Shadow Warriors: Assault On Devil's Island (1997)

Shadow Warriors: Assault On Devil's Island
(1997)- * * *

Directed by: Jon Cassar

Starring: Hulk Hogan, Shannon Tweed, Carl Weathers, Billy Drago, Martin Kove, Trevor Goddard, and Billy Blanks 

While it may be a bit confusing as to which of the two Shadow Warriors telefilms came first, we're reasonably confident that this is the first appearance of the team consisting of Mike McBride (Hulk), Roy Brown (Weathers), Hunter Wiley (Tweed), and Andy Powers (Kove). The follow-up, Shadow Warriors: Assault on Death Mountain (1999), came two years after this one.

In this initial installment of the two-movie series, our heroes are tasked with bringing down the evil drug lord Carlos Gallindo (Drago), and his goons Fraker (Goddard) and Creagan (Blanks). While they're doing that, they have to rescue the kidnapped American Gymnastics team, who is imprisoned in a cage in a room that's slowly filling with water. Will the Shadow Warriors - a team of friendly mercenaries tasked with missions like this one - save the day once again? Or is it the first time? You're gonna have to tune in if you want to find out...

Shadow Warriors: Assault on Devil's Island is very, very similar to the other movie in the series. If you've seen that one, and you happened to enjoy it, you will find more of the same here. For those unfamiliar with these TV films, they are quite lightweight despite the fact that there are fights, guard tower falls, blow-ups and shootings. Somewhere along the way there's a very silly exploding helicopter.

If it was just Carl Weathers and Shannon Tweed in an R-rated film going around and taking out the trash, it would have made all the difference in the world - and, sad but true, it would've been a massive improvement. Sad because the presence of Hulk Hogan as the main character kind of gets in the way. Yes, his hair, facial expressions, high-waisted pants, and line deliveries are absolutely ridiculous, and that does provide some enjoyment. But he should have been more of a background character, like Martin Kove or even Billy Blanks are here.

The fight between Blanks and Hogan is as daffy as everything else on display. Also we should mention that the film opens with Hulk doing some form of yoga on the beach and he's into tarot cards and mysticism. Just like in real life. Blanks went from Balance of Power (1996), where he punched steam, to here, where he punches meat. As we said in our review of the other Shadow Warriors film, thank goodness for Shannon Tweed. The fact that she's here helps a lot. Almost saves things, in fact.

Billy Drago plays - you guessed it - the baddie in his customary manner. His classic head-tilt and slimy manner are here once again. Trevor Goddard is a strong presence as his muscle. Billy Blanks should have had more to do overall.

Because a gymnastics team is kidnapped, it may remind you of Blast (1997). Because of certain plot points involving Billy Drago, it may remind you of Delta Force 2 (1990). Combine that with the fact that this is a telefilm meant to air after episodes of wrestling on TNT, and there you have it.

Concluding with our heroes walking towards the camera in slow motion and looking quite serious, are we to conclude that we should take all this goofiness seriously? That may be one of the great mysteries of life, along with which Shadow Warriors entry is which. Action fans seeking something dark, gritty, and adult are advised to look elsewhere, but if you've got a taste for the silly, and you've got nothing better to watch, there's always the duo of Shadow Warriors films.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Enemy Action (1999)


Enemy Action
(1999)- * *

Directed by: Brian Katkin 

Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Louis Mandylor, Carl Struycken, Lisa Thornhill, Michael Newman, Beata Pozniak, Ed O'Ross, Randolph Mantooth, and Richard Lynch

Because he is "the best", John Reed (Howell) is dispatched to the former commie country of Dagestan to stop some baddies who want to release advanced-technology missiles on the U.S.A. The small band of evildoers, led by the sinister Solonsky (Mantooth), but also including Price (Mandylor), Eyepatch (Struycken), Dimitri (Lynch), and Fatima (Pozniak) have met their match with John Reed. Backed up by Catherine Kelly (Thornhill) and Major Pedyed (O'Ross), Reed must stop the missiles, stop the commies, and save the day. But will he be able to stop the ENEMY ACTION?

Hey, remember Stealth Fighter (1999), Desert Thunder (1999), Black Thunder (1998), The Pandora Project (1998), or perhaps Interceptor (1992)? Well, here's another low-budget Roger Corman programmer to file along with all the others. Enemy Action has the benefit of a cast that is well above average, but the movie itself is the usual mishmash of plane slog, dogfight slog, sub slog and mix-and-match-footage-from-other-movies slog that we've all become acquainted with over the years, especially in the output from the late 90's/early 2000's when that sort of thing really seemed to proliferate.

It's not a total loss, however, because Howell and Mantooth are both really good in the film and seem to be giving it their all. Or something close to their all. It helps the proceedings a lot to see that. Of course, there's the time-honored Wacky Taxi Driver. In this case, he proclaims how much he loves the West and his fondest goal is to "marry a Spice Girl". The baseball-loving John Reed really seems to appreciate this. Larry Hankin plays a guy whose name is - if you listen to what other characters seem to be calling him - "Yuri Avocado". Makes sense.

The special effects are indeed quite special, as we've got miniatures that look like they were taken out of a box of Battleship, "explosions" that look like if you crash your plane in a CD-ROM flight simulator from 1994, and an exploding helicopter that's quite literally onscreen for one second. We only point out these things because they help make the movie more fun and more watchable, not out of any sort of negativity.

In the realm of constructive criticism, we would say that the plot was very simplistic and should have had more going on, perhaps more twists and turns. The solid B-Movie cast was nice to see, but what they had to work with wasn't that meaty.

The VHS tape, released by Corman's New Concorde label, states on the tape itself that the film runs 77 minutes. The back of the box states that it's 84 minutes. The film itself is 82 minutes before the credits. All split hairs aside, the movie is still pretty short, but it feels longer because we've all been down this road many times in our viewing past.

In the end, Enemy Action isn't anything you haven't seen before. For a suggestion that's similar but better, try The Pandora Project.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Case Closed (1988)

Case Closed
(1988)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Dick Lowry 

Starring: Byron Allen and Charles Durning

Detective David Brockman (Allen) is a cop with a devil-may-care attitude to life. He may be happy-go-lucky, but don't cross him. He always gets his man. His father was on the Atlanta, Georgia police force, and, naturally, David is too. 

This fresh face is about to partner with an old salt: retired officer Les Kabowski (Durning). Kabowski may be a cigar-chomping overweight White guy, and Brockman may be a skinny, nerdy Black guy, but the two men both know how to wisecrack. When a diamond belonging to some European nobility goes missing, and everyone in the criminal underworld associated with moving the diamond ends up dead, Brockman and Kabowski put their unorthodox methods together to find the diamond and end the bloodshed that follows in its wake. How many more people have to die before Brockman and Kabowski can say CASE CLOSED?

Byron Allen with a shotgun. Need we say more? The beloved comedian, host of The Byron Allen Show, and owner of The Weather Channel beats up people, chases them relentlessly, and shoots several of them. We haven't seen anything like this since Collision Course (1989), where Jay Leno slaughtered Randall "Tex" Cobb. After all, it was the late 80's, and buddy cop movies with a lot of humor in them were all the rage: Red Heat (1988), Lethal Weapon (1987), etc. People may compare Case Closed with Beverly Hills Cop (1984). Just because Beverly Hills Cop is far more well known doesn't make it better. Case Closed is better.

Case Closed opens up with Allen singing along in a funny manner to the radio, much like Eddie Murphy does at the beginning of 48 Hrs. (1982). If this telefilm was trying to avoid comparisons with more mainstream Hollywood product, they really weren't helping themselves by starting the movie this way. But here's the bottom line of Case Closed: it's a ton of fun and highly recommended. Allen and Durning have great chemistry together and they both look like they're having a lot of fun. It's infectious for the viewer. There's a lot of upbeat action and comedy and you're never bored. It's really a rollicking good time.

Naturally, Byron Allen has great comic timing and that's displayed well throughout the film. Fan favorite Charles Durning does as well, and this "Original Odd Couple" pairing provides a totally winning entertainment experience for the audience. They have a constant Tango & Cash-esque banter that continues the entire time. Importantly, they're not bickering. To the movie's eternal credit (and the relief of the audience), the two men do not bicker. There's funny banter, and that makes all the difference.

If nothing else, Byron Allen deserves credit for introducing the "Black Nerd" to American television with his David Brockman character. He beat Urkel to the punch by many years. Brockman, with his hiked-up pants, high-pitched voice, and willingness to help others but always getting into a whole heap o'trouble, will make you think that at any moment he'll squeal, "Did I do that?" The crucial difference to remember, however, is that Brockman is not annoying. At least not most of the time. His winning smile and his easy manner (when he's not brandishing the aforementioned shotgun) will charm viewers, most likely, and Durning has his own way about him that meshes well with him.

Of course, all the staples of the late 80's buddy cop movie are here, such as fruit-cart car chases, the classic WYC, shootouts, punch-ups, guitar wails on the soundtrack, and of course the humor. There's really nothing not to love about Case Closed. It's a gem.

Featuring a soundtrack with a main theme that is definitely "inspired" by Faltermeyer's Axel F, all the ingredients are here. It's impossible to imagine that this was a pilot to a TV show that the network suits passed on. What more were they expecting? Case Closed delivers the goods as much as a TV pilot possibly can. Well, that just goes to show that the corporate stooges at the networks don't always know best. Or make the right decisions. Or know anything, really.

In another instance of "what were they thinking?", Case Closed never received a home video release in America on any format. It did in several countries worldwide, but not here. Since 1988, the rest of the global community must be still scratching their heads, wondering why this Byron Allen fellow never made more movies of this sort and became a full-fledged action star. That mystery remains, but let's just say that Allen has done pretty well for himself in the meantime. At least we all have Case Closed as a window to another time...and what might have been.

On a happier note, check out Case Closed. You'll have a great time!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Striking Point (1995)

Striking Point
(1995)- * *1\2

Directed by: Thomas Fenton 

Starring: Chris Mitchum, Rocky Patterson, Stan Morse, Tracy Spaulding, Jeff Blanchard, and Ivan Rogers

When the evil Col. Ivan Romanov (Mitchum) attempts to flood the streets with new, high-powered weaponry and make a huge profit in the process, Dallas detectives Joe Morris (Patterson) and Nick Harris (Morse) snap into action. Perhaps due to the fact that Romanov is flanked by his own Trenchcoat Mafia of goons, Morris gets shot and John Burke (Blanchard) becomes Morris's new partner. Of course, Captain Matthews (Rogers) wants answers. To unravel the mystery, they first head down to the local strip club and ask Tina Wells (Spaulding) for help. Wells fears for her life and is afraid to talk. So Morris and Burke must go it alone in their quest to take down Romanov and his acolytes. Will they miss their mark? Or will they hit their STRIKING POINT?

Imagine, if you will, a cross between Cop-Out (1991) and Miami Beach Cops (1992). If that comparison makes no sense to you, just try to imagine a very low budget effort with some ups and downs. The opening scene involving Chris Mitchum and some homies doing a gun deal gone wrong is very, very funny. You would think (and hope) the rest of the movie would continue on in this vein, but it doesn't.

While there are some silly shootouts and blow-ups, at about the halfway point the film stops dead in its tracks as our two heroes sit on the couch, smoke cigarettes, and discuss their lives. It goes on for an inordinate amount of time. Finally there's an action scene (and one of the better ones), then it's right back to the couch. It goes on for so long, it will remind you of a play with one simple backdrop, like Waiting for Godot. In this case, it's more like Waiting for Action.

Later on, there are even more scenes like this, including an extended climax in the time-honored warehouse, with a pure-black, "Charlie Rose Show" background that seemed to turn up again and again in lower-budgeted efforts like this one.

Chris Mitchum didn't seem to put much effort into his "Russian" accent, with amusing results. One of his lackeys continually said "Da", to remind us, the audience, that they are indeed Russian. While Jeff Blanchard as Burke is reminiscent of former talk show host Craig Kilborn, we would have liked to have seen more Rocky Patterson.

While the film was not directed by Bret McCormick, it was produced by him, and it includes some of his stock company, if you will. Notably the aforementioned Patterson, and Tracy Spaulding, who was in his Armed For Action (1992) with Patterson. Here she plays the world's most listless stripper. Maybe she was down in the dumps because she had just appeared in the dire The Deadly Secret (1994). Both Armed For Action and The Deadly Secret featured Joe Estevez. This movie needed Joe Estevez.

But we got Ivan Rogers, who has become a fan favorite over the years. For the first time (at least for us) he's bald in the film, which gives him a sort of Montel Williams vibe. But his trademark soft-spokenness remains.

In the sound department, while the dialogue can be quiet and muffled in that way that DTV movies from the era tended to be, at least there's some sax on the soundtrack, as well as a catchy end-credits song (that should have appeared in the movie during a training sequence, as we always say) called 'The Majic of Pain' by a band called Crawfish.

While this is the only directorial effort to date for Thomas Fenton, he did go on to have a good career in Hollywood, it seems. Apparently people were impressed with a man with Striking Point as his calling card. Released on VHS by Cabin Fever, Striking Point may appeal to those with a taste for mid-90's under-the-radar DTV efforts, but it does have some issues.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty