Cop-Out (1991)

Cop-Out (1991)- *1\2

Directed by: Lawrence L. Simone

Starring: David D. Buff, Kathyn Luster, and Dan Ranger

 "Corruption Knows No Law..."

Bobby Vanelli (Buff) is your classic Cop On the Edge (or COTE as we call them). This guy is really angry, and getting angrier, as his brother, a fellow officer, has been framed for murder. Working with his partner, the Hawaiian shirt-loving Turner (Ranger), and a Public Defender, Evelyn (Luster), Vanelli puts his emotional control skills and his indoor voice to the test as he tries to exonerate his brother. There may be some romance with Evelyn and all that, but, naturally, it’s an election year, and there’s a conspiracy that goes, naturally, all the way to the top, so Vanelli dons his sleeveless “fool for love” shirt and gets down to business. Will this cop be out of a job - and will his brother see his efforts as a...COP OUT?

There once was a man named Dave Buff. He’s credited here as David D. Buff, presumably so he won’t be confused with any of the other Dave Buffs out there. He looks like a lost Stallone brother, crossed with Chris Penn and Loren Avedon. Besides Cop-Out, he’s only been in one other thing, a short film of the Stephen King tale “The Boogeyman”, from 1982, which was later interpolated into the Nightshift Collection (1994). So he must have been psyched that he was pulled from playing “Cop #2” in a short film to being top billed and starring in Cop-OUT. Looks like he was promoted. We didn’t know what to expect going into Cop-Out, but based on his name, we thought he might be a musclehead or a meathead, but he’s really more of a hothead. He angrily screams and yells most of his dialogue, as if anything anybody does has gotten on his last nerve. But he gets results, and he just may be the Buff we have always wanted to be.

Unfortunately, Cop-Out - despite the hard work and strong presence of Mr. Buff - is a disappointment. Sure, it suffers from a lot of the typical low-budget pitfalls: stilted dialogue, technical clunkiness, overly-dark lighting, dire pacing issues, etc., but we won’t fault them, necessarily, on any of that stuff. It happens, we get it. Where the movie falls down is that, in addition to already having some of those cards stacked against it, it’s overly talky with many long, drawn-out scenes of boring, dialogue-heavy matters. And at 102 minutes, there’s really no excuse for that. In other words, Buff should have busted more heads, instead of conversing with plenty of talking heads. 

That’s not to say there aren’t some very, very dumb shooting/beat-up/car chase/blow-up scenes, and it does feature one of the most brain cell-depleting strip club brawls we’ve seen to date, but the overall junky feel is just too all-consuming to make up for the flaws.

It’s all very amateurish - which, again, on its own isn’t necessarily a bad thing - but it’s just one more notch in the ever-expanding “lose” column. It’s like a childish, adolescent attempt at an adult police drama; note uses of attempted cop lingo such as “bluecoats” and “fun gun” (whatever the heck that is). 

Sadly, there are some noteworthy things buried beneath the surface of Cop-Out, but the execution is poor, so they never come out to shine. It doesn’t have the charm of a Provoked (1989) (though it does share a strong central character with that movie) - it’s really closer in spirit to a dud like Lethal Force (2002), and the cinematic style, if there could be said to be one, makes David Heavener look like Martin Scorsese.

It does hark back to a time when someone could rise from obscurity and headline a DTV movie - Jay Roberts Jr., Matt Hannon, and Flint Keller come to mind, just to name a few - and anything went in the wild west of the golden age of the video store. We, as viewers, need not have heard of Dave Buff prior to this in order to take a chance on a VHS rental of Cop-Out. 

Having an awesome name would make you stand out from your competitors though. However, the results are quite dumb, and it could have used another B-movie name to support Buff in his efforts. Anyone would do, but we’re thinking like a Robert Vaughn, Troy Donahue, or Charles Napier, anybody on that tier. But we don’t get anybody, and this Cop gets no backup.

Cop-Out, not to be confused with that other Cop Out (2010) (clearly Kevin Smith did not do his homework), is lacking in just too many areas, but the sorest spot is the fact that it was in dire need of editing. That would have solved some of the wonky issues. But there are some problems even Dave can’t save, so when it comes to Cop-Out, we’d say opt out.

FINAL NOTE: Just as the WASP video briefly seen in Ghost Warrior (1985) was a movie highlight then, the video for Anthrax’s “Got the Time” is seen on a TV screen here. If only the movie was as bold, dynamic, energetic and powerful as the song/video, such a contrast between the two wouldn’t be so evident.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Russian Terminator (1989)

Russian Terminator (1989)- * * * 

Directed by: Mats Helge

Starring: Frederick Offrein, Tina Ljung, Helle Michaelsen, Timothy Earle, Harley Melin, and Magnus Cederblad

Where do you even begin with a gem like this? It’s one of those weirdly nonsensical movie experiences that make discovering obscure films worth doing. The plot is kind of incidental to the nuttiness, but essentially a group of kidnappers led by Alexandra Danfort (Ljung) is on the loose and a man known only as “Eve’s Dad” (Earle) hires the one man that can shut down the operation and find their captives: Mark Robinson  (Offrein), a dead ringer for The Gambler, Kenny Rogers. 

Though getting on in years and working now as a fashion photographer, Eve’s Dad is convinced he’s the hero that can handle the job. Robinson teams up with Eve (Michaelsen) and her friend Phil (Melin) so they can stop the violence the only way they know how...with more violence. Of course, the one thing they didn’t count on is awesome dude on the loose THE RUSSIAN NINJA (Cederblad)! What the heck is going on...and can we see more?

We’re beginning to think writer/director Mats Helge is an unheralded genius. It takes a certain type of sensibility (or should we say insanity) to pull off a concoction like this. Sure, he’d mastered the slasher movie with Blood Tracks (1985), but in 1984 he turned his demented attention to the then-current Ninja Boom with The Ninja Mission (1984). After the surprise success of that outing, he went back to the ninja well in the golden year of 1989 for this, and with improved results, in our opinion. 

Evidently figuring that ninjas didn’t have to be Japanese, or even be from his native Sweden, he inexplicably made the ninja in question Russian, of course, and magic ensued.  As the RN’s (that would be Russian Ninja, not Registered Nurse, just to be clear) ultimate nemesis, Helge went with a stylish and high (?)-kicking grandpa, i.e. the Kenny Rogers guy, henceforth to be referred to as Kenny. It was an inspired choice.

When Kenny tells his equally-stylish wife about his new mission, he simply says “some guy hired me”, and off he goes. “Some guy” is “Eve’s Dad”, and his mustache makes Groucho Marx’s look convincing. The man with the awesome/fake ‘stache is played by Timothy Earle, of the great Wardogs (1987) fame. This “guy” sure knows how to pick his roles. It’s all a blur of totally 80’s clothing, music, home decor, and thick accents, and if you look up “Eurotrash” in the dictionary (which is needlessly insulting - how about EuroGem?), there might be a picture of the VHS of this movie. 

That being said, at one point Phil says, while trying to figure out who the baddies are, “Are they foreign people...from EUROPE?” This is one of the funniest lines in the movie, because are they seriously having us believe they’re not the most European people ever? Is this supposed to take place in America? Presumably lost-in-translation character names like “Alexandra Danfort” and “Phil Davids” would indicate so. But it truly is a case of “no coherence, no problem” as we wouldn’t want it any other way. Might as well just keep piling it on.

Even with all the pleasantly-absurd nonsense on screen, it still gets strangely talky at times, as if any of it mattered, and when Kenny is not on screen, the movie suffers. This “kick-ass grandpa”, with his geriatric punches and jumps, put many younger stars to shame. That would have been enough for one movie, but we also have Magnus (AKA Adent) Cederblad as the Russian Ninja. This guy rules. You just have to see him. And as for Phil Davids, he wears boxing trunks in the hot tub in lieu of a bathing suit.

The whole outing is very fun, and the title The Russian Ninja surely was meant to capitalize on the hot ninja trend of the day, and right at the edge of the Cold War. If there could be an American Ninja (1985), surely there could be a Russian Ninja as well? The cherry on the sundae is during the credits, there are highlights from what we just saw. Excellent. Released on at least three labels in the U.S. during the VHS era (Arena, Xenon and Ariztical), Ninja Terminator (or the Russian Ninja) is pretty much the definition of a diamond in the rough.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


The Silent Force (2001)

The Silent Force (2001)-

Directed by: David May

Starring: Loren Avedon, Karen Kim, George Cheung, and Matthias Hues

Frank Stevens (Avedon) is a U.S. Federal Agent who commands a special ops team known as “The Silent Force”. They’ve come across their toughest assignment yet when they face off against some evil Asian mobsters headed by Pao (Cheung). After the Pao gang kills off a bunch of Silent Force members, Stevens gets mad and goes after them, and all-out war ensues. 

Also Stevens tries to save the widow of one of his former buddies, Natalie Woo (Karen Kim). Will the Silent Force be SILENT...aaah, We just can’t come up with a silly pun this time. This movie is just too stupid. It’s not worth it...

Unfortunately, The Silent Force is pretty darn bad. It gives us no pleasure to deliver a negative review, but this movie, sadly, has very little going for it. It’s very poorly and uncreatively written, the editing is abrupt and choppy, it was the late 90’s/early 2000’s, so many scenes are underlit and hard to see, there’s plenty of student-film-style ADR work, and the whole thing is not well-structured and seems very amateurish, not in a good way. 

Of course, there’s a lot of terrible acting, but that never bothered us too much in these low budget productions. But you add it all together...and meant to HOLD it all together is Avedon, a man who is not likable and seems to be striving against all available evidence to try very hard to be cool, and this is a surefire recipe for unmitigated disaster. The whole thing has a junky feel and it simply doesn’t work.

Thankfully, this is the only known credit for “writer”/ “director” David May. Perhaps he saw this botched movie as nothing more than a stumble along the road of his life, and decided to get into another line of work. Good for him. Back in the golden era of the video store, this turkey would have been known as shelf-filler. But by its release date of 2001 (it looks like it was shot a few years earlier) those shelves where disappearing fast, and cheapo DVDs were ending up at gas stations, thus giving The Silent Force the ignominious distinction of being gas-station filler. And it’s not even useful for your life, like, say, gasoline, antifreeze, or those little tree car air fresheners.

It does have some classic cliches: the BYC (Black Yelling Chief), some very dumb one-liners, and the prerequisite torture (though in this case it’s pointless torture that goes on way too long - like everything else in the movie, they screwed it up and there’s no sense of  pacing). And not only is Avedon trying really hard to be cool, he looks like any number of different people, depending on the scene he’s in. In various scenes he resembles:

    - Tom Cruise
    - Gabriel Byrne
    - Eric Roberts
    - Griffin Dunne
    - Jeff Speakman
    - Kyle MacLachlan.

Just an observation. Avedon needs screen presence that doesn’t recall any other famous faces. In one of his more Tom Cruise-esque scenes, a song plays on the soundtrack that is a blatant knockoff of “Danger Zone”, presumably to drive the point home. He really wants you to think of him as 1986-era Mapother. In some scenes it sounds like Avedon is reading his dialogue off paper in a studio somewhere else. Elsewhere, he seems to be taking this regrettable outing way TOO seriously. There’s no balance with this guy. 

A glimmer of hope arrives (way too late) when, towards the end of the movie, Matthias Hues shows up. He begins beating up Avedon and our attention perked up, as we thought it might have a saving grace. We weren’t expecting a No Retreat, No Surrender 2 (1987) situation, but their fight was too short and extremely disappointing. It all leads to those same familiar questions: Who watched/enjoyed this? Did the filmmakers think this was good, or did they know it sucks?

As we all know, by 2001 the golden age of DTV was over, and if you needed any more proof of that fact, here it is. The Silent Force is an insultingly dumb slog to sit through, so make sure you avoid it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Sword Of Honor (1996)

Sword Of Honor (1996)- * * *

Directed by: Robert Tiffe

Starring: Steven Vincent Leigh, Jeff Pruitt, and Sophia Crawford

Cops/buddies Johnny (Leigh) and Alan (Pruitt) are Martial Arts experts who teach children their craft at a dojo run by Alan and his sister Vicky (Crawford) when they’re not out chasing the baddies. Alan decides to concentrate on the dojo full time and thus has “one day left until retirement”. The last assignment involves the most sinister Sotheby’s auction ever - a badass sword, known, naturally, as the “Sword of Honor” because of its long history of slicing people to bits. When baddies - mainly mobsters - make an attempt to gain control of the mystical sword, bad things start to happen. Alan and Vicky now must team up to get revenge, fight the evildoers, and, if there’s time, fall in love. Who will make the final chop? Find out today!

We really like Steven Vincent Leigh. He’s an underrated talent, and Sword of Honor is a good vehicle for him. We’ve seen most of his cinematic output, and he’s a quality Martial Artist with a nice personality and good screen presence. He’s perfect for these PM outings (such as Deadly Bet, also with director Tiffe), and teaming him up with Sophia Crawford was a great idea. 

Crawford is mainly known for her Hong Kong movies and stunt work, and her background pays off here. It would be convenient for fans like us if she did more Western action movies that are more easily accessible, but such is life. Crawford is like a cross between two Comeuppance fan favorites, Cynthia Rothrock and Gary Daniels (perhaps only in the accent and Martial Arts ability but you get the idea). Nevertheless, the pairing of the two makes the movie worthwhile.

It’s classic 90’s video-store action all the way with plenty of stunts and fights every few minutes, as it should be. Some of the pretexts for fight scenes are hilariously dumb - at a gym, a meathead asks Johnny if he’s done using a particular piece of equipment. Johnny tells him he has some more reps to go. This enrages the meathead and a knock-down, drag-out fight ensues. 

Elsewhere, two of our favorite items are combined: the disco nightclub scene and punchfighting. One minute, revelers are tearin’ it up on the dancefloor, the next minute, that same dancefloor becomes a punchfighting arena and those very same dancers are now yelling angrily and cheering like a true punchfighting audience. How quickly their mood changes. Talk about your one-stop shopping.

The aggressor in the nightclub punch-up is a grade-A meathead, and we did seem to notice that there are a lot of weird-looking people in this movie. It has the normal PM professional look to it, but the incidental characters, such as mobsters, bartenders, patrons, and other background artists are just strange to behold. And the weird hair quotient is pretty far up the chart too, as you might expect. 

The main baddie could have been a bit more menacing, he seemed a lot like Mandy Patinkin. Patinkin has never really appeared in any movies of this kind, he’s a bit too classy. And some scenes suffer from being underlit, which is a malady that would really plague DTV productions in the coming years after this.  And the actual sword disappears for long stretches and you kind of forget about it. Those are really the worst things you can say about Sword of Honor (unless you’re going to beat it up for its cliches, which we won’t). It’s really a good time had by all.

Sword of Honor is enjoyable 90’s video-store action featuring likable leads and plenty of fighting. PM rarely disappoints, and, despite a few minor flaws, this can surely count as yet another feather in their cap.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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


Skyscraper (1996)

Skyscraper (1996)- * *1\2

Directed by: Raymond Martino

Starring: Anna Nicole Smith, Raymond Martino, and Deron McBee

 In the pantheon of action stars that perhaps should not have become action stars, a few names come to mind. Judge Reinhold. Steve Guttenberg. Jay Leno. Steven Seagal. Now we can proudly add to that storied list Anna Nicole Smith, who was the obvious choice to stand in for Bruce Willis in a classic 90’s Die Hard knockoff (or “DieHardInA” movie - see our review for Sudden Death to see a comprehensive list). 

Of course, usually a DieHardInA movie takes the Die Hard template and moves it to a certain location, like a water treatment plant or a hockey game. Here, it’s Die Hard in a...building. How they ever got the idea to put this plotline in a skyscraper, we’ll never be able to figure out. But that’s the issue: this is really just standard fare, with only the novelty of the Anna Nicole stunt casting to set it apart. So it really doesn’t matter that the action was moved from a skyscraper to a skyscraper (as if we, as viewers, were having trouble understanding that, they felt the need to call the movie Skyscraper). It wasn’t the location that needed to be changed, it’s the star. Instead of a water treatment plant, they got Anna Nicole.

Anyone who is familiar with PM will recognize their hallmarks here: well-done blow-ups, plenty of gun-shooting, rocket launchers (this time with “rocket vision”), an exploding helicopter, and a familiar cast and crew of regulars such as Raymond Martino and fan-favorite Malibu (AKA Deron McBee). McBee looks so feminine here, when he fights Anna Nicole, it’s kind of hard to tell who’s who. 

Perhaps that’s why they made his long, flowing mane brown instead of its usual blonde, as one of the sole means of differentiation. He and his other main terrorist partner certainly dress for success: rather than wearing fatigues or something like that, they wear leather pants and man-blouses.

Seagal and Anna Nicole do have many things in common: they both struggle with their acting, they both struggle with their action scenes, and they’re both pleasantly plump. If they ever had a baby, the results might be along the lines of Beverly Hills Ninja. But without the talent of Chris Farley. To be fair, though, these were the pre-Trimspa days. While we do have to wait a while for it, we do get some Anna Nicole-Fu. 

Before that, we get some Skinemax-style nudity/sex scenes (mentally take yourself back to 1996. If you rented Skyscraper and the nudity factor wasn’t there, you would feel wicked cheated. However, “look not through a knothole, lest ye be vexed” as what nudity there is is more freakish/odd than hot), and plenty of inane dialogue such as “I got a bad feeling about this!” - though, to be fair once again, someone does say the time-honored classic “We got company!”, which we always notice.

So while it was the 90’s - the era of pagers - computer graphics in the movie really do resemble Pong. We know it was low-budget, but come on. We think the Zitex Corporation (is this where they create zits?) can probably do better. But the bottom line is, we all know why we’re here. For the freakish novelty of Anna Nicole Smith in a PM action movie. If that’s something you think you can handle, by all means, take a ride on Heliscort (who comes up with these names?) and have some fun with the so-bad-it’s-goodness.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Exploding Helicopter!


Martial Outlaw (1993)

Martial Outlaw (1993)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Kurt Anderson

Starring: Jeff Wincott, Gary Hudson, and Richard Jaeckel

Kevin White (Wincott) is a DEA agent who travels from Washington DC to California, hot on the trail of evil Russians that are ex-KGB agents who are now drug runners. While there, he ends up teaming up with his brother Jack White (Hudson, not the ghoul-like guitar player/singer from the White Stripes). Thankfully for us, both brothers are “karate cops” who can put baddies in their place with their feet and fists. Jack is more of a bull in a china shop (almost literally, going by his introduction in the film). 

Unfortunately, Jack is also dirty, and he’s double dealing - helping the baddies and his brother. All this causes their father, known only to us as Mr. White (Jaeckel) to crawl into a bottle of generic whisky. Will these blood brothers spill blood while proving that blood is thicker than water?  Find out today!

Martial Outlaw (you gotta love that title) makes a great companion piece with Mission of Justice (1992). Both are done by the same people, they have a similar look and feel, and both, of course, star Jeff Wincott. They even have a similar strategy for their placement of fight scenes - in Mission, the big blowout fight was in the garage, and here it’s in the restaurant. They both have a scene in a gym where Wincott beats up a lot of people. We would certainly recommend the two for a double bill of VHS action brilliance.

Outlaw reinforces our love for Wincott - he has a power-packed fighting style which is infectious for the audience, and he can do it while wearing a turtleneck and sportcoat. It’s all complemented by his cool 90’s hair, and his stylish sweaters he wears to the gun range are the icing on the cake. His line of casual gun-range wear would singe the retinas of Bill Cosby. But what else would you expect one to wear when in a state of deep concentration? But he’s also likable, which is more important than a thousand sweaters (which are the exact words we’re all taught in school).

Funnily enough, Wincott, or should we say Kevin White, can always find a way to have two Arnis fighting sticks in any situation, no matter how dangerous. Two legs will break off a chair and fall into his hands, or bigger sticks will break in two. You can almost set your watch by the regularity with which Kevin White pummels opponents with two hand-held sticks.

Physically, Gary Hudson and Wincott are perfectly cast as brothers, and their psychological tension as siblings is believable and even compelling. And Richard Jaeckel was a nice choice as dad. The baddie even has a goon which closely resembles Martin Kove. Adding further interest are the fax machines, pagers, and classic computers which are all hallmarks of a certain place and time we just can’t seem to get enough of seeing on screen.

Martial Outlaw delivers what fans of 90’s DTV action want, and it is indeed a satisfying experience. We recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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


True Vegeance (1997)

True Vegeance (1997)- * * *

Directed by: David Worth

Starring: Daniel Bernhardt, Miles O'Keefe, Jonathan Lutz, and Beverly Johnson

 “The Griffin you knew is dead.” - Griffin

All Allen Griffin (Bernhardt) wants to do is play Mouse Trap with his Asian daughter on her birthday. Unfortunately, the Yakuza ruins his plans and kidnaps her. So Griffin dons his revenge togs and goes on a no-holds-barred mission to save his beloved daughter before it’s too late. Complicating his quest is the presence of a man known only as The Specialist (O’Keeffe), a mercenary of some sort and a shadowy figure from Griffin’s past. 

Also a detective, Emory (Lutz) has teamed up with some sort of Naval intelligence officer, Wilson (Johnson), and they are hot on Griffin’s trail and they may curtail his mission before he gets a chance to complete it. Of course, Griffin is an ex-Navy SEAL and knows how to handle himself in a combat situation - but will he make it out alive?

It may start off like The Specialist (1994) (even O’Keeffe’s character is named ‘The Specialist’), and carry on like a cross between Commando (1985) and Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), but believe you-me, this movie is 100% Bernhardt

It truly is his best work - Bernhardt at his best, as you’ve always wanted to see him. Dressed in a SWAT-style flak vest with a black duster coat, Griffin is almost Punisher-like as he blows away the baddies with no mercy. Sure, many characters over the years open their hidden gun stash and put on their black revenge outfit towards the end of the movie, but Griffin does it in the first third, and keeps it on. Plus, he keeps his cache of weaponry at work, not at home. We see - in great detail - how much he loves his guns. Plus he can knock down an iron gate with a dirtbike.

Sure, his resemblance to Van Damme is uncanny, hence why we call him “Van Daniel”. But he really comes into his own here. Plus, he’s not alone in the lookalike department. Johnson resembles Pam Grier, Lutz resembles Fred Dryer, and some other guy resembles Lou Diamond Phillips. Too bad they all couldn’t be together, but this is a close-enough approximation of what would have happened. Even the production company, FM, is remarkably close to action stalwarts PM. But, honestly, except for O’Keeffe and Bernhardt, the cast isn’t what matters. It’s the action, and they don’t skimp on that.

Many cliches we know and love are here - yelling while shooting a machine gun, the baddie says “no more mistakes” to his goons, and the phrase “we’ve got company!” is also uttered. 

The shootout in the strip club is probably the centerpiece of the film, and the “Direct to Video John Woo on a budget” vibe indeed wins over the audience. However, at times, the whole outing, underscored by this scene, feels like a parody of action films. It probably isn’t - at least we HOPE it isn’t - but it was the late 90’s, after all (even though visually it looks like it was the early 90’s), and irony was starting to creep in and ruin things. It is unlikely that director Worth would do this, as he’s known for being the director of Kickboxer (1989) - and, at least on our site, known for Lady Dragon (1992) and Lady Dragon 2 (1993), along with Soldier’s Revenge (1986) and Chain of Command (1994). But he does allow some wacky things to go on in the cinematography department, notably some crazy, headache-inducing swirling camerawork that seems pretty unnecessary.

True Vengeance does indeed deliver the action goods in true DTV 90’s style. We may have a few minor quibbles with it, but nothing is perfect. It’s nothing a few wacky screams from Daniel Bernhardt and a copious amount of gun-shooting can’t solve. If you can find it, go back to the glory days - you’ll TRUE-ly enjoy the experience.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Action Elite! 


Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear (2013)

Ninja: Shadow Of A Tear (2013)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Isaac Florentine

Starring: Scott Adkins, Mika Hijii, and Kane Kosugi

Casey Bowman (Adkins) is a master Martial Artist who runs a dojo with his wife Namiko (Hijii). Casey is truly livin’ the dream: a great wife, a great life, and a baby on the way. But his dreams of the future are shattered when Namiko (and her unborn baby) are murdered. 

Vowing revenge, Casey will stop at nothing to find the perpetrators. This leads him to the dojo of fellow Martial Arts practitioner Nakabara (Kosugi). The two men then come to the conclusion that the super-evil Goro (Sugata) is the mastermind behind all the mayhem. Operating out of the Golden Triangle, Goro commands an army of goons and is said to be untouchable. Naturally, that doesn’t stop Casey from embarking on his ultimate revenge mission. Will he avenge the deaths of his wife and child? Find out today!

Ninja 2 (Or Ninja: Shadow of a Tear, its more poetic title) is awesome. There are many elements that make it so enjoyable and entertaining - there is minimal CGI, the fight choreography (by Tim Man) is excellent, you can actually see all the fights, Scott Adkins is a great hero you can truly get behind and is a rock-solid Martial Artist, and, perhaps most importantly, the plot is old-school action at its finest. 

The movie is truly a throwback to the 80’s Ninja Boom, but unselfconsciously so. It would have ruined things if the great Isaac Florentine made this “ironic” or “post-modern”, but that’s what makes him great: it probably never entered his mind to do so. It’s all about exciting, well-executed fights and grand revenge.

Of course, there is the time-honored barfight, the Prerequisite Torture of the hero, and the wacky taxi driver. Things we never tire of seeing if they’re done right. Thankfully, Florentine and Adkins understand action through and through, and they deliver a winner with all of what you want and none of what you don’t. The evil baddie is named Goro, recalling the Mortal Kombat character, and Kane Kosugi is onboard as well. And if all else fails, Adkins can just flash his million-dollar smile. But even if he didn’t, his badass Martial Artistry would carry the day.

Florentine’s whooshing camera is still on display, and Scott Adkins speaks Japanese. And it’s nice to see that, in 2013, goons still haven’t learned. When they attack the hero, and he dispatches them in violent style, they still keep coming at him. Or their fellow goons think they can beat him. Apparently, word hasn’t yet gotten around the goon community that you shouldn’t mess with Casey Bowman. A marked improvement over the first film, Ninja 2 delivers the action goods with style and aplomb. At the rate the series is going, we would certainly welcome a Ninja 3.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, The Video Vacuum and The Action Elite!


Rangers (2000)

Rangers (2000)- * *

Directed by: Jim Wynorski

Starring: Matt McCoy, Glenn Plummer, Corbin Bernsen, Bean Miller, and Dartanyan Edmonds

Invasion USA (1985). Red Heat (1988). Navy Seals (1990). Sure, you could spend around five hours watching all three - like a SUCKER! Or you could save time like someone smart and just watch Rangers! Yes, Rangers wasn’t so much directed by Jim Wynorski as it was cobbled together from different sources by him and a team of editors. 

Evidently, it also contains footage from The Delta Force (1986) and The Hidden (1987), as if they felt they needed material from a total of five movies because they were in serious danger of creating too much of their own original content. We wonder if it’s fun for filmmakers to assemble a movie in this fashion. After all, they have to try and match the sets of certain scenes so they can be edited together. For example, the set designers for what remains of the original production of Rangers had to make an office space that resembled the one from the climax of Invasion USA, so it would match. But then again, in many other scenes, the cobbles don’t match at all, and it seems like they just don’t care.

But maybe that’s where the fun of Rangers lies - watching in amusement and mild incredulity that the filmmakers would try to pass off a patchwork quilt as one original piece. Who did they think they were fooling? Perhaps less-sophisticated moviegoers were their intended audience, but if you’re watching Rangers, the odds are very good you’ve also seen the movies it’s edited from. 

No one skips directly to Rangers without watching at least some of the others. We’re pretty sure that’s never happened. Clearly the budget wasn’t there for large action setpieces, and it’s just more economical to simply buy them from other movies. We realize this is pretty common in latter-day DTV outings, but it’s never more extensive or blatant as it is in Rangers.

But, piecemeal nature aside, if you’ve ever wanted to see Lloyd Braun of Seinfeld fame shoot people and savagely murder them, now is your chance. Matt McCoy’s faces are truly funny to observe, and the only thing that would make this better is if, while he was unloading his machine gun, he was shouting “SERENITY NOW!!!!!” Sadly, this doesn’t happen, even though his stint on Seinfeld was pretty close time-wise to his role here. Clearly the casting people saw McCoy as Lloyd Braun and thought “that would be perfect casting for our hard-ass Army Ranger”. It all just adds to the off-kilter, “this shouldn’t exist” vibe of Rangers. So if the shooting, blow-ups, inserted footage from other movies, and pre-9/11 Islamic terrorism doesn’t hold your interest, surely McCoy’s wide-eyed mugging will.

While Corbin Bernsen is in it for a few minutes, the movie is pretty much stolen by one Dartanyan Edmonds as Fenton. We’re thinking he may be the lost musketeer. He gets all the good lines and has some nice charisma and screen presence. The movie would be worse off without him. Glenn Plummer also tries nobly to save the sinking ship, but it’s truly a case of “rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic”. Still, you’ve got to admire the guy for trying.

So if you’re looking for anything remotely close to military or cinematic accuracy, run screaming in the other direction from Rangers. If you want a movie (well, technically, six movies all told) with a rock-bottom budget filled with unabashed stupidity just to have a larf, well, Rangers is certainly that.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


The Base 2: Guilty As Charged (2000)

The Base 2: Guilty As Charged (2000)- * * *

Directed by: Mark L. Lester

Starring: Antonio Sabato Jr., James Remar, Melissa Lewis, and Deron McBee

 Lt.Col. Strauss (Remar) seems like your typical gruff, hard-nosed Army man, but there’s a sinister secret behind the goings-on in his unit. It seems certain soldiers are disappearing under his command. In order to maintain his iron grip, he has a small, tight-knit group of underlings who he barks his orders to. 

To the relief of everyone, they’re a multi-racial outfit, with the token Black guy, the token Asian guy, the token White guy, and the token Woman...guy. When not posing for Benetton ads, they do the bidding of Strauss. Usually that consists of taking the person they have convicted of some kind of moral offense, bringing them to the woods, and forcing them to reenact scenes from Surviving the Game (1994). 

So an Army investigator, Lt. John Murphy (Sabato Jr.) goes undercover in their unit to find out what’s going on. Thankfully, he poses as a guy with the awesome name Lt. Hawks, dons his sunglasses, and gets on his Harley in order to detect justice. If he didn’t go undercover as the ultimate coolguy, he would never get results. But will he?

The Base 2: Guilty As Charged pretty much exemplifies the inevitable slide into DTV oblivion for the action movie industry in general, and director Mark L. Lester in particular. Having started his directorial career in the early 70’s, to action fans the world over he became known for Commando (1985), during the golden 80’s when action was everywhere and could seemingly do no wrong. 

In the 90’s, he directed back-to-back Comeuppance Reviews classics Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) and Extreme Justice (1993), and things were looking promising. But the cracks were beginning to show after he directed the first installment of The Base (1999) when he turned in the cringe-inducing Hitman’s Run (1999) the same year. and then in the 2000’s, he eked out Blowback (2000), with James Remar, then teamed up with him again the same year for the movie up for review today. While it is impressive what Lester can do with a low budget, TB2:GAC (as all the real fans call it) certainly feels low-budget in every way. At this point in time, he was a long way from Alyssa Milano and Arnie promising to kill you last (but lying, of course). Here, the lead is Antonio Sabato, Jr.

Sabato is perfectly serviceable in the lead, and we certainly don’t want to bash the guy. But sharing the screen with him is personal hero and American Treasure Deron McBee (AKA Malibu). Sadly, he’s only in a few short scenes, but he does indeed shine in them. He plays a raging redneck named Cletus (though that may be redundant - how many MIT professors are named Cletus?). Remar essentially keeps the movie afloat, and there would be no women in it if Melissa Lewis as Lee didn’t happen to be involved. 

Of course, there is the Prerequisite Torture of the hero, plenty of highly unnecessary yet perfectly welcome blow-ups (the best kind?), much gun-shooting, and lots of dumb-guy hand-to-hand fighting every couple of scenes, just to make sure what remains of the plot doesn’t get in the viewers’ way too much.

So while The Base 2 (or al-Qaida 2 as its terrorist fans call it) is more or less an inconsequential DTV trifle, it’s just entertaining enough while it lasts. Why is there a sequel to The Base? Heaven only knows. Even Dacascos said no thanks to a second go-around. But Sabato Jr. makes sense in the shoe-filling department. He even resembles Dacascos in a few scenes. The movie certainly won’t tax your brain cells (though it may deplete a few), and there are definitely worse things out there, but it doesn’t stick to your ribs like a good, satisfying meal. Much like Sgt. Hawks, it does its job and moves on.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


The Base (1999)

The Base (1999)- * * *

Directed by: Mark L. Lester

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Tim Abell, and Paula Trickey

Maj. John Murphy (Dacascos) is a U.S. Army Investigator, and his higher-ups have assigned him a new and highly dangerous mission: go undercover and see what’s going on with Sgt. Gammon (Abell) and his small cadre of close personal followers. Gammon is suspected of drug-running, money-stealing, and perhaps even murder. Murphy is to track his every move, and report his findings to Lt. Kelly Andrews (Trickey). 

So Murphy shows up at THE BASE and, under the name of Cpl. Dalton, ingratiates himself into the group, and becomes one of the guys. But Gammon is very wily, and he may suspect something is afoot that could derail his evil operations. Murphy/Dalton is going to have to use every tactic he knows to defeat Gammon and his men - will he survive THE BASE?

The Base has some good and worthwhile moments, and director Lester certainly knows how to stretch a low budget to get the maximum result from it. While the movie as a whole doesn’t feel all that substantial, there are plenty of blow-ups, gun-shooting scenes, and some fights along the way to liven things up. There’s even a tank/Jeep chase - how often do you see that? Plus, Dacascos is likable and clearly competent in the fight scenes. 

It makes sense that the fights are movie highlights when you see that the great James Lew was the fight coordinator (unfortunately, he doesn’t appear in the film). Plus, this may be Tim Abell’s best work to date. He really inhabits his character and is a solid baddie. And their hideout even has a pinball machine! Pretty sweet.

By 1999, the classic era of DTV/action movies was over. Yet that didn’t stop Lester from directing a sequel to The Base, The Base 2: Guilty As Charged (2000) the next year. Presumably, enough people rented The Base at their local video store to warrant this happening. It seems kind of hard to justify, but there it is. Even Dacascos was replaced by Antonio Sabato Jr. You don’t even have to watch the two movies back-to-back - just within the same general timeframe - and you will notice many similarities, the most glaring of which is the scene where Dacascos/Sabato shows up at the base and gets into a brawl on the training ground. ‘Sure, it depletes brain cells - let’s do it again!’ seems to be the overriding thought process there.

So a lot of people get shot, stuff blows up, and people get beat up. Those are the highlights, and some stuff happens in between those scenes that you won’t remember. The Base is far from bad, but it lacks that extra dimension to put it over the top into being solidly good all the way around.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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


Lady Streetfighter (1985)

Lady Streetfighter (1985)- * * *

Directed by: James Bryan

Starring: Renee Harmon

Linda Allen (Harmon) travels from somewhere in Europe to Los Angeles to get to the bottom of the torture/murder of her sister. She becomes embroiled in a tangled web of evil gangsters, killer pimps, shady FBI agents, and downright strange partygoers. But who can Linda trust? Luckily, her wits and Martial Arts skill (?) should get her to the bottom of things. Will Linda ever casually wear a gold jumpsuit again? Find out today!

Like most people who have ever seen her in anything, I am a confirmed Renee Harmon fan. She’s impossible not to like. Her thick German accent isn’t unintelligible; it says “I’m not going to let this stop me from achieving my dream of being in American movies”. There’s something charming and likable about her, as I’ve witnessed in Frozen Scream (1975) and the must-see Night of Terror (1986). So imagine my delight when I saw her in Lady Street Fighter - AS the lady street fighter in question - punching and kicking the bad guys and getting into a bunch of highly silly shootouts, car chases, love scenes and fights.

Adding to the fun are some hilariously abrupt film and sound edits, some wonderfully wooden line readings, and inexplicable dubbing. On top of that are two main musical themes: one Spaghetti Western-influenced, the other positively Kraftwerkian. And there’s even a “sexy” undercurrent to it all. 

Apparently the film was shot in 1975 and not released on VHS until a full decade later. Interestingly, Frozen Scream is also from ‘75 and that was the first year Harmon appeared on the scene. She really exploded out of the starting gate with these two films. While the Kung Fu movie craze was in full effect then, with plenty of aspiring Bruce Lee’s out there, it may seem somewhat counterintuitive to make the heroine of such a film a 48-year-old German lady. But that’s all part of the fun. Plus, it’s better than Policewomen (1974) or the Ginger series.

Besides, Harmon was a true trailblazer in that respect. Now we fully accept heavily-accented action stars such as Schwarzenegger and Van Damme. But Harmon did it first. And backwards and in high heels, as the saying goes. Her accent, while charming, does seem to get worse as the movie goes along. Is that possible? But she also wears a lot of great outfits and gives it her all. And she really loves celery, as we see in the centerpiece of the film, the party scene. It’s here she meets a girl named Inez, and gives her highly sensitive and medically-accurate diagnosis of her mental state. Interestingly, the spectral character in Night of Terror, one that is very important plotwise to that film, is also named Inez. Could that possibly be a coincidence? 

Not to be confused with being a part of the Sonny Chiba Streetfighter series, Lady Streetfighter is distinct in its own right. And at only 73 minutes, you can’t afford not to watch it. After the end credits, it promises, “watch out for the return of Lady Streetfighter!” Sadly, this never came to pass, as this was director Bryan’s last film. (And third collaboration with Harmon, after Hell Riders and The Executioner, Part II). He also directed Don’t Go in the Woods, for those that don’t know).

So have as much fun as the partygoers in the film that are continually shouting “Toga!” and see Lady Streetfighter soon.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, The Video Vacuum and Bleeding Skull! 


Deadly Illusion (1987)

Deadly Illusion (1987)- * *

Directed by: Larry Cohen and William Tannen

Starring: Billy Dee Williams, Vanity, Morgan Fairchild, and Joe Spinell

Hamberger (BDW) is a Private Detective living it up in New York City with his girlfriend Rina (Vanity). He’s contacted by a mysterious man who offers him $100,000 to murder his wife. Intrigued, Hamberger does some recon and decides to just go and meet the woman in question. After meeting Sharon Burton (Fairchild), an entire can of worms opens for The ‘Berger, as double-crosses, murder and mayhem ensue. Will Hamberger live to sizzle another day?

We were less than impressed with Deadly Illusion. Maybe it was due to the “two-director” syndrome - evidently the great Larry Cohen was replaced with William Tannen, the director of Hero and the Terror (1988) and Inside Edge (1992) - but the results are ultimately lackluster. To be fair, the action elements herein are very much muted; it’s more of a film noir-influenced mystery-thriller. But you take the cast into account, and you can’t help but feel this should have been so much more.

BDW is as smooth and suave as ever, and his narration is indeed charming. After watching Deadly Illusion, it’s easy to see why legions of Americans went out in droves and purchased pallets of Colt .45.  But there’s a lot of cheesy humor in this movie, and a lot of it has to be delivered by Mr. Williams, and we personally found it weird to see him in that kind of role - if the film was a bit more straight-faced, the one-liners would have had more oomph. 

Vanity and Fairchild provided their classic female B-movie support roles, and the good news is that fan-favorite Joe Spinell is on board. The bad news is that it’s only a cameo, and they spell his name wrong in the credits. With more Spinell, the movie as a whole could have moved up another rung on the ladder.

That’s kind of indicative of the overall vibe of “missed opportunity” of Deadly Illusion. Plus, there was so much competition in video stores at the time - how could this movie compete with the far-more-awesome-yet-still-kind-of-similar Action Jackson (1988)? Or even Fortune Dane (1986) for that matter? The makers of Deadly Illusion should indeed have gone the Fortune Dane route - make it a 50-minute TV pilot and maybe, if it’s developed further, put episodes out on VHS - because that format would have worked better here. Being that it’s boring and slow in many spots, 90 minutes or so seems like an unnecessary amount of Hamberger to take in one sitting.

It does have that “It’s 1987 in NYC” kind of vibe, which is welcome, and there are plenty of shots of the World Trade Center towers, which we always like to point out and celebrate. There’s even a scene of BDW and Fairchild eating in a restaurant where the towers are directly over her head, even looking like antennae popping out of her skull. At least that’s better than this silly dark-haired wig she dons at other various times, and maybe that’s the true “Illusion” here.

Featuring the catchy end credits song “Illusions are Real” by Stephanie Spruill, despite a couple of bright spots, perhaps unsurprisingly for this troubled production, Deadly Illusion doesn’t really hang together and is an unsatisfying viewing experience.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Under The Gun (1988)

Under The Gun (1988) - * * *

Directed by: James Sbardellati

Starring: Sam Jones, Vanessa Williams, Nick Cassavetes, Don Stark, Dan Tullis Jr., Michael Halsey, John Russell, and Rockne Tarkington

 Mike Braxton (Jones) is a rough-and-tumble St. Louis cop who is distraught after his partner dies during the course of what they initially believed was a routine investigation. But Braxton soon discovers his problems are about to get much bigger. His brother, Tony Braxton (Cassavetes), who we believe had a hit with “Un-break My Heart”, gives Mike a desperate call from L.A. and tells him he’s in deep trouble. It seems Tony was involved in illegal plutonium trafficking, and now the goons of the nefarious Simon Stone (Russell) are after him. 

Mike comes to L.A. and all hell breaks loose, with Stone unleashing his arsenal of goons on the unkillable cop, such as Frank (Halsey), Leon (Tarkington), and Joey (Stark), among others. Meanwhile Mike has to protect Samantha Richards (Williams) from the flying bullets and rocket launchers. Will they get out from UNDER THE GUN? Find out today…

Not to be confused with Under The Gun (1995), starring, and we quote the DVD box, the “likable action star Richard Norton”, THIS Under The Gun also features a likable action star, in this case Sam Jones. In the pantheon of 80’s action stars, we would rank the coolness of hair as follows: 1. Michael Dudikoff 2. Dolph Lundgren 3. Sam Jones. Having the third coolest hair of the 80’s action stars is no mean feat. (Feel free to leave a comment if you disagree with/want to add more to this list). Mike Braxton is the type of man who doesn’t back down from a fight, and there are plenty of cool action bits to keep fans entertained.

The baddies seem to have a larger-than-usual proclivity towards rocket launchers, which we certainly applauded, and Sam Jones gets some nice “hero shots” which cast him in a very valiant light. By contrast, Vanessa Williams plays the classic “complaining woman” and isn’t that likable. This clich├ęd role/performance was unfortunate and hurt the movie, but not enough for us to not recommend it. 

The sax/wailing-guitar soundtrack was entirely appropriate to the proceedings, and the fact that the illegal plutonium is being transported in a Robotech lunchbox adds to the interest, especially for 80’s fans like us.

And that’s just the thing, there were so many movies like this on the video store shelves of the 80’s and 90’s, it seems Under The Gun got lost in the shuffle. But the whole thing is well-paced and entertaining, so we can chalk up another winner to Sam Jones, one of the more reliable names of the day. This one only enhances his reputation. Featuring the catchy and energetic songs “Talkin’ Bout Love” by Debra Laws and “Paralyzed” by Brenda Reierson, despite a couple of minor flaws, we can put Under The Gun in the winner’s circle. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty