Apocalypse Mercenaries (1987)

Apocalypse Mercenaries (1987)- * *1\2

Directed by: Leandro Lucchetti

Starring: Karl Landgren and Vassili Karis

During World War II, a special team is assembled to fight the Nazis, their mission eventually leading them to a cave in Yugoslavia where they are to find and kill more Nazis. There’s Felipe Hierro (Landgren), the musclebound Rambo guy with heavy duty weaponry, Abraham Bridges, the explosives expert who blows up bridges just for practice, whose nickname is Priest because he carries around a Bible and makes up verses of his own, Mikhail Hertz, a surgeon who is also a German translator, Liam O’Connell, AKA Flyer, who can fly any plane and also is a radio expert. They’re all commanded by Captain Tony Hale (Karis), whose nickname is simply “Mister”. Along the way they get into plenty of scrapes with the baddies, but will their unique brand of teamwork win the day – and World War II? 

The whole thing starts with a montage of shooting and blow-ups from this, and perhaps other, movies, then begins the beloved “assembling a team” structure we all know and love. It was nice seeing that during WWII, which we don’t see too often. Speaking of that, Karl Landgren as Hierro was the type of guy we’re used to seeing in the 80’s – a meatheaded, unkillable hero with big guns and snappy one-liners – but this time he appears in the 1940’s. So that was nice to see. In other words, instead of an Italian jungle-set Vietnam movie, just relocate that to WWII, and there you have it.

While there are plenty of blow-ups, shootings, and guys with flamethrowers, there are also some moments that are underlit and hard to see. Also, there are slow moments – we think this is because our heroes are fighting random, faceless Nazis, and there’s no one, lead, super-evil baddie. There should have been one of those to help focus their mission. Consequently, there are scenes where not much happens, which are interrupted by other scenes of one of the heroes looking through binoculars and seeing footage from another movie. But there is some nice cinematography in the current footage, and the Stelvio Cipriani score, as usual for him, enhances the proceedings.

At least the heroes have their own, individual personalities, which lead to some pleasantly quirky moments. Perhaps the best is when the elderly troop leader, commanding our heroes from a secret bunker, gets confused and demands to know, and we quote, “what the fradge is going on”. It’s a reasonable request and one that we all have the right to know. Perhaps it’s like a cross between a refrigerator and fudge.

After the film came out in 1987 and had a subsequent VHS release in 1988, it only came out in various European territories and, of course, Japan. It never had a U.S. release at the time, but came out here only in 2009 when it was featured on the very confusingly-titled “Inglorious Bastards 2 Hell Heroes 4 Inglorious Film Collection”, put out by Video Asia. This is the same company that released the similar “Mercs” box set, and the quality level is about the same. We’re not complaining about that, because VHS quality never bothered us (we actually treasure it), and we’re lucky to see these rare films to begin with. Like a lot of the other movies in these collections, it has Japanese subtitles. Speaking of that, the Japanese VHS box art  strongly features Karl Landgren as the main star/hero in the fashion of the 80’s, and downplays (if not downright erases) the team aspect of it all. Perhaps they were hoping Landgren would become the next George Nichols.

In the end, Apocalypse Mercenaries is fine, decent, not bad, and fairly middle of the road. It won’t blow your mind like an exploding hut, but you certainly won’t hate it either. It has enough good moments to keep it afloat, and fits in well with other Italian-made, low-budget war epics of similar ilk.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Vendetta (2015)

Vendetta (2015)- * * *

Directed by: Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska

Starring: Dean Cain and Paul "The Big Show" Wright

Mason “Mace” Danvers (Cain) is a Chicago cop with everything to live for. His wife is expecting their first child, he’s excelling in his career, and he’s pretty much living the dream. Suddenly, his once-perfect life becomes a nightmare when the super-evil baddie Victor Abbott (‘Show) invades his home and brutally slaughters his pregnant wife. Vowing revenge, Mace gets himself locked up in Stonewall prison so he can get close to Victor and his crew. But he gets more than he bargains for when he uncovers a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. With Mace on the edge, will he get his VENDETTA?

It’s going to be a “big bad show tonight” as The Big Show faces off against Dean Cain in the battle we’ve all waited ages to see. Vendetta is the best WWE Films production we’ve seen to date, and has a lot of good points, mixed in with a couple negatives. The good: the movie is Dean Cain at his absolute best, and it’s pretty gritty for him. Cain is out of control as he kills baddie after baddie and has some cool weaponry like spiked brass knuckles to help him along on his journey of revenge. You can see all the fights, and the movie certainly doesn’t skimp on the blood, brutality, and violence. It’s well-made overall and isn’t overly long. It knows its place as a B-movie and anyone expecting anything else might be missing the point.

The Big Show (we could call him Mr. Show, but that might be infringing upon the rights of Bob and David) is essentially a wrestling-style baddie, but perhaps even more evil. He’s so maniacally evil, we at one point shouted, “we get it! He’s EVIL!” - but that’s the thing about these wrestlers being in WWE productions. Even though, as wrestlers, they haven’t been in any movies, they have years of experience acting, because that’s 99% of what wrestling is. The WWE is now essentially a farm team so they can figure out who goes into their cinematic output. Perhaps The Big Show and others just wanted to act all along; their dream was to be in off-Broadway plays and the legitimate theatre but just did wrestling as a backup plan. We certainly could see Mr. Big Show bellowing “Stella!!!! Stella!!!” in a star turn as Stanley Kowalski in ‘Streetcar.

The not-so-good: The movie is probably one of the least original and most cliched we’ve seen in some time. There is literally nothing that in any way separates it from similar movies like Death Warrant (1990) or In Hell (2003). Whether that’s a dealbreaker is another matter, but almost every prison movie cliche is present and accounted for, much like the lineup when prisoners first arrive at the jail. It’s also quite repetitive, which is a seemingly unavoidable trap for prison movies. The whole second half is essentially 1. either Cain or Big Show talks to the warden in his office 2. fight scene 3. Big Show talking to his crew. That’s pretty much it. This could have been avoided if Cain’s character went into prison later in the movie than he does. If you don’t have a problem with cliches and repetition, Vendetta is good, solid fare and has plenty of fine attributes to offset these things.

All in all, Vendetta delivers the goods despite the aforementioned drawbacks.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty