Ultimate Justice (2017)

Ultimate Justice (2017)- * * *

Directed by: Martin Christopher Bode

Starring: Mark Dasascos, Mike Moller, Wolfgang Riehm, Brandon Rhea, and Matthias Hues

Gustav-Ferdinand Von Behren (Dacascos) – his friends call him Gus – is the leader of VME, a team of highly-skilled A-Team types who execute dangerous missions and fight the baddies. After a mission goes wrong, the team splits up and they all go their separate ways. However, the owner of VME, Hans (Riehm) has his own problems. 

When his wife is attacked and his daughter kidnapped, that’s enough impetus for Gus to get the old team back together. Kicking into high gear, Gus re-teams with Andreas (Rhea), Radowsky (Hues), Benny (Moller), and other members. After some twists and turns, we finally find out who is on the receiving end of the ULTIMATE JUSTICE.

We really liked Ultimate Justice. First-time director Martin Christopher Bode really seems to know what fans want and he delivers it. We couldn’t be happier that there are still people out there making “Assemble a Team” movies, and the inclusion of fan favorites Dacascos and Hues only sweetens the deal. We enjoyed all the really cool fights and the German backdrop provides a nice setting. You can tell they really cared and that was infectious.

Yes, unfortunately there is some CGI as it relates to the bullet hits, muzzle flashes and such, and if that wasn’t there, it would rank even higher in our eyes. It just wasn’t needed in this tribute to old-school action. That’s really our only complaint – although some people may find the unintentionally humorous dubbing off-putting. We thought it just added to the throwback feel that we’re used to. Plus it provides a couple of laffs. 

Bode opts to let us get to know the characters a bit more than what we usually see, so that was appreciated. But, of course, there’s plenty of gun-shooting and Martial Arts action. Naturally, the Prerequisite Torture is here too (and, unrelated to that, we get to see the world’s fastest neck snap). Mike Moller – not to be confused with Matt Mullins - stands out as an impressive fighter and we look forward to seeing what he does in the future.

Striking a nice balance between the more serious-minded and the silly, Ultimate Justice delivers the goods for action fans in this modern era of DTV.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and Bulletproof Action! 


U.S. Seals 3 (2002)

U.S. Seals 3 (2002)- * *

Directed by: Franklin A. Vallette

Starring: Tyler Christopher and Bentley Mitchum

Rick (Christopher) is the leader of a SEAL team in Albania. He and the rest of his crew have to take along a mysterious man named Andreas (Mitchum) with them as a guide. But what is Andreas’s real purpose for being involved with the mission? After a lot of shooting and blow-ups, we finally get to the truth…but what will be the real cost to these FROGMEN?

U.S. SEALS 3 is very standard fare. It doesn’t have the unusual plot turnaround of the first outing, or the energy and entertainment of the Isaac Florentine-directed second installment. It’s just kinda there. It’s not bad, per se, but it does get quite boring and is fairly typical Nu-Image muck. It could’ve used a name, any name, to pep things up…Tom Sizemore, Jay Roberts, Jr., Kellan Lutz…somebody.

Probably because we’re dealing with Navy SEALS, there are plenty of underwater scenes and it does bring something new to the table: underwater grunting. You haven’t heard grunting until you’ve heard underwater grunting. Granted, the characters involved probably wouldn’t have heard themselves grunt, but, in the pioneering spirit of the film, we, the audience, get to hear this sonic marvel. Also there’s a classic “NOOOOOOoooo!!!”, as we frequently hear, but, you guessed it: It’s underwater this time. Pretty sweet. I guess.

As is often the case with these military-based outings, much-needed character development is thrown by the wayside. Adding insult to injury, a lot of the characters, especially the SEAL team, look a lot alike. So it’s hard to tell – or care – who is speaking or what’s really going on. But there is a lot of silly and nonthreatening violence papered over it all. Additionally, when they were trying to explain where they were, they misspelled “Aegean” on the screen. Where was the quality control?

In 1994, before his murder troubles, O.J. Simpson was set to star in a series called Frogmen. Also, Deep Purple has an album called Stormbringer. No doubt inspired by these series of events, Nu-Image concocted this, U.S. Seals 3 AKA Frogmen Operation Stormbringer. It’s a 90-minute film released in 2002. It probably runs at 24 frames per second. You can watch it on a screen. We think that pretty much covers all there is to say.

We were not moved in one direction or another by this film. We didn’t love it, and it’s not nearly bad enough to hate. It simply exists in our world, like rocks and trees and mountains and sand. If that sounds like a ringing endorsement, you can watch it on Amazon Prime. But we think you may have better things to do.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Riot (2015)

Riot (2015)- * *1\2

Directed by: John Lyde

Starring: Matthew Reese, Chuck Liddell, Danielle C. Ryan and Dolph Lundgren

Jack Stone (Reese) – not to be confused with Hack Stone – was a Cop On The Edge, but now he’s a cop in prison. He put himself there so he could get revenge. Super-evil baddie Balam (Liddell) runs the prison with an iron fist from his own plush, private area. 

Many inmates are his underlings that do his bidding, so when Jack Stone first arrives on the inside, he’s going to have to fight his way all the way to the top – to Balam, the Russian Gangster who ruined his life by committing some vile acts. However, it’s not all hopeless; Jack Stone finds some friends along the way, most notably William (Dolph), the kindly janitor. But what is William’s secret? Also Alena Childs (Ryan) is on the case along with the good guys. Our three heroes have to fight not just Balam and his goons, but they also have to fight city hall. Corrupt politicians and wardens are on both the take and the make. Naturally it all ends in a classic prison RIOT…

Riot – not to be confused with the classic Gary Daniels Riot – is a decent enough example of a latter-day DTV prison action outing. It’s very clearly influenced by Death Warrant (1990) and Bloodfist 3 (1992), among other examples you could possibly name. As for our main hero, Matthew Reese, he’s in the grand tradition of Joe Flanagan and Dean Ambrose.

One of the better aspects of Riot is, unsurprisingly, Dolph Lundgren. Perhaps sensing that Matthew Reese couldn't carry the entire film on his shoulders, producers brought in the almighty Dolph. (To be fair, we don't know for a fact that that's what happened, but it's as likely a scenario as any). Dolph puts in a genuinely excellent performance, and even gets to stretch a little as an actor. Casual fans might not believe it, but casual fans won't be watching Riot anyway. 

There are plenty of prison fights, including a handful on the female side of the prison (we assume the male and female prisons are on opposite sides of the same building?) - and we believe Danielle C. Ryan can have a bright future in DTV action if she wants one.

While the stunts and brawls are more than competently executed, in the editing they did that annoying thing where they take out frames of film during the fight, presumably to increase the speed and the impact level. Consequently, it has a bit of a herky-jerky look that they're not even trying to hide. Modern-day DTV filmmakers seem to think that it's just a matter of course to do things this way these days, and we're all supposed to accept it. Well, we don't like that very much. We say let the fights speak for themselves, with no trickery.

In classic fashion, people are after the information that's on "the discs", but because we're now in 2015, they also want what's on "the thumb drives". Similarly, Riot adheres to what we've seen before in the realm of the prison movie. The problem with that is there is only so much you can do in that setting, and it starts to get a bit repetitive after a while. But, naturally, it all comes to a head in the time-honored prison riot, which is done quite well. 

In the end, Riot delivers exactly what you would expect - and what you would want - in a beat-em-up prison movie. It doesn't undercut your expectations, nor does it exceed them.

Comeuppance Review by Brett and Ty


Showdown In Manila (2016)

Showdown In Manila (2016)- * * *

Directed by: Mark Dascascos

Starring: Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Mark Dacascos, Matthias Hues, Tia Carrere, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Polina Butorina, Olivier Gruner, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, and Cynthia Rothrock

Nick Peyton (Nevsky) and Charlie Benz (Van Dien) are buddies and private detectives, but they seem more like mercenaries. After her beloved husband, Matthew Wells (Dacascos), is slaughtered by some baddies, including Dorn (Hues), a certain Mrs. Wells (Carrere) pays a visit to Nick and Charlie. She wants both answers and revenge, so she goes with the best. It turns out the super-evil Aldric Cole (Tagawa) is behind all the chaos. One of the smarter moves made by Peyton and Benz includes calling in some most excellent reinforcements: Haines (Rothrock), Dillon (The Dragon), and Ford (Gruner). What will happen after the SHOWDOWN IN MANILA?

Showdown In Manila was a pleasant surprise. As it is the long-awaited directorial debut of Mark Dacascos, we knew he wouldn’t let us down, and he didn’t. The man knows too much about what works and what doesn’t work in the world of action movies to really produce a dud. As it was produced, in part, by Dacascos, Nevsky, and Andrzej Bartkowiak, and features a lot of the same cast members, this could have been another Maximum Impact (2017). Thankfully, it isn’t. It’s a lot better. It’s snappier, shorter, and the humor works a lot more. It mercifully doesn’t include Tom Arnold making references to his bladder.

Even the setting of the Philippines is a nod to the golden age of action in the 70’s and 80’s, as is the title, which is reminiscent of Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991), Showdown (1993), or pretty much any action movie in the past where people were having some sort of showdown. It seemed to happen a lot back then.

Clearly, the standout aspect of ‘Manila is its stellar cast. For our two main heroes, we have the power team we’ve all been waiting to see together – Nevsky and Van Dien. Both are likable and they make a great duo. For some reason Nevsky seems to get a lot of “shade” online but we think he’s a solid action presence and has a Schwarzenegger-esque sense of humor. He doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously, but he can still give the baddies a quality pounding. Nevsky should have been around in the 80’s, but now that he’s in our era, he can act as a sort of “throwback” action star of the type we’re more used to. 

Matthias Hues feels like an old friend at this point, and Tagawa always – ALWAYS – plays the baddie. He must have that kind of face. Carrere isn’t hunting relics anymore and it was nice to see her (and she was, of course, in the aforementioned Showdown In Little Tokyo, as was Tagawa). Things pick up when our heroes meet up with the reinforcements in the jungle. Seeing fan favorites Rothrock, The Dragon, and Gruner shooting and fighting people in the jungle really brought us back. It’s a direct reference to the 80’s and early 90’s. There just should have been less (or, ideally, no) CGI or questionable muzzle flashes. But that’s a minor quibble when we see our favorite stars back in action. Literally.

The three reinforcements should have had more screen time, but we’re happy with what we have. While they’re all wearing camo in the jungle, including Rothrock, her bright pink hair streaks kind of defeat that purpose…but it’s all part of the fun. The movie is filled with silly shootouts and amusing humor. It would’ve gone to theaters in the 80’s for sure.

Featuring the T.a.T.u-esque theme song, “Another Life” by Polina Butorina (who was in both this and Maximum Impact and sings both theme tunes), Showdown In Manila is about as close as we’re going to come these days to golden era-style action, and we applaud Nevsky, Dacascos, and the gang for that. We say keep ‘em coming.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


The Hard Way (2019)

The Hard Way (2019)- * *

Directed by: Keoni Waxman

Starring: Michael Jai White, Luke Goss, George Remes, Grant Campbell, and Randy Couture

Payne (White) is just a humble bar owner in New York City who pays his bills, minds his business, and beats up gangsters that try to muscle in on his turf. When he gets word that his brother Cody (Campbell) was killed by baddies, Payne does the only sensible thing: he flies to Bucharest, Romania to get answers. 

While there, he links up with Cody's crimefighting partner Mason (Goss). Complicating matters are the fact that there is a psychotic baddie named Joe Vig (Remes) who is torturing and murdering people, including some of Payne's and Mason's beloved girls at the local strip club. Now they're mad and want revenge. But Briggs (Couture) may have something to say about that. Will things be done the Payne/Mason way, or...you guessed it...THE HARD WAY?

Not to be confused with The Hard Way (1989) with Miles O'Keeffe, or The Hard Way (1991) with James Woods and Michael J. Fox, or any other movie called The Hard Way, this particular Hard Way puts fan favorite Michael Jai White in a situation that isn't ideal.

The opening fight scene between White and the gangsters is fun, but then the film becomes much more dour and serious than it needs to be. White goes to Romania (of course it's Romania) and then a lull ensues. A lot of stupid, inane dialogue and an unengaging plot, unfortunately, also ensues. 

The Hard Way isn't great. It isn't eye-scratchingly awful either. It's just mediocre. It's watchable enough, we suppose, but you don't care about the characters as much as you should or could. There's nothing extraordinary going on here.

Of course, that doesn't dampen our fandom for Michael Jai White. He's by far the best thing here, but he can't overcome the deficiencies of plot and characterization. None of these weaknesses should come as a surprise from anyone who has seen anything else by director Waxman. 

He's made a lot of latter-day DTV outings with Seagal. 'Nuff said. His smartest move this time around was replacing his usual muse Seagal with White. But he needed to go further and make something audiences might actually care about. Lazily leaning on cliches like a crutch isn't going to win you any new fans and converts. It's long past time for Waxman to think outside the box, if he's capable of doing so. 

Goss is perfectly fine, if a bit bland, as the support. Toll Road himself, Couture, is here too. He has yet to set the acting world on fire (maybe because of his surprisingly high-pitched voice) like Dave Bautista, but maybe he's just not getting the right material.

Michael Jai White should be in another movie like Blood and Bone (2009) instead of undistinguished fare such as this. As The Hard Way is a Netflix Original Movie, they should have known that, and made something more catered to the fans, not to mention what White excels at.

So, The Hard Way is yet another middle-of-the-road modern-day DTV actioner. While it certainly had the potential to be something special, we didn't think it was anything to get excited about.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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