Capital Punishment (1991)

Capital Punishment (1990)- * * *

Directed by: David Huey

Starring: Gary Daniels, Tadashi Yamashita, Ava Fabian, Ian Jacklin, Linda Lightfoot, Mel Novak, and David Carradine

"Keep The Change"- James Thayer

"Fifty....Fifty"- Blonde Goon

Trust me, you never want to do "Kick". Evidently, Kick is the most addictive drug in Asia. It was originally given to meat farmers (pretty sure that's a thing) to make sure their cows and chickens grow faster and, presumably, meatier. Now Asia is hooked, and one man is poised to bring this scourge to the U.S. of A. His name is Nakata (Yamashita), and he is also a Martial Arts master and he's evil. So the DEA enlists a professional kickboxer to take down the Kick dealers (as you do). James Thayer (Daniels) sports a sweet ponytail and high-waisted jeans, which makes it easier for him to kick people. Which comes in handy when you're battling Kick dealers. See, it all comes together.

With his wife Anna (Fabian) in danger, his kickboxing opponent Lozano (Jacklin) angry, and a potential crimefighting partner named Holt (Lightfoot) trying to catch up, Thayer has yet another problem. It turns out (and this isn't a spoiler; we know this pretty much from the jump) that Nakata is Thayer's sensei and he taught him everything he knows. Isn't that always the way? Will Thayer finally KICK the habit? Find out today!

David Carradine is on the phone. And he wants to talk to you. That's right, Carradine is in Capital Punishment also, as a man named Michael Maltin. Well, "in" is such a relative term. He really does let his fingers do the walking. I haven't seen this much phone shilling since 1-800-COLLECT. 

Anyway, when we first saw that Capital Punishment was directed by David Hue, we thought, "uh oh". After all, that's the guy behind Bloodfight 3 (AKA Karate Wars), which was pretty weak. Well, color us tickled pink, because 'Punishment was a total surprise. Yes, it's very low budget, of course, but it's hilariously funny and entertaining. It couldn't be more different from Karate Wars. It's a winner. Trust us. Ignore any hate you may have read towards this movie online. Anyone with a sense of humor will love it.

The plot is nonsensical, the dialogue is childish, the line deliveries are on par with a middle school play, the reaction shots are priceless, the grunting is plentiful, the incidental characters are colorful, and the fight scenes are gems. It's all very, very, VERY silly. You can't help but love it. There's something infectious about it. The time flies by while you're watching it and it's just so much fun.

The aforementioned fight scenes are almost non-stop. The great and mighty Gary Daniels is continually punching or kicking someone. It rarely lets up. Clearly a lot of time and attention went into these scenes, far more than any of the others. Some notable moments include when Daniels is fighting with two flashlights in a darkened room, and the whole scene in the ice factory. It was interesting to see a younger Gary Daniels kind of feeling his way through things. Obviously better things were to come for him, but this was a nice early role for one of our action idols. 

The whole thing starts in a sort of "Kickboxing Dinner Theatre" where Gary and some other dude - both of whom are wearing shorts that say "Kickboxing USA" on them - are battling it out in front of classy people who are sitting at dinner tables. Not long after that, we're informed that "nine out of ten" children in Asia have birth defects because their parents took Kick. Seems like a lot. Of course, there's a barfight, a warehouse fight, and a Final Rooftop Fight, but there's a fight pretty much everywhere. Further adding to the ridiculous fun, every time something blows up, it's from another movie. Then it ends and a great time was had by all.

We should also add that while the film's alternate title, Kickbox Terminator, is a cool one, it's not related at all to what we see in any way, shape or form. It's not like there's some sort of cybernetic guy in a ring with boxing gloves punching people. Of course, we would watch that if it's ever made.

In the end, we really loved Capital Punishment. You have to really have a heart of stone if you can't get any enjoyment out of it. Yes, visually it has that "junky" look to it but if you can get past that, a diamond in the rough will emerge. Oh, and next time your phone rings, just think...there's a really good chance it may be Michael Maltin.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Scorpion (2007)

(2007)- * * *

Directed by: Julien Seri

Starring: Clovis Cornillac, Francis Renaud, Karole Rocher, Caroline Proust, and Jerome Le Banner

Angelo (Cornillac) was born to fight. Or so he thinks. After a bad break, Angelo hits the skids, becomes semi-homeless and all but loses the will to live. When a shady promoter named Marcus (Renaud) approaches him to revitalize his career, because he recognizes him as an up and coming boxer from years past, Angelo sees that Marcus wants the newest, hottest style in underground fighting - MMA. So Angelo duly shakes off his slovenly ways, does his push-ups and crunches, and trains to get back in the ring. After fighting his way through the standard Boxcar Guillaumes, he is ready to beat the snot out of the heavy hitters.

As you might expect, there are a couple of problems. One involves a woman named Virginie (Rocher). Even though she leads a miserable life as both a prostitute and a bartender under Marcus, Angelo sees her and her young son Milan as a chance for redemption and a new life away from the grueling rigors of underground fighting. At first, Virginie rebuffs him and he's back in his rage-filled ways. But can that change?

The other involves a woman named Lea (Proust), who appears to be a reporter doing a story on underground fighting but, as fate would have it, is a police officer trying to get dirt on Marcus. It doesn't help that underground fighting is illegal in Paris. Naturally, it all comes down to "One Last Fight" - but it's going to be a doozy, with Angelo having to square off against a mighty mountain of meathead named Elias (Le Banner). Will Angelo be able to turn his life around? Will Marcus be held to account for his illegal wheelings and dealings? And what about Virginie and Lea? Will a powerful female influence calm the raging waters of the SCORPION?

"FINISH HIM!!"...is not said in this film, and anyone expecting a biopic on the beloved Mortal Kombat character will be sorely disappointed. However, Scorpion - this Scorpion - is a quality film, and a rare example of an underground fighting movie that's so good, it really doesn't need most of the underground fighting we see on display. Paradoxically, all the fight scenes tend to bring the movie down. Seeing as the film is an unnecessary 98 minutes, they could have cut a lot of the MMA fights because the storyline stands on its own.

Scorpion is an improvement over director Seri's previous film, The Great Challenge (2004), and it shows that he's a true filmmaker in the time-honored French tradition. It seemed that he wanted to temper that "Frenchness" a bit by having an MMA-based storyline, but we say that wasn't needed. We say go with your gut and your traditions - and clearly where Scorpion shines is in its gritty drama, its serious-minded tone, and its high-tier cinematography.

In that sense, Scorpion is a lot like Redbelt (2008) - a high-caliber film all-around that not only doesn't need to lean on extended fight scenes to pad out the running time, but barely needs the fight scenes at all. The plot follows a standard Punchfighting formula we've seen countless times, but the actors carry it off in a way that's much better than usual.

Scorpion is a good film, and it shows that French guys can be tough. Fans of Punchfighters in the MMA vein with an open mind will get the most out of Scorpion.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Terminal Countdown (1999)

Terminal Countdown
(1999)- * *


Directed by: Richard Pepin

Starring: Jaimz Woolvett, Ed O'Ross, Carlos Lauchu Sarah Chalke, Lou Gossett Jr., and Malcolm Mcdowell 

When it's discovered that Y2k will trigger a mechanism that will set off some missiles hidden in the Colombian jungle, a team is sent to prevent that from happening. General Seward (McDowell) sends computer techie Vince (Woolvett), Morgan (Gossett Jr.), who comes out of retirement for the job, and CIA head Fairchild (O'Ross) to investigate. (Morgan and Fairchild? Could that be just a coincidence?) While there, they meet the mysterious Russian agent Soljev (Chalke). Of course, they all have to face lots of pitfalls and problems, not the least of which is your prerequisite Colombian druglord and his goons. Just what any of that has to do with Y2k is anybody's guess. Can anybody stop the TERMINAL COUNTDOWN?

OMG! It's Y2k! Such was the nature of that threat, PM snapped into action with this film, originally titled simply Y2k, as did NBC, who gave us Y2k: The Movie (1999). Check out the commercial for that one on YouTube. It's pretty great. After getting off to a bang-up start, Terminal Countdown settles into terminal boredom after the movie relocates to the jungle. Not to get too technical, but it's really a forest. It really loses the plot - literally - after the drug dealers show up, but, then again, most of the scenes featuring Paco (Lauchu) really liven things up. He pulls large machetes out of nowhere and slaughters people with them. He provides much-needed interest in this largely-sloggy outing.

Not very surprisingly, all the scenes with Malcolm McDowell are gold. It's very amusing to watch him get mad about Y2k. Much like Dragonfight (1990), Terminal Countdown is one of those movies where (some of the) dialogue scenes are more entertaining than the action. During the many forest slog moments, they should have cut back to McDowell doing or saying something. That would have helped a lot to perk things up.

While this is a PM film, it feels more like Nu-Image. For example, many of the forest scenes are "borrowed" from Predator (1987). There are quite a few moments when our characters are looking at nothing or shooting at nothing - well, except Predator footage. Same with the car chase at the beginning, which was taken wholesale from Basic Instinct (1992). Yes, Basic Instinct had a car chase. And it's also in Terminal Countdown.

Now, try as Louis Gossett, Jr. might, it's hard to help a movie about silos. Not terrorists, mind you, but silos. There is a lot of talk about silos in the film. Evil, evil silos. 

But, beyond that, there's a bigger problem. A much bigger problem. That, of course, is Jaimz Woolvett's hair in the movie. It's atrocious. Remember Michael Berryman’s hair from the Motley Crue video for “Smokin’ in the Boys Room”? This gives it a serious run for its money. It almost single-handedly (single-hairedly?) ruins the film. Imagine, if you will, a messier Moe Howard bowl-cut, but the owner of said bowl cut said to their barber, "just shave the lower third of my head so it looks like I'm wearing a rug at all times". We get that his character, Vince, is supposed to be a dork. We also get that it came out in 1999. But still, there's no excuse for that particular haircut. You've heard of fashion don'ts? Well, this is a hair don't. Call it a cautionary tale. Even more so than the nuclear war implied in the film. 

Also, we've got another problem. The 100-minute running time. What the heck were they thinking? Why the frack is some PM movie about people running around a forest trying to stop Y2k 100 minutes long? Can anyone answer this? If they just removed the Predator and Basic Instinct footage it could have been around 90 minutes. But, no, they couldn't do that.

There are enough cool and funny moments to sustain an 80 minute movie here. There really are. But 100? That's pushing it. Just the 90's computers, CD-ROM screens, Paco, and even the egregious green screen moments - plus Malcolm McDowell, of course - are sufficient to entertain an audience for a limited amount of time. But Pepin overstayed his welcome, which is unfortunate.

Y2k Productions, the production company for this film, should have produced more movies. They should have flooded the market with more Y2k movies than we could handle. If nothing else, Terminal Countdown - besides being yet another "Terminal" movie for us - is a nostalgic look back on a hyped-up threat that was slated to kill us all on January 1st, 2000. That was an idea exploitable enough for a company like PM to work with. But Pepin should have stuck with the vibe going in the first 20 minutes of the movie. Then we'd have something. As it stands, we can only really recommend this film to die-hard Y2k buffs. If you're out there, let us know.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Trigon Fire (1989)

Trigon Fire (1989)- * *1\2

Directed by: Teddy Page

Starring: Sam Jones, Eddie Jadali, David Light, Anthony East, Jerry Beyer, Mike Monty, and Blueberry as Sandra

The Trigon is a superweapon developed by several world powers and it has the capability of massive destruction. It's in three (hence the "tri") parts, and all three parts are needed for it to work, so everyone is after those parts, which are collectively called The Trigon Factor. After Abdul Hassik (Eddie Jadali) of the Palestinian Liberation Front steals part of the Trigon, he then sells it to international terrorist Cyrian McCoy (East).

CIA operative William Shield (Light) is tasked with taking down McCoy and his goons. Unfortunately, an American doctor, James Ford (Jones), is swept up in all this intrigue thanks to a classic case of mistaken identity. As are his wife and daughter. Teaming up with a man named Manuel (Beyer), the two men fight the baddies the best they can, but it's not going to be easy with something as big as the Trigon at stake. What will happen to Dr. James Ford?

You know that any movie featuring the credit "And Introducing Blueberry as Sandra Powers" is going to be one that's sure to pique the public's curiosity. However, Trigon Fire is more in the mid-range of Teddy Page's directorial output. It's certainly not bad, but it doesn't reach the heights of a Phantom Soldiers (1989). To be fair, what can? There seems to be more of an emphasis on intrigue this time around. The exploding huts take a secondary role to that. Maybe this is Mr. Page's more "mature" work. 

If you watch a lot of these Philippines-set actioners, you'll recognize plenty of the hallmarks of the genre: machine-gun shooting, green backdrops, loud, screaming dialogue, and the presence of such people as Mike Monty. While Monty is your classic evil general, giving the outing an "El Presidente"-type vibe, we see that Manuel is more than just your average cabbie.

David Light has an impressive resume that consists of almost exclusively appearing in Philippine action. He looks like the guy from Sparks, so of course he was cast in the action hero role. A movie highlight appears when he comes to face off against the baddies on his motorcycle. He's wearing a leather outfit with huge aviator sunglasses and the shot is from below, so he looks extra-heroic.

While we've seen plenty of guard-tower falls in our time, we have yet to see someone tumble slowly down the steps of said guard tower. Well, until now, of course. It's less of a violent spectacle, more of a slow-motion "oops!"

Fan favorite Sam Jones seems to be hilariously miscast as a confused doctor. That's one of the things that makes the film so fun overall. Sure, he gets in on the action, but it appears a decision was made to make David Light the main action hero. Maybe Jones was put here just so they could market the film as Under the Gun 2. Of course it has nothing to do with the original...was the first Under the Gun such a huge hit in The Philippines that that title was warranted? It appears the answer was yes.

If you watch the end credits, you might be surprised to find that these people were involved: Kurt Russell, Spike Lee, Wallace Shawn, John Hurt, Christopher Hitchens, Harvey Fierstein, and Don King, as well as theater luminaries Neil Simon, Sam Shepard, Joe Orton, Peter Shaffer, Arthur Miller, and, most hilariously of all, Stephen Sondheim!

It was very generous of these people to lend their time to Teddy Page. Clearly they recognized the artistic merit of Trigon Fire. I've heard of "off Broadway" but this is ridiculous! I heard yet another alternate title for the film was going to be "Trigon Fierstein".

There's always something wacky going on in the exploding-hut genre and this just proves why they're continually worth seeking out.

While it wasn't released in the U.S. or U.K., Trigon Fire may be worth seeking out for completists of this sort of thing. It doesn't rank towards the top of the heap, but certainly a viewing on YouTube will provide 85 minutes of entertainment.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty