Ironheart (1992)

(1992)- * * *

Directed by: Robert Clouse

Starring: Britton K. Lee, Richard Norton, Karmen Kruschke, Meagan Hughes, David Mountain and Bolo Yeung

John Keem (Lee) is an integral part of the LAPD. Not only does he bust the baddies, but he also runs a Martial Arts training program at the police academy. When a woman named Cindy Kane (Hughes) goes missing - and his former partner Douglas (Mountain) does too - Keem hops in his Porsche and travels to Portland, Oregon to get answers. While there, he runs afoul of the criminal mastermind Milverstead (Norton) and his henchman Ice (Bolo). Keem must stop the human trafficking while finding time for love with Kristi (Kruschke). In the process of busting up Portland crime, he screams in an amusing manner and beats a lot of people up. But who will be the true IRONHEART in this situation?

Hot Flash Pizza. It's a great place to get a slice, especially if you're a nerdy sort of fellow and you're looking for a job. Or you could head on down to Up Front FX, the hottest nightclub in town. There's plenty to do in Portland besides get beat up by John Keem. Assuming you don't want to be beat up by John Keem.

Thankfully, there are numerous New Jack City (1991)-inspired dance club scenes, which we always like to see. Ironheart gets off to a bang with an extended one right from the jump, and the very catchy song, "If U Were Mine" by U-Krew plays continuously. Bobby Brown and Bell Biv Devoe were very hot at the time, and U-Krew is right in that vein. The clothing and occasionally synchronized dance moves are a joy to behold.

Now, even though there are several dance club scenes, an aerobics scene, a standout moment where Keem foils an attempted rape, all the songs are by U-Krew, and there's plenty of 90's charm on display, surprisingly, not much actually happens in Ironheart. At least in terms of plot or characters, which are why most people watch movies. There are major pacing issues throughout the film which slow things down for the viewer.

Director Robert Clouse, who was born in 1928, was a bit out of his depth on this one. He passed away in 1997, only five years after the release of Ironheart. Needless to say, it was his final film as director, but he had just come off a hot streak of Gymkata (1985), China O'Brien, and China O'Brien II (both 1990). By the time he got around to Ironheart, I think it's fair to say he was a bit unfocused, at least in terms of his directorial abilities.

While getting Richard Norton and Bolo Yeung to appear side by side was a good idea, the movie might have been more successful if there was a casting change-up: make Norton the hero and Bolo the main baddie, rather than just a goon. Britton K. Lee could have been his henchman. Or perhaps make Bolo the hero and Lee the main baddie, with Norton as the henchman. It's all very fluid, but it's pretty safe to say that only fans of Norton, Bolo, or 90's video-store action will be watching Ironheart in the first place.

In the U.S., Ironheart got what appears to be quite a limited release on VHS on the Imperial label. At least for us, it was never easy to find. Thankfully, MVD have rectified that situation with their Bloodfight/Ironheart Bolo double feature on DVD or Blu-ray. Now these movies are easier to access than ever before. In both films, Bolo is a scowling baddie that doesn't say much, if anything at all. But even going back to the VHS days, he was always front and center on the box art. He was, and remains, a fan favorite even if he doesn't always get the amount of screen time that he should.

In the end, Ironheart is not the slickest, most coherent, or most streamlined beat-em-up you'll ever see, but if you have an affinity for these sorts of things like we do, the nostalgia factor should carry you through at least one viewing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Legacy Of Lies (2020)


Legacy Of Lies
(2020)- * *

Directed by: Adrian Bol 

Starring: Scott Adkins, Yuliia Sobol, and Honor Kneafsey

After an operation doesn't go as planned, Martin Baxter (Adkins) leaves MI6. Constantly on the run with his daughter Lisa (Kneafsey), he fears not just for her safety, but for his as well. After being approached by journalist Sacha (Sobol) while working as a bouncer in a Ukrainian nightclub, things go from bad to worse. The baddies are after "The Files", of course, and Lisa is kidnapped. Now trying to get to the bottom of the LEGACY OF LIES, Martin and Sacha must get to the truth and find out who is responsible for all the chaos. But can they do it in time?

Legacy of Lies, visually, looks quite good. It's shot and lit very well, with many scenes that capture the viewer's eye. But, over the course of 100 minutes, there are many slow and/or dull scenes, especially in the final third, when things should have ratcheted up. When action appears, it's good stuff, with Adkins doing what he does best, but there wasn't nearly enough of it. It's more of a spy drama, with the action thrown in almost as an afterthought. It's probably hard for foreign filmmakers to compete with TV shows like Homeland, but this is an earnest attempt to go down that same road. But fireworks were needed.

Like a lot of material from Eastern Europe, there is a certain bleakness on display. Let's just say that Legacy of Lies isn't exactly "LOL" material. Despite the film's self-seriousness, there are still some action movie staples included, such as a scene each of Punchfighting, Prerequisite Torture, and even a 'Fruit-Cart' car chase.

Honor Kneafsey was a standout as Lisa, and she definitely has a bright future as an actress. Same goes for Yuliia Sobol as Sacha, the Lisbeth Salander-like sidekick. It was also nice to see Matt Mitler of Bums (1993) and The Mutilator (1984) fame show up here as well. Of course, we remain staunch Adkins fans. He was probably happy to lean more on the acting side than the action side here, but Legacy of Lies should have been a more even mix of the two.

While not without its merits, especially on the technical side of the filmmaking, Legacy of Lies is unnecessarily dour and overlong. It needed more of a propulsive pace to satisfy what Adkins fans have come to expect.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Lone Hero (2002)

 Lone Hero (2002)- * *

Directed by: Ken Sanzel

Starring: Lou Diamond Phillips, Sean Patrick Flanery, Mark Metcalf, Hugh Dillon, and Robert Forster 

In the small town of Profit, Montana, a group of guys - John (Flanery), Gus (Forster), Harris (Metcalf), and others are actors who put on Wild West shows for the viewing public. Amongst an old-fashioned Western town, they have shootouts and brawls, and the assembled crowds applaud when the no-good varmints fall down in the street. Intruding upon their little world is a gang of biker baddies, led by the evil Bart (LDP). They invade the town and proceed to cause all sorts of havoc. While merely an actor in the live shows, John takes it upon himself to transcend his role as the lawman, and become a LONE HERO in real life. Naturally, the stage is set for the final showdown between John and Bart. Who will be the real quick-draw man when the game is played for keeps?

Lone Hero is a humble, well-meaning throwback to the westerns of yore. It's immediately apparent that it's a low budget, shot-in-Canada affair, which certainly aren't bad things. But it is a bit surprising that with some real names in the cast - Forster, LDP, Flanery, and, to a certain extent, Metcalf - that is has such a cheapjack look to it. But the real problem is that it's all a bit pedestrian - there are moments when it slows to a crawl and becomes quite dull. There are a couple of action scenes peppered throughout, but the ending is pretty lame. It's almost like the movie can't get out of its own way.

If you're going to see one movie directed by Ken Sanzel, see Scarred City (1998), his directorial debut. It has a bit more pep in its step. Just as how he got Chazz Palminteri and Stephen Baldwin fresh off their The Usual Suspects (1995) success for that film, here he got Robert Forster after Jackie Brown (1997). That must be Sanzel's thing: get actors who are just coming off some surprise success to be in his DTV productions. Well, it worked for us.

The box art is pretty misleading. It leads potential renters or owners - or, in any case, viewers - to believe that LDP is going to be the Lone Hero. He's not; Flanery is. It was nice to see Phillips revel in his baddie role, and as much as we are devoted Robert Forster fans, without Phillips's performance, this would be dullsville, man.

That being said, if at any point in the proceedings Mark Metcalf got in Phillips's face and screamed, "What do you want to DO with your life!!??!!!!!", we'd give the movie five stars. And we're only on a four-star ratings system.

Because it's a City Heat production, Lone Hero was likely found languishing on the shelves at Blockbusters across the nation.

Despite everyone's best intentions, Lone Hero never really ignites into anything that inspires the viewer.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Bloodfight (1989)


(1989)- * * *

Directed by: Shuki Goto

Starring: Bolo Yeung, Simon Yam, Meg Lam, and Yasuki Kurata

Kai Masahiro (Kurata) is a champion in the art of 'Free Fighting', which, as the name implies, is a fighting tournament where all styles may compete against each other. It could be Sumo versus Judo or Karate, or whatever. The top of the Free Fighting heap is an evil baddie named Chang Lee (Bolo). He has a snake tattooed on his face, so he's nicknamed "The Vietnamese Snake". Because it's getting later on in his life and fighting career, Kai decides to retire. 

But he also starts training young Ryu Tenmei (Yam) in his off hours. Ryu, his girlfriend, and the local population are constantly being menaced by the local punks, so that's why Ryu decides to learn from the best. After he enters the Free Fighting championship and tragedy strikes, Kai must come out of retirement to face the ultimate enemy - Chang Lee. Who will reign victorious in the ultimate BLOODFIGHT?

The first half of Bloodfight is a lot of upbeat, wacky fun. The characters in the Free Fighting world are a lot like E. Honda or Dhalsim, there are punks with great outfits and hair that are roaming the neighborhood stealing fruit, and the whole outing is a non-stop welter of thickly-accented broken English. (Thankfully, the MVD DVDs and Blu-rays have subtitles, which you will definitely need). One of the characters has quite the pair of jeans. The ending is a punch-and-kick fest that will definitely satisfy fans of Punchfighting. In between all that are some oddly dramatic moments. It's all a pleasant and entertaining mishmash that's easy to like.

Of course, even the font on the cover of the box for Bloodfight will remind you of Bloodsport (1988). It came out the previous year and has, let's just say, some similarities with Bloodfight. In Bloodsport, Bolo Yeung plays Chong Li. In Bloodfight he plays Chang Lee. Is there a difference? We may never know. Subtlety and nuance are clearly what Bloodfight is all about.

When you're not enjoying the lovably unintelligible dialogue, the score by Micky Oguchi will pick you up. Of course, the music is utilized during the many training sequences that happen before the final fight (incidentally, Final Fight is one of the film's alternate titles). One of the trainers/friends looks like an Asian James Lipton. You think at any moment he will pick up a blue index card and ask him about the art and craft of acting. The bulk of the acting in Bloodfight is pretty tremendous, so one day maybe we will know the secret behind it all.

Surely, in the golden year of 1989, people in video stores across the world rented Bloodfight because they mistakenly thought it was Bloodsport. That's where a lot of the joy comes in. Also, it should be noted that Lady Bloodfight (2016) is not a long-delayed sequel.

So, for the whackadoo first half alone, Bloodfight is worth seeing. Now that it's readily available on disc with Ironheart (1992) on a double feature DVD or Blu-ray, more people should get to see the un-repeatable vintage charm of Bloodfight.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty