Under The Gun (1988)

Under The Gun (1988) - * * *

Directed by: James Sbardellarti

Starring: Sam Jones, Vanessa Williams, Nick Cassavetes, Don Stark, Dan Tullis Jr., Michael Halsey, John Russell, and Rockne Tarkington

 Mike Braxton (Jones) is a rough-and-tumble St. Louis cop who is distraught after his partner dies during the course of what they initially believed was a routine investigation. But Braxton soon discovers his problems are about to get much bigger. His brother, Tony Braxton (Cassavetes), who we believe had a hit with “Un-break My Heart”, gives Mike a desperate call from L.A. and tells him he’s in deep trouble. It seems Tony was involved in illegal plutonium trafficking, and now the goons of the nefarious Simon Stone (Russell) are after him. Mike comes to L.A. and all hell breaks loose, with Stone unleashing his arsenal of goons on the unkillable cop, such as Frank (Halsey), Leon (Tarkington), and Joey (Stark), among others. Meanwhile Mike has to protect Samantha Richards (Williams) from the flying bullets and rocket launchers. Will they get out from UNDER THE GUN? Find out today…

Not to be confused with Under The Gun (1995), starring, and we quote the DVD box, the “likable action star Richard Norton”, THIS Under The Gun also features a likable action star, in this case Sam Jones. In the pantheon of 80’s action stars, we would rank the coolness of hair as follows: 1. Michael Dudikoff 2. Dolph Lundgren 3. Sam Jones. Having the third coolest hair of the 80’s action stars is no mean feat. (Feel free to leave a comment if you disagree with/want to add more to this list). Mike Braxton is the type of man who doesn’t back down from a fight, and there are plenty of cool action bits to keep fans entertained.

The baddies seem to have a larger-than-usual proclivity towards rocket launchers, which we certainly applauded, and Sam Jones gets some nice “hero shots” which cast him in a very valiant light. By contrast, Vanessa Williams plays the classic “complaining woman” and isn’t that likable. This clich├ęd role/performance was unfortunate and hurt the movie, but not enough for us to not recommend it. The sax/wailing-guitar soundtrack was entirely appropriate to the proceedings, and the fact that the illegal plutonium is being transported in a Robotech lunchbox adds to the interest, especially for 80’s fans like us.

And that’s just the thing, there were so many movies like this on the video store shelves of the 80’s and 90’s, it seems Under The Gun got lost in the shuffle. But the whole thing is well-paced and entertaining, so we can chalk up another winner to Sam Jones, one of the more reliable names of the day. This one only enhances his reputation. Featuring the catchy and energetic songs “Talkin’ Bout Love” by Debra Laws and “Paralyzed” by Brenda Reierson, despite a couple of minor flaws, we can put Under The Gun in the winner’s circle. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


Silk Degrees (1994)

Silk Degrees (1994)- *1\2

Directed by: Armand Garabidian

Starring: Marc Singer, Mark Hamill, Deborah Shelton, Adrienne Barbeau, Michael Des Barres, India Allen, Gilbert Gottfried, and Charles Napier

When actress Alex Ramsey (Shelton) witnesses a murder by gangster Degrillo (Des Barres), she has to go into witness protection. Degrillo had previously been under surveillance by federal agents Rick Baker (Singer, not the famed makeup artist portraying himself) and Johnson (Hamill). Ramsey doesn’t want to leave her glamorous Hollywood life, though she is tired of being bossed around by her TV director, Rene (Gottfried). Baker and Johnson decide the best course of action is to go to a rural inn and get some country livin’ during her sequestration. While hiding out from Degrillo and his goons, they meet local folk such as Violet (Barbeau) and Sheila (Allen), who work at the inn, as well as bumpkins looking to sell meth to bikers. Schultz (Napier) is a classic WYC (White Yelling Chief) who constantly screams at Baker to do his job. But naturally there’s romance in the air as Ramsey and Baker – as well as Sheila and Johnson – succumb to the cabin fever and pay-cable 90’s nudity ensues. Will our heroes return to civilization un-shot at and intact?

Erotic thrillers. Gilbert Gottfried. Two things that have gone together since time immemorial. But for some reason, this time the two don’t mix. Silk Degrees typifies the movie you would see on the shelf of your local video store, look at it quickly, shrug your shoulders, say “meh...” and keep walking by. Hence, it’s a “walk-by”, a term we would like to start using. Having Mark Hamill and Marc Singer be partners was a novel idea, if only for the fact that we can see the both of them together in the same place at the same time, thus proving that they are indeed two different people. The difference in the two men is academic; casting them as partners is just confusing. At least have one of the federal agents have dark hair, a mustache, a scar, something to distinguish the two. But judging by the mediocrity of it all, the writers must have said “meh...” too.

So why should we, as viewers, care? Is some nudity meant to be enough to keep our attention? Because even that is doled out sparingly. Fan favorite Napier just goes through the motions as he did so many times during his 90’s career, Hamill and Barbeau don’t even really need to be there, and the presence of Gilbert Gottfried is off-putting. To be fair, Shelton is attractive and does a decent job, and Singer puts in a respectable amount of energy. But the whole thing is lazily written, and it’s nothing you haven’t seen a million times before. For a far better movie about someone put under witness protection, check out Hit List (1989). Silk Degrees isn’t softcore porn, so fans of that will be unsatisfied, it’s not a biopic of Boz Scaggs where he reveals the secrets of the Lido Shuffle, and it’s not a decent mystery, thriller, procedural, or drama, so fans of those will be left wanting. And it’s certainly not an action movie, though there is one really funny moment at the end (that should have happened a lot earlier, and more moments like it to boot - more stupidity on the part of the filmmakers) - but that’s not enough to save it.

The perfect time and place for Silk Degrees was Skinemax in the mid-90’s. In 2015 (or whenever you happen to be reading this), it, sadly, doesn’t cut it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty