Deadly Addiction (1988)

Deadly Addiction (1988)- * * *1\2

AKA: Rock House

Directed by: Jack Vacek

Starring: Jack Vacek, Gregory Scott Cummins, Trice Shubert, Larry Washington, and Juan Munoz

John Turner (Vacek) is a COTE (Cop On The Edge, for those that may not know) in L.A. After some drug gangs murdered his wife at some point in the past, he made it his personal mission to clean up the streets and get rid of all the drug pushers. It's not going to be easy, especially when Turner comes up against the evil and seemingly indestructible baddie Turko (Cummins). Meanwhile, he finds time for romance with Sara (Schubert) and to mentor a young boy, Hector (Munoz). Is there anything Jack Vacek - or John Turner - can't do? We urge you to find out today!

A blast of 80's awesomeness, Deadly Addiction (AKA Rock House) is a true gem waiting to be rediscovered. Comparisons to some of our favorites such as L.A. Wars (1994), "Geteven" (1993), and Death Flash (1986) - and, yes, even Samurai Cop (1991) and the almighty Stickfighter (1994) - are completely warranted. We're proud to add this fun and enjoyable film to that vaunted roster.

Jack Vacek is our new hero. He is very, very cool. He has a cool mustache, cool sunglasses, a cool jacket, rides a variety of cool automobiles, and has a wide variety of stylin' shirts. And while he plays by his own rules, his COTE-ness can only be described as happy-go-lucky. His amiable charm comes out whether he's battling a picture-perfect BYC (Washington), shooting and killing baddies, or adopting injured dogs and troubled children. He always knows just what to do and say. He may have just replaced Steve Rally in all of our hearts. And that's not an easy thing to do. 

On top of being likable, and even having something of a childlike quality, John Turner (or is it Jack Vacek? It's hard to tell when one ends and the other starts) seems to have modeled his life after Sonny Crockett. He has the same job, a similar attitude, and a similar wardrobe. He even lives on a houseboat like Crockett. But instead of a Ferrari, Turner drives a Shelby Cobra with the license plate BEER RUN. Sure, it may be an odd choice for a policeman, but it's so slick it's hard to deny the charm. Welcome to Miami Vacek. But in L.A.

There's a classic 80's dance club (could it be the same one from Party Line?), and the whole film has a fantastic soundtrack, alternating between the classic sax, the wailing-guitar 'Chase Music', and to a heavy metal tune during a raid on a gang called The Rockers. Much like in the cartoons when it gets so hot the mercury bursts through the top of the thermometer, the awesomeness quotient is getting out of control!

The baddies hang out at a restaurant called Degusta, named for the head crime boss. Would you eat at a place with a name so close to 'disgusting'? Was this on purpose? Who knows? Who cares? Especially since Turner's hangout is a bar/restaurant called The Poopdeck. Apparently it is/was a real place in Hermosa Beach, California. And Vacek trumped Tom Hanks by a year with the 'Turner and Pooch' subplot. Naturally, the whole thing comes to a head at an abandoned factory of some sort. It's hard to tell what they would have made, so we called it the Shootout Factory. We've all seen them before. Get ready to hear that phrase again in future reviews.

Deadly Addiction hammers home all the right notes we love to hear again and again. It's a movie that says "subtlety is for suckers; it's party time". We can get on board with that. It is just so much fun and it's so entertaining, anyone who fails to get any enjoyment out of it should probably be thrown into a volcano. 

Schedule your "Vacek-tomy" as soon as possible.

NOTE: As of this writing, the stream of this film on YouTube is not the best. Still, it’s worth seeing because the VHS is so rare.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Dragon Fire (1993)

Dragon Fire (1993)- * *

Directed by: Rick Jacobson

Starring: Dominick LaBanca, Pamela Bond, and Kisu

Los Angeles in 2032 is, wouldn’t you just know it, a hellhole. A man travels from another planet (which is apparently a common occurrence in the future) to earth in order to find out who killed his brother. Laker Powers (LaBanca), whose name was obviously concocted by a huge basketball fan, has to compete in underground Punchfighting matches which somehow get him closer to finding his beloved brother’s murderer. Slick (Kisu) becomes his trainer and he works his way through all his opponents in tournament-style bouts. Will he get to the truth about his brother? Or will DRAGON FIRE set his dreams of glory ablaze?

Dragon Fire is a typical Corman-style Punchfighter that, instead of starring Jerry Trimble or Blake Bahner, features one Dominick LaBanca in the lead role. By now, even Don the Dragon was on to better things. In the good old video store days, someone could be plucked from obscurity to be the main star in a movie – see Jay Roberts, Jr., Matt Hannon or Kely McClung for just three examples. LaBanca looks like a cross between Scott Baio and Ken Wahl. He should have been on a 90’s sitcom like Blossom, but instead he’s punching, punching, and punching some more, as are his many opponents.

As in other Corman actioners, the stars have their fighting credits underneath their names during the opening credits. Strangely, LaBanca doesn’t have any specifics under his name, so how are we to know his pedigree and qualifications to appear in Dragon Fire? Nevertheless, the settings are “futurism on a budget” and comparable to the likes of Shredder Orpheus (1990) and Neon City (1991). It’s comforting to know that in the future, with all the many entertainment options available, grown men punching each other still remains extremely popular. As do mullets. They always say fashions come back around.

Kisu, not to be confused with Kimo or Beano, is the Van Peebles-esque trainer who quotes Sun Tzu without crediting him. Laker Powers is such a meathead that he doesn’t question why Slick is able to continually come up with all these nuggets of philosophy. But all of that pales in comparison to the constant fights. If it’s punching – and occasional kicking – you’re after, look no further. 

One thing about Dragon Fire, it doesn’t skimp on the beatings-up. And the steady stream of opponents feature characters that are very Street Fighter II-esque, which makes sense for the time. At least they have unique, individual personalities, unlike some tournament movies. Even though dumbness is readily apparent, and it does get a bit boring despite the modest running time because of the repetition, it’s still better than big-budget versions of this type of material like The Quest (1996).

Sure, the acting is stodgy, but who cares? Most of the guys aren’t actors, they’re fighters. But what’s Pamela Pond’s excuse? Well, presumably it’s all part of the fun. Just like all the screaming, sweating, punching, kicking, and unabashed stupidity. Yet, we wouldn’t have it any other way. 

So, for yet another Corman outing (which combines numerous strip club scenes which Corman also seemed to like around this time) and the unassailable charisma of a certain Dominick LaBanca, look no further than Dragon Fire.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Body Count (1995)

Body Count (1995)- * *

AKA: Codename: The Silencer

Directed by: Talun Hsu

Starring: Robert Davi, Steven Bauer, Sonny Chiba, Brigitte Nielsen, Cindy Ambuehl, and Jan-Michael Vincent

“It’s the 90’s!” – Eddie Cook

Eddie Cook (Davi) and Vinnie Rizzo (Bauer) are not just two of New Orleans’s finest, they’re also best buddies. But their jobs are about to get a heck of a lot more challenging now that Makato (Chiba) and his partner Sybil (Nielsen) have come to wreak havoc in the Big Easy. Makato is a sly and crafty hitman and expert marksman. We as viewers know this because he has a special assassin hat. Further complicating the lives of Cook and Rizzo is the entrance of their new supervisor, Special Agent Janet Hood (Ambuehl). Will Makoto and Sybil’s killing spree ever end?

Body Count is yet another victim of what we call the Lone Tiger Effect. For those who don’t know, this is when a movie gets a great cast of B-movie faces together and you think you can’t lose as a viewer – and then you do. Perhaps it’s a classic case of “too many cooks”, but despite the stellar cast, Body Count just doesn’t deliver the goods. 

That’s not to say there aren’t some high points – someone walks away from an explosion in slow motion, Davi and Bauer have good chemistry together, and there’s a very impressive PM-style car flip/explosion. There should have been more moments like these. Additionally on the plus side we have a competent, classic-90’s video store look and some nice New Orleans locations. This includes, almost apropos of nothing, a stereotype Southern Sheriff. But the movie doesn’t really hook you in, and the pacing seems off. The police station has a poster for The Terminator (1984) right there in the squad room, so it shows the local cops have a nice sense of d├ęcor.

As for the cast (besides the aforementioned fan favorites Davi and Bauer), we have Brigitte Nielsen, who was given a much meatier role in Mission of Justice (1992). It was nice to see that Sonny Chiba was all over the movie and not just in a small role. He got to show off his physical prowess and had a bunch of great outfits to boot. Jan-Michael Vincent had a glorified cameo, and even in a small role appeared a little tipsy. Ambuehl, last seen in Dark Breed (1996) was primarily eye candy despite the fact that the scriptwriters attempted vainly to make her more than that. 

The problem is that the movie isn’t wacky enough or different enough – it’s just kind of standard fare. You’d think the cast could make more out of the material, but even they can’t really pull that off. Comparable movies about a Japanese-American crime-ridden culture clash include Red Sun Rising (1994) (better than Body Count) and Double Deception (2001) (actually worse than Body Count). 

Featuring the song “All Woman” by Mark Ferrari, Body Count left something to be desired.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Red Line (1995)

Red Line (1995)- *1\2

Directed by: John Sjogren

Starring: Chad McQueen, Dom DeLuise, Michael Madsen, Jan-Michael Vincent, Roxana Zal, Corey Feldman, Robert Z'Dar, Julie Strain, and Chuck Zito

Jimmy (McQueen) is an auto mechanic and part-time stick-up man who uses the cars people drop off to speed away in after he finishes his petty heists. Despite the disapproval of his boss, Jerry (DeLuise), Jimmy ends up working for crime boss Keller (Vincent) as a driver. 

While doing this, a series of events occurs: He discovers the truth about Tony (Feldman) and Crystal (Strain) – the brother and wife respectively of rival crime boss Mr. Lawrence (Madsen), and he also gains possession of a special Corvette with a surprise inside. Even though Gene (Z’Dar), one of Keller’s goons, is on his trail, Jimmy manages to go on the run with Gem (Zal), who is escaping the clutches of her abusive boyfriend Dick (Zito). Is any of this making sense? Or, when it comes to seeing this movie, will you be drawing a RED LINE in the sand?

The Lone Tiger effect, as we call it, seems to be something we can never escape. Any time we see a cast list of this many B-Movie faces, it draws us in and proves impossible to resist. Yet again, sadly, we were disappointed. Despite the star power involved, Red Line just isn’t that…well…involving. 

One of the bright spots was the brief appearance of Dom DeLuise, who is just too talented to be hemmed in by a dire production like this. The supposed hero, Jimmy, is an unlikable criminal and he’s the guy we’re supposed to be rooting for? Evidently Chad McQueen thought so, as not only was he the star, he’s also credited with stunt driving, casting, and producing. He was really involved with this project, and while, on the whole, it’s probably a better movie than Money to Burn (1996) - produced by and starring a lot of the same people – it’s not as funny as MTB. But it’s about as dumb, so that equation doesn’t really work out well in the viewer’s favor. Most of Chad’s shirts have sleeves this time around, so it looks like our Chad is finally growing up. 

Jan-Michael Vincent’s grotesque appearance – apparently the result of a real-life car accident – only helps his character, but it’s all pretty unpleasant. Chuck Zito’s line readings are pure gold, and the presences of Robert Z’Dar and Julie Strain are always welcome. Even Joe Estevez and none other than Ron Jeremy have cameos. Corey Feldman wears a silly jacket and holds his gun sideways. Roxana Zal plays the inexplicably pretty car wash girl. What drew all these people to be in this substandard movie? Maybe director Sjogren has a lot of charisma. Frankly, we’re surprised Ian Jacklin isn’t involved. 

Ron Jeremy plays a gardener whose name is Gardner. So, that’s the level of intelligence on display here…but did you expect anything else going in? We, as viewers, have to wait a whopping 63 minutes until we get to Michael Madsen to be in the mix of this broth. But really, there are no surprises on show with Red Line. It’s a very long 90 minutes. It’s similar to Sjogren’s Strip N’ Run (2000), also starring Madsen.

There should have been scenes of Chad McQueen beating up the many goons the crime bosses send after him, or some such action setpieces. But aside from some driving stuff and a few mild blow-ups, the action factor is low. Just imagine No Man’s Land (1987) but with no Charlie Sheen, nothing really interesting happens, and there are boom mike shadows on the walls. This could have been a really easy fix: make the hero likable and give him goons to fight. Boom. Better movie. But no, sadly, Red Line opts for the stupider road less traveled (that’s less-traveled for a reason). 

In the end, despite the stellar cast, Red Line stalls out.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett