Kill Line (1991)

Kill Line (1991)- *1\2

Directed by: Richard H. Kim

Starring: Bobby Kim and Marlena Shapiro

On the hunt for a missing two million dollars in cash, some evil baddies end up massacring a man’s family while attempting to get a hold of the money. Unfortunately for them, it was Joe (Kim)’s family. Traveling from San Francisco to Colorado in the hunt for answers, or maybe some revenge if time allows, Joe ends up running afoul of the cruel and sadistic sheriff of the town and his minions, but also finds a sympathetic partner in the inexplicably named Oggie (Shapiro). It appears the stage is set for the ultimate battle…where will Joe draw the (Kill) Line?

We found Kill Line to be pretty disappointing. All the ingredients – and then some – were there to create a great action movie, or at least a decent one. But those elements were never capitalized on. It’s a shame, really, as we found star Bobby Kim likable. He’s very Bronsonesque (that would be Charles, not Pinchot, just to clarify). His thick accent is reminiscent of other video store stars of the 80’s such as Leo Fong, Sho Kosugi, and even Miami Connection’s Y.K. Kim (any relation? Probably not, but who knows?) – anyone expecting Miami Connection-style awesomeness will surely be disappointed…

Taking its cue from First Blood (1982), and highly redolent of the Thunder series, Kill Line is very sincere and earnest…to a fault. It takes itself so seriously, it forgets to have a fun vibe, and the pace is slower than freakin’ molasses. Sadly, this is what we refer to as a “Lacktion” movie. The dearth of actual action – presumably why viewers are watching Kill Line to begin with – ultimately kills Kill Line. Audience members are shown a classic barfight (with some MAP’s – Middle-Aged Punks), which sets up Kim as a guy with good fighting skills. Unfortunately, it appears he IS afraid to use them. Viewers are tantalized and then left hanging. That’s a no-no.

There is a weak car chase, some weaker gun-shooting scenes, and then somehow we’re at the final battle. It seems drama and dialogue scenes took up the majority of the running time. Not that that would be such a bad thing in another kind of movie, of course, but this is KILL LINE. We wanted to see some…KILL LINE. Perhaps most frustrating of all, it’s never explained what the term Kill Line means. If it refers to the line readings of some of the actors, that could work, because there are a bunch of funny ones. When a movie relies on the unintentional humor of that and some amusing racism by the local yokels, you’ve got a big problem on your hands.

Interestingly, the evil sheriff at odds with Joe strongly resembles Christopher McDonald. This wouldn’t be interesting in and of itself, but the original Christopher McDonald stars in Best of the Best 3 (1995), which shares a lot of similarities with this movie. Probably just a coincidence, like how the baddie underlings in the movie are named Mark and Paul, but Gosselaar is nowhere in sight. This may seem like we’re stretching, but that should show you how empty Kill Line is of things of noteworthy mention.

It's tragic but Kill Line doesn't come anywhere near fulfilling its potential. A true wasted opportunity, Kill Line doesn't deliver the goods.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


The Transporter (2002)

The Transporter (2002)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Louis Leterrier and Cory Yuen

Starring: Jason Statham, Shu Qi, Francois Berleand, Ric Young, and Matt Schulze

Frank Martin (Statham) is an ex-Special Forces soldier who now lives alone in a picturesque region of France. When his friend Inspector Tarconi (Berleand) makes occasional visits to his fortress-like home, Martin maintains that he’s left the fighting life behind him and now lives on his Army pension alone. The truth is that Martin is a master Martial Artist and expert driver who employs his prodigious skills for whoever pays his price, and whoever agrees to follow his strict set of rules. Things get complicated when a super-evil businessman known only as Wall Street (Schulze) hires Martin – and then Martin realizes that he’s transporting a live human in a bag – a woman named Lai (Qi). Together, Martin and Lai uncover a smuggling ring and a conspiracy that will hit everyone very close to home. Battling many goons to get close to the truth, will Frank Martin be the TRANSPORTER of justice? Find out today!

Top fan favorite Jason Statham in a movie co-written by Luc Besson and co-directed by Corey Yuen? Sign us up! Indeed, The Transporter lives up to the promise inherent in these names – it’s a fast paced, professionally-shot, and totally enjoyable action outing that’s easy to love. The French locations are beautiful and make a nice change of pace for the setting for an action movie, and the car chase and driving scenes are all the better for occurring in these locales. This was the first feature film for co-director Leterrier, and he and Yuen show they know how to deliver the action goods. Between the car action, the gun-shooting, missile-shooting, and Hong Kong-style Martial Arts, the movie breezes by in a blur of entertaining goodness.

It’s easy to see why this garnered two more sequels and a TV spin-off – it’s a simple, enjoyable premise and the end result lives up to, and exceeds, audience expectations. While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend the sequels, especially the second installment, what we would recommend is the Japanese DVD, if you can find it. It’s an uncut version that contains more violence than other DVD issues to date. However, it’s certainly not mandatory you find that in order to fully enjoy The Transporter – from action newbies to die-hard fans, it delivers the goods and surely a great time will be had by all who see it. 

Featuring a notable score by Stanley Clarke, and action scenes galore (the garage oil slick scene is a particular highlight), The Transporter is a gem. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


I Am Wrath (2016)

I Am Wrath (2016)- * * *

Directed by: Chuck Russell

Starring: John Travolta, Christopher Meloni, and Rebecca DeMornay

Stanley (Travolta) is just a regular working man with a wife, daughter and grandson. Or so it would seem. When his wife Vivian (De Mornay) is killed in an assault in a Fatal Combat-style parking lot situation, he falls back on his Special Ops training so he can track down the baddies responsible. He ends up re-teaming with his old buddy Dennis (Meloni) because the streets of Ohio are too dangerous to navigate alone. Even though they are both highly-trained professionals with an arsenal of guns and knives at their disposal, they didn’t count on one thing…that there’s a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top. Now having to fight off drug dealing goons, corrupt cops and the like is not enough. Our heroes will have to face the Mr. Big at the top…but who is it? Falling back on the old-time religion, a kindly priest gives Stanley a bible, and it just happens to open to a page declaring I AM WRATH. Stanley decides to take it as a sign and exerts all his wrath on the baddies! But can he save what remains of his family? Find out today…

Since Travolta doesn’t do many action movies, we liked to think of this as a sequel to Chains of Gold. Maybe “I Am Scott Barnes” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, but it didn’t stop us from imagining what Barnes’s life might be like 25 years later. We were happy with what we saw – I Am Wrath might not be the most original movie to come down the pike, but who really cares? As long as the filmmakers stick to what works in the revenge movie format, there are no problems. Thankfully, here they do. What could have been a disaster is in actuality a crowd-pleasing winner that delivers the goods. You truly get Travolta (and Meloni) unleashed, and as such the kill count is much higher than Scott Barnes ever dared to go for.

Besides our beloved revenge movies, another thing we always love seeing is older heroes laying the smacketh down on young punks. It truly was a joy watching the 62-year-old Travolta shooting, stabbing, and beating up the young whippersnappers. Director Russell, last heard from on the site when we reviewed his Eraser (1996), clearly learned from his time working with Schwarzenegger – keep the pace snappy, and make sure you have a charismatic lead hero. That’s what separates Travolta from someone like a Seagal, who has appeared in similar projects as this one. Travolta has charisma. As does Christopher Meloni (AKA Stabler), so when they’re together, sparks really fly. And there’s no stupid, annoying bickering or some sassy little kid to get in the way of all the awesome revenge action. It’s really a winner all around.

If this movie had come out anytime between, say 1996 and 2004, it would have gone to theaters. But because Hollywood exclusively makes superhero movies now, everything non-spandex-related gets bumped down to On Demand, Netflix, or Redbox. That’s no longer a stigma. Of course, we’ve been celebrating DTV movies since day one, so it’s never been a stigma for us. But, generally speaking, just because DeNiro or Travolta, or anyone else, ends up on some streaming service doesn’t mean their career is floundering like it used to mean in the past. It just means Hollywood has no time for them anymore because they’re preoccupied with the capes-and-tights brigade. I Am Wrath shows you can make small, quality product that comes directly into your home and still has A-list talent involved. This appears to be the future of entertainment, so let’s all prepare for that.

Finally, it should be noted that Dennis’s hideout and front is a barbershop. This of all things probably presented a dilemma for Stanley (or should we say Travolta), seeing as his hair is not real. So he gets a shave instead. How convenient. It’s unlikely Dennis could have lifted the wig off, then placed it back on and then called that a haircut. Travolta should have done like he did in From Paris With Love (2010), and gotten rid of the hairpiece altogether. It might have added to the overall grit of the movie. 

In the end, I Am Wrath is well worth seeing and should really please revenge movie fans. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Hard Target 2 (2016)

Hard Target 2 (2016)- * * *

Directed by: Roel Reine

Starring: Scott Adkins, Rhona Mitra, Temuera Morrison, Ann Truong, and Robert Knepper

Wes Baylor (Adkins) is on a career trajectory that could be the case for anyone: He was a Las Vegas-based MMA fighter, he accidentally kills his buddy in the ring during a fight, he feels bad, he starts drinking and hits the skids, he begins Punchfighting in Bangkok, and an unscrupulous baddie tricks him into hunting him for sport. Could happen to anybody. Of course, said baddie, Jonah Aldrich (Knepper) has a hunting party with him in the Burmese jungle that also enjoy hunting the greatest prey of all…MINK! Oh wait, no. MAN! These hunting compatriots include a gaggle of stereotypes such as the Weak Link, the Millennial Video Game Designer, the Tough Chick, A Spanish Bullfighter, an Australian Outback (?)-style hunter, and the dad trying to toughen up said Weak Link. 

Aldrich has his second-in-command, Madden (Morrison) as the tough guy of the group. Aldrich is paying off the Burmese authorities with suitcases full of cash, but there’s also a cache of rubies at stake. When the initially down-and-out Baylor (whose MMA nickname was “The Jailor”, which is actually spelled correctly) finds an innocent country girl named Tha (Truong) in the jungle, he finally finds he has something to fight for, and he unleashes his power on the Aldrich group. Will Baylor be a HARD TARGET 2 Aldrich?

While Hard Target 2 is not a bad movie, it doesn’t live up to the potential that a Hard Target sequel starring the great Scott Adkins promises. It’s certainly better than previous Adkins vehicles such as El Gringo (2012), but even seeing this movie for the first time feels like watching a repeat. If we may compare it to a superior Adkins film, Green Street 3 (2013), that one was like admiring a brilliant piano player, while Hard Target 2 is like watching a player piano. It hits all the right notes on cue, but that’s about it. 

It has absolutely beautiful Thai locations, and thankfully the production values are high, but exactly how many Most Dangerous Game/Surviving the Game movies need to be made at this point? Should we be happy that the DTV industry is still making these or not? It depends on your tolerance for a lack of a creative or original plot, or if you just really like the whole “hunting humans in the jungle” thing. There have to be fans out there of it…but how many to justify yet another one?

It all starts right away with a nice bang (complete with some funny yelling), and the whole outing has plenty of action. That being said, the 104-minute running time could have been chopped down a bit. The always-enjoyable Adkins has some great fighting moves on display, but we missed his natural British accent. How come the Burmese country girl had one but he wasn’t allowed to have one? (We think we may have detected a few instances where it slipped through, however).

There are several references to the earlier Hard Target film, from the use of slow motion, to the casting of Robert Knepper as the baddie, probably because he physically resembles Lance Henriksen. Not that Knepper isn’t great in his own right, but the resemblance does give this sequel a sort of continuity to the earlier film.

Director Reine’s filmography is pretty rife with sequels to other people’s movies (or his own), but he’s notable (?) for directing the Connecticut-shot Seagal vehicle Pistol Whipped (2008) – also starring Lance Henriksen. Fun facts aside, Hard Target 2 is another in a long line of movies of this sort that include everything from Death Ring (1992) to Soldiers of Fortune (2012), and countless other examples. 

The action is there, Adkins is there, the production values are there – just a tad bit of originality would have gone a long way, because it’s not there. Linking this with the earlier Hard Target in viewers’ minds may have been shrewd, but another title might have been a better move. But that’s unlikely to have happened, because the sign on the door here is apparently, “no originality, no problem”.

Still, we should be happy this came out in the U.S. It seems like something that would be exclusively made for foreign markets. If you’re willing to forgive the almost impressive lack of originality here and just concentrate on the Adkins action, Hard Target 2 is certainly worth seeing.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Savage (1996)

Savage (1996)- * *1\2

Directed by: Avi Nesher

Starring: Oliver Gruner, Kario Salem, Kristin Minter, Jennifer Grant, and Sam McMurray

A humble farmer named Alex (Gruner) has his life turned upside down when one day evil baddies show up at his ranch and kill his wife and son, seemingly for no reason. In no time at all, Alex becomes a “Savage” – living in a cave, foraging for food, water, and shelter, and eating ants like Tic-Tacs. He also has superhuman strength and the ability to jump long/high distances. Meanwhile, Titan Corporation is giving the world the latest in VR technology. Its president, Reese Burroughs (Salem) is a demented nutjob who is convinced the ancient gods of Atlantis are currently chillin’ in the internet. 

Marie Belot (Minter) is his henchwoman but has doubts about all the craziness going on around her. It seems many goons - possibly dispatched by Titan Corp - have set out to find and kill Alex, who in the meantime has teamed up with a policelady named Nicky (Grant). Will Alex and Nicky be able to stop Burroughs, who is willing to destroy mankind in order to achieve immortality? Find out when the SAVAGE meets the sophisticated computer tech of 1996…

Savage is the type of movie you would have seen on Cinemax, The Movie Channel, or any of the other American pay channels back in the 90’s. It also seems like it might have aired on the Sci-Fi Channel before it stupidly changed its name to Syfy (which we pronounce as “siffy”). Sure, the movie makes little sense, but who really cares? Low-budget sci-fi or horror movies that make too much sense are usually boring. 

They descend into procedural slogs because the filmmakers are obsessed with “making sense”. The problem is, on the flipside of that coin, if a movie makes too little sense for too long, the audience will give up and get bored. Thankfully, Savage skirts that particular fate, but just barely.

Director Nesher, who worked with our old buddy Olivier Gruner again that same year with Mercenary (1996) – and also is known for “Comeuppance Classics” such as Timebomb (1991) and The Taxman (1999) here tries his own take on The Terminator (complete with Gruner wearing a similar leather jacket to Arnie as he tears up L.A.), but imagine if The Terminator was written by Erich Von Daniken after an LSD binge. 

Okay, Savage isn’t THAT good, but it makes the same amount of sense as that project might have made. That being said, Schwarzenegger was never referred to as “Goat Boy”, as Gruner is here, owing to his barnyard-like smell, but our memories could be a bit off on that one.

But before he becomes known as Goat Boy, the transformation of Gruner from Family Man to Caveman is rather swift and without explanation. What passes for explanation in the scenes to follow don’t help matters much. Because it was the 90’s, VR was incredibly hot and seemingly every DTV movie of this era dealt with it in one way or another. But Savage is perhaps the only VR-based action outing to have ghostly-white spirit people made of the pure energy of mankind. Or something like that. 

Another question: is this movie supposed to take place in the future? If so, why do people have pagers? The whole outing is a mess of a jumble of a mishmash, but we suppose that’s all part of the fun. Plus it has funny dubbing and the VR world looks like the video game Lethal Enforcers. Imagine being IN Lethal Enforcers. Pretty cool, right? But why is Gruner a savage caveman? We think we may know, but, anyway…

Gruner gets to show off his fighting skills in the jail scene, the biker scene, and the internet cafĂ© scene, but it’s his aforementioned great jumps that truly steal the movie. The rural scenes feature some great scenery as well, which is worth noting. Many of the characters are named after authors, which is rather obvious, as there are people in the movie named Allen Poe, Edgar Wallace, Verne, Spillane, and Burroughs. Okay, we get it. But what possible literary inspiration could this mess of a movie have sprung from? If you have any ideas, please let us know.  We’d love to read it.

In the end, Savage represents the more unorthodox end of the 90’s DTV action spectrum. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on your tolerance for loose ends and cinematic chaos. To the movie’s credit, it must be said that they don’t make ‘em like this anymore. For that reason alone, Savage is, at the very least, a one-time watch.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty