Snow Kill (1990)

Snow Kill
(1990)- * *

Directed by: Thomas J. Wright

Starring: Joey Travolta, Jon Cypher, Patty D'Arbanville, David Dukes, Terence Knox, Clayton Rohner, Lee Arenberg, and Branscombe Richmond

Forced to go on one of those annoying "corporate retreats" by their boss, Reid (Cypher), a small group of young professionals - who include Myles (Travolta), Lauren (D'Arbanville), and Dennis (Rohner) - head out to the snowy Cascades in Utah. While they all innocently think they're going to do some snow stuff and then go home, they get a rude awakening when a gang of baddies come upon them. The leader is Murdoch (Dukes), and his partners in crime are Loomis (Richmond) and Kolt (Arenberg). Murdoch just wants to get his backpack full of cocaine and head back into civilization. But the presence of the heroic Clayton Thorpe (Knox) puts a crimp in their evil plans. Soon, it's a battle of the corporate raiders versus the actual raiders. Who will come out alive - and who will be a victim of a SNOW KILL?

In the grand (?) tradition of White Fury (1989) and Icebreaker (2000) comes Snow Kill - the TV Movie version of the snowbound action/survival movie. With elements of like-minded efforts like Fear (1988) and Damned River (1989), this doesn't offer much of anything different, except for a few silly moments. But the silliness is few and far between, and it's not terribly interesting or exciting either. It doesn't go far enough in any one direction. Consequently, it's not all that memorable.

Because there are only traces of silly, and the pace is slack, the audience is left wanting more. If Snow Kill had been 80 minutes and had excitement and energy, we could be looking at a minor classic. Unfortunately, that was too much to ask for this middle-of-the-road effort.

If you tell anyone you're going to watch Snow Kill with David Dukes, make sure you avoid any confusion and really impress upon them the fact that it's Dukes with an S. His performance as the mustachioed baddie is one of the better aspects of the film. Terence Knox is certainly wooden here as the savior in white (remember again that it's David DUKES as the baddie). This is no Tripwire (1989), that's for sure.

The boss, Reid, looks a lot like Lloyd Bridges, and the whole thing is like Extreme Ops (2002), but featuring an older demographic. Joey Travolta is his classic wacky self, and he had already appeared in a film with similar subject matter (but done much better), Hunter's Blood (1986). He must like getting out in the wilderness.

One of the rare movie highlights appears when our group of protagonists first gets out of the office and out in the snow. They're all wearing snowsuits of one color (i.e. D'Arbanville has a pink one, the others have green, red, and blue ones, etc.) it's like Power Rangers. But without the power. Or the ranging.

Director Thomas J. Wright has worked almost exclusively in TV throughout his career, which might explain why his name is not that well known to the general moviegoing populace. One of his few forays into cinematic territory is the all-time classic No Holds Barred (1989). Hey, if you're going to make one theatrical film, make it a good one. If only more of the vibe of No Holds Barred could have been present in Snow Kill, made only the following year. Oh well.

You won't exactly be on the edge of the seat of your ski gondola, but perhaps Snow Kill might be a one-time watch for TV Movie enthusiasts or those looking for something just silly enough to be mildly - very mildly - entertained.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Beyond The Law (2019)


Beyond The Law
(2019)- *1\2

Directed by: James Cullen Bressack

Starring: Steven Seagal, DMX, Johnny Messner, Chester Rushing, Saxon Sharbino, and Bill Cobbs

Frank Wilson (Messner) is an ex-cop on the edge who has been accused of being dirty. When his son Chance (Rushing) is killed by some baddies, Frank emerges from hiding to track down the men responsible. Frank's tearing up of the town in his quest for answers immediately arouses the interest of Detective Ray Munce (DMX), and a shadowy underworld figure named Augustino "Finn" Adair (Seagal). But how do Swilley (Cobbs) and Charlotte (Sharbino) fit into all this? And who will be BEYOND THE LAW?

The filmmakers behind Beyond the Law really should have known that there is already a film called Beyond the Law. Namely, Beyond the Law (1993), starring Charlie Sheen. Don't people working in DTV talk to each other? But really it's even more telling than that, as it's indicative of an overall lack of creativity. There's nothing in 2019's Beyond the Law that you haven't seen before, and done much better besides. There's no character development, so you don't become invested in their plight or the plot, such as it is. Rather than come up with a fresh take on a standard storyline, or feature interesting characters that you care about, Beyond the Law 2019 just falls back on lazy plotting, trite and childish dialogue, and utterly boring by-the-numbers run-throughs of cliched material.

Yet another modern-day DTV pitfall this falls victim to is the inexplicable phenomenon of low/no lighting. Many scenes are underlit and we as the viewers simply can't see what's going on. This works especially poorly in Seagal's favor, as he tends to wear flowy black shirts. Occasionally he sports sunglasses, there's his classic Eddie Munster hair, and he's quite tan this time around. Sometimes people stand in front of an all-black background. Basically you can't see him.

For about the last 20 years or so of Seagal's career, his movies have centered around seedy nightclubs or strip clubs. There are almost too many to mention. This one is no exception. Why DTV filmmakers continually think this is something viewers need to see is beyond me. Probably it's for the same reason they load up the dialogue with those naughty and ever-so-edgy "swear words" - in other words, the aforementioned laziness and lack of creativity. But Seagal does get to sport his classic Cajun accent. So, there's that. Also he doesn't fight anybody. So, there's that too.

Which brings us to perhaps the greatest sin of all for Beyond the Law 2019: this is what we call a Lacktion movie. The audience is ready for action when they watch something featuring Seagal and Johnny Messner. Seagal even re-teams with DMX after Exit Wounds (2001). But this is no Exit Wounds. Not by a long shot. It doesn't live up to the solid cast.

Probably the person who comes out best in all this is Bill Cobbs. We used to say that he looked like Bill Cosby and even has a similar name. Well, now he's his own man. Somehow he doesn't resemble Cosby anymore and he's by far the best actor on show here. DMX and Messner both have gravelly voices that are fun to listen to, but DMX seems to have lost a step. He was probably in some sort of psychological turmoil after having to wear pink clothing in Joe Arpaio's jail.

In the end, Beyond the Law 2019 is self-serious and features no intrigue, plot twists, or anything whatsoever that would hook the viewer and keep them watching. It suffers in every area or department a movie can suffer. It is a weak entry in the canon of all involved and should be avoided.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Hard As Nails (2001)

Hard As Nails
(2001)- *

Directed by: Brian Katkin

Starring: Andrew Craig, Allen Scotti, Matt Westmore, Lorissa McComas, Stella Farentino, John Timmons, Matthew Pollino, and Jade

Centered primarily around an L.A. strip club, Hard as Nails tells the tale of Vlad (Craig), a morbidly obese Russian gangster, who is involved in some sort of turf war with a Japanese gang. While Takura (Westmore) is attempting to assert himself as a new gang leader, young lovers Alexi (Scotti) and Deb (McComas) are caught in the middle. Adding to this brew is plainclothes cop Tony (Timmons) and his relationship to a prostitute named Margo (Farentino). Of course, a pair of ruthless assassins named Tic and Tac (Jason and Pollino, respectively) are beating up and/or slaughtering people left and right. What the heck is going on - and who amongst this bunch is truly HARD AS NAILS?

Copies of Hard as Nails should come with a warning: "You are now about to enter a brain cell-free zone". Or something to that effect. Somehow managing to be both low rent and bargain basement, it's rather obvious that this Corman production did not spend a single penny it did not need to. Not that that's a problem in its own right, but the junky factor mixed with the stupid factor adds up to an overwhelmingly dumb experience you'll feel stupider for having watched. However, it's only 75 minutes. But it does feel longer.

Director Brian Katkin, who did Enemy Action (1999) for Corman, attempted to do John Woo with zero budget. The Martial Artists Tic and Tac, featured on the front of the VHS box, are meant to recall The Matrix with their sunglasses and trenchcoats, but you could probably call that misleading. We give credit to the Martial Artists here, who probably worked hard to make the fight scenes what they were, under the trying circumstances. The film is more in line with other Corman action/stripping movies such as Bloodfist 2050 (2005), Mortal Challenge (1997), and Future Kick (1991), among others. It's also like an even cheaper version of King of Fighters (2010) (complete with a similar Himbo), or Equal Impact (1995), but without the majesty of Joe and Jay Gates. Now that's a problem.

It seems like all the nudity and stripping scenes were employed to distract viewers in an attempt to paper over all the many, many flaws. While we love Lorissa McComas, and she tries gamely in the face of all this muck, even she can't save it. As in a lot of DTV films of this type, many actors are involved that look like other people. Someone looks like Mario Lopez here, someone resembles Daniel Bernhardt there, and there may be a Michael J. Pollard type hanging around. In a better film, John Rhys-Davies would have played Vlad. But, then again, if it was a better movie, it wouldn't be Hard as Nails.

See, the thing is that we as viewers can't just settle for any old thing. Just putting a movie out there to put it out there, under the bare minimum of conditions, usually doesn't yield the best results. We should demand more than this. Seeing as how Hard as Nails opens with someone being punched repeatedly in the face, we can't help but see that as a metaphor for what you'll experience if you watch it.

Hard as Nails? More like Dumb as Dirt.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Sudden Death (1977)

Sudden Death
(1977)- * * *

Directed by: Eddie Romero 

Starring: Robert Conrad, Don Stroud, Felton Perry, Larry Manetti, Ken Metcalfe, Angelo Ventura, and John Ashley, 

"I'll eat my shoes if that chump ain't fuzz" - Wyatt Spain

Somewhere in the Philippines, a cabal of evil businessmen intends to plunder the local sugar cane crops. Bands of local mercenaries are fighting back, and when "good businessman" Ed Neilson's (Metcalfe) family is slaughtered, he turns to his buddy Duke Smith (Conrad), an ex-Special Ops CIA agent, to find out who committed the atrocity. Smith then calls friend/associate Wyatt Spain (Perry) and they link up with local contact Buffalo Tinker (Ventura). Yes, Buffalo Tinker is involved. The three men then proceed to blast around the Philippines busting heads and attempting to get answers. But our heroes face fierce resistance in the forms of John Shaw (Ashley) and his goon Dominic Aldo (Stroud). Who will come out alive, and who will face...SUDDEN DEATH?

Not to be confused with Sudden Death (1985) or Sudden Death (1995), this, the first of the Sudden Deaths (it seems that about every decade or so a movie comes out called Sudden Death), is well worth seeking out. If you're a fan of 70's drive-in style actioners, complete with large-collared, loud-patterned shirts, gigantic cars, and un-PC dialogue, this is a fine exemplar of that. Underlining the 70's vibe is the pacing and even the downbeat ending, which is the sort of thing that era specialized in and that you don't see today.

On a more uplifting note, quite literally, is the fantastic score by the great Johnny Pate. His opening song is tremendous and his music is uniformly fine throughout. Two of his other scores include Shaft in Africa and the little-seen Brother on the Run AKA Black Force 2 (both 1973). Whenever we see his name pop up in the credits, it's a rare treat. As of this writing, there is no CD or vinyl release for the Sudden Death score, but that needs to happen.

It was fantastic to see Robert Conrad in the role of head badass. Freed from the constraints of television, he can swear and beat up baddies with the best of 'em. He and Felton Perry make a winning team. We thought Perry was very likable here and he gets a lot of great lines. Who better than them to unravel the corporate intrigue and get into some barfights and warehouse fights along the way? While both men are charismatic, only Robert Conrad is man enough to wear tight pink shorts and a necklace and still come off as 100% man.

The legendary John Ashley is very cool here, and his voice is a joy to listen to. He'd be perfect for a 70's radio DJ: it's easy to hear him saying such things as "And now, next up in the hit parade, The Doobie Brothers with China Grove..." or some such thing. No wonder he was chosen to do the opening narration for The A-Team. In fact, there is a certain A-Team vibe going on here, but, rather than be sanitized for TV, it's melded into the Philippine action style we all know and love, with additional hints of The Retrievers (1982) or The G.I. Executioner (1971) (though rest assured it's far better than the latter).

A terrific cast of familiar faces, funktastic music and 70's style to spare - and it all wraps up in a scant 82 minutes! There's a lot to love with Sudden Death. Released on VHS on the classic Media label, this is a recommended film and in dire need of a restoration. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Undeclared War (1990)

Undeclared War
(1990)- * * *

Directed by: Ringo Lam

Starring: Vernon Wells. Olivia Hussey, Danny Lee, Peter Liapis, David Hedison, Tommy Wong, and Rosamund Kwan

An evil man named Hannibal (Wells) and his sidekick Rebecca Eche (Hussey) are the leaders of the so-called "World Liberation Army", which is just a front for a terrorist organization. Leaving a trail of death and destruction in their wake, they travel from Poland to Hong Kong and attempt to set up shop there. But local cops Inspector Bong (Lee) and Inspector L.T. Tang (Wong) are trying to stop them - as is American CIA-Agent-With-An-Attitude Gary Redner (Liapis). Despite the typical inter-agency and inter-country squabbles, the men band together to stop Hannibal and Rebecca. Adding to their stress are the interventions of the US Ambassador (Hedison) and newswoman Ann Chang (Kwan). Will our unlikely heroes put an end to the UNDECLARED WAR?

1-2-3-4, I UNdeclare a thumb war! Or, at least Ringo Lam does in this intrigue-actioner with a truly international cast. Finally, we get to see the Australian Vernon G. Wells team up with the Argentinian-born but British Olivia Hussey causing mayhem in Poland with a Chinese director! Only during the video store era could you get a country-spanning mashup like that. Wells's nefarious baddie role of Hannibal is said to be a "master of disguise", and it is true he can put on a gray-haired wig and look like Leslie Nielsen at the drop of a hat. Truly a must-have for any aspiring terrorist.

All that being said, fans of Hong Kong action and the style of Ringo Lam will find plenty to feast on with Undeclared War. It has all his classic directorial trademarks, and the shooting, fighting, and stuntwork can't be beat. Whenever anyone gets shot, they're enveloped in a thick red mist, as if they had a pack of Crayola crayons in their pocket (only the red ones, of course - for some reason), and the bullet slammed right into it.

Peter Liapis as Redner was a real revelation. Apparently, we had last seen him in Ghost Warrior (1984), but he must not have made much of an impression. Well, he more than makes up for that, as he gets all the best lines in the film and adds a lot of energy to not just his own role but to the movie overall.

David Hedison, a mainstay of TV throughout his career and throughout all of our lives is also present and accounted for here, and only the year before he had appeared in Licence to Kill (1989). Going from James Bond to Ringo Lam in one easy step. What a life.

In America, Undeclared War came out on VHS on the Imperial label. Unfortunately, the transfer is not the best, with blurry/washed out colors and muddy audio. The guitar and sax on the soundtrack don't come across as clear as they should. Thankfully, some of the dialogue is subtitled but there is an array of thick accents throughout the film. Not a bad thing, of course, but, to date the VHS is the only way to see Undeclared War in this country. A cleaned-up digital release is badly needed and would surely raise its standing in the eyes of viewers.

Really the only flaw here is that it's 104 minutes and doesn't really need to be. Other than that, Undeclared War is more of an Unseen War because it remains a hidden gem, at least in the U.S. Here's hoping a company like MVD will give it a Blu-ray treatment sometime soon. In the meantime, if you can find it, we think you'll be very entertained by Undeclared War.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty