Coldfire (1990)

(1990)- * * *

Directed by: Wings Hauser

Starring: Wings Hauser, Asher Brauner, Michael Easton, Kamar De Los Reyes, Albert Cutt, and Addison Randall 

A new drug has hit the streets of L.A. It's called Coldfire and it looks like a bit of blue Powerade in a little vial. In order to stop the spreading scourge of Coldfire, two young police officers, fresh from their latest assignment of posing as high school students to root out Coldfire users, throw themselves into the newest and hottest drug war. Jake (Easton) and Nicky (de los Reyes) are the new generation of cops, and they're energetic, young, and hungry to make a difference. 

They end up clashing with old-school cops like Milton Lars (Wings) and the hotheaded Dix (Brauner). However, the old school and the new school eventually have to learn to work together to fight Coldfire dealers Mr. Sheldon (Randall) and Groska (Cutt), an evil Russian who wants to use Coldfire to do nothing less than take over America. To quote the tagline on the box for the film, "New Cops, A New Drug, and A New Way to Die." Will we all become hopelessly addicted to COLDFIRE? Find out below...

Coldfire is the directorial debut of Wings Hauser, although he also directed Living to Die the same year, followed by The Art of Dying (1991). Keeping in mind that Coldfire - the drug - is "a new way to die", Wings seemed to be very attracted to projects that involved the words "Die" or "Dying", but only for about a year or so from 1990-91. Anyway, despite the fact that this was made by PM, it's not really an action film per se, although it has a couple of moments. It's a police drama, but with some comedic elements thrown in for good measure.

The Jake and Nicky plotline uses 21 Jump Street as, well, a jumping-off point. The tension between the young generation and the new generation of police officers provides a lot of the drama in the squad room. The young-old divide between the idealistic cops and the older ones like Lars is the background for the fight against Coldfire. Both Easton and de los Reyes put in really good performances, which is fortunate as they pretty much carry the film. 

Despite the box art, Wings is not one of the main characters, which makes sense as he was probably busy directing. Although his role isn't very big here, this is Asher Brauner at his best. He should have been in the film longer, as his performance here reminded us why we like Asher so much.

PM really let Wings loose this time out, generously granting him the ability to make this 100-minute long extravaganza. While Coldfire loses focus at times, clearly Wings learned his lesson as far as pacing goes, as The Art of Dying is certainly a bit snappier. 

However, there are plenty of characters on display to fill the time, so it's kind of a double-edged sword. Robert Viharo as Getz plays one of the best WYC's we've seen in some time, and Nancy Locke is a lot of fun as Dr. Tate. Darcy DeMoss makes the most of her role as Maria, Nicky's girlfriend. Cult film fans will know her from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives (1986), among other notable movies (including the aforementioned Living to Die), but we here at Comeuppance have to point out that she was in Stickfighter (1994). Any Stickfighter connections will always be pointed out by us if they're discovered. 

However, as he usually does, the great Addison Randall steals the show as the effeminate baddie Mr. Sheldon. He does this high-pitched voice and a mincing affect which is extremely amusing. It also shows Randall's range, as it could not be more different from his turn as the evil racist in Deadly Breed (1989). It shows he has talent and range. He was almost unrecognizable here, although, to be fair, it would be hard to recognize almost anyone who gets tied to a fence while shirtless with a green garden hose. 

While many scenes go on too long and spin their wheels a bit, it's hard to complain when there are scenes of characters playing the arcade games Xenophobe and Rolling Thunder at a bowling alley. I'd love to believe that Wings chose the game Xenophobe on purpose as a sly and subtle reference to the fact that evil Russians are behind the Coldfire drug, but it was probably just there in the bowling alley that day.

Featuring a quality song - and used quite effectively in the film - "Walk On (Little Boy Lost)" by Lorraine Devon, Coldfire is a film that fans of PM and/or Wings Hauser will enjoy. Despite its length, other people may enjoy it too, just as long as you don't go in expecting a slam-bang shoot-em-up or beat-em-up. Keep in mind when you go into it that it's a video-store cop drama from 1990 with a long-ish running time for the material, and there's plenty to like about Coldfire.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Futurekick (1991)


(1991)- * *

Directed by: Damien Klaus

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Meg Foster, Chris Penn, Eb Lottimer, Al Ruscio, Linda Dona, and Jeff Pomerantz

A lot is going on in New Los Angeles in 2025. These things called Cyberons were invented, for one thing. They're androids with both human and robot characteristics. For whatever reason, the companies that created them sought out to destroy them all, but there's one left, a kickboxing Cyberon named Walker (Don). Because it's the future, you see, VR is huge so a VR developer named Howard (Pomerantz) leaves his home on the moon to travel to earth to sell his wares. While there, he runs afoul of a baddie named Hynes (Lottimer). Apparently Hynes works for a place that sells black market organs. He has a special tool that plucks the organs out of living victims. Hynes then answers to his boss Kraner (Ruscio).

After not hearing from her husband for a while, Howard's wife Nancy (Foster) follows him to earth. She consults with a tarot card reader named Tye (Dona), but after witnessing Hynes doing his evil business, she is forced to go on the run. She then teams up with Walker, as they are the two most harassed people in New Los Angeles. Also Hynes is looking for "the disc". Then Walker has a Final Factory Fight with Bang (Penn).

Oh, and the latest, hottest game in New L.A. is something called Laserblade, the rules of which are so unclear and incomprehensible (remember those words) that it seems like it was developed by Mitchell and Webb after they finished with Numberwang. Of course, the loser of Laserblade dies horribly from some sort of flash of light. Does any of what you just read have any kind of flow, continuity or coherence? Does it just seem like a bunch of random ingredients thrown together? Apparently the filmmakers didn't notice or care, but that's FUTURE KICK for ya!

For a film with so many elements, there's a lot missing from Future Kick. Namely, relatable, sympathetic, or interesting characters or situations the audience can care about. There's no human element. It's just a jumble. In many cases, movies with a tangled web of ideas without a lot of coherence can be a lot of fun and enjoyable to watch. But there's something almost depressing about Future Kick. Maybe it's the lack of lighting or the fact that most scenes look like they were shot in studio-created alleyways. 

We realize they did that to cover up for the lack of budget, but the problem with that is that it's a dead giveaway for a...lack of budget. As viewers, we don't care about what the budget is. Just give us something we can sink our teeth into. But the whole dark alleyway thing becomes bleak very quickly and it all feels quite dingy. 

We realize this was Corman's version of Blade Runner (1982) crossed with The Terminator (1984). But really it's the same old formula he used for Dragon Fire (1993), Bloodfist 2050 (2005) and others. Just throw in some "futuristic" sets (just turn off the lights in any room in your house and it's about as futuristic as Future Kick), then garnish with a few strippers and there you have it.

Fan favorite Don "The Dragon" Wilson is perfectly cast as a robot, however. It gives his - as we call them - 'wonderfully wooden' line readings a reason to exist. While we were more than happy to see a kickboxing fight between The Dragon and Chris Penn, it really came out of nowhere. Forget character development, there's no fight development! But where else will you see a fight like that? Only in Future Kick, we suppose.

For the Laserblade matches - which are sort of like mental arm wrestling matches where the loser is killed by a deadly camera flash - the audience is clutching some futuristic form of cash and is yelling. It's not exactly Punchfighting, but it's close. Sort of. Laserblade would be a cool name for a movie in its own right, but apparently it was decided the idea wasn't strong enough to support a full movie on its own. We won't tell David Cronenberg that it's Scanners (1981) meets the arm wrestling scene from The Fly (1986).

Future Kick was the one and only directorial or writing credit for a mysterious man named Damian Klaus. If that is his real name. Clearly he felt he said everything he needed to say and that he completed his mission as a filmmaker. I know I would if I had created Laserblade. 

But it must be said that one of the reasons that Future Kick feels like it's missing something is the fact that the running time is just over 69 minutes before the end credits. Maybe the secret keys that tie everything together are on the cutting room floor. But why would that be? Maybe one day there will be a "Director's Cut" of Future Kick that restores everything. Except our sanity and the minutes back into our lives.

But, as it stands, the 69-minute running time is one of the best things about Future Kick. There's nothing for viewers to latch on to, but you don't have to suffer very long. Future Kick remains one of the lesser Don The Dragon movies.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Attrition (2018)


(2018)- * * *

Directed by: 

Starring: Steven Seagal, James P. Bennett, Rudy Youngblood, and Kat Ingkarat

Axe (Seagal) was a professional soldier, but gave it all up because he became weary of war. He retired to a rural village in Hong Kong called Mong La so he could practice his brand of holistic medicine on the locals. However, it turns out that the urban part of Mong La is responsible for human trafficking, animal trafficking, and drug trafficking. Axe sees evil everywhere he turns, and while he prays often to Buddha, he's sucked back in to violent conflicts. It seems some gangsters are not only shaking people down for their gambling debts, but they kidnap a girl they believe to have magical powers. Sensing he can't rescue her alone, Axe does a classic "assemble a team" and corrals his old buddies back such as Infidel (Youngblood) and Scarecrow (Bennett), along with new helpers such as Yinying (Ingkarat). Who will win this war of ATTRITION?

Not to be confused with Absolution (2015), I think it's fair to say that Attrition is one of the best Seagal films to appear of late. Rumor has it that Steve really cared about this project, and that would make sense when you see the final result. He wrote, co-produced, and of course stars in the film, and you get the sense he would rather do movies of a higher quality like this than dreck like Driven to Kill (2009) or Kill Switch (2008). Hopefully that will be the case going forward. 

Essentially, Attrition is a Hong Kong-style Kung Fu/Martial Arts film along the lines of what's being produced today, but it just happens to feature a few Westerners, including Seagal. There is a bare minimum (perhaps none) of the silly-stupid DTV moments we're used to seeing with him. Its tone is serious-minded and not at all dumb. Some scenes have real ingenuity and it's shot very well. The performances are well above average, including Seagal. This time out, you can tell he was really trying to make something good, and he indeed succeeds.

There's only one little problem, and you can probably guess what it is. That's right, the CGI bullets and blood. It's just not needed. It stands out like a sore thumb because everything else around it is so good. Why mar what you've got with ridiculous-looking CGI that's so unnecessary? But, really, that's the only real flaw of Attrition. Everything else around that is better than you might think it is. 

Besides, it's easy to overlook when there's other worthwhile things going on, such as the visions that Axe sees, which are reminiscent of On Deadly Ground (1994), which Seagal also wrote. He likes to give himself visions, apparently. Along with other characters complimenting him, saying what a great guy he is, and also that no one else can even touch him in a fight. Axe speaks mainly in axioms (coincidence?) so he seems wise. But he brings up a good point about all the trafficking, and how can one man fight it all?

One of the best things about Attrition was the classic "assemble a team" subplot that appears late into the film. It was a throwback to those classic 70's and 80's movies that did the same thing, which we always love to see. And the fact that they got James Bennett (who is almost unrecognizable here) from the immortal Fatal Deviation (1998) is just the icing on the cake. 

During the end credits, in a box on the left hand side of the screen, we see Seagal performing with a blues band. A lot of the fellow cast members are in the audience and dancing it up. There is even a choreographed dance sequence. This should have been in the middle of the movie itself! Yes, it would have completely changed the tone, but it would have been unexpected. Not to mention amazing. Hopefully Seagal will do something in the future that better taps his musical skills, like a Dance or Die-type thing. That would be awesome.

Perhaps it's a bit early to enthusiastically call this a return to form for Seagal, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. What Stallone had with Rambo: Last Blood (2019), Seagal needs. In other words, a really stunning chance to show he's still "got it". Whatever it is, he should go out with a bang before he retires and the movie should go to theaters. Unless and until that happens, we do have Attrition, which is solid viewing and recommended.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

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


Chokehold (2019)

(2019)- * * *

Directed by: Brian Skiba

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Melissa Croden, Kip Pardue, Corinne Van Ryck de Groot, Gianni Capaldi, Ilona McCrea, and Lochlyn Munro

When a Calgary-based fight trainer named Javier (Van Dien) gets involved in the world of all-female underground Punchfighting, things go bad fast. Russian mobsters believe he owes them money, so they shoot him. His daughter Zoey (Croden) has a career of her own as a more traditional MMA-style fighter in Las Vegas, and her trainer is the by-the-book Uncle Ray (Pardue). After being told what happened to her father, she returns home to Canada to sort out what's going on.

On top of everything else, it turns out Javier was in debt, but not to the gangsters; he is behind on mortgages to both his house and his gym and he was in dire financial trouble. His last employee, a fighter named Renee "The Blade" Hansen (Van Ryck de Groot) is there to console Zoey, but when a shady fight promoter known only as Jones (Munro) enters their lives, things get even more complicated. He wants her to Punchfight, but Renee at first doesn't want her to. But, as you might guess, Zoey wants to enter the underground fight world so she can get to the truth about what happened to her beloved dad.

So she works her way through all the Boxcar Wilhelminas, only to run up against Natalia (McCrea), part of the Russian crime underworld, and a Scottish fight promoter named Feodor (Capaldi). Naturally, even though Uncle Ray disapproves of this more brutal and unregulated fighting style, it all comes to a head in the big, final fight. Will Zoey get to the truth? Or will she be caught in the ultimate CHOKEHOLD? 

Here's the most surprising thing about Chokehold: they're still making movies like this in 2019! Don't get us wrong, we're happy about it, especially when it's done well, as it is here. But seeing as it's in the wake of Bloodsport (1988), Bloodfist (1989), Bloodfist II (1990), and, perhaps most aptly, Lady Bloodfight (2016), it's also surprising they didn't decide to call it "Blood Choke", or something like that.

While we didn't approve of the CGI bone-breaks, or some of the stupider bits of dialogue, we thought, overall, that Chokehold is a good example of the age-old Punchfighting story and it has a lot going for it in the win column.

For example, you can see everything that goes on and it's well-lit. That's no small thing in this era of poor lighting. So it gets points for that. Fan favorite Van Dien is great in his role, brief as it is. He looks grizzled (in a macho way, of course) and he isn't just a trainer; he gets in on some fight action as well. But the filmmakers found a way to cleverly intersperse him throughout the film even after he's supposedly "gone". It provided some welcome emotion to it all.

Another thing we hadn't seen before was, during the Punchfighting matches, there were live DJs playing music while the ladies fought it out. Even more impressively, during one of the fights, there was a live metal band playing. This hybrid of music and punching must have been highly entertaining for the enthusiastic patrons in the audience. If you get bored of the fighting, you can rave it up to the techno and dubstep from the DJs. Or if metal is more your speed, you can bang your head. It was pretty novel. 

When it comes to Melissa Croden as our heroine, Zoey, it's a classic case of what we talked about when we were recently on the Direct To Video Connoisseur's podcast. Namely, that it's preferable to get a fighter to act than it is to get an actor to fight. Clearly she's a real fighter, which went a long way as far as the beat-em-up scenes are concerned. Her flat affect is almost at Don "The Dragon" Wilson-levels, which was charming. Physically she's reminiscent of Julianne Nicholson and she definitely has a future in DTV if she wants one. 

Chokehold does not deviate at all from the formulas of the Punchfighters of yore. There's nothing wrong with that. If anything, its stubbornness in holding fast to the old ways is commendable. Some well-staged fight scenes and B-Movie names add polish to this well-made entry in the underground fighting canon. Fans of the genre (especially of the sub-subgenre of all-female Punchfighting) will want to check it out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty