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

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