Los Bravos (2001)


Los Bravos
(2001)- * * *

Directed by: Paulo Schultz

Starring: Hector Echavarria, Trudie Petersen, Jonathan Osteen, Michel Qissi, Myck Stormer, Warren Beckford, Ryan Watson, Louis Iacoviello and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace 

Hector Riviera (Echavarria) seems like your classic family man - he has a wife, Nicole (Petersen), a young son, Jonathan (Osteen), and he wears a suit and tie to work, and when he comes home after a hard day, he says "Honey, I'm home!" and then grabs a sandwich that just happens to be lying right there on the counter at that very moment. However, the idyllic Riviera family life is about to take a turn for the deadly.

As it turns out, Riviera is a veteran of the Falklands War. After he meets up with an old war buddy from their native land of Argentina, Tomas (Iacoviello), they get into a bar brawl at Superfoot's. Luckily, Superfoot's is owned by Bill "Superfoot" Wallace (who evidently is portraying himself) and he joins the fray. But the real danger comes in the form of DeFuego (Qissi) and his nutbar hitman Reaper (Watson). They are systematically killing off all the old members of Riviera's Falklands unit. After his wife and son are kidnapped by DeFuego and Reaper, Riviera snaps into action to fight the bad guys and rescue his family. 

All the while, a seemingly-ineffectual pair of detectives, Sims (Beckford) and Levy (Stormer), are on his trail. Will Riviera evade the cops (who suspect him of the killings, of course), beat the baddies and save Nicole and Jonathan? It may seem like a tall order, but Hector Echavarria...er, sorry...Hector Riviera is up to the task!

We've got some surprising good news to report - we really liked Los Bravos! You'd think, just from looking at the cover, that it would be one of those gangbanger/barrio movies (sort of the Latin equivalent of Homie Movies) - but it isn't at all. There are no homies of any sort anywhere here. Los Bravos is a straight-up Martial Arts action movie of the sort we all love and enjoy. Sure, of course it's all done on a low budget, which may put some people off, but if you're one of those people, why are you watching Los Bravos?

There's a lot to enjoy here: Hector Echavarria is very likable, which is crucial to the whole thing hanging together. You really care about him and his plight. You root for him as he fights the baddies and tries to be a good husband and father, all the while struggling with his English pronunciations. There's something endearing about that. Both he, and the movie itself, are really trying. That goes a long way with us, the audience.

The Falklands angle gave the proceedings a different spin, which we appreciated. There are also a panoply of entertaining side characters, such as Hector's boss, who seems like he would be in an infomercial of that time, the bickering boyfriend and girlfriend, the mall security guards, and even the two cops, Sims and Levy. It appears effort was made to make this more than a 'kick you in the face' movie. But even if it was just that, it would probably still be a good one: the beginning alley fight is very stupid in the best possible way, and the inevitable bar brawl at Superfoot's was highly entertaining.

All the fighting with Echavarria, Qissi and Ryan Watson (AKA Reaper) is great stuff and is gold for fans of the genre. Reaper even has one especially fantastic trick up his sleeve. We wouldn't dare spoil it here, of course. The whole package is tightly wrapped up with a 77-minute running time and a great time is had by all.

While the release date for Los Bravos is 2001, the copyright date at the end of the credits states 1998, which means that it was likely shot throughout '97-'98, which makes sense when you watch it. Jonathan is playing what appears to be a Sega Genesis game with his gaggle of 12-year-old buddies (a scene familiar to us all; it seemingly would be incomplete without at least one plate of Totino's Pizza Rolls). There's a great moment when Hector and his son are sitting in front of a computer and Hector says something like, "Do you know how to use the internet?" - Hector even does an early version of FaceTime/Skype with his boss.

Don't be put off by the uninviting box art for Los Bravos. Give it a shot, and you'll be very entertained.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Fists Of Steel (1989)


Fists Of Steel
(1989)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Jerry Schafer

Starring: Carlos Palomino, Marianne Marks, Robert Tessier, Rockne Tarkington, and Henry Silva

Carlos "Conquistador" Diaz (Palomino) is an ex-Marine who served in 'Nam. Due to some sort of accident with his hands, his knuckle and finger bones were replaced with metal joints. Hence, he truly has FISTS OF STEEL. The CIA tries to recruit Diaz because they want to catch an evil baddie named Shogi (Silva) and his sidekick Katrina (Marks), who is described as "The Best". Naturally, at first Carlos is unimpressed with the CIA's offer, but when they show him what appears to be news footage of Shogi killing his father, he then gets hoppin' mad and goes on his own mission to get revenge against Shogi. He ends up traveling to Hawaii, where he encounters more baddies, such as Saylor (Tessier) and Rijar (Tarkington). But will Shogi feel the wrath of Diaz's FISTS OF STEEL?

Fists of Steel - not to be confused with Hands of Steel (1986), the classic Paco Queruak vehicle - starts with a cool song and logo, so the audience immediately gets sucked in. Then we see Henry Silva's Shogi character, inexplicably dressing up as various different characters in order to kill people. Just why he does this is never explained later in the film. Maybe the idea is that he's just so evil, he enjoys playing a bit of dress-up as a hobby as he kills his prey.

You really do care about Carlos's plight, and the whole thing overall has an odd vibe that's easy to love. As of this writing, Fists of Steel is a VERY rare movie, and not deserving of its hard-to-find status. You've gotta love Carlos's gym buddies and some of the other non-actors that give FOS a lot of flavor. No one knows why Silva is named Shogi, but Tessier is a sailor named...Saylor. Makes sense.

Every supposed flaw of Fists of Steel could be turned into a positive. For example, the movie is very repetitive - it seems there wasn't a lot of plot to be developed in between the fight/action scenes, so a lot of dialogue is repeated multiple times - but that can be very funny. The idea that the Carlos Diaz character has metal hands isn't really played up to the fullest - usually that just means that an extra-loud noise is heard whenever he punches anybody. That's pretty much the extent of it. But it all works out in the end because no one ever said all of this is supposed to be on a completely even keel.

With that in mind, there are two twists towards the end of the film (don't worry, no spoilers here). Let's just say that one is completely unsurprising, and the other one is truly a surprise. As if a movie of this sort even needed a twist, here they give you two. Or, really, in our eyes, one. But Palomino facing off against at least two guys who exclusively play baddie roles - Silva and Tessier - it's all worth it right there.

Director Jerry Schafer worked with Francis Ford Coppola on one of his first projects, Tonight For Sure (1962), and then a scant 19 years later directed Female Mud Wrestling Championships (1981), a documentary about female mud wrestling championships. This project featured both Carlos Palomino (as a referee) and Marianne Marks (as an interviewer), which led into his final directorial project, Fists of Steel. What a career.

Featuring the memorable songs "Eyes of the Stranger" by Nicci Sill, and "Left With the Right" by Robert Terry, Fists of Steel is a worthwhile and fun watch, if you can find it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


The Game (1988)

 The Game
(1988)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Cole McKay

Starring: Craig Alan, Joesph Campanella, Sunni McCullough, Darwyn Swalve, and Robert Elliott

"My son, Kane, is my son." - Mr. Schekel

When a cabal of ultra-wealthy baddies convene in a secret location to play THE GAME, what that really means is that they each have teams of killers who go out and hunt specially-chosen "derelicts". What this cabal didn't count on, however, is the toughness of Kane (Alan), a badass of mighty proportions. Kane's father, a government agent going by the name of Mr. Schekel (Campanella), infiltrates The Game in order to exfiltrate his son. So while Kane, and fellow prey Luna (McCullough) and Stubby (Swalve) are fighting for their lives in the field of combat, Schekel is back at the base, having to contend with Col. Podak (Elliott), the Game Master, and the other evil Game-players. Who will win THE GAME?

Not to be confused with the Michael Douglas film of the same name, or any other movies out there called The Game, THIS The Game takes the "hunted for sport by a cabal" sub-sub-sub-subgenre typified by the likes of Death Chase (1988), Fugitive X: Innocent Target (1996), and later entries such as The Tournament (2009) and The Condemned (2007), and puts a nice 1988 spin on it. Add that to the fact that there are both ninjas n' Nazis (NNN), and The Price Is Right-style game show models. They are named Sherry and Dawn, by the by, and they're played by Casadei and Gava respectively.  A tone of wackiness ensues. Oh, and the ninjas have machine guns.

While there is a surprising amount of setup before the mayhem ensues, the fact that The Game was directed by Cole McKay, the longtime stuntman we all know and love, ensures that stunts, shooting, blow-ups, swordfights, exploding helicopters (no matter the source of which), and other action-oriented material is soon to follow. While not an AIP film, it has a definite AIP feel, akin to the likes of Invasion Force (1990) or Mankillers (1987), the latter of which also featured Craig Alan.

While we love "assemble a team" sequences in movies, here we have "assemble the derelicts" where we see how The Game people pick their, to quote the aforementioned Fugitive X, "Innocent Targets". Why someone would pay ten million dollars just to have commandos shoot at them must show just how evil these people are.

Finished off by the classic 80's electric guitar-based soundtrack and some un-PC dialogue, there's plenty to enjoy with The Game.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


H-Bomb (1971)

(1971)- * * *

Directed by: P. Chalong

Starring: Chris Mitchum and Olivia Hussey

From the back of the Cinema Group Home Video VHS box: "When a power-mad Cambodian General and the Bangkok underworld team up to steal an American nuclear missile, the action never stops! Exploding bombs, spectacular shows of martial arts and death defying chases make this an adventure film to remember. Chris Mitchum and Olivia Hussey star in H-BOMB - a martial arts extravaganza that crosses political borders. With "No-holds barred" action, the film whirls through a tale of suspense and intrigue that'll leave you gasping for breath!"

And, perhaps less flatteringly, this from the Golden Movie Retriever: "Mitchum stars as a CIA agent who is sent to Bangkok to retrieve two stolen nuclear warheads from a terrorist. It just so happens that his ex-girlfriend's father is the terrorist he must contend with in this stupid movie."

While we definitely would NOT describe this movie as "stupid", we clearly needed help when it came to figuring out what the plot actually was. But, really, what exists of the plot is secondary to the super-70's vibe: gigantic cars, wah-wah funk on the soundtrack, shirts with big collars and louder patterns, bellbottoms and long hair are clearly the order of the day. The technology on display features a proto-Skype video phone and some video chess.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that we, as the audience, get to hear Mitchum's or Hussey's actual voices; it's all dubbed in that typical obnoxious style of that time where it sounds like there was one male voice talking to himself, loudly, and same with the female voice (s). On the action front, P. Chalong rarely skimps - you get motorcycle and car chases/stunts, shooting, blow-ups, an exploding helicopter, and the general "Third World" disregard for health and safety that came with enacting these stunts.

Another added bonus we get with the films of P. Chalong and Arizal, among others, is that there is a good amount of local color and scenery that is enjoyable to behold. We have to wonder what Olivia Hussey thought of all this - the love story between her character and Mitchum's isn't exactly Romeo and Juliet. None of what we see makes a huge amount of sense, but that's not exactly a problem. Movies today are very homogenous, and H-Bomb and its ilk are an antidote to that. For that reason, the audience today for films such as this may be small, but if you're reading this, that means we are among the people out there looking for something different. And H-Bomb is certainly different.

It features a killer end-credits song that seemingly is aiming to put the viewer in mind of the James Bond themes of the day. Was this P. Chalong's answer to Bond? Only you can decide, but H-Bomb is definitely worth a watch - especially for fans that don't mind if their action movies feature a healthy amount of nonsensicality and are made on a shoestring in a far-away land. And isn't that all of us, really?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty