Death Wish 3 (1985)

Death Wish 3 (1985)- * * * *

Directed by: Michael Winner

Starring: Charles Bronson, Ed Lauter, Gavan O'Herlihy, Deborah Raffin, Alex Winter, and Martin Balsam

Paul Kersey (Bronson, of course) is back in action and back in New York City in this classic Cannon outing. When Kersey arrives, ostensibly to visit his old buddy, he immediately gets into a whole heap o’trouble, as you might expect. When a devious cop named Shriker (Lauter) unleashes Kersey into a crime-ridden East New York neighborhood, all he asks is that Kersey occasionally reports back to him, because he knows crime stats will drop dramatically. 

But Kersey is more interested in helping the poor inhabitants of an apartment tower that’s plagued with the rampant crime in the neighborhood. He makes fast friends with Bennett (Balsam), and even finds time for romance with public defender Kathryn Davis (Raffin). But the main order of the day is to take down gang leader Fraker (O’Herlihy) and his rampaging underlings. Soon enough, Kersey wages his one-man war against the baddies and ne’er-do-wells of New York…who will survive the onslaught?

Did Judas Priest write the song “Delivering the Goods” about this movie? Well, probably not, as it’s from 1978, but they easily could have. Death Wish III is when the franchise went from being serious-minded and 70’s to being ridiculous, over the top, and 80’s. On the one hand, it lost some of its “serious points”. But on the other hand, it gained a lot in terms of the fun quotient. And this movie is a ton of fun. 

The 80’s was the golden age of movies where punks take over the streets. Tenement (1985), Exterminator 2 (1984), Enemy Territory (1987), and Chains (1989) just to name a few. It’s a joy to watch Bronson blow the baddies away with a wide variety of weaponry. And set all that to a stellar Jimmy Page soundtrack, and you have a classic winner all around (and that’s not a pun based on the director’s name).

Martin Balsam is the classic old salt and he and Bronson make a stellar pairing. When Balsam first appears on screen, you expect to see a credit like “And Martin Balsam as Charles Durning in The Hal Holbrook Story, featuring Burgess Meredith and Ernest Borgnine, and with a special appearance by George Kennedy”. Needless to say, it’s awesome to watch the triumph of the older gentlemen over the disrespectful young whippersnappers. 

While wags may describe the movie as “stupid” or perhaps “mindless”, we say that anyone that levels those charges has no sense of fun and mirth. And if it is stupid, it’s the good stupid we’re always talking about. Honestly, ask yourself: is there anything better than Charles Bronson in the 80’s with a rocket launcher? After some deep soul searching, you will find the answer is no. Trust us, we’ve been there, man. 

Don’t get us wrong, we love the first two Death Wish movies. But the bleak, dour tone is gone here. Death Wish III marks the moment when the gray, overcast clouds broke and the sunlight flooded in. Our credo: Charles Bronson now, Charles Bronson forever!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 


Special Post: Our Friend Jacob has a new book available!

Our friend, longtime commenter Jacob Gustafson has a new book out that everyone should read!

He kindly asked us to provide a blurb for the back of the book. We were happy to do that because his book is fun to read and he understands the action genre at his silliest.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon!


Plato's Run (1997)

Plato's Run (1997)- * *

Directed by: James Becket

Starring: Gary Busey, Steven Bauer, Tiani Warden, Maggie Myatt, Jeff Speakman, and Roy Scheider

Plato Smith (Busey), along with his fellow former-Navy SEAL buddies Sam (Bauer) and Dominick (Speakman), are just, to paraphrase both this movie, as well as the song by Ensiferum, “warriors without a war”. That all changes when a mysterious woman named Marta (Warden) enlists Plato and Sam to go to Cuba and extract the son of a powerful crime boss. At first they refuse, of course, but then they decide that the money is too good, especially because Plato’s business is failing and he’s going to be evicted from his house. Since Plato is trying to repair his relationship with his daughter Kathy (Myatt), it seems like a good move.

Of course, the job isn’t as cut-and-dry as it seems, and soon Plato is on the run because he was framed for the murder of said crime boss. Additionally, the REAL power behind the scenes, dastardly arms dealer Alex Senarkian (Scheider) is now testing/using/shipping mines all over the world and even has a mine testing facility at a secret, evil compound. 

Things go from bad to worse when Kathy is kidnapped and Sam and Plato are trapped in the testing facility. With only their wits, and outside help from Dominick, will they be able to escape their doom. Will this be Plato’s last run?

Not to be confused with Hitman’s Run (1999) or Da Vinci’s War (1993), Plato’s Run is not exactly a movie you’d put at the top of your “to watch” list. To be fair, it’s better than Busey’s Warriors (1994), and about on par with the other Busey-Scheider team-up, The Rage (1997). It all starts promisingly enough – the power trio of Busey, Bauer, and Speakman are in a Florida bar and almost apropos of nothing, a very silly barfight ensues. But then it slows down and it all becomes a bit more standard. 

Yes, there are action scenes with shooting, blow-ups, beat-ups and the like. And while the movie is shot well, and it’s all very clear, somehow something is missing. Bauer and Busey had good chemistry together, which was all well and good, but the movie needed more Speakman. Certainly it needed more Speakman Martial Arts. 

The plot is unnecessarily complicated. It should have been the big boss, Senarkian, sending out waves of baddies for our triumvirate of heroes to beat up. Instead, it gets bogged down with other things such as land mines, Busey running around a lot, and plot intrigue. The central baddie of Scheider can’t hold all that together.

Of course, we should have suspected all this because we knew two things going in: It’s a Nu-Image movie from 1997, and the director, James Becket, also made Ulterior Motives (1993). For those who may not remember, that’s the unfortunate Thomas Ian Griffith outing that somehow manages to botch the idea of TIG wielding a samurai sword. But that was Becket’s first movie. He should have picked up a few tricks by the time of Plato’s Run. It seems he did not, which is a shame. 

Despite some well-placed humor, and the fact that the ingredients are all there for a successful DTV actioner, Plato’s Run, if we’re going to be brutally honest, is video store shelf-filler. We’re always looking for titles that rise above that sort of station, but, unfortunately, despite its good points, Plato’s Run doesn’t do that.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, The DTVC and The Video Vacuum!


Distant Justice (1992)

Distant Justice (1992)- * * *

Directed by: Toru Murakawa

Starring: Bunta Sugawara, Yoko Nogiwa, Eric Lutes, George Kennedy, Sakura Sugawara, John Fiore, and David Carradine

Inspector Rio Yuki (Sugawara) travels from Japan to Boston to not just take in the sights, but to visit with his old buddy Tom Bradfield (Kennedy), now a police chief. When Yuki’s wife Hiroko (Nogiwa) and his daughter Sakura (Sugawara – Bunta’s real-life daughter?) go off sightseeing while Tom and Rio reminisce about the old days, trouble finds them. 

As they are wont to do, they begin taking photos during their trip. Unfortunately, they inadvertently snap a drug deal going on in the background. It turns out these aren’t just your run-of-the-mill drug fiends – a line (no pun intended) of corruption leads all the way to aspiring senator Joe Foley (Carradine).

After bad things happen to his family members, Rio is raging for real revenge. Bradfield can’t officially help him, so Rio goes rogue. Fellow cop Charlie Givens (Lutes) is there to help, but Rio, in essence, goes it alone. Will main baddie Roy Pennola (Lovelett) stand in his way? Because Rio comes from Japan, will Boston-area baddies feel a new kind of justice? Perhaps…DISTANT JUSTICE?

While it seems to have been written off as a Death Wish knockoff, Distant Justice has its own charm and isn’t any more or less Death Wish-y than many other revenge movies that came in Bronson’s wake. We love revenge movies here at Comeuppance Reviews and like to see them in any form they come in. This one just happens to have a man with an extremely thick Japanese accent as the main protagonist. C’est la vie. 

Distant Justice seems to be Toei Corporation’s attempt to make inroads into the American video market of the day. It features a mixture of Japanese and American actors and technical crew, much like the later (and far worse) Double Deception (2001). We don’t know if Toei thought Bunta Sugawara, who was a big name back home, could somehow translate into being an American star, but – intentionally or not – everything he says is gold. His voice alone is extremely entertaining. 

He makes Gerald Okamura and Mako sound like Alistair Cooke. His accent is so heavy he even sounds like Schwarzenegger at times. Maybe Arnie was the model Toei was trying to emulate of a foreign star with limited English proficiency penetrating our American shores. But Sugawara’s effort, earnestness, and intensity are much appreciated and helped the movie a lot. 

Another commendable thing about Distant Justice is how it completely avoids the Collision Course-esque “he likes hot dogs and he likes sushi” clichés. That’s not to say there aren’t plenty of humorous moments throughout the film, however. For a revenge tale featuring shooting, blow-ups, beat-ups, and even rapes, overall the movie is pretty funny. Case in point we have Sergeant Largent (Fiore). Could he be related to Hardcase and Fist’s Warden Borden? We may never know.

Now, it’s not without its faults, mainly in the plotting and pacing departments. You have to wait over an hour to get to David Carradine, and even at that there’s minimal Carradine. But what Carradine you get is good Carradine. 

There isn’t a main, evil villain we as the audience keep checking in with throughout the film. We never visit with Roy as he shouts racial slurs about Rio and admonishes his underlings to make “no more mistakes!” – had there been a strong, central baddie the movie would have had more zest. And there’s an intro with some guys holding up a restaurant and then leaving the Yuki family stranded by the side of the road that really doesn’t need to be there. But fan favorite George Kennedy seems to be having fun, and the outing as a whole is just off-kilter enough to warrant at least one viewing.

Distant Justice is far from perfect, but it’s a pretty unique entry in the revenge film canon. Fans of the genre, George Kennedy, David Carradine, and Bunta Sugawara (if there are any out there in the English-speaking world) are encouraged to check it out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Blast (1997)

Blast (1997)- * *

Directed by: Albert Pyun

Starring: Linden Ashby, Tim Thomerson, Shannon Elizabeth, Andrew Divoff, and Rutger Hauer

Some terrorist baddies decide to take the swim team hostage at the Atlanta Olympics. Sure. Makes sense. The stereotypical eurotrash baddie this time around is Omodo (Divoff). Needless to say, he has an accent and a team of nefarious helpers, and he’s not afraid to use either one. Foiling their plans is humble janitor Jack Bryant (Ashby). Evidently he was an Olympic Tae Kwon Do champion at some point in the past and he took the janitor job just to be close to the Olympics in some form or fashion. 

While Police Commissioner (that’s all he’s credited as) (Thomerson) is doing his best during this trying hostage situation, seemingly Jack Bryant’s only real help comes in the form of a man named Leo (Hauer), who is wheelchair-bound and has Willie Nelson-esque pigtails. Sure. Makes sense. Will Jack Bryant – who doesn’t exactly give Jack Wild a run for his money – defeat the baddies and save the swim team? Will watching this movie be a total BLAST? Or…not so much? Dare you find out?

Okay, we knew going in that this was an Albert Pyun-directed Die Hard knockoff. Our prospects were looking dim, but we decided to forge ahead anyway – as they say, “expect the worst but pray for the best”. Or something like that. We’d love to say that we were pleasantly surprised, but we simply weren’t. Blast is a dull, bland, uninspired and mediocre run-through of clichés. Pyun seems to have a reverse Midas touch – he always manages to take any material he works with and make it dour and gray.

We’ll try and stay positive. The cast is good, which is one reason we decided to throw (well-deserved) caution to the wind and plunge headlong back into Pyun-land in the first place. We appreciated the presence of fan favorite Divoff, but he’s better in Ballistica. Of course we love Rutger Hauer, but it’s necessarily a sit-down role, and not much of one at that. It’s pretty much the same for Tim Thomerson. Our…hero…Linden Ashby is like Matthew McConaughey but without any personality or life. The swim team girls resemble Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Selma Blair, and Shannon Elizabeth. Upon further inspection, we found that one of them is Shannon Elizabeth. 

The Die-Hard-with-a-janitor scenario was done better with Michael Dudikoff (as most things are) in Virtual Assassin (1995). The problem here is that the baddies wear the same clothing as the staff because they were trying to blend in, so it’s hard to tell who is who during the fight scenes. Said fight scenes could have had much more impact if they were just shot better. Interestingly, John Wick (2014) co-director Chad Stahelski gets a thank you during the credits, so we can only assume anything that makes the fight scenes good are because of him.

Unlike other Pyun movies, things actually happen in this film, and that’s to his credit. Unfortunately, what does happen is pedestrian and colorless. He even manages to muck things up by adding those unnecessary and annoying sounds as transition noises between scenes. Why do some directors think this is necessary? Perhaps the best thing about Blast is the Filmwerks logo, which is a lot like the one from MTV News. Before the movie started, we got excited that Kurt Loder was going to throw it to Tabitha Soren, but, alas, that was not to be. 

Perhaps the more apt title for this movie would have been “Bomb”.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The DTVC!