Tapped Out (2014)

Tapped Out (2014)- * * *

Directed by: Allan Ungar

Starring: Cody Hackman, Michael Biehn, Krzysztof Soszynski, Anderson Silva, Jess Brown, and Martin Kove

When Michael Shaw (Hackman) was 12 years old, some carjackers shot and killed his parents. During the incident, the boy took note of a tattoo on the neck of one of the baddies. Now in high school, he’s understandably moody and acts out by partying and neglecting his schoolwork. Caught by the cops for excessive “party rocking”, Michael is on his last chance. Thanks to Principal Vanhorne (Kove), Michael gets a chance to do his community service hours at his old dojo. When he was a kid, he was a Karate champ, but after the murder he let it all slide. When Reggie (Biehn), the dojo master, first gets a hold of him, he has him do janitorial work. But Michael starts to see the value of training in Karate again. When taken by Reggie’s niece Jen (Brown) to an illegal, underground MMA fight, Michael recognizes the tattoo he saw so long ago - it just so happens to belong to the reigning champ, a gigantic, unbeatable meathead named Dominic Gray (Soszynski). So, despite their vast weight differences, Michael goes into extreme training mode so he can beat Gray in the ring to avenge his parents’ murder. But will it be Gray or Michael who will be...TAPPED OUT?

Tapped Out is essentially No Retreat No Surrender (1986) for the Facebook generation. Elsewhere online it has been described as Batman (1989) meets The Karate Kid (1984), and it has a plot action fans have seen countless times before. Should we be applauding the fact that they’re still making movies like this? We’re truly not sure. We guess that’s pretty cool. The movie has almost as many training sequences as Green Street 3 (2013), and because Michael has to work his way up the ranks of all the “boxcar” underground fighters, and squeeze in some plot and dialogue, the whole thing is a bit longer than it needs to be. 

This Cody Hackman kid is likable enough, and it also stars fan favorites Martin Kove and Michael Biehn, so the DTV lineage is there, at least. Interestingly, in the movie it says that the murder of the parents occurred when Michael was 12 years old. Then someone later says “that was seven years ago.” If our math is correct, that means Michael is a 19 or 20 year old high school student. Maybe things are different in Canada, but this struck us as odd. Maybe he stayed back a few times.

The whole outing is shot and edited well, and has a very professional look to it. It’s clear the filmmakers, despite the derivative grounding of it all, tried to put in some emotion and quality to the overall proceedings, which we appreciated. It doesn’t look or feel like crud, as so many of its MMA-based competitors do. The fact that “Karate Boy”, as our hero is called, tries to take on these MMA guys in the ring may feel incorrect, but it’s kind of a throwback to the underground Punchfighting movies of the 80’s and the first part of the 90’s. The ring announcer bellows “Let’s go to waaaaaaaarrrrr!”, which, it has to be said, won’t be sending Michael Buffer into his panic room anytime soon.

For a decent and watchable - but nothing more - example of a modern-day DTV UFC/Underground Fighting movie, Tapped Out should fit the bill. But it seems the days of Karl Brezdin are long over, even if that spirit, in some new form, lives on. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Skin Trade (2014)

Skin Trade (2014)- * * *

Directed by: Ekachai Uekrongtham

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White, Ron Perlman, and Peter Weller

Nick Cassidy (Dolph) is a tough New York cop with a loving wife and daughter. When a Serbian gangster named Viktor Dragovic (Perlman) and his three sons appear on Nick’s radar, representing many illegal interests, not the least of which is human trafficking, Nick makes it his mission to shut them down. It becomes personal when the baddies kill his wife and daughter and leave him for dead. Now fueled for revenge, Nick travels to Thailand, and while there meets up with a Thai cop named Tony (Jaa). At first they are enemies based on misunderstanding, but eventually they team up to end the Dragovic criminal empire - permanently. Add to that some duplicity on behalf of a man named Reed (White), Nick and Tony have their hands full. Will they both put an out-of-business sign on the SKIN TRADE?

Dolph delivers what fans want with Skin Trade, and notches another positive on his ever-growing resume. Having starred in, co-produced, and co-written the film, Dolph has described it as a passion project. That he has two daughters of his own provided even more emotional fuel for him, and he even got involved behind the scenes with anti-trafficking organizations. While that is noble, and there is a tasteful title card after the film that informs us about trafficking, what we’re here for is the action, and there’s plenty of it. It’s all framed around what is probably our favorite plot, the revenge framework.

Dolph even assembled a dream cast for this one. You can’t do better than having Dolph, Tony Jaa, Michael Jai White (MJW as we call him), Ron Perlman and Peter Weller all together, can you? Weller’s part is necessarily restrained, but he does bring his classic voice and intensity to the role. Perlman, honestly, doesn’t get a ton of screen time either, but he makes the most of what he has. The Dolph-Tony Jaa fight amongst all the falling rice was a movie highlight, as was another dream pairing, the MJW-Tony Jaa fight.

It looks professional and non-junky, thank goodness, and the stellar cast only reinforces the “this could have gone to the theater here and probably did in other countries around the world” vibe. Dolph does walk away from an explosion, which is always cool, but sadly it’s a CGI explosion. While we really liked the movie overall, and there is plenty to commend within it, the use of CGI explosions, bullet hits, sparks, etc., plus the annoying use of cut frames was a bit bothersome. But it’s very clear the positives outweigh those minor negatives.

We applaud everyone involved, especially Dolph, for producing Skin Trade. On the one hand it has brutal violence and top-notch fights from the best in the business, and on the other hand it delivers an important message about one of the evils in the world today. The fact that Dolph and the gang found a way to marry those two together is impressive and noteworthy. Skin Trade is worth seeing and recommending. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


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