Face The Evil (1996)

Face The Evil (1996)- * *

AKA: No Contest II

Directed by: Paul Lynch

Starring: Shannon Tweed, Jayne Heitmeyer, Bruce Payne, and Lance Henriksen

When actress Sharon Bell (Tweed) goes to visit her sister Bobbi (Heitmeyer), a curator at the Holman Gallery, at said art gallery, it’s not going to be a dejeuner sur l’herbe. Not at all. You see, a group of terrorist baddies under the command of Eric Dane (Henriksen) has – you guessed it – taken over the gallery. Part of their plan for world domination involves a highly potent and toxic nerve gas and the key to unlocking its potential lies in the art gallery. But rather than submit to these goons, Sharon and Bobbi – along with gallery worker Jack Terry (Payne) – decide to fight their way out of the situation. After all, Sharon is an action movie star, not to mention she’s been through all this before…

When the world cried out for a sequel to the Shannon Tweed-Andrew Dice Clay Die Hard knockoff No Contest, director Paul Lynch answered the call. Just why it’s called Face The Evil in the U.S. when in most other places it’s called No Contest II (its production company was named NCII Productions, not surprisingly) isn’t really known, but it doesn’t matter. Out of all the “DieHardInA” movies we’ve seen to date, we can honestly say this is the first one to take place in an art gallery. It’s easy to see why filmmakers used this formula so much in the 90’s – most of the action takes place in one location so it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to shoot one of these things. “Sequel to No Contest? Sure, what the heck, why not?”

One notable element this movie has that its predecessor did not is the employment of some horror elements. Perhaps that’s not surprising, as Lynch is the director of 80’s-horror fan favorites Prom Night (1980) and Humongous (1982). He tries to inject some style as well, and the fact that at least one person dies by a sculpture would seem to indicate Mr. Lynch has been watching his Dario Argento, especially The Bird With the Crystal Plumage (1970) and Tenebre (1982). However, if this floats your boat, don’t get too excited. The vast majority of the movie is standard Die Hard stuff. Yes, there are some shootouts, fights, a throat slash, and the time-honored catfight between Shannon Tweed and some other chick. Even though some of the practical effects are well-executed, they’re not front and center here. 

The whole thing has a somewhat campy, “we’re not taking this entirely seriously” vibe. There’s also a lot of stupid/childish dialogue. And it’s really obvious it was shot in Canada. Even still, Shannon Tweed was probably psyched to not have to do yet another “erotic thriller”. She doesn’t take her clothes off and she’s the action heroine. She even gets to show off her comic timing. As crazy as it may sound, she probably wanted to do more movies like Face The Evil. As much as we enjoyed the team-up of Tweed and Heitmeyer, why has no one ever made a movie where both Shannon and Tracy Tweed are sisters who have to bust the heads of the bad guys? It’s too good of an idea. And in true Batman (1989) style, the baddies deface priceless works of art with spray paint. Perhaps they should have called the movie “Deface The Evil”? Groan. 

While it was nice to see Tweed, Heitmeyer, Henriksen, and Payne working together, is it really worth going out of your way to track down and watch Face The Evil if it isn’t readily at hand? Two words: No Dice.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Double Edge (1986)

Double Edge (1986)- * * *

Directed by: John Lloyd

Starring: Rom Kristoff, Anthony East, David Anderson, Robert Marius, and Jim Moss

“This is where the law stops…and I come in.” – Mark Quinn

When the super-evil baddie Jack Maraccio (East) kills his parents, a young tot named Mark Quinn vows revenge. Now a tough, no-nonsense, doesn’t-play-by-the-rules cop, Mark (the awesome Rom Kristoff) is cleaning up baddie scum wherever he finds it. Along with his partner Ty Jackson (Moss), the two hero cops make sure no criminal in The Philippines is safe. While still on his mission to avenge his parents, a new and unforeseen element appears…a mysterious ninja. Will Quinn fulfill his destiny? Or will it be a DOUBLE EDGE-d sword? Find out today!

Fun and silliness reign supreme as unsung auteur John Lloyd delivers another gem. If nothing else, Double Edge just goes to show how massively popular Sylvester Stallone was in 1986. Lloyd even includes a Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)-style torture sequence and a Rocky-style training sequence just to prove the point, as if that was needed. And if that wasn’t funny enough, at some point the movie remembers that the Ninja Boom was in full flight at that time as well, and the whole thing blurs from a pastiche of Stallone films into a full-fledged ninja extravaganza. You don’t see that every day.

As would seem to be obvious from the box art, the main influence (or should we say reason for this movie’s existence in the first place) is the great classic Cobra (1986). Double Edge even beat the similarly-inspired Black Cobra (1987) to the punch. And if you’re going to make a so-called “rip-off”, you might as well rip off the best. While some scenes are lifted wholesale from Cobra – and if you’ve ever wanted to see a low-budget remake of Cobra from the Philippines, now’s your chance – when all the elements are mixed together, it’s plain that a new, mutant beast is formed that transcends its humble origins. In other words, Cobra doesn’t have a ninja.

Another hilarious thing about this movie is how hysterical everyone is. Outside of Mark Quinn and Ty Jackson (who are much too cool to ever fly off the handle), just about everyone else launches into fits of histrionics at the drop of a hat. While no one could ever supplant the masterful John Miller, some incidental characters here are in the same ballpark. Consequently, we get one of the best WYC’s (White Yelling Chiefs) ever in Donahue (Anderson).

Mark Quinn (or perhaps Rom Kristoff) wears his sunglasses most of the time, even at night in true Corey Hart fashion. Perhaps because it was decided that the shades make him look more like the poster for Cobra. Not Stallone, the Cobra poster. The great Jim Gaines takes on a rare baddie role here as a pimp named…you guessed it, Sly. It’s hard to imagine a movie not connected in any way to the real Stallone featuring this much Stallone worship. For that reason alone, this movie is a ton of fun to watch, and then you add in the histrionics and the ninja, and you’ve got something truly special.

Prepare yourself for the ultimate – and original – ROM COM as Rom Kristoff blows you away!

FINAL NOTE: Footage from this movie was later interpolated into the later Rom vehicle Lethal Killing Machine AKA Crime Stopper (1990), so if you can’t get enough Rom, just know there’s always more Rom to be had. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines (2014)

Seal Team Eight: Behind Enemy Lines (2014)- * *

Directed by: Roel Reine

Starring: Tom Sizemore, Lex Shrapnel, and Aurelie Meriel

Ricks (Sizemore) is the commanding officer for SEAL team 8. He sends his boys, led by Case (Shrapnel), to the Congo in Africa to uncover the illegal sale and mining of yellowcake uranium which is controlled by an evil African warlord and his goons. While fighting their way through them, they rescue a hostage named Zoe Jalani (Meriel) who turns out to be handy with a gun and proceeds to accompany the team on their mission. Along the way, the team gets involved in many shootouts and scrapes…but who is really behind the nefarious uranium deal? Seeing that they are BEHIND ENEMY LINES, will anybody be coming to their rescue? What will happen to SEAL TEAM EIGHT?

Let’s see if we can sort this out: SEAL Team Eight is not the eighth sequel to the franchise, the eight refers to the number of the SEAL Team. This is actually the fourth installment in the Behind Enemy Lines franchise – but has nothing whatsoever to do with the Thomas Ian Griffith film from 1997. Assuming all the above information is correct – and that anybody cares – we may proceed. Sure, there are a lot of blow-ups, firefights, and modern-day war movie setpieces, but the problem is that we as viewers are not invested all that much because there is nil character development. Who are these people? We never get to know them. Maybe it’s assumed we know them because this is a series – but these characters aren’t in the previous entries, so that theory’s a bust.

Much like the American Heroes series, or the latter-day Sniper sequels, there is a lot of military jargon being said in between (and during) the war sequences. Maybe it’s so the movie can seem authentic, but they should have concentrated on character development instead. And while there does seem to be some CGI blood, bullets, and even drones, it appears to be mixed in with the practical, real stuff as well. And don’t be fooled by the SEAL Team moniker; this is actually an Africa Slog. Though, to be fair, the movie is shot well and the African locations we always seem to be slogging through look better than ever. 

Speaking of locations, the movie really picks up steam when we move out of the African countryside and into the streets of the city. The urban sequence was by far the best in the film – they should have kept the whole thing in a gritty city environment. Perhaps it’s just our preference, but if you see the movie yourself you will probably agree. Even if you don’t, there are plenty of African dudes screaming while shooting machine guns, and we can all agree on the entertainment value of that.

Thankfully, Tom Sizemore is here to perk things up. While he mainly paces around the command center and looks at screens of what’s going on, he has a great voice that is fun to listen to. Once again, do not be fooled by the box art – Sizemore himself never picks up any firearms and gets into the action. He’s pretty much just the focal point for the team. His co-star Lex Shrapnel has a great name, but like the Sniper sequels’ Chad Michael Collins, is a bland and faceless hero and easily forgettable.

The main problem is that we’ve seen this type of thing a million times before. It’s not bad, per se, and it is very professional, but it needs something to set it apart. Take Act of Valor (2012) for example. That had the novel idea of using real Marines instead of actors. This movie needed something like that – although they did seem influenced by it; there’s a very similar boat chase. The director, Reine, seems to specialize in DTV sequels, last exemplified on the site with Hard Target 2 (2016). This sort of stuff seems to be in his wheelhouse, and it’s executed well enough, but it lacks drama and heart.

We found this movie at Big Lots for three dollars – on Blu-Ray no less. If you can find it under similar circumstances – and you like the modern-day DTV war movie – we say pick it up, but keep your expectations low. And perhaps be prepared to trade it in at Game Xchange or a similar store near you.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Detonator (2003)

Detonator (2003)- * *1\2

Directed by: Jonathan Freedman

Starring: Randall Batinkoff, Elizabeth Berkley, Stan Shaw, Gregory Scott Cummins, Will Stewart, and Bokeem Woodbine

Beau Stoddard (Batinkoff) is a Postal Inspector on the Edge, or PIOTE. A former FBI agent, he now has to work with his ex-co-workers Robert Brickland (Shaw), Jack Forrester (Woodbine), and Jane Dreyer (Berkley) to find a mad bomber (if I may reference the great Chuck Connors film) who has been blowing people up all over the L.A. area. Most people don’t seem to approve of Stoddard’s bad attitude and unorthodox ways, but he gets results that they can’t deny (these days, we pretty much just cut and paste that sentence from our old reviews, with a new name filled in). Will Stoddard find the mad bomber before he explodes again? Will he unravel a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top? Will he do it all before the big hockey match that’s single-handedly supposed to repair U.S.-Russian relations gets blown to kingdom come? Who will press the…DETONATOR?

Detonator is a relatively decent example of what you can do if you’re planning on building a feature film around explosion footage from other movies. You won’t get Blown Away (1994) by it, but the cast makes it work the best they can. Evidently, the filmmakers took the blow-ups from Sudden Death (1995), The Glimmer Man (1996), and End of Days (1999), and, like the way cotton candy wraps around its handle while it is being made, fashioned a movie around said blow-ups. 

Detonator might not have come onto our radar if it wasn’t for the presence of Elizabeth Berkley in one of the main roles. Like with Showgirls (1995), but to a far lesser degree, it seems she’s still working hard to shed her Saved By The Bell image. However, it doesn’t help matters that co-star Batinkoff looks a lot like Zack Morris. Sorry, Mark-Paul Gosselaar. He even has the same devil-may-care attitude to life that Zack had. So, if nothing else, when and if you should decide to watch Detonator, you can make plenty of Saved By The Bell jokes.

We’ve also got on hand Stan Shaw, who seems to be the guy low-budget filmmakers get when they can’t afford Ernie Hudson. This isn’t to denigrate Shaw in any way, as he is a fine actor in his own right, but let’s be realistic here. Bokeem Woodbine has a great voice and does well as Stoddard’s sidekick, and Gregory Scott Cummins has an almost-nothing role and appears primarily as a picture other cast members look at. However, the true standout of the cast has to go to one Will Stewart as Van Wilson, one of Stoddard’s co-workers. He truly steals the show with his Kato Kaelin-like performance*.

While we give the movie credit for making the lead character a postal inspector, which we thought was different – disregarding fellow postal-inspection movies The Inspectors (1998) and its inexplicable sequel The Inspectors 2: A Shred of Evidence (2000) – in the end, the whole thing is really just more early-2000’s shelf filler. Like many movies of this type, it runs out of steam towards the end. What the movie should’ve been was Batinkoff and Berkley shooting a bunch of terrorists. Or, barring that, shooting a bunch of people who commit mail fraud. We’re surprised this wasn’t a pilot for a syndicated show, because that’s what it seems like it is. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing – it could’ve been a good show, but, well, such is life. 

Perhaps the moral of the story is, if you can’t afford your own explosions, maybe make a movie with a different plot? That’s just a suggestion, but, disregarding the fine cast, what we have here really is an exercise in editing. If that interests you, by all means check it out, but others may want to proceed with caution. 

*We’re willing to bet that’s the first time that sentence has been uttered in human history.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett