Avengement (2019)


(2019)- * * *

Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson 

Starring: Scott Adkins, Craig Fairbrass, and Louis Mandylor 

When Cain Burgess (Adkins) escapes from prison, he wants to have a talk with his brother Lincoln Burgess (Fairbrass). It's pretty important. So he heads over to the hangout of Lincoln and his criminal crew, the Horse & Jockey pub in London. While there, Cain doesn't let anybody leave the premises until he unravels the whole tale of how he got to be in the position he's in. In a series of flashbacks, Cain explains his pain - and his transformation from low-level, basically harmless wannabe criminal into a hardened, angry, grizzled monster. 

It seems his prison stay was made far harder than it should have been due to the fact of a certain person putting a price on his head. So Cain had to train hard - and fight harder - just to stay alive while inside. Through the flashbacks, we learn that Detective O'Hara (Mandylor) is looking to put an end to Lincoln's crime ring. But Cain ends up having other ideas...ones that involve unrelenting, bloody AVENGEMENT.

From the Comeuppance Reviews dictionary: AVENGEMENT (avenj-mint) - the quality or state of Scott Adkins punching, kicking, shooting, or breaking your limbs until he gets justice.

Avengement is a film that concentrates much more on brutal violence than director and frequent Adkins collaborator Jesse V. Johnson's The Butcher (2009), or even the more recent Accident Man (2018). Here, Johnson and Adkins strip away the fat and deliver a nice, concise tale that moves swiftly along and delivers the sort of tough, strong entertainment we as viewers want to see.

We liked the unorthodox structure of the film, bouncing back and forth between the past and the present as the plot unfolds. We also liked that Adkins gets to show his range here - from a "normal" guy to a terrifying, barking dog that's been put through a very hard wringer of life. The prison beatdowns are fantastic, as is the final pub brawl. But some important later scenes show that Cain hasn't completely lost his humanity. During the prison scenes, his training is intercut with the fighting, instead of one following the other. That was pleasantly different.

There's a certain, very enjoyable London atmosphere to it all, and a lot of slang is used, so for American viewers, putting on the captions might be advised. Lincoln's gang all add a lot of color, and the whole thing makes Guy Ritchie movies look like Mister Rogers episodes. The score by Sean Murray includes some great synthy moments that reference the 80's, but are far from a slavish copy of them. We commend him for that, and all the behind-the-scenes people did a great job - it's shot well, lit well, etc. It all adds up to total entertainment, as strong and forceful as it is.

We hope Johnson and Adkins continue to collaborate in the future. They obviously work well together and if this is the upward trajectory that they're on, we can't wait to see what's coming next.

Avengement is highly recommended. And watch out for the after-credits sequence.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision (2003)


Timecop 2: The Berlin Decision (2003)- * * *

Directed by: Steve Boyum

Starring: Jason Scott Lee, Tava Smiley, Mary Page Keller, and Thomas Ian Griffith 

Ryan Chan (Lee) is a dedicated member of the TEC, or Time Enforcement Commission. His job is to stop people from going into the past in order to change the future. In other words, he's a Timecop. He faces a classic conundrum when he finds himself in Berlin in 1940. Brandon Miller (TIG) wants to kill Hitler. Chan is worried about how that would alter the future in ways that we couldn't possibly imagine, so he and Miller fight it out.

After eventually going to prison, Miller devises an ingenious plan to escape, and he begins altering the past so the entire staff of the TEC don't exist in the present time, which happens to be 2025. With time literally running out, Chan has to stop his new arch-nemesis Miller before he pre-emptively causes him not to be born. Time travel, moral and ethical questions, and a few surprises are in store before the final confrontation in the college rotunda. What will be the ultimate verdict in THE BERLIN DECISION?

We really enjoyed Timecop: The Berlin Decision. You would think that a 2003 DTV sequel to the 1994 Van Damme classic might not be so hot, but you'd be wrong. There's a lot to like about the film, starting with the script. We want to give a shout out to screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson, and his script (based on the comic by Mike Richardson and Mark Verheiden). We rarely mention the writers of the movies we review, but in this case it seems warranted, because Thompson et al delivers a refreshingly intelligent script with a lot of good ideas in it.

It must have been really hard to write, because not only did he get across some pretty complex ideas in an easy-to-understand way, which is not easy to do, but he neither dumbed down the film nor made it so abstruse that it's impossible to follow. He hit that sweet spot for audience understanding, and he deserves a lot of credit for that. It must have been difficult for him to keep track of all the time loops and jumps and their ensuing consequences. But not only does he do it, he never once insults the audience's intelligence. In fact, it's just the opposite: he encourages us to use our brains. We loved that about the film.

Rather than have the entirety of the plot take place in Berlin, which, based on the subtitle, you'd think it would have done, there are plenty of time jumps to other eras, and full use is made of the Timecop concept. 

We get to see Jason Scott Lee in a variety of diverse scenarios, including the Old West, a prison riot, and, my personal favorite, the 80's dance club. He gets to use his Martial Arts skills in all these different settings, which is a delight for the audience. Amazingly, there was supposed to be a time jump to Hamden, Connecticut in 1987 in the film. It was the only time jump that was planned but never executed. That's a shame, because if it happened, you might have seen me walking around in the background as a young tot. Of all the places in the world they could have mentioned...Hamden? Wow.

Ulterior Motives (1992) co-stars Thomas Ian Griffith and Mary Page Keller reunite here, but I don't think they have any scenes together. Tava Smiley is here as Jeffers, Ryan Chan's co-worker on the TEC. We remember her from the Mario Lopez/Carlos Mencia outing Outta Time (2002) - yet another movie she starred in that features the word "Time". Coincidence? Well, probably.

Sven-Ole Thorsen and Robert Carradine have blink-and-you'll-miss-em cameos. But, of course, the real star of the show is Jason Scott Lee. He should have done more DTV action movies like this one. Interestingly, the whole subplot about his character Ryan Chan's parents meeting and his perhaps never being born is reminiscent of Back to the Future (1985) - and one of Lee's first screen roles was in Back to the Future Part II (1989). So clearly he's no stranger to that sort of thing.

As good as Stephen King's 11-22-63 is, we have to wonder if his whole idea of time travel and preventing the Kennedy assassination didn't come from Timecop: The Berlin Decision with its time travel and potential Hitler assassination. King must have seen this movie. Of course, these sorts of time puzzles and paradoxes have been discussed throughout the ages. That's what's so good about the film: it takes that intellectual component and adds in some Martial Arts action. What's not to love?

On top of all that, the end credits start rolling at a mere 77 minutes. It crams in all that good stuff in a wonderfully brief running time, so the audience is never for one second bored. We give it a lot of credit for that. Overall, the film is a more-than-worthy sequel to the original, and quite underrated. We give it a strong recommendation.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


New Crime City (1994)


New Crime City
(1994)- * *

Directed by: Jonathan Winfrey

Starring: Rick Rossovich, Rick Dean, Sherrie Rose and Stacy Keach

In the year 2020 - the future - crime is so rampant in Los Angeles that a huge section is cordoned off and dubbed "Crime City". Naturally, no one wants to go there, but Anthony Ricks (Rossovich) has to, because he's "The Best". At least that's what Police Chief Wynorski (Keach) calls him. After staging a mock execution for Ricks, presumably so he can be, in the eyes of the public, "dead", Wynorski gives him the task of infiltrating Crime City to stop the evil Ironhead (Dean) from unleashing a virus on the city. If he can get an antidote as well, so much the better. Along the way, he meets Darla (Rose), and the two of them face many trials and tribulations on the road to the ultimate confrontation with Ironhead. With the odds stacked against them, will they ever survive NEW CRIME CITY?

New Crime City (which we initially thought was called New Crime City: Los Angeles 2020, but apparently that's just the tagline on the VHS box) is yet another Roger Corman attempt to make Escape From New York (1981) with no budget. Much like Future Kick (1991), Bloodfist 2050 (2005), Dragon Fire (1993), and others, we have our heroes fighting their way through a "futuristic" wasteland on the way to their ultimate goal. These obstacles include, but are not limited to, going to a creepy monastery, Punchfighting, Punchfighting with electrical doohickeys that shock your opponent, and jousting while on dune buggies of some sort. Just like we do in 2020.

Hero Rick Rossovich looks like if Harland Williams was a Baldwin brother. He gives a monotone, monosyllabic performance that is truly Ron Marchini-esque. It's also pretty funny. He comes off as possibly a jerk (?) but the audience doesn't hate him. But they never really grow to like him either. By comparison, Rick Dean as Ironhead puts in a Jim Carrey-like portrayal, so the audience really does hate him. It was the 90's, after all, and Jim Carrey was hot. The box art makes Rossovich look like some kind of robot. He's not. Like us, he's just a man.

It's clear that the makers of Doomsday (2008) must have seen this movie, because the character of Juice (Ross) must have been an influence on that film. We were very happy that fan favorite Sherrie Rose was one of the leads here. She helps a lot in maintaining audience interest. We never really warm to her character either, but at least it's Sherrie Rose. She puts a lot of good energy in, and that was nice to see.

Stacy Keach's role is small but he helps things too. His character name, Wynorski, is a not-so-subtle nod to Jim, who has ties to Corman. Keach has some sort of indefinable accent that presumably is meant to make him seem sinister. Both Rick Rossovich and director Jonathan Winfrey worked with Keach again on the 90's Mike Hammer TV series. The experience of working on New Crime City together must have really bonded them.

Winfrey would go on to direct both Excessive Force II: Force on Force and Bloodfist VII: Manhunt the next year after this, in 1995. Apparently, New Crime City was shot in Peru. That might explain certain things, including the soundtrack and on-screen appearance of a Spanish-language band labeled in the credits as Frangio Antich & "Los Perros", but are known as simply Los Perros in their native country. Apparently these guys were a pretty big band in Peru, and they supported Ian Gillan on his Peruvian tour in 1992.

New Crime City has some amusing moments, but it's not exactly required viewing. It probably sat on a lot of video store shelves back in the 90's. Only fans of the Corman assembly line that made these sorts of things would be interested in going out of their way to see it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Never Say Die (1994)


Never Say Die
(1994)- * *

Directed by: Yossi Wein

Starring: Frank Zagarino, Todd Jensen, Jenny McShane, Skye Svorinic, Hal Orlandini, Michael Brunner, and Billy Drago

John Blake (Zags) is just a humble boat repairman...or IS he? Living in the swamps and bayous of what is presumably Louisiana (but is in fact South Africa), he keeps to himself, and he's known for being kindly to the local kids, such as Shane (Svorinic). However, trouble is brewing when a nearby cult leader named Reverend James (Drago) starts acting more unhinged than usual. Fearing a Jim Jones-esque incident, FBI man Mike Roper (Jensen) gathers his troops for a raid. A complication arises in the form of disillusioned cult disciple Brooke Hatfield (McShane), who Rev James holds hostage. It just so happens that she is the daughter of General Hatfield (Orlandini).

With Roper on the ropes, only one man can stop the evil that is Reverend James...JOHN BLAKE. Of course, Blake has a personal score to settle with James, as they were former military compatriots before James left Blake for dead in a war zone. With both Blake and James having their old unit tattoo, the "Blood Eagle" (which also could have been a good title for the film), Roper doesn't know if he can trust Blake enough to team up with him to defeat James and save Brooke. But they'll have to keep on fighting together and, you guessed it, NEVER SAY DIE.

Never Say Die gets off to a Teddy Page-like bang and the audience's interest is at full attention. There are many other great (i.e. stupid in a great way, or perhaps great in a stupid way) moments peppered throughout the film, but it can't possibly hang together throughout its 99-minute running time, and it really doesn't. It's not the first - and it surely won't be the last - time we have experienced what might be called Zags Drags.

After the bang-up opening, things naturally settle down as we're introduced to Blake and his young charge Shane. Shane is your classic "90's Kid", complete with an oversized T-shirt and JTT-esque hair. At any moment you think he's going to pump his fist in the air and shout "Yeah!" or "Radical!", and announce that he's going to kick some alien butt. 

Then soon after that, we're introduced to Reverend James and his Garden of Eden cult. The audience is still 100 percent with the film at this point, especially when we see that the cult's activities mainly consist of Drago speechifying as its members sway back and forth and do some sort of "cult Tai Chi" in rooms primarily lit with candles. Drago is really and truly in his element as the crazy cult leader. Out of his countless baddie roles, he really seems to fit this one and relish it.

What then happens with Congressman Earl Le Roux (Brunner) is taken right out of the Jim Jones saga. We know Brooke is a cult member because she has crimped hair with beads in it. When she changes out of her flowing white robe and into a denim half-shirt, we know she's mentally out of the cult for good.

While this is some of the best Todd Jensen we've seen to date, the movie slows down considerably after the first third, as it becomes a rather standard chase-the-baddie scenario. The upbeat Jensen and the meatheaded Zagarino make a decent enough team-up, even if the movie wastes time having them be enemies at first, and for a longer period of time than they should be. 

Zagarino has some nice Thunder in Paradise-style boats at his disposal, some funny shirtless or ripped-shirt moments, and one of the better and more extended "Noooooo!!!!"'s we've seen in a while. But the simple fact is that it's very hard to beat Striker (1988) and Project Eliminator (1991). Maybe it's unfair to compare every Zagarino film to those two gems. But, for Never Say Die at least, he puts the 'meaty' in 'mediocre'.

Despite the film's main, and rather obvious, problem - its poor pacing - this still remains the best Yossi Wein movie we've seen to date. Wein was a Polish-born Israeli filmmaker who primarily worked for Nu-Image. After Never Say Die, both Zagarino and McShane teamed up again with him for Cyborg Cop III (AKA Terminal Impact). McShane came back for U.S. Seals (2000), and Todd Jensen returned for Operation Delta Force 5: Random Fire (2000), among others. All that being said, it's still better than Death Train (2003).

Watching Never Say Die is like watching someone do a jigsaw puzzle who gets continually more and more frustrated while doing it. Some of the pieces are clearly in place, while others just can't or won't fit. If you really, really concentrate on the positives, it would be worth a watch, but what surrounds those positives is not that hot.

Featuring a title song - which we always love to see (or, rather, hear) - by Wendy Oldfield, which is kind of like the South African version of "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree, and an exploding helicopter (well, it's blown up while on the ground - does that count?), Never Say Die definitely has its good moments and strong points, but they are surrounded by a lot of mush during the unnecessarily-long running time.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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