The Bronx Executioner (1989)

The Bronx Executioner (1989)- * * *

Directed by: Vanio Amici

Starring: Alex Vitale, Margie Newton, Gabriele Gori, and Woody Strode

“I need a box!” - Dakar

In the future, the Bronx is divided into two zones: the one controlled by the humanoids, and the one controlled by the androids. Rather than celebrate how similar they are to each other, they’re constantly at war. The androids are led by the beautiful Margie (Newton), and the humanoids are led by the great Dakar (Vitale), a robot/meathead hybrid with a surprisingly sensitive soul. When James (Gori) enters the fray, he yearns to be Sheriff of the Bronx. Why, we don’t know, but he must go through an extensive training regimen from Warren (Strode), the old salt who is getting on in years and wants to make James his successor in the profession of keeping the peace between the humanoids and the androids. Dakar, wanting revenge for what his rivals did to his lost love, forges an uneasy alliance with James. Despite the fact that none of this makes a lick of sense, someone will have to be...THE BRONX EXECUTIONER!

The Bronx Executioner is a great example of how to make a movie out of nothing. All the Woody Strode footage is from The Final Executioner (1984), and we think some of the Margit Newton footage is too. Director Amici then fashioned some footage to wrap around the rather puzzling remainder, and the result is completely incoherent, but about 80% entertaining. For this type of movie, who needs consistency and continuity anyway? Those things are boring. We’d take The Bronx Executioner - which is like an Italian version of a Godfrey Ho movie - over a lot of other possible choices.

Perhaps the best reason to recommend this movie is Alex Vitale as Dakar. This is a man-mountain who is too muscular for even the most basic shirt. He’s practically as tall as he is wide. Yet, he has feelings - call him an “emohead” if you will. Just about everything he says is pure gold, and simply watching him walk is more entertaining than several Seagal movies combined. Vitale appeared in Comeuppance classics such as Hands of Steel (1986) and Strike Commando (1987), but here he really comes out to shine. In the world of 80’s Italian action, he truly is a star.

The rest of this mix n’match mishmash of goulash contains dudes on motorbikes poppin’ wheelies in a rock quarry, lots of bang-bang shooting, great costumes, do-it-yourself tech, guys who twirl before they shoot, guys who twirl after they’ve been shot, classic NYC footage including the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center towers, Paolo Rustichelli music, and a rather obvious Woody Strode stand-in for when Gabriele Gori is talking to “him”, dogs controlled by beeping lights, a Dakar/dog fight, and the time-honored Final Warehouse Fight. There’s a lot of other stuff jumbled in, but why list it all? You’ll be seeing it eventually, especially because the DVD is available for a dollar in most places where it’s sold.

Yes, there are some slow moments, and the movie loses momentum after the halfway mark (we would say it loses direction, but that would imply it ever had one), but if you’ve ever wanted to see a training sequence where the trainer isn’t there, this is the movie for you. It’s all wonderfully 80’s - they truly don’t make ‘em like this anymore, and solely for the archival value, The Bronx Executioner is worth watching, if not owning. 

But, honestly, it’s not in the same league as gems like Escape From the Bronx (1983) or 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982), which are movies all of a piece and not cobbled together, so maybe it’s an unfair comparison. But you have to love the 80’s - Italian-made “Bronx” movies were so hot in video stores, someone thought they would capitalize on that. It truly was a magical time.

Though he did other things in the Italian film industry, most notably as an editor, this is the only writing or directing credit for Vanio Amici. The mind boggles upon thinking what his other projects might have looked like. At least he added to the rich tapestry of 80’s video-store movies with his lone offering. While the DVD is dirt-cheap, according to the Video Hound, the VHS version contains an intro by none other than Michael Dudikoff. That might be worth tracking down just to see what he could possibly have to say about The Bronx Executioner - a neglected Italian actioner from a time when coherency was not even close to being king. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993)

Cyborg 2: Glass Shadow (1993)- * *1\2

Directed by: Michael Schroeder

Starring: Elias Koteas, Angelina Jolie, Billy Drago, Karen Sheperd, and Jack Palance

In the year 2074, two rival companies, Pinwheel and Kobayashi, vie for supremacy in the cyborg-making biz. By this point in the future, cyborgs have reached amazing levels of sophistication and humanity, including having emotions. Pinwheel decides to get the edge in all this corporate intrigue by creating Casella Reese, known by the nickname Cash (Jolie). In her design, her superiors programmed in the directive to go to Kobayashi Corp. and detonate herself, wiping out the competition - permanently. A higher-up named Mercy (Palance) sees what’s going on, and allows Cash, and her human love interest, Colt (Koteas) to escape. Pinwheel doesn’t like this, so they send a psychotic bounty hunter named Danny Bench (Drago) to track them down. But will human-robot love conquer all in this treacherous world?

The filmmakers behind Cyborg 2 decided to take a different tack from the first one, thankfully. Despite the fact that the cyborg Cash has some sort of implanted memories of Van Damme from the first outing, this particular cyborgian opus has a much different vibe than the first one. We applaud the fact that there are actually some interesting ideas at play here, not the least of which is the nature of humanity. While our normal mode of pondering such weighty questions about life would come from re-watching T-Force (1994), the injection of some much-needed intelligence scores the movie some points. As does the set design and overall look, which is relatively upmarket for a DTV sequel to an Albert Pyun-directed Van Damme movie.

On the bad side, it could have used some more action. The museum fight with Karen Sheperd was way too brief and didn’t live up to its potential, but overall we do get a decent amount of Jolie-Fu, which was nice. All the best scenes in the movie feature Jolie front and center, and it’s easy to see why - she has an almost mesmerizing effect on the audience. That doesn’t stop the pace from becoming slow at times, of course, and a lot of the cooler imagery is undercut by the dinginess of the “future”. So the audience gets yanked in a bunch of different directions, which maybe was on purpose (?) - but, on top of everything else, they found time to have some Punchfighting between Koteas and Billy Drago, which moved things in the right direction. 

As for Jack Palance, we’re glad he’s here, but for 90 percent of his “screen time” it’s just that: a close-up of his mouth on a TV screen. When he does show up in the flesh, he gets by far what is the best line in the movie, so it all pays off. Why visions of him looking forlornly at his lost love were intercut with the Koteas-Jolie sex scene and not placed somewhere else isn’t known, but it’s oddly similar to when David Warner was intercut with a Pamela Anderson sex scene in Naked Souls (1996). That aside, there’s only so much of Palance’s teeth that any normal audience would want to stand.

As per usual, Billy Drago is the baddie, Sven-Ole Thorsen is on hand as “Doorman” , and the computerized corporate intrigue certainly seems modeled after the Apple and Microsoft battles. Maybe one day they’ll use deadly cyborgs to one-up each other. There’s even a Cyborg dog - a cy-dog if you prefer - and we felt that could become a movie in its own right. Tailor-made for the pay channels of the day, this could have played on Cinemax in the mid-90’s right before Nemesis (1992) and right after American Cyborg:Steel Warrior (1993). It all comes to a surprisingly sweet and touching ending. I guess you never know what to expect from the Pinwheel Corporation.

Director Schroeder also was the man behind Damned River (1989) and went on to do the third and final Cyborg movie, Cyborg 3: The Recycler (1994), the following year. Yes, there is a cyborg trilogy. As the main star, a young Jolie is certainly easier to look at than Van Damme, and we appreciated a lot about the overall production, but, as usual, a little more action in the mix would most likely have given the reputation of Cyborg 2 a brighter future. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty