Evasive Action (1998)

Evasive Action (1998)- * *1\2
AKA: Steel Train 

Directed by: Jerry P. Jacobs

Starring: Roy Scheider, Dorian Harewood, Clint Howard, Don Swayze, Ray Wise, Mallory Farrow, Ed O'Ross, and Dick Van Patten

When a group of dangerous criminals has to be transported, they’re corralled into a train car which is attached to a regular passenger train. Nothing good can come of this scenario, and, you guessed it, all hell breaks loose. When criminal mastermind Enzo Marcelli (Scheider) breaks his evil compadres out of their chains and commandeers the train, Sheriff Blaidek (Wise) is called in to handle the situation. The hapless and sympathetic prisoner Luke Sinclair (Harewood) is caught up in a situation he can’t control and must become the de facto hero. Will the train reach L.A. as it should…or will EVASIVE ACTION be needed?

Funny how these prisoner transports never go right. You’ve never seen in any movie a group of prisoners being shipped from one location – either by van, truck, train, plane, boat, or hovercraft – and then end up at their intended destination with everyone completely unscathed. They should really stop transporting prisoners altogether. Just leave them where they are. 

Anyway, it’s rather obvious that this is the DTV version of Con Air (1997), except it’s Con Train. As far as DTV train movies go, Evasive Action is better than Death Train (2003), Operation Delta Force (1997), and Derailed (2002), but not nearly as good as Hostage Train (1997). As far as Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), it’s up to you to decide. Just why DTV filmmakers thought audiences would be so fascinated with trains remains unknown. It’s not exactly new technology. It’s not the 1800’s anymore. Presumably they thought countless people would see these train movies on video store shelves and shout “Coooooollll!!!” or “These people are on a TRAIN!! WOwwww!!” Surely there are some train fanatics out there, but how many could there be – and why did DTV filmmakers court them so heavily?

While Evasive Action itself is rather middling, at least the cast is here to help buoy it somewhat – of course there’s Roy Scheider, doing a standard baddie, Don Swayze doing a standard underling, Ray Wise is a standard Sheriff, and Ed O’Ross is a standard warden. Clint Howard isn’t exactly standard like the rest, but his character is really annoying, so I guess it’s for the wrong reason.

We were happy to see Dorian Harewood step out of the shadows of being a bit part or sideman-type actor. This has to be one of the few times he takes the lead, and we were glad for that. He’s rivaled only by one Mallory Farrow as Alex, one of the precocious little girls that these movies tend to have. Oh, and Dick Van Patten does a brief sit-down role as “Parole Officer”. It’s just like in A Dangerous Place (1994) where he played “Principal”. He deserves better – at least give his character a name.

Most of the funny stuff is saved for the end, and the end-credits song, “No Excuses”, is sung by Dorian Harewood himself. He did release an album in 1988 so it wasn’t his first rodeo behind the microphone. The song is one of the better things about Evasive Action.

It seems DTV producers around this time period had a “one-track” mind when it came to trains. Evasive Action is not the best, nor is it the worst, of this bunch. The cast helps keep it from going completely off the rails. But it’s not what we’d call a must-see.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, Exploding Helicopter and Cool Target!


Killing Machine (1984)

Killing Machine (1984)- * * *

AKA Goma-2

Directed by: Jose Antonio De La Loma

Starring: Jorge Rivero, Margaux Hemingway, Ana Obregon, Aldo Sambrell, Hugo Stiglitz, Richard Jaeckel, Willie Ames and Lee Van Cleef

Txema Basterreneche (Rivero) is a simple truck driver who has enough problems in life with people trying to pronounce his name. The last thing he wants is more trouble. But that's just what he gets as he travels the highways between Spain and France as he hauls fruit. Evidently there is a French Produce Mafia who don't take kindly to Txema's fruit runs. The guys in the FPM (we assume that's the union initials for French Produce Mafia) are constantly calling Txema "That damn Spaniard" and "That Spanish bastard". Harsh words indeed, but things escalate from name calling and fruit-stomping to murder when the FPM burns Txema's truck - with his beloved Elisa (Obregon) inside.

Now burning with revenge, Txema hooks back up with former colleague Jacqueline (Hemingway). It seems that in their past, they were both part of a mysterious - and deadly - "organization". Now falling back on his old ways and killing skills, Txema starts taking out the trash - which is, in this case, a bunch of French produce truckers. Picot (Sambrell), Koldo (Stiglitz) and boss Martin (Jaeckel) are all on his list, but Txema eventually works his way up to the final showdown with arch-baddie and produce lawyer Julot (Van Cleef). Will Txema execute his final mission? And what does Tony (Aames) have to do with all this?

Well, you gotta give Killing Machine points for originality. We can't say we've ever seen what we would have to call produce goons before. That's right, produce goons. If you watch enough movies, and dig under every rock, you're bound to find something at least a little bit new and different. Despite some pacing issues, Killing Machine (AKA Goma-2, which is apparently some type of explosive), is enjoyable enough - a sort of European take on F.I.S.T. (1978) meets Death Wish (1974). 

A solid cast and music by the De Angelis brothers also help things along nicely. Revenge movies are among our favorites and it was nice to see fan favorite Jorge Rivero do what he does best. Evidently that includes punching French truckers. (How often do you get a chance to write - or read - the phrase "punching French truckers"? You gotta love it).

It was nice to see Margaux Hemingway, as she doesn't pop up too often around these parts, and you really have to appreciate her eye for art and home decor in the film. The legendary Lee Van Cleef was terrific as the main baddie, definitely a "boo-hiss" situation, and Richard Jaeckel as his underling was okay, nothing spectacular. 

The rest of the Spanish-language cast was fine too, including mainstays Sambrell and Stiglitz. The team-up we've all been waiting for, Jorge Rivero and Willie Aames, finally appears here. The rumors appear to be unfounded, as of this writing, that Willie Aames has legally changed his name to Willie Bibleman.

For an under the radar - or should we say under the CB - revenge film that should be more well known, do check out Killing Machine.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Perfect Weapon (2016)

The Perfect Weapon (2016)- * * *

Directed by: Titus Paar

Starring: Johnny Messner, Sasha Jackson, Richard Tyson, Vernon Wells, and Steven Seagal

Axon Rey, code-named "Condor" (Messner), is a hitman who lets his silencer-laden guns do the talking. (Mostly what they say is "pew pew"). In the year 2029, we all live in a dystopian future controlled by The State. There is an underground freedom movement trying to disrupt the all-consuming central powers of our evil government. 

That's why The Controller (Tyson) runs Condor and tells him who to mercilessly kill. Haunted by memories of his lost love Nina (Jackson), Condor begins to question his life and his missions, which leads him down a road of no return. Naturally, the evil dictator is Steven Seagal as "The Director". What will become of Condor, and his status as THE PERFECT WEAPON?

Wait. Isn't there already a movie called The Perfect Weapon, starring a certain Jeff Speakman? You would think makers of action movies would know this, and pick a different title. How quickly have they forgotten "No Gun. No Knife. No Equal"? Anyway, get ready for Hitman (2007) meets Blade Runner (1982), DTV-style, with a sprinkling of Seagal added into the mix. 

After the near-countless production company logos that precede the film, we see a future where, in true Blade Runner style, giant electronic faces of Steven Seagal are illuminated on skyscrapers as he watches us all. This is not a future I want to be in.

Messner as Axon Rey, AKA Condor - not to be confused with Comdor from The Silencers (1996) - is strongly reminiscent of Mark Strong. At least he's a tough-guy hero and not a fey millennial as we've been seeing lately. Of course, there is the Prerequisite Torture of the hero, along with all the gun-shooting and beat-em-up action. 

Most importantly, though, he talks to his home personal assistant, which is a crystal/plastic pyramid like the one Evie talks to on Out of This World. While, on the whole, there is perhaps a bit too much of the romance subplot, which slows things down, we see why the filmmakers went that route. There's an actual reason but we won't give it away.

It was nice to see fan favorite Vernon G. Wells, but it was a missed opportunity to have him be in the cliched torturer role. He should have done something more interesting, like maybe punch Seagal in the face. Our old buddy Seagal isn't in the movie much overall, but it does seem that he has a strong southern accent in the beginning, but completely loses it at the end. He only does minimal Martial Arts, and it's at the final battle. He wears loose-fitting black robes. We'll just leave it at that.

The Perfect Weapon is in no sense original, but it is made well, especially for the budget. It's better than a lot of other DTV product out there, but once again there is an over-reliance on CGI when there needn't have been any at all. It's not overly long, which is more for the win column.

It won't change your life, but there are certainly worse ways to spend your time. 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett 

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


Operation Delta Force (1997)

Operation Delta Force (1997)- * *

Directed by: Sam Firstenberg

Starring: Jeff Fahey, Ernie Hudson, Frank Zagarino, Joe Lara, Natasha Sutherland, and Hal Holbrook

When some evil terrorist baddies led by Johan Nash (Lara) break into a South African research facility and steal vials of both an ebola-like virus and the "anti-serum", there's only one thing to do. Call the Delta Force, of course. Soon, Captain Lang (Fahey), McKinney (Zagarino), Junger (Sutherland), and Maj. Tipton (Hudson) are unleashed to take down Nash and his underlings. Admiral Henshaw (Holbrook) is at the command center to keep an eye on the situation. 

Although the typical Washington empty suits are bickering about what to do, the Delta Force continues on with their mission - until a development occurs that threatens the whole thing. Will OPERATION DELTA FORCE succeed, or will Johan Nash's evil ponytail rule us all? Dare you find out...?

We don't know how or why, but Nu Image continually - almost stubbornly - keeps churning out these run-of-the-mill actioners. It all feels like we've been here countless times before (maybe because we've seen that same train footage in so many other Nu Image movies) but nothing stands out during Operation Delta Force. It's the same-old same-old.

While there is plenty of gun-shooting and good-quality explosions, and it's shot well, somehow a certain spark is missing. A certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. A grounded helicopter blows up, and Joe Lara gets to show off his Afrikaans accent, but somehow that's not enough. 

It does feature some fan favorites, such as Jeff Fahey, Ernie Hudson, Frank Zagarino, and the perpetually-elderly Hal Holbrook. Hudson tries valiantly to inject some sort of energy and presence, but it's tough going. Holbrook is trapped in a Joe-Estevez-in-Money-To-Burn situation where he just looks at screens the whole time. He does tout the new technology of "VidLink", which evidently was like the 1997 version of Skype.

One of the more noteworthy subplots involved Zagarino's character, who, apparently, is a misogynist and doesn't approve of Junger being there because she's a woman. It didn't really go anywhere, but it should have, perhaps in a fight between the two. Interestingly, One of Natasha Sutherland's only other credits was in the Joe Lara TV series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures.

At almost-random intervals, it looks like some older stock footage of planes and such is trotted out. It doesn't even come close to matching the newly-shot stuff for the movie at hand. It seems like at any moment, a graphic is going to come on screen that says: "America's Navy: Join Today!" It didn't exactly liven things up, but it shows we were paying attention.

There are many, many similar films out there that are just like Operation Delta Force. Unfortunately, this is just another one. It's not badly made, but it doesn't engage the audience and there's nothing different, special, unique, or weird about it. It's just sort of there.

It seems like the sort of thing that Cinemax or one of the other pay channels would have shown in the 90's just to fill a bit of airtime, perhaps in the afternoon. Director Firstenberg has done some awesome movies in the past, but let's face it: this is no Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Assassin's Game (2015)

Assassin's Game (2015)- * *

Directed by: Anoop Rangi

Starring: Tom Sizemore, Vivica A. Fox, Vincent Mentry, Bai Ling, Melissa Mars, and Grand Master Mike Mikita

A man known only as El Viejo (Sizemore) is a crime boss of some sort. He’s so high up the food chain, he spends all his time in an outdoor junkyard/trailer park where he conducts his business. He waves around a gun and a book and yells at people. Vet Jones (Mikita) and his son, appropriately named Junior (Mentry) are father and son hitmen. Junior was supposed to assassinate a woman named Isabella, AKA “The Target” (Fox), but didn’t finish his mission. 

So Vet Jones goes on “One Last Job” to get The Target, but sees what’s really going on, and he doesn’t like it. He tries to change the (Assassin’s) Game but then finds that that entails a lot of kick-punching and gun-shooting. Now Vet Jones has to save Isabella and Junior, all the while having to contend with the ultimate wrath of El Viejo – can he do it? And what does the mysterious woman known only as “The Bodyguard” (Ling) have to do with all this? (We just checked our Spanish-American dictionary and we’ve just been informed that El Viejo means “The Old”. It's also a principality in Nicaragua.

The thing about Assassin’s Game (not to be confused with Assassin’s Run) is that it’s just too stupid to hate. Most people would probably find its rock-bottom budget, 21st century DTV aesthetic, utterly mindless and sometimes grating dialogue, mind-numbing “plot” and dodgy acting off-putting. But Assassin’s Game pulls off a neat trick: each five seconds that passes is progressively dumber than the previous five. 

On the plus side, it is shot clearly and everything can be seen well. On the minus side, do we want to see what we’re seeing? For example, there is plenty of slo-mo on display. Fine. So far, so Chance Boudreaux. But then every time people fire their guns, we get those godforsaken CGI muzzle flashes that are so annoying to see. Whether they be in slo-mo or regular mo, why dwell on the fact that your muzzle flashes are so awful looking? It boggles the mind.

In the cast department, at least they managed to rustle up some good people. Sizemore almost single-handedly maintains the audience’s waning interest. Thank goodness he hams it up and chews scenery like he does. If he didn’t, we’d really be in dullsville. 

Unfortunately, there are some long stretches where he’s nowhere to be seen. Enter “Grand Master” Mike Mikita, who could easily pass for the stunt double for Matthew McConaughey. Was Matt Mullins not available? Nevertheless, we can say without a doubt that he has the raw charisma and animal magnetism of Joe Gates. Or maybe Jay Gates.

Bai Ling seems to exclusively dwell in this zone of z-cinema, and she’s usually up to something interesting, or at least silly. Vivica A. Fox doesn’t get to do all that much, so the female fighting falls to Melissa Mars as Ruby. But Ling does say the classic line “we got company!” It’s in many action movies, so why not this one?

We would say it all ends with the time-honored Final Warehouse Fight, but most of what we’ve just seen takes place in a warehouse, so then the filmmakers probably felt they should finish things off with a Final Field Fight. It’s really more of a showdown, but why split hairs? Said filmmakers should probably realize that audiences are capable of more than they’re given credit for. 

In the end, Assassin’s Game is disposable and not recommended. We’ve seen far worse, but, let’s face it, it’s pretty dopey and half-witted. Like we said before, we don’t hate it, but it did make us long for the 80’s-early-90’s glory days of DTV.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett