Karate Rock (1990)

Karate Rock (1990)- * *

Directed By: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Antonio Sabato Jr., Dorian Field, Natalie Hendrix, Andrew Parker, Timothy Smith, Robert Chan, and David Warbeck

“Why don’t you go iron your tutu?”

Kevin Foster (Sabato Jr.) is the new kid in town. He comes from Oakland to live in Savannah, Georgia with his father John (Warbeck), a police officer. Inexplicably, this makes him the target of ridicule amongst the local bully population, who tease him by not only calling him “cop’s son” but also just “cop” (!) – so Kevin goes to the local discotheque, as all Southern teens were doing in 1990. He enters the “Rock Competition”, by which the European filmmakers must have meant “Dance Competition”. Naturally, Kevin wins, but that’s when all his troubles start.

A love triangle develops between Kevin, who likes Kim (Hendrix), and Connie (Field), who likes Kevin. Kevin’s interest in Kim, as well as his superior dancing abilities, really tees off the head bully and Karate champ, Jeff Hunter (Parker). Jeff gets really mad when Kevin bests him at a truck race through the “Tunnel of Death”, so Jeff and his goons beat up Kevin several times. Eventually, Kevin wises up and begins training with his father’s friend Billy (Chan), an older Asian gentleman who long ago swore off using his Martial Arts abilities but who now really wants Kevin to get revenge against Jeff Hunter. The two boys set up a final showdown at the local dojo. Who will be victorious?

Our old buddy Larry Ludman serves up a cross between Footloose (1984) and The Karate Kid (1984), but notice that both of those movies are from the great year of 1984. Today’s movie in question came out in 1990, and, for better or worse, times had changed. Maybe that’s why this never got any kind of a release in America. Anyway, it should be noted that there is no rock and very, very little Karate in Karate Rock. It’s maybe 85% Footloose and 15% Karate Kid. The box art, great as it is, is very misleading. It’s not the Martial Arts version of Body Rock (1984) that we were hoping for. But, in all fairness, even Sabato would have a hard time filling the shoes of Chilly D.

Sabato wears an oversized white cardigan and rents videos from a store called Video One. There was a Hard To Kill (1990) poster in the window, so presumably that’s what he was renting. In the same strip mall is the dojo with two names. It reads “Korean Karate”, and then, as if to correct itself, “Savannah Tae Kwon Do”. It’s easy to see why Kevin has such a crush on Kim. She has a fantastic sideways ponytail and wears triangular earrings. On the other side of the equation, Jeff Hunter has rockin’ after-market pink windshield wipers on his 4x4. It’s going to be a tough choice for her.

The Yaz-like synth disco score is by Donald Brent, who only has one other music scoring credit, another Fabrizio DeAngelis movie called Breakfast With Dracula (1993). That’s a shame, as we would like to look forward to more scores by him. As far as we can tell, neither score has been released on CD or vinyl to date. Speaking of sound, when the characters talk – in any setting – it sounds like they’re speaking into microphones with both the echo and reverb turned up. This unnatural circumstance leads to a lot of funny mishearings, such as when Kevin’s Black friend is introduced as “Chocolate Chip”. Sadly, his name isn’t Chocolate Chip, or even just Chip. Even still, the classic nerd, Mortimer (Smith), almost steals the movie. Maybe this is because we get such minimal Warbeck.

In the end, Karate Rock is a teen movie, and not the shirt-ripping fight-fest the box art seems to indicate that it is. Kevin doesn’t even start training until the movie is almost over. Perhaps the most interesting things about Karate Rock, seen from today’s perspective, of course, are its time-capsule points of interest. And also the fact that what you see here is what a bunch of European adults thought American teens were like. It’s a reasonably fun trifle, but it’s not, strictly speaking, an action movie.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Sniper: Ultimate Kill (2017)

Sniper: Ultimate Kill (2017)- * *1\2

Directed by: Cladio Fah

Starring: Chad Michael Collins, Tom Berenger, Joe Lando, Juan Calero, Felipe Calero, Danay Garcia, and Billy Zane

Our longtime friend Thomas Beckett (Berenger, of course) is now working for the DEA in Colombia. He’s down there because a drug lord named Jesus Morales (Juan Calero) is causing all sorts of havoc and mayhem by employing a sniper named El Diablo (Felipe Calero) to eliminate his enemies using the latest in high tech sniping technology. Beckett’s son Brandon (Collins), who is also an expert sniper (as you may remember if you’ve seen the latest spate of Sniper films) also travels to Colombia to try and take down Jesus Morales and El Diablo. Working with local agent Kate Estrada (Garcia) as well as John Samson (Lando), and, of course, Miller (Zane), will the power of everyone involved be enough to stop the sniper-on-sniper violence?

Here’s a question: why are there SEVEN Sniper movies to date? No, really. We demand answers. I want someone to explain to me why these stories need to be told over and over again. That, really is the main problem with this, the latest installment in the Sniper saga. It’s not a bad movie. It’s really not. It’s competently made, and delivers pretty much what you’d expect of a DTV Sniper movie from 2017. But that’s just it – I think it’s fair to say that this series has overstayed its welcome at this point, and even the movie at its best can’t overcome that. 

While it was nice to see both Berenger and Zane back together, they mostly stayed in an office capacity while young sniper Brandon got in on the action. Not to tempt any filmmakers out there who may be considering a Sniper 8, but we had an idea for what this movie should’ve been. The evil sniper puts Brandon in the hospital, so Berenger and Zane have to go back into the field even though they’re getting on in years, to put their combined skills together to get revenge and show they’re still the ultimate snipers. Well, the offer is on the table. Get in touch if you’re interested.

While Brandon is called “the best”, and he still calls his own father “Master Guns”, the problem is that Chad Michael Collins is still bland and faceless. You don’t know what he looks like even when you’re looking right at him. That aside, we do get some “bullet time” for a new generation, and there is a good amount of violence and nudity – probably because the filmmakers have to compete with big-budget Hollywood product like Shooter (2007) and Sicario (2015). Sometimes it tries to be overly slick, but not as bad as some other DTV outings we’ve seen.

We assume there has to be an audience for this, otherwise they wouldn’t keep making them. We applaud fan favorites Berenger and Zane for still even wanting to be involved. While, as we said, the movie itself isn’t bad, we can’t really recommend it unless you’re a die-hard Sniper fan. We suspect there’s only so much sniping a human being can reasonably stand.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2016)

Sniper: Ghost Shooter (2016)- * *

Directed by: Don Michael Paul

Starring: Chad Michael Collins, Dominic Mafham, Billy Zane, and Dennis Haysbert

Brandon Beckett (Collins) and Richard Miller (Zane) return yet again for another look through the reticule, this time tasked with protecting a gas pipeline in Turkey and Eastern Europe from terrorists. When Beckett mouths off to his superior officer, he’s sent to the high reaches of the Caucasus Mountains so he can go snipe in the snow. It’s there he links up with some local snipers who want to join the fight against the baddies. Meanwhile, Colonel (that’s all he’s credited as) (Haysbert) is running things from behind the scenes. Will the team all get along? Will they fight against one more evil sniper? Who will make it to the next sequel? Find out today…?

So here we are on the sixth and, as of this writing, penultimate film in the inexplicably lengthy Sniper film series. Honestly, we’re running out of things to say. We’re trying hard not to be repetitive. I mean, we’re trying hard not to be repetitive. But obviously we’re putting more effort into that endeavor than the makers of the Sniper series are. We’re now at Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street levels in the sequel sweepstakes. Who knew?

Sure, Ghost Shooter commits a couple of the seven deadly DTV sins we’re always railing against, such as the fact that there’s no one strong, central villain, there is an over-reliance on CGI, such as in the computerized blood, smoke, missiles and, in an especially ridiculous moment, a CGI helicopter, and there are many scenes in darkness where no lights are turned on or, evidently, even considered to be important.

The plot is weak and character development is nil. Chad Michael Collins is, you guessed it, still bland and faceless. All that being said, the movie isn’t a total trainwreck; Billy Zane, as usual, enlivens the proceedings, seemingly effortlessly. Dennis Haysbert’s presence is also not just welcome, but desperately needed to give life to what we’re seeing onscreen. Dominic Mafham isn’t in it that much but he adds something to the scenes he’s in. The locations are picturesque, and we get references to current events when our heroes fight ISIS. There’s even a nod to the old school with a couple of guard tower falls.

It should be noted that the main bone of contention as it relates to all the conflict and action is called the Gazsnab Pumping Station. A lot of people get shot over something with such a funny name. 

Of course, there’s a lot of shooting and sniping action (with all the military jargon that would imply), but without any suspense or character development, it gets boring fast. Things would pick up a bit in the subsequent installment, but we tend to think there isn’t a lot of ammo left in the chamber.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Fatal Secret (1990)

Fatal Secret (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Mats Helge and Anders Nilsson

Starring: David Carradine, Camilla Lunden, Frederick Offrein, and A.R. Hellquist

As is usually the case, everyone is after “the disk”. Yes, yet another floppy disk containing top secret information is highly sought-after. The CIA, The KGB, and a nefarious drug dealer named Michael LeWinter (Carradine) all want the disk. Thankfully, a special agent of some sort named Kim Brown (Lunden) is on the case. Teaming up with John Mitchell (presumably not the British prog rock guitarist) (Hellquist), the two of them single-handedly embark on a mission to get the disk to the right people…but who are they? And can they be trusted? In the meantime, many battles ensue. Who will uncover the FATAL SECRET?

If you were to stop some random Americans on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word “Sweden”, you might get answers such as Abba, Ikea, a certain Chef from the Muppets, or perhaps you may get some mutterings about meatballs. The more informed among them may mention some sort of bikini team or something about death metal. What you won’t hear them say, sadly, is anything about the great Mats Helge or his contributions to Swedish cinema. To be fair, some of his works were exported to the U.S. and some weren’t, but the wider public at large should know that Swedish filmmaking doesn’t start and end with Ingmar Bergman. 

We’re constantly championing Helge’s work, and we’re not about to stop now. In Fatal Secret, the Helge stock company that appeared in his prior films all come back to shoot at each other one more time. There is a lot of gun-shooting in this particular outing, but the best scene involves a fight between Helge regular and Kurt Russell lookalike Hellquist and a really unfortunate dude in an attic with a bare lightbulb. You’ll know it when you see it.

David Carradine comes back as well, and while his triumph for Helge was Animal Protector, here he puts his usual screen presence into his relatively small role as the smooth yet shady LeWinter. Of course, the Kenny Rogers Guy – Frederick Offrein – is back too, because it couldn’t be a Helge movie without him. Interestingly, the actors weren’t the only collaborators that came back to work with him. Anders Nilsson, who worked behind the scenes for Helge in many different capacities over the years, was seemingly promoted and is credited as co-director here.

Once again, the film was done under the aegis of the SWEDISH ACTION FILM FORCE, which is the first credit we see on screen. Shortly thereafter, we see characters in a room with an American flag in the background looking at a briefcase filled with American dollars. Just how this squares with the Swedish Action Film Force is all part of the puzzling fun, as are the myriad accents just about everyone on screen speaks with (does Carradine have an American accent?)

But the important thing to know is that there’s a character named Angelo who looks like a malevolent Yakov Smirnoff. And, as in prior Helge outings, there’s a “greatest hits” during the end credits, so you can see all your favorite parts again. Not Jackie Chan-style outtakes, but sitcom-style replays of what you previously saw. He probably figured to get the most bang out of his buck that way. We’re certainly not complaining. Plus, the pumping 80’s music by Dough (Yes, Dough) Anderzon plays over it all, so if you’re really pressed for time, you can just skip to the end credits. 

While we wouldn’t say to run right to this movie if you’ve never seen any of Mats Helge’s other works before, if you’ve seen and loved The Ninja Mission (1984), Russian Terminator (1989), or Animal Protector (1989), and want more, here is another great example of Mats doing what he does best. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Animal Protector (1989)

Animal Protector (1989)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Mats Helge

Starring: David Carradine, A.R. Hellquist, Frederick Offrein, Camilla Lunden, Mats Hudden, and Timothy Earle

Somewhere off the coast of Sweden is a secret American military base run by the sinister Col. Whitlock (Carradine). Using underlings such as Carter (Offrein) and Johnson (Earle), among others, Whitlock uses his iron-fist tactics to ensure the base continues its dark experiments. Sadly, they are doing testing on all sorts of animals to create biological weapons. When a trio of female animal rights activists called the ANIMAL PROTECTORs, led by Carrie (Lunden), but including Helen (Ostrom) and Tina (Anderson), sneak their way onto the base in order to free the helpless animals – as do a meatheaded CIA agent named John Santino (Hellquist) and another good guy named Lomax (Hudden) – all hell is going to break loose on the island.

Animal Protector is further proof that the work of Mats Helge comprised Sweden’s greatest cinematic exports of the 1980’s. We’re constantly championing him because he continues to deliver the goods for film after film. Frankly, we like his style. Even the choice of title is unorthodox: of all things, Animal Protector, in the singular, even when there’s a group of so-called “Animal Protectors”, among a myriad of other characters. Why? Perhaps it’s to pique our interest. And it totally worked, just like everything else in this remarkable film. 

This time around, none other than David Carradine joins the fray, and a team up between him and Offrein (who we’ve called “Kenny Rogers” in the past because he looks exactly like Kenny Rogers) is as magical as you’d think it might be. When not bewildered by a blur of different accents during the dialogue scenes, Animal Protector provides near non-stop shooting, blow- ups, or some type of action. The dance club fight/shootout was a particular highlight, but there are many. What puts that one a cut above the rest are Lomax’s hypnotic pants. Which sounds like a movie title in its own right.

One of the action scenes late in the movie is re-used in a solarized, stylized fashion for the opening credits sequence, ensuring something is blowing up or being shot at all times. There’s even a bit of Punchfighting in the beginning to get us all hooked in to the proceedings. Yes, it does have an overall feeling of being totally ridiculous, but it also has a ton of heart. While obviously shot with the international market in mind, it also retains a special “Made in Sweden” feeling, with a lot of handcrafted charm. That in combination with the non-stop action produces a gem.

Nowhere is that better exemplified than in the character of Santino, portrayed by Swedish National Treasure A.R. Hellquist. As if all the wild n’ wacky goings-on weren’t enough, along comes an oiled-up meathead to just put things over the top. Just like in Helge’s Russian Terminator (1989) (hey, if a formula works, it works). Some say he slightly resembles Kurt Russell. He takes his shirt off and keeps it off for no reason that we can discern. Even in the cold Swedish night when you can see everyone’s breath, Hellquist’s shirt is nowhere to be seen. Fantastic.

Featuring music by Dough Anderzon (surely his name is Doug Anderson and this is a typo…come on, Dough? But it’s all part of the fun) and featuring an incredibly catchy tune by Dag Unenge and Peter Ahs called Face To Face, Animal Protector is a solid winner all around from the inimitable Helge.

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, Explosive Action!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett