Kickboxer 5: Redemption (1995)


Kickboxer 5: Redemption
(1995)- * *1\2

Directed by: Kristine Peterson

Starring: Mark Dacascos, Geoff Meed, and James Ryan

When an evil former kickboxer from South Africa named Mr. Negaal (Ryan) decides to form his own kickboxing association, it puts the entire kickboxing world in turmoil. With a mostly-inexplicable burning, seething hatred against all the other associations, the ruthless Negaal demands that all the best fighters join his group - or die. This hits home for Matt Reeves (Dacascos), a fighter with a heart of gold. It seems that the Negaal organization has senselessly killed off David Sloan, the man audiences had come to know and love in the prior sequels. So, of course, Reeves travels to South Africa to get justice. Along the way he meets fellow fighter Croft (Meed) and the two men finally go after Negaal. Much like if you turn in your bottles and cans at the bottle return, they're looking for REDEMPTION.

Kickboxer 5 has some good things going for it. First and foremost is Mark Dacascos in the lead, who is very likable. That goes a long way, especially when facing off a very bad, "boo-hiss" baddie like Negaal, who is very well-played in Billy Drago-esque fashion by James Ryan. So right there we have two things that a lot of movies of this ilk don't have - a good good guy and a bad bad guy.

Dacascos shows he has some great and very acrobatic fighting moves, and Ryan shows range after being the hero in Kill or Be Killed (1976) and Kill and Kill Again (1981). Other characters of note include Reeves's mentor and old salt Chalky, not to be confused with Rocky's Mickey or Hercules in New York's Pretzie. Reeves's sidekick Croft looks like a more bulked-up Vanilla Ice, and Negaal's henchman is a dead ringer for Christopher McDonald. Naturally, there's a fight in a warehouse, which is a movie highlight, and there's a decent amount of local South African color.

So that's all good, but even with its very fair 87-minute running time, things start to drag at times and the pacing is all over the place. One minute you're having a grand old time, the next it's slow as molasses. Still, it's an improvement over director Petersen's prior film to this, the disappointing The Hard Truth (1994). At least here, there are moments of action and excitement. And a training sequence that features very intensive neck exercises. Don't worry, they're very important.

Sure, the plot - especially as it relates to former characters Kurt Sloan, David Sloan, or Tong Po - doesn't make much sense, but, hey, it's the fourth DTV sequel to Kickboxer, so whaddaya want? When looked at in that light, it's a bit better than it has any right to be.

Despite some of the slowdowns, we recommend Kickboxer 5, especially to fans of the series. It's better than the latter-day sequels, if nothing else.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Primary Target (1989)


Primary Target
(1989)- * *

Directed by: Clark Henderson 

Starring: John Calvin, Joey Aresco, and John Ericson

When a CIA guy named Phil Karlson (Ericson) summons some Vietnam vets he used to know for a meeting at his home in Thailand, you know some sort of rescue mission will be forthcoming. That's exactly what happens, as we see when Karlson lays out his plan to the four men. The former soldiers are now mercenaries, led by Cromwell (Calvin). It appears that Karlson's wife has been kidnapped and spirited away to somewhere in the Golden Triangle, and it's up to Cromwell and his compatriots to rescue her. If they do that, they'll be richly rewarded, but it won't be easy, as their enemies in the jungle will be shooting at them the whole time. Will our heroes complete their mission - or will there be one final twist before we find out who is the true PRIMARY TARGET of the operation?

John Calvin was born in 1509 in Noyon, France. With his major work, 1536's Institutio Christianae Religionis, he became one of the leaders of the Protestant reformation of the era. By the time of his death in 1564, Calvinism was known worldwide and his status as an influential theologian was assured. At the beginning of his career, he...wait...what's that? Hold on, I'm getting a late-breaking news report. Well, it turns out that the John Calvin described above is not the John Calvin that stars in Primary Target. Hm. Color me surprised.

Nevertheless, Primary Target is as generic as its box art. No wonder it failed to find an audience during the video store heyday. It's yet another in a seemingly-unending stream of jungle-set exploding hutters, and it does absolutely nothing to distinguish itself from its many, many competitors.

That's a real shame, because all the ingredients are there for an entertaining romp: it opens with a bang (literally), machine guns are shot, guard towers and huts blow up, there's a barfight, there's a couple of car chases in silly fast motion, and at least one person screams while shooting a machine gun. But with a lack of character development, plotting, or anything even remotely resembling emotion or originality, Primary Target flounders.

Adding insult to injury is the age-old problem of not having a strong, central villain for our heroes to fight. Much like a James Bond movie, outings like this are only as good as their villain. Sure, we've got John Calvin, and that's great and all, but we needed a serious foe for him to come up against. Any sort of edge at all that would have taken this out of jungle slog territory and put it on a more solid footing would have helped a lot as well.

One thing that should be pointed out, however, is how odd the music is here. I don't know if it's on purpose or by accident, but much of the music seems highly inappropriate. Jaunty, upbeat sax or jazzy blues for action scenes? A sort of lite-rock for the supposedly dramatic ones? It feels completely mismatched, almost like the music tracks and the footage got mixed up somehow. It also doesn't help matters that the MGM/UA VHS tape (at least the one we watched) has very poor sound quality. So that made an already bland movie even harder to sit through.

It seems that the fourth time was the charm for director Clark Henderson, because after his debut, Warlords From Hell (1987), then Saigon Commandos (1988), then Primary Target in '89, he finally hit paydirt with the highly entertaining and enjoyable Circle of Fear (1992). Perhaps by that time he had perfected the formula, which is a shame as it's his last movie as director. He later went on to other roles in the film industry.

So, if you see only one Clark Henderson movie, see Circle of Fear. Primary Target, even with the presence of John Calvin and Philippines-film regulars such as Henry Strzalkowski and Joonee Gamboa, doesn't set itself apart in any way.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Act Of Piracy (1988)

 Act Of Piracy
(1988)- * *

Directed by: John 'Bud' Cardos

Starring: Gary Busey, Ray Sharkey, Belinda Bauer, Ken Gampu, Dennis Park, Nancy Mulford and Arnold Vosloo 

All Ted Andrews (Busey) wanted to do was take his two children, some friends, and his new girlfriend (Mulford) on a nice cruise to Australia on his yacht. It was there that a wealthy buyer was going to buy said yacht. His ex-wife Sandy (Bauer) was against the trip, but Ted ends up setting sail anyway, and all hell breaks loose when the Andrews family and the whole crew of the vessel are victims of an ACT OF PIRACY.

A group of international terrorists (they're always international terrorists), led by Jack Wilcox (Sharkey), Sean Stevens (Vosloo), and Herb Bunting (Gampu) kill everyone on board, and kidnap the children. What they didn't count on was that Ted Andrews survived the massacre and is an ex-military mastermind out for revenge. He and his former wife team up to get the baddies and save the children. Their journey takes them from Zimbabwe to Greece, but will the Andrews parents take back their children and stop international terrorism once and for all?

Act of Piracy is standard fare. Busey, surprisingly, doesn't go over the top in his trademarked fashion. Maybe because it was 1988 and that was before he really went insane, but he doesn't spout any wacky sayings, he doesn't really scream or make funny faces at people, and he never calls anyone a "butthorn" or anything of the sort. By Busey standards, he's actually kind of restrained here.

Arnold Vosloo, his then-wife Nancy Mulford, and director John "Bud" Cardos quickly reunited in the same year - '88 of course - after Skeleton Coast to do this. While we certainly enjoyed seeing Busey, Vosloo, Gampu, and Mulford all together, the movie itself is middling, middle-of-the-road and has no surprise twists and turns that keep audiences hooked. There's a dearth of action throughout most of the running time and fans likely won't be satisfied by that.

Ray Sharkey looks like a cross between a young Hugh Jackman and a young Steven Bauer. He has a knock-down, drag-out fight with Busey at the end, but this old tub of a movie is pretty waterlogged. 

If any movie was shot at this time in South Africa (as plenty were), Ken Gampu had to make an appearance. If anything, Act of Piracy could have used more Gampu. Also, during the opening credits, we see "introducing Dennis Park as Dennis Bryant". Not only was Park in some things before this, including No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) as "Karate Fight Referee", 'Piracy was his last movie role to date. He obviously wanted to end his movie career with a bang.

In the end, Act of Piracy is video store shelf-filler that doesn't exactly scream "see me now!" - really we would only recommend it to die-hard Busey fans.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Heroes Stand Alone (1989)


Heroes Stand Alone
(1989)- * *

Directed by: Mark Griffiths 

Starring: Chad Everett, Bradford Dillman and Rick Dean

Everyone seems pretty happy that all the violence that has plagued the Central American country of San Pedro has finally ceased. Whatever war that they were formally involved in has officially ended. Tensions arise when a mysterious plane crashes in San Pedro. Zack Duncan (Everett) leads a team of commandos in a search for the plane's black box. 

Whatever was recorded on the box must be awfully important, because a joint team of evil Russkies and Cubans are also after the box. Then, as you might imagine, shootings and blow-ups ensue. But when Walt Simmons (Dillman) eventually spills the beans on what's really going on, Zack has to search his soul to find out the true meaning of "shootings and blow-ups". Who will be on the receiving end of this Zack Attack? Well, as you may have heard, HEROES STAND ALONE.

Yet another in a seemingly-endless stream of jungle slogs, Heroes Stand Alone fails to distinguish itself from its vast array of competitors. While Rick Dean and Bradford Dillman are the strong points in an otherwise completely mediocre and average affair, even their combined talents can't really turn 'Heroes into something that rises above the fray.

In the great video store year of 1989, we as consumers were really spoiled for choice. So Roger Corman must have figured he could pump out some more of the same-old-same-old and at least it would be an option for video store patrons who were perusing the shelves. Heroes Stand Alone is all but forgotten today, however.

Maybe David Carradine was unavailable, as he was probably elsewhere in the jungle making his own slogs, so they filled his shoes with Chad Everett. Helpfully, the back of the VHS box informs us that Everett is, and we quote, a "popular film and television actor". I guess back in the days before Imdb, you had to say something like that so people wouldn't think they'd be wasting their time watching a movie with an unpopular film and television actor.

In any case, Everett sports a rather unflattering Moe Howard hairstyle and doesn't have a ton of charisma, which is needed if you're starring in an action film. Rick Dean has a lot more going on than Everett does. 

As is the case in way too many movies of this sort, it needed a better villain and more baddies for our heroes to shoot. It also needed more Bradford Dillman. His speech at the end was great and we needed more scenes like that. Also we could have used more scenes such as the one where a real-life Mario gets shot. This guy resembles Mario way more than Bob Hoskins ever did. Yet another wasted opportunity.

While there is an exploding helicopter, and most of the military jargon revolves around SAMs, it's all very standard, unexciting fare. When the Corman factory was deciding who they should get to direct this particular jungle outing, they naturally picked Mark Griffiths, whose previous two films were Hardbodies (1984) and Hardbodies 2 (1986). He brings a bit of that juvenile humor to the film, but he doesn't seem to understand action all that well.

In the end, Heroes Stand Alone is forgettable and the peacenik ending is about as lame as it gets. We'd love to love the film, as some of the ingredients are there, but, sadly, it seems like it's going to be standing alone on the dusty old shelves of the past.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Force: Five (1981)


Force: Five (1981)- * *1\2

Directed by: Robert Clouse

Starring: Richard Norton, Amanda Wyss, Bong Soo Han, Peter Maclean, Joe Lewis, Sonny Barnes, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Pam Huntington, and Mel Novak

Reverend Rhee (Han) is a cult leader who, along with his devoted disciples, is sequestered away on a remote island. When Senator Forrester (MacLean) wants to rescue his daughter from the cult, he calls in "The Best" - i.e., a team of five high-kickin' Martial Arts fighters comprised of Jim Martin (Lewis), Lockjaw (Barnes), Billy Ortega (Urquidez), Laurie (Huntington), and Ezekiel (Norton). Will our quintuplet of action heroes exfiltrate the girl? Or will they fall to the hands of a man known only as The Assassin (Novak)?

Coming hot on the heels of the Jim Jones Guyana tragedy, which occurred in November of 1978, Force: Five reimagines the tale if Benny the Jet, Richard Norton, and the rest of gang showed up at Jonestown and saved the day. It's also reminiscent of other newsworthy cults of the time, such as the Rajneesh group, which is what the Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country is all about. However, Force: Five also a comedy, complete with a Kill and Kill Again (1981) vibe, or a certain A-Team sensibility. Imdb.com even claims it's a remake of Hot Potato (1976). Which would explain why it reminded us so much of...Hot Potato.

While it's ostensibly rated R, it feels very PG in its execution. The triumph of the Robert Clouse standout Gymkata (1985) isn't exactly threatened here, because Force: Five contains more than enough stupidity, but the stuntwork is very good, and there are some amusing "classic 1981 drive-in" Kung-Fu fights along the way. But there are long stretches with actionless moments, which slow things down.

It was nice to see a young Richard Norton, who looks alarmingly like Matthew McConaughey from Dazed and Confused (1993) here. It really could be his doppelganger. Bob Schott as Carl is a classic meathead, and it was nice to see Amanda Wyss, no matter for how short a time, here as well. Wyss has been in an impressive number of 80's classics, including A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Better Off Dead (1985), and Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982), among others. This was so early in her career, she was credited as Mandy Wyss. Interestingly, she was on the short-lived TV series Jessica Novak, and Force: Five has Mel Novak. Coincidence?

Anyway, Force: Five is a bit like a cross between Never Say Die (1994) and Catch the Heat (1987). The former for the cult aspect, and the latter for the "Karate Comedy" aspect. It all opens with a funky theme song and it's perfect for the drive-ins and grindhouses of the early 80's. It shouldn't be confused with Heroes Three (1983).

Also not to be confused with the 1975 TV movie Force Five (note the missing colon), this Force: Five was released on a Media tape during the golden era of VHS. Overall, it has some decent moments but there's really no "wow factor" here. The cast is good, and it's all very competent, but a little something extra really would have fleshed it all out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty