Terminal Velocity (1994)

Terminal Velocity (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Deran Sarafian

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Nastassja Kinski, Christopher McDonald, and James Gandolfini

Ditch Brodie (Sheen) is a radically awesome skydiver who you know is radical to the max because he works at a Jump Center. He is also the bad boy of said Jump Center. He’s probably spilled more Mountain Dew than you’ve ever drank. When Ditchington Brodie III (which may or may not be a variation on his name that we made up) meets the alluring Chris Morrow (Kinski), he becomes embroiled in an intrigue that involves the KGB, missing gold, thugs, goons, murder, and all manner of danger and mayhem. The skydiving man must become “Detective Ditch” as he attempts to get to the bottom of it all. And there’s only one way to stop the madness – more skydiving. In Ditch’s world, skydiving is the solution to all problems, even on the world stage. So while James Gandolfini and Christopher McDonald are on his tail, Ditch pulls his ripcord into heroic legend. We should all be more like Ditch Brodie.

The 90’s “Terminal” trend hits the big screen just in time to capitalize on another 90’s trend - for all things outrageous, “Xtreme”, and radically awesome. Everyone was always talking about “feeling the rush”, or some variation thereof. Even Nastassja Kinski says at one point, “Is it a rush?”, referring of course to skydiving, because if it isn’t – not interested. And who better to be our guide through the awesome world of rush-feeling than Charlie Sheen, Ditch Brodie himself? The thing about Charlie is he does have a lot of charisma and screen presence. He also has good comic timing and cool hair. A lot of these elements are important to carrying Terminal Velocity, because the plot is pretty weak. It’s all about the aerial stunts, and we give a lot of credit to the stunt people who worked on this film. They clearly went above and beyond.

Of course, this wasn’t the only skydiving movie flying around at this time – there was also the same year’s Drop Zone (1994), as well as the somewhat later Cutaway (2000). Terminal Velocity is bigger-budget Hollywood-stupid, but a lot better than anything Hollywood is putting out today. At least it’s an original idea, not a remake, sequel, or superhero movie, which are the exclusive province of Hollywood these days. It’s also a PG-13-rated middle-of-the-road Hollywood action thriller, enlivened by the cast and stunts. Of course, there are the requisite silly moments which make it worth watching. 

Director Sarafian, known to readers of this site as the director of Death Warrant (1990), backs off on the violence so he can turn in a movie readily accessible to a wider audience. Sure, there are some blow-ups, a couple of fights, and some gun-shooting, but nothing you wouldn’t see on TV. What he does deliver are skydiving scenes a-plenty, many of which include squealin’ guitar on the soundtrack because it was the 90’s, it was extreme, blah blah blah. You get the picture.

Many people in our age bracket remember going to the video store and renting Terminal Velocity on VHS, or at least remember seeing it in the store. In light of that, the movie served its purpose – being an entry-level action movie for younger viewers. It still works in that capacity today, but now it also has the added bonus of having some nostalgia value for those are of an age who remember it from back then. So, strictly speaking, this may not be an all-time classic, but it has a special place on our shelf.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Warbus 2 (1989)

Warbus 2 (1989)- * *

Directed by: Pierluigi Ciriaci

Starring: Mark Gregory, Savina Gersak, and John Vernon

Johnny Hondo (Gregory), despite what you might already think, is not a cowboy. He is a former Green Beret badass warrior who goes to Afghanistan during the conflict there with the Russians. It’s his father’s dying wish for Johnny to find secret documents left behind in the old, abandoned Warbus. So, off he goes, and he shoots and/or blows up a lot of buildings and/or people during the course of his mission. He links up with a small team of like-minded good guys, led by Ken Ross (Vernon), which also includes Linda Cain (Gersak), a guy named Billy whose main talent is he can eat an unlimited amount of food, and a guy named Norton. Johnny Hondo also has to rescue a POW named Captain Bowie, and he enlists the help of a local boy to show him around. But will the WARBUS make its scheduled stops, and will the baddies be paying the toll?

Mark Gregory – both Trash and Thunder, as Italian exploitation fans already know – wears a cool leather coat and proceeds to decimate the population of Afghanistan, as well as the commies, in this A-Team-esque sequel to the original Warbus (1986). He shoots a lot of people, blows up multiple helicopters with ease, and few buildings are left standing. Despite all this, and the presence of John Vernon (who is, unfortunately, dubbed here), this is no Rambo III (1988). It’s actually rather forgettable. Not bad, mind you, but it’s kind of, “another day, another blow-up”. There isn’t much in the way of character development or emotion, but maybe that’s unfair of us to ask for that. It does have nice camerawork, as well as a catchy, military-style score by Elio Polizzi.

Speaking of Polizzi, he seems to exclusively score these Mercs-type movies, including Just A Damned Soldier (1988), directed by Ferdinando Baldi, director of the original Warbus. If Baldi – who also directed Ten Zan: Ultimate Mission in 1988, bails, that’s probably not a great sign. But as Ten Zan was his last movie, perhaps he wanted to go out on a Frank Zagarino-in-North-Korea high. So, in the event, we were left in the capable hands of Mr. Ciriaci. We’ve now seen and reviewed all four of his directorial outings: Delta Force Commando (1988), Soldier of Fortune (1990), and who could forget the convolutedly-titled classic Delta Force Commando II: Priority Red One (1990)? It’s probably fair to describe him as a workmanlike director, and he goes through the appropriate motions, neither offending with badness nor delighting with awesomeness. This particular Warbus just kind of rolls along until after about 90 minutes or so when it runs out of gas.

It’s funny the way they really make you wait for the Warbus until the final third of the movie – almost like they were under the mistaken impression that the audience really gives a flying flip. It’s not exactly like they’re unveiling something mysterious or legendary – it’s a school bus. The anticipation level you’ll feel as an audience member is roughly similar to what you may feel like while waiting for the actual bus. It’s not really too much of a revelation. The whole “fixing up the bus” scene may remind you of American Commandos (1985) or perhaps The Gauntlet (1977), but…so what? Also Johnny Hondo gets the Prerequisite Torture treatment and there are relevant references to Iranians and Pakistanis.

There are a lot worse things in the world to watch than Warbus 2 – we’d prefer this to almost any currently-produced Hollywood product. But, on the other hand, even in the world of Italian-made blow-em-ups, this would rank towards the mediocre middle. Only you can decide what your level of fandom and interest is – and along the way John Vernon, Mark Gregory, and plenty of blow-ups accompany your journey.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty