The Return Of Superfly (1990)

The Return Of Superfly (1990)- * *1\2

Directed by: Sig Shore

Starring: Nathan Purdee, Tico Wells, Leonard Thomas, and Samuel L. Jackson

After living in Paris for some years, Youngblood Priest (Purdee) returns home to his old haunts in New York City. He is dismayed to find out that crack and violence rule the streets in 1990 and there is no honor among thieves like there used to be. He's been out of "the game" for so long because, supposedly, he's been running a legitimate business. 

He turns to his friend Nate (Jackson) for help and information, but Nate is a crack manufacturer and tied in with the drug gangs. When certain people in Priest's life not-so-mysteriously start dying, he then teams up with Willy Green (Wells), a heavily-armed survivalist type. The aim of the two newfound friends is to get revenge for the death of Priest's friends. Will they do it?

What's good about The Return of Superfly is that it's not at all slick. It's a low budget, gritty look at the New York City of the day, with songs by Eazy-E and King Tee on the soundtrack. Not to mention a pre-Freedom Strike Tone-Loc. Characters wear thick gold chainses and are hustling the best they can. Although, beware: the community might just band together to expel a local pimp.

Yes, to state the obvious, Ron O'Neal is not Superfly this time, but he's got a solid replacement. We enjoyed Nathan Purdee in the main role, although we couldn't help but imagine Billy Dee Williams or, perhaps more realistically, Ivan Rogers as Priest. Tico Wells as Willy adds a lot to the proceedings and is very likable. A young Samuel L. Jackson is also here, and he wouldn't be seen here on Comeuppance until Arena (2011). Leonard Thomas as Joey, one of the evil baddies, stands out with his inimitable laugh. Once you hear this guy chuckle, you may never be the same. 

It all opens with a bang (a very silly bang), but, in all fairness, The Return of Superfly falls victim to some very common pitfalls of low-budget filmmaking, namely some poor lighting and the plot sags in the middle and it slows down a bit too much. It could have used someone like Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs to liven things up. All in all, it should have been more like director Sig Shore's prior film Sudden Death (1985) - a movie we prefer to this one.

Perhaps it could be said that The Return of Superfly is the first (or, certainly, one of the first) of what came to be called "Homie Movies". In that sense it is a pioneering film - the Homie Movie boom of the 90's owes a lot to not just the original Super Fly from 1972, but this entry in the series as well.

Finally, we'd just like to note that there is a club scene where people play stand-up arcade games such as Rampage and (we think) Pole Position (we tend to point out things like that), and certain scenes are filmed in and around the Stamford area in our beloved home state of Connecticut (whenever there are Connecticut-filmed scenes in movies, we tend to point those out too). 

For those who may not know, Stamford is right outside New York City and such cinematic classics as Seagal's Pistol Whipped (2008) were also shot there. It's also the city where director Sig Shore sadly passed away at the age of 87. For the Super Fly series and Sudden Death alone, he will always be remembered.

Final words: we liked the street-level grittiness of The Return of Superfly, and the fact that Purdee as Priest comes back to a new world of crack and violence he doesn't quite understand, was a solid idea. Although it could have been a bit snappier overall, we say check it out if the early days of the "Homie Movie" float your boat.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


High Voltage (1997)

High Voltage (1997)- * *1\2

Directed by: Isaac Florentine

Starring: Antonio Sabato Jr., Amy Smart, William Zabka, Lochlan Munro, James Lew, George Cheung, Antonio Sabato Sr., Mike Mains, and Shannon Lee

Johnny (Sabato Jr.), Larry (Munro), Molly (Smart), and Sam (Mains) are a bank-robbing gang and they sure do love their guns. Their luck runs out when a particular bank that they rob is a front for the Vietnamese mafia. Now Victor Phan (Cheung) and Harry (Lew), among many other goons, are after them. So is a biker named Bulldog (Zabka). Of course his name is Bulldog. The final showdown occurs at a run-down hotel managed by Carlo (Sabato Sr.) – who will come out on top in this gang war?

In 1998, we were all living in a post-Tarantino, post-John Woo world. Director Isaac Florentine seemingly decided he should try his hand at a mélange of the two directors’ styles, but complete with his own trademark “whoosh” sound effects. Thanks to fight choreographer Koichi Sakamoto and Florentine himself, the fight scenes are well-done and fun to watch. Hence, High Voltage shouldn’t be classified as a Tarantino slog, necessarily, but in the non-action scenes, it gets fairly close.

Yes, there is a lot of inconsequential, post-dubbed dialogue in between the action scenes that viewers probably won’t really care about. But then a, frankly, High Voltage action scene will arrive and things perk up a lot. Thrill’s Antonio Sabato Jr. not only flies sideways while shooting two pistols, he flies frontwards while shooting two pistols as well. There’s plenty of top-notch stuntwork going on and the action setpieces are very enjoyable.

Thankfully, William Zabka screams while shooting a machine gun. The movie overall could have used more Zabka. He sports a very 90’s “grunge” look throughout the film, as it was the 90’s after all (though if memory serves, grunge was fairly well out the window by ’98. That didn’t preclude the inclusion of a song called “Trashgrunge” on the soundtrack, however). 

Also helping things are the presences of fan favorites James Lew, George Cheung, and an uncredited Donald Gibb as a bartender. It was also nice to see Antonio Sabato Sr. join the fray. Interestingly, Amy Smart, as you probably well know, was in Crank: High Voltage (2009). Surely this must mark one of the few, if only, times an actress appeared in an action movie, then, over ten years later, was in another film with the same title (although, granted, it’s a subtitle in the latter case). Still, worthy to point out, I think. 

Featuring a “greatest hits” recap before the credits, not during them as certain Jackie Chan films do, High Voltage has its flaws – pretty much the plot and dialogue department – but makes up for it in the action department. That being said, it was probably one of the best things coming out on video store shelves at the time – the late 90’s/early 2000’s being a notoriously fallow time for quality DTV product. For the action scenes, we say give High Voltage a watch.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Aftershock (1990)

Aftershock (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Frank Harris

Starring: Jay Roberts Jr., Chris DeRose, Elizabeth Kaitan, James Lew, Matthias Hues, Chuck Jeffreys, Al Leong, Chris Mitchum, Michael Berryman, Russ Tamblyn, Gerald Okamura, John Saxon, and Richard Lynch

"Chill Out, Mushroom"-Prisoner

In a post-apocalyptic world, society is broken up into fascist-type overlords and their minions who try to control the population, and the rebels who fight the baddies for their freedom. Everyone in society is required to have a barcode on their arm. However, the underground resistance is gathering steam with their "Start To Question!" campaign, which they push through flyers, spray-painted walls, and other means. 

The catalyst for the ultimate battle between the Empire and the Rebels is a beautiful extraterrestrial named Sabina (Kaitan). Baddie Oliver Quinn (Saxon) wants to experiment on her, but rebel Willie (Roberts Jr.) wants to run away with her. Will it be World War III...again?

Aftershock may be one of the many, many post-apocalyptic movies out there (we call them post-ap's for short), but it has a handful of things going for it that its competitors don't. Its Star Wars-esque plot allows for some actual ideas to come forth, which is more than some of the others can claim. Also, on the whole it's a lot better than, say, Bloodfist 2050 (2005) or Dragon Fire (1993). It's directed by Frank Harris, who is very well known to us from his action films of the 70's and 80's, and the whole thing gets funnier and more enjoyable as it goes along. By the halfway point, things really start to pick up. 

But, unquestionably, Aftershock has one of the best B-Movie casts ever. We don't say that lightly. Somehow Harris was able to corral an amazing bunch of people - and the whole thing doesn't even fall prey to Lone Tiger Effect. Sure, with such a cast, not everyone gets all the time in the spotlight they perhaps should, but the movie overall is far from a dud. Here's a breakdown:

- Jay Roberts, Jr. as Willie, the rebel with the earring, motorcycle, rattail, and Martial Arts moves is the main hero and love interest for Sabina. We hadn't seen him since White Phantom and were glad to see his triumphant return.
- Chuck Jeffreys as Danny, Willie's sidekick. His energy, athletic ability, and Eddie Murphy-esque charisma was more than welcome.
- Elizabeth Kaitan as Sabina, the alien. Her transformation from clueless creature from another world to wise woman was genuinely charming. She learned all she knows by soaking up the info from a container of floppy disks (as we all did back then...though isn't this the future? Anyway...) and it's well-noted that she wears fireproof clothes.
- John Saxon as the evil Oliver made the perfect main baddie. If he's the Darth Vader, then...
- Richard Lynch as Commander Eastern was the Emperor. He wasn't in it that much but it was nice to see him.
- James Lew was one of the enforcers, and...
- Chris DeRose was one of the others. Both were heavies but DeRose looked more like Chris Noth than ever.
- Chris Mitchum - we haven't even gotten to Chris Mitchum until now! Normally his presence alone in a movie would be enough for us. Here he's one of the rebel commanders. You can always use more Mitchum but what are ya gonna do?
- Matthias Hues is a hulking, punchfighting, almost Conan-esque brute. He doesn't say anything, but his partner in crime is none other than...
- Michael Berryman - even by his standards his character is extremely bizarre, a cross-dressing fighter of the wasteland.
- Russ Tamblyn is also on board as a bartender and good guy. What little screen time he has, he makes the most of with a sympathetic character.
- Al Leong and
- Gerald Okamura both have blink-and-you'll-miss-em cameos as fighters in some of the Punchfighting/battle scenes.

This reads more like the lineup for a convention like Chiller Theatre than a cast list for one movie. For the cast alone, Aftershock is worth seeing. The post-ap aspects (post-aspects?) aren't amazingly different from others of its ilk, but the main difference is the terrific cast. 

Filmed at the Kaiser Steel Plant in Fontana, California and the Domtar Gypsum Paper Mill in Vernon, California - because obviously places where they used to make paper and steel now look like bombed-out wastelands - Aftershock does have some standout moments, mainly after the halfway point, and the cast is fantastic. That should be enough for at least a one-time watch.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Maximum Impact (2017)

Maximum Impact (2017)- * *

Directed by: Andrzej Bartkowiak

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Kelly Hu, Polina Butorina, Alexander Nevsky, Bai Ling, Matthias Hues, Danny Trejo, Eric Roberts, Tom Arnold, and William Baldwin

When Secretary of State Robert Jacobs (Roberts) travels to Russia on an important mission, his teenage daughter Brittany (Butorina) tags along. The main reason she does this is so she can run off with a boy band pop star she’s been texting with. This seems like the ideal time for a baddie named Tony Lin (Dacascos) and his sidekick Ian (Hues) to kidnap her. 

After a lot of bumbling around, they finally manage to do this, and so an American CIA (?) agent named Kate (Hu) has to team up with a Russian FSB strongman named Maxim Kadurin (Nevsky) to save the girl, and, if time allows, her date. As if that wasn’t enough, a criminal mastermind of some sort named Sanchez (Trejo) and his goons are causing trouble all over Russia. How do Barnes (Arnold), Scanlon (Ling), and, perhaps most enigmatically, “Man In Shadows” (Baldwin) all fit into this picture?

Much like director Bartkowiak’s prior Exit Wounds (2001), Maximum Impact is a mix of action and comedy that features Tom Arnold. The emphasis this time around seems firmly on the side of comedy, even though there are some silly and not entirely serious fight scenes and some car chases, both of which appear to be green screen-enhanced. Stick with Exit Wounds. Or, also featuring Dacascos, Drive (1997).

The jokey tone and childish dialogue start to get tiresome after a while, and expecting the viewer to tolerate this over the course of an inexcusable 109-minute running time is just asking too much. On the plus side, it has a lot of energy and a fast pace, but it just goes on and on too long. 

Yes, there are fruit cart chases and a lovely framed Eric Roberts picture on the wall, but on the other end of the spectrum there are green screen missiles and helicopters, teenagers texting, and dialogue that mentions Instagram and Snapchat. Have we really fallen that far from Charles Bronson blowing away the bad guys with a rocket launcher? If this is truly the state of action in 2017, we’ll stick with the old classics, please.

There are too many people in the cast to really break down fully, but let’s just say this is a classic case of Lone Tiger Effect. Hell, it even has Matthias Hues, as if to underline the point that much more. Did all these people know they were signing on for a goofy comedy? It has all the Bartkowiak trademarks, such as putting hip hop beats under the dialogue scenes, and a wacky coda during the credits. 

William Baldwin just makes wacky faces into a screen. There’s a place called Grump International Plaza. Tom Arnold’s running gag is about his bladder. We could go on, but we won’t. That being said, Alexander Nevsky somehow manages to come out of all this relatively unscathed. Maybe that’s because he’s credited as a producer on the film.

Comedies and action movies shouldn’t be more than 90 minutes. Don’t filmmakers know this by now? Maximum Impact wears out its welcome quickly and leaves minimal impact on the viewers.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty