Cop Target (1990)


Cop Target (1990)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: Robert Ginty, Charles Napier, Nina Sue Borrel, Barbara Bingham, and Arthur The Cat

Farley Wood (Ginty) is a Miami cop who may be getting close to the edge. His only friend is his cat, Arthur. Wood has a gigantic contraption in his apartment that can automatically provide Arthur with food, water, and, presumably, cat litter. This device is going to come in handy, because Wood is assigned to go to the tropical island of San Cristobal and he can't always be home to tend to Arthur personally. His assignment is to act as bodyguard and escort to Deborah Kent (Bingham), and her young daughter Priscilla (Borrel). They're scheduled to attend some fancy function, and there is a possible terrorist threat against them.

Things take a turn for the worst when Priscilla is kidnapped by the evil baddies in question. Even though his superiors tell him to leave the case to the proper authorities, Wood goes rogue in his attempt to get Priscilla back. An American embassy official named John Granger (Napes) is also involved. As Wood peels back the onion of this case, he slowly discovers dirty dealings, corrupt dealings, and political dealings, which are all pretty much the same thing. With all the terrorist guns trained against him, will Farley Wood manage to prevent becoming a COP TARGET?

With Cop Target, we have three of our favorite people together: Umberto Lenzi, Robert Ginty, and Charles Napier. We should also mention Jeff Moldovan, who we haven't seen around these parts in a while. God bless Umberto Lenzi. Even in the latter phases of his career, he still managed, seemingly effortlessly, to put together an entertaining romp that's easy to enjoy. While the film slows a bit in the middle (a very common occurrence, especially for this era of the genre), it rallies at the end and has a lot going for it overall.

The Ginty that's here is the Ginty ya want. In an era when Miami cops were all the rage, even his car has unique character. Sonny Crockett drove a black Ferrari Daytona Spyder. Farley Wood drives a beaten-up jalopy that looks to be about thirty seconds away from the car-crusher. However, beneath his gruff exterior, he's a cop with a heart. This is best expressed in his brief scenes with the young girl, Priscilla. It's clear she begins to see him as the father figure she's been missing, and perhaps she is what he is lacking in his own life as well. After all, a robotic cat litter machine can only take you so far. (But what a ride while it lasts). This motivates his drive to, against all odds, retrieve Priscilla from the clutches of the baddies. Also, when we first see her, she's dressed exactly like Madeline, who must have been quite the fashion icon for little girls at that time.

You don't get a ton of Napes, but what you do get is good, and they clearly used his real voice. It would have been a stupid move if they didn't. While his presence doesn't dominate the film, he does get to play an important ace when he ends up being the man behind the exploding helicopter. According to Imdb, the ex-heli is taken from Cobra Mission 2 (1988), and other parts of a car chase were taken from Final Score (1986). This may or may not include the fruit cart. It's tough to tell when cars are running over fruit. Lenzi should be noted for his economy in that sense. Hey, if you're gonna recycle footage, recycle from the best.

Ginty's name in here is Farley, and Napier's is Granger. Could this be a reference to the great actor Farley Granger, who was no stranger to Italian exploitation films - exemplified by Amuck, So Sweet So Dead (both 1972), What Have They Done To Your Daughters? (1974), among others? Or are those names just what Italians think all Americans are called, and those are just typical, common examples? In any case, the film should also get credit for predating American Assassin (2017) by many years, as the beach assault scene in that film seems modeled after the one in Cop Target.

We would say that was a definite, but Cop Target never got a U.S. VHS or DVD release. Sadly, a lot of Italo-Action films at this time suffered a similar fate. Cop Target would have been a perfect release for Lightning Video, or perhaps it should have gotten a clamshell box release on Imperial like Operation Nam (1986). Operation Nam is the U.S. title for Cobra Mission, and Jeff Moldovan also appeared in Cobra Mission 2, from which the exploding helicopter was sourced. See, it all comes back around.

We really believe that fans will rejoice should Cop Target get its long-overdue home video release, hopefully from Severin. Here's a box cover quote for them: It's Ginty! It's Napier! It's Lenzi! It's EXCITEMENT!" Hopefully they use that. If they don't like it, I can come up with others.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


Phoenix (2023)


(2023)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Daniel Zirilli 

Starring: Natalie Eva Marie, Neal McDonough, Bai Ling, Oleg Prudius, Chuck Zito, Jonathan Camp, and Randy Couture

Fiona Grant (Marie) is a very tough army Sergeant, teaching hand-to-hand combat in Afghanistan. When General Shackleton (McDonough) informs her that her father Everett (Couture) was found dead, he all but forces her to take a leave of absence, such is her dedication to the military. So Fiona, who is nicknamed "Phoenix" for reasons that become apparent later, returns to her hometown of Miami and begins her quest for justice and answers.

After her first order of business, dyeing her hair her trademark pink, she is then ready to take on the gang of Russian mobster Maxim Vasiliiv (Prudius), which includes Scavenger (Ling), among others. This syndicate of baddies is creatively named The Syndicate. Shackleton offers to help Fiona even though he's still back in Afghanistan. But Phoenix has local help: family friend Bullet (Zito) joins the fray, and her father's former bodyguard Artemis (Camp) is there too. Obviously it all comes down to the final fight between Fiona and Maxim...will this PHOENIX rise again?

Here's a pro tip before starting to watch Phoenix: just glue your face to your palm, because if you don't, that action will be repeated so often, you may injure your elbow. Or your face. And here's a warning as well: if you're going to watch Phoenix, you HAVE to like stupidity. You really have to enjoy watching stupid things, or you will not get the full benefit of what this film has to offer. Thankfully, we do, and the fun, humor, and charm of Phoenix quickly becomes apparent.

The opening shipping yard fight with Couture (there are a lot of establishing shots of shipping yards, as if that would somehow wow the viewers: "Cool! Look at all those shipping containers! Radical!") is highly ridiculous and has that "dumb" factor that makes the viewer say, "Uhhhh...." That sort of vibe does not let up from there on out, thankfully.

Another wise choice by the filmmakers was having Natalie Eva Marie be the main star and have her carry the film. Her flat affect is so flat, we've seen the EKG's of dead people that were less flat. However, it's important to understand that this is not an insult. We loved her performance and the movie as a whole is highly entertaining, mainly because of her. We hope to see more Marie in the future and we hope she doesn't ever change. You put her together with other master thespians like Bai Ling, Chuck Zito, and Randy Couture, plus English-as-a-second-language co-stars like Prudius, and it's all a 4th of July fireworks show of "bad" acting, non-acting, incomprehensible acting, amateur acting, flat acting, and the like. And we wouldn't want it any other way.

Presumably, director Zirilli was there while all of this was going on. So we as viewers can assume that all of this was what he wanted (?) He's been directing DTV action films for a while now so presumably that's the situation. In any case, it does appear that some time was spent on the fight and action scenes, which is what fans really are there for, which is what Zirilli must have thought. Of course, the hand-to-hand combat scenes are much better executed than the gun-shooting and blow-ups, which feature muzzle flashes, bullet hits, and fire gags that are home-computer level. But, at this point, let's just chuck all that into the mix and have a great time.

It's all wrapped up in a scant 82 minutes, which feels shorter because it's all so entertaining. Then the viewer is treated to the world's slowest end-credits crawl. You really have to see how slow this is to believe it. There's no shame whatsoever in having an 82 minute film. To us, that's a good thing and more movies should be that length. But it does appear the filmmakers were embarrassed by that for some reason. Either that or Tubi forced them to do it.

Joyous stupidity reigns supreme with Phoenix. We say watch it and have a great time.

Comeuppance Review by Ty and Brett

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


Strength and Honour (2007)


Strength and Honour (2007)- * * *

Directed: Mark Mahon

Starring: Michael Madsen, Vinnie Jones, Luke Whelton, Richard Chamberlain, and Patrick Bergin

Sean Kelleher (Madsen) used to be 'The Best' - in this case, the best boxer in County Cork, Ireland. When he accidentally kills a man in the ring, he gives up punching forever. He even promises his young son Michael (Whelton) he'll never box again. Things change drastically when it turns out that Michael has a rare heart condition that only a Los Angeles doctor and $300,000 will cure. Going back to what he knows, Sean is aware that a local no rules bareknuckle fighting tournament called the Puck could be the answer to his money woes.

So, because he's been out of the game for so long, he goes back to his old trainer, O'Leary (Chamberlain). But the current champion of the Puck is a dangerously violent and unstable lunatic named Smasher O'Driscoll (Jones). Apparently, you don't just win the Puck - if you win, you are the Puck. You are also crowned King of the Travellers. Someone with a stable house (i.e. not a trailer) is not even allowed to enter the Puck. You have to be a Traveller, which appears to our American eyes to be a sort of Irish Gypsy. Leader of these people, Papa Boss (Bergin), helps Sean and his supporters in their mission. Now Sean is fighting for a cause. Not because he just enjoys hitting people, like Smasher, but because his son's life is on the line. To defeat Smasher and win/become the Puck, and become King of the Travellers, he's going to need Strength - but does he have the Honour?

Strength and Honour is an earnest Irish drama that also happens to be a Punchfighter. That might account for the divided opinion that seems to follow the film. Lovers of earnest Irish dramas probably aren't going to watch it (or will never have heard of it), but the sort of viewer that enjoys the simple-minded spectacle of shirtless men endlessly punching each other likely won't warm to the more dramatic aspects.

The familiar story trajectory we've seen many times before, rather than grating on the viewer with cliches, feels more comfortable this time around, kind of like coming home. While the Puck is Punchfighting through and through, the rabid crowds don't clutch cash in their hands. That's because these working-class people probably don't have much cash to spare, but also because the Puck is not about money. It's about tradition, and, yes, Strength and Honour.

We're spelling "Honour" like that because this film never received a U.S. release, so American distributors never got the chance to change it to the U-less spelling. In any case, What makes all the difference is that Madsen really seems to care about the proceedings. Like Marlon Brando or Burt Reynolds, Madsen is an actor that, if he feels the material is not worth caring about, he openly just doesn't. But, thankfully, here he does. DTV fans may just want to tune in for the final fight between Vinnie Jones and Michael Madsen, a confrontation not seen before or since (as of this writing).

But there's a lot more going on here to sink your teeth into. Patrick Bergin and Richard Chamberlain of all people round out the more well-known names in the cast. Both are quite welcome and help the film to rise above its low-budget station. Better-than-average outdoor cinematography (the indoor scenes are a bit dark) also helps a lot, and even in the more downtrodden places, the viewer gets a glimpse of the beauty of Ireland. The acting is also top-shelf and there's plenty of grit to go around.

Now, the last time we saw an Irish film about someone who trains for a fighting tournament - a sort of Irish Kumite, if you will - it was Fatal Deviation (1998). Besides the plot similarities, these two outings could not be more different. S&H is somber and downbeat. FD is silly and ridiculous. If you feel like comparing and contrasting, a double feature would probably be an interesting night's entertainment.

To quote Imdb user themoviehunter-1: "Strength and Honor is a story of hope and personal triumph, and in this world filled with Matrix-wannabees, B-level comedy full of toilet humor, and 300 million dollar glitz, it's refreshing to find a film with no gratuitous sex, gore, or profanity. This film has such a strong and simple theme, you won't have a feeling of apprehension taking your 13 year-old daughter to see it (and she'll probably hug you on the way out of the theater). To put it in a single phrase, this movie is what good film-making is all about."

While Strength and Honour may be serious-minded, we still get a flamboyant psycho as only Vinnie Jones can do it, regarding the Smasher character. There's much else to recommend here, so we won't mention everything, but we will definitely give Strength and Honour a strong recommendation.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Breakaway (1996)


Breakaway (1996)- * * *

Directed by: Sean Dash

Starring: Tonya Harding, Teri Thompson, Ray Dash, and Joe Estevez

Myra Styles (Thompson) is a courier for a mobster named Anton (Ray Dash). Tired of running bags of money all over L.A. only to have to defend herself against the city's finest dirtbags, she tells Anton she wants out. She should have known it wouldn't be that easy. Either by accident or design, she ends up with the money she was supposed to have delivered on her last run. At first, Anton just sends his workaday goons after her, but she was too smart and slick for them, and then the big gun is called in: a ruthless hitman named Grey (Estevez) is now on her trail as well. How does Gina (Harding) fit into all this? And will Myra finally make her ultimate BREAKAWAY?

In the vein of other DTV outings such as Point Doom, Money To Burn, The Stranger, and Fast Money, Breakaway may not have a high IQ but it does entertain. Just to sidestep the elephant in the room, yes, Tonya Harding is front and center here. While The Academy may have snubbed her that year for Best Supporting Actress, she'll always be the winner in our hearts. Just the fact that she's a cast member of Breakaway sets it apart and makes it something special. All her scenes are great (we actually got more Tonya than we were expecting), and you even get some Tonya-Fu. One could argue that she stole the show (or, rather, skated away with it).

There are warehouse fights, chases, shooting, beat-ups, and a very PM-esque car explosion. Myra also walks away from a blow-up in classic style. It does deliver the 90's-style action, and has plenty of humor along the way. There are some stereotypical gangsters that love to play basketball, characters with baggy pants, and it all seems to get dumber as it goes along. That could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your point of view. It more or less worked for us, however.

You don't want to get on Anton's bad side. In a fit of rage, he smashes his fax machine. A more 90's expression of rage might not be possible. You have to wait 34 minutes to get to Joe Estevez, but what Joe Estevez you get is quality Joe Estevez. Estevez. Teri Thompson is a worthy tough-gal to handle all the baddies coming after her. In its own low budget way, it all kind of prefigures John Wick.

As long as you don't take it all so seriously (and why would you?), you'll likely have a good time watching Breakaway. If not, there's a scene with Tonya Harding right around the corner.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty