghan

Craig McCenzie (Slater), is a former Special Ops soldier and military-grade badass, despite the fact that his own name seems to be spelled incorrectly. Hired by a mysterious woman named Cecilia (Korostyshevskaya), he's reluctantly pulled into the time-honored "one last op" when he's forced to take a bunch of "weekend warriors" on a mission to take down an evil baddie named Mason (Meaney). 

Just why McCenzie needs to take inexperienced non-soldiers on an extremely dangerous mission wasn't clearly explained. As part of a combat-simulation vacation called, obviously, "Soldiers of Fortune", rich knowitalls bicker and squabble while McCenzie rolls his eyes and tries his best to whip them into combat readiness. Among his new charges are a young video game designer named Sin (Monaghan), a rich playboy named Dimidov (Bean), an African arms dealer named Grimaud, but nicknamed "The Grim Reaper" (Rhames), obnoxious Wall Streeter Vanderbeer (Bewley) and rich older man Haussman (Cromwell). Can this wacky cast of characters work together and get the job done?

Soldiers Of Fortune is a movie out of sync with its time and place. It seems like it would be more comfortable sharing video store shelf space next to Desert Thunder (1999) and Stealth Fighter (1999) in the 90's. The only thing that really ties it to the 2000's are a couple of Bin Laden references (making this movie the original Zero Dark Thirty, 2012). 

Our beloved Christian Slater could have played the same role even then, though his beard-stubbly grizzledness does add much to his leadership abilities. He's not Gleaming the Cube anymore, he's "Action Slater" as you've never seen him before. He does a lot of running, jumping, rolling around, and shooting people, and presumably killing people, with a weapon that looks suspiciously like a paintball gun. He also spouts a lot of silly, country-fried aphorisms that wouldn't be out of place as Toby Keith lyrics. Despite the impressive cast overall, this movie is clearly carried by Slater on his back much like a wounded enemy combatant in a war zone.

Important things you need to know about Soldiers Of Fortune: 1. visually, it looks like it was produced by Nu-Image. 2. We think it was supposed to be a comedy, so imagine if Nu-Image tried to make a movie filled with yuks. The result is a film filled with dumbness and mediocrity, but you already knew that, didn't you? Even the title hints at the lack of originality within. 

You'd think the non-Slater cast would make the water rise and float this particular boat, but no, it's a bunch of stereotyped roles that don't really inspire the viewer with any real emotions. Monaghan plays the young punk whippersnapper obsessed with video games, Rhames does the African accent he did in Dangerous Ground (1997), Bewley plays the obvious, expected cliche of the heartless money broker, and Bean and Cromwell swim against the tide and do their best, but fail to leave a real impression.

But sometimes the cliches work in the movie's favor, such as the classics "Ex-Special Forces", "One Last Op", and walking away from an explosion in slow motion. Not forgetting of course about the final confrontation between Slater and Meaney (I never figured I'd have to type that...) where we see some prime examples of not just Slater-Fu, but Colm Meaney-Fu. Yeah. 

It also features the same song from Beatdown (2010), Tommy Fields’ immortal “Wildfire In the Streets” (which is kind of an odd choice, as there are no real “streets” to speak of here, it’s mainly an island setting, nor is there a wildfire, but maybe there’s a cheap bank of songs DTV producers can pull from. Tommy Fields truly is the Robert Tepper of the DTV era). So just to recap what was said earlier, Soldiers of Fortune is typical video store fodder in the era of no video stores.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum! 


Termination Man (1998)

Termination Man (1998)- * *

Directed by: Fred Gallo

Starring: Steve Railsback, Eb Lottimer, Athena Massey, James Farentino, and Aleksandr Ilyin

In the fight against Serbian terrorists, there's only one man who is capable enough to get the job done: the Terminator! Sorry, excuse our faux pas - Termination MAN, a bored, apathetic individual named Dylan Pope (Railsback). Apparently Pope has been endowed with special skills and abilities by the government, but they mainly consist of being able to run fast, which he never actually employs against the baddies. 

He teams up with contacts Delilah Shane (Massey) and Ted Marks (Lottimer) and travels to foreign lands in the war against an obese beardo named Yurdovich (Ilyin). While this supposed terrorist evildoer appears to be committing jihad against fruits, vegetables and exercise, and is all the more jolly for it, still he's the greatest threat this planet has ever seen, and truly only the blase Dylan "Termination Man" Pope can terminate the threat. But will he wake up in time to do it?

Termination Man - which is not at all a ripoff title intended to confuse inattentive and distracted video store patrons - is certainly shelf-filler at said video stores, and is undoubtedly junky and wildly stupid. But the overall vibe of silliness carries much of the movie (but not all of it, unfortunately). 

Most of the dotty daftness that the movie projects is due to Steve Railsback, and thank goodness. Out of all the potential action stars (or unknowns) the filmmakers could have chosen, clearly their only choice was Railsback, who was born in 1945 and thus was around 53 years old at the time of filming. Perhaps they had seen his Private Wars (1993) of a few years previous, and figured they had to get him. His listless "performance" rivals Burt Reynolds at his most blatant uncaring, and this form of Railsback action, or Railsbacktion, was surely set to be the wave of the future.

Especially in this movie, Railsback seems like he could be Ron Marchini's brother. We would love to know what he was thinking as he wandered his way through it. His utter lack of energy is a double-edged sword here. On the one hand, it's really funny. But on the other, it slows things down considerably, and it really hits home around an hour in, where things just drag. 

But on the whole, the film is filled with nonsense, from the gadgets that Termination Man, or TerMan, has, that were given to him by Cain (Farentino), who plays a gravelly-voiced version of Q from the James Bond movies. One of them is a camera. Its secret weapon: it flashes! Whoa! You get the idea. On top of that, there's mindless shooting, both near to, and far away from, fruit carts, and the fact that Delilah just can't resist TerMan's charmless charm. Well, for TerMan, it was either be a fearless/emotionless government agent, or a Wal-Mart greeter. And I hear the ladies love their friendly, helpful ways.

Correct us if we're wrong, but the Corman factory has never produced a truly awesome and worthwhile action movie. But in the meantime while you're combing through his back catalog, if you're willing to laugh and not take it so seriously, Termination Man isn't that bad. But be forewarned of the slow moments.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Karate Raider (1995)

Karate Raider (1995)- * * *

Directed by: Ron Marchini and Charlie Ordonez

Starring: Ron Marchini, Shelly Gaunt, Ivan Rogers, Joe Meyer, Burt Ward, and Joe Estevez

“There’s a bonus for anyone who can touch my face.” - Pike

 Jake Turner (Marchini) is in Colombia Punchfighting for money and generally looking for a new assignment. His old buddy Bill Digger (Estevez) contacts him about a missing government agent, Jennifer Boyden (Gaunt). It affects both of them personally because she’s the daughter of their old Marine Sergeant. Digger has already sent another soldier to try and find her, a man named Edwards (Rogers). But Edwards was captured by the evil super-criminal Pike (Meyer). When even Digger falls into the hands of Pike, Jake Turner now has to save him, Edwards, and Jennifer. He certainly has his work cut out for him. Can Jake save the hostages and finally defeat Pike? Find out today!

Sadly, Karate Raider was Ron Marchini’s last film role. But it’s the first credit ever for Joe Carnahan, who wrote the movie with Marchini. Carnahan went on to direct Narc (2002) and become a big name in Hollywood. So, circle of life. It’s also the only role for one Shelly Gaunt, who played Jennifer. But it’s probably just as well. It’s pretty surprising, given Marchini’s off-screen status as a Martial Artist, and the penchant for Punchfighting movies at the time, that he never made an out-and-out movie about Punchfighting. Karate Raider is as close as we’ll get, with one scene. Then his film career ended, in our opinion, prematurely. But judging from Marchini’s vest and fedora, as well as the musical score, and the title of the movie, it seems this was his answer to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). While no one is going to mistake Marchini for Harrison Ford, there are still moments to be savored here.

On the cliche radar is the fact that Digger gets Turner for this mission because “he’s the best”. And you have to love a baddie that not only wears a tracksuit for the entire movie, but his eyepatch looks homemade from black construction paper. That sort of craftsmanship was truly Pike’s peak. Worth noting is the preponderance of great yells and screams in this movie. It’s not known whether these were written into the script by Carnahan and Marchini, but it seems in most of the fight scenes, at least one person does an extended (too long?) bellow of “Aaaaaaaaggggghhhhh......AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” And this yelling is going on when there’s no bickering between the unlikable Jennifer and Marchini, or the shooting of baddies. So the formula seems to be kicking-punching-shooting-bickering-yelling, so it’s no surprise that the movie slumps at times, but utter absurdities like the helicopter/raft chase and Marchini’s completely unnecessary and amazingly wooden narration keep things afloat. Much like Jake Turner’s badass raft. (Yes, he has a badass raft. You got a problem with that?)

Also in the “Huh?” department is a brief sit-down role from Burt Ward. His front-and-center placement on some box art doesn’t exactly match his screen time. But I can see why the distributors did that. We can’t count the times We've been in a video store, just browsing, and we picked up a video that we've never heard of before and yelled “BURT WARD’s in this? Sold!” Or maybe we were just confusing him with Burt Young. Nevertheless, the presence of Ward is really, in actuality, just a testament to how much Marchini must have loved the old Batman TV show - let’s not forget Adam West is in Omega Cop (1990).

Karate Raider remains one of the rarest Marchini’s - to date it has only been released on VHS in the Netherlands, just like Jungle Wolf (1986). He must have an amazing fanbase in that part of the world. Regardless, it makes a decent enough capper to his screen career, but we have to say, we were left wanting more. Mr. Marchini, it’s never too late to come back.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett