Commander (1988)

Commander (1988)- * * * *

AKA: The Last American Soldier

Directed by: Ignazio Dolce

Starring: Craig Alan, Max Laurel, David Light, Mike Monty and Tanya Gomez

Wow! Now here’s a hidden gem if there ever was one. Commander (AKA Last American Soldier), we can safely say, is one of the best - if not the best - Exploding Hut movie of all time. Probably more huts explode (along with just about everything else within a 100-mile radius) in this movie than in any other Exploding-Hutter...COMBINED. The plot, if there even is one, is nothing more than a simple excuse to perhaps win a Guinness World Record for the most jam-packed kaleidoscopic cornucopia of blow-ups, explosions, detonations, fireballs, firebursts, fireblasts, combustions, ignitions, flare-ups, and, yes, cannonades ever committed to film. And if you think there isn’t a difference between all these things, Commander will show you the subtle nuances, and the whole outing gives new meaning to the band name “Porno for Pyros”!

Sure, you may have seen some Italian-made, jungle-set “Rambo knockoffs” before such as Tornado (1983), Rolf (1984), Strike Commando (1987), Strike Commando 2 (1988), etc. (or non-Italian outings such as Mannigan’s Force (1988) or anything on the Mercs box set), but here we have something special. For starters, we have true American hero Craig Alan in the lead as Commander. He’s a one-man army of epic proportions, an unshaven, beer-swilling killing machine who’s so macho he makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Richard Simmons. His voice sounds like a narcoleptic Elvis. At the end of every line he utters, you’re just waiting for a “thank yuh, thankyuhverymuch.” But he cares very much about freedom, and if he has to slaughter entire regions to make his dream of freedom happen, then, so be it. Evil Russians and commies have to get what’s coming to them. And speaking of Arnie, don’t get confused - the title Commander isn’t meant to recall any other movie titles, surely. Actually, if this movie brings anything similar to mind, it’s high body count-classics like No Dead Heroes (1986).

It should also be highlighted that his name is Commander, which leads to actual dialogue such as “Commander seems very efficient.” Evidently his rank is Sergeant, which would mean his name is “Sgt. Commander”. That alone makes this movie worth seeing. God bless losses in translation. Of course, the director, Ignazio Dolce, also directed Last Flight to Hell (1990), which, as we all know, had a great sceenplay.

Mike Monty has very minimal screen time as a Major, but that doesn’t stop Commander from getting into a conflict with him. Apparently all this is happening some time after the Vietnam war, and Commander is helping the people of Southeast Asia to be free, before the commies can take over their villages. He has a girlfriend of sorts named Cho Lin (Gomez), but a lot more time is spent on the Prerequisite Torture than on any time with her. In between blow-ups, there’s some shooting. Then some more shooting. And maybe a few knifings. For extra added spice, there’s some neck snaps. But it’s all about the explosions (helicopters certainly included), and this movie delivers, and then some. It makes Hollywood pap like Blown Away (1994) look like Larry Crowne (2011). And it’s all set to a quality Simon Boswell score. How can you lose?

Criminally, Commander was never released on VHS in the U.S. Evidently it only came out in Greece, Brazil, and, of course, Japan (they get everything). Based on that kind of poor decision-making, is this even a country Commander would want to serve? We didn’t even release COMMANDER for God’s sake. Well, what the world needs now - RIGHT now - is this movie. In our wimpy, wussy, overly-PC, “Gun Free Zone”, wet-noodle, touchy-feely culture, Commander stands as a raging, double-middle-finger “F-you” to all the liberal sludge polluting our lives. Craig Alan is our new hero, and he will be yours too when you see this utter classic of the action genre. This movie just rules. See it ASAP.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


Satin Steel (1994)

Satin Steel (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Siu-Hung Leung

Starring: Jade Leung, Anita Lee, Kenneth Chan, and Russell Wong

Jade Leung (evidently as herself, as she is portrayed by...Jade Leung) is a female Hong Kong Cop On The Edge. As she is a fearless and take-charge officer, her higher-ups put her in charge of the case of a lifetime - stopping the illegal, international arms dealings of a Mr. Fowler, a classic super-evil white guy. To accomplish her mission, she must travel to Indonesia and Singapore, all the while teaming up with Ellen Cheng (Lee of Tiger Cage 2 fame), a fellow policewoman/beauty. Together, the two face all kinds of scrapes, from local, indigenous, bulletproof (?) shamans, to keeping control of the classic “disk”, to a fighter with a bionic arm. But the men in their lives are causing complications as well, as they are wont to do, and our heroes also have to deal with Ken Chan (Wong), and a guy who calls himself Jean-Paul Belmondo (Chan). Will our heroes be more satin or more steel? Find out today...

We tracked down Satin Steel because it is directed by a man named Siu-Hung Leung, who directed fan favorite Superfights (1995), as well as Bloodmoon (1997), so we wanted to see more, especially from his earlier Hong Kong period.  Satin Steel has been described by others as a female Lethal Weapon (1987), but Lethal Weapon didn’t have the cartoonish, at times wacky vibe (note the muzzle flashes, which essentially are cartoons). Naturally, that fun, high-energy HK style is on display most of the time. Not that it doesn’t flag at a couple of points, but that’s only natural. Jade Leung and Anita Lee make a great team, and this was only the first movie Leung had been in after debuting with Black Cat (1991) and Black Cat 2 (1992).

Hon-Kam Lee delivers a rockin’ theme tune and his music helps things along well. The fact that the movie overall is well-shot, with interesting locations, has plenty of Martial Arts action, blow-ups, and top-quality stuntwork, as well as silly humor, not to mention the beautiful and talented leads, mean Satin Steel is never anything less than entertaining. It even includes a classic workout montage. The film stands on its own as a HK action outing, produced during a time (the 90’s) when it seemed Hong Kong was really cranking them out. Not that they didn’t produce some of the greatest action of all time, but there were so many, some tended to get lost in the shuffle. At least today, we can shine a light on Satin Steel and give it some love.

Hong Kong action fans, especially those who love female protagonists, will no doubt be very interested in Satin Steel.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty