Broken Bars (1995)

Broken Bars (1995)- * *

Directed by: Tom Neuwirth

Starring: Benjamin Kobby, Joe Estevez, Donald Gibb, and Wings Hauser

At Trabuco Federal Prison in Los Angeles, bad stuff is goin' down. A corrupt warden named Pitt (Wings) forces the inmates to Punchfight for his own amusement. If they agree to do this, he rewards them with in-cell delivery of prostitutes, strippers, drugs, and, presumably, cigarettes. He's helped along in all of this by his C.O./henchman, Mr. Jake (Gibb). If anyone disobeys Pitt in any way - including refusing to Punchfight - he spikes their heroin with poison and tosses them away.

Wanting to get to the bottom of the goings-on in Trabuco, Jack Dillon (Estevez) of the F.A.C.T. special ops division (don't ask what it stands for, as it was never said...or if it was, we missed it) sends in his best man: Nick Slater (Kobby). The taciturn Slater then proceeds to either fight or make friends with a series of stereotypes...er...I mean, inmates, until the eventual final showdown with Pitt. Won't anyone reform our criminal justice system?

Broken Bars is nothing if not a parade of men with questionable hair punching the snot out of each other. If that's what you're after (and why wouldn't you be?) then this is the movie for you. An alarming amount of the prison population in 'Bars is ponytailed and shirtless. Or some combination thereof. There are more ponytails per capita in this movie than in an episode of My Little Pony.

All that being said, Broken Bars follows the prison-Punchfighter template pretty much to the letter with no surprises in store. Bloodfist III (1992), Death Warrant (1990) and In Hell (2003) are classic examples. Van Damme is usually involved in some way.

Wings, as he usually does, brings a lot of charisma and command to his performance, and he tries mightily to save an otherwise bog-standard outing, as our friends from the UK might say. With his military uniform and close-cropped blonde hair, he really made us see how much he looks like Guile from Street Fighter. Surely not coincidentally, that's yet another Van Damme connection. 

Fan favorite Donald Gibb also stands out as a cast member who is trying. But, as Death Warrant had a clear-cut evil baddie like The Sandman, and Broken Bars has no such character, it starts to flounder a bit without that focus.

The production company Gun For Hire was behind both this and Enter The Blood Ring (1995), and we noticed some similarities between the two films. Both starred Benjamin Kobby and both featured a ringleader character of some sort who sits in a chair and watches people punchfight. 

In this case it's Wings Hauser, in the other film it's Robert Z'Dar. Evidently, the people at GFH thought this was an incredibly winning formula, but as it turned out, Broken Bars and Enter The Blood Ring are two of the rarest Punchfighters of the 90's. 'Bars barely eked out a VHS release here in America on the York Entertainment label. 1995 was a banner year for Gun For Hire, though.

It's all very much like an episode of Renegade - a ponytailed hero rides into our lives on his motorcycle while blues guitar wails on the soundtrack. There's also the Prerequisite Torture of the hero, among other clich├ęs we all know and love. We do credit the filmmakers for adding some gratuitous female nudity, because without that, we'd be looking at an all-male cast for 95 minutes, and they must have figured that wouldn't go over well with what is probably an all-male viewership.

Broken Bars certainly won't win any points for originality (except maybe for the title, which we're still trying to figure out), but as a semi-lost video store artifact, it has some value. The only problem is that it struggles to hold our full interest for the entire running time. Those two factors pendulumed back and forth for us, as it surely will for you too.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Bloodfist VII: Manhunt (1995)

Bloodfist VII: Manhunt
(1995) - * *1\2

Directed by: Jonathan Winfrey 

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Jillian McWhirter, Eb Lottimer, Rick Dean, and Steven Williams

Jim Trudell (Don) is a mysterious drifter who wanders into a local biker bar. After being harassed by the clientele, naturally a barfight ensues and Stephanie Williams (McWhirter) is impressed. She leaves with Jim and they get a hotel room for the night. When he wakes up, she's gone, as is his car. Surely frustrated as all get-out, he goes to L.A. to try to track her down, but soon gets accidentally embroiled in the nefarious schemes of the baddies. With Captain Doyle (Williams) hot on Jim's trail, along with certain other less-savory members of the force, Jim has to summon all of his "particular set of skills" to survive on the streets until he can clear his name. With the police, the FBI, and gangs of toughs all out for Trudell's blood, will he ever survive the MANHUNT?

The cops have a stand-up Neo-Geo arcade game in their break room. Dude! The cops have a stand-up Neo-Geo arcade game in their break room. In 1995. That must have cost like ten thousand dollars. I really want to join the LAPD. They’re not just fighting crime – they’re Virtua fighting crime.

So, Don is on the run and it's nothing at all like The Fugitive (1993). No similarities whatsoever. Never mind that it was a recent box-office hit and that the Corman factory made it their business to do low-budget versions of big Hollywood blockbusters. What we all need to realize is that Don is his own man. In this case, he's being hunted. Hence, Manhunt. 

Like most of the later Bloodfist sequels, this is really its own movie and not connected to any of the others. It was also released as simply Manhunt, which makes more sense as there's no underground fighting that the Bloodfist appellation would indicate. When the fights do occur, they're a lot of fun to watch, but they're more few and far between than you might think. The scene in the park is a standout, with Don shooting guys with wildly colorful shirts with a machine gun. There should have been more scenes like this one.

But it's not all punching and roundhouse kicks to the head. There's a serious message here as well. For a while, Trudell has to hide out in a dumpster. Apparently he's there for a long period of time, until the guy taking out the trash shoos him away, calling him a drug addict. It really shows the plight of our nation's homeless. Then more face-kicking swiftly ensues.

Steven Williams plays Captain Fuller -- sorry, Captain Doyle, and he's a much better than average BYC. For one thing, he's not trapped behind his desk like most of the others are. He's out on the street in the manhunt for Trudell. Stephen Quadros, unrecognizable here as the guy from Shock 'Em Dead (1991) even though it was only a few years before this, plays not just another guy with a snappy wardrobe. He looks a lot like Kevin Bacon this time around. We've heard of fakin' bacon, but this is ridiculous. There are a lot of other B-Movie names on display, such as Eb Lottimer, Rick Dean, and Jillian McWhirter, who did a lot of low-budget action movies in her day, notably Last Man Standing (1995).

Director Jonathan Winfrey (presumably no relation to Oprah) was hot off of one of our favorite titles - but not one of our favorite movies - Excessive Force II: Force On Force (1995). He does a competent job, and, like most Corman movies, the running time is on the
shorter side. Meaning there isn't really time to get truly bored, but a bit more action and a bit less running around might have helped things a bit.

On the brighter side, the soundtrack is a standout, ranging from hard rock to funk, but there are no credits saying who did the songs. There are no Bloodfist soundtrack albums as of this writing, but someone should at least compile a "Best of Bloodfist" for those that enjoy the music from the series. I think collectors would appreciate that.

In the end, Bloodfist VII: Manhunt is enjoyable enough, but it isn't really exceptional in any way. There are enough decent moments to keep it afloat, but don't go in expecting fireworks.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Straight Shooter (1999)


Straight Shooter (1999)- * *

Directed by: Thomas Bohn

Starring: Dennis Hopper and Heino Ferch

There's a sniper with a high-tech rifle who is picking off the citizens of Germany one by one. Why is he doing it? Frank Hector (Hopper) is flown in from England to find out. The shooter is code-named, reasonably enough, Straight Shooter (Ferch), and Hector is working with the German authorities to track him down and stop him. Hector was his commanding officer in the French Foreign Legion, and he trained him to be a ruthless killing machine. Only Hector knows how Shooter thinks, and while Hector now runs sleazy brothels and nightclubs, the Germans don't care because the race is on to stop Shooter from shooting. At all costs. What secrets from the past will be revealed? Will we learn the true motives of the...STRAIGHT SHOOTER?

Imagine if Sniper (1993) was about a bad guy, cross that with if there was ever a Trautman spinoff movie told from his perspective of the incidents in First Blood (1982), and that mixture was a low-budget film made in Germany with Dennis Hopper, you'd have Straight Shooter. 

While the intro to the film in the first minute makes it seem like what we're about to see will be that mixture of stupid and silly that we're all used to, it turns out that the tone of the film is actually quite serious, and even dour at times. However, there is some unintentional humor whenever anyone refers to the sniper, whose real name is Volker Bretz in the film, as just "Shooter". This leads to lots of lines such as "Shooter has made contact" and a classic from Hopper, "Shooter is not my friend!" They do this a lot throughout the course of the movie, almost to Brakus-levels. The only way it could've been better is if the shooter's real name was Phil Shooter. Or Larry Shooterman. Or something like that.

Straight Shooter overall concentrates on the more serious-minded aspects of the drama and it probably didn't see itself as a slam-bang actioner loaded to the gills with thrills. If you go in expecting that, you most likely will be disappointed, although there are some cool blow-ups (especially the missile launched at the police car), and some other action-esque scenes. But if you see it for what it is, and not what you think it should be, it's worth a watch.

Why director Bohn went with some computer-generated morphing effects for some scenes, and why he did a CGI explosive device flying through the air, we don't really know. They're a bit out of place with everything else. As you might expect, fan favorite Dennis Hopper more or less carries the film on his shoulders, and his charisma helps things immensely. That being said, Heino Ferch had his moments as Shooter. He's no Gotz Otto, but who can be?

Straight Shooter is a worthwhile movie, but for the most part it lacks much-needed energy. Certainly a little more pep would've helped (and the plot is something that you might see on an episode of Criminal Minds or some such show) but it's not bad at all and we say check it out if you find it somewhere cheap.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


One In The Chamber (2012)

One In The Chamber
(2012)- * *

Directed by: William Kaufman 

Starring: Cuba Gooding Jr., Dolph Lundgren, Claudia Bassols, Louis Mandylor, and Billy Murray

Ray Carver (Gooding Jr.) is an American living in Prague. He is known as "The Fixer" because he solves problems between rival gangs in the criminal underworld, usually by shooting lots of their members with a high-powered rifle. A relationship begins to develop between Ray and fellow American abroad Janice Knowles (Bassols), even though it appears as if he's stalking her. But could he have a valid reason for doing so? 

Meanwhile, some of those dastardly baddie gang members have decided to bring in the big guns - literally - when they hire a rival "Fixer" nicknamed The Wolf, a Russian named Aleksey Andreev (Dolph). Now with not just rival gangs, but rival Fixers at odds, Prague (well, actually Romania for the most part) is going to become a battleground. Will the chances for victory come down to one simple thing...having ONE IN THE CHAMBER?

Remember how in Puncture Wounds (2014), when Dolph teamed up with Cung Le, we noted how much Cung Le looked like Cuba Gooding Jr.? Now, ironically, Dolph actually does team up with Cuba Gooding Jr. for One in the Chamber, a rather uninspiring run-through of stuff we've all seen before.

It's yet another bout of Russian gangsters, and we're frankly getting tired of them. While Dolph is by far the best part of OITC (which sounds like something Jerry Lewis might say, i.e., OITC! Nice Lay-dee!!) even he must be getting tired of playing Russian characters, as he did in The Killing Machine (2010) and, of course, The Russian Specialist (2005), which is arguably his best "Russian" role. 

He's charming this time around (as he usually is), and he wears a lot of party-guy shirts and has a cool hat. He brings life to whatever scenes he's in, and that's desperately needed here. There are a couple of fights with Cuba Gooding, which was sort of a novelty to see, but does anyone really believe Cuba could win a fight with Dolph?

That aside, with Cuba Gooding not appearing in any movies of late because of his legal woes, maybe it's finally time now that Omar Gooding could step out of the shadows and into the breach left by Cuba. Idea for a potential tagline: "He's not a wild and crazy kid...anymore." Perhaps he could star with Donnie (now Don) Jeffcoat and they could be cops that go around busting heads. If any production companies out there like the idea, give us a call. We're available to write the script.

Anyway, we get some dudes yelling while shooting their guns, and holding their guns sideways "gangsta" style. On the other hand, when Cuba is shooting his rifle out the window, we get some unnecessary, video-game-esque "bullet time" effects. Not only did Sniper (1993) do it better, Dolph himself was better at shooting a rifle out a window in Silent Trigger (1996). That whole scene just served to remind us all we're in low-budget-DTV-shot-in-Romania land here. It did the movie no favors.

But here's the bottom line about OITC: There's no emotion here at all. It's very hard to care about the characters, because it's all very one-dimensional. We really wanted to care about Cuba and Dolph and all, but the movie made it hard to do that because there was nothing to chew on story-wise. Russian gangsters shooting each other is all well and good, but with no backstory or emotion underpinning it all, it starts to get dour and repetitive after a while. That's why Dolph's character is so important to the film. Without him, we'd be in serious trouble here.

You may have noticed that an actor named Billy Murray is in the film as well. Just to clear up any confusion, this is a different man than Bill Murray. No, Bill Murray didn't slightly change his name so he could appear in a DTV action film with Dolph Lundgren. Though that would have been awesome, and, somehow in character with Bill Murray's personality. But we did want to sort that out. Murray probably gives the second-best performance in the film. 

Additionally, we believe there's a Mandylor lurking around in there somewhere as well. Maybe, as we did, you can play "spot the Mandylor".

Despite the impressive presence of the great and mighty Dolph, One in the Chamber overall is, sadly, typical of the modern-day DTV scene and doesn't have a lot going for it other than him. We hate to say it, but that one in the chamber does not fire on all cylinders.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Get The Terrorists (1987)

Get The Terrorists (1987)- * * *

Directed by: Eddie Rodriguez

Starring: Craig Alan, Frank Dux, George Nicholas, Robert Marius, Mel Davidson, Judy Green, Willie Williams, and Nick Nicholson

"We are trying to put the terror back in terrorism" - Randolph "Bear" Mclaglen

A man named Randolph "Bear" Maclaglen (Nicholas) is the evil head of a terrorist organization misleadingly called "People For Freedom". He comes from a family that produced rubber for the auto industry, but because they had rubber slave farms, a Senator Murdock (Davidson) investigated the Maclaglen clan and eventually put them out of business. Naturally, this drove Bear to take up an apprenticeship in commie villainy in Cuba, before getting into the baddie business himself.

So, that being the case, a team of professional badasses named Brock Towers (Dux), Strobe Walker (Alan), and Klaus (Marius) (perhaps Klaus felt inferior because his name isn't as awesome as the others) sets off to, you guessed it, GET THE TERRORISTS. They find a jungle-dwelling satellite badass named Pierre (Nicholson), and with the addition of a woman named Nikki (Green AKA Mrs. Richard Norton), the team fights their way through the jungles of Costa Verde until the ultimate showdown with Bear and his baddies occurs. Will our heroes GET THE TERRORISTS after all? Tune in to find out...

Get The Terrorists starts the way every movie - especially one called Get The Terrorists - should: with an up-tempo disco number called "We're Gonna Get You" by Ruth Vergara. Shortly before that, however, we're introduced to our bad guy, who - and you can listen and judge for yourself - says his name is "McLugly". At least that's what it sounds like, until we're informed it's actually Maclaglen. Then we get our initial power-team of heroes, beginning with the one and only American hero Frank Dux as Brock Towers. He looks a lot like Freddie Mercury here. As if one American hero wasn't enough, we get the great Craig Alan as Strobe Walker. And, even though he's the bad guy this time around, fan favorite George Nicholas is here too. 

What all of that equals is this: almost too much American masculinity and machismo for one small screen to handle. Judy Green is present and accounted for as the token woman, and she's handy with a grenade, and mainstay of these sorts of things, Nick Nicholson is on board as well - it wouldn't be a Philippines blower-upper if he wasn't in the mix.

We get a classic barfight, plenty of jungle action and blow-ups, and lots of characters yelling at each other. It all slows down right before the climax, but when said climax arrives, it's a good one. The ending does indeed deliver the goods. It's really very explosive. Most cars featured in the film blow up at one time or another.

Interestingly, the on-screen title reads "Get The Terrorist" - no S. Also, the second of the catchy songs in the film, "Let's Move It" by Jane Crawford, was also used in the Dale "Apollo" Cook outings Raw Target (1995) and Triple Impact (1992). “We’re Gonna Get You” was also in Raw Target. The songs must have been huge hits in the Philippines.

Sadly, Get The Terrorists never received a U.S. VHS release. Only a small handful of countries were graced with the availability of this film. Now, thanks to YouTube (as of this writing) you can check it out without having to pay outrageous collectors prices. It's all certainly entertaining and features some great people that we know and love. If you're a fan of Philippines-shot blow-em-ups, you'll surely enjoy Get The Terrorists.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty