Street Soldiers (1991)

Street Soldiers (1991)- * * *

Directed by: Lee Harry

Starring: Jun Chong, Jeff Rector, Katherine Armstrong, Jason Hwong, David Homb, and Jay Richardson

The JP’s and the Tigers are two rival gangs in town. The Tigers wear less-than-intimidating tiger decals on their varsity jackets. That’s how you know they’re a gang. When the sadistic and insane leader of the JP’s, Priest (Rector) gets out of prison, he makes it his mission to destroy the Tigers. While the Tigers just want to have wholesome fun like dancing at the prom and skateboarding through the halls of their school, the JP’s are hellbent on rape and murder. Just how these two mismatched groups became rivals is unknown. Yes, there is a love triangle at play between Priest, Julie (Armstrong), and Tigers leader Troy (Homb), but that still doesn’t really explain it. (Here’s a tip we should all follow: stop looking for logic with Street Soldiers).

Anyway, a likable Karate (shouldn’t it be Tae Kwon Do?) instructor named Master Han agrees to train the Tigers so they can be victorious against the JP’s. You know he’s a Karate instructor because there is a one-word sign above his formerly-abandoned building that reads: KARATE. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the JP’s have their own “evil Karate instructor”, Tok (Hwang), so THEY are all in training as well. Could the ultimate rumble be at hand? And what does the mysterious Wheelchair Willie (Richardson) have to do with any of this? And what the HECK is going on here?

Street Soldiers is a great example of 90’s Silly. If you go into this expecting a gravely serious treatise on the horrors of gang life, you will be sorely disappointed. However, if you keep your mind open to the fact that a bunch of dudes who look like middle-aged men can caper around while attempting to appear as though they’re still in high school while they get into knife fights whilst wearing funny-looking jackets, then you will be truly ready for Street Soldiers.

Yes, of course, the budget is low, and there is plenty of non-acting/overacting (witness Jeff Rector attempt to out-John Miller John Miller) and the whole thing is a wonton soup of wanton ridiculousness, but it’s not boring. It’s also not quite as unselfconscious as Miami Connection (1987), but it’s heading into that ballpark. Actually, you should probably see it.

The second the viewer sees a bunch of men playing stickball in the streets (with each other; they should probably be playing with their kids) and then get into a “rumble” which should really be a dance-off, followed by a mustachioed Karate instructor taking every last one of them under his wing, he or she realizes they probably shouldn’t be too tough on Street Soldiers.

The most hilarious thing about the movie is the fact that these aforementioned adults were cast as high school kids. Does this exist in the same universe as Beverly Hills, 90210? Because we haven’t seen high-schoolers this elderly since Dylan and Brandon. The cafeteria in Street Soldiers is the only one on record serving not just sloppy joes but Centrum Silver. The gang hideouts for both the JP’s and the Tigers look like sets for a Viagra commercial. They’re getting into gang rumbles when they should be concerned about paying their mortgages.

Anyway, there are some nice editing touches like cool scene transitions, a mid-movie freeze frame (it should have ended the film, but we’ll take it just the same), and a soundtrack with some pretty decent songs on it. There was actually a cassette release of the soundtrack, which features bands such as Lonesome Romeos, The Snakes, Mr. Cosmos, and Benny Mardones – not exactly hip with the kids as they were probably going for, but the adult contemporary set (i.e. the cast) is the perfect audience for it.

The whole “this is really out of touch” vibe is really quite charming. Of course, it all ends with the time-honored Final Warehouse Fight. Throughout the movie thus far, a bunch of seemingly-random things have occurred, such as blues music blaring on the soundtrack out of nowhere, for apparently no reason. Regardless of that, it’s still better than Chains (1989) or Dead End City (1988). Everyone involved gets an A for effort, despite how dippy and, well, naïve it all is. 

Released by Academy on VHS in 1991, to find out the true meaning of “Middle-Aged Punks”, look no further than Street Soldiers!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Death Flash (1986)

Death Flash (1986)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Tony Zarindast

Starring: A.J. Nay, Cherry Williams, Kimberly Evans, Doreen Alderman, and Tony Zarindast

****1200th Review!!****

Johnny Duncan (Nay) is a classic COTE (Cop On The Edge) who goes OVER the edge when he finds out his wife Fiona (Alderman) is having an affair. Duncan is out of control, and he ends up behind bars. He ends up cleverly breaking out of prison when he finds out his sister Annie (Evans) and her friend Julie (Williams) are being kept under the iron fist of a wealthy drug lord. Duncan then proceeds to launch a one-man war against all the baddies involved in order to save his loved ones. Anyone opposed to this sort of action say Nay!

Death Flash (AKA Solitary) is a ton of enjoyable fun from start to finish. You just have to love movies like this – they really are true gems. Director/Co-Writer Tony Zarindast predated his Hardcase and Fist (1989) with this treasure, although this one doesn’t feature Beano. Well, I guess you can’t have it all. Zarindast even has a small role as the Machine Gun Joe character, Mr. Russo. One of the most pleasurable aspects of Death Flash is just how 80’s it is. This movie is 1986 through and through, and no 80’s fan can afford to miss it. 

Our new hero is one Arthur Jeremy Nay, but we call him A.J. He did a lot of work in stunts and appeared in small roles in some action movies, but here he really comes out to shine. While there are a lot of crazy stunts towards the end, we do see him display his abilities as a master of trickery when he dons a foolproof disguise to infiltrate the baddies. We won’t give it away, but remember Fred from the Dunkin Donuts commercials (“Time to make the donuts!”)? He would dress up as various things in order to get his precious donuts, including a woman. Fred had a large mustache, but he just covered it up with his finger when he went undercover as the opposite sex. Let’s just say A.J. Nay does that, but in reverse.

He also will engage in barfights with tough guys in order to defend the honor of his wife’s singing voice. Her band sings a catchy tune called “Secrecy” (performed by Cheryl Jewel), but some rowdy bar patrons don’t approve. They then feel the wrath of Nay.

The music overall is yet more classic 80’s, and mostly performed by a man known, mysteriously, only as Mrozinski. The soundtrack should be released on CD and/or vinyl, and this movie should be released on Blu-Ray stat. It could be packaged with Hardcase and Fist and put out under the banner of “The Tony Zarindast Collection”. Here’s hoping (against hope) that that happens soon.

All the classic clichés that we know, love, and can’t live without are here, including the aforementioned barfight, a truly excellent WYC (White Yelling Chief) in Captain Stanhope (de Soto), lots of punch-ups, blow-ups, shootings, and motorbike-to-helicopter chases, among others. There’s a terrific shootout in a bar with some pinball machines, most places characters go (including strip clubs) have stand-up arcade machines such as Centipede and Pac-Man, the cocaine is plentiful, the hair is big, and the women’s clothes are asymmetrical. Duncan even has a Black partner in Dawson (Lewis) – because the 80’s-ness wouldn’t be complete without a reference to Crockett & Tubbs.

For the atmosphere alone, Death Flash is worth seeing. It’s a pleasant surprise from a time when energetic and enterprising filmmakers could make action movies on a rock-bottom budget and come out with a winner. Comparisons to Samurai Cop (1991) and Miami Connection (1987) wouldn’t be unwarranted. It’s just that they’ve gotten more attention of late. Now that Death Flash is on Amazon Prime (as of this writing), hopefully that will change.

Thank goodness for A.J. Nay, thank goodness for Tony Zarindast, and most of all thank goodness for the 80’s. It was the best decade ever and Death Flash is proof. The whole thing might not be polished to the degree some people might like, but, much more importantly, it’s just FUN. We guarantee you will be entertained by Death Flash, and that’s more than a lot of movies with many more resources can claim. We really recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


No Tomorrow (1999)

No Tomorrow (1999)- *1\2

Directed by: Master P

Starring: Gary Daniels, Jeff Fahey, Gary Busey, Jodi Bianca Wise, Pam Grier, Clifton Powell, Frank Zagarino,  Master P, with Jerry Vale and C-Murder

"Ya Gonna Wind Up Daaaiiiid"- C-Murder 

Jason (Daniels) is a likable (of course) London transplant trying to make ends meet in L.A. as he chases the American Dream. Jason is a card-carrying member of his local video store and loves nothing more than to play Terminator 2 and Jurassic Park pinball at his local dive bar. His gregarious co-worker Davis (Fahey) charms him into getting involved with crime boss Noah (Busey), but Jason really doesn’t want to be a criminal. However, Noah takes a shine to Jason. It turns out that fellow criminal Maker (P) is after Noah, as is an FBI Agent named Diane (Grier). In the midst of all this chaos, Jason and Lara (Wise) forge a relationship. Will the hapless Jason walk away with his life, or for him will there be…NO TOMORROW?

As one of the final films produced by PM, No Tomorrow signaled the death knell for one of our favorite companies. The title proved to be more apt than perhaps even they realized.

If there was ever any last-ditch attempt to save the company from impending doom, handing the directorial reins over to Master P for this movie would seem to indicate that their hearts just weren’t in it anymore. You’d think a DTV outing with all these classic B-movie stars couldn’t lose, but it’s just another case of Lone Tiger Effect. The fact that footage was recycled from Narrow Margin (1990) and Air America (1990) just reinforces the “Now it’s 1999 and DTV is in the doldrums” vibe. 

Yet, because it’s still PM after all, the stuntwork, action, gunfights, pyro, and blow-ups are still excellent. The technicians behind making all this amazing stuff happen should be applauded for making it all look great on-screen. The problem is that the movie around it is a dud. It’s completely uneven; one minute Master P has some sort of combination flamethrower/missile launcher and is barbecuing everything in sight, then there are some extended dialogue scenes, then we’re in Master P’s recording studio watching Silkk Tha Shocker AND C-Murder lay down some tracks (all while wearing No Limit clothing, of course), then Pam Grier sits in an FBI control room for a while, and then we get some recycled footage, etc., etc. There no continuity, structure, or pacing, never mind a Tomorrow. 

We’re of two minds about Gary Daniels’s role in all this. On the one hand, yes, of course we want to see him do Martial Arts, which is missing from this performance. It’s hard to not see that as a missed opportunity. On the other hand, we kind of liked that he was cast against type as a humble pencil-pusher. In other casting observations, we liked Fahey’s freewheeling, smarmy performance – he probably figured he didn’t have a lot to lose here, so he hammed it up. It was pretty Charlie Sheen-esque.

Things perked up whenever Gary Busey was on screen. As usual, he brought a lot of crazy life to the scenes he was in. He even makes it a point to say that Maker produces, and we quote, “jungle music”. Fan favorite Frank Zagarino has a glorified cameo (Jerry Vale of all people has an actual cameo), and Master (thespian) P gives a mumbling, inarticulate performance, but in all fairness he did have to talk around his gold grill. It probably gave him problems, but is this guy supposed to be the hero of the movie? It’s impossible to tell. Needless to say, there’s a crazy twist at the end that turns all the nonsense we’ve heretofore seen on its head, as if that was necessary.

Yes, it’s all very junky and a fairly ignominious end to the once-fine PM organization. Even Hot Boyz (2000) is better than this. Sadly, even the classic exploding helicopter had to come from the aforementioned Narrow Margin footage. Jeff Fahey and Gary Daniels should’ve been cops who team up to bust some heads. It could have been like the classic years of PM and really cool. Instead, they came up with this muddled jumble of Homie Movie/drama/thriller/DTV actioner and it doesn’t really work.

Despite the presences of some of our favorite names, and the backing of a great company, No Tomorrow is a disappointment.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Demolitionist (1995)

The Demolitionist (1995)- * *

Directed by: Robert Kurtzman

Starring: Nicole Eggert, Richard Greico, Susan Tyrrell, Randy Vasquez, Heather Lankencamp, Bruce Campbell, and Rosey Brown

In the future, Metro City is overrun by crime. While Mayor Grimsbaum (Tyrrell) attempts to make herself look good in the midst of this epidemic, most of said crime seems to be masterminded by the Burne Brothers, Mad Dog (Grieco) and Little Henry (Vasquez). 

On the eve of their electric chair execution, Mad Dog escapes and reconnects with his old gang in the city. Undercover cop Alyssa Lloyd (Eggert) infiltrates Mad Dog’s gang, but is recognized and then assaulted and left for dead. However, thanks to Professor Jack Crowley (Abbott), Alyssa is regenerated and then put into a nifty skintight black Kevlar suit. After singlehandedly lowering the Metro City crime rate, Alyssa Lloyd is rechristened “The Demolitionist”. Though, to be fair, if you’re looking for buildings to be demolished, Alyssa isn’t really your gal. Anyway, the final battle between The Demolitionist and Mad Dog inevitably materializes…who will demolish who? Or…whom?

Starting with the obvious, The Demolitionist is a low-budget cross between Robocop (1987) and Darkman (1990). Or, more in our wheelhouse, it’s better than Robo-C.H.I.C. (1990) but not as good as Cyclone (1987). We believe the Darkman comparison is especially apt, because director Kurtzman – an associate of Sam Raimi thanks to his being the “K” in the KNB EFX group and having worked with him in the past – really seems to be Raimi’ing himself in here. Perhaps the closest comparison, really, is to Raimi’s short-lived M.A.N.T.I.S. TV series. The Demolitionist has a very similar plot to that, but instead of Carl Lumbly in the super-suit, it’s Nicole Eggert. 

Further comparisons could be made to Barb Wire (1996) and Point of No Return (1993), but that’s just it: there’s almost endless movies we could compare The Demolitionist to. Lack of originality in a comic-book movie like this isn’t, alone, such a bad thing, but The Demolitionist is missing the wit and sense of pacing that a Raimi movie has. We have to wait a long time for her to really become “The Demolitionist”. 

On a more positive note, the idea of Nicole Eggert as a supersoldier who wants unending revenge on her enemies is a strong one. She walks away slowly from an explosion, which is good, and her Revenge Outfit is pretty cool, but are her guns so high-powered they cause a pinkish chalkdust to arise from her targets? What’s that all about?

One of the best things about this movie is the cast. It’s chock-full of B-movie names we all know and love, and there’s even a cameo by, you guessed it, Bruce Campbell. As if the Raimi comparisons needed further enhancing. It would take too long to list everyone involved, but one Rosey Brown as Big Frank steals the movie despite his brief appearance. 

As much as we enjoyed watching Nicole Eggert take on this type of role, we can’t help but wonder what would have happened if PM made a movie like this and cast Cynthia Rothrock as the heroic avenger in the shiny black suit. We can only imagine the result would be stronger than this, because The Demolitionist has a junky look to it that does it no favors. It really shows what a low budget DTV product this truly was, but that should have been easily sidestepped by the cast and behind-the-scenes makeup dudes who masterminded this whole misadventure.

Featuring the end-credits song “Demolition” by Paul Blubaugh, sadly The Demolitionist will never boast an endless series of sequels, a TV show, a toy line, a comic book, and mass-market pop culture appeal. We assume that’s what the filmmakers were going for, but it’s missing a certain “it factor” that would cause it to be the latest superhero sensation. But, then again, not everything can be a Green Lantern (2011).

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty