Fatal Beauty (1987)

Fatal Beauty (1987)- * * *

Directed by: Tom Holland

Starring: Whoopi Goldberg, Sam Elliot, Harris Yulin, Mike Jolly, Brad Dourif, Cheech Marin, M.C. Gainey, James Le Gros, and Ruben Blades

***1200th Review!***

Rita Rizzoli (Whoopi) is an L.A. undercover cop with a sassy attitude.  So far, so Whoopi. Things get very un-Whoopi-like when a shipment of a hot new drug called Fatal Beauty hits the streets. Its mixture of cocaine, PCP, and God-knows-what-else is so deadly and destructive, it’s turning obese men of color into unstoppable zombies. 

When the Whoopster traces the drug cartel back to criminal mastermind Conrad Kroll (Yulin) - and you know he’s evil because his name is Conrad Kroll - she wants answers and justice. Kroll’s head of security, Mike Marshak (Elliott) at first tries to keep Rita away from his employer, but soon is following her around town on her adventures like a puppy dog. Eventually, the two unlikely heroes team up to fight under-baddies such as Leo Nova (Dourif) and Earl (Jolly). What hijinks will Whoopi come up with next? Will it mix well with drug-fueled violence? Find out today!

Much like how in the great Collision Course (1989), Jay Leno shot people and beat them up, here fellow comedian Whoopi Goldberg does more of the same. The 80’s were the golden time for the action comedy - Red Heat (1988) and Action Jackson (1988) come to mind as parallels here, but the obvious comparison is Beverly Hills Cop (1984). There are many comparisons to be made, right down to both having a Harold Faltermeyer score, and we won’t bore you by running down the list of similarities, but let’s just say this: Fatal Beauty is a surprisingly entertaining and fast-paced jaunt with a great cast, wonderful 80’s vibe, and a wisecracking Whoopi. That’s a pretty nice package if we do say so ourselves. 

As regular readers know, we always enjoy when an unorthodox star tries their hand at action, and we applaud Whoopi for playing against type as an Italian-American (?) cop with her finger on the trigger.

Speaking of unorthodox, the main baddie, played by Harris Yulin, is mainly known to us as co-star of Short Fuse (1986) - remember when Art Garfunkel had a Short Fuse? We certainly do, and if you think Whoopi was an unusual choice, that’s nothing compared to that inspired casting decision. 

John P. Ryan is a sort of under-the-radar fan favorite of ours, having appeared in Avenging Force (1986) and Delta Force 2 (1990) among many others, and here he plays the WYC (or White Yelling Chief) who is always riding Whoopi but knows she gets results. Sam Elliott’s mustache is comforting, Ruben Blades is wry, Brad Dourif is unhinged, James Le Gros and M.C. Gainey are in the mix as well, and Cheech Marin has a cameo as a bartender. We haven’t seen a cameo like that since Whoopi was in Beverly Hills Brats (1989). Maybe we should say Fatal Beauty is a cross between Beverly Hills Cop and Beverly Hills Brats.

It all ends with a pretty cool mall shootout, and it should also be noted that there are plenty of racial slurs that most likely would not be in the script today. That’s just one extra element that preserves the 80’s vibe. Director Tom Holland does indeed keep things moving, and that may come from a background in horror movies - he’s probably best known for Fright Night (1985) and Child’s Play (1988). Interestingly, in further comparisons with Action Jackson, they both have an end-credits song by Madame X.

Fatal Beauty, at this point in history, could fairly be called (what we have termed) a ‘Video-Store Classic’. You know how we’re always asking about the more obscure titles, “who actually rented this?”, well, we know people actually rented Fatal Beauty. And they probably had a good time watching it, as we did, and you more than likely will too.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Champions (1997)

Champions (1997)- * *

Directed by: Peter Gathings Bunche

Starring: Louis Mandylor, Danny Trejo, Jeff Wolfe, Lee Reherman, George "Buck" Flower, Bobbie Blackford, Kool Keith, and Ken Shamrock

William Rockman (Mandylor) was a professional fighter who decided to become a Martial Arts instructor for children after accidentally killing an opponent in a tragic training accident. When Congress outlaws UFC-style underground fighting (is this supposed to take place in the future?), it morphs into something called “Terminal Combat”, a far deadlier sport (and should have been the title for this movie). When Rockman’s brother Ray Rockman (Wolfe) is killed by reigning Brakus/Tong Po-style super-evil baddie The King (Shamrock), well…you might find this surprising, but William comes out of retirement to get revenge for his fallen brother. It just so happens that unscrupulous Terminal Combat promoter Max Brito (Trejo) is staging the biggest contest yet – a multi-billion dollar fight extravaganza broadcast by satellite. He gets fighters from all over the country, imprisons them in his lair, puts chips in their necks so he can control them, and forces them to fight to the death for amusement and big bucks. But they didn’t count on one thing – the scrappy and tenacious William Rockman. He now has to corral the other remaining, non-dead fighters to break out of prison and save the day. Will their fate be terminal…or will they come out as CHAMPIONS?

Watching Champions is the Punchfighting equivalent of what a doctor must feel like when they are observing a patient fighting for life who is hooked up to an Electrocardiograph machine. There are long stretches of a flatline where the doctor must despair that the patient is dying, but occasionally it will spike up, and excitement must ensue that there is life left in the patient yet. In other words, there are some commendable things about Champions, but the movie is too damn long at 98 minutes. This stretches out the better aspects and unnecessarily makes them fewer and farther between. If it were streamlined and the lead weight taken out, this movie could almost be a minor classic. If it were 80 minutes long, we’d really have a winner here.

Okay, so it was the 90’s, Ken Shamrock is involved, and it’s what you might call the “early days” of UFC. Most of the fight scenes are like live-action versions of the classic video game Pit Fighter, but with sillier pants (or lack thereof - see cover above). Most of the fighters and fans shout “Yeeeaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!” a lot. This must be why these underground Punchfights to the death are so heavily traded on “black market VHS”, and/or why George “Buck” Flower is involved (perhaps they gave him an Irish accent here to distinguish him from Randall “Tex” Cobb).

As far as our hero is concerned, it appears that Louis Mandylor is physically shrinking more and more as the movie goes on. If you compare his height to the other people in the movie, it appears he devolves to Tom Cruise-level proportions as proceedings roll on. He also narrates it, presumably for people who find the story too hard to follow. To add more unnecessary plot, it appears he has a history with “The King”, there’s a love interest between him and fellow fighter Kimberly Pepatone (Blackford, a Paget Brewster lookalike who you might remember from “Force”-ful productions like Total Force and The Silent Force), and a fighter who looks as if David Letterman was younger, and a meathead – who also has a love interest. This guy, who we’ll call David LetterMeat, is played by Lee Reherman – a very similar last name to Letterman. Coincidence?

Danny Trejo is engaging as the promoter Max Brito, although it sounds like other people are either calling him “Lance Ito” (it was the 90’s, after all. Maybe Judge Ito promotes underground fighting on the side. What a thought), or “Max Burrito”, which might be horrendously racist. A good chunk of Trejo’s dialogue consists of him giving an extended maniacal laugh. Speaking of which, the “corrupt politician on the take”, subplot – yet another subplot – was one of the better ones and should have replaced some of the lesser ones. 

Another bit of the storyline, that Pepatone is a fighter who takes out her repressed anger that stems from a prior assault on her opponents, could be a movie in itself. It was another strand that was undeveloped, which in this case might be good because we didn’t want Champions to be over three hours long.

At least the fighters are skilled and enthusiastic, and have their own individual personalities. It’s not a mush of meandering meatheads like in later movies of this sort. It all comes to an entertaining and enjoyable climax, which should have come much earlier, because at that point the viewer’s attention has flagged. The sight of Ken Shamrock dressed in not much more than a red wrestling Speedo while screaming and shooting a machine gun amidst a hail of gunfire, explosions, and guard tower falls is nothing short of awesome, but you have to swim the Sargasso sea to get there.

One of the aspects of Champions that adds a level of interest is the fact that rapper Kool Keith is in a couple of scenes for no conceivable reason. He even has an encounter with a confrontational meathead that has “Jesus Saves” tattooed on his chest. So, all is not lost. In other music news, the end credits has a list of bands involved, but no song titles or other information. The list is as follows: Civil Rite, Mother, Try, Faded, Corporate Dick, and Black Ass ID. Maybe they supposed the band names speak for themselves.

In the end, Champions does indeed have some bright spots and noteworthy aspects, but they’re spread awfully thin over an overly-extended running time. The verdict has to be that we would recommend the movie to Punchfighting fans with a lot of patience.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Cyber-Tracker 2 (1995)

Cyber-Tracker 2 (1995)- * * *

Directed by: Richard Pepin

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Anthony De Longis, Stacie Foster, Tony Burton, Nils Allen Stewart, Steve Burton, Peggy McIntaggart, Jim Maniaci, and John Kassir

Fan favorite Don “The Dragon” Wilson is back cybertracking once again for the explosive sequel which is classic PM and classic 90’s. This time around, Eric Phillips (Don), a Secret Service agent in an L.A. of the near future, has his hands full when a super-evil baddie named Morgan (De Longis) creates “Kill-Trackers” in his underground lair (judging by other PM movies such as Executive Target, PM really loves baddies with underground lairs). Morgan has twisted cyber-tracker technology for his own evil ends. He even goes so far as to make Kill-Trackers that are doppelgangers of Eric and his wife Connie (Foster), who proceed to rampage around the city killing everyone in sight, including plenty of cops. The husband-and-wife duo is now on the run and fighting for their lives, so they team up with the loopy Tripwire (Kassir), the solid Swain (Tony Burton) and awesome-dude Jared (Steve Burton, probably no relation to Tony). There’s a good-guy ‘Tracker named #9 (Maniaci) who looks nothing like Robocop. Will our heroes stop the chaos and destruction? Will Eric get home in time to finish his leftover Pizza Hut pizza? Find out today!

Cyber-Tracker 2 is fast-paced fun and a near-constant stream of shooting, blow-ups, fights, and car chases. It’s PM doing what PM does best. There are even multiple iterations of their trademark “car flipping over another flaming car and blowing up in the middle of the street” stunt which we all love and enjoy. And the movie wouldn’t be complete without at least one exploding helicopter. It all starts with a great warehouse-set counterfeit-money-deal-gone-wrong which not only includes copious amounts of gun-blasting and explosions, but – because it’s the future – LASERS as well. You know you’re in for a treat when you see the lasers come out.

You also know you’re in for something special when you see noted meathead Nils Allen Stewart and his hairstyle – completely bald except for a braided rattail. He then proceeds to get into a fight with Don and we’re on our way to total entertainment. Don is as likable as ever, and De Longis as Morgan puts in a wonderfully scene-chewing performance as the over-the-top bad guy. Don even has some rather deep conversations with his wife, who, perhaps presciently, doesn’t trust cyber technology. That causes conflict because not only does #9 save Don’s life, their holographic maid (is that what she is?) from the first movie, Agnes (McIntaggart) returns, who makes their lives easier and better. Don even tutors a young girl in Martial Arts, who proceeds to strap on a VR helmet and kick the heads off of cyber-ninjas (or, to be precise, virtual ninjas). If this doesn’t scream 90’s, we don’t know what does.

Naturally, this reminded us of Comeuppance Classic The Protector (1999), which also had a robotic female helper, in that case named Gertrude, and also featured VR ninjas. But Cyber-Tracker 2 has at least two things The Protector doesn’t – exploding Mr. Potato heads (made of plastic explosive), complete with the yellow glasses, and an evil Kill-Tracker made in Morgan’s lab that strongly resembles This Old House star Bob Vila. This fearsome creature can only be described as “CyberVila”. Unfortunately, CyberVila doesn’t get as much screen time as he so richly deserved. It’s never too late for Cyber-Tracker 3, however. We think Lou Diamond Phillips could be involved.

When you get right down to it, movies like Cyber-Tracker 2 are what this site is all about – classic 90’s DTV with explosions galore and a VR-infused ‘gotta love the 90’s’ vibe. Long live Don “The Dragon” Wilson, long live real, non-CGI explosions, and long live PM! We remain your humble servants, and thank you for all the enjoyment you’ve provided over the years.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies: DTVC and The Video Vacuum!


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