Three Days To A Kill (1992)

Three Days To A Kill (1992)- * *1\2

Directed by: Fred Williamson

Starring: Fred Williamson, Bo Svenson, Henry Silva, Van Johnson, Sonny Landham, Kim Dakor, Karol Brown, Tom Joyner, Kellie Rochelle, and Chuck Connors

When Ambassador Barnes (Brown) is kidnapped by a Colombian drug lord named Perez (Silva) and his sidekick Pepe (Landham), Captain Wright (Connors) calls a man named Cal (Williamson). Why did he call Cal? Because Cal is "The Best", of course. Tasked with going to Colombia to rescue the ambassador, Cal enlists the help of Rick Masters (Svenson), an explosives expert. 

It just so happens that Rick is in prison, but Cal promises him an early release, along with some bonus cash, if he can help execute the mission. The last member of the team arrives in the form of Yolanda (Dakour), a military contact masquerading as a stripper. While dealing with the troublemaking Rick Masters is going to be a handful, Cal and Yolanda forge ahead. Naturally, there are many pitfalls (i.e. shootouts) along the way, and maybe a conspiracy or two that will go all the way to...well, you know where. Will our trio save the ambassador? Or will it be THREE DAYS TO A KILL...for him?

Three Days To A Kill (which sounds a bit like a Seagal title, don't you think?) is a film of firsts and lasts. It was Van Johnson's last feature film, Chuck Connors's last feature film, the first - and last - Fred Williamson made-for-HBO film, and, perhaps most importantly, it's both the first and last production of Snizzlefritz Productions. When we first started this site, we made a vow to see every Snizzlefritz production. And now we have. 

With that triumph under our belts, we can now talk about the film itself. As we never tire of saying, Fred Williamson is one cool customer. Everything he does, says, and wears is just cool. He has a lot of charisma and it's a joy to watch him onscreen. When he's paired with Bo Svenson - who has his own unique brand of charisma - they make a great team. An original odd couple, you might say.

While 'Three Days gets off to a bang-up start - with fan-favorite Connors using a smaller weapon than most viewers are used to seeing him with; he went from being the Rifleman to being the Pistolman - it does tend to lose steam in many spots. There will be a shootout or some sort of action scene, and then it'll settle back down.

The proceedings get a huge shot in the arm when the characters of Slick (Joyner) and his associate Godzilla (Rochelle) show up. These two almost singlehandedly (if it's possible for two people to do something singlehandedly) steal the movie. Heck, they should have gotten their own movie! To think that they stole the show when classic/veteran actors like Connors, Johnson, Williamson, Silva, Landham and Svenson are all here is truly saying something.

The cast is clearly a strong one, but the material surrounding them is not befitting of their talents. Sure, the Van Johnson role is of the sit-down variety, but in this case it's understandable as he passed away shortly thereafter. While Johnson did indeed go to that big Priority Red One in the sky, his co-star from that outing, Fred Williamson, carried on. He inevitably faces off against Silva, forever a baddie, and Landham, who really does the evil underling role with gusto this time around.

Of course, someone says "We got company!" and it's rather obvious that the whole thing is just a made-for-cable version of 48 Hrs. (1982) but with the races reversed. It's all just entertaining enough - especially if you're a fan of any of the personalities involved - but there are definitely some dead spots (or at least slower spots) along the way.

At the very least, it's a one-time watch. It's not bad, it's not great, but Three Days To A Kill has one thing that literally no other movie in existence has. In a word: Snizzlefritz.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Enter The Blood Ring (1995)

Enter The Blood Ring (1995)- * *1\2

Directed by: Tom Oliver

Starring: Benjamin Kobby, Robert Z'Dar, Robert Chapin, Rod Kei, T.J. Storm, and Malibu

After the death of his wife, Punchfighter Luke Genera (Kobby) is struggling to take care of their son, Adam. Sadly, Adam has a brain tumor and Luke's day job as a cab driver isn't making ends meet, so he fights in underground Punchfighting matches at night. His goal is to save up enough money to move from L.A. to Australia because they're working on an experimental new treatment for tumors there. When gangster/fight promoter Sal D'Angelo (Z'Dar) announces a tournament where the winner walks away with $500,000, Luke trains like he's never trained before. Will Luke come out victorious after he decides to ENTER THE BLOOD RING?

Enter The Blood Ring appears to be one of the lesser-seen entries in the Punchfighting genre, at least here in America. It seems its low-budget origins ensured that it didn't get much penetration into the marketplace, even though video stores were hungry for this sort of thing at the time. You'd think that the presence of Malibu alone would guarantee it would be on every video store shelf in the U.S., but unfortunately that didn't turn out to be the case.

Star Benjamin Kobby (AKA Ben Maccabee) puts in a very Steven Niijar-esque performance. While he does tend to mumble (and have an accent), the audience warms to him because he has a likable personality and he's not fighting for personal or monetary gain, he's doing it to save his son's life. 

Apparently this was based on a true story, but is that itself true? We may never know. He also wears a suede vest and no shirt, and that is something we do know for sure. The fact that he's a likable cab driver/fighter drawn into the world of L.A. gangsters will inevitably draw comparisons to Lee Canalito and The Glass Jungle (1988). 

One thing The Glass Jungle doesn't have - or any other movie that we can name, for that matter - is a gangster who looks like Jerry Seinfeld but speaks like Marlon Brando. This very unusual and jarring combination of traits is something you just have to see. His scenes with Z'Dar are quite bizarre (or should we say B'Zar?) 

Further setting itself apart from others of its ilk, ETBR has these interstitial black and white bits where different fighters are being interviewed. There's a subplot about a writer named Thompson who is writing a book about underground fighting, so he goes around with his video camera conducting interviews. Interpolating this "mockumentary" into the main thrust of the film was a nice idea and it helped to move things along. It almost could have been a full movie unto itself.

There's the classic sax on the soundtrack and the classic wailing guitar on the soundtrack - sometimes these things are much louder in the sound mix than the dialogue, which seems to have been recorded quietly. But, any sound issues aside, the chance to see Ben Kobby, Malibu, Robert Z'Dar, Robert Chapin of Ring of Steel (1994) fame, Rod Kei of Ring of Fire (1991) fame, and T.J. Storm of The Ultimate Game (2001) fame all together is surely worth your time. (Storm and Chapin also starred together in Dragon Fury, for those keeping track at home).

For some classic mid-90's Punchfighting, do check out Enter the Blood Ring.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Scarred City (1998)

Scarred City (1998)- * * *

Directed by: Ken Sanzel

Starring: Stephen Baldwin, Tia Carrere, Chuck Zito, and Chazz Palminteri

NYC cop John Trace (Baldwin) is very close to being On The Edge. Because of his trigger-happy style of policing, he is noticed by Lt. Laine Devon (Palminteri), the head of the SCAR Unit. The SCAR Unit is a super-secret sect within the police department that is more or less a vigilante-style execution squad that kills baddies with no remorse or consequences. Because John Trace is basically a good guy, he doesn't really fit in with the SCAR's rogue, and, at times, amoral ways.

When he saves the life of Candy (Carrere) during a SCAR raid on a Colombian drug lord's home, the two must go on the run because they're now a threat to this mostly-illegal operation. Now Trace's former compatriots are after him, and, as we've seen, they are relentless in their pursuit of who they deem is a threat. Will Trace and Candy ride off into the sunset...or will they be just two more victims of the SCARRED CITY?

Sort of Sudden Impact (1983) meets The Sweeper (1996), Scarred City is a pretty entertaining romp through the world of DTV police thrillers. One of the things that sets Scarred City apart from the other "rogue police unit" movies is that it gets right to the vigilante-ism. It doesn't make you wait like the other entries. It wants to get that going right out of the gate so it can concentrate on how Trace and Candy are going to figure out what to do next once the SCAR Unit is after them.

The movie never totally explained what SCAR stands for, but they did give us the first two letters - Selected Crime. The A and the R are apparently up for debate. Arrest Record? Able Resource? Acapulco Remoulade? We may never know. Well, it's not that important. But it does tie back into the title of the film, so you'd think they'd make it more clear. One of the alternate titles was Scar City, and there is indeed a scarcity of explanation about that. 

There is a lot of gun-shooting and a car chase. It's a Nu-Image movie but Charla Driver from PM was involved in the production. So it's something of a mix of the styles those production companies are known for. For a DTV movie from 1998 with Stephen Baldwin, it's a lot better than you might expect. There are some cool moments and the script is above average. 

Tia Carrere helps a lot. She sings two songs and she rises above what could have been the cliched "annoying sidekick along for the ride" role. We're grateful they didn't go down that road. Her character becomes a true partner to Trace and she does get in on the action. Baldwin and Palminteri reunite here after The Usual Suspects (1995) and it really shows how Hollywood is a funny place. 

One minute you're starring in a pretty much universally-beloved film with wide distribution, and the next, you're doing a low-budget cop movie with Chuck Zito as Guard #3. That's the magic of the DTV world, we suppose. That's why we'll keep bringing movies like this to light as long as we can.

Sometimes these late-90's DTV outings can get kind of dire, but Scarred City manages to set itself apart from the many lesser entries in the low budget, cop/shooting subgenre. If that sounds good to you, it's certainly worth checking out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Higher Ground (1988)

Higher Ground (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Robert Day

Starring: John Denver, Richard Masur, Martin Kove, and John Rhys-Davies

Jim Clayton (Denver) is an L.A. FBI agent who isn't quite On The Edge, but he's getting close. So to prevent getting there, he relocates to Jordan, Alaska to start a new life as a bush pilot. While there, he reconnects with his old buddy Rick (Kove) and his wife and son, and pretty soon, all three are flying the friendly skies with Annakin Airlines. But perhaps things aren't as friendly as they first appeared. 

It seems the nefarious McClain (Masur) has an illegal bootlegging operation running, and Rick gets caught in the middle of it all. So now Clayton must go it alone and find out the truth about McClain, the bootleggers, and just why alcohol is illegal in Alaska anyway. Will he fall on his face...or reach HIGHER GROUND?

Schwarzenegger. Stallone. Seagal. Van Damme. Denver. A pantheon of the action gods, I tell ya. To be fair, Higher Ground is a decent enough TV movie from 1988 that was also a pilot for a prospective show. And pilot is indeed the operative word, as Denver and Kove fly all over Alaska (or is it Canada?) in search of those dastardly bootleggers. 

Because it was made for TV - and this was long before the dominance of cable - it's all pretty tame stuff. There's no real violence, no nudity, and no bad language. Despite what you may have hoped for, John Denver does not shoot anyone in the head. He doesn't go on any drinking benders, killing sprees, Punchfighting tournaments, or anything of the sort. Hell, he doesn't even get involved in any car chases. But there are exactly two scenes of Denver-Fu. That's right, he all but shouts "Rocky Mountain Hi-Ya!" as he beats up some dudes. Now that's entertainment. Those scenes should have been longer. Much longer.

So think Airwolf meets Northern Exposure, maybe with a dash of Wings, but without the humor. But I repeat myself. Hey, we kid Wings because we love Wings (or do we?) 

Anyway, John Denver looks like John Ritter meets Don Johnson. He's glasses-less this time around and he takes time out from his transition from FBI man to plane-flying man with a good ol' country singalong. Apropos of (almost) nothing, at a party, Clayton just happens to whip out his acoustic guitar and he plays the song "Alaska and Me" in its entirety. And the rest of the partygoers all know the words. It was a movie highlight for sure.

Denver is backed up with some solid support - Martin Kove as his buddy Rick was a more than welcome addition, and John Rhys-Davies as Lt. Smight, the Scottish-accented policeman on the case was a nice casting choice as well. 

Richard Masur is another underrated character actor and he brought a lot to the role, which would have been much duller in lesser hands. But, as usual, one of the side characters steals the show. The local restauranteur, named Don, is a friendly, bearded man and he offers all his patrons his specialty of moose burgers. He was a great face and a great presence and we don't even know his name! But kudos to him nonetheless.

While he really should have mowed down many baddies with a machine gun in a Final Warehouse Fight a la Travis Blackstone, what we get is a nice, decent, middling affair that would have been perfect for the PAX channel back in the day. It could have been on after Doc in back-to-back programming featuring country stars turned actors. It should've aired in PAX's 10 o'clock timeslot for a slightly edgier, 'PAX After Dark' kind of vibe.

While it's not exactly unprecedented - Higher Ground is truly the Short Fuse of its day - to see a somewhat unorthodox John Denver taking the lead as a man of action seeking justice (however tepid) - Higher Ground is one of those oddball items that's more than worthy of a one-time watch.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty