Bounty Hunters (2011)

Bounty Hunters (2011)- *1\2

Directed by: Patrick McBrearty

Starring: Trish Stratus, Frank J. Zupancic, Boomer Phillips, Andrea James Lui and Joseph Rafla

Ridley (Zupancic), Chase (Phillips), and Jules (Stratus) are a team of Toronto-based bounty hunters. Bounty Huntering apparently isn’t paying the bills enough for Jules, who has a young daughter, so she has a side job as a strip club waitress part-time. A potential opportunity arises for our trio of ‘tracers when, after picking up a bad guy for a $100,000 bounty, mob boss Hal Lambino (Rafla) intervenes and offers them a million dollars if they turn the guy over to him, so he won’t spill the beans in court. Wary of this criminal proposition, the Bounty Hunters refuse, and now they have to fight off many baddies in the Canadian underworld. 

This includes some disgruntled Asian massage parlor ladies, including one especially tough chick, Ruby (Lui), who has a knock-down, drag-out fight with Jules. Will justice prevail in the great white north? Will the maple leaf of freedom fly proudly once again? Will it be, as she has so often claimed, Stratusfaction guaranteed?....Ya HOSER!

While it shouldn’t be confused with the Michael Dudikoff outings Bounty Hunters (1996) and Bounty Hunters 2: Hardball (1997), THIS Bounty Hunters does share the silly, humorous, tongue-in-cheek vibe of those 90’s offerings. For those keeping track, there’s also the Robert Ginty vehicle Bounty Hunter (1990) and of course the Lorenzo Lamas/Matthias Hues team-up Bounty Tracker (1993). Seeing as how this movie is called Bail Enforcers in Canada, and there are so many other similarly-titled movies in the U.S., why change it at all? Is “Bail Enforcers” SO different from “Bounty Hunters”? Enough to make any kind of difference? Besides, this movie is so Canadian, we’re surprised it wasn’t originally called “Boonty Hunters, Eh?” - we kid our neighbors to the north, but at least they’re not trying to hide the fact that they’re Canadian, like so many others. These filmmakers are true patriots, letting the Canadianness of their movie really shine through, like maple syrup in the sun.

But, straight to the point, if there was no Trish Stratus, there’d be no movie. She brightens most of the scenes she’s in, but at one point in the movie she “goes to the hospital” (was she doing WWE stuff at the same time?) and isn’t seen for a while, and the movie suffers terribly. Bounty Hunters gets off to a great start, but at the 35 minute mark it loses steam and doesn’t recover. The Tony Soprano-like Lambino character goes off on this long monologue and it puts the brakes on the movie. THAT’s when we sink down and realize, hey, this whole thing is low-budget, junky, and cheap-feeling. 

The dialogue goes from ridiculous to ridiculously stupid, and it all goes from “entertaining” to “meh....” What the filmmakers absolutely should have done is kept their foot on the gas, and kept the absurd situations coming fast and furious, not seemingly change the vibe.

At 79 minutes, you think you can’t lose, but as we always say, beware the short movies. They’re that way for a reason - because they FEEL much longer. Even the Trish Stratus fight scenes start to become repetitive and boring after a while, and those are the movie highlights! If a 79 minute movie has FILLER, beware. 

It tries to be sordid, with scenes in strip clubs and “massage parlors”, but Canada is so clean it never comes off as gritty. The Bail Enforcement Agents have jackets that say “BEA” on the back (is this a real thing in Canada or made up for the movie?) which seem like a little old lady’s personal protection force. Or Bea Arthur is really running the show. She should have done action movies. She could've have been the Trish Stratus of her day.

The first third or so of Bounty Hunters is stupidly, reasonably entertaining, but then falls off fast. Only fans with their heads in the StratusPhere are likely to truly appreciate the wanton silliness herein.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Double Crosser (1991)

Double Crosser (1991)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Arizal

Starring: Peter O'Brian, Didier A. Hamel, Priscilla Patsy, Ricky Hosada, Kiki Amir, and Lily Pudjiwati

Jack (O’Brian) is a former private detective but now a kickboxer living in Indonesia. Life can take some pretty strange turns. Things get even stranger when an evil criminal mastermind named Foster (Hamel) appears on the scene. Jack, in his spare time, loves nothing more than to spend time with his beloved family - his wife Lily (Pudjiwati), his brother-in-law Leo (Hosada), sister-in-law Linda (Patsy) and especially his blind daughter Fiona (Amir). Because Foster sees how awesome a kickfighter Jack is (and, to a lesser extent, Leo as well), he dreams of a day when he can enlist them in illegal, underground Hong Kong-based boxing tournaments. To achieve this end, Foster has his goons kidnap Fiona. BIG mistake. 

You’ve stupidly unleashed the awesome power of JACK. Henceforth, Jack proceeds to annihilate an army of acid-washed antagonists as he fights for truth, justice, and the Indonesian way. But who is the true DOUBLE CROSSER? Find out today!

Another amazing collaboration of fan favorites Peter O’Brian and Arizal? Sign us up! Both men are at the top of their game in this, another hugely entertaining team-up. Shootouts, fights, wonderfully implausible situations and wacky dubbing ensue in a film that is never anything less than completely delightful. 

As we’ve said before, Arizal was doing this all on his own - no budget, no CGI, no real infrastructure of any kind, and that adds a certain reality and insanity to the proceedings. During car chases, it feels all TOO real - like the stunt people are really risking their own lives to entertain us. Thankfully, it all works magnificently well. The world would be a different place if Arizal’s movies got wider distribution; think of the result if they came to American movie theaters at the time and had newspaper ads and eventual VHS releases. As far as we can tell, Double Crosser got a Greek VHS release and not much more. Gope Samtani’s Rapi Films never seemed to get much play here in the U.S., and that’s a shame. If only his distribution network had a wider reach, people would be wearing Peter O’Brian T-shirts today. Ah well, maybe it’s all for the better.

Everything here is so great, from the baddies who REALLY know how to cover their tracks, to the disco scene with its Asian variant on “Super Freak”, to O’Brian’s Martial Arts moves and facial expressions, to the James Bond-style ‘suspended over a pit of hungry alligators’ suspense-filled finale, to the fact that there’s a character named Uncle Leo that will remind you of Seinfeld and will have you saying “HELLO!!!” like Seinfeld’s uncle, to the fact that O’Brian fights at a place called Golden Roller Boogie...and so much more. And the ending is so abrupt, it makes Godfrey Ho’s endings seem long and drawn-out. Similarly, instead of a Ho-style ‘Final Field Fight’, there’s a ‘Final Chicken Coop Fight’ where someone gets chicken feed thrown in their eyes. Like we said, another time, another place, another country. Fascinating to watch.

For more undeniable Arizal fun, we wholeheartedly recommend Double Crosser.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


The Hard Way (1989)

The Hard Way (1989)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Michele Massimo Tarantini

Starring: Miles O'Keefe,  Philip Wagner, Chuck Bishop, Milton Rodriguez, and Henry Silva

“You shouldn’t have killed that Corn On the Cob” - Pinero

When a bunch of white guys in suits in a U.S. government office (including a man - according to what we heard - named Senator Towel...Senator TOWEL. Gotta love stuff that’s lost in translation) decide that a Bolivian drug lord named Pinero (Wagner) must be eliminated, they send in the best: A three-man commando squad consisting of Karl (Rodriguez), who looks like a young and vigorous Don Rickles, Ibanez (Chuck Bishop in his only role to date), and, of course, the leader, True American Hero Bull (O’Keeffe). 

The suits even pass out headshots so their fellow pencil-pushers can see what the guys look like. The problem is, a sadistic and ruthless overlord named Wesson (Silva) is willing to protect the drug empire with all the resources at his disposal, and there are plenty. Countless goons that are armed to the teeth are willing to sacrifice everything to keep Pinero alive. Three of America’s finest versus unending waves of bad guys? Seems like the odds are in OUR favor. But will our heroes penetrate the enemy stronghold? Find out today!

Not to be confused with the 1991 James Woods/Michael J. Fox outing, this, the original The Hard Way, is essentially a 90-minute chase through the jungle - but it manages to rise above its lowly station. In fact, we won’t even dub this a “jungle slog” like we normally might, because there’s nothing really sloggy about it. 

Without doubt, the movie is lacking in the originality department; baddies shoot and chase, good guys shoot and chase, etc., for essentially the entirety of the running time, but it’s all so wonderfully excessive, you just have to love this particular romp. As we always say, the Italian jungle epics are the best, and journeyman director Michele Massimo Tarantini turns in an against-all-odds winner this time around.

There’s a lot to love about The Hard Way: it’s uncompromising yet fun, there’s no annoying reporter character or irritating child character, it delivers mindless shooting and explosions with style and aplomb, it came out in the golden year of 1989, it has an awesome score by Luigi Ceccarelli, there are cool helicopter shots (and a few of them explode - seemingly a well-placed rope is all it takes to set them ablaze), dudes scream while they fire off an endless supply of rounds on their machine guns, and Henry Silva has an evil ascot. He also gives commands on the world’s biggest walkie talkie. 

Bull - not to be confused with the wacky bailiff on Night Court - lets his grenades do the talking, though when Miles O’Keeffe does speak in this movie it sounds like he’s doing a rather lame Humphrey Bogart impression. At any moment you think he’s going to end a sentence with “...shweeethaaart”. There are even BAZOOKAS! And they get put to good use, too. Trust us.

Listen, if you want something intellectual, watch Mindwalk (1990). If you want to watch cannon fodder be mowed down by machine gun fire and watch crap get blown up, The Hard Way is the movie for you. It’s G.I. Joe and the A-Team writ large....sure, there are lots like this, but this one is done well. It should have been on the Mercs box set. They didn’t waste time with simply exploding huts, they blew up brick homes! The bullet budget must have been enormous, as the kill count rivals anything we’ve seen, and we’ve seen ‘em all, just about. 

Lest we forget the Prerequisite Torture (this time of Rickles) (as we called him), and it’s all in a scenario where the baddies can’t hit our heroes, but our heroes have no trouble hitting the baddies. It’s all very NES-esque. From the music, to the setting, to the shooting, to the 1989 timeframe - it could have been a Nintendo game.

Shot in Brazil and released in Germany and Japan on VHS (and later on DVD in the U.K., we believe), The Hard Way will, to paraphrase the great Henry Silva, ‘bring you great satisfaction’, should you get a chance to see it. And we recommend that you do.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Wild Team (1985)

Wild Team (1985)- * *

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Antonio Sabato, Ivan Rassimov, Franco Fantasia, Julia Kent, Salvatore Borghese, and Werner Pochath 

 On the island of Manioca, an evil, “El Presidente”-style leader named Gomez has kidnapped the son of the rebel leader, Cordura (Fantasia), who is described as a “symbol of freedom” for the Maniocan people, although they seem pretty free as it is if we’re to judge by their carnivale-style antics. A group of men in suits in Miami who work for a mining operation, and are tied up in the whole revolutionary battle financially, decide they could either spend millions of dollars mounting a rescue operation to save the son, or they could do it on a budget by employing The Wild Team! 

So naturally they hire a man named Martin Cuomo (Sabato) - not to be confused with action powerhouse Mario Cuomo - and his group, consisting of Theo (Pochath), Paco (Borghese), Marius (Rassimov), and female explosives and short-shorts expert Sybil Slater (Kent). The Wild Team, or perhaps the Thunder Squad (they should really make up their minds), go to Manioca and shoot/blow up some people/huts in order to save the boy and win the day. But will they be successful?

This is a disappointingly mediocre jungle slog, especially considering the fact that Lenzi directed it and it has some top-name Italian action B-movie stars. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s just kind of blah. Even at less than 90 minutes, it drags. It’s all very by-the-numbers, a typical - even stereotypical - exploding hutter that you’d have to be a diehard fan of Lenzi or any of the personalities involved in order to really want to see. 

But at least they’re open and honest about what this is: at one point, Cuomo, played by Antonio Sabato Sr., says, in reference to Sybil and her explosive abilities, and we quote, “she’s gonna blow up that hut.” That might be the first ever on-camera bit of spoken dialogue directly referencing an exploding hut. So the movie may go down in history for that, but there’s nothing else standout about the film overall.

There’s really no character development per se, so you don’t truly care about the characters or their mission like you should. The sole reason you might care is because of who the actors are and because fans know them and have seen them before - and that’s not good. It’s unfair to put all the weight on the personalities of Sabato, Pochath, Rassimov and the rest, simply because we know them and have seen them previously. 

They should all have been individually built up a bit more. That being said, there is a very silly fight scene where you can’t tell if what you’re hearing is the sound of punches connecting or someone slappin’ some bass on the soundtrack. Truth be told, the best part of the movie is probably the Stelvio Cipriani score, which is really no surprise. And there’s something cool involving a bow and arrow. But that’s pretty much it.

Because it lacks edge, surprises, or anything really impactful, The Wild Team is a miss for Lenzi and the gang. In brief, this team really isn’t that wild; it should have been wilder. Like Jack Wild.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, The Video Vacuum and Cool Target! 


High Kicks (1993)

High Kicks (1993)- * *1\2

Directed by: Ruta K. Aras

Starring: Ruta K. Aras, Tara Lee-Ann Roth, Dennis Swarthout, Louis Lombardi, and Sandy Kay

Sandy Thomas (Tara Lee-Anne Roth in, sadly, her only credited role to date) is the owner of an aerobics studio named High Kicks! It’s not so much that we’re really excited to tell you that, but the studio name, defiantly, has an exclamation point. One day, a man named Sam (Dennis Swarthout in, sadly, his only credited role to date) walks into High Kicks! looking for a job. Sam is just a guy who sails from port to port in his personal yacht. He also knows Karate, but his feathered and ponytailed blonde locks are stunning enough for everybody both good and bad. 

After Sandy is raped and assaulted by a gang (or, as they call themselves, a tribe), she goes for a walk in the park with Sam. She notices Sam get into a shirtless skirmish with two of his buddies. One looks like a more buff George Lopez and one is a German gentleman named Jonas who is a Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme wannabe (that’s not an insult - he actually says so to his pals). Impressed, Sandy wants to learn Martial Arts from Sam, and, if there’s time, get revenge on the baddies that wronged her. Not kill them, mind you, just rough them up a little. 

Once Sandy’s friend Jill (Kay) sees what’s going on, she wants in on the training. Soon it dawns on Sandy that she could combine Karate and aerobics into the ultimate workout - what she then calls “Karobics” is born. After some ups and downs in their relationship, they eventually go after the main baddie, T.C. (Lombardi), who is less evil and more of a bossy fat guy. In the world of High Kicks (!), anything can happen - who can kick the highest? Find out today!

Out of all the shot-on-video movies in the “Women Who Kick Butt” DVD collection (for those keeping track, there’s also Street Angels, Death Run to Istanbul and Flight To Danger), High Kicks is the most professional of the bunch and the most watchable. It’s a bit like being the tallest midget, but, in the spirit of comparison, let’s keep things in perspective.  High Kicks is a minor gem of zero-budget ingenuity, especially if you keep your standards and your expectations low.

The movie carries the baton forward from the classic aerobics movies of the 80’s like Killer Workout (1987) and Death Spa (1989), but adds a totally-90’s, video vibe to that groundwork. Clearly Billy Blanks was watching - and you thought Tae Bo was the first workout program to combine aerobics and Martial Arts? 

Sorry, Sandy Thomas and Sam were there first. As if this innovation weren’t enough, the opening rape scene plays out as if some pre-teens tried to make their own episode of Law and Order: SVU at home. Or if the Lifetime channel switched to videotapes to film their movies. Then Sam arrives, a man who looks like the result if Dave Coulier downed a whole bottle of Rogaine with Minoxidil. Even the baddies are more baddie STEREOTYPES. But one of them has a T2 shirt, and someone else has an L.A. Law shirt. So clearly it wasn’t all about women in leotards.

Sandy Thomas is a heroine the audience can get behind: she leaves a message on her answering machine informing callers that she’s out chasing down the bad guys. And she eats pizza with fries as the topping. While this was Tara Lee-Anne Roth’s only foray into moviemaking, other cast members did some interesting stuff; Roth’s stunt double was Michele Krasnoo, who was in Death Match (1994) and Kickboxer 4 (1994), among other DTV action titles. Director Aras produced some AIP movies throughout the 90’s, and the guy who plays T.C. was in plenty of mainstream material later, including the show 24 and a lot more. He must have shown casting agents his High Kicks reel. But whatever happened to the Karobics Instructor credited in the end credits? That’s the real question.

Oddly, the version we have of the movie features no music whatsoever and no sound effects. Is this just a defect of our copy? The opening titles, the many montages, even Sandy playing a cassette tape in her studio - nothing. The movie muted itself. It got to where we imagined our own music, especially for the sailing montage. We imagined a jaunty keyboard tune with poppin’ bass and a rockin’ guitar solo. The lack of music hurt the movie, and this was certainly a first for us. Has anyone out there seen a version WITH music? We’d really like to know. Even still, there should have been a title song to pump us all up.

Sure, none of it makes much sense (how are they tracking down all the baddies?), but are you really watching High Kicks for a logical reason? It’s all pretty much silly fun, and if there was music, we’d probably have enjoyed the movie even more. It would have been interesting to see Ruta Aras go on to make more movies as director - but we should be thankful for what we have. For a nutty and nonsensical reach into the outer regions of DTV action (?), may we suggest High Kicks? Clearly, we’re still boggled.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Bleeding Skull!


Operation Rogue (2014)

Operation Rogue (2014)- * * *

Directed by: Brian Clyde

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Sofia Pernas, Henry Strzalkowski, and Treat Williams

  In the jungles of the Philippines, General Hank Wallace (Treat) and Captain Max Randall (Dacascos) are fighting terrorists. The baddies finally go too far when they kidnap Jenna Wallace (Pernas), the General’s daughter and Max’s love interest. Wallace tells Max and his team to find her at any cost - but it just may be their lives. Thankfully, Jenna is a “former Marine” (despite the fact that she looks far too young to be a former anything) so she can handle herself well under fire. 

Presumably this would be the case if Treat Williams was your father. In the immortal words of that movie we haven’t seen as of this writing, will our heroes GET THE TERRORISTS? Or will the forces of evil prevail? Find out today...

Did you know that the Philippines have Islamic extremist terrorists too? Well, they do, and that comes as quite a gift for the Roger Corman factory. For them, this is a win-win. They can stay topical as well as film movies there like they did in the old days. Clearly the baddies in this movie are based on a real Philippine terror group called MILF, which stands for Moro Islamic Liberation Front. 
Again, this is the name of a REAL terror group, and you can look it up if you don’t believe it. 

So, who better to fight these guys than fan favorites Treat Williams and Mark Dacascos? Speaking of the aforementioned old days, the past is clearly an inspiration to the filmmakers here, as the structure of this movie is very much like the Cirio Santiago-directed jungle epics of yore. It’s nice that they’re still making movies like this in 2014-2015, and we give everyone involved due credit for that. But it’s a double-edged sword...

Sure, we appreciate that this movie is after the fashion of so many we’ve watched on VHS, but the other side of the coin is that it can get very samey, like we’ve seen all this many times before. Even the casting of our heroes Treat Williams and Mark Dacascos  (as well as Philippine mainstay Henry Strzalkowski) serve to reinforce this fact. 

This is a movie that wishes it came out around 1994, give or take 5 years or so, and we say good on ya, but it does tend to get a bit run of the mill.  Director Brian Clyde also did the very, very similar The Hunt for Eagle One (2006), but in that case Dacascos’s General was Rutger Hauer, not Treat Williams. 

Naturally, the shooting, beat-ups, and blow-ups are all present and accounted for, with what looks like minimal CGI, to the movie’s eternal credit. A helicopter and a few huts even explode as well, reinforcing the old (ish) school vibe. But this is a movie that very much fits the standard, and is neither good nor bad. It just is.

Featuring an amusingly abrupt ending that seems like it was recycled from footage from something else, as if they didn’t have the time, money or inclination to bother with a denoument, Operation Rogue fits in well with others of its ilk. If you like them, you’ll like this. If you don’t, you won’t. It’s as simple as that, which is fitting, as simplicity seems to be the order of the day here.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Flight To Danger (1995)

Flight To Danger (1995)- *1\2

Directed by: Gina Jourard and Sara Matthews

Starring: Gina Jourard, Sara Matthews, Rod Kei, and Robn Meeks

Marcy and Dylan (co-directors/co-writers/co-producers/co-stars Matthews and Jourard, respectively) are members of an all-female Martial Arts class. The Sensei is a man named Robn (Robn Meeks) - yes, ROBN. The guy is so awesome, he doesn’t need to use the letter I. He just lets his ponytail do the talking. The girls even volunteer their time at the local women’s shelter, where they combat issues such as “detached depression”. Maybe it’s their good-heartedness, but they win a competition to go to a fighting tournament  in Paris. (Because the movie is so low-budget, we never actually see Paris, but they do talk about their experiences there, including how Marcy met Bill “Superfoot” Wallace). 

Then some gangsters want the time-honored disc (or is it a box? or maybe a box with a disc in it? Not really sure). So the gals snap into action and fight the gangsters and baddies that have been harassing them, and all of the 3rd Street Promenade. Why did they ever go on a FLIGHT TO DANGER in the first place?

Well, if you’ve read our reviews for the other Vista Street Entertainment movies included on the “Women Who Kick Butt” DVD collection, you’ll know what to expect here - shot on a camcorder, zero budget, amateurish, even childish. But this one has funny dubbing and editing tricks, so it may have a technical edge on its lowly brethren. Said editing is by one Jay Woelfel, the guy who directed one of the worst movies we’ve ever seen, Iron Thunder (1998), by the by. Flight To Danger is better than that turkey, so let’s keep things in perspective here.  

That being said, we demand a list of video stores in the 90’s that a. carried this movie, b. had customers who rented it, and c. anybody who truly liked it and didn’t notice that it looks like a middle-school video production project. We just want to get an idea of the scope of this movie’s reach. Or any other VSE titles for that matter. They’re not included in many reference sources and appeared to slide under the radar, yet they must have been in some mom-and-pop video shops. But where...and...WHO?

Because it was directed by not just one woman but TWO women, there is a classic “trying on different outfits” montage, a dance party in an art gallery (evidently the XX/O Gallery in L.A.), and the ultimate Lothario for the Ladies is present, a man named Michael Jacques. When he’s not smothering you with his luscious locks (his hair is legitimately more lustrous and better taken-care of than many of the women in Mr. Robn’s class), he is wooing you with the gentle tones of his acoustic guitar. While naked, of course. Don’t want to forget that. (“Just a guitar and a smile”, he sickeningly states). Also a woman who was getting down and/or funky at the art gallery dance party is a dead ringer for former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Just one more note about the man with no “I’s” (heh heh), Mr. Robn. He answers the phone, “Dojo?” - no specific name given. This reminds us of noted dud Deadly Reckoning (1998), where an employee of a bookstore answers the phone “Bookstore?” - do no establishments in L.A. have actual names? Robn also had a bit part in American Ninja 3 (1989) as “Black Ninja Fighter”. So he’s had a nice life. Also an actor named Rod Kei plays a baddie named Flavio. Of course he does. Mr. Kei had previously appeared in Ring of Fire (1991) and Full Impact (1993), so he actually had a decent action pedigree before downgrading to this. A guy in the movie named Greg looks like Matthias Hues, but, upon closer inspection, is not Matthias Hues.

While the movie was released in 1995, during one scene we pass a movie marquee (which we usually take note of) and it’s playing this lineup: Born Yesterday, The Adventures of Huck Finn, and the immortal classic Cop and a Half (all 1993). It’s also playing Unforgiven (1992), but that was such a hit it was still in theaters. Near the theater is a restaurant named Tacos Tacos Cafe. Can you think of a better way to spend a nice afternoon in 1993 than watching Cop and a Half and then going to the Tacos Tacos Cafe? Because I sure can’t.

Flight To Danger ends with a freeze frame, so that gains it extra points in our book, but we wish there was a lot more professionalism here. Sometimes reaching out to the far corners of the action movie world pays off, and sometimes there are frustrating disappointments. Sadly, this was the latter for us. Sometimes the camcorder should stay in the case.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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