Karate Raider (1995)

Karate Raider (1995)- * * *

Directed by: Ron Marchini and Charlie Oronez

Starring: Ron Marchini, Shelly Gaunt, Ivan Rogers, Joe Meyer, Burt Ward, and Joe Estevez

“There’s a bonus for anyone who can touch my face.” - Pike

 Jake Turner (Marchini) is in Colombia Punchfighting for money and generally looking for a new assignment. His old buddy Bill Digger (Estevez) contacts him about a missing government agent, Jennifer Boyden (Gaunt). It affects both of them personally because she’s the daughter of their old Marine Sergeant. Digger has already sent another soldier to try and find her, a man named Edwards (Rogers). But Edwards was captured by the evil super-criminal Pike (Meyer). When even Digger falls into the hands of Pike, Jake Turner now has to save him, Edwards, and Jennifer. He certainly has his work cut out for him. Can Jake save the hostages and finally defeat Pike? Find out today!

Sadly, Karate Raider was Ron Marchini’s last film role. But it’s the first credit ever for Joe Carnahan, who wrote the movie with Marchini. Carnahan went on to direct Narc (2002) and become a big name in Hollywood. So, circle of life. It’s also the only role for one Shelly Gaunt, who played Jennifer. But it’s probably just as well. It’s pretty surprising, given Marchini’s off-screen status as a Martial Artist, and the penchant for Punchfighting movies at the time, that he never made an out-and-out movie about Punchfighting. Karate Raider is as close as we’ll get, with one scene. Then his film career ended, in our opinion, prematurely. But judging from Marchini’s vest and fedora, as well as the musical score, and the title of the movie, it seems this was his answer to Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). While no one is going to mistake Marchini for Harrison Ford, there are still moments to be savored here.

On the cliche radar is the fact that Digger gets Turner for this mission because “he’s the best”. And you have to love a baddie that not only wears a tracksuit for the entire movie, and his eyepatch looks homemade from black construction paper. That sort of craftsmanship was truly Pike’s peak. Worth noting is the preponderance of great yells and screams in this movie. It’s not known whether these were written into the script by Carnahan and Marchini, but it seems in most of the fight scenes, at least one person does an extended (too long?) bellow of “Aaaaaaaaggggghhhhh......AAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!” And this yelling is going on when there’s no bickering between the unlikable Jennifer and Marchini, or the shooting of baddies. So the formula seems to be kicking-punching-shooting-bickering-yelling, so it’s no surprise that the movie slumps at times, but utter absurdities like the helicopter/raft chase and Marchini’s completely unnecessary and amazingly wooden narration keep things afloat. Much like Jake Turner’s badass raft. (Yes, he has a badass raft. You got a problem with that?)

Also in the “Huh?” department is a brief sit-down role from Burt Ward. His front-and-center placement on the box art doesn’t exactly match his screen time. But I can see why the distributors did that. We can’t count the times We've been in a video store, just browsing, and we picked up a video that We've never heard of before and yelled “BURT WARD’s in this? Sold!” Or maybe we're was just confusing him with Burt Young. Nevertheless, the presence of Ward is really, in actuality, just a testament to how much Marchini must have loved the old Batman TV show - let’s not forget Adam West is in Omega Cop (1990).

Karate Raider remains one of the rarest Marchini’s - to date it has only been released on VHS in the Netherlands, just like Jungle Wolf (1986). He must have an amazing fanbase in that part of the world. Regardless, it makes a decent enough capper to his screen career, but we have to say, we were left wanting more. Mr. Marchini, it’s never too late to come back.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Jungle Wolf (1986)

Jungle Wolf (1986)- * * *

Directed by: Charlie Ordonez

Starring: Ron Marchini, Tony Carreon, Romy Diaz, Joonee Gamboa, Dax Nicolas, Michael Bristow, and Laura Abeyta,

“I’m your travel agent” - Steve Parrish

In the Central American nation of San Sebastian, a group of violent rebels kidnap the American Ambassador, Ambassador Porter Worthington (Carreon). (You know he’s American because his name is Porter Worthington, so don’t think he was played by a non-American actor). The leader of the group is Hernandez (Diaz), who sports some intimidating facial hair and has unpredictable taste in hats. He wants the release of the prisoner Isidro Zapien (Gamboa) and will use entire armies of armed men to achieve his goal. Naturally, the one man who can rescue the Ambassador and save the country is Vietnam vet Steve Parrish (Marchini). He teams up with the beautiful Maria (Abeyta) and heads off into the jungle to fight the baddies. But he’s haunted by the ghosts of his past, especially as they relate to Forgotten Warrior (1986). Will he succeed?

Confusingly, Jungle Wolf uses a lot of recycled footage from the aforementioned Forgotten Warrior, but both movies were released the same year, 1986. Seeing as how Ron has the same yellow shirt in both movies, it’s safe to assume they were shot simultaneously, or at least very close together. This seems to be the beginning of his Steve Parrish character, who he played in at least four of his films. His son Zak (Nicholas) makes a brief appearance here, but the plot of Jungle Wolf II (AKA Return Fire, 1988) fleshes out the relationship a bit more. But technical details aside, Jungle Wolf takes the standard El Presidente/Jungle Slog so common in the 80’s, and gives it the old Marchini magic. The movie is almost plotless and could be described as incoherent. But it’s incoherent in a great way. As there seems to be no word to convey this idea, we’ll pioneer a new one, grincoherent.

We’re not sure if the grincoherence is helped or hurt by Marchini’s unnecessary and deadpan narration, the character of Agent Connover (Vance) who looks exactly like Rick Moranis, and of course the constant machine gun shooting. The highlight of the movie is the fist-pumping song “Back In Action” by Michael Bristow (a frequent Marchini collaborator who has worked with him in various guises both in front of and behind the camera). It sounds like a cross between Europe and the Scorpions, which is funny because as far as we know Bristow is American and the song was recorded in California. But that doesn’t stop Bristow from singing with a Klaus Meine-like accent. You gotta love it. When the song plays while Marchini changes into his all-black outfit (complete with horizontal pant-leg zippers) and gears up with guns and knives, you’ll be in action movie heaven. Thankfully it happens twice in the movie.

Why the movie is set in Central America but was shot in the Philippines remains unknown, and sadly this particular Marchini outing was not released in America. Fans in the Netherlands got to enjoy it, and it wasn’t until the advent of the internet that others could complete their Marchini collections. It was also the only Romarc movie not to be released here in the U.S. (that’s Marchini’s company, the word being a contraction of his first and last names). Lovers of low-budget and/or obscure action from the 80’s, and of course Mr. Marchini, will likely get a charge out of Jungle Wolf. For casual viewers, it may be better to start elsewhere. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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