11/27/2010

The Peacekeeper (1997)



The Peacekeeper (1997)-* *1\2

Directed by: Frederic Forestier

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Roy Scheider, Michael Sarrazin, and Montel Williams












Air Force Major Frank Cross (Lundgren) is a man who plays by his own rules. He went off on his own to deliver rice to the starving Kurdish people. The brass gives him a choice: a court martial, or carry a suitcase with the nuclear codes in it and have the President, Robert Baker (Roy Scheider) be seen with him in a photo-op. Cross chooses the latter, but some baddies, led by Douglas Murphy (Sarrazin) steal the suitcase. It seems Murphy and president Baker have a history, and Murphy is a disgruntled vet of the first gulf war with a real hatred for Mount Rushmore. So, being the loyal soldier that he is, Cross chases the evil suitcase-stealers all over town, dodging countless perils along the way. At some point during his dangerous mission, he meets Lt. Colonel Northrop (Williams). Can the two work together in a race against time before the bad guys blow up the President...and the world?


It seems this Nu-Image production was a very earnest attempt at a less-silly Direct-To-Video product. It appears every attempt was made to make The Peacekeeper "Theater-Quality", even if the filmmakers knew full well that that wasn't gonna happen. I guess they, realistically, weren't going to give that same year's The Peacemaker (1997) - the George Clooney vehicle - a run for the box office bucks. But it matters not, as Lundgren's dry, cool charm is in abundance. Even though a stab at seriousness was certainly made, perhaps the only misstep they made was hiring - of all people - Montel Williams in a rare feature film role. What, were Ricki Lake, Phil Donahue and Jenny Jones busy?

Of course, it's not the first time Dolph Lundgren has starred with a daytime talk show host in a film - everyone remembers The Defender (2004), right? In that one, Jerry Springer is the President. Not Roy Scheider. And of course, there's Citizen Verdict (2003). So there you go. And while you would think Lundgren and Montel would be the ultimate team-up that would zoom you right through any movie, The Peacekeeper is overlong at 98 minutes, is talky at times and has plenty of padding. For example, the plot is, in a nutshell: "Terrorists steal the nuclear suitcase. Dolph wants it back". That's it. Is there any conceivable reason that it should have a running time longer than 80 minutes? And those minutes should have more rock, less talk. The Peacekeeper is at its best in its action scenes, not dialogue. It should have stuck more to what it was best at. For instance, there is a building rooftop chase - the kind normally done on foot - but here it's done with cars! We liked that innovation and there is where the film shines.


Yes, The Peacekeeper could have afforded to be a little snappier, but it does end with a freeze frame, highlighting the charm and camaraderie of Dolph Lundgren and Montel Williams. No, that sentence isn't insane, you just have to watch the movie. Or at least the action scenes.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

To purchase the American poster click here

11/24/2010

The Protector (1999)

The Protector (1999)-* *

Directed by: Bret McCormick

Starring: Ed Marinaro, Kate Rodger, Cyril O'Reilly, and Lee Majors





"When the Law Fails to Protect and Serve, He Takes Over!"








Following in the vein of the recently-reviewed Keaton's Cop (1988), here we have another "elderly actioner" featuring Lee Majors. Thankfully, here he seems to have lost some weight and the subject matter is somewhat less silly.

Following a ridiculous credits sequence that leads the viewer to believe this is going to be a new Lawnmower Man (1992), we are introduced to one John Templeton (code name: "Gabriel"), (Marinaro), a mercenary of some kind whose beloved wife was killed while he was away on a mission. Thankfully he has a talking computer named Gertrude who helps him through all of his troubles, and pretty soon it's "VR Marinaro" as he dons his Virtual Reality sunglasses which look like, appropriately, those big sunglasses old people wear. In true Robocop (1987) fashion, he revisits, through flashbacks, all the good times he had with his wife. After her murder, Gabriel formed his underground command center to help women in trouble from stalkers and scumbags everywhere. Think "super hero" meets Kick Or Die (1987) meets your grandparents.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to the relationship drama between Alex Johnson (Rodger) and Tony Angeleno (O'Reilly). Typically, at first Tony seems to be a great guy, but it is soon revealed he is an obsessive, psychopathic mobster. Isn't that always the way? So when Tony begins not just harassing Alex himself, but getting his gangster buddies to do his relationship legwork with Alex - and it spins horribly out of control with the senseless murder of Bob Newman (Christopher Heldman) - only one man in an all-green sweatsuit can come to the rescue - John Templeton of course! So "Gabriel" takes Alex under his wing, and as he's hiding her away in his abandoned warehouse/command center, he's also teaching her self-defense, how to shoot guns, and of course, the ways of love.

But a new wrinkle occurs when the gangsters hire Austin (Majors) to bump off Templeton. It seems they have a history together when they both did missions for the government. So now it's gangsters and former work associates vs. The Protector and Alex. Who will prevail?

Not just the front of the VHS box (a New World/Roger Corman release), but also the SPINE of the box (both sides) tout that ED MARINARO is involved. I guess they were really proud of this fact. Perhaps Robert Blake was not available. Not to disparage the man, of course. He acquits himself well in this low-budget and fairly strange movie. He must compete with Cyril O'Reilly as Angeleno, whose voice sounds exactly like Christian Slater's. Close your eyes and you could pretend Slater is the baddie in this movie. But then you'd miss all the "awesome" VR action. When there's a credit at the end of the movie "VR suit provided by Lone Star Scuba", you know you have a low budget production. Yes, the movie was shot in Texas, and yes, the VR suit looks like a scuba suit bedazzled with bottlecaps and twine, but why call undue attention to it?

He also had to compete against Lee Majors, of whom there is precious little in the film. The filmmakers thought it would be wiser to spend most of the running time on Italian stereotype gangsters.

When we watched the horrendous Digital Man (1995), we thought that would be the only time we would ever use the term "Virtual Ninjas". Well, we were pleasantly surprised when said ninjas appeared in The Protector. Now the phrase to beat is "Movie with a talking computer named Gertrude that has Virtual Ninjas and Ed Marinaro." It's not likely to appear as an answer on Jeopardy! anytime soon, sadly.

Thanks to some funny music stings on the soundtrack, homemade inventions like the VR setup and the "handprint" you need to get into the command center (do you honestly think John Templeton would use something as banal as keys?), A mob henchman that looks like Willard Scott (most of the cast looks like they're going to appear on a jar of Smuckers on the Today Show themselves), and a short 80 minute running time, The Protector is tolerable, but won't knock your socks off.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

To purchase the poster click here




11/23/2010

Ministry Of Vengeance (1989)

Ministry Of Vengeance (1989)-* *

Directed by: Peter Maris

Starring: John Schneider, James Tolkan, Robert Miano, Apollonia, Ned Beatty, Meg Register, George Kennedy, and a Special Appearance by: Yaphet Kotto












John Schneider, of the legendary Cocaine Wars (1985), here plays David Miller, A Vietnam Vet that became a priest after he left the service. He has plenty of flashbacks about the horrors he saw in 'Nam and, naturally, he is a man of peace and nonviolence. At a Rome airport, a gang of super-evil terrorists open fire on the crowd. The leader of the terrorists is Ali Aboud (Miano). He personally kills Miller's wife Gail (Register) and his young son Kim (Joey Peters). This shakes Miller's faith, and, after consulting with his fellow priest and confidante, Rev. Hughes (Kennedy), he decides to take a break from Priest-ing and goes on an obsessive quest to find Aboud.

He reconnects with his old 'Nam buddy Col. Freeman (Tolkan), now a tough-as-nails drill sergeant. Freeman agrees to help Miller, but first puts him through his paces once again and re-trains him for combat. Now trained and teamed up, Miller discovers Aboud is hiding out in Lebanon, so the two men go there. There, Miller meets Rev. Bloor (Beatty), a kindly Priest in a little church, and Zarah (Apollonia). Now closer to exacting his revenge on Aboud and his men than ever before, will he be able to do it - or will a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top prevent it from happening?


One of the best things about Ministry of Vengeance is the top-notch cast. Everyone here puts in a quality performance - First off, we forgot to mention Yaphet Kotto as the bureaucrat Whiteside - whose "special appearance" is a glorified cameo. His talent deserved more. Miano is scummy and evil as Aboud, Beatty is quirky as Bloor, Kennedy is dependable as the kindly priest, Tolkan seems to be having fun as the R. Lee Ermey-style army guy, and Schneider is once again great as Miller. Miller is having a crisis between faith and reality, which seems to be the main crux of the film. What happens in real life - murder, slaughter and terror - somehow seems overpowering and blots out Miller's peace-loving idealism, which is a nice thought but just isn't functional in the real world. Only one type of ministry is real - the Ministry of Vengeance!


Now, while philosophically, the movie is on solid, interesting ground, and the cast of players is equally solid, the only problem here is that it can't really sustain its intensity over its entire running time. There really should have been a lot more hard-hitting vengeance in the final stages of the film, but the middle section drags, and it never truly recovered from that slack.


But Ministry of Vengeance is a quality, theatrically-released product. While everything seems in place, it could have used just a bit more edge for our tastes.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


11/20/2010

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)

R.O.T.O.R. (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Cullen Blaine

Starring: Margaret Trigg, Richard Gesswein, Jayne Smith, James Cole, and Willard The Robot as himself





















A lot has been written about R.O.T.O.R., and with good cause. We thought we would throw our hats into the R.O.T.O.R. ring with our own take. 

 In the grand tradition of acronym movies such as C.H.U.D. and C.H.O.M.P.S, but more accurately a regional take on Robocop (1987) and The Terminator (1984), ROTOR is mesmerizingly inept but provides fun for those in a forgiving, receptive mood. Starting with "Today's Headlines" written on the screen, in a sort of written take on the verbal version from Cobra (1986) (every five seconds, someone gets shot, etc.) we then learn the coveted secret of the ROTOR acronym: Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research.  Apparently we are at some point in the future where crime is rampant. So naturally Dr. Coldyron (Gesswein) develops the ROTOR, a robotic police officer. In a very long scene, he argues with the official Earl Bugler (Michael Hunter) about the future of the ROTOR program. So, ROTOR isn't quite finished and is in storage for the time being. But the ultra-smooth janitor Shoeboogie accidentally unleashes it on the world. Now ROTOR is on the loose and chasing innocent civilians around. So now Coldyron must stop his own creation. So he teams up with muscular transsexual Dr. C.D. Steele (Smith) to chase it down before it causes too much havoc. Back at the base, Willard the Robot holds down the fort. Can they stop ROTOR?

Clearly the most obvious question that arises in the wake of viewing ROTOR (out of the many you will inevitably have) is...if ROTOR is a robot that is created by Coldyron, why does he have a mustache? Why would you BUILD a mustache on a robot? Secondly, why does he look so much like Tackleberry from the Police Academy series? I guess he really wanted to scare scofflaws.

Sure, the acting is laughably wooden, and Gesswein as Coldyron has zero charisma, and in actuality, here the people are more robotic than the robots. How ironic. Or should that be spelled ironyic ? The movie opens with Coldyron doing mundane daily activities like making breakfast. Luckily the viewers get to see how many raw carrots he has in his refrigerator. On his desk at work, he even has a little toy robot that looks like Wall-E. ROTOR himself should sue the Disney Corporation. As if the movie wasn't nonsensical enough, the filmmakers chose to give it a bizarre flashback structure with narration delivered flatter than a playing card. Most of the dialogue explains everything, yet nothing, if that makes any sense. ROTOR would have benefited hugely from a name star in the Coldyron role, that would have brought the interest level way up.

By far the best character in the film is Willard, a "happy birthday Paulie"-style robot who wears a hat, answers the phone (not seen) and is even sassy. He dances with Shoeboogie and even hits on chicks ("hey baby, hit me with your digits"). ROTOR is amateurish, disjointed, and at times painful to watch, but we mean this in the best way possible. The idea of a rogue robot could have been executed better, but you can't blame the low budget for the strange pacing and plot flaws. What you can blame it for - or should we say celebrate it for - is the scene where Coldyron is demonstrating his robot technology at a board meeting, and a Terminator/Geoff Peterson-like robot, with the magic of stop-motion KRUMPS! Yes, watch out Rize (2005), you haven't lived until you've seen a krumping robot. It is hilarious, and, like the Wall-E toy, ahead of its time. It will never get the credit it deserves I tell ya.


Sporting some killer box art that probably lured in quite a few suckers back in the video store days who assumed they were not going to get something this silly, and filmed in Texas, ROTOR has funny voice overdubbing, silly character names (Detective Mango?), and some Dan Rather-style pseudo-clever down-home sayings in the utterly ridiculous dialogue. It also predates fellow killer-cyborg-on-the-loose-dressed-in-leather movie American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993). But another question arises: who did the filmmakers think would truly care about such a wacky sci-fi action exercise? A film like this pleases neither hardcore fans nor is it appropriate for children, it's true proper audience. So it falls somewhere into silly no man's land. But it has some good music, especially the signature tune, the inexplicable ballad "Hideaway" by Randy & Smith.

This is a movie that should have been released by Troma or AIP, and you can tell the filmmakers put a lot of work and effort into their creation. The end product is laughable, both intentionally and unintentionally.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

11/17/2010

Soul Of The Avenger (1997)

Soul Of The Avenger (1997)-*

Directed by: Steven Kaman

Starring: Mark Pellegrino, James Lew, Nancy Kwan, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Richard Norton, Gerald Okamura, and Kato Kaelin


"One man's soul...another man's body...an invincible combination"










You'd think that some sort of moviemaking police would exist, if to do nothing else than to stop the director of Total Force (1997), Steven Kaman, from ever directing another movie again after that abomination.  Sadly, the man was allowed to continue his crimes against filmdom with Soul of the Avenger - a movie so shoddy it's an embarrassment to shods everywhere. I don't even care that that's not a real word. It's going to take some out-of-the-box thinking to convey just how terrible 'Avenger really is.

It appears that a man named Kaan Woo (Lew) is escaping his dark past, having been involved with a cult of brown shroud-wearing, druid-like monk warriors that have mystical powers. He apparently wanted out, because their evil queen, Ling Li (Kwan) has sent her servant, Sir Xavier (Norton) to do her bidding - i.e., eliminate Woo. During a battle with the dark forces, Woo's soul is transferred into the body of homeless drunkard Earl Stockman (Pellegrino). Now this bum is as surprised as anybody to find out he has mystical kung-fu abilities. Now "Superbum" must take on the evil cult and win the day.

Now, on paper, this is not a half-bad idea for an action/martial arts film. Especially if you load the movie up with names fans are familiar with, such as Lew, Norton, Okamura, Urquidez, etc. But it's executed so terribly. Sad, really. Starting from the jump with a junky look to it, and adding a bunch of characters constantly flipping and jumping with sped-up or slowed-down action in what must have been some sort of attempt to have a Hong-Kong feel but failing, it's not exactly a recipe for success. Most of the acting and so-called "plotting" are amateurish at best, and you throw in some silly editing tricks and jumps and constant "Dutch" or cocked/tilted camera angles, the viewer, simply wanting some action entertainment, quickly gets a headache.

The film is filled with pseudo-mystical mumbo jumbo, such as "the circle of the spirit's form", (the transfer of the soul), a secret green drink called "Ching Wa", Gerald Okamura as an ancient priest, and Benny The Jet in a brown cloak.

Norton does his best as one of the baddies, but even he can't save this trainwreck. It's unfortunate to see one of our Hall Of Heroes guys slumming like this. Imagine going from his early Hong Kong classics to this tripe. Mark Pellegrino as the main character also tries admirably against the current, but the raging waters of crapulence were too strong for him as well. Pellegrino truly missed his calling as a 90's "Gen-X" actor. He could have been hangin' with James LeGros and Stephen Dorff at the comic book store being ironic and edgy while slacking off to the max. Instead he was here, hangin' with...you've waited long enough for it...KATO KAELIN! Yes, that talentless pal of known murderer OJ Simpson here has a small role as a man named "Melom" who is some sort of gangster trying to get info about Kaan Woo. He really should have played the Earl Stockman role that Pellegrino got. He could have imbued the role with his Kaeliny charm. Instead they got someone who looks somewhat like him to confuse the already-confused viewers. On the bright side, Kaelin does some martial arts moves.

Soul of the Avenger tries to be stylish, but all the fast motion and other tricks just hurt your eyes. They must have been trying to plaster over the lack of plot, and all the other things that this movie is lacking. Avoid Soul of the Avenger, unless you are really a masochistic Richard Norton superfan.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

11/13/2010

No Retreat, No Surrender II (1987)

No Retreat, No Surrender II (1987)- * * * 

AKA: Karate Tiger II: Raging Thunder

Directed by: Corey Yuen

Starring: Loren Avedon, Cynthia Rothrock, Max Thayer, and Matthias Hues











Scott Wylde (Avedon) is a young American kickboxer who comes to Bangkok to look for his friend Mac Jarvis (Thayer). During his quest, he meets the spunky Terry (Rothrock) in a boxing gym. After that, there is good news and bad news for Mr. Wylde: the good news is, while soaking up all the Bangkok nightlife, he finds his buddy Jarvis (in a club facing off against an opponent in wrist-wrasslin', naturally). The bad news is, his girlfriend Sulin (Patra Wanthivanond) is kidnapped. It seems her father is using his wealth to fund some anti-communist forces, so the commies kidnap her to use her as bait to get to him. But they didn't count on one thing: the 2-man and 1-woman army that is Wylde, Jarvis and Terry!

 They must "climb Death Mountain" to infiltrate the commie training camp in Cambodia. But it's going to take all their wits, ingenuity and a whole lot of weaponry to combat the sadistic, M. Bison-like head of the camp, Yuri the Russian (Hues), a hulking brute who loves throwing his enemies in a pit of hungry alligators just for fun. Will our heroes triumph over those nasty commies and save the girl?


 No Retreat No Surrender 2 is simple 80's fun that is easy to like. All the ingredients are present and accounted for: some Americans with nice camaraderie fight commies, highly entertaining fight scenes, weaponry and blow-ups, a super-evil bad guy, and horrid line readings by the actors. Even though none of our lead players are Asian, all the fight scenes clearly have that Hong Kong-style fast pace and inventiveness to them, thanks to director Yuen. Even though this was at the beginning of his directorial career, he appears confident, at least in the action department (which is all that matters, really). The final fight between Hues and Avedon is excellent and very well executed.


Avedon appears to be some sort of cross between Emilio Estevez, Ron Marchini and Wild and Crazy Kids' Donnie Jeffcoat. Sure, his acting is horrendous but that's not why Yuen hired him. The dude has some moves and is no slouch in the martial arts department. We always love seeing Cynthia Rothrock and here she's looking especially pixieish. She tends to deliver all the groaner one-liners in the film and provides a lot of the humor, on top of her martial arts skill. A short-haired, barely-recognizable Hues once again (even though this was his first film role) plays the baddie you love to hate. Max Thayer of No Dead Heroes (1986) fame plays the glue that holds all this madness together. He's the cigar-chomping leader that doesn't think twice about drinking snake blood and tying some beer cans to his machine guns to take down the baddies.


The stilted, awkward dialogue, if anything, helps the fun of the movie, and Matthias Hues is about as Russian in this movie as Richard Norton is German in Strategic Command (1997), but it all goes with the territory. NRNS2 is good thanks to the direction of Corey Yuen and a cast of familiar favorites delivering the goods.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett








11/09/2010

Pray For Death (1985)

Pray For Death (1985)-* * *1\2

Directed by: Gordon Hessler

Starring: Sho Koisugi, James Booth, Donna Kei Benz, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi, and Norman Burton













Pray for Death is awesome! It's certainly the best Sho movie we've seen to date.

Herein, the Sho-master plays Akira Saito, a man who has a nice, calm life in Japan working as an executive for Yokohama foods. He has a pretty wife, Aiko (Benz) and two cute kids, Takeshi and Tomoya (Shane and Kane, regulars in their dad's movies). Yep, the dude has a pretty sweet setup. Apparently bored by all the serenity, Aiko, whose father was American, convinces Akira to move to the U.S.  Once there, they begin refurbishing an old, run-down eatery called the Sabine Street Restaurant. They later rename it Aiko's. They get the property from a kindly elderly man, Sam Green (Parley Baer). Even though the newly-transplanted Japanese family in the U.S. throws themselves into turning the restaurant around, a dark secret lurks...

It seems the local gangsters have been using an all-but-abandoned back room at the Sabine Street Restaurant as a drop off and pick up for various illegal goods. When the highly valuable Van Atta necklace goes missing, naturally these dum-dum gangsters think it is the new immigrant in town, Akira. So they start making his life a living hell, tormenting him in many ways. It eventually escalates to the point when half the family is in the hospital. The ringleader of all this awfulness happening to the Saito family is one Limehouse Willie (Booth). While his name seems more suited to hobo boxing matches in the railyards, the diabolical man uses every possible underhanded tactic at his disposal to try to eliminate Saito. He just didn't reckon with one thing - Saito is a secret Ninja! So when Aiko takes a turn for the worse, the mild-mannered man during the day goes on a no-holds-barred Ninja revenge mission against the evil bastards that have ruined his life! Radical!

Sporting a fast pace, a high-quality look, top-notch action sequences (the boat scene is a standout), and great music, including the Pat Benatar-like theme song "Back to the Shadows" by Peggy Abernathy, Pray for Death doesn't disappoint. Director Gordon Hessler, a well-known drive-in guy, pulls all the correct elements together in just the right mix. He downplays the minor negatives, such as the fact that Sho's accent is so strong it's basically impossible to tell what he's saying, and accentuates the strengths, such as the Ninja-based action sequences and revenge plot. It truly is a recipe for success more directors would be wise to follow.


Of course, a great action movie needs a super-evil bad guy, and James Booth as Limehouse Willie fills the bill in spades. Yes, his name is silly, but that's just a distraction, as you will cheer for the moment when Sho exacts his revenge on one of the ultimate jerks in 80's filmdom. Add to that the elements of corrupt (and not-so-corrupt) cops involved in this gangster/ninja war, and the subplots of the temple setting where we learn why Akira knows what he knows.  In the good guy department, Parley Baer does a good job as the kindly, sympathetic Sam Green, while Kane and Shane do some pint-sized karate moves of their own (and they have the best bike since Pee Wee Herman). They also like to watch something called "The Black Ninja" on TV.

This is an actual NINJA MOVIE, unlike the trowel-jobs of Godfrey Ho. This is a coherent, good production. Featuring yet another excellent opening credit sequence featuring Sho, and produced by TransWorld entertainment (the big-box VHS was released on USA video, how appropriate to the storyline), please don't hesitate to check out this "Sho"-stopper.



Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

11/08/2010

Keaton's Cop (1988)

Keaton's Cop (1988)-* *

Directed by: Robert Burge

Starring: Lee Majors, Abe Vigoda, Art LaFleur, Tracy Brooks Swope, June Wilkinson, and Don Rickles













Seeing as Comeuppance Reviews is a site devoted to all the pulse-pounding, explosion-packed, face-punching, spin-kicking, sword-slashing, machine-gun blasting action you can handle, it clearly was only a matter of time before that true master of action, Abe Vigoda, was featured.

In what I would describe as an "inexplicably Cannon" production, Lee Majors plays Mike Gable, an aging, disgruntled cop who is divorced, has one son, brushes his teeth in the morning with a can of beer, and would really love nothing more than to continue wearing his acid-washed jean jacket and throw criminals out of windows. When there is a shooting at a nursing home, Gable investigates and finds there is a huge conspiracy to knock off one Louis Keaton (Vigoda). Keaton is a former gangster, and, even though he seems pretty close to death anyway (not to be insensitive), Gable and the rest of the Galveston, Texas police force are assigned to protect him.

Naturally, Gable and Keaton don't get along, but Gable is doing his duty because his partner Jake Barber (Rickles) and Keaton were friends from the old days - the really old days.  Meanwhile, Gable's love interest is the nurse from the retirement home, Susan (Swope), and he would like this whole Keaton escapade to be over so he can live in his house on the beach with her, his son Jimmy (Clinton Austin Shirley, whose only other film credit is Robocop 2 - where he also plays a kid named Jimmy), and a really awesome dog, Blue (the credits read "and Blue as himself"). Can that happen - or will trying to protect Keaton - and uncovering the secrets from the past that go along with it - cost Gable his life?

The main question you can't help asking yourself while watching Keaton's Cop is - "why does this exist?" It seems weird that it was ever made and came out on video. But to answer the question to the best of our ability, Keaton's Cop is a cop/action/comedy romance with maybe some thriller elements. The attempts at intentional comedy generally fall painfully flat, but luckily there are some unintentional laughs. But also there are car chases, shooting and explosions.  I guess this goes to show older people can do anything younger people can do (Lee Majors is the "Young Man" of the film).


 Majors is good as the grizzled cop, but looks a bit confused. Luckily for him, the audience is too, so we can relate. Abe Vigoda is lovable, and the kid Jimmy should have been played by JTT. You can probably picture what he looks like - the stereotypical "cute kid". June Wilkinson shows up towards the end of the film as Big Mama. Interestingly, she's in this and Sno-Line (1986), and both are shot in Texas. Maybe she lives there and refuses to do any non-Texas-shot productions. As you may expect, there are the "wacky" characters such as the Gay Gangsters that are trying to bump off Keaton (and continually listen to the anthemic hair metal tune "Wild In the Streets" by a band called Meet Meat), and a gluttonous gangster called "Fat Tony". But by far the star of the show is the dog, Blue. He practically steals the movie.

Yes, the movie is very silly and nonsensical (some might say "bad") from the title right down to the theme song - which features the line "better watch out, Keaton's gonna getcha". Keaton's going to GET ME? He's like 90 years old! I guess that is pretty scary. But anyway, try to imagine Cocoon (1985) but with chases and shooting. For an antidote to the Hollywood trend of young people being in everything, there's always Keaton's Cop.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

11/05/2010

Pentathlon (1994)

Pentathlon (1994)-* *1\2

Directed by: Bruce Malmuth

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, David Soul, Renee Coleman, and Roger E. Mosley







"Play to win. If you lose, you die."






Dolph Lundgren just may be the greatest living human. He can sing, dance, act, produce, direct, do martial arts, all while doing a rockin' drum solo.  He excels in every sport he tries, and according to his bio, he received a Master's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Sydney in Australia and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT. So he's light years away from his legions of meathead imitators.

Keeping his Superman status in mind, here, in Pentathlon, Lundgren portrays Eric Brogar, a Pentathlete (yes, it's a real word), who is trained in East Germany pre-Berlin Wall falling to compete in the Olympics by tyrannical jerkbag Heinrich Muller (Soul). Muller wants to use him as an example of East Germany's greatness, but Brogar is actually a sensitive soul who wants more out of life. He loves America, so he risks it all to come to the USA, using the American Olympic team to help him. He thinks he escapes Muller's iron fist forever.


Now in L.A., Brogar has hit the skids. He drinks, smokes, eats greasy food and lives in a dive. He even works in a greasy spoon. His boss John Creese (Mosley) is a kind, charismatic man that tries to get to know Brogar. When he discovers Brogar used to be a Pentathlete, he takes it upon himself to train him and get him back into shape for the Atlanta Olympics. Meanwhile, Brogar romances fellow Olympian Julia (Coleman). Things are starting to look up for Brogar, but then Muller, who now is the head of a neo-Nazi organization, tracks him down. Brogar must fight to protect what he now has, his bright future, from the shadows of his dark past. Can he use his Pentathlon skills to fight in real life?


A Pentathlon is an Olympic event that consists of Shooting, Fencing, Swimming, Horse Riding and Cross-Country Running. Surprisingly, it took until 1994 for someone to make an entire movie around this concept. The natural choice for star was Ubermensch Dolph Lundgren. He's pitch-perfect as Brogar. It's impossible to imagine anyone else playing this role. But really, Pentathlon is a weird movie. It's pretty offbeat for a Lundgren/action film. It's sort of a sporting movie, with the pain of the Berlin wall experience thrown in, and some Nazis, and some romance, and some training, and Dolph fighting the baddies. It's certainly different. But in this case, different is good. We liked Pentathlon. It's not a cookie-cutter action flick. It strives for more, much like its hero Eric Brogar.


We thought fencing movies started and ended with Ring of Steel (1994). But we were mistaken. Robert Chapin's got nothing on Eric Brogar. David Soul is also great as the Nazi Muller. He really throws himself into the role and you hate him. He wants to crash the "Never Again" rally condemning Nazis and terrorists. Naturally the featured singer is some hippie singing "Peoplllleee are the saaammeee...." There is an inexplicable, hilarious scene in the greasy spoon featuring one of Muller's goons towards the end of the film. You'll know it when you see it - we don't want to give it away, but trust us, you'll be laughing. Hint: it involves a boombox.

Pentathlon is surprisingly different for a Dolph vehicle. Check it out soon.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett




Digital Man (1995)

Digital Man (1995)-*1\2

Directed by: Phillip J. Roth

Starring: Matthias Hues, Ken Olandt, Adam Baldwin, Chase Masterson, Kristin Dalton, Paul Gleason, Ed Lauter, Susan Tyrrell,  Don Swayze, and a Special Appearance by: Clint Howard












In the future, if there is a situation too dangerous for human soldiers to go into, there is such a thing as the "D-1 Weapons System", or "Digital Man" (Hues). Such a situation arises when terrorists steal the launch codes for some nukes and demand 2 billion dollars in gold. Digital Man spoils their plans, but he uploads the launch codes on to his system. He then ends up in Badwater, Nevada, a small, dusty hamlet in the desert. When it is found out he has the nuclear launch codes, a special, crack team led by Anders (Olandt) is sent to Badwater to "take him off-line". Also there's some sort of stupid intrigue involving Adam Baldwin and Ed Lauter that is impossible to care about. So it's a scenario with a multi-racial team trying to stop Digital Man, Digital Man eluding them, and rednecks and trailer park dwellers such as Billy (the Swayze of the Don variety) interacting with all the high-tech goings-on.

Maybe it's just us, but we hate these low-budget sci-fi future movies. The dialogue consists of nothing but gobbledygook which is completely unrelatable to any audience. Thus they mentally "check out", lose interest and stop caring about the proceedings. Digital Man in particular is guilty of this, with very few, if any, likable characters. The most likable of the bunch is probably the emotionless supersoldier Digital Man. It's a perfect role for Hues. 


In 1995, CD-ROMs were huge, and this movie feels like one long, painful CD-ROM, with all the graphics and silly "morphing" effects that would entail. I've played flight simulators that are more thrilling than Digital Man. Flight Simulators.

Just imagine a mish-mash of Virtuosity (1995), The Terminator (1984), Neon City (1991), Robocop (1987), American Cyborg: Steel Warrior (1993), Hologram Man (1995), Circuitry Man (1990) and even the Sega Genesis game Vectorman.  The idea of the "sci-fi western" has been tried with everything from Westworld (1973) to Oblivion (1994). While the novelty of Don Swayze in a Chad McQueen-style sleeveless shirt angrily spouting lines like "You can't tell me what to do, robot!" in utter seriousness to such people as Matthias Hues is worth noting, Digital Man is just so dumb and tedious it wears off quickly.

For example, the weaponry the cast uses look like spray-painted leaf blowers, and robots die like the Itchy and Scratchy robots in that episode of The Simpsons.  The "crack team" does hone their craft, whatever that's supposed to be, by fighting "Virtual Ninjas" (you gotta figure the word "virtual" is going to show up sometime). The idea of a virtual ninja is cool and is probably strong enough to support its own movie. Maybe there will be a spin-off (please God not a sequel).

So while the movie does have a professional look thanks to the cinematography, and there are a lot of explosions, the only real reason to watch this is for Matthias Hues. Which is the only reason we watched it. So that works out. The climax does feature some Hues hand to hand combat, which is nice, because Hues walking around a trailer park with a leaf blower for 90 minutes sounds more entertaining than it actually is.

In the end, Digital Man seems like something you'd happen to catch on HBO or Cinemax in the middle of the afternoon sometime in the 90's. Sadly though, the strong B-movie cast cannot save the dire stupidity within.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

11/03/2010

Death Match (1994)

Death Match (1994)-* * *

Directed by: Joe Coppoletta

Starring: Matthias Hues, Martin Kove, Richard Lynch, Ian Jacklin, Jorge Rivero, Renee Allman (AKA: Ammann), Eric Lee, Nick Hill, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez and Steven Vincent Leigh




***400th Review***





 

For our 400th review celebration, we thought we'd invite a few friends over - namely, Matthias Hues, Richard Lynch, Jorge Rivero, Ian Jacklin, Renee Ammann, Martin Kove, Benny The Jet, Eric Lee and the rest of the large cast of Death Match. A special effort seems to have been made to get as many of the DTV actors of the time as possible in this production. Casting-wise, it truly was The Expendables (2010) of its day, and, inevitably it means that some cast members can only receive small roles. Due to time restrictions of course. Unless you think Death Match should be a four-hour-plus epic.

John Larson (Jacklin) and Nick Wallace (Hill) are just two blue-collar dock workers trying to make their living the old-fashioned way - by working hard. Their longshoreman jobs take them all around the country, and they end up in L.A. where Nick tries to make some extra bucks fighting in...wait for it...illegal, underground punch/kickfighting cage matches to the death! Did you think it would be some sort of computer game contest? Anyway, Nick starts fighting for the evil, unscrupulous fight promoter/gangster/gunrunner/lover of geodes and Twizzlers Paul Landis (Kove) and his associate/main fighter Mark Vanik (Hues). Unbeknownst to Nick, these guys are, well, evil and unscrupulous, and they expect the winners of their fights to kill, and the losers of their fights to die. Seeing as Nick is a nice guy and doesn't have that killer instinct, he refuses to kill his opponent in the ring. So naturally, after a brutal punch to the face by Vanik, they imprison him on their personal boat.

Seeing as how Larson and Wallace are best friends to the end, when Larson gets word that his buddy hooked up with Landis' organization and is now missing, he goes on the hunt for him. Of course this means that he has to join Landis' group and fight in order to get closer to the truth. Luckily, he was a former kickboxing champion that gave it up years ago. With help from reporter/love interest/eye candy Danielle Richardson (Ammann), scrappy street kid Tommy (Michele Krasnoo), and of course his Cosmo Kramer-like manager Lionel P. Bigman AKA "Big Man" (Bob Wyatt), will Larson find and rescue his friend?

Death Match is one of the better punchfighters out there, and has a little more substance than most. Thanks to the sprawling cast - there are even more B-movie names we didn't mention - Lisa London, John Sjogren, Brick Bronsky, Marcus Aurelius, Sheila Redgate and more - as well as the fast pace of the film, things never get boring. Also in the good news department, this is by far Ian Jacklin's best role we've seen. He actually does a good job carrying the movie, and as the lead role must have the usual barfights and torture scenes, and you care about him and his friend. Despite all we've seen before, we really liked Jacklin here.

But the real "Big Man" in this production isn't Lionel, it's the great Matthias Hues. He turns on his typical charm and wears a gigantic suit with a bolo tie. If he starts to take off his shirt/bolo tie - watch out. You are in trouble. Also, whatever you do, don't call him "goldilocks". Lynch steals the one scene he's in as the gangster Jimmy. Benny The Jet appears as himself, in one of his own gyms, as Larson's trainer. His advice comes in handy. Interestingly, in the female reporter wanting a story/hero teaming up with an L.A. street kid angle, Death Match resembles Streets of Rage (1994) of all things. Weird.

We really can't go through all the many characters and their ups and downs due to space restrictions, and there are some of the prerequisite silly moments, such as the "Chicanos with nunchuks" scene, but honestly this is an action B-movie fan's dream come true - and one of the better killfighting movies we've seen to date.

Note: Death Match is available in the U.K. on a two-for-one DVD with, strangely, The Robert Chapin classic Ring Of Steel (1994)! Go Figure.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty



11/01/2010

Bare Knuckles (1977)

Bare Knuckles (1977)-* * *

Directed by: Don Edmonds

Starring: Robert Viharo, Sherry Jackson, Michael Heit, John Daniels, and Jace













 "I make my bread by knowin'."


Drive-in genius! In this gem, Zachary Kane (Viharo) is the strong, silent type who is also a scrappy, street-smart bounty hunter. He always gets his man. But he faces the ultimate challenge when a crazed, hissing, sadistic serial killer begins abducting and killing women on his home L.A. turf. So Kane teams up with Black (Daniels) to find the culprit, searching through the seedy sides of the city, but finding ample time to seduce the ladies, mainly Jennifer (Jackson). What is the secret of spoiled rich brat Richard Devlin (Heit), and his sidekick/sparring partner Kido (Jace)? Will Kane be able to put 2 and 2 together before it's too late?

Bare Knuckles is so great for so many different reasons. They truly don't make 'em like this anymore and the movie industry should be ashamed. It is loaded with 70's atmosphere, from the disco-like soundtrack to the fact that 90% of the men in the movie have a mustache. It defines the pre-political correctness era, with an awesome hero who smokes, drinks and does whatever the hell he wants.

Top-notch grittiness ensues on a technical level and it all has a low-budget guerilla feel to it that works perfectly. Sure, there are some imperfections that naturally come from underground filmmaking, but they are more than made up for by all the movie's strengths. Namely, the street-level, 70's feel and the character of Zachary Kane. There were no sequels or TV series spinoffs for the Kanester, but we should have seen more of him in some way.

Robert Viharo as Kane is brilliant. The taciturn, David-Heavener-like style, the fact that he is a man on a mission that knows what he wants, he is a boxer (great training sequence) and he even plays the flute! He's so smooth he even picks up the main love interest Jennifer while chowing down on some Pizza Hut in the parking lot. Needless to say, we loved Kane.

Director/writer Don Edmonds, known primarily for the two official Ilsa movies, here was in a state of grace and he should be more known for Bare Knuckles than he currently is. Although there are some people in the know. Not surprisingly, Quentin Tarantino is a huge fan and has memorized verbatim dialogue from various Edmonds movies.

For a fun ride through the 1970's with a film with its heart in exactly the right place, we strongly recommend Bare Knuckles.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett