Two Wrongs Make A Right (1987)

Two Wrongs Make A Right
(1987)- * * *

Directed by: Robert Brown 

Starring: Ivan Rogers, Ron Blackstone, Rich Komenich, Dossie Sansing, R. Michael Pyle, Michael Rizk, Eva Wu and Abby The Parrot

Fletcher Quinn (Rogers) is an Indiana-based club owner and one of the smoothest, suavest guys in town. When the evil gangster Jack Balentine (Blackstone) sends his goons after him, including the dastardly Lake (Komenich), so they can shake down Quinn because they want his club, they soon find out they've got another thing coming. You don't mess with Fletcher Quinn. While the police - Lt. Zander (Pyle) and Sgt. Vellosi (Rizk) - are tracking Quinn's every move, Quinn has to protect his girlfriend Jayna (Wu) and himself from the baddies who want him dead. According to Quinn's buddy Winston (Sansing), "Two wrongs don't make a right, but a man's got to do what a man's got to do." Will Fletcher Quinn be the one to do it?

When, generally speaking, people talk about 80's movies, your average film fan off the street has some idea of what that means to them - typically John Hughes, E.T., Spielberg, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, maybe the Friday the 13th or A Nightmare on Elm Street sagas. But there is a whole other world out there - and Ivan Rogers never seems to enter the conversation. Two Wrongs Make A Right, filmed in 1986 - the same year as Pretty in Pink - and released in 1987, is an 80's movie too. Perhaps it's time that people take a look back at Rogers and reassess his output.

That being said, Two Wrongs falls somewhere in the middle of the Rogers canon that we've seen so far. It's better than Ballbuster (1990) but not as good as the mighty One Way Out (1987). Sadly, they can't all be One Way Out. That's a fact of life we're slowly coming to terms with. Director Robert Brown was the assistant director of One Way Out, so we were hoping he'd bring more of that sort of style to the proceedings. As it happens, Two Wrongs was more of a warmup towards Rogers's magnum opus. At least it's shorter than the overlong Ballbuster, so even if it's not entirely your cup of tea, it won't take up much of your time.

There are some very silly shootouts and a ridiculous barfight on display. As usual, Rogers looks like Richard Pryor and doesn't say that much. There are some catchy music cues and plenty of the time-honored sax on the soundtrack. While we do praise the 85-minute running time, even with that there are plenty of slow moments and the film tends to drag. There isn't a ton of forward momentum and very little oomph along the way.

Some Rogers regulars (which sounds a bit like something from the Civil War) are present and accounted for, such as Rich Komenich and Dossie Sansing - credited as Dosey Samsing, and we're not sure which one is correct but it's likely not the latter - still with his Kool Moe Dee sunglasses. We would say he steals the movie, but the guy who runs the used car lot really shines. We don't know his name, but we would have liked to have seen more of him. One of the charms of low-budget, regional film production is seeing semi-professional or non-professional actors at work. You get plenty of that in the Rogers oevre.

Could you say that Ivan Rogers put Indiana film production on the map? We're not talking about Hollywood productions that have shot films there and then left. We're talking about homegrown productions from the Hoosier State. Not being from Indiana, we perhaps would need an expert on local history to give us the facts. But if there is an Indiana walk of fame, surely Ivan Rogers should be on it.

Two Wrongs Make a Right, like other Rogers films, has a spotty and underwhelming release history. There was a U.S. VHS release on Unicorn Video that's even rarer now than it was back when it originally came out. Notably, there's a Finnish VHS release under the title 'Quinn-Kostaja' that actually features Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs on the cover! Sure, Ivan is on the back (which, in this case, makes it all the more confusing) but that definitely qualifies as a "WTF Moment" in the annals of videoland.

In the end, as stated earlier, Two Wrongs is midrange Rogers. It lacks pizazz, and for that reason, if you haven't seen One Way Out, see that first before venturing out further into Rogersland.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Ballbuster (1990)

(1990)- * *

Directed by: Eddie Beverly Jr. 

Starring: Ivan Rogers, W. Randolph Galvin, Bonnie Paine, Rich Komenich, and Dossie Sansing

Roosevelt "Ballbuster" Prophet - or just 'Buster' to his friends - (Rogers, of course) is a private investigator in Indiana. You know he's a private investigator because he wears a trenchcoat and a fedora. When an evil gangster named Nicky Plato (Galvin) goes out of control and starts murdering people all over town, Prophet becomes involved when an artist named Michele Michaels (Paine) witnesses one such murder. In the course of protecting her, naturally Prophet becomes personally interested in taking down Plato and his goons such as Paycheck (Komenich) and Hacksaw (Sansing). After many shootouts and the like, it all comes to a final confrontation between Plato and 'Buster. Who will make the Indiana streets safe again? Will it be Roosevelt "BALLBUSTER" Prophet? The mystery awaits...

The first thing you notice when you turn on Ballbuster is that Ivan Rogers's name is huge above the title of the movie. As it should be. After all, One Way Out (AKA Crazed Cop) (1987) cemented Rogers's National Treasure status. Now, Ballbuster has a decent amount of low-budget charm to it. But not enough to sustain its utterly needless 106-minute running time. As charming as the film may be, and despite the fact that it has Ivan Rogers, what is actually contained herein cannot possibly justify how overlong it is.

That's not to say Ballbuster doesn't have its moments. The soundtrack especially stands out, especially with its sax and such songs as "Rules are Made to be Broken", which is Roosevelt Prophet's credo. Much like a Fred Williamson film, there is a live performance as well - the sister (?) of the gangster Nicky Plato has her own band called Rocky Plato and the Styles, and they put on an enjoyable performance. They should have opened for Wendy & Lisa back in 1990.

Speaking of Fred, Ballbuster makes his outings look high-budget. If you can imagine such Fred vehicles as The Kill Reflex (1989) or Steele's Law (1991) done with less money, you can get a picture of what Ballbuster is all about.

Ivan Rogers looks alarmingly like Richard Pryor this time around. Much more so than in One Way Out. Hacksaw (at least we think it's Hacksaw) has Kool Moe Dee sunglasses and is a powerful goon. But the bottom line is that if you like such films as Hawkeye (1988) or Blood Street (1988), you may also enjoy Ballbuster.

Really, the only real trouble here is the length. If the movie was 80 minutes, it would be a new classic. Or something close to a new classic. But director Eddie Beverly, Jr. apparently thought that every frame of Ballbuster was precious and none of it should hit the cutting room floor. Someone should have told him that "Brevity is the soul of wit"...or at least gotten one of those vaudeville hooks and pulled him off the stage. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

While rare - the Arena Home Video VHS release in America didn't seem to make it to many video stores here, and there was also a release in Australia - Ballbuster is undoubtedly inferior to One Way Out. It definitely has its moments, but they're swimming in a soup that has too much broth and not enough meat. We believe Ivan Rogers can overcome anything - and even he struggles with this overblown running time.

Final verdict: if by chance you find the VHS tape somewhere "in the wild" and it's dirt cheap, pick it up. But don't go spending tons of money online. As of this writing, it's on YouTube. If you've got an extra 26 minutes to kill (80 + 26 = 106), for the Rogers factor alone, check out Ballbuster. But don't go expecting another One Way Out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)


Kickboxer: Retaliation
(2018)- * *

Directed by: Dimitri Logothetis

Starring: Alain Moussi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Christopher Lambert, Hafpor Bjornsson, and Mike Tyson

Eighteen months after the events of the prior installment in the series, Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016), we now see that Kurt Sloane (Moussi) is a successful MMA fighter. His success seems to be short-lived, however, as a maniacal fight promoter named Thomas Moore (Lambert) has him kidnapped and shipped back to Thailand. After being imprisoned and regularly tortured, Moore states that if he fights a giant named Mongkut (Bjornsson), he will get a million dollars and his freedom back.

The only problem is that Mongkut is a genetically-engineered beast, bred from the DNA of top former fighters, and injected with chemical adrenalin shots to boot. Also, he's 6'8 and 400 pounds. So Sloane goes back to what he knows: training rigorously with his mentor Durand (Van Damme). He also finds help from his fellow prison inmate Briggs (Tyson). Of course, the day of the final fight arrives and Kurt Sloane has to face his biggest challenge yet. Literally. Will it soon be time for some KICKBOXER RETALIATION?

When you first turn Kickboxer: Retaliation on if you watch it on Netflix, you can't help but notice that the running time is an hour and 50 minutes. For those keeping score at home, that's almost two full hours allotted for the seventh film in the Kickboxer series. What could they possibly have to say that they haven't said before - and that would require that much time to say it in? So we were waiting for a reason - any reason at all - that would justify that length. We never really receive an answer as to why the film couldn't be 90 minutes or less. But that's not to say that there aren't some redeeming moments.

For example, every time Mike Tyson is on screen, things perk up immensely. He should have started his acting career back in the 80's, to capitalize on the fame of Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! for NES. We realize he had some problems back then, but that didn't stop other people. Regardless, we're thankful he launched an acting career at all. He gets a great introduction to his character, and Tyson is undoubtedly one of the best parts of the film.

Fan favorite Christopher Lambert is also here, looking quite a bit like James Caan this time around. In other movie highlights, Van Damme gets into brief fights with both Tyson and Lambert. The one with Lambert is a sword fight, naturally. These are combinations of people we've waited years to see. So the film doesn't let you down in that department. Also the "blues fight" was well-executed. But the final fight with Mongkut goes on for an interminably long amount of time, and if indeed Mongkut has the strength of four men, as was stated, then Tyson and Van Damme should have joined in the fray for a four-way fight. That would have evened the odds. But no, it just gets to the point where you're shouting, "somebody just win already! I don't care who!"

Somehow it has transpired that lead actor Alain Moussi - as Kurt Sloane - resembles John Krasinski (AKA Jim from The Office) even more in this movie than he did in the last one, and this only came out two years later. This leads to audience outcries such as "He's fighting for Pam!" or, "I'll get you, Dwight!"

Nevertheless, the storyline here is a direct continuation from Kickboxer: Vengeance, complete with repeat characters and references to the prior film. But this one adds yet more (time-consuming) elements such as an opening fantasy sequence, Prerequisite Torture, Mongkut-unrelated Punchfighting, and some sort of cat-and-mouse game with scantily-clad assassins. It seems not so long ago that we watched Boyka: Undisputed (2016), which also has a plot where a mere mortal man must mix it up with a massive meathead. You may remember Martyn Ford as the scary Koshmar. However, the opening credits sequence is cool because it pays tribute to Van Damme and past installments.

Much like the Sniper series, it appears that the Kickboxer series is heading down the road of endless, and perhaps unnecessary, DTV installments. The movie is not without its occasional charms (OK let's face it...MIKE TYSON!) but ultimately it doesn't justify its running time, which is more over-inflated than Mongkut himself.

While we certainly didn't hate Kickboxer: Retaliation, it's impossible to get around the fact that it would have been more impactful if it was shorter.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

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


Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016)

 Kickboxer: Vengeance
(2016)- * *

Directed by: John Stockwell 

Starring: Alain Moussi, Darren Shahlavi, Dave Bautista, Gina Carano, and Jean-Claude Van Damme

Kurt (Moussi) and Eric (Shahlavi) Sloane are Kick-Fighting brothers from Venice, CA. When Eric gets an invitation to go fight the infamous Tong Po (Bautista), the audience screams, "No, Eric! Don't do it!" But, of course, Eric flies to Thailand and ends up facing off against Mr. Po to tragic results. Naturally, Kurt follows because he wants KICKBOXER VENGEANCE. While in Thailand, he trains (and trains and trains and trains) with Master Durand (Van Damme), a mysterious Muay Thai master, as his name indicates. Of course, the Bangkok police are on to the illegal Punchfighting matches, and somehow Marcia (Carano) is involved in all this. Will Kurt Sloane avenge his brother by finally vanquishing Tong Po in the ring once and for all?

All of the above might seem a bit familiar to anyone who has seen the original Kickboxer (1989), which, presumably, is anyone reading this. Evidently, this takes place in a different Kickboxer universe than the first one, because Van Damme plays Durand, and Moussi plays Kurt Sloane. While director Stockwell does a good job with the technical aspects - the film is shot well, lit well, etc. - there really aren't too many surprises in store here, and the character development leaves a lot to be desired. That means that audience attention begins to flag around the halfway mark. It all feels like a slickly-done, but "Why?" run-through of classic Kickboxer moments.

As for our main hero, was he Joe Flanagan? Matthew Reese? John Krasinski? It's hard to tell. He seems to do well throughout all the extensive training sequences, but Van Damme looks like he was in shape too. He should have fought Tong Po. Or, if Po is as good as everyone keeps saying, how about a 2-on-1 fight with Durand, Sloane, and Tong Po? That would have been something new. But, no, the film doesn't do any twists or anything like that.

Dave Bautista, or David Bautista, as he's credited here, has very silly hair. Somehow trying to put classic Tong Po hair on his head just doesn't quite look the same. T.J. Storm is here, playing a guy named Storm, which was nice to see. Gina Carano is also on board, but she does no Martial Arts. Fans may be disappointed by that. She and director Stockwell worked together on In The Blood (2014), so maybe she had fun doing that and wanted to do a small role here. Who knows? But her not fighting was a missed opportunity.

The marketplace fight, the barfight, and the fact that one of Kurt's training exercises is to pull Durand around on a rickshaw are movie highlights. But truly the best was saved for last, because at the beginning of the end credits, we get a split screen with a clip of Van Damme doing his classic dance from the original Kickboxer on the right, and Alain Moussi imitating his moves on the left. That was probably the best part of the whole movie. Rather than save it for the end, they should have had Kurt Sloane find himself at a roadside diner in the middle of the film, where he then starts dancing. That might have improved things a bit.

In the end, if you always wanted to see Kickboxer, but really needed to see it done in a modern style with Chokehold (2019)-style flat line deliveries, this is really the movie for you. And where is Sasha Mitchell in all this?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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