Kick Of Death (1997)


Kick Of Death
(1997)- * *

Directed by: David Avellone

Starring: Michael Guerin, Rodigo Obregon, Melissa Allen, TJ Storm, Vernon Wells, and David Heavener

Shane McQuade (Guerin) is an underground Punchfighter/Martial Artist who is dominating the Hong Kong fight scene. When some baddies, apparently led by a Mr. Lee, begin to, let's just say, make life more difficult for the Shanester in HK, he flees to Las Vegas to try to start anew. But his same old woes keep popping back up: he unwisely accepts a ride through the Nevada desert from a shady character named Vinnie Vasta (Obregon), but then Shane assumes his identity when he starts work as a bouncer at a strip club. Romance is in the air with one of the strippers, Angelique (Allen)...or is it? When Angelique is kidnapped, Shane is forced to fight the reigning evil baddie on the scene, Abdul Sabbah (Storm). But will things ever go Shane McQuade's way? And who will deliver the ultimate KICK OF DEATH?

Is this an apartment in a bad neighborhood? Because it sure is LOW RENT. According to Imdb, Kick of Death was shot in 13 days on a budget of $15,000. My response to those numbers: That much? It looks like less. Now, JUST because something is low budget doesn't mean the end product has to be junky. In this case, however, it pretty much is. There are the usual picture quality (some scenes in total blackness) and sound (blurry and muffled) issues, but the main problem is that you just don't care much about any of the characters or what they're doing.

You don't hate Shane McQuade or anything, but you don't love him either. He's like a neutral hero. David Heavener (who also gets a story credit) appears briefly in the beginning as Alderton, a man with blonde hair and an Australian (?) accent. Then there's the other fan favorite here, a real Aussie, Vernon G. Wells. Both guys have glorified cameos, as this, for better or worse, is the Shane McQuade story.

The main baddie is played by TJ Storm, from The Ultimate Game (2001) and many other fight-based outings. Here, he is credited as simply "Storm". He also took credit for the fight choreography. It's not his best work. Maybe he wasn't so proud of it that he needed the world to know it was by TJ. He probably hoped people would think it was by another Storm. Many, if not most, of the fight scenes are awkwardly and amateurishly done. Perhaps it wasn't his fault, but the movie as a whole isn't entertaining enough for the audience not to notice, or find it funny.

Which then brings us to the sluggish pace of all this. Why did this need to be ninety-FIVE minutes? Bad enough it wasn't an even 90, it should have been 79. But 95 minutes. Okay, if you say so, dude. Maybe director Avallone - who never did anything action-related before or since - was trying to emulate the Roger Corman school of thought that scenes of people driving or extended stripping routines make an engaging film for the audience. But at least Corman made 80-minute films. He also tried to keep his top stars in the film for more than just a few brief minutes.

Maybe we're being a bit too harsh on Kick of Death. But even with its meager resources, certain aspects could have been improved. We have seen worse, after all. But bargain-basement productions like this will not appeal to most people. Only die-hards who can't resist a title like "Kick of Death" will actually watch Kick of Death.

Not to be confused with Kick or Die (1987), Kick of Death features the introspective end-credits song, "Your World Will Change" by Darryl Jensen. This should have played at the beginning of the film as Shane McQuade is walking down a dusty old highway, thinking about his life. Then the music changes to heavier, guitar-based metal/rock as Shane fights off wave after wave of baddies (and the punches and kicks actually appear to connect). See, we could have fixed this movie.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Rage Of Vengeance (1993)


Rage Of Vengeance
(1993)- * *

Directed by: Serge Rodunsky

Starring: Peter Shane, Daming Chen, Tess Colonello, Lawrence Hill, Susan Raines, and Megan Miyahira

Frank Hill (Shane) is a former L.A. Cop On The Edge that now works in a convenience store. Hill resigned from the Force after a particularly intense confrontation with the dreaded local gang leader Tony Woo (Chen). During the dust-up, Frank inadvertently shot Woo's wife. This makes Woo understandably upset, so in retaliation he kills Frank's brother, and amidst all the chaos, his wife Sandy (Colonello) leaves him. So now all Frank does is shirtlessly practice his Martial Arts moves in his studio apartment by candlelight, and then use said moves on potential shoplifters and armed robbers at the convenience store.

Things start looking up for him when Sandy comes back into his life. She still doesn't totally approve of his Karate-choppin' ways, but it's hard to resist the charms of Frank Hill. He also develops a fatherly relationship with young tot Christina (Miyahira), daughter of the owners of the store. But when that dastardly Tony Woo kidnaps Sandy, and other things go sour as well, Frank Hill has no choice but to fight Woo's baddies in and around an abandoned warehouse until the ultimate confrontation is at hand: Frank Hill vs. Tony Woo. Will Frank Hill unleash his RAGE OF VENGEANCE?

It was 1993. Convenience stores were huge at that time. Where else could you go to get your Doritos, Cheetos, or Fritos that was within walking distance of your house? Maybe wash it down with some Snapple. Peach iced tea or strawberry-kiwi cocktail. It was your choice. And, if you were lucky, a man that looks like a cross between David Bradley, Jeff Speakman, and Michael Pare would be there to kick miscreants in the head if they were stepping out of line.

Speaking of Speakman, who we often speak about, Rage of Vengeance is sort of like a low-rent Street Knight (1993). Or perhaps if it had more of a budget behind it, this could have worked with Lorenzo Lamas in the Frank Hill part, with James Liu as the main baddie and Chuck Jeffreys as Hill's former partner. We didn't mention Rodney (Lawrence Hill) and his new partner, the pixieish Estelle (Raines) before now, but that's because it's mainly about Peter Shane as Frank.

Again, it may not have the budget behind it to put it alongside the likes of Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), China White (1989), or Red Sun Rising (1994), and the awkward and slow-ish pacing doesn't do the film any favors. But the whole thing is classic 90's and does have some positives in its corner, but it's not zany like a Samurai Cop (1991), so you can't really recommend it to anyone who isn't already a fan of this sort of material.

Speaking of the positives, there is an extremely stupid (in a good way) train-tracks fight, and a lengthy final warehouse fight that is very much in keeping with the DTV action genre. As is the presence of a cute young kid, in this case Christina, who is played winningly by Miyahira. Shane is well-cast as Frank Hill, a man who makes funny grunting noises as he fights and asks questions later.

Director Serge Rodnunsky - not to be confused with Jorgo Ognenovski - has many DTV outings under his belt, including Jack of Hearts and Paper Bullets (both 1999), among plenty of others. It seems he's trying to compete with the action-film wave of the time, and almostsortakindajustabout makes it. It's a shame this was Peter Shane's only cinematic appearance. He could have had a future punching it out with the other guys of the day. For much of the cast, this was their only (or second-to-only) film.

In the end, if you like 90's action (we're guessing that you do), and you've seen all the other ones you could find, you could do worse than Rage of Vengeance. But newcomers to the genre may want to watch those classic offerings first.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Shutterspeed (2000)

(2000)- *1\2

Directed by: Mark Sobel

Starring: Steve "Sting" Borden, David Lovgren, and Daisy Fuentes

Riley Davis (Borden/Sting) is a Seattle cop with sunglasses, a Harley, and an attitude. While Riley is with Narcotics, his brother Cliff (Lovgren) is with Homicide. There is bad blood between them because of something that happened in their past that we won't spoil here. The brothers must form an uneasy alliance when a mysterious camera with one photo saved on it appears, and the baddies want it. Bad. There are some murders and attempted murders, all because of this elusive camera. Things get real when Riley's fiancee Kenzie (Fuentes) is kidnapped by the camera-seeking baddies. Riley finally snaps out of his somnambulism and is forced to confront the truth - about his brother, his past, his girlfriend, and, of course, the camera. What is the true frame rate of the SHUTTERSPEED?

Okay, here's the truth about Shutterspeed. It's not funny, wacky, crazy, or off-kilter enough to have gained any sort of cult following. It takes itself oddly seriously almost the whole time, to the point where it's even boring and dour in many spots. HUGE mistake. This is a telefilm, shot in Canada for the TNT network, and your main star that's carrying the project is Sting from WCW. Now is not the time to go all serious on us. 

The filmmakers should have seized this unique opportunity and let their hair down and went nutso. Something along the lines of One Man Force (1989) meets Stone Cold (1991). But they did not do that. In fact, they did the complete opposite. They went the bland, safe route big time. What a missed opportunity.

Maybe Sting, credited under his "real name", Steve Borden, was attempting to distance himself from wrestling and show he could do something different, perhaps something that could spin off into a TV series. This might explain the determined, almost willful refusal to have some silly fun. Sure, it's inevitable that some silly fun will leak out, but these moments happen towards the end of the film, and they're few and far between. They should have put them in the beginning in order to grab the audience's attention, not save them for the end, by which time we don't really care.

A couple of light shooting/fight/chase scenes are here, almost like they don't want to be and are dragged along. There is a WYC that doesn't much care for Riley Davis's ways. So that's all well and good, and Daisy Fuentes is certainly an attractive and welcome presence. But we couldn't help but expect more from Borden's Kevin Sorbo-esque meatheaded presence. Producer Eric Bischoff should have demanded more scenes of Borden yelling and getting angry, which happens only once. Director Mark Sobel has done a lot of TV, plus the features Access Code (1984) and Sweet Revenge (1987), so he seemingly was right for this project - on paper. But what was needed was a go-for-broke, wildman approach, which was sorely missing.

In the end, Shutterspeed is not exactly pulse-pounding. It's really a classic case of missed potential. But it's not too late: both Sting the wrestler, and Sting the musician are both still alive as of this writing. They should team up and appear as Cops on the Edge in a movie called Double Sting. Isn't that something we would all watch?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Ex-Cop (1993)


(1993)- * * *

Directed by: Pat Kerby

Starring: Rick Savage, Sandy Hackett, Douglas Terry, Susan Paris, Joan Chamberlain, Angi Davidson, Gabriela Macs, and Richard Cornell

"You suck, news lady!" - Ronny Witherspoon

Pete Danburg (Savage) is a cop. He's not yet an EX-COP, we'll get to that a bit later. Danburg is described as "The Best" vice cop in the history of the Las Vegas Police Department. He's turned down offers to go to other departments because the vice squad is all he knows, according to him. He has a loyal friend and partner, Willy Latham (Terry), and they're after a razor-slasher named Ronny Witherspoon (Hackett) who is terrorizing the area. They eventually catch up with Witherspoon at the Lake Mead marina and shoot him, saving the life of Chance Tatum (Chamberlain), a news reporter undercover as a prostitute. However, in the course of this encounter, Witherspoon's straight razor, an integral piece of evidence, goes into the water.

Four years later, Danburg is now in his dream position - an EX-COP. Due to lack of evidence (apparently his whole case dependend on that darn razor), Witherspoon is paroled. He did not die in the shootout, he only has a limp - and a burning desire to get revenge on Danburg, Latham, and Danburg's daughter Tess (Davidson), a gymnast. Now that the evil slasher is back out on the loose, Pete Danburg sends Tess out to live on the ranch of his brother Stony (Cornell). This plan doesn't exactly work and Witherspoon kidnaps Tess. Now the stage is set for the ultimate showdown. The EX-COP vs. the baddie Witherspoon. What the heck is going to happen now?

Ex-Cop is a ton of AIP fun and is well worth seeking out. It has a rough-hewn charm that is all but absent from movies made these days. We applaud director Kerby and his filmmaking cohorts, who had the drive, wherewithal and guts to try to make a Dirty Harry/Charles Bronson film with essentially zero budget. In 1993. Thankfully, they went ahead and did it and it's a huge success.

A lot of this has to do with Rick Savage as Danburg. Everything he says is pure gold. He indeed could have been one of the "elder statesmen" of action. However, just to be clear, this is not the same man that did adult films, nor is it the bass player for Def Leppard. This Rick Savage is his own man. A REAL man. An elderly man. While it's never really explained why a man of his advanced age is still on the force, even before he becomes the inexplicably vaunted ideal of the Ex-Cop, this (and of course the romance he finds time for with Chamberlain) all predates the age confusion found in Righteous Kill (2008) many years later.

Naturally, the high brass of the LVPD want Danburg out because they claim he's a "Cowboy". There's a WYC that tells him this and they want him to turn in his badge and gun. Danburg also has a drinking problem and is disgruntled. Every other "Cop" cliche you could possibly imagine is here as well. Thank goodness. You have to get into the spirit when you watch Ex-Cop. Once you're in that spirit, wondrous things await you.

About an hour into the film, we get a Pete Danburg break, where he's not really around. This is the only real flaw here. The movie suffers when Rick Savage is not on screen. Also, Danburg's wife Cat (Macs) has a thick accent, presumably of some European origin, and it's hard enough to understand what some of the actors were saying, so this didn't help much and was never explained (not that Danburg's actions need explanation. He marries thickly-accented foreigners and asks questions later). Then the slasher menaces a prostitute named Lacie (Paris) for a while. Then Willy spends some time with his son, an infant named Willy Jr. Where's Danburg during all this? That's what the audience needs to know. That's certainly what we were asking.

Ex-Cop is very much in the same vein of the other AIP material being released by them at this time, such as Cop Out (1991), Extreme Vengeance (1990), and Burning Vengeance (1989). If these comparisons don't mean much to you, just translate it into this one word: FUN.

Sandy Hackett is Buddy's son. He's the only one in the cast who has any acting resume to speak of that we could find. All the others are first-timers and/or only-timers. So we are treated to the very awkward interactions and line deliveries of non-actors. But everyone here was trying. That's what makes all this so great.

This should be a cult movie. Much like another AIP favorite, Brutal Fury (1993), this isn't a horror movie, so it never developed a cult following. But both of these films should have. Vinegar Syndrome, where are you on these? VS released "Geteven" (1993), which, like "Excop", features the main title as one word, in quotes, on the screen. So it would be perfect for one of their releases.

A shredtastic guitar player named Troy Walls is credited with "Musical Scoring" for the film, and his band "Crisis" (their quotes, not ours) get three songs on the soundtrack. Their songs are catchy female-fronted metal and they should have opened for Doro. But what they do get is a live performance that takes place at the bar where Witherspoon finds Lacie. Much like Tess's gymnastics routines, we get to spend some time with them. Sure, those scenes are Pete Danburg-less, but they're still cool. They're a product of their time and place. Unlike Tess, and to the ultimate detriment of mankind, we don't wear skintight Body Glove shorts anymore. C'est La Vie, Pete Danburg. We hardly knew ye.

Just why the idea of Danburg being an Ex-Cop is dwelled upon so much in this film is never explained, but YOU should be dwelling on finding yourself a copy. It's a gem and it's downright delightful.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


No Rules (2005)


No Rules
(2005)- * * * 

Directed By: Gerry Anderson

Starring: David Dunn, Dian Bachar, Anahit Minasyan, Randy Couture, Gary Busey, Philip Tan, Layzie Bone, Tom Sizemore, Sal Pacino, and Pamela Anderson 

Kurt Diamond (Dunn) is an MMA fighter from Jackson, Michigan. He and his sister Katie (Minasyan), and his trainer Grady (Bachar), are all dreaming of a better life. An opportunity comes when Kurt goes on a rampage after finding out Katie's boyfriend is an abusive drug dealer. After that violent confrontation, the trio flee to California. Seeking to get involved in the fight world on the west coast, Kurt turns up at House of Champions dojo. He notices immediately that they're using a logo that his famous fighting father Kain (Sizemore) always used. After a not-so-auspicious meeting with his father's former trainer Hino (Tan), he sees a flyer for an upcoming "Fight Party", and Kurt is on his way. But along the path to glory, he will have to face physical challenges - i.e., battling Mason (Couture) and his cult (yes, a cult; more on which later), but also the mental challenges of emotionally recovering from witnessing his parents' murder. He also wants to solve the murder, of course. Will Leroy Little (Busey) help him with this? All we know is that in the world of punching and kicking, there are, of course, NO RULES!

There's a lot to love about No Rules, and we might love it even more if we could actually see what was going on. All of the indoor scenes and/or night scenes are SO dark, we have to wonder if it was transferred to DVD incorrectly. Any scene in bright daylight is fine, if still a bit junky-looking, but that's not necessarily a problem. So now that we've registered our (all-too-common) complaint about the poor lighting, we can concentrate on what's good about No Rules.

ADVANCE WARNING: Going forward, should we use the words "stupid", "dumb", or some variation thereof, it is NOT to be taken as an insult. This may seem counterintuitive, but there is a shade of stupidity/dumbness that is, well, stupid, yes, but it's so earnest and enjoyable, you cannot use the word insultingly. No Rules has found that shade.

Kurt Diamond's fighting name is Diamond Boy. When ring announcers proclaim, "Kurt 'Diamond Boy' Diamond" is on the way, it does smack of a certain lack of creativity. Diamond Boy also has trouble saying the words "Santa Monica", so he may have been hit in the head one too many times.

A certain 2005 nostalgia may also be required to enjoy No Rules, as characters wearing Von Dutch shirts and hats are soundtracked to Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine soundalikes. All that is stopped during any scene featuring, or about to feature, Philip Tan, so that stereotypically-Asian-sounding music can be heard.

Sometimes the stupidity is so all-encompassing it becomes dizzying, such as when a peacock walks by in the background of a scene for no reason, a slapfight breaks out a punk rock show featuring the band The Defects, or the endless parade of cameos that are fun to see, but also make you wonder why they're there or how the filmmakers got them to be involved in a bargain basement production like this. The presence of a few seconds of Pamela Anderson makes sense, because co-director/writer Gerry Anderson (presumably not the guy who did Thunderbirds) worked with her on some of her other projects, such as VIP, Stripperella, and Stacked, among others. Less explainable are Sal (not Al - Al's father) Pacino, and Kathy Pacino, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, and Layzie Bone, not to mention a whole host of fight-world-associated people like Bruce Buffer, Gene LeBell and others. It all adds to the odd and quizzical vibe of the whole thing.

Perhaps they spent too much time gathering cameos, because the movie overall could have used more Sizemore and Busey. Busey doesn't even show up until 72 minutes in. That being said, another thing that sets No Rules apart from being a standard Puncher is that the Mason character is the leader of a cult of red-robed meatheads. They unenthusiastically chant sayings and other repetitions. We can honestly say we've never seen a meathead cult before, which was great, but not nearly enough was done with this idea. Same thing with the plot thread that Kain Diamond wrote detailed "fight books" that Kurt inherited - that look exactly like The Evil Dead's Necronomicon. Interesting ideas - not a lot of follow-through. But there are some lovably dumb fight scenes and questionable acting that power you along and take the place of those things. It's all a pretty heady brew.

So, because when any scene fades to black it really doesn't have very far to go, we're hoping that a digitally-brightened, remastered print of No Rules finds its way to Blu-ray soon. Should that ever happen, we believe it will find an audience and people will appreciate what's going on here. Unless and until that happens, we're afraid No Rules may just languish in the darkness of obscurity.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett