Directed by: James Lemmo
Starring: Terence Knox, David Warner, Charlotte Lewis, Yaphet Kotto, Sy Richardson, Tommy Chong, Meg Foster, and Viggo Mortensen
Jack DeForest (Knox) is a take-no-prisoners FBI agent who’s out to stop an international ring of terrorists led by the fanatic Szabo (Warner). Szabo’s goal is world domination by means of smuggling all kinds of dangerous arms. Helping him are his henchman Hans (Mortensen) and the beautiful Trudy (Lewis). Even street thugs like Turbo (Richardson) go up the ladder to Szabo, who has his fingers in all sorts of illegal activities. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with the tough, no-nonsense DeForest, whose rogue ways...well...cause him to go rogue in pursuit of justice. Captain Pitt (Kotto), of course, doesn’t approve of his “cowboy” tactics. But in a weirdly personal twist, while in pursuit of Szabo, DeForest kills his teenage son. So in revenge, Szabo kidnaps and brainwashes DeForest’s son and forces him, through constant druggings, to be a part of Szabo’s criminal network. So now DeForest must rescue his own flesh and blood, while attempting to “deforest” the terrorist network. Can he do it?
Tripwire is a minor undiscovered gem in the world of video-store action. It starts with a bang, an extremely impressive chase sequence. After this wheelie-poppin’ intro, the stunts and parade of familiar names in the cast keep things afloat. Truth be told, it does sort of run out of steam in a couple of places, but on the whole, Tripwire is a strong entry in the “I’ve never heard of it” action sweepstakes. Another thing that helps the movie is some of the more off-kilter directorial touches, thanks to James Lemmo, a man known for his associations with Abel Ferrara and William Lustig. For example, for the first seven minutes of the movie, there is no dialogue. There are some unusual camera moves as well later on, and the performance of Yaphet Kotto is oddly naturalistic.
The movie continues to hit all the right notes, as exemplified when DeForest is kicked off the force, and becomes a down and out...wait for it...PUNCHFIGHTER! We always appreciate some unexpected Punchfighting. Knox plays an impressive hero, and gets in some good dialogue. Rounding out the impressive cast are cameos by Meg Foster and none other than Tommy Chong. Of course, DeForest has a young punk son who cranks up his 80’s metal on his boombox and has Frank Zappa posters on his wall. But all of that aside, if you were in a video store in the golden year of 1989 and saw Tripwire’s box art, how could you NOT rent it? It’s impressive - and also similar to the Lemmo/Lustig vehicle Hit List (1989). Something about dudes being dragged from cars must really fire them up. Well, color us impressed.
Tripwire is another example of why the 80’s were so fertile and rich with entertaining action. It’s only now that we’re sorting it all out and enjoying everything from that time period. And despite a few minor missteps, it’s finally time that Tripwire had its moment in the sun.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett
Directed by: Peter Masterson
Starring: Eric Roberts, Dennis Hopper, Giancarlo Giannini, Julia Roberts, Burt Young, Elias Koteas, and Michael Madsen
Sebastian Callogero (Giannini), the patriarch of the Callogero clan, has brought his family to Brandon, California in search of a better life. They, along with other Sicilian, Italian, and other immigrants work hard to produce wine in that part of the country. But seeing as it’s 1895, railroads are being built all across the country, and it just so happens that the land the Callogero’s use is blocking the way for W.B. Berrigan (Hopper) and his dream to plow his railroad right through their precious wine country. Sebastian won’t budge, so the ruthless Berrigan calls in Andrews (Young) and his goons, to use force and intimidation to get them to relent. After some more escalations in unpleasant events, it’s up to Sebastian’s son Marco (Roberts), who formerly was rebellious against his father, to rise up and fight back against Berrigan and Andrews’ reign of terror to save his land and protect his father’s good name. Helping him is Enzio (Madsen), among other compatriots. Will they get their revenge?
Blood Red is a decent movie, nothing great. It feels like a TV movie a lot of the time, and judging by the killer cast, it should have been a more exciting and worthy outing. Its slow-paced, old-fashioned style might appeal to fans of classic Westerns. Not that any of this is offensively bad in any way, it’s all just a bit bland. A few blow-ups and maybe a bit of gun-shootin’ doesn’t really help much.
Eric Roberts continually has a smug look on his face and is consistently shirtless throughout the movie (we’re assuming just suspenders doesn’t count as a shirt). Also we didn’t know mullets existed in the 19th century. You learn something new every day. And despite the fact that this is likely to be the only Julia Roberts movie on this site, as well as Burt Young ALMOST rescuing the movie, truly the star of the show is Dennis Hopper as Berrigan, the classic Carpet Bagger/Robber Baron/Captain Of Industry (or what-have-you) of the day. When he first appears on screen, your first impulse will be to say “Is that Willy Wonka?” - but once you get past his fancy suit and top hat, there’s the Irish accent. Yeah.
Interestingly, if you watch the AMC show Hell On Wheels, you may have some idea of what Blood Red is about - immigrants and the birth of the American Railroad, with all the conflicts that ensue. Blood Red may have paved the way for it, but Hell On Wheels is done much better. If you’re interested in that subject matter, check out that show instead. Blood Red is just an immigrant-based variant of your classic “Get Off My Land” movie. Party A tells Party B to get off their land. Party B refuses to get off said land. Conflict ensues. The stereotype is that “GOML” would traditionally be said by a man with a Southern accent holding a shotgun. Here at least it’s some different ethnic groups.
Blood Red appears to be an oddity in the careers of most of the people involved. It might be worth checking out just to see them all interacting in a low-budget Western setting, but on the whole, Blood Red seems a bit lackluster.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty