The Ultimate Weapon (1997)-*1\2
Directed by: Jon Cassar
Starring: Hulk Hogan, Vlastra Vrana, Carl Marotte, Daniel Pilon, and Cynthia Preston
"No Fear. No Rules. No Equal."
Oh dear lord WHY?!?!?!?! Wasn't Radical Jack (2000) punishment enough? When will the torture end?
Fresh off his role in Santa With Muscles (1996), perhaps the Hulkster yearned for more adult fare so he attempted to be in an R-rated action film. This seems like a good idea on paper but this jaunt barely rises to the level of adequate entertainment.
Hogan plays Ben "Hardball" Cutter, an "independent contractor", i.e., a mercenary. When his old commander, Top (Vrana) assigns him with a new partner, Vince "Cobra" Dean (Marotte) the two don't really get along, but they must stop the IRA gunrunners, led by the evil Dylan McBride (Pilon). Apparently they are involved in "Operation Shamrock", a classified U.N. operation. When Cutter blows up most of McBride's stash of weaponry, McBride then declares war on the Hulkster, I mean Cutter. Meanwhile he is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Mary Kate (Preston) who is now working in a sleazy strip club. Will the Cutters ever be a family again? Will McBride ever cut his ponytail? ... WHY?
Every time Hogan walks on screen, you laugh because of his hair, his mustache, and his overall demeanor, but mainly because all the clothes he wears in the film are at least two sizes too small. It's hard not to notice his ill-fitting clothing. Maybe he was still going through puberty at the time. Plus he seems confused and dumbfounded most of the movie, emphasis on the "dumb". He seems like he is trying to grasp something but not quite managing. He should stick to comedies and wrestling, his obvious strong points. His partner "Cobra" is not at all tough and besmirches the name of that great film and TV show. Plus he resembles Gary "Baba Booey" Dell'Abate from the Howard Stern Show. The main bad guy looks like Alan Thicke, once again besmirching one of the greatest Canadians (but I suppose that is inevitable as the film was shot in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Preston's "aboots" give away the game as well).
Also, when "Cobra" is fighting the baddies, he is wearing a bright yellow shirt and has a belt buckle almost as big as his head. If he is trying to be stealth, looking like a neon banana in pajamas is not gonna help.
In this low-budget, brain-numbing exercise in stupidity which is disturbingly similar to the aforementioned Radical Jack, there are too many training sequences and other unnecessary bits that make the 90 minute running time seem much longer. There is some pseudo-cool "quick cutting" at times, and the barfights and drive-by shootings are so idiotic and ridiculous it's unfathomable. The "Simon says" sequence truly plumbs the depths of dumb. Plus there's the prerequisite sequence where the hero is tortured, but in this case it's the Hulkster in various stages of his shirt coming off. The second half of the film is basically a shirtless Hogan running around (literally - 78 minutes into the film there is a painfully obvious stunt double for Hogan doing a very simple jump over a low fence). Somehow he finds the time to change his pants and find a funny vest, but his chest remains exposed, and his "cuts" come and go. None of this should come off as complaining. You should know going in that The Ultimate Weapon is not Masterpiece Theatre.
Once again, Avalanche has a "misstatement" on their box, as they did with Counter Measures (1999). The running time was a grueling 90 minutes. The box says 110. Luckily, it is not that crushing. It probably scared off potential renters 13 years ago. We don't want to spend that much time with Cutter, Cobra and Top. Luckily, we don't have to. Plus there are other "Hulk" references on the box. There are references to No Holds Barred (1989) and Suburban Commando (1991). Speaking of Commando (1985), Hulk even says in the movie "I lied", exactly mimicking Arnie's immortal line.
If it's brainless entertainment you seek, The Ultimate Weapon will fill the bill perfectly.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty & Brett
Counter Measures (1999)-* *
AKA: Crash Dive 2
Directed by: Fred Olen Ray
Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Wendy Schumacher and Oleg Taktarov
More madness from the mind of Fred Olen Ray! Can anyone confirm he and Jim Wynorski are two different people? Has anyone ever seen them together in the same place at the same time?
Anyway, in this underwater escapade that is highly reminiscent of Under Siege(1992) ... When Navy medic Captain Jake Fuller's brother is murdered by Russian spies, Jake goes underwater to investigate. Even though Jake is a pacifist and doesn't want to fight, evil Russians take over the supersub Odessa and plan to blow up/take over the world. Only he and Lt. Swain (Wendy Schumacher of skinemax softcore fame, here strangely credited as "Alexander Keith") can save the day, so they both board the sub. The Russians and their special gas that makes people vomit yellowish green liquid are no match for these two. Will Fuller and Swain be able to stop "Operation Hailstorm" and prevent a new cold war?
Remember the Wynorski vehicles Desert Thunder (1999) and Stealth Fighter (1999)? Just change the fact that those had to do with planes, and switch that to a submarine, and there you have it. It even has the trademark stock footage we've come to know and love. The Dolph Lundgren classic Agent Red (2000) is basically a remake of Counter Measures and uses some of the same footage. But where did Counter Measures get their stock footage? The world may never know.
One of the funny things about Counter Measures is that it is solely cast with celebrity lookalikes. Besides Dudikoff and Schumacher, the rest of the cast resemble Tim Roth, Michael Imperioli, Bob Newhart and Christopher Titus, who, strangely enough, was actually in Crash Dive (1997), the movie to which Counter Measures is a sequel. But the lookalike in Counter Measures plays a different character than the one Titus did in Crash Dive, so it must be a weird coincidence.
Also in the weird department, on the back of the VHS box (released in the U.S. on Avalanche), Michael Dudikoff's character is said to be "Zach Silver". Seeing as his name is Jake Fuller in the film, where did this name come from? Apparently someone just made it up. Did they not watch the movie? You don't see that type of error often.
Dudikoff turns on the charm when he could easily go on autopilot and let his cool hair do all the work. Instead, he brings some funny body language and interesting mannerisms to his character of Jake Fuller (NOT Zach Silver). He is as animated here as he was in the awesome TV show "Cobra" where he played Robert "Scandal" Jackson.
On the negative side, there is some jumpy editing, as well as some jumbled plotting and cheap-looking sets, but all that is to be expected and the presence of Dudikoff (and the rest of the cast, whoever they may look like) smooths it all over. you will probably be entertained by Counter Measures.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty & Brett
Bulletproof (1988)-* * *
Directed by: Steve Carver
Starring: Gary Busey, Henry Silva, Darlanne Fluegel, Thalmus Rasulala, Danny Trejo and L.Q. Jones
"Improbable Odds. Unstoppable Force."
I know it might seem hard to believe, but there once was a time when Gary Busey had a boyish charm and could have been an action star and wasn't known as a crazy guy and late-night comedian punchline. To witness this prime Busey, simply check out "Bulletproof" (not to be confused with the 1996 film where Adam Sandler shoots people).
Busey plays Frank "Bulletproof" McBain, a rogue, but lovable Cop On The Edge, or COTE for short. He's teamed up with the original Blacula himself, Thalmus Rasulala. One of McBain's talents is he is able to withstand being shot, and he saves all the bullets he's been shot with in a jar in his bathroom. Meanwhile, somewhere in Mexico, a terrorist network of "Mexicans, Nicaraguans and A-rabs" are all working in collusion to take over the world using a supertank called the NBT-90 Thunderblast.
The evil Colonel Kartiff (Silva) and General Brogado (Rene Enriquez) are heading up the operation, so Special Ops Military Adviser Sgt. O'Rourke (Jones) and army officer Devon Shepard (Fluegel) go south of the border to investigate. They, along with some of their army buddies and a group of priests and nuns are kidnapped and held hostage by the evildoers. Only one man can save his compatriots (and Devon, his long-lost love)...MCBAIN of course! And did we mention there are also evil Russians McBain has to stop?
In the 80's, you couldn't be the hero in an action movie and not be wisecracking. Most of Busey's lines are snappy one-liners, such as "what's this Tonka toy?", "I'm a one-man suicide squad!", and he even pioneered his own insult - the immortal "Butthorn". He inexplicably says this word THREE times during the movie. I guess it didn't catch on.
There are some sensitive flashbacks, and Devon even says to him "you may be bulletproof but you're not love proof". The movie on the whole is fun, upbeat and there is plenty of humor. Henry Silva plays an Islamic extremist, and the enemies are "communist-inspired terrorists". I guess it was pretty ahead of its time.
Surely this was one of the only times Fred Olen Ray (who wrote the story) got a movie released by a major studio. What would the world be like today if all his movies were?
A movie highlight is when Busey is tied to a big circular thing that looks like a huge cheese wheel. Watch out for this scene. So if you want to see a movie where Gary Busey is a lovable supercop and ladies man, and before he was crazy (well, really crazy) in a movie with plenty of heart, sax solos and blow-ups, and a mixed bag of world villains, this is the movie for you.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett & Ty
Liberty & Bash (1989)-*
Directed by: Myrl A. Schreibman
Starring: Miles O'Keeffe, Mitzi Kapture, and Lou Ferrigno
When we first heard that there was a movie called "Liberty and Bash" in which Miles O'Keeffe played Liberty and Lou Ferrigno played Bash, we had the only natural reaction: "this is gonna be awesome". It is with a heavy heart that we have to report that "Liberty and Bash" is a crushing disappointment that doesn't even come close to fulfilling its potential.
The plot, unfortunately, involves a street thug named Jesse who runs afoul of some baddies led by a Mr. Big-type hotshot uncreatively named "Mr. B". He seeks help from a social worker named Liberty because they were buddies in the past. Liberty then teams up with Bash who works for a Big Brothers-Big Sisters-type organization. Meanwhile, Liberty's girlfriend (Kapture) is pregnant and that causes some tension between them, blah blah blah.
Despite what you may have heard, this movie has NO ACTION. This movie is so offensive because it shows a contempt for its intended audience (which is presumably action fans). The makers of this film are completely clueless as to how make an even halfway-decent action film. It is mostly talking, and talking about things that the audience couldn't care less about at that. This movie is mainly about social work! SOCIAL WORK I TELL YOU!
One funny thing is that Liberty is always referring to his "kids". These so-called "kids" are in their late thirties/early forties, if not older. He deals with "troubled gang kids" at the East Hollywood community center but it should be called "Old brothers, senile sisters". One of the funniest "kids" is an Asian man named "Juan Ton". Yes, Juan Ton. He calls everyone "Homes" and you can't help but laugh.
That's the nicest thing we can say about this cinematic abomination. Another big crime it commits is that there is little-to-no Bash. Ferrigno is in the movie for a total of about five minutes. He doesn't bash anybody. He motivates kids in a cheap, makeshift gym to climb the ropes. He does utter the line "YOU-WILL-LEARN-LIFE-IN-AN-EFFECTIVE-WAY", however. A sad fall from the legendary Billy of Cage (1989) fame.
The synopsis on the back of the VHS box, on the front of which has Ferrigno's and O'Keeffe's heads pasted on other people's bodies for some reason(shamefully released by Fries home video in the U.S.) proudly proclaims: "sizzling in its scope, dynamic in its depiction" and "A pounding pace and non stop action provide the thrilling ingredients for LIBERTY AND BASH". First of all, it's "non-START", nonexistent action. Secondly, Street Asylum (1990) did a better job of portraying the toughness of L.A. life at that time.
And thirdly, A slow-as-molasses pace, pointless, unending exposition, NO ACTION, and a parade of men in ill-fitting shirts in various states of unbuttonedness add to the hell of enduring this crap.
This should be retitled STUPIDITY and BAD.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993)-* *
Directed by: Boaz Davidson
Starring: Joe Lara, Nicole Hansen, and John Ryan
17 years after the apocalypse, the survivors live in destroyed cities patrolled by cyborgs. The cyborgs get their orders by sticking their fingers in ATM-like machines. A human woman named Mary (Hansen) has given birth to a baby, which is important, so the species can continue to live in utter squalor. Apparently, in Europe there is less radiation so she must get the baby safely to "the port". Unfortunately, there is an unusually-ruthless mustachioed cyborg named "Cyborg" after her. Wherever she is, he turns up and shoots everybody. You've really gotta watch out for this guy. He really hates babies (which is never explained). Luckily, Mary has some help in the heroic Austin (Lara), a valiant meathead willing to help Mary complete her journey and fight Cyborg along the way. Will she succeed in her mission?
John Ryan as Cyborg has a Judas Priest-style leather outfit and mustache. He also has funny glowing eyes and grunts a lot. Almost any Judas Priest song can be applied to this villain: "Leather Rebel", "Hell Patrol", "All Guns Blazing", etc. I wonder if Rob Halford has ever seen this movie. Joe Lara is sans beard and looking meatheadier than ever. He has a bunch of blank expressions that complement his long hair. Hansen can't act her way out of a paper bag, but maybe the star that is Lara outshined her.
It's important to remember that in 1993 the world was in the midst of "Terminator 2 Fever" and AC: SW is a by-product of that then-current enthusiasm. Imagine a mix of Terminator 2 (1992), Neon City (1991), Karate Cop (1991) and Omega Cop (1990). It has all the silly trademarks of the low-budget post-apocalyptic genre, including plot points about "RZB", an anti-radiation drug, and it also might explain the characters' interest in "modems" and other computer mumbo-jumbo.
This movie isn't really as bad as you might think. Yes, it is very dumb and repetitive (Austin kills Cyborg, he regenerates and comes back, ad nauseam), and every time Cyborg shows up, he kills everyone in sight with his machine gun but not Mary, of course...but it has a decent pace and some interesting baddies such as drag queens and the dreaded "Leeches" who are, apparently, radioactive cannibals. The one standout fight scene involves Austin facing off against these mummy-like assailants. Also, most of the movie takes place in one abandoned warehouse or another.
Directed by the legendary Boaz Davidson (of the Lemon Popsicle series and co-producer of The Expendables (2010), this is a later Cannon production, so, make of that what you will.
Who is the Steel Warrior? Is it Austin or is Cyborg? Be Pro-"American" and find out tonight!
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Firehead (1991)-* * *
Directed by: Peter Yuval
Starring: Chris Lemmon, Gretchen Becker, Lauren Levy, Brett Porter, Christopher Plummer, and a Special Appearance by: Martin Landau
"The Power to Destroy the World...And the Will to Save It!"
Just when you thought AIP had run out of insane ideas...they really outdo themselves with Firehead, the story of an Estonian superdude who can shoot lasers out of his eyes and is pals with Chris Lemmon. We're not kidding.
At the height of the cold war, Ivan Tigor (Porter) leaves his communist homeland and escapes to America. He is going around blowing up military installations, so energetic but dopey research scientist Warren Hart(Lemmon) teams up with beautiful military officer and scientist Buchanan (Becker) to find the truth. This upsets Colonel Garland Vaughn (Plummer) who is a member of a secret, underground cult called the Upper Order who meet in secret and are planning World War III. Meanwhile, The President (Ed Kearney) and Secretary Fallbright (George Elliot) are all involved. Did we mention Tigor can shoot lasers out of his eyes and the origin of this is not really explained? So now Tigor and Hart are on the run with only Tigor's lasers and sometimes forcefields to help them.
This odd and zany AIP entry has some wacky humor thanks to Chris Lemmon. He's always yelling "Jesus Christ!" Most of his lines in the film either start or end with him exhorting the name of some people's Lord and Savior. His 12 year old daughter in the film, inexplicably named Smith (Levy), is a plucky genius who drives a car and seems to have some fun saying wordy, scientific dialogue. She has an ALF doll in her room. She practically steals the film, in much the same way Sarah Dampf did for Stealth Fighter(1999). Too bad the two tweens never starred together in a movie. They could team up and fight crime or something. Her energetic, loquacious performance contrasts completely with Brett Porter's monosyllabic, monotonous Arnold Schwarzenegger/Dolph Lundgren/Matthias Hues-style delivery. The film does borrow somewhat from Red Heat (1988). I guess we were running low on English-as-a-second-language action stars. Thank you Brett Porter.
Martin Landau puts in a "special appearance" as Pendleton. He mutters some exposition and looks bewildered. He seems to be thinking "What am I doing in Firehead?" Same thing goes for Christopher Plummer (who has either won or been nominated for every award under the sun) - a usually respectable actor who decided if he was gonna slum, he was really gonna SLUM. You kind of feel bad/embarrassed for him. But maybe he had fun. We don't know. Someone ask him and get back to us. Chris Lemmon looks like a cross between Joe Piscopo and Wings Hauser in this film. He seems to care a bit too much about every little thing that happens. Gretchen Becker is on hand as the eye candy but she's much more than that - she sings the powerful end credits theme song as well.
There is a lot of mumbo-jumbo in the film, such as some gobbledygook about the "special operations computer bank" (which has its own jaunty theme music), and our heroes and government agents trapped in a building before a deadly virus is released. Yet they never take any time to explain Ivan's superpowers.
Think of this movie as AIP's attempt at being topical. It is incredibly silly and Ivan's laser eyes are the main draw. But we think they held back on using the effect too much to save money.
"Fire" up the VCR for this classic tonight!
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett
Bridge to Nowhere (1986)-* *1\2
Directed by: Ian Mune
Starring: Matthew Hunter, Margaret Umbers, Shelly Luxford, Bruno Lawrence, Stephen Judd, and Phillip Gordon
"You Cross The Bridge, You Cross The Devil!"
When a group of teenagers (Gray, Carl, Julie, Tanya and Leon) from the city go deep in the woods to go camping and see the "Bridge To Nowhere", they run afoul of a bearded, vicious old salt named Mac (Lawrence) who chases them through the woods and hunts them down one by one. Leon loses his mind and goes missing. They played their boombox a bit too loud, apparently.
Sadly, Mac never yells "Get off my land!" (while brandishing the prerequisite shotgun), but one of the teens does say "Where's the Bridge To Nowhere?"
Bridge To Nowhere is well-made and a better-than-average clone of Deliverance (1972), Rituals (1977), Southern Comfort (1981), and Just Before Dawn (1981), but it bears the strongest resemblance to Damned River (1989). I guess you could call this a wilderness survival movie, New Zealand style.
It starts off with some typically-80's sex romp style antics but then it turns deadly. It has a nice new wave contemporary soundtrack to fuel the fun. The highlight there is Marginal Era's "You Fascinate". The kids bring their beloved boombox everywhere, even deep in the woods where they dance their way through a hiking trip (forest dancing) and even on the Bridge To Nowhere (Bridge dancing). They even break out the sleeping bags and sleep on the Bridge itself. If all they wanted to do was dance, couldn't they do that at home?
"And Matthew Hunter as Carl" is its own credit, dedicated to the kid who goes camping in patchy jeans and Doc Martens. Interestingly, future famous director Lee Tamahori was a first assistant director on the film.
Positives: The picturesque New Zealand scenery is captured well by the cinematographer, the acting is above-average, and it is lean and mean at 85 minutes.
Released on the Charter label on VHS in the U.S., if you are looking for a wilderness survival film you may have missed, Cross the Bridge To Nowhere tonight!
Comeuppance review by: Brett and Ty
Directed by: Roger J. Barski
Starring: Michael Dixon, Jimi Jourdan, Rengin Altay, and John L. Eves
In the time-honored tradition of ripping off movies such as Straw Dogs (1971), Assault On Precinct 13 (1976), The Warriors (1979), and Enemy Territory (1987) comes Chains, a slow-moving, uninvolving piece of tripe about two rich, spoiled couples, J.J., Paul, Tracy and Michelle, who are from the Chicago 'burbs who get lost on the mean streets of the south side - Chains territory. The couples are so dim, they either drive around in circles or sit in their car NOT DRIVING AWAY.
They team up with Geeter (Jourdan) a streetwise man who is in a rival gang called The Rippers, and is on the run from the Chains. All five of them hole up in (of course) an abandoned warehouse and try to fight off the Chains and each other. For some reason, the posh white couple knows how to make bombs from material just lying around in the warehouse. One of them even says "My college education is paying off!" When The Dead Man (Eves) comes around to exterminate them all, you think all hell would break loose!...actually no...it does not.
The Chains are bit too silly to be tough and scary. There is the Billy Idol guy, The Run DMC guy, The Beardo, and of course Kano. Their graffiti pronounces "Finders Keepers, Losers DIE!" and "Chain Warriors". Just take out the word "Chain". If you're really feeling generous replace it with the word "Kroog". On the bright side, they have a "Chains Chant" which goes: "Chains. Chains. Chains." Much like the Stallone classic F.I.S.T. (1978), gangs (or unions) chant the title repeatedly and excitably. Another great example of gangs chanting can be found in L.A. Streetfighters (1985).
Much like how the Indians used every possible part of the buffalo, the Chains have many uses for their chains. They whip them around menacingly, strike people with them, wear them as belts and for chain wallets. They hang people by them and brand people with them.
Paul and J.J. are extremely annoying and unlikable. All J.J. does is spit snarky comments at everyone while proudly sporting his bolo tie. You actually want the Chains to kill them and that deflates the movie of any sort of tension, drama, or suspense whatsoever. We suspect J.J. really stands for "Jerk. Jerk." Jimi Jourdan as Geeter carries the movie. He does his best, but he can't save this sinking ship.
After a painful 80 minutes, the character of The Dead Man (not to be confused with the Jim Jarmusch film of the same name) appears. He is a last minute character who is far more interesting than the other characters. See also Provoked's Machine Gun Joe, Maximum Breakout's Cowboy, and of course Maximum Force's Bear.
Chains is not exactly a searing portrayal of gang life. It is dumb and slow beyond belief. The box art above makes it look awesome, but alas it is not. Released on VHS on the Imperial label, as was Ron Marchini's epic Karate Cop (1991). So that gives you some idea of what you are getting into.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett & Ty
The Expendables (2010)-* * *1\2
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Eric Roberts, Jet Li, Steve Austin, Gary Daniels, Giselle Itié, Dolph Lundgren, David Zayas, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Expendables is the most macho movie ever made. From the metallic-looking credits on down, the screen pretty much oozes testosterone.
Barney Ross, Lee Christmas, Yin Yang, Toll Road, Hale Caesar, and Gunner Jensen (Stallone, Statham, Li, Couture, Crews, and Lundgren respectively) are an underground A-Team of sorts who go all over the world doing the hard jobs that no other teams of mercenaries will do. When it is discovered that evil South American dictator General Garza (Zayas) is a puppet for rogue CIA agent James Munroe (Roberts), the team are sent in to clean up the mess (i.e. create a bigger mess by creating countless deaths and explosions) by a mysterious man named Mr. Church (Willis).
When Barney falls in love with the dictator's daughter Sandra (Giselle Itié) and she is kidnapped by the Munroe's goons The Brit (Daniels) and the very imposing Dan Paine (Austin)... get ready to party like it's 1986 as The Expendables hearkens back to the glory days of action cinema. Even Stallone's vehicles (car and plane) are reminiscent of the classic Cobra (1986), as are Garza's soldiers. Roberts plays the slimy Munroe with aplomb. He gets the classic final villain speech we all want to hear. Let's not forget our favorite governor Arnold: He is basically the comic relief with his jokey cameo and prerequisite funny name (Trench). It would have been fun to see Willis character to return one more time to angrily bellow "This wasn't part of the deal!" or some line like that but sadly, that is not to be.
We're so used to seeing these faces on the small screen, it was a real treat to see them in the theater. They truly deserve it. Eric Roberts, Dolph Lundgren and Gary Daniels in the same scene? Oh yeah! We also get to see a one-on-one fight between Dolph and Jet Li for the first time ever. And Gary Daniels vs. Jet Li and Statham. In the theater!
The pairings of all the different fan-favorites is pretty mind-boggling. Of course, with an international cast such as this it becomes hard to understand what some of them are saying - when Stallone and Li talk it's hard to understand, and when Couture talks you don't want to understand. But to counteract his Dale "Apollo" Cook-style delivery, we have Mickey Rourke on hand as the token "good actor" who gets a heartfelt monologue. For a movie with so many characters, it was very well done how each got a nice backstory and it never got confusing at all.
God bless Stallone - he couldn't have delivered this at a better time. What the world needs now is more tough, take-no-prisoners action. Not more sissy junk involving "facebook". This movie is the antidote to "Eat Pray Love". To quote The Simpsons, this is more like "Beat Slay Shove". Another good thing about the movie is it has no stupid kids or teenagers. When Jason Statham is the YOUNGEST person in the group, we get mature, professional action. Stallone is known for giving his characters funny names and here he really goes to town. You thought Driven's Joe "The Hummer" Tanto was funny...He also includes another of his trademarks - ripped from the headlines topicality. Like the plot of Rambo III (1988) involving Afghanistan, here we have Somali pirates and a clear analogue to crimson-shirted cretin Hugo Chavez.
If there is a downside to The Expendables, it is the use of CGI. CGI sucks and it takes away from the old-school feel we love. It's not entirely dependent on it, but when it was there, we felt it was unwelcome.
Back in the golden age, any one of the cast members could have sold a movie. It is a sad comment on movies today that it took a ton of producers and EVERY major action star just to get the project off the ground. How can they top this if they want to do it again?
It has all the clichés we know and love, just on a bigger scale. Abandoned warehouses, neck-snapping the villains, the line "we've got company", exploding guard towers and many, many more. The first 20 lines said by our heroes (and throughout the film) are fun clichés and soundbites. This isn't a complaint. Perhaps a certain appreciation for action movies is needed to truly understand what's going on here. Anyone who trashes this movie simply doesn't get action movies or their significance. They should go back to poking Twi-hards on facebook, or some such moronic twaddle.
Truly a movie for the fans, The Expendables delivers the goods with a once-in-a-lifetime cast. See it!
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Rage to Kill (1987)-* * *
Directed by: David Winters
Starring: James Ryan, Cameron Mitchell, and Oliver Reed
Evil General Edward Turner (Reed) and his army of thugs show up on the Caribbean island of St. Heron and stage a coup. They take over the island by force and set up shop in the local college, and the students there are held hostage. When war hero/race car driving man Blaine Striker (this is like the tenth movie we've reviewed where the hero is named Striker) (Ryan) hears about this, he snaps into action because his brother is on the island. He then leads the students in a revolution against the General and his men. With the help of plucky newspaper reporter Jennifer Baker(Maxine John) and the local, indigenous warriors led by Wally Arn (Henry Cele) and special agent Sgt. Miller (Mitchell), will this ragtag group of counter-revolutionaries save the island from tyranny?
When Oliver Reed shows up in a helicopter and starts opening fire on everyone and one of the first lines is a very convincingly-said "eat dirt you scumsucker", you know you are in for an awesome cinematic experience. It's not entirely clear exactly WHY Turner chooses to take over St. Heron, but we do know he's making missiles for the Russians. This film is topical and tropical as it recalls 80's concerns like the cold war and the Grenada incident. Of course, because this is a film dealing with the issues of the 80's, there are gratuitous scenes of aerobics.
Not to fear because "The President" is on the case. All he wants to do is "watch the world series" and he has a lot of funny advisers. They sit in a room which isn't very presidential and discuss things like "backdoor diplomacy". It has some pictures of past Presidents though. Kind of like how the "American Med students" we keep hearing about have an American flag in their dorm so you know they are American, despite the fact that some of them have accents from other parts of the world. The set decoration tells the story, I guess.
We wished there was more Oliver Reed, who probably figured that he could go nuts in this AIP production because...this is an AIP production. There is plenty of Cam Mitchell, which is a good thing. The guy that plays Striker's brother looks like a cross between fan favorites Mike Norris and Richard Norton. This is as close as we'll get to seeing them in a movie together. Interestingly, he even says the line, after beating up some baddies "Not bad, I learned that from a Chuck Norris movie". Usually, they mention Rambo in these movies.
While the idea of James Ryan leading a student force of kids who aren't used to carrying guns seems like a good idea, somehow the silly fight scenes, ridiculous, unnecessary torture scenes, mindless, shirtless shooting and cardboard nukes add to the downmarket feel.
A note about the music: the end credits feature an amazing ballad, "Do You Remember Love?", which is extremely catchy. Sure, it has little-to-nothing to do with the hijinx we just saw, but its power will be stuck in your head for days. The scenes in the native village include the upbeat reggae tune "Party Party Party" over and over and over again. That's a catchy one too. The beat is so infectious, we even see the infamous "Cam dance", i.e., Cameron Mitchell dancing.
Bearing a weird resemblance to recent superfilm The Expendables (2010), Rage to Kill is what you would expect of an AIP treatment of this type of material. A fun "beer" film, invite over some friends and Rage it up tonight!
Comeuppance Review by: Ty & Brett
Sno-Line (1986)-* *1\2
AKA: Texas Godfather
Directed by: Douglas F. O'Neons
Starring: Vince Edwards, Paul L. Smith, and June Wilkinson
Steve King (Edwards) is a New York gangster that moves to Beaumont, Texas, figuring he can bring his street smarts to an unsuspecting criminal underworld in a different part of the country. Shortly after the movie begins, there's an on-screen title that reads: "One Year Later" for no discernible reason. He wants to build a "sno-line" from Houston to El Paso, controlling the cocaine racket. He also has a casino and there are corrupt Senators on the take.
Meanwhile a rival gang, headed by the bearded Kenny Loggins lookalike Bedford, wants to move in on the action. They have listening devices everywhere, including at the table at the country club where King hangs out. One of the members of the rival gang, Michael (Carey Clark) wants to just escape with his girlfriend with some stolen money. So it's gangsters chasing after gangsters, and Michael running away, and cops chasing them all. Who will escape?
In director O'Neons' only directorial effort, he brings us a very 80's subject. Cocaine and the people behind this drug trade. It's always fun to see Vince Edwards but the problem is this film has no heroes. You don't really root for him, Bedford or Michael to succeed. This is one of the main failings of the film. You don't really care what happens to anyone because they are all bad guys. Of course, King's assistant Gus (Louis Guss) is the most likable one, as the wisecracking old-school Italian schlub. Burt Young also could have played this role.
King hides his operation through a milk-delivery company called "King's Dairy". He delivers the coke in the milk and also collects on his gambling debts. Clever innovation. This leads to a mob war in the bayou with some good-ole-boys. King and Gus travel the back swamps in their boat named the "Fungus". A movie highlight involves Duval (Smith) and an alligator. We won't give it away.
There are some more fights, chases and double crosses, most of which the audience is indifferent towards, even though some involve King's main lady Audrey (Wilkinson). It quickly devolves into a Dukes of Hazzard episode. While the idea of a mob man dealing coke and doing mob things in Texas is pretty novel, Sno-Line lacks a certain energy and cohesiveness that would have helped considerably. We love the low-budget attitude, and all the 80's fashions alone make it watchable. Released on VHS in the U.S. on the great Lightning Video label, Sno-Line is the type of movie if you see somewhere you should pick up, but it's not necessary to go out of your way to try and find.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Radical Jack (2000)-* *
Directed by: James Allen Bradley
Starring: Billy Ray Cyrus, Dedee Pfeiffer, Noah Blake and George 'Buck' Flower
"No One Can Hold Him Back!"
What? Billy Ray Cyrus in an R-rated direct-to-video action movie named RADICAL JACK? What, was Dwight Yoakam, Randy Travis, or Brooks and/or Dunn not available? But more importantly...where do I sign up?
Jack Joseph Reynolds (Cyrus) is an MIA CIA ex-Desert Storm Navy SEAL who just wants to sit in the local bar and say "nope" over and over again after a terrorist named Riotti killed his wife during a botched mission. He is persuaded, however to go undercover as a drifter in the small town of Hope, Vermont. Obviously this place is a hotbed of gun-running. The axis of evil in the Vermont burg is a father and son team of Lloyd and Rolland Buckworth (Flower and Keanu Reeves lookalike Blake respectively), and a bunch of redneck good ol' boys who do their bidding. Due to the radical-ness of his mission, his code name is "Radical Jack", and he calls in to his superiors with the code name "Radical 177".
Reynolds gets a job at the local watering hole called the Red Moon Saloon (apparently, a real place). There he meets Kate (Pfeiffer), one of the many women in Hope who think he is the hottest hunk in town. They develop a relationship, but there's a problem. She just broke up with Rolland because of his abusive ways. He's not happy. Because Radical Jack is infringing upon his gun and missile dealings AND his woman, Rolland declares all-out war on Jack. The results are less than radical.
There is an attempt at seriousness here, to the film's detriment. Sadly, it has an amateurish, rock-bottom DTV look to it, both in the technical aspects and the acting. To be fair, everyone seemed to be trying hard though. The film is some kind of knock off of Road House (1989) and Beyond the Law (1992).
Flower as Lloyd is the least-menacing villain ever. When he says "I want the missiles", he's about as intimidating as a Wal-Mart greeter.
And what would the PAX network think of Cyrus' very un-Doc-like performance here? His mullet is mighty and it even has powers. Whenever he has a flashback, he touches his mullet, which is connected to the remembrance parts of his brain. I think I saw the title "mullet wrangler" in the end credits. Even when he wears his "recon hat" -- a special hat he uses when he spies on people, using 90's kids toy SpyTech -- his mullet does all the acting.
In one of the prerequisite barfights, we even get to see some of his patented Cyrus-Fu as takes down Rolland. There is also the standard abandoned warehouse scene, silly twists in the plot that make no sense, and a curious lack of action. There is even a counter that appears on screen from time to time reminding you, in army time, how much time has passed on his mission. The viewer despairs at how little time has actually passed. Why would the filmmakers rub that in?
When you are watching Radical Jack, at times it dawns on you that "I am WATCHING RADICAL JACK." It really makes you reassess your life and your priorities.
Surely a punishment for Miley would be to be subjected to this slop of a slog of a film. Not that that is a surprise in any way.
Have an achy-breaky good time watching this Radical crud.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty
Stealth Fighter (1999)-* *1\2
Directed by: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Ice-T, Costas Mandylor, Erika Eleniak, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, Andrew Divoff, William Sadler, Sarah Dampf, John Enos III, and Ernie Hudson
"The Ultimate Street Fight At 50,000 Feet!"
As if Desert Thunder (1999) wasn't enough, from the team of Jim Wynorski, Lenny Juliano, some stock footage, miniatures, and a green screen comes Stealth Fighter, the tale of Ryan "Iron Man" Mitchell (Mandylor) a Harry Connick Jr. lookalike who is a member of a special ops team who reports directly to President Westwood (Hudson). When his former buddy Owen Turner (-T) starts working for evil terrorist mastermind Roberto Menendez (Divoff), bad things start to happen.
They sink a submarine with a full crew on board, initiate the killer satellite Thanatos to blow up the world, and on top of that, Turner steals a stealth fighter jet. Meanwhile Mitchell is trying to repair his family life with his wife Erin (Eleniak) and daughter J.P. (Dampf). So he offers to go on this one last mission to save the world.
You know Menendez is evil because he sports an ascot. Lister plays his muscle named Berg. All he does is bug out his eyes. The best actor in the movie is Sarah Dampf as Mitchell's precocious daughter. The code name "Eagle One" makes another appearance just like in Desert Thunder. The movie is filled to the brim with silly slang and you have to activate the closed captioning to understand the dialogue: "You've just been splashed!", "The Bird", The usage of "SAMS", etc. There's also the funny mission names such as "Black Raven" and "Operation: Clean Sweep".
A tongue-in-cheek scene occurs when William Sadler, as Mitchell's commanding officer Frank Peterson, sits behind his desk and yells "You're a wild card!" Also in that scene, Sadler calls him "Kenny" for some reason. Strangely, his daughter claims to have a boyfriend named Kenny. In that same scene, his wife offers Mitchell some iced tea. Of all drinks, why that?
Speaking of the man, he wears some funny shirts and spits out his lines in his own inimitable way. He's part tough, part goofy. Somehow he doesn't seem like an expert with planes. In the final battle between him and Mitchell, we even get to see his martial arts stylings, or Ice-Fu if you will.
Many things in Stealth Fighter are prescient. Ernie Hudson is cast as the President, predating Obama. They talk about Electromagnetic Pulse attacks, which have been in the news recently.
The title has two meanings: Mitchell himself, and the plane in question. The submarine subplot wasn't substantial, it was pretty subpar.
In all, if you like cardboard planes, goofy DTV action, Jim Wynorski, or Desert Thunder (which is superior to this) and you want slang-filled, utterly brainless action, then watch Stealth Fighter.
Comeuppance Review: Ty & Brett
Expert Weapon (1993)-*1\2
AKA: American Dragon
Directed by: Steven Austin
Starring: Ian Jacklin, Sam Jones, Judy Landers, and Joe Estevez
Expert Weapon, or "Ew" for short, concerns Adam Collins (Jacklin), a small-time criminal with a big attitude problem who kills a police officer and is sent to the gas chamber to die for his crime. Before he kicks the bucket, he is recruited by Janson (Jones) to be a covert assassin. According to Janson, he has "killer instincts that run deep". Collins must train to be an assassin from the ground up. He learns all the tricks of the trade, including how to read and write (Collins is illiterate). He also learns martial arts, and, most importantly he goes to drama school. The "drama school" segment of the film takes up a huge chunk of the running time. After Janson sends Collins on some missions with some chintzy effects, he falls in love with the drama teacher Lynn (Judy Landers). He is eventually marked for death by his own covert team. Will he escape with his life, love and newfound acting skills intact?
Expert Weapon has cheap production values and sound effects. Jacklin looks like a cross between Stephen Dorff and Casper Van Dien, and in the acting department, he makes Matt McColm look like Laurence Olivier. In a career of direct-to-video releases, fan-favorite Sam Jones is slumming with this one. Joe Estevez stops by as a weapons expert, and puts in a bugged-out performance. He has a high energy level here, and the movie sags without him. When your movie NEEDS MORE JOE ESTEVEZ, you have a problem.
On one of Collins' missions with his crew, before there is an explosion, Collins warns "Let's not make this another World Trade Center, alright?" That was topical then, and very prophetic. Jones calls this explosion a "Chinese fire drill".
During the huge "improv" section of the movie, Collins must work with a crew of aspiring actors. There's Burton, Robinson and Kane. Burton looks like a Black Erik Estrada. Art imitates life when Collins says to his teacher: "I'm no actor", "I don't read no lines!" and the Maury Povich classic "You don't know me!" Collins/Jacklin literally has to learn to act right before our eyes. When an improv session with the mustachioed Robinson goes sour and Collins leaves the class in a huff, Collins is then tortured by being strapped to a gurney and having a rat placed on him. Collins says, in a very funny and wooden manner "aaaah, get this rat off me, aaaah". Next time don't call your dad a "rummy".
We want to see action, not acting class. The movie, like the chase scenes, goes around in circles.
Disjointed and bargain-basement, you basically wait for Expert Weapon to end. This "Weapon" is a dud. Be an Expert and avoid this one today.
Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett
Fists Of Iron (1995)-* * *
AKA: Enter The Shootfighter
Directed by: Richard W. Munchkin
Starring: Michael Worth, Sam Jones, Nick Hill, Eric Lee, and Matthias Hues
Dale Hartwell (Worth) is an easygoing mechanic and single father with some impressive fighting skills. One day his friend Matt (Nick Hill) takes him to a ritzy mansion where "Peter Gallagher's All-Stars" (not related to the awesomely-eyebrowed actor\singer), fight in a backyard ring for big money cash prizes. Matt foolishly thinks he can go two minutes in the ring with hulking super-brute Victor "The Destroyer" Bragg (the always charming Hues). Bragg has the most arrogant name since Trevor Gottitall from American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II (1991). If you're the Victor, ya gotta Bragg.
Sadly, Matt dies of internal injuries and a heartbroken Dale vows retribution. So like C.J Thunderbird in Fist Fighter (1989) wanted a piece of "Rhino" (Hues), Dale wants a piece of Bragg (Hues).
Thankfully, Dale hangs out at the local watering hole, also frequented by Daniel & Tyler (Lee and Jones respectively), two former fighters with a history with Gallagher. They train Dale to take on the reigning champ in a series of montages. To get revenge for Matt, Dale must go up the ranks. (Dale fights the usual "Boxcar Joes", "Barts", and "Butchys" and the like at the CAR-U-RENT trucking stop). Add to this a ridiculous love triangle and the end result is pure Iron Gold.
There is a lot to love about Fists Of Iron: It has a lot more heart and character development than your average punchfighter. The main protagonists Worth, Jones and Lee are all likable and you care about their mission. Jones and Lee make a great comic team and there is a lot of humor in the film as a whole. (i.e. the subplot about a meathead refusing to pay for his fixed motor). Hues plays the evil villain with aplomb. (mid-film they change his name to Victor "The Giant" Bragg). Jones looks like Chuck Norris with his beard and wisdom. Every male in the movie except for Eric Lee has a square head. Where was Howie Long when you needed him?
Taking a cue from Shootfighter II (1995), Gallagher's fighters have their own pants. They are blue with white polka dots. The ring announcer screams (with no microphone) "Let's get ready to rumble!" Michael Buffer charges five million dollars to say this. This is copyright infringement and the filmmakers might be hearing from Buffer's lawyers soon. As for the softer sides of the movie, Worth looks way too young to have a daughter that looks about 12 years old herself. He looks 16 at best. As for the love interest, she is not very attractive and it's not believable that she would be the focal point of a love triangle between Dale and Gallagher. They should have gotten Shannon Tweed, Shannon Whirry, Joan Severance, Angie Everhart, or someone of that ilk to play the part.
In the one of the montages, Dale has to pick up a boulder from one of the many boulders in Tyler and Daniel's front yard. Then it's "Meathead in the stone" as Dale tries to be the chosen one. It is like The Karate Kid (1984), but interestingly, there are two Mr. Miyagis training him.
Richard W. Muchkin knows how to make a quality punchfighter. Just see Ring Of Fire (1991) for more evidence of his talent.
A cut above the average meathead flick, we recommend "Fists Of Iron".
Comeuppance Review by: Ty & Brett
Fist of Glory (1991)-* *1\2
Directed by: Joe Mari Avellana
Starring: Dale "Apollo" Cook
"Welcome To The Apocalypse."
In this period piece set towards the end of the Vietnam war, Jake "Johnny" Reynolds (Cook) and his team are deep in the jungle fighting the VC in an unauthorized mission. During some generic Vietnam action that lasts over thirty minutes but somehow manages to completely sidestep anything resembling character development, there are constant firefights and explosions. Grass and dirt continually blow up, and it makes Eye Of the Eagle III (1989), Crossfire (1988) and Firehawk (1993) seem like episodes of Masterpiece Theatre. It gets quite brain-numbing.
Three months later, while on some temporary R&R, Jake decides to hit the town in Vietnam. He realizes his buddy "Mad Dog" Lee has been brainwashed, hooked on heroin and forced to fight in underground punchfighting matches, dubbed "Saigon's Awesome Arena of Blood". There are no rules and you must fight to the death. Concerned for his friend, Jake infiltrates the operation. He even hires a foreign trainer to help him. After nursing Lee back to health, they set out for revenge against the entire town.
In Apollo's first-ever movie role, he's as wooden and surly as ever. He has a funny haircut, and, like American Kickboxer 2 (1993), wears a pink shirt. Maybe it's in his contract.
The film boasts some decent stunts, and when the VC are shot they are a bit "flippier" than usual. They spin around a few extra times in this one. One soldier is even blown up and flies through the air in a sitting position. Just imagine Magik's immortal "sit-down dance" from Body Rock. (1984) Sure, there are constant blow-ups, but for what? Fist of Glory could have used a bit more character development and a few less unnecessary explosions. The punchfighting is a bit weak compared to some of the others in the meathead genre. However, in one match, the man Jake is fighting has "secret chilis". He has some hot peppers in a corner of the ring, and when Jake isn't looking, he eats them and then spits in his face. That was pretty novel.
In one of the battle scenes, only for a few seconds, we see a POV of Lee's machine gun. It seems it is attached to the camera. It is like a first-person shooter, which was very different in 1991. It also doesn't wear out its welcome. We enjoyed that.
Fist of Glory (whatever that means, the title doesn't make much sense) is fairly interesting because it is a hybrid Vietnam/Punchfighter, and because it is the first appearance of Dale "Apollo" Cook.
Comeuppance Review by: Brett & Ty