Bloodsport 2 (1996)


Bloodsport 2
(1996)- * * *

Directed by: Alan Mehrez

Starring: Daniel Bernhardt, Pat Morita, James Hong, Nicolas Hill, Ron Hall, Ong Soo Han, Chad Stahelski, and Donald Gibb

Alex Cardo (Bernhardt) is what Michael Jackson might have called a "smooth criminal". He's suave with the ladies, but he travels to Thailand so he can steal an ancient and valuable sword. He gets caught and thrown in the pokey, where he makes a lot of enemies, including Demon (Ong), but he makes at least one friend: Master Sun (Hong).

Sun tells Cardo about The Kumite, and trains him mercilessly so he can enter into it. This includes teaching him The Iron Hand, a secret Martial Arts technique that is quite powerful. After all this sword business is behind him, having dealt with antiquities enthusiast David Leung (Morita), Cardo concentrates fully on The Kumite. Thanks to the charismatic Tiny (Gibb), Cardo gets in.

While there, he meets other competitors such as Sergio (Hill) and Cliff (Hall), but the toughest contender is, darn the luck, Demon. That's right, his old nemesis from Thai prison. The stage is set for the ultimate battle. Well, maybe not the ultimate battle, because both Bloodsport movies and Punchfighters continue until the present day, but you know what we mean. Who will be victorious in this, THE NEXT KUMITE?

Here we have the first appearance out of two for the Alex Cardo character in the Bloodsport series. Daniel Bernhardt was the natural choice to replace Van Damme if the series was going to continue without JCVD. They share an uncanny physical similarity and European background. Bernhardt seems very much up for the challenge as he trains his heart out and gets involved in near-constant Martial Arts fights.

Thankfully, Donald Gibb is back as Tiny from the first film, and he always adds a lot. Gibb has "It" - a magnetic screen presence that makes him watchable. This is also one of the best roles we've seen to date for James Hong. Out of his massive filmography, which is 439 credits and counting, he usually doesn't get a role this meaty, where he starts the film by narrating the tale of Alex Cardo to a Karate school filled with tots, and appearing throughout as Cardo's trusty trainer. It's a better showcase for his talents than his usual bit roles, so that was nice to see.

Sun and Cardo - and everyone else in the Thai prison - must wear pink outfits because that's the jailhouse garb. Is it possible that former Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio watched Bloodsport 2? Because that's what he made is inmates wear, much to the chagrin of rapper and sometime action star DMX.

Luckily for us, Bloodsport 2 delivers all the Bloodsport 2iness that we could possibly want. While it came out in 1996, it feels more like 1990. Director Mehrez shot this entry in the series and Bloodsport III both in '96. Still, it was a cable and video store staple and easily accessible to anyone who wanted to see it.

It's well-shot and you can always see what's going on. This separates it from many Punchfighters of today, which skimp on the lighting and you can't discern who is who. Back in the 90's, not only was everything much clearer visually, but the fighters had well-defined personalities. We always use the example of the Shootfighter films, but it's equally true here. We as the audience definitely know who is going up against who in The Kumite. Of course, that's a good thing.

Unfortunately, an almost-insurmountable obstacle for any tournament fighting movie is that, at the very least, the final third of the film becomes quite repetitive. You have to show many shirtless men punching and kicking each other - over and over - so, that's what you do. But, to be fair, not all the men are shirtless. Some are in wrestling singlets.

But, presumably the reason why you sought out Bloodsport 2 is for the punching and kicking, and that's certainly what you get. Adding to the win column, there are several non-tournament action scenes that also really liven things up. So, because it's well-lit, well-shot, and features a strong cast of many favorite faces (and clocks in at a reasonable 86 minutes), Bloodsport 2 is a more than worthy follow-up to the classic original.

Released in America on VHS on the CFP video label, Bloodsport 2 is a video store classic and would make a good addition to any 90's action or Punchfighting collection.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


The Skid Kid (1991)


The Skid Kid (1991)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Glen Gruner

Starring: Gary Wolf, Scott Wolf, Glen Gruner, and Jessica Wolf

"This guy makes the Ninja Turtles look harmless!" - Local observer

When Scooter Spielberg (Gary Wolf) discovers a pair of miraculous boots in the middle of the highway that allow him to travel at fast speeds while just sitting on the ground, he becomes the newest crimefighter in Union, Missouri. Union is in the midst of a crime wave, and THE SKID KID, as he's dubbed by the local media, aims to stop it. The problem is that Scooter is just a regular high school kid with his own problems, such as a rivalry with Mr. All-Star (Scott Wolf), and girlfriend problems with Stephanie (Jessica Wolf). Meanwhile, the FBI is after Scooter, presumably to know the secret of the boots, and not jealousy as to the fact that he's cleaning up crime in town. Will the Skid Kid live to skid again?

The Skid Kid is an extremely charming and endearing regional production from Missouri. Clearly it was a labor of love for all involved, especially director/writer/producer/editor/actor and all-around Skid Kid mastermind Glen Gruner. Just exactly how Gruner came up with this whackadoo idea is not yet known, but the fact that he put his passion to work by actually putting the time and effort into making this movie is quite impressive. His love for the idea of a kid who can sit on the ground and move with the speed of a car is the overriding feeling here, and it's pretty infectious.

You know you're in good hands when, after the initial skidding scene ends, there's a kid with a mullet doing an extended wheelie on his bike. Very extended. The music throughout the film is very booming and rousing (and clearly sourced from somewhere with big orchestras). It's all populated with non-professional actors and is shot on what appears to be 8MM film. This gives it a 70's look and feel at times, even though the official release date is 1991.

The Skid Kid has other powers as well, as he can make skateboards appear out of nowhere. He gives one to a local tot who seems happy about it. The magical boots run on soda (how Scooter figures this out is never explained, but doesn't need to be), which leads to dialogue such as, and I quote, "I need more soda for my boots." You don't hear that said too often. That's why The Skid Kid is a treasure.

Scooter's catchphrase is "Gotta Scoot!" - BEFORE he becomes The Skid Kid. It's almost like he was fulfilling his destiny when he found the boots. He truly was born to scoot. Like any good Godfrey Ho movie, it all ends with a classic Final Field Fight. The closest comparison we can provide about The Skid Kid, with its family-friendly tone and aspiring filmmakers, is Kindergarten "Ninja" (1994), but the production values on that even surpass The Skid Kid. But it's okay, because it's all in fun.

Apparently the Wolf family, the most famous of which is Scott, was involved in the production. It would be interesting to hear him talk about this in an interview. Nevertheless, even if you don't like The Skid Kid, it's only 70 minutes. If truth be told, that is the perfect running time, because at that point the audience is pretty much Skid Kid'ed out. But it's a fun ride while it lasts.

Thanks to the VHS collecting community, there is more awareness now about The Skid Kid. Because of Instagram, YouTube, and other social media, lesser-seen local gems like this can gain wider exposure.

If you don't mind some local color, and you're up for watching the type of movie you and your friends could have made - or perhaps did make - give The Skid Kid a spin.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Toy Soldiers (1984)

 Toy Soldiers
(1984)- * *

Directed by: David Fisher 

Starring: Jason Miller, Cleavon Little, Terri Garber, Larry Poindexter, Jim Greenleaf, Tracy Scoggins, and Tim Robbins 

A man known only as Sarge (Miller) is a former Marine and Vietnam vet who now takes college kids on vacations to Central America on his yacht for fun and profit. On one particular excursion near Panama, some of the kids are taken hostage by "rebels" AKA the usual El Presidente types. Sarge, Amy (Garber), Boe (Robbins), Trevor (Pointexder) and some of the others manage to escape back to L.A.

But, on the urging on Amy, they decide to get into training mode so they can go back to rescue Monique (Scoggins), the injured Tom (Greenleaf), and other kids from their group that were left behind. Towards that end, they team up with Buck (Little), a pilot and former soldier that's willing to help them. Eventually they face off against the Central American fighters during their rescue mission. But are these college kids true warriors...or a bunch of TOY SOLDIERS?

Someone should really ask Tim Robbins about this movie. I think we're all curious as to his experiences as far as the making of Toy Soldiers goes. It all starts off in classic Romp fashion, with guys and girls in bathing suits on a yacht, pulling pranks on each other and laughing it up while synths play on the soundtrack. This was probably the best part of Toy Soldiers. Of course, Robbins is no stranger to Romps, as he was also in Fraternity Vacation (1985), which shares similarities with this first section of the film.

However, after this initial first blast of fun, things settle quickly down into a mediocre, by-the-numbers dullsville that we've all seen before. Examples - some of which are better than others - include Night Force (1987), Out of Control (1985), Damned River (1989), and Hired to Kill (1990), just to name a few. When the audience is begging your movie to be more like Mankillers (1987), you know there are some serious issues at hand.

It's the same old-same old El Presidente slog we're all quite familiar with at this point. Toy Soldiers (not to be confused with that other Toy Soldiers from 1991) is boring and standard, with nothing to really hang your hat on. To add insult to injury, all the guys in the movie wear the shortest shorts you've ever seen.

Most of the "action" only appears at the end, when there's some shooting and exploding huts during the final rescue mission. But what about the other 80 or so minutes? Hmmmm...

While there are some fun musical cues and stings on the soundtrack, it's just not enough to overcome the movie's many flaws. Probably the most obvious of which is that there is no character development so the audience doesn't really care what happens to either the college kids or the Jason Miller or Cleavon Little characters. It should have been the latter two busting heads and fighting the baddies as the main thrust of the plot.

Much like an episode of The Golden Girls, we get a "highlight reel" of moments we've just suffered through behind the end credits. So we all have the privilege of saying, "Wow, remember when Tim Robbins and the nerd guy smashed the watermelon?" - because, as part of their "training", in order to face off against deadly machine-gunners with nothing to lose, they hit a watermelon with a bat.

Featuring an end credits song that sounds a lot like Bertie Higgins' "Key Largo", Alan Graham's "It Couldn't Be Better" is truly a misnomer. The song should have been, "It Should've Been Better".

Released by New World Home Video on VHS in America, Toy Soldiers is a by-the-numbers dud and is inessential viewing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Killing Device (1993)

The Killing Device
(1993)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Paul McFarlane 

Starring: Antony Alda, Lee Gideon, Gig Rauch, Tom Berenson, and Clu Gulager 

We're told right off the bat that whoever has THE KILLING DEVICE will become the "sole world power" on earth. Naturally that means a bearded inventor named Bob Sloan (Berenson) and his partner, Dr. Jack Finney (Gideon). Both men are past middle-aged, and Finney looks exactly like our 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Their 'device' is a microchip with a long antenna that is inserted directly into the subject's brain. This causes them to be an emotionless killing machine who will murder on command, then kill themselves. The two men operate in the back of a dentist's office, where they implant devices (they have a lot of them) into people so they can commit political hits, and no one's the wiser.

After being told their secret government funding is going to be cut, Sloane and Finney go rogue. Soon thereafter, many U.S. Senators are found dead, and a newspaper reporter named Kyle Summers (Alda) gets a tip about the nefarious deeds of Sloane and Finney. He takes a killing device for himself, but then has to go on the run when he's discovered. Both Kyle and a woman named Sara Richmond (Rauch) are hiding out because they might be next on the hit list. But what does a politician named Smitty (Gulager) have to do with any of this? Find out today!

With a vibe like R.O.T.O.R. (1987) or perhaps a Mats Helge movie, The Killing Device is an undiscovered gem. It has a lot of fun political dialogue in between the wackier 'killing device' scenes, and it's a bit reminiscent of AIP's Lock and Load (1990), but The Killing Device is better. The boardroom fight scene towards the beginning is clearly a highlight, which is why they put the nameless soldier front and center on the VHS box art. It's a little misleading (because the guy with the gun isn't the main hero of the piece), but we see what they must have been thinking.

There are many unusual things about The Killing Device. One is that the Finney and Sloan characters are concentrated on heavily, and it's not often you see two older men capering around doing bad stuff as the main focal point of a movie. Another odd thing is that it appears certain scenes were just cut out, regardless of how that would affect the continuity or flow of what would follow. This adds to a very fun "lack of logic" feeling that is quite enjoyable and puts The Killing Device ahead of its more standard contemporaries.

The idea that our villains could put the killing device into anybody was an interesting idea. In one scene, they turn a seemingly-harmless old biddy into a ruthless assassin. It's scary to think anybody could be a killing machine.

Antony Alda is Alan's half-brother. He plays the news reporter/hunk, of course. Somehow Kyle falls in love with Sara, even though she wears what just may be the most unflattering outfit seen on film for quite some time. Clu Gulager - not to be confused with Eb Lottimer - shows up as Smitty, but he blends in with a lot of characters that look a lot like him. So we got Clu and Gig together at last. But the man who steals the movie is Gary Wayne Cooper as Rod, Kyle's friend and co-worker. We would have liked to have seen more from him.

Speaking of which, The Killing Device is the only credit for director Paul McFarlane, Gig Rauch, Tom Berenson, and of course Gary Wayne Cooper, and probably a lot of the other cast and crew. For many others, it's only one of two credits (including the writer Kliff Keuhl, who must be cool because it's Kliff with a K, and his last name is probably said as "cool").

Another thing in the win column is the music. Not only does it have an engaging score, it also features a very memorable title song (we always love those) by an artist named Andy Gravity, and a Georgia Satellites-esque rocker called "Messy World" by Nick Two Barrada.

While The Killing Device has a final release date of 1993, there is a copyright date of 1990. It has a very late 80's feel to it, so it was likely shot in 1989 or earlier. Another possible clue about that comes when we see that a side character (a TV news cameraman) is wearing a Genesis Invisible Touch tour shirt for '87-88. Regardless of the release date, the film itself is well worth seeing. Like Cole Justice (1989), it was shot in Oklahoma. There are plenty of "rewindable" moments and the viewer wins all around.

Released by VCI Home Video back in the golden age of video stores, The Killing Device clearly shows that when it comes to tracking down obscure VHS - and we must quote the highly appropriate tagline - The hunt is on!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty