Immortal Combat (1994)

Immortal Combat (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Dan Neira

Starring: Roddy Piper, Sonny Chiba, Kim Morgan Greene, Tiny Lister, Meg Foster, and Deron McBee

John Keller (Piper) and his partner J.J. (Chiba) are cops. J.J. is also a ninja. Keller travels to the Caribbean island of Saint Marta and discovers that a company called HybriCo is manufacturing a race of super-warriors, presumably so they can be victorious in punchfighting matches around the globe. Quinn (Foster) is the lead baddie-ess who controls her nefarious employees, who look like off-duty Ghostbusters. HybriCo’s main success story is Muller (McBee, AKA fan favorite Malibu), an unkillable super-oaf who wears a sleeveless tuxedo shirt with a red bowtie and red matching cummerbund. While in Saint Marta, Keller makes friends with Yanagi (Lister), and develops a romantic interest with (yet another) journalist named Karen (Greene), but while initially J.J. stays home and trains, eventually he joins Keller on Saint Marta so they can put an end to all the madness...but will their combat be IMMORTAL? Find out today...

Immortal Combat is classic 90’s fun all the way. It kicks off with a bang-up opening sequence and pretty much maintains a peppy pace throughout, with plenty of action, fight scenes, and other shenanigans. The filmmakers were in tune with what fans want, which is a rarer phenomenon than you might think. While the movie overall is a winner, truth be told, it is overlong at 109 minutes. If they could have trimmed it down to 90 or less, we’d be talking about an all-time classic right now. As it stands, it’s still a winner - it’s what Overkill (1996) SHOULD have been. Just imagine a Raw Force (1982) for the 90’s - but with more shirtless men punching each other. 

Roddy, as usual, is engaging and charming in the lead role, and he brings energy to his fight scenes. Chiba brings an old-school badassery that’s a nice counterpoint to Roddy. Chiba’s English isn’t that great, which doesn’t really help when he’s getting emotional in the scenes with his pretty, white, blonde daughter (he’s explaining why he has one, which we wish they didn’t bother doing), but it doesn’t matter when he’s doling out ninja stars like playing cards. Besides, it gave off a Chinatown Connection (1990) vibe, which is never a bad thing. Plus, Roddy has found himself in a similar situation in Last To Surrender (1999).

It was nice to see Roddy teamed up with his old They Live (1988) pal Meg Foster, and she does indeed make the most of her role here. We also enjoyed seeing a happy, upbeat Tiny Lister, instead of the usual evil version. Why he plays an Asian (?) man named Yanagi remains to be discovered. Of course, the real star of the show (in all of our hearts) is Malibu, who, naturally as a course of being immortal, grunts a lot and makes strange noises. More than usual. His hair is especially Lorenzo Lamas-esque this time around. 

There’s punchfighting, slo-mo gun-shooting, a WYC (White Yelling Chief), and the whole concept of putting Roddy Piper in a situation with ninja action was inspired. Rounding out the 90’s cred, it even goes into a Surviving the Game/Most Dangerous Game situation at one point. We wish the Karen character wasn’t a cliched reporter role, and had more involvement in the butt-kickery, but hey, it goes with the territory.

Featuring plenty of songs by Liz Constantine, including “Resort To Kill” (also the alternate title of the film, which, presumably, was changed at the last minute to cleverly put a spin on SubZero, Johnny Cage, Sonya, Scorpion, Joe Lieberman, and the gang), and released by A-Pix entertainment on VHS, despite its length, Immortal Combat is a gem and well-worth seeking out. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and 10k Bullets!


Sword Of Bushido (1990)

Sword Of Bushido (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Adrian Carr

Starring: Richard Norton, Rochelle Ashana, Judy Green, and Toshishiro Obata

When Zac Connors (Norton), a Navy man trained in the deadly Japanese arts, decides to look into his family genealogy and history of military service, he discovers the whereabouts of an extremely valuable samurai sword that was lost towards the end of World War II. After enlisting the help of Navy Information Officer Billie (Green), Connors sets off to Thailand to recover the precious sword. He then gets help from local woman Suay (Ashana) and recovers the sword. 

The only downside: Evil Japanese gangster and fellow sword enthusiast Yamaguchi (Obata) wants the sword, and is willing to do anything to get it, including sending a melange of baddies, goons, and ninjas after Connors. After they kidnap Suay, Connors puts on his Revenge Outfit and prepares for the final showdown with Yamaguchi for ultimate swordisfaction. Who will chop and slice their way to justice?

Likable action star Richard Norton - as both us and other people have described him - remains likable for this particular outing, and his presence helps the movie out a lot. It’s a solid actioner with a nice 80’s vibe (gotta love those framed Reagan pictures on the wall in official buildings). It is overlong at 100 minutes and gets slow at times - the simple plot of ‘get the sword, the baddies want the sword’ is tough to maintain at such a length - but the non-frenetic, steady pace isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it does eventually deliver the goods, mainly thanks to Norton.

Villagers watch him intently as he practices his Sai techniques in the village square and clap for him when he’s done, he battles the local champion, a man named Chai, and he gets into a fruit-cart car chase with the baddies except he is riding a go-kart! We can’t say we’ve ever seen that before, and he did look like a 9-year-old kid in the process, which naturally recalled Kick Fighter (1989) - where he really DID play a 9-year-old kid! But all his trials, tribulations, and challenges are nothing when it comes to deciphering Yamaguchi’s - or should we say Toshishiro Obata’s - mega-thick accent. It’s literally impossible to tell if he’s speaking Japanese or broken English most of the time. His accent is SO thick, it was really funny. We give him props for trying, and the filmmakers for not having a problem with it. But everyone just ignores it. No one ever says “I can’t understand you”. They might do this in real life. I guess it’s all part of the fantasy world of ‘Bushido. For the record, no one yells out “BUSHIDOOOOOooooooo!!!!!” in this movie. Just an advance warning.

This was the only theatrical screenplay for writer James Wulf Simmonds, who otherwise exclusively worked in TV. Maybe that explains the pacing? Co-star Judy Green was in the rare Get the Terrorists (1987) and has a solid connection with Richard Norton - they went on to star together in Under the Gun (1995) and Mr. Nice Guy (1997), and then she became Mrs. Richard Norton in 1993. Maybe it was his skill with weapons or his witty one-liners, but no one can resist his charm.

Featuring some beautiful Thailand locations and the end-credits song “Until Now” by Michael Buday, Joe Repiscak and Jim Learned, Sword of Bushido could have been trimmed down for a leaner and meaner attack, but as it stands, it’s a competent and worthy addition to the Norton canon.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty