Hijack (1998)

Hijack (1998)- * *

Directed by: Worth Keeter

Starring: Jeff Fahey, Brent Huff, Patrick Kilpatrick, Beth Toussaint, Ernie Hudson Jr., Robert Miano, and Ernie Hudson

Eddie Lyman (Fahey) is an ATF agent with a burning desire to take down a domestic terrorist organization called the Firebird Action Network, or FAN. He has so much dedication to his job, in fact, that he goes rogue and gets suspended from the force. When his wife (?) Valerie (Toussaint), a PR flack for Senator Douglas Wilson (Hudson the Elder) is called away to accompany him on a train trip through the outskirts of L.A., trouble follows. FAN baddies David Anderson (Huff) and Carl Howard (Kilpatrick) HIJACK the train and arm it with a nuclear bomb and direct it towards a high-population area so it can blow up and do maximum damage. 

Thankfully, Lyman is also on board the train. Back at HQ, fellow ATF agents John Gathers (Miano) and Frank Jennings (Hudson the Younger) are holding down the fort. Will Lyman keep things on track? Or will the FAN fan the flames of terror? Will you be interested in finding out?

Another day, another train slog. As if Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), Derailed (2002), and Death Train (2003) weren’t enough, along comes Hijack. To be fair, Hijack is better than those latter two entries in the Train Slog canon, but it’s very similar. It will feel familiar to anyone who watches DTV action movies, theatrical action movies, train movies, TV movies, or pretty much anything. It’s a train-slog-by-numbers that doesn’t offer much new to a well-worn subgenre of Die Hard-esque escapades.

The cast is very good, however, and fan favorites like Fahey, Hudson, Miano, Huff, and Kilpatrick do their best to sustain interest, but it’s hard when there’s nothing to work with. It’s a testament to these professionals that they did what they did with the material. 

Fahey is always a quality hero (or villain for that matter) and as Lyman, the jigsaw puzzle-loving ATF agent, he doesn’t snap into action nearly quickly enough. He should have been busting heads sooner than he does. Ernie Hudson is typically terrific as the senator (he wouldn’t get to be President until Stealth Fighter), and here we also get two Hudsons for the price of one, as Ernie Hudson, Jr. is also on board. Huff and Kilpatrick, as the baddies, spout a lot of amusing political dialogue which marginally helps to sustain the viewers’ interest. Toussaint looks a lot like fitness star Jillian Michaels. 

Michaels should have been the heroine in at least one action movie. Maybe that will happen someday. 

In the end, Hijack is not exactly essential viewing…unless you really, really, really like train-set action movies. That’s action movies set on a train. Not a train set like the toys. You know what I mean. Anyway, if you want to see something like Hijack but done much better, check out Militia (2000).

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Death Kiss (2018)

Death Kiss (2018)- * * *

Directed by: Rene Perez

Starring: Robert Bronzi, Eva Hamilton, Richard Tyson, and Daniel Baldwin

A mysterious man known only as K (Bronzi) is cleaning up the streets. While he remains a stranger to everyone he comes into contact with, he looks oddly familiar. Maybe it's the face. Maybe it's the hair or the mustache. But something about him rings a bell. After he blows away the criminal scum that are polluting our streets, he gives money in an envelope to a woman named Ana (Hamilton), so she can help raise her wheelchair-bound daughter. While K tries to give them the money in anonymity, Ana tries to forge a relationship with K. But he's not exactly the chatty type.

Meanwhile, an evil baddie named Tyrell (Tyson) and his goons are on the loose. K faces one of his biggest challenges to date as he goes after them. Throughout all of this, a talk radio host, appropriately named Dan Forthright (Baldwin) electrifies the airwaves as he lays down truism after truism (we would definitely listen to the Dan Forthright show if it was in radio or podcast form). Remember, it's not a Death Wish, it's a DEATH KISS...which is, you know, pretty close.

By now, you may have heard of a man named Robert Kovacs (AKA Robert Bronzi) - a man who looks exactly like Charles Bronson. It must be hard for Bronzi to walk down the street, because if there's anyone out there who didn't know that Bronson passed away, you'd really think it was him. If he wasn't doing movies like Death Kiss, he could make a lot of money on the lookalike circuit. Maybe he could do parties with women who look like Marilyn Monroe and such. Just watching Bronzi walk in the movie is incredibly entertaining. Never mind when he starts shooting the baddies. Now, we always say that low-budget filmmakers get actors that resemble other actors (case in point when Counter Measures needed a Christopher Titus lookalike), but this is ridiculous! Ridiculously fun, that is. 

We applaud everyone involved with Death Kiss for making such a labor of love. Their love for the original Bronson (something we have to say now) and the Death Wish series in particular is evident, and infectious. Stylistically, Death Kiss is comparable to recent "throwback" DTV offerings like the similarly-themed Skin Traffik (2015), or Instant Death (2017). Those were also low-budget tributes to the 70's revenge genre. The bullet hits in Death Kiss are certainly over the top and ridiculous, with cascades of Kool-Aid exploding at every turn, which gives the film a certain comic-booky feel. Hopefully that's what they were going for. It's certainly quite unlike the original Death Wish film in that respect.

It was nice to see Baldwin and Tyson reunited for the first time since the underrated The Pandora Project (1998), although they don't share any scenes together. Tyson's look in the movie is quite different from most of his past work that we've seen, with his long dark hair and dark beard. He must have been proud of the project, as he's listed as an associate producer. This is also one of Baldwin's best roles in years; his very well-delivered monologues are very enjoyable and are the glue that holds Death Kiss together.

One of the biggest assets that Death Kiss has on its side is the wholly cool and highly appropriate synth score by The Darkest Machines (AKA director/writer/cinematographer/editor Perez). This is exactly the sort of score a movie like this should have. We were really happy they went in this direction for the score - an old-school style revenge movie with a man who looks uncannily like Charles Bronson topped off with a synth score is what the world needs now, and thankfully Perez and his cohorts gave it to us.

What's not to love about Death Kiss? We absolutely are looking forward to anything Bronzi does in the future. He very well could be one of the brightest stars of modern-day DTV.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Roughcut (1994)

Roughcut (1994)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Sean P. Donahue

Starring: Sean P. Donahue, Patrick G. Donahue, Shawn Flanagan and Richard Lynch

"I need to use the bathroom. I'll have two chicken tacos."-Garrett

Garrett (Sean P. Donahue) is a DJ at the local rock station. When not spinning the latest grunge hits of the day (it was 1994, after all), Garrett loves nothing better than to go on hunting trips with his friend Pauly. When the two guys accidentally witness an illegal diamond buy gone wrong, they become the target of nefarious diamond seller John Caine (Lynch) and his goons. Blade (Patrick G. Donahue) is one of the lead heavies for Caine, probably because he always wears a black trenchcoat and a machete on his belt. 

When Pauly is killed by the baddies (not a spoiler because it happens in the beginning), Garrett snaps into action. Getting no help from the police, except for his buddy TJ Boyle (Flanagan), they now take justice into their own hands. Will it be just diamonds that are ROUGH CUT, or will it also be the baddies themselves? Find out today!

With “Roughcut”, Sean P. Donahue has officially entered national treasure status.

As if a string of classics like Kill Squad (1982), Omega Cop (1990), Blood Hands (1990), Savage Instinct (1991), Fighting Spirit (1992) and especially the awesome Parole Violators (1994) wasn’t enough, along comes “Roughcut” – and, yes, the onscreen title is one word, in quotes, just like the similar and equally-fantastic “Geteven” (1993). If you liked any of the above-mentioned titles (and if you don’t, shame on you), then you’ll find a lot to love with “Roughcut”. The line readings from the actors are just as hilarious as the kills, which are just as hilarious as the action scenes and beat-em-up portions. It’s all so much fun you can’t help but love it. 

The scene in the Mexican restaurant is a movie highlight and must be seen. We also appreciated how Garrett used his DJ abilities to trick the baddies. Interestingly, his DJ name is “The Parole Violator”. Something about those two words must really have stuck with the Donahue family. Speaking of which, Patrick G. Donahue plays Blade with aplomb, and the fact that his name is Vinnie but is continually bugging his co-workers to adopt his scary new nickname seems to be a running gag. He loves his machete so much, he drives his car with one hand so he can always be holding his machete with the other. Now that’s dedication to your craft.

Whenever you see the names Sean or Patrick Donahue on a movie, you know you’re in good hands. We could go on all day about the many highly entertaining and enjoyable moments in “Roughcut”, but to save time we’ll just note for the record that no explanation is given as to why Garrett is a master of Martial Arts and deception, and there’s an extended scene of characters rolling down a hill that rivals the one in Black Sheep (1996).

It’s frankly criminal that the Donahue canon is so hard to get a hold of. We don’t know if any Blu-Ray releasing companies read this site, but if so, how about a Sean Donahue Collection set that could include this, Blood Hands, Parole Violators and the rare Ground Rules (1997)? It could introduce these wonderful and little-seen movies to new audiences. We’re also available to do commentary tracks, should that be a bonus feature, by the way.

In the meantime, head over to YouTube and watch “Roughcut” – a great time will be had by all.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Thunder (1983)

Thunder (1983)- * * *

Directed by: Fabrizio De Angelis

Starring: Mark Gregory, Raimund Harmstorf, Paolo Malco, and Bo Svenson

"Thunder will never die!!!"-Kid Running Away

Thunder (Gregory) is a mild-mannered Native American minding his own business and just trying to live his life in Page, Arizona. That is, until a crew of construction workers attempt to bulldoze an ancient Navajo burial site. He goes to the local police station, but Sheriff Bill Cook (Svenson) is no help, and his crew of angry, racist deputies, led by Barry Henson (Harmstorf) only seem to want to harass and torment Thunder. 

After yet another gang of redneck attackers assaults Thunder, he finally snaps – into action, that is. Armed with a bow and arrow, a bazooka, and several bits of stolen construction equipment, Thunder gets in touch with his warrior roots and goes to war with the entire town! Luckily, on his side is the local DJ, who sends out encouraging messages, and a reporter named Brian Sherman (Malco) also gets behind Thunder’s mission. What will be left in the wreckage after THUNDER rolls in?

Here we have the first entry in the Thunder trilogy, all of which are directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman of course), and starring Mark Gregory, AKA Marco Di Gregorio. As has been noted before, Thunder is very closely modeled after First Blood (1982), down to the veritable re-creation of certain scenes. That doesn’t detract from its appeal, however. In fact, it only adds to it. Thunder boasts some fantastic location scenery, fights, car chases, and blow-ups. It’s all set to a typically-great Francesco De Masi score and has some familiar B-Movie names we all know and love (though, to be fair, there should have been just a bit more Bo Svenson). 

We really don’t want to repeat what we said in our reviews for the other Thunder movies, especially part two, because much of that could apply here as well. A lot of the same stuff happens in all three movies in the trilogy. For example, the local redneck population call Thunder a barrage of racial slurs, including “redskin” many, many times. The fact that Thunder is played by Marco Di Gregorio, who was born in Rome and is about as Native American as Pope John Paul II, is very amusing. 

The grandfather in the Thunder family steals the movie, or maybe it’s just his dubbing. But we really enjoyed every scene this elderly gentleman was in, and the final third is a satisfying destruction spree you can’t help but love. If you really do love it, you can watch it two more times in the sequels. Everything catches fire (literally) when Thunder hits his Breaking Point – not unlike Bo Svenson himself in the 1976 film of that name. 

Thunder is B-Movie action fun as only the Italians can serve it up. It was perfect for the video stores of the day (even if, let’s be fair, the minimal plot of the deputies chasing Thunder for almost the entire running time does wear a bit thin after a while). But it all ends on an encouraging note with a memorable final line. As an example of classic Rambosploitation, it’s hard to do much better than Thunder.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Danger Zone III: Steel Horse War (1990)

Danger Zone III: Steel Horse War (1990)- * *1\2

Directed by: Douglas Bronco

Starring: Jason Williams, Robert Random, Barne Wms Subkoski, and Juanita Ranney

Reaper (Random) is an evil outlaw biker who is assembling an army of his fellow “bikies” (as they’re called in Australia, we believe) in a trek around the deserts of Trona, California. 

It seems there is a cache of buried gold that was put there by some confederate soldiers back during the Civil War, and Reaper is out to find it. He wants to use the gold to fund an all-biker city where he is king. He’s causing murder and mayhem along the way, but he’s finally met his match in Wade Olsen (Williams), a former cop and “good” biker who wants to end Reaper’s reign of terror. Teaming up with man of mysticism Rainmaker (Subkoski) and female bike-ette Skin (Ranney), Olsen is hot on Reaper’s trail as he and his biker buddies harass models on a photo shoot, female student archaeologists, and other hapless victims. Who will come out victorious in the STEEL HORSE WAR?

We’ve been trying to figure out why the movie The Danger Zone (1987) has not one, but TWO sequels. Our guess: The late 80’s and early 90’s were a boom time for video stores and DTV, and evidently customers hungered for more of their favorite characters. Which, in this case of course, are Wade Olsen (spelled as Olson in the prior two Danger Zone movies, for those keeping track of Danger Zone minutiae at home), Reaper, and Skin, who appeared in the other outings.

This installment in the trilogy features plenty of pudgy and/or overweight bikers. Tattoos, whippings, and a classic prison transport gone wrong (do they ever go right?) are also on show, as is one of the most brain-cell-depleting fights we’ve seen in some time (the one at the gas station). Wade Olson even has his own “Q” in the style of James Bond, a guy that gives him a panoply of nifty gadgets he can use in his biker war. We appreciated that sort of ingenuity. 

We would say that Olson’s sidekick Rainmaker is a dead ringer for Kenny Rogers, but that’s too easy. Let’s just say he’s a dead ringer for Frederick Offrein, the Swedish man that we know from all the Mats Helge movies. You know, the guy who we lovingly refer to as “The Kenny Rogers Guy”. 

The three Danger Zone movies were each directed by a different person. Intriguingly, for each of the three men (Henry Vernon, Geoffrey Bowers, and Douglas Bronco, respectively) their go in the director’s chair for their Danger Zone movie was their one and only credit. Literally nothing else exists for any of the three men. No acting credits, no second unit, no best boy grip, nothing. Just Danger Zone for all three. It’s one of the mysteries of life, I tell ya.

What Bronco did for his turn was give the whole thing a wraparound where an elementary school kid is reading a comic book called Steel Horse War that is the action of the movie, almost in a Creepshow (1982) style. A lot of the goings-on are a bit violent to be in a kids’ comic book (though there is no real nudity, it gets close). The little kid gets to see a “white power camp” that we know is a “white power camp” because the words “white power camp” are spray-painted on a bedsheet. Pretty intimidating stuff, especially for a young tot. 

For the most part, it’s all done pretty competently (with the possible exception of the dubbing, which adds an amusing layer for the viewers all on its own). You probably won’t be bored, and it’s entertaining enough. Danger Zone III: Steel Horse War is perfectly fine for what it is, but it must be said that we missed The Skirts.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty