Real Bullets (1988)- * * *
Directed by: Lance Lindsay
Starring: John Gazarian, Darlene Landau, and Martin Landau
John Davidian (Gazarian) is the founder and main instructor at the Southern California Stunt School. This year's class is a fun-lovin' group of guys and gals who just want to learn the ways of stunt and then party down in their off time. Unfortunately for them, they cross paths with a drug gang based out of the Vasquez Rocks area in Agua Dulce, California. At first the goons think the stunt team won't be a formidable fighting force, but they turn out to be wrong. Head gangster Sallini (Martin Landau) gets progressively less and less happy as the stuntpeople win more and more of their skirmishes. Will our stunt players get out alive, now that they're playing with...REAL BULLETS?
From the makers of Driven to Kill (1991), Real Bullets is something of a cross between Death Cheaters (1976) and Lone Hero (2002), with a bit of The Contra Conspiracy (1990) and Invasion Force (1990) thrown in for good measure. It was clearly a labor of love for everyone involved, because even though the film was done on a very low budget with mostly non-actors or people just starting out in their career, they managed to turn in a film with an upbeat tone that has a lot of heart.
With that in mind, it's easy to overlook the many technical flaws, such as bad lighting and poor sound quality and things like that. They become unimportant when we're introduced to "The Old Miner" character (that's what everyone calls him) or when John Gazarian breaks out his bow and arrow (which is an odd signature weapon to have in a movie called Real Bullets, but, then again, the whole structure of the film is pretty odd). Also, it's narrated for some reason.
Everyone in the cast has the same character name as their real name, with the exceptions of Martin Landau as Sallini and John Gazarian as John Davidian. Apparently it was important for him to be playing a different Armenian stuntman. Everyone else can be themselves, though. Just another oddity that reinforces the fact that Real Bullets is well worth watching.
Martin Landau's Sallini is a guy who pretty much yells lines like "No More Mistakes!" and other cliches, mostly over the telephone. At one point he wears a blindingly-white suit that can only be described as being of the Ice Cream variety. It's so "Wonderful" that it's amazing that Joe Mantegna, Esai Morales, and Edward James Olmos didn't come looking for it. Meanwhile, Martin Landau's daughter Darlene is running around here somewhere. She has only appeared in two movies to date - Driven to Kill and Real Bullets. It all comes back around.
A highlight occurs when a classic barfight breaks out at a place called Alice's Topless Joint. On their sign, it reads "Truckers Welcome, Suckers Keep Out". (Well, there might have been some inappropriately-placed apostrophes in the words "Trucker's" and "Sucker's", but who's counting? It all adds to the rough-hewn charm of the movie). It's also quite a strange phenomenon that it seems like there are way more members of the stunt school towards the end of the film than there were at the beginning. Or it could have been an optical illusion in the desert. Who knows?
Real Bullets obviously impressed the higher-ups at Vidmark back in the day, enough for them to give it a VHS release. But perhaps they didn't have total faith in the film, because these days it's one of the rarest Vidmark titles. Maybe they made it in limited quantities. All that aside, if you can manage to brush aside (or embrace) all the technical issues, there is plenty of enjoyment to be had with Real Bullets.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty