Blood Chase (1991)


Blood Chase
(1991)- * * *

Directed by: Teddy Page 

Starring: Andrew Stevens, Karen Sheperd, John Light, Tony Chang, and Mike Monty

Eddie Nichols (Light) is the lead goon in a tight-knit group of baddies. Five years after committing a payroll heist, they're still looking for a man named Ross Anderson (Monty), because they believe he has stashed away the money. Unfortunately for Ross's daughter Cheryl (Sheperd), the goons have trained their sights on her, believing she knows the whereabouts of the cash. As a police officer highly trained in Martial Arts, she has no trouble fending off the baddies. But, for extra security, she involves her husband John (Stevens), and the two of them join forces to fight the thugs and get to the truth, step by step, about her father's whereabouts. Whether it's dealing with family lineage, or beating up bad guys, will this be the ultimate BLOOD CHASE?

You know you're in for a treat when during the opening heist sequence, the baddies are stealing bags of money with the words "U.S. Government Property" painted on them. Said bags wouldn't be out of place in a McDonald's commercial as they're stolen by the Hamburglar.

You've gotta love Teddy Page. He knows how to open a movie with a bang. Blood Chase is remarkably consistent throughout, and is a lot of fun to watch. To have Karen Sheperd and Andrew Stevens fighting alongside one another was a great choice, and the pairing works very well. Thankfully, Page doesn't skimp on the punching, kicking, shooting, and blow-ups.

Blood Chase has all the faces we know and love from these Philippines-set actioners, such as Jim Moss, David Light, Jerry Beyer, Mike Monty, Nick Nicholson, Eric Hahn, Henry Strzalkowski, and others. During this period of time, these men must have been consistently working in the Philippines film industry, and it's like a stock company of familiar faces that fans of the genre have grown to know and love. The addition of Shepard and Stevens only sweetens the deal.

You know the main baddie is evil because he yells at a waiter about his navy bean soup at the Pink Patio restaurant. He also has a classic evil laugh. There is a lot of funny/silly dialogue that is amusingly dubbed. The fight scenes are energetically done, which is amped up even more when the film is sped up slightly, giving it a Hong Kong-type feel. That's further reinforced with the character of David Hung (Chang), a very mysterious individual who helps out Cheryl and John in their quest.

Also, when something dramatic happens, there is a dun-dun-dun! musical sting on the soundtrack. You know it's not a revelation, just a dramatic moment, because the third note goes down instead of up. In yet another movie highlight, when John and Cheryl seek help from a police captain named Brad Murdoch, he has quite possibly the biggest nameplate on his desk that we've ever seen. He really wants visitors to his office to know that he is Brad Murdoch.

Blood Chase is recommended overall, but especially to fans of Philippines-set action outings, Karen Sheperd, Andrew Stevens, and anyone who enjoys navy bean soup.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Ultimax Force (1987)


Ultimax Force
(1987)- * * *

Directed by: Willy Milan

Starring: Kermith Simpson, Ray Uhen, Audrey Miller, Vivian Cheung, Eric Hahn, Arnold Nicolas, Henry Strzalkowski, Jeremy Ladd, Vincent Giffin, and Patrick Scott

After an opening onscreen crawl informing us of the sad situation involving POW's in Vietnam, we then cut to the Ninja Society of California, where there is a ninja showdown involving extensive sword battles. After the ninja fight, the sensei, Hiroshi, informs the ninja school that a particular POW, Captain Dave Morgan (Simpson), is being held in 'Nam by the evil Col. Minh (Uhen). Morgan's sister Audrey (Miller) has, in their parlance, "invoked the code". In other words, the unbreakable bond between ninja warriors to never leave a brother behind.

So these 'American Ninjas', led by Chris Burton (Nicholas), but including Dick Foster (Ladd), Mike Dobson (Giffin), and Bill Norton (Scott) - the last of which has a thick New York accent not entirely befitting of a ninja as we know them - fly to Laos to link up with local contact Lloyd Mitchum (Hahn). Then our heroes are off to Vietnam to fight the baddies and rescue the POW's. Along the way, they meet a helpful woman named Phoung (Cheung), the daughter of a local woman and an American serviceman. She wants our ninjas to help her escape the hellhole she's living in now and escape to America. Will our group of heroes - presumably the ULTIMAX FORCE we've been hearing so much about - complete their mission?

Ultimax Force is a film that poses a question to the audience. That question is: what is Ultimax? And, secondarily, how much Ultimax can you stand? It doesn't have to be much, as the film is only about 80 minutes long, as most movies should be.

During that time, we get a lot of jungle action, as this is a solid entry in the Philippines-shot jungle genre. Huts will explode, but the coolest aspect of Ultimax Force is that our heroes are in full ninja regalia as they mow down baddies with Uzis. You don't see that every day. They also make full use of their ninja abilities to hide and remain unseen until just the right moment. And then more baddies wearing triangular rice paddy hats get blown away with ninjas firing their machine guns. It works.

What would a film of this sort be without the time-honored barfight, at least one scene of Prerequisite Torture, and a synth-based soundtrack? Also like a lot of movies of this kind, it slows down right before the climax and there are some doldrums right before the explosive finale. You wouldn't think something with this brief a running time could actually slow down too much, but it does.

Maybe because there's not much plot to speak of, and what plot there is happens to be a "go to Vietnam and rescue the hostages" scenario we've seen countless times before. But we don't watch these movies for new and different plot innovations. We watch them to see huts explode, and, if time allows, to watch white guys in ninja getups blast people with automatic weapons. Which happens in spades here, so we're more than satisfied.

It does have a very cool ending, and, speaking of cool, our ninja team leader Chris Burton (Arnold Nicholas's only screen credit to date) wears a ninja headband in his casual, off hours, even when he's out of ninja uniform. Additionally, you know this is a Philippines-shot film because it features Henry Strzalkowski, and it was written by Joe Mari Avellana.

We weren't familiar with director Willy Milan, but hopefully we'll come across more of his work in the future. However, we should count ourselves as lucky we've seen this movie. It was on our must-see rare movie list for many years, because its release history has been spotty. In America, it was nonexistent, as it never received a VHS or DVD release. Sometime in the early 2000's it received a release on the Pegasus label in Europe, and another release as its German title Ruckus 2.

In the end, despite some slow moments, Ultimax Force is well worth seeing. It mixes the sillier aspects with the more explosive bits in a pleasing way. Fans of the jungle genre will most likely get the most out of it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Gridlock (1996)


(1996)- * * *

Directed by: Sandor Stern

Starring: David Hasselhoff, Kathy Ireland, Gotz Otto, Tony De Santis, and Marc Strange

"Jake Gorsky's got a habit of doing things his own way." - Captain Bane

Jake Gorsky (The Hoff) is a man you want on your side. As a fearless helicopter pilot for the NYPD's Armed Air Patrol, he flies through the New York skies stopping crime wherever he sees it. This Helicop, or Chop-Cop if you prefer, is a man who plays by his own rules and is always getting grief from his superiors, such as Captain Bane (De Santis), for his rogue ways. Yet he always gets the job done. His father Joe Gorsky (Strange) is his (White Yelling) Chief, but because they're a father-son team, it's quite the family affair.

Jake Gorsky is on the outs with his longtime girlfriend Michele (Ireland) because he's too dedicated to saving lives and protecting the city, so she feels neglected. Despite her seemingly selfish ways, Gorsky is trying to salvage what remains of the relationship. Because she's a tour guide at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which is probably a job that someone could have, when evil baddies take over the bank so they can steal gold and money, Michele is inside the building and Jake tries to save her. 

Thanks to the fact that she takes Karate classes, Michele has fighting abilities and the two of them take on Mr. One (Fernandes), Mr. Two (Otto), and Misters Three-Twelve. Of course, there may also a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top...in this case, to the skies! Will Jake Gorsky and Michele thwart those dastardly gold-stealin' baddies? Or will their relationship be stuck in GRIDLOCK? Find out today!

It's Die Hard (1988) in a bank - or should we say Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995) in a bank - but it's starring HASSELHOFF, dude! Hasselhoff has "it" - that indefinable star quality that makes someone compulsively watchable onscreen. Everyone has already seen Die Hard and its immediate sequels a million times before. So why waste time re-watching them when you can watch Gridlock instead? Mr. 'Hoff maneuvers in an elevator shaft on top of the elevator. He shimmies down a building using a roll-out fire hose. He cracks wise. A team of typically-Eurotrash baddies tries to get him, and their leader warns them that he, and I quote, "won't tolerate any mistakes". (This is even before they make any mistakes. This is pre-No More Mistakes).

Gridlock features Kathy Ireland in a gold vault. In Crackerjack 2 (1997), we had Carol Alt in the vault (which could be a series for kids in its own right. It could be like Elf on the Shelf) before we all reached the eventual Financial Planning Train Ride. It's a way to get our heroes where they need to be. Questions are raised. Such as, why does a bank have a fresh produce closet and a full, restaurant-sized kitchen? We're glad this movie exists.

In Skyscraper (1996), Carrie Wink (Anna Nicole Smith) was a helicopter pilot who quickly gets embroiled in a "Die Hard in a Building" scenario. She would have made a perfect match with Jake Gorsky. But Gorsky has a lot on his mind, what with bombs going off in New York City in a pre-9/11 world. But Michele doesn't seem all that sympathetic to his outright heroism. 

While there are plenty of exterior shots of NYC throughout the film, it was, perhaps unsurprisingly, shot in Canada. Canadian production companies were involved. That's not especially surprising, seeing as it's the home country of director Sandor Stern. That name will be familiar to fans of retro television and classic TV movies, which is where Stern spent the entirety of his long and fruitful career, with the exception of the standout theatrical feature Pin: A Plastic Nightmare (1988), which is a film well worth seeking out.

So we've got Kathy Ireland-Fu, the unique idea that the WYC is the father of the main hero, and Hasselhoff galore. All of the above is set to a noteworthy score by one Amin Bhatia, which helps to keep things buoyant. While the baddies are all named after numbers (Mr. One, Mr. Two, etc.), which is clearly a variant on the color-based baddie names in Reservoir Dogs (1992), if we have one real complaint about Gridlock it's that there's not enough Gotz Otto. As confirmed Gotz fans, we would have liked to have seen him do more. As Mr. Two, he's there, but that's about it. He should have been Mr. One.

Not to be confused with the Tim Roth and Tupac film Gridlock'd (1997), Gridlock was released by Platinum Disc here in America. Because it's a telefilm, the body count and violence levels are quite low, but your spirits will likely remain high thanks to unabashed Hasselhoffisms and hilariously blatant ripoffery. While not without its problems, we recommend Gridlock largely for the Hasselhoff factor (which should be a TV talk show), especially for fans of the DieHardInA subgenre.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Endgame (1983)


(1983)- * * *

Directed by: Joe D'Amato

Starring: Al Cliver, George Eastman, Bobby Rhodes, Laura Gemser, Hal Yamanouchi, Gordon Mitchell, Gabriele Tinti, and Alberto Dell'Acqua

In the year 2025, a reality competition show called Endgame is the hottest thing on TV. It's basically The Running Man (1987), where costumed characters chase and try to kill the reigning champion. In this case, that would be Ron Shannon (Cliver). The baddies out to get him are Kurt Karnak (Eastman), Woody Aldridge (Rhodes), and of course who could forget Gabe Mantrax (Dell'Acqua)? But the game of Endgame is just the beginning of the tale.

It turns out that in 2025, obviously now a post-apocalyptic world, there is a race of telepathic mutants that just want to live in peace. Seeing that he's the toughest guy around, a woman named Lilith (Gemser), hires Ron Shannon to lead a band of the telepathic people to an area of safety. Stormtroopers wearing gas masks with an "SS" logo are on an extermination campaign against them. 

This roving caravan now includes such new characters as Martial Arts expert Ninja (Yamanouchi) and Bull (Tinti). Of course, the military higher-ups, led by Col. Morgan (Mitchell), are not happy about Shannon's defection from Endgame so he can help the downtrodden of our society find a better life. Morgan would rather he and the other warriors perform for his amusement. Will there be a better future for Shannon, Lilith, and the gang? Or have we finally reached ENDGAME?

Endgame is one of many Italian Post-Apocalyptic action films (or Post-Ap's, as we call them) that proliferated during the 80's. Coming hot on the heels of Enzo G. Castellari's 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982) and Escape From the Bronx (1983), Endgame even has a subtitle, Bronx Lotta Finale, which presumably is Italian for 'there is a lot of finale'. They must be talking about the end of the movie. While there are many more examples we can name, such as Sergio Martino's 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983), Endgame is one of two entries in the Post-Ap canon for Aristide Massaccesi (AKA Joe D'Amato), the other one being 2020 Texas Gladiators (1983). D'Amato assembles a stellar B-Movie cast with many names familiar to European exploitation fans.

The fact that Laura Gemser, her husband Gabriele Tinti (both of whom were D'Amato regulars), Al Cliver, George Eastman, Hal Yamanouchi, and Gordon Mitchell, among others, are all here, is cause for celebration. The movie around them, however, can get a bit staid and even boring at times. While the first third is certainly reminiscent of the aforementioned The Running Man - crossed with further Italian versions such as Castellari's Warriors of the Wasteland (1983) and Lucio Fulci's The New Gladiators (1984) (the latter of which also featured Cliver and Yamanouchi) - because of the 'game controlled by sinister overlords' plotline, Endgame dispenses with that after the first third and switches gears entirely to a more traditional Post-Ap scenario.

What's not so traditional is the idea of 'telepathic mutants', especially if the main two are Laura Gemser and a little boy. Some others call them "'mutes", for short (i.e., "let's go get those 'mutes!"). But because this is an Italian Post-Ap from 1983, which seemed to be the golden year for such things, we get the ragtag costumes, absurd makeup, and roughshod-slipshod vehicles driven by the crazy cast of characters. All the ingredients are there if you're a fan of this particular subgenre. Other ideas shine through as well, such as "Life Plus", a sponsor of the Endgame TV show and what would today be called an energy drink. Reality shows? Energy drinks? Mutants? Clearly D'Amato was well ahead of his time in 1983.

While we believe Endgame will satisfy Post-Ap fans, it can get a little slow and the pacing issues are exacerbated by the 97-minute running time. The budget does seem extra-low this time around, which isn't a problem for us but it may be for some people. But the cast and some of the crazier elements more or less paper over most of the flaws.

While it was originally released on the Media label on VHS, today it's streaming on Amazon Prime (as of this writing), so it can't hurt to check out Endgame. But you'd most likely have to already be a fan of the subgenre first before diving in.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Black Cat Run (1998)


Black Cat Run
(1998)- * * *

Directed by: D.J. Caruso 

Starring: Patrick Muldoon, Amelia Heinle, Russell Means, Rex Linn, Peter Greene, and Jake Busey

Johnny Del Grissom (Muldoon) is a humble gas station attendant and tow truck driver in a small Texas town. He loves racing his car in his spare time - which will come in handy later - and he loves his girlfriend Sara Jane (Heinle). Johnny's rival on the racing circuit, and for Sara Jane, is Deputy Norm Babbitt (Busey). When an evil gang of criminals breaks out of a chain gang and goes on the run, trouble ensues. When the leader of the baddies, D.J. Wheeler (Greene) kidnaps Sara Jane, Johnny takes off after them. But Norm thinks Johnny went crazy and killed some people in the process, so now the police are after Johnny for the wrong reasons. 

As Johnny chases the bad guys, and the cops chase Johnny, a trail of death and destruction follows in their wake. Eventually it leads to a final confrontation in New Mexico. What will be the final outcome of the BLACK CAT RUN?

Because Frank Darabont was involved with the writing and production of Black Cat Run, the quality overall is a couple of notches higher than your typical made-for-cable low-budget chase/action film. It put us in mind of Men of War (1994), the Dolph film that was written by John Sayles. But really, speaking of Dolph, plotwise it's more akin to Army of One (1993). But instead of Dolph on the move, it's Patrick Muldoon. Seems like a natural replacement.

It's certainly arguable, but we think this is the best Muldoon we've seen to date. He plays the "lovable lower-class guy" well and he really gets in on the action. Going back to the Darabont influence, the structure of the film, while quite simple, makes a lot of sense and is executed well. 

For example, after the opening scene where the convicts escape and you know they're armed and dangerous, the movie completely shifts to the rather innocent world of Johnny Del Grissom, Sara Jane, and Norm, and we actually spend time getting to know them and like them. That way, when the threat eventually comes around, we care about their plight. You'd think more movies would do this and it would be obvious, but so many miss what's right in front of them: that you have to have likable characters that you come to know, or the audience is going to mentally "check out" of the proceedings.

Here, at least, we want Johnny to rescue the girl. It's almost archetypal in its simplicity, but many - if not most - times in life simplicity is called for. Black Cat Run is like a throwback and an homage to 50's B-Movies but updated slightly with more bad language and violence. There's even one standout scene of outright gore. But the core of tribute to retro drive-in movies of yore remains.

As we all remember, Muldoon played Jeff on Saved by the Bell, the guy who stole Kelly away from Zack. Black Cat Run could be an imagining of Jeff's future after he graduates from college. Maybe he isn't the brightest bulb, but he's extremely well-meaning, a hard worker (as we saw with his job at The Maxx), and a good guy at heart. It could be Jeff. We as the audience were continually rooting for Jeff.

Also, a movie like this wouldn't be complete without many scenes of chases, shooting, and at least one moment of walking away from an explosion in slow motion. The credits state "Special Appearance By Jake Busey" but he's really the co-star of the film. Based on that credit alone, you'd think it would be just a cameo or something small. But you get a lot of Busey. Just so you know. That credit was a bit misleading.

In the end, Black Cat Run manages to rise above its lowly station thanks to some good decisions by the cast and crew. It's entertaining, and it's even humble, much like Johnny Del Grissom himself. If you find it, check it out.

Comeuppance Review by Brett and Ty