Jekyll Island (1998)

Jekyll Island
(1998)- * *

Directed by: Ken DuPuis

Starring: Don Mogavero, Brion James, Everett McGill, Olivia Burnette, Finola Hughes, and Phil Morris

Alex Madison (Mogavero) is a college professor whose class seems to be "Criminal Studies". In other words, he teaches his impressionable young charges all about robbery, burglary, and how to get away with either one. No one seems to mind, or notice, that this is what he is teaching. In any case, Mr. Madison knows of what he speaks, as he is some sort of master jewel thief by night.

So, naturally, Madison goes to Jekyll Island, Georgia (which is a real place, in case anyone out there didn't know) to steal some jewels. Things get complicated when a politician, Lawton Goodyear (James) and his daughter Savanah (Burnette) get entangled with Madison's thieving ways. Madison ends up hiding out in a house with Savanah, and Goodyear sends his security guy, Dalton Bradford (McGill), to find out what's going on. In the midst of all this, a detective named Ronnie Fredericks (Hughes) is hot on Madison's trail, and Carlton Johnson (Morris) is antagonizing Madison. Now that the whole island is locked down, will Alex live to teach criminal behavior to marginally-interested 90's teens ever again? Will he escape with the jewels - AND HIS LIFE? You probably will never have to find out!

(Shaking head) Oh, Mogavero, Mogavero, Mogavero. What hath you wrought this time? As if Pressure Point (1997) was not enough, along comes Jekyll Island. You get the odd impression while watching it that HE thought that this was some pretty snazzy stuff. This is at odds with the fact that there's not much here that would appeal to most video renters. The plot is dull and uninvolving, the writing stale, the camerawork and lighting pedestrian, and the pacing nonexistent.

At least Moges (as we call him) had the good sense to surround himself with some quality actors this time around. Sure, Pressure Point had Steve Railsback and Larry Linville - we're always down for some Linville - but he upped his game with this follow-up, getting Brion James, Everett McGill, Finola Hughes, and Phil Morris, whose name might not be known, but he's been in tons of stuff and is best known as Jackie Chiles from Seinfeld. As this was 1998, he was hot off that role, although here he's more Mario Van Peebles or Fred Williamson-esque. In any case, the downside for old Moges with getting all this starpower was that it made his performance seem even more stilted, oddly and unnecessarily quiet, and awkward than it already was.

The City Heat VHS puts Mogavero's face front and center on the box. We know not why. Was Mogavero ever famous enough to warrant that? Were City Heat trying to position him as some kind of badass? I mean, yeah, he KIND of looks like Robert Englund, but that's not really enough.

To be fair, we are treated with some 1998 internet, and there is one cool (and highly ridiculous, in a good way) scene towards the end. Unfortunately, this is not enough to justify the other 90 minutes. If we really reach, we could say that Alex Madison goes to Jekyll Island as an expression of his dual self - i.e., college professor by day, jewel thief by night - much like a certain JEKYLL and Hyde duality. But we're not even sure this was done on purpose. That being said, in the cast list during the end credits, a yacht gets its own credit amongst the other actors. That's right, "Yacht - The Milly B" is seen along with the other thespians. This may be the first time an inanimate object gets CREDIT. Hey, some of the actors were wooden but this is ridiculous!

In the end, there's no legitimate reason why anyone would expend effort to see Jekyll Island. If there were some odd circumstance where this movie fell into your lap, and you wanted to see a Brion James performance you haven't seen yet (and one worthwhile scene late in the film), MAYBE you could justify it. But if we're all being honest with ourselves, as painful as that can be sometimes, we should probably face the fact that this was just some Blockbuster shelf-filler.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Extraction (2015)

(2015)- * *

Directed by: Steven C. Miller

Starring: Bruce Willis, Kellan Lutz, Steve Coulter, D.B. Sweeney, Lydia Hull, and Gina Carano

CIA agent Leonard Turner (Willis) is "The Best", so naturally his son Harry (Lutz) wants to follow in his footsteps. Unfortunately for him, his boss Robertson (Sweeney), keeps turning him down for that darn promotion he's seeking. While working in Prague, Harry receives word that his father, and a sensitive and dangerous piece of technology known as CONDOR have both disappeared. Seeing his chance not just to rescue his beloved dad, but to prove his worth with The Agency, Harry goes rogue and heads to Newark, New Jersey, where the action is. While there, he teams up with co-worker/old flame Victoria Phair (Carano). Will dad and/or CONDOR be saved? Will certain secrets be revealed? And will someone or something receive some sort of EXTRACTION?

Extraction starts off promisingly enough, with a genuinely cool opening credits sequence that's worthy of any Bond film. The synthy score behind it by Ryan Dodson just amps up the excitement, and you think, "Hey, this may be a modern-day DTV outing, but maybe the quality is high enough so that it would have gone to the theater if it came out 15 years ago", or some such thing.

Unfortunately, it's not long after that when we see how Extraction hits some serious pitfalls and then can't get out of its own way. Our initial hopes were dashed, and we began to sink lower in our seats, when we saw that this is yet another one of those "Dark" movies, where much-needed lights were not turned on. Strike one. Then we, as the audience, have to suffer through some really annoying characters such as Sitterson (Coulter) (If you don't watch this with the subtitles, it sounds like everyone calls him "Citizen"). Evidently his dialogue was supposed to be "Cool & Edgy", but it just comes off as juvenile and dumb. (There's yet more misheard dialogue later as people talk about something called the Patriarch Key, which naturally sounds like "The Patriarchy" when people say it. Seems like the writers should have thought of that. It turns something that's already silly into something even sillier). Then we have Victoria's friend Kris (Hull), whose "airhead" character grates on your nerves. Strike Two.

From there on out, it's just unimaginative cliche after unimaginative cliche as barfights, training sequences, tired CIA blah-blah, escape scenes and even fight scenes go exactly the route you think they're going to, with zero suspense or surprises. Strike three.

How things could have been improved: Stop with the quick-cut-style fight scenes and let Gina Carano do what she does best. Let her fight scenes play out with more lighting and less cuts. Get rid of the annoying characters and dialogue, and turn on some damn lights. Come up with some relatively novel places for the plot to go, and, if time allows, embrace the idea of character development.

As far as the Brucester is concerned, it's clear his heart wasn't in this one (and who can blame him; although he was probably paid a pretty penny, so he should at least attempt to do his job and act like he cares), and evidently all his scenes were shot in one day. Director Steven C. Miller worked again with Bruce the next year for Marauders (2016), a better film and an improvement over Extraction. If you must see one Miller/Willis team-up, see Marauders.

Not to be confused with Extraction (2013) or Extraction (2020) - just showing the lack of creativity on display here - this particular Extraction gets off to a fine start, but ultimately disappoints. The cast deserves better, especially fan favorite Carano, who was not properly unleashed. On the up side, it's a mere 79 minutes before the ending credits. But, then again, it feels longer.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


President's Target (1989)


President's Target
(1989)- * * *

Directed by: Yvan Chiffe

Starring: John Coleman, Martin Kove, Antonio Banha, and Bo Hopkins

An on-screen title card informs us that we're "Somewhere In Latin America". At a high-powered meeting of government officials, they all vow to work together to stop the worldwide spread of drugs. All seems to be going well, until a masked band of baddies storms into the place and shoots everyone in sight. But they didn't count on one thing...Peter Caine (Coleman). After finding out that he's "The best operator the CIA has" - and that his code name is Stalker - Caine proceeds to find out who was responsible for the massacre, and get revenge, Peter Caine-style. But not before he's nursed back to health after the massacre by a kindly old incomprehensible fisherman, and has what are presumably a handful of Vietnam flashbacks along the way. Here for the ride are Sam Nicholson (Kove) and Marty Rogers (Hopkins), but who is the ultimate bad guy at the top? Could it be, in true Simpsons fashion, Mendoza (Banha)? And who exactly is the PRESIDENT'S TARGET in all this?

If we've established anything by doing this website over lo these many years, it's these two truths: that 1989 was a high water mark year for movies on VHS appearing on video store shelves, and that El Presidente titles (well, they're not always slogs) are chief among them. If you happened to enjoy such films as One Man Out (1989), Merchants of War (1989), Overthrow (1987), SAS San Salvador (1982), Hour of the Assassin (1987), or To Die Standing (1991), to name but a few, you will likely also enjoy President's Target. It just may be your favorite of the bunch, because it features two things those films don't: a 79-minute running time, and John Coleman.

Coleman himself is a National Treasure, and should have been in WAY more action movies. Depending on what light he's in, the rock-faced Coleman may resemble Ted Danson, Erik Estrada, Lou Ferrigno, or perhaps Ben Affleck or George Clooney. His face is nothing if not a prism that may take on many shades, colors, and moods. He's essentially a human combination of two 70's fads: the mood ring and the pet rock. Certainly he could be described as a lovable meathead, and the icing on the cake is his Ryan O'Neal-esque acting style. What's not to love about the guy?

But, perhaps fearing that the manliness of Coleman wouldn't be enough to carry the full 79 minutes, Coleman is backed up by genre stalwarts Bo Hopkins and Martin Kove. It was nice that they were here. The presence of both guys is always appreciated. Hopkins actually utters the words "El Presidente", so they must have known what they were doing. Director Yvan Chiffre, who may or may not be the Bond villain from Casino Royale, had an impressive career as an actor under his belt, but he did direct three movies. This is one of them. Thankfully, it stars John Coleman.

The vibe of President's Target is certainly a bit "off", which was hugely welcome. El Presidente's can get awfully dull and sloggy because most of the time, they're pretty standard fare. This time around, the weirder vibe, shorter running time, and power-trio of stars work mightily in the movie's favor.

Despite the South American setting, President's Target was filmed in Setubal, Portugal and features some nice locations. It's one of those (as of today) VHS-only wonders that only a trawl through the video store of life can sometimes bring forth. It just may be one of the best El Presidente's we've seen to date.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Stickfigher (1974)

(1974)- * * *

AKA: The Pacific Connection

Directed by: Luis Nepomuceno

Starring: Roland Dantes, Alejando Rey, Hiroshi Tanaka and Dean Stockwell

Set during the historical past of the Philippines, Stick Fighter (AKA The Pacific Connection) tells the tale of the wicked Spanish conquistadors, who naturally included Dean Stockwell and a Samurai. Yes, Alejandro Rey is The Governor (that's all he's credited as) of the Philippines, and he hires a man named Mori (Hiroshi Tanaka) to teach Martial Arts to his two sons Miguel (Stockwell) and Allan (Roland). Unfortunately for them, Allan and Miguel pick on the wrong guy when they mess with a local man named Ben. After extorting and then assaulting his family, Ben gets fed up and does what any normal guy would do in such a situation: he breaks out his Arnis sticks and proceeds to practice the art of Eskrima on the baddies. It may take a while to get there, but will we eventually find out who the ultimate STICK FIGHTER is?

Not to be confused with the Kely McClung classic from 1994, this Stick Fighter from 20 years earlier is also called The Pacific Connection, because in the 70's, there was a Connection from pretty much every country on earth. France and Italy top the list, but there were many others. What the supposed "connection" here is supposed to be is left for the viewers to figure out.

Nevertheless, Stick Fighter is the type of film you might find playing on a Spanish channel at 4 a.m. It's a well-shot historical drama with some action scenes thrown into it. It's not bad for what it is, but we think most viewers will find it to be slow going, especially by today's high-powered standards. The approach here is old-fashioned and harks back to the filmmaking styles of at least one generation before this. Here we have swashbuckling, sword fighting, and, yes, stick fighting during the Kung Fu craze of the 70's. At least it was offering something different, but the editing is wonky and there are major pacing issues.

This was the sixth and final film for director Luis Nepomuceno, and the only one to receive a U.S. VHS release. The tape came out in 1989 on the Prism label, in the small box. It erroneously states that the film is 102 minutes, but the real running time is somewhere in the 80's. While it was the end of Nepomuceno's career, it was the debut for Roland Dantes. He would go on to make another stickfighting movie, Sticks of Death (1986), and then other actioners such as Live By the Fist (1993), Angelfist (1993), Under the Gun (1995), Tigershark (1987), and Delta Force 2: The Columbian Connection (1990). That's right, another Connection for ya.

Besides Dantes, and the prerequisite appearance by Vic Diaz, one of the highlights of Stick Fighter is Dean Stockwell as, of all people, Miguel. His accent is priceless. It stands out among a lot of the incomprehensible dialogue on show here. Of course, there's a training sequence involving Ben, and people who like Philippines-set action films will get a fairly early example of one with Stick Fighter. Sure, it may be rated PG, but this was during the 70's, when that really didn't mean anything. Today it probably wouldn't be, or at least it would be considered a "Hard PG".

After the credits, we get a James Bond-style promise that the Ben character will return in a sequel called "Sultan Ben". As far as we can tell, this project never came to fruition. But, nevertheless, with Stick Fighter we get a slice of 70's drive-in fare that is redolent of the time it was made in. It may be a bit slow, but it's still worth checking out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty