5/31/2013

Operation Delta Force 4: Deep Fault (1999)

Operation Delta Force 4: Deep Fault (1999)-*1\2

Directed by: Mark Roper

Starring: Greg Collins, Joe Lara, Johnny Messner, John Laughlin, Hayley DuMond, Justin Williams, and Gary Hudson












“Mac” McKinney (Lara) leads his fellow Delta Force soldiers Sparks, Hutch and Vickers (Hudson, Williams and Messner, respectively) on many dangerous missions which mainly include going to depressed-looking eastern-European countries and shooting people. But they’re going to face their toughest challenge yet in the form of megalomaniacal baddie Olivio Garcia (Laughlin), a man who’s so demented he wants to use nuclear weapons to trigger massive earthquakes. Naturally he does all this from his underground command center (where do these baddies keep finding these things?) - so the soldiers bring along token female scientist Laurie Granger (DuMond) to try to use science to try and stop him, or something like that. Will our brave heroes stop this madman from earthquaking the world to death? Find out today!

So let me get this straight: there’s the Delta Force series, the Operation Delta Force series, the American Heroes series, and the U.S. Seals series, and they’re all separate entities, all doing their own thing. Assuming I’m correct here, let’s move on...Nu Image really knows how to churn out some serious crud. It’s nigh-impossible to imagine someone renting this in a video store. Patrons who haven’t seen the first three movies in the series will surely be scared away at the prospect of a fourth, and only die-hard fans are going to stick through four movies of this and beyond.

So it all gets a bit confusing, but director Mark Roper doesn’t help matters by giving us an unfocused, Gary Daniels-less movie that has plenty of very dumb moments. But, in an interesting twist, it’s these little moments that keep this movie afloat - barely. There are enough tiny little instances of something funny or somewhat interesting happening that pop up every few minutes where you say, “oh, okay, this isn’t so bad”. Just check out what happens during the snowboard/snowmobile chase (which feels a lot like AIP’s White Fury, 1990), the train shootout or one of the many scenes of gun-shooting. So while there are some glimpses of worthwhile-ness, this movie should have had more character development, explained what was going on just a bit more, and trimmed the constant battle sequences. If the movie had done this, it would have been a lot better.

 

If you are looking for a movie about breakaway seismologists, where characters wear T-shirts that proclaim “models suck” to the racquetball court, here you go. It also seems pretty influenced by The Soldier (1982). Thankfully there’s no CGI, or the proceedings would have been horrendous. But for the main baddie, the casting department found a man so generic-looking for this type of role, perhaps they thought they could confuse viewers. This “I’m not Wings Hauser or Peter Bogdanovich or Bruce Boxleitner or Barry Bostwick or Warren Beatty or Bruce Davison or James Spader” baddie also has an evil scarf. So you know he’s evil.

As far as the climax of the movie, it takes up far too much time. A climax is supposed to be exciting and somewhat brief. Here, it just goes on and on and on. That drains it of urgency and it just feels listless. So the climax should have been an actual CLIMAX and not an interminable time-filler. That just adds to the overlong feel of the whole movie. It kind of grinds to a screeching halt at that point.

Operation Delta Force 4: Deep Fault is yet more Nu Image filler. All their non-Isaac Florentine-directed movies are not that great, and this just isn’t memorable. It doesn’t stand out from the pack in any way. To quote one of the great Delta Force Soldiers (this was the 90’s, don’t forget), “PEACE!!!!”

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by: The Video Vacuum!

5/28/2013

Heat Street (1987)

Heat Street (1987)-* * *

Directed by: Joesph Merhi

Starring: Del Zamora and Quincy Adams Jr.













Virgil (Adams Jr.) is a boxer who is nearing the end of his career. He’s mainly a trainer now, working at the boxing gym. He’s going through a wistful period in his life, and these nostalgic days are rudely interrupted when the local street gangs assault his daughter. Blake (Zamora) is a repo man who has at least one relative in one of the gangs, and knows the gang scene fairly well. Blake has a good job and a loving wife, and wants to eradicate the gang problem currently plaguing their California town. When the unlikely pair of Virgil and Blake team up to tackle the thuggery, the concrete will become HEAT STREET!

Not to be confused with Beat Street (1984), Heat Street is another City Lights production (for those who don’t know, it was the pre-PM company of Pepin and Merhi). Like other City Lights movies, here the P and the M were still finding their way in the world of action. It’s interesting to see the formative stages of what would become the leader in DTV action movies. So they were finding their way in the world, and what others may see as amateurish, we see as the beginnings of the PM empire.

Also their obsession with repo men continues (or, rather, starts, as Chance and Repo Jake came later). Pepin and Merhi were ahead of their time - now there are about 12 reality shows about repo people. The movie opens with what you might call “profiles in weirdness”, as the bizarrely hairstyled and dressed gang members pose for glamour shots. That’s how you know these people are in gangs. Because they dress like rejects from The Warriors (1979). One of their modes of attack is “Bikefighting”, something later expounded upon and improved in later PM’s.


Our TRUE sixth President, Quincy Adams Jr., plays the Black boxer with a lot of pride. Most of his lines are spoken with a nearly-impossible-to-hear mumble that really won our respect. I mean, if you’re an actor who has only been in a scant few projects, and you don’t make the slightest effort so the audience can hear your voice, you must be a confirmed badass who honestly doesn’t care what you think about him. Our hat goes off to  you, Quincy Adams Jr. You really should have been in more stuff.  His counterpoint, Del Zamora, has been in countless projects and really made a nice career for himself. But here he just barely holds his own with QAJr. But it’s not Zamora’s fault, he does his best, it’s just that QAJr. is a force to be reckoned with.

There’s the time-honored poolhall brawl, and the not-so-time-honored “scene where four people around a dinner table ALL take turns reading their fortune cookies”.  Well, you can’t have a boxing movie, or a boxing match, without some padding. There are elements in Heat Street of both The Hitter (1979) and Cold Justice (1989), and as a film, it falls, quality wise, somewhere in between the two.

If you’re already familiar with that City Lights style, do check out Heat Street if you can find it. If not...well, check it out anyway as an example of the vibrant days of the video store, when shelves were chock full of material just waiting to be put in your VCR to be taken a chance on.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


5/27/2013

P.O.W.: The Escape (1986)

P.O.W.: The Escape (1986)-* * *

Directed by: Gideon Amir

Starring: David Carradine, Steve James, and Mako













In Vietnam, 1973, the military top brass is told to free all the P.O.W.’s. In order to do this effectively, they call in Col. James Cooper (Carradine), who, naturally, is “The Best”. Of course, he also has a bad attitude and is getting on in years. Once he finds the prisoners, one of which is Johnston (James), all the men lead a daring escape through the jungles of ‘Nam. Along the way they’ll have to fight tons of NVA soldiers, evil camp commander Capt. Vinh (Mako), among other pitfalls, while fighting to stay alive and recapture some gold bars. Can they do it?

By this time, Cannon had already made Missing In Action (1984), so they probably figured, “‘why not try ‘P.O.W.’”? Instead of Chuck Norris or Michael Dudikoff, their main staples, they opted for David Carradine. He’s not quite as belligerent and surly as he is in Future Force (1989) and Future Zone (1990), but roles like this, where he’s put in the driver’s seat as an action hero with terse dialogue, certainly paved the way for those. His dialogue pretty much consists of soundbites such as “I’m goin’ back for ‘em” and “Everybody goes home”. This might be less noticeable if he had some non-bumper-sticker-like dialogue anywhere else in the movie, but he doesn’t. As far as his attitude (i.e angry), it seems Cannon will just give you a more assertive demeanor at times. For example, for Chain Of Command (1994), they probably just said to Dudikoff, “be angry”. We’re guessing they did the same here for Carradine.


POW: The Escape is your basic exploding hut/helicopter/guard tower movie where people are constantly firing machine guns under the green foliage. But you gotta admit, those huts had it coming. There’s the Prerequisite Torture as well. Not of the huts, of the humans. Thus, the movie is quite repetitive, as there isn’t enough material here to properly fill a 90 minute feature. Not that any of this is bad, it just feels very, very familiar.

As far as the rest of the cast, there are some familiar faces: we are fans of Mako and he does a decent job as the commander who might secretly have an affinity for America. Steve James remains one of the most underrated actors of the 80’s and beyond and his presence livens things up considerably. In the background doing small roles like “G.I. #4” and “Soldier at Fuel Depot” are Willie Williams, Henry Strzalkowski, and Cris Aguilar. Among the smaller players is fan favorite John Barrett, who is also credited as a stunt coordinator. If you watch any of these Philippines-set actioners, these names will ring a bell. But none of them can possibly top Carradine, when, in a moment of inspiration, he takes an American flag in danger of burning down - this is during a firefight, no less - takes it off the pole, puts it over his shoulders, and continues killing badguys with his machine gun! He’s literally draped in the flag as he fights those stupid, stupid commies. God bless the 80’s.

Released by Media on VHS (and laser videodisc!), POW: The Escape is standard jungle action, with maybe a few blips of interest within that framework.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by our buddy, DTVC!

5/24/2013

U.S. Seals 2 (2001)

U.S. Seals 2 (2001)-* * *

Directed by: Isaac Florentine

Starring: Michael Worth. Damian Chapa, Kate Connor, and Marshall R. Teague


"Infiltrate. Detonate. Annihilate...THE ULTIMATE FORCE"








Lt. Casey Sheppard (Worth) and Chief Frank Ratliff (Chapa) were former colleagues and SEALS. But as often seems to be the case, Ratliff turns evil and goes to a remote island to construct and then launch a nuclear warhead. He even kidnaps Dr. Jane Burrows (Connor) to help him do it. So Sheppard assembles a team of fighters to go to Ratliff’s island (which sounds like it could be a kids TV show) and stop his nefarious plan. But not only does Ratliff have his own team of evil fighters, but there’s a gas leak on the island, so no guns can be used. It can only be non-firearm weapons and Martial Arts prowess. Will Sheppard be victorious over his former mentor? Or will he blow up the world as planned?

The great Isaac Florentine strikes again with this winner of a movie. The man understands action and his movies are a joy to watch. He is singlehandedly keeping the reputation of Nu-Image afloat. Here he applies his skills to one of our favorite genres: the “assemble a team” movie. Best seen in the great Kill Squad (1982), it’s where a mastermind goes to different locations to, well, assemble a team of diverse fighters with diverse skills. The result in this case is nonstop action done with a lot of energy, sly humor and over-the-top mannerisms. For example, when characters move their head or hands, there is this cartoonish “whoosh” sound effect. We’re not exactly sure what Florentine was going for here, but it adds to the fun and we figure it must be a by-product of his time working on Power Rangers shows. We suppose he thought that, for the first hundred or so years of filmmaking, when people in movies moved their head or hands and it didn’t sound like a jet was taking off, Florentine felt something was missing. Now he’s here to correct that.


While this movie is well-thought of in action movie circles, we think it could have reached an even wider audience if not for the packaging and marketing. Just by looking at the box art and title, you think it’s going to be a standard military slog with nothing really to recommend it. Presumably, video store patrons back in ‘01 felt this and kept browsing for something else, leaving it on the shelf. To quote Dana Carvey’s impression of John McLaughlin, “WRONG!” -- this movie has almost nothing to do with Seals, per se, it’s an out-and-out, brawling action movie, with killer Martial Arts, stunts, shooting, guard tower falls, a high kill-count, blow-ups, and everything action fans crave. The movie starts off with a bang - literally - and doesn’t let up. Ignore the misleading presentation of this movie and pretend its subtitle is its main title, “The Ultimate Force”, and you won’t be disappointed.

Damian Chapa was a very good choice as the main baddie. He just looks evil. Even his name, “Ratliff”, sounds evil. The thing we’ve always wondered about bad guys that want to blow up the world with a nuclear bomb is, where are they going to go? Even if it’s not the whole world, do they really want to live in a remote part of the globe, especially while there is so much radiation around? That aside, it’s great to see Chapa, who appeared in Hitman’s Run (1999) and Street Fighter (1994), go up against Michael Worth, the star of Fists of Iron (1995) and Final Impact (1992). Truly it’s the DTV war you’ve been waiting for.

All the noises, sound effects, angles, dubbing and musical stings clearly identify this as a Florentine movie, because these techniques are seen in his other work such as Bridge of Dragons (1999), etc. If you’re not already a fan, this may win you over and make you one. See U.S. Seals II.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out reviews by our buddies: Explosive Action, The Video Vacuum, and Good Efficient Butchery!


5/21/2013

Dead Aim (1987)

Dead Aim (1987)-* * *

AKA: Mace

Directed by: William Vanderkloot

Starring: Ed Marinaro, Corbin Bernsen, Harry Goz, William Sanderson, Sandi Brannon, Darrell Larson, Lynn Whitfield, Rick Washburn, and Isaac Hayes











Detective Malcolm “Mace” Douglas (Marinaro) is a cop who plays by his own rules and has a bad attitude. His partner Cain (Larson) is the opposite: a clean-cut, by the book kind of guy. While working the vice squad, they see the seamier side of life on the Atlanta streets: drugs, prostitutes, and street crimes of all types. When the strippers at the Fool’s Paradise club start dying of supposed heroin overdoses, Mace investigates and finds that there’s a conspiracy that goes somewhere...oh yeah...all the way to the top! The FBI and the KGB are involved, with connections to a shadowy figure hiding behind his “diplomatic immunity” (Goz) and his partner Flexnor (Washburn). Will Mace mace his way through this maze?

Dead Aim is an entertaining cop drama/thriller with Ed Marinaro fitting the role of the Cop On The Edge nicely. One of the things about this movie that is so enjoyable are all the classic cop cliches: There’s the prerequisite BYC (the Black Yelling Chief for those who don’t read the site regularly), he yells that Mace has “the highest mortality rate in Metro!”, and naturally, thanks to Mace’s rogue ways, later in the film he says the classic “give me your gun and badge!” There are other cliches as well, but thankfully they’re all done well, and Dead Aim as a whole is not bad thanks to some good acting, decent ideas and a few nice directorial touches.



There’s an attempt at some realism, and the plot that delves into the seamier side of life is reminiscent of Stripped To Kill (1987) and the Wings Hauser vehicle Vice Squad (1982), among others, as it was a popular subject at the time. You gotta love that red lighting and neon atmosphere. The fact that there’s a stripper named Misty (Sandi Brannon) should tell you all you need to know: we can all nostalgically sigh about when girls were named “Misty”...it truly was a different time.

And while Ed Marinaro wouldn’t wow us again until The Protector (1999), let’s not forget about his co-stars here: Corbin Bernsen of all people is on board right before his success with L.A. Law happened. Isaac Hayes plays Jamal, a crime lord with an unidentifiable accent and some cool threads. For no explained reason, he’s protected by an army of Asians at all times. Besides the aforementioned Washburn and Goz, there’s also William Sanderson as the lab tech, and William Windom is here too. So the cast does add some extra texture to this tale.

So for more of the quality end of the sleaze spectrum (it’s really not all that sleazy), see Dead Aim, as it remains a cliche-ridden good time. Keep in mind that’s not an insult. Vestron released it on VHS back in the good old days. If you can find it cheap, check it out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/20/2013

Showdown (1993)

Showdown (1993)-* * *

Directed by: Robert Radler

Starring: Billy Blanks, Kenn Scott, Christine Taylor, John Asher, Ken McLeod, Patrick Kilpatrick, and Brion James












Ken Marx (Scott) is a 35 year old high school senior (judging by sight anyway) who transplants to a new school filled with punks, ne’er-do-wells and miscreants. But Ken is just your good-hearted American guy. He quickly makes friends with class clown Mike (Asher) and develops a serious crush on the beautiful Julie (Taylor). But there’s a problem: Julie’s boyfriend Tom (McLeod) is an angry, smothering jerk of the highest order. He goes to Martial Arts training under the militaristic, inhuman monster Lee (Kilpatrick) who teaches his students to have no mercy. Though he’s in over his head, Ken teams up with Billy (Blanks), an intriguing man who is the school janitor but was a former cop. Billy trains Ken extensively in Martial Arts so he can defend himself in general and against Tom in particular. It all comes to a head at the evil dojo where, unsurprisingly, Lee stages underground Punchfighting matches. Who will be victorious in the final SHOWDOWN?

You gotta love these high school-set action movies. They range from annoyingly bad (Detention, 2003) to lots of fun (A Dangerous Place, 1995). Thankfully, Showdown falls towards the latter. It’s entertaining, fast paced, and enjoyable. If you’ve seen A Dangerous Place, you’ll note the similarities. We’ve all seen the “troubled school” scenario - kids acting wild, smoking, and even - just so you know things are out of control - riding skateboards in the halls. Brion James does nothing in this movie except harangue students and exhort to them the school rules. We’ve never seen him so animated, and he put as much life into the small role as he could, but James should have been given more.


Billy Blanks this time around is administering the training, as opposed to receiving it, a la Balance Of Power (1996). He’s even called at one point “Kung-Fu Janitor”. We never get tired of training sequences, especially if they have the right song behind them. In this case, “Draw The Line” by A.Z.R.O. fits the bill nicely. Playing opposite Billy as your classic evil sensei is Patrick Kilpatrick, who puts in an over the top performance. He’s not quite at John Miller levels, but seems to be aiming for it. So needless to say, we enjoyed it wholeheartedly. Compare and contrast to Marshall Teague’s performance in A Dangerous Place for further examination. Kenn Scott as Ken Marx clearly is stretching his acting chops, playing a dude with only one “N” in his name.

There are classic 90’s wisecracks, humor and sarcasm on display, and even a few movie references. It was obvious that the 90’s were upon us at this point. But rather than be irritating, it’s aged well, especially if you have nostalgia for that period in time. Clothing is the same way - note the color schemes which seem to include a lot of purple. Predating the current trend of constantly “raising awareness” about bullying, this movie should be shown in high schools (is that why there’s an edited version?). But director Radler (of Best of the Best 2 (1993) and The Substitute: Failure Is Not an Option (2001) - sticking with the whole high school theme) keeps things upbeat and moving at a good clip.

At the evil dojo, there are posters for China White (1989), Trained To Fight (1992), Black Eagle (1988), and King of the Kickboxers (1990), which featured Billy Blanks. It’s interesting to spot them, and some of them are fellow Imperial titles. The referential thing pops up again.

We liked Showdown (not to be confused with the Leo Fong Showdown, 1993 though we liked that one too), it’s an enjoyable film and is worth seeing.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

5/17/2013

Bad Attitude (1993)

Bad Attitude (1993)-*

Directed by: Bill Cummings

Starring: Leon, Demene Hall, Nathaniel DeVeaux, and Gina Lim










Eddie Johnson (Leon) is a Seattle Cop On The Edge and motorcycle enthusiast. Due to his rogue ways, he’s busted from detective back down to beat cop. While out on routine patrols with his partner Midge (Hall), they slowly start to unravel a criminal conspiracy involving local street preacher Ezekiel (DeVeaux), and his assistant, former prostitute Mai Lei (Lim). After getting romantically involved with Mai Lei, Eddie is told to turn in his badge and gun. Now he’s going rogue after the mysterious villains in a black van. Will he be able to unravel all the goings-on?

Well, finally Leon gets to step out of the shadows and into a starring role. “Leon who?”, you may ask, but it’s just Leon. No one seems to question his lack of last name. Like Madonna or Cher, Leon can step proudly into the pantheon of one-named stars. His co-star Demene Hall tried to give him a run for his money, appearing in the opening credits as simply “Demene”, but perhaps she found it too “Demene-ing” and appears in the end credits with her full name. Mysterious naming issues aside, Bad Attitude, unfortunately, is an unpolished, stilted, cliche-ridden production. All that would be fine, but this movie has a D.O.A., or “Dearth Of Action”. There’s almost no action in the entire movie. What a waste! Really, what a waste. It should have been Leon on his Harley shooting bad guys left and right. Sadly, the movie is a bunch of unmemorable setups to action that never arrives. A true wasted opportunity.

We appreciate that this was trying to be a more serious-minded movie with a largely Black cast, seemingly on purpose attempting to separate itself from the average “homie movie”, or even 70’s-style Blaxploitation movie. We can almost see director Bill Cummings saying “why can’t this be just a movie, without any racial tags?” But this was to be Cummings’ only directorial effort to date. But Bad Attitude, in the final analysis, lacks drive - it’s slow paced, and has pacing problems on top of that. There’s no title song (although there is a song by Steel Pulse during the end credits), and Leon doesn’t even do any Leon-Fu on the bad guys.

DeVeaux does a decent job as the snappily-dressed Reverend, and Gina Lim, in also her only movie role to date, plays the token hot chick well (but if truth be told she is a bit mannish, especially her voice). Plus, you can tell Leon’s level of attitude (“bad” or otherwise) by his hair part. At first, he has a pretty extreme, conservative part, but as he goes further into rogue territory, the part changes and eventually disappears altogether. An alternate title for this movie could be “Rogue Hair Part”. Also, on T-shirt alert, characters wear shirts for the bands Blood Feast, Negative FX and the Butthole Surfers. It doesn’t mean much, just an observation.

In the end, Bad Attitude is a misuse of Leon and seems to be hampered by its low budget. Wags might suggest the movie would be better off if they took the word “Attitude” out of the title, but we’d just file this one under “wasted opportunity”.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty


5/15/2013

Silent Assassins (1988)

Silent Assassins (1988)-* * *

Directed by: Doo-Yong Lee

Starring: Sam Jones, Linda Blair, Bill Erwin, Phillip Rhee, Jun Chong, Gustav Vintas, Rebecca Ferratti, and Mako












Sam Kettle (Jones) is tired of being an L.A. cop on the edge, so he and his wife Sara (Blair) decide to move to Colorado. But before he can escape, he’s called back in for “one last mission”. It seems a criminal mastermind named Kendrick (Vintas of Zero Tolerance fame), who is an “Ex-C.I.A. turned psychotic”, and his apprentice, Amy (Ferratti),  have kidnapped elderly biochemist Dr. Terence London (Erwin), and a six-year-old girl as well. Seeing as Kendrick was responsible for the death of Kettle’s old partner, now he wants to settle the score. Coming along for the ride is Jun Kim (Chong), uncle of the kidnapped girl, and Bernard (Rhee), owner of a Kendo studio. But to achieve their goal won’t be easy, as they have to face off against not just regular ninjas, but ninjas with axes (or, “Ninjaxes”). Will the trio be able to fight to the finish?  And what does a stuffed Heathcliff doll have to do with all this?

From the opening credit informing us that this is an “Action Brother Production, Inc.”, you know you are in for something good. Silent Assassins is a fast-paced and entertaining romp with some familiar faces, and the movie is easy to enjoy. Sam Jones is the ultimate 80’s coolguy, with his sunglasses, jeep, bomber jacket, spiky brushcut hairdo and unshaven face. He’s truly as cool as the metal his last name in the movie is obviously made of. In the big-budget remake they’ll surely get Bruce Willis to replace him. But Mako is onboard as well. We love seeing him, but he’s still unintelligible. Yet another fan favorite, Phillip Rhee rounds out the cast of heroes and right there you know you have something worth seeing. Unfortunately, Linda Blair plays a cliched “wife” role and doesn’t live up to the image on the box cover. That could have added a new dimension to this movie, but sadly it wasn’t to be.


But that’s one of the few negatives here - there’s plenty of high-kicking action, not to mention the damage incurred by the Ninjaxes, which include dismemberments and fan-favorite death, decapitation. There’s even a possible exploding helicopter for fans of that, as well. Bill Erwin, who fans of Seinfeld may remember as the old guy with the large record collection that Kramer and Newman try to resell, shows us all that if you want to blow up a computer, just turn the keyboard over so the keys are facing down. The kidnapped senior citizen plotline is very reminiscent of the previous year’s Survival Game (1987), where the older man in question was played by Seymour Cassel. Kidnapping the elderly to find out their secrets must have been a popular idea in ‘87-88.

Silent Assassins delivers the Golden-Age-of-the-video-store-style action goods and achieves a lot of entertainment for its modest budget. We liked it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/12/2013

Hawkeye (1988)

Hawkeye (1988)-* * * *

Directed by: George Chung

Starring: George Chung, Chuck Jeffreys, Troy Donohue, Stan Wertlieb, and Ronnie Lott











Cop On the Edge Alexander “Hawkeye”, “Hawk” Hawkamoto (Chung) is a man so awesome, even his nickname has a nickname. Formerly a Texas cop, he resettles in Las Vegas where he’s out to settle the score with the mob, led by gangster boss Tony (Wertlieb). After being assigned a new partner, an equally brash detective named Charles Wilson (Jeffreys), the two tear up the town like nobody’s business.  Forget MASH, here’s the real Hawkeye!

We absolutely loved Hawkeye. This type of movie is right up our alley - it’s fun, funny, ridiculous, and wildly enjoyable. The supposed “amateurish” nature of the movie is far from a negative, it actually endeared us to it even more. Just the level of (non) acting from everyone except the leads is enough to provide more entertainment value than you’ll find in many other movies. Starting from the great intro, Hawkeye never runs out of steam and is highly watchable the entire time.

It wouldn’t be an 80’s cop movie without sax on the soundtrack, acid washed jeans and radical sunglasses. Chuck Jeffreys puts in one of his best performances as the energetic new partner. The movie is also filled with un-PC humor that you never see today. While there seems to be some controversy over who actually directed the movie, Leo Fong or George Chung, it definitely has that Fong-y style we recognize from his past projects. But someone really should look into possible misspellings in the credits (“Kieth”? “Micheal”? “Stien”?) As for George Chung, he’s at his best during “Junior Cadet Day” at the academy, where a bunch of kids come to learn about police work. Apparently it mainly consists of threats. It’s also completely ignored that Chung/Hawkamoto is even Asian, as other characters call him “Cowboy”, he hates Sushi, and doesn’t know what a Dojo is. Throw in some random narration, and there you have it.


As if that wasn’t enough, Troy Donahue is (barely) involved, and his use of pauses in his speech makes William Shatner look like John Moschitta. Lest we forget “All-Pro Football Star Ronnie Lott” (if seeing that on a box while perusing a video store doesn’t make you want to rent the film, what will?). An unnecessarily shirtless guy who looks like Jerry Trimble, among a row of meatheads completes the picture.

The tape seems like a homemade production, having been released by Valley Studios of Sunnyvale, CA, and the copyright is 1988 Action America Entertainment. Did they ever release anything else? Hopefully.
If you have a sense of fun and/or humor, you will totally love this gem. Hawkeye is a bona fide winner.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/10/2013

Pistol Whipped (2008)

Pistol Whipped (2008)-*1\2

Directed by: Roel Reine

Starring: Steven Seagal, Lance Henriksen, Renee Goldsberry, Mark Elliot Wilson, Arthur J. Nascarella, and Paul Calderon











Matt Conner (Seagal) was a good cop, but he got kicked off the force. Now a gambler and alcoholic, he still wants to be a good dad to his daughter Becky (Jordan). When a shadowy figure known only as “The Old Man” (Henriksen) offers to clear his gambling debts in exchange for a few “favors”, i.e., killing some gangsters around town, Conner agrees.  Now dealing with complicated alliances between The Old Man’s henchman Blue (Calderon), Drea (Goldsberry), and fellow cop and husband to his ex-wife, Lt. Steve Shacter (Wilson), Conner has only  his wits, propensity for violence, and considerable girth to help him through this mess.

Connecticut is a small state and not a lot of movies (at least with high visibility) are shot here. So the good news is, they shot a movie in our lovely state. The bad news is...it’s Pistol Whipped! Yes, Steven Seagal comes to the Nutmeg state, and, well, left with all the Nutmeg. While, oddly enough, the CT can boast having the movies Friday the 13th (1980), I Spit on Your Grave (1978), and Last House on the Left (1972) shot here, thus becoming a hub for twisted “video nasties” of the 80’s, how far we’ve fallen when we now have to play host to a sullen Seagal.

While shot in the towns of Bridgeport, Stamford and Norwalk (all fairly close to New York City), for some reason Matt Conner (or perhaps Seagal making an acting choice) has a Cajun accent. On top of that, he whispers most of his lines unintelligibly. You actually need the subtitles on the DVD. And when you read what he supposedly said, you say, “he said that? I didn’t hear it.” How did the subtitle people know he said that? And we watched it in surround sound! Dripping water was louder than Seagal’s voice. Or whoever’s voice it was. You actually need the subtitles so you don’t miss lines like “Clean as a Safeway chicken!”, whatever that means. But the point is, it seems Seagal was trying to channel the coolness of Michael Madsen here. But Seagal is so low-energy, he makes Madsen look like Richard Simmons.


But it’s funny to watch not only his daughter, but the characters of Drea, and his ex-wife fall for his mumbly, unlikable charm. On top of struggling with the gangsters, he’s also struggling with his weight issues, as his flowy bowling shirts prove. But we don’t want to be mean and pile on with the “Seagal is fat” narrative (any more than we already have), because there’s plenty of other things we can talk about. Such as his odd hair, for example.

Now, for Seagal standards, this movie is okay, but because it is an action movie from the 2000’s, it must have CGI silliness, fast motion, editing tricks, and green screen stuff. All of which, needless to say, detract from the movie. We suppose it was trying to be gritty, but the overall effect is more cheap and junky. Plus, the movie is repetitive and goes around in circles. And it’s repetitive. It would have been cooler if Lance Henriksen played the Matt Conner part, and Seagal played “The Old Man”. It was nice of Henriksen to show up for the few days he must have been there, but the movie could have used more of him.

You probably have a decent idea of what to expect with Pistol Whipped (Spoiler alert: no one gets actually pistol whipped in the movie), so if you can convince a friend or two to spend some time with a newer Seagal (and a lot of alcohol), this might just be the pick for you. Go Connecticut!

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out write-ups by our buddies: DTVC and The Video Vacuum!


5/07/2013

Wheels On Meals (1984)

Wheels On Meals (1984)-* * *

Directed by: Sammo Hung

Starring: Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, Lola Forner, and Benny "The Jet" Urquidez












Cousins Thomas (Chan) and David (Biao) own and operate a mobile food truck called “Everybody’s Kitchen” in Barcelona, Spain. It seems they’re always getting into mishaps and misadventures, and their latest one involves Sylvia (Forner), a beautiful woman that both private detective Moby (Hung) and a gang of baddies are looking for. Eventually, Thomas, David and Moby team up to protect Sylvia, while fighting the gang.

It’s impossible not to love Wheels On Meals. The Martial Arts and stunt choreography are superb, there’s plenty of humor that’s actually funny, and it’s all very well-shot, colorful and upbeat. It was an excellent idea to shoot a movie like this in Spain, because it gives the whole thing a different and unusual vibe not seen in too many other Martial Arts movies. The whole idea of Chan, Biao and Hung as the Three Musketeers is very winning, and they would reunite a few years later as the Three Stooges in Dragons Forever (1988), but we prefer Wheels for all-out fun and entertainment.


The movie STARTS with a training sequence, because Thomas and David may run a food truck, but they always have to be prepared to defend it from street punks. But this is one high-tech, futuristic truck. It’s all run by computer, which is very savvy for 1984. Sammo Hung looks pretty stylin’ with his Jheri curl and suit jackets rolled up to the elbows. He resembles Michael Jackson or Lionel Richie, which would make sense for the time this movie was made. It’s great to see the three leads interact, and with the addition of the gorgeous Lola Forner (who would return in Armour of God, 1986), you really can’t lose. From the scene at the disco (we always love seeing those), to the insane asylum (check out the “Clock Man”!), and of course the cool stunts, there are a variety of situations and scenarios for our heroes to get into.


Of course, we can’t forget to mention the awesome final fight between Jackie and Benny The Jet. Benny wears this bowtie and seersucker suit, which we imagine would be tough to fight in, especially the complex moves being done, but it all comes to a rousing climax in a Spanish castle. Benny would also come back in Dragons Forever (1988).

When we would go to the video store, we would always notice two Jackie Chan movies because of their unusual titles: Wheels On Meals and Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1980). We would always talk about these titles - and thought-provoking names like these probably sucked many video store patrons in and then they later became not just Jackie Chan fans, but Martial Arts cinema fans as well, acting as a sort of gateway drug. Now we strongly recommend you watch the movie on Netflix Streaming if you have it. It’s a nice widescreen print with subtitles (funny how everyone in Spain speaks Cantonese). Surely it’s a vast improvement upon pan-and-scanned, dubbed VHS tapes.

Wheels On Meals is a hugely enjoyable movie experience and a good time will be had by all who see it.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/06/2013

Killing American Style (1990)

Killing American Style (1990)-* *1\2

Directed by: Amir Shervan

Starring: Robert Z'Dar, Jimmy Williams, Joselito Rescober, Harold Diamond and Jim Brown













Arch-criminal Tony Stone (Z’Dar), along with his underworld buddies Lynch (Diamond), Uncle Loony (Williams), and Jesse (???), pull off a heist, netting themselves a cool 150,000 dollars. But soon the law catches up to them and they are sent to prison. But before they go away, Tony gives the money to a mysterious woman named Stepmom. While en route to jail, in a classic prison transfer mishap (maybe they should just stop transporting prisoners altogether; it never goes as planned), the baddies escape. They go on the lam for a while and eventually end up at the house of the Morgan family. That includes father John, young son Brendan, plus a mother and daughter. The thugs hold the family hostage while they figure out a way to get their stashed-away money and go back out on the run. Meanwhile, Lt. Sunset (Brown) is on their trail. Unfortunately for the hostage-takers, papa Morgan is a hulking meathead in his own right and is a master kickboxer. Will he use his skills to free his family, as well as a doctor (Rescober) also taken hostage? Find out today!

We’re huge Amir Shervan fans and we were thrilled to finally track down this “lost” movie of his. Killing American Style even uses many of the same locations as his prior masterpieces Hollywood Cop (1987) and Samurai Cop (1989) - the house where most of the action takes place, for example, and the restaurant where Matt Hannon gives his immortal speech in SC. He re-uses some of his stock company, such as Z’Dar, Rescober, and the kid that plays Brendan. He even recycles exact snippets of dialogue (“keep it warm”, “no, you shut up”, etc.) So to recap: the same actors, locations and dialogue as used previously - and we have only one thing to say: THANK GOODNESS! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and our favorite Shervanities are on full display here. The synth score is also very similar, if not exactly the same as before, as well. Maybe that’s why KAS didn’t get widely distributed in the U.S. Perhaps video companies felt it was too similar to his earlier works. But perhaps Shervan should have stuck the word “Cop” somewhere in the title, because out of his three main works, this one is the weakest.


But it didn’t have to be. The movie is on the long side at an hour and 41 minutes, and a lot of it could have been trimmed. Towards the midpoint, it slows down and loses momentum, and a Fear (1988)-style hostage drama needs all the pep it can get. Yes, there is a ton of silly dialogue, wacky line readings, off-kilter direction, downright misguided hair, amazing outfits, and all the things that make Shervan movies great, but he pushed it too far this time. But the length is really our only complaint. The movie is a great showcase for fan favorite Z’Dar, who gets a lot of killer screentime and seems to be enjoying himself as he chews the scenery to smithereens. Harold Diamond, last seen in Trained to Kill (1989) along with Zagarino, is on board as well, alongside Jim Brown, who seems to be sleepwalking through his role. More than usual.

The unknown (to us, at least) actor who plays John Morgan was a nice discovery. As a meathead, and a dad, or meatdad, it proves you can still fight Fabio lookalikes at your local kickboxing gym at the drop of a hat and still be a good father to your son.

In the 60’s, we had Love American Style. At the dawn of the 90’s, we had Killing American Style. Amir Shervan once again shows us the direction our society is taking. Fans of his two “Cop” movies will certainly find more of the same here, but non-fans might find the rarity of this film too daunting to try to track down.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, RobotGEEK!







5/03/2013

Cellat (1975)

Cellat (1975)-* * *
AKA: The Executioner 

Directed by Memduh Un

Starring: Serdar Gokhan












Orhan Polat (Gokhan) is a mild-mannered architect who enjoys his relatively posh, safe life. He loves his wife Filiz, and they both spend a lot of time with Sevgi, Orhan’s sister, and her husband Jahit. But as Orhan’s co-workers ominously discuss, crime is on the rise in Istanbul where they live. When Orhan’s family is personally attacked by a trio of pot-smoking scumbags, he takes the law into his own hands - where it belongs. Soon he’s going out on the streets looking to clean things up his own way. His methods of “shoot first and escape into the night” are so effective, police Commissioner Nejati forms his own task force to try and stop the vigilante, in an attempt to prove the old methods of police work are still relevant. With a score to settle, and with bad guys as well as cops hot on his trail, will Orhan complete his mission before it’s too late?

It’s not every day you get a chance to see a movie like Cellat. At least not here in the USA. So we’re grateful to Onar films who released this gem on DVD in a hand-numbered, limited edition. Apparently there is something wacky with the copyright laws in Turkey, because they’re allowed to make “Turkish versions of...” pretty much anything they want and get away with it. Probably the most famous ones are the Turkish Star Wars (1977), Star Trek (1979) and Spider Man. Cellat is known as the Turkish Death Wish and it follows the storyline fairly closely. But the things that make it special aren’t the similarities, they’re the local differences.

Starting with the opening title cards, which are uniquely artistic in their own right, and continuing on through to the fascinating locations and memorable music, we totally applaud the rough and tumble style in which this movie was “executed” (no pun intended). Serdar Gokhan has a lot of screen presence, almost like a Turkish Maurizio Merli. Let’s not forget this was the mustache-and-bellbottoms era, and there are some great 70’s fashions on display, including some ties so wide they seem to be bending the laws of physics. The film also features more things we love, such as the club/disco scene (at Club Love Story), and the time-honored Middle-Aged Punks. In this case, to prove the point that crime is rampant, they graduate from playing keep-away with a lady’s head of cabbage, to stealing apples off a cart, to torture, rape and murder. When they say crime is escalating, they’re not kidding. This movie as a whole may have the same blueprint as Death Wish, but Cellat features more cabbage keep-away than they were able to fit into five installments of the original series. So take that. But that ties into our final point, which is that there is so much about Turkish culture we don’t know. Never is that more evident while watching this movie than the funeral scene. We get to see their own rites and practices which are never seen by Western eyes, which only adds to the exotic and unique feel this film exudes.

We would say “they broke the mold when they made Cellat”, but in actuality the mold was pretty much set. But what they did with it is very entertaining and enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of the Death Wish series or revenge films in general.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/01/2013

Crackerjack 2 (1997)

Crackerjack 2 (1997)-* * * *

AKA: Hostage Train

Directed by: Robert Lee

Starring: Judge Reinhold, Carol Alt, Karel Roden and Michael Sarrazin










Jack Wild is back! Why, exactly, we don’t know, but this time he’s Wilder than ever, because the ultimate action star of our time has stepped in to fill the shoes of T.I.G., who clearly headed for the hills when he had the chance - JUDGE REINHOLD. He truly is Judge, jury and executioner as the Close Talker himself shoots, blows up, stabs, snaps the necks of and expertly executes his Reinhold-Fu on the baddies! He’s not in one of those 80’s switcheroo movies this time. Reinhold is the ultimate cop on the ultimate edge, and it was clearly perfect casting for the angry and disgruntled Jack Wild. Rather than get any name remotely associated with the action genre (and there were plenty of them around during the video store era, as we’re always talking about), it was someone’s idea - and the following words were probably said - “let’s get Judge Reinhold!” Thankfully, he accepted, and the rest is movie history. More producers should think out of the box when it comes to action casting. The Crackerjack box. Ha. But seriously, they should.

The plot concerns some sort of “financial planning train ride”, which isn’t at all a contrivance, where some of the world’s richest people are all on board. Jack Wild’s girlfriend, who naturally is the gorgeous Carol Alt, because even though Jack is a cop, the planet’s most beautiful women can’t hold themselves back from him, is the lead financial planner on this silly, unnecessary train voyage. In the universe’s least-surprising plot twist, a ponytailed, typically-Eurotrash baddie named Hans Becker (Roden) (making him some sort of cross between Alan Rickman and Ted Danson as a grumpy doctor) hijacks the train and holds the passengers hostage (hence the title Hostage Train). Then the MAIN baddie, the creatively named Smith (Sarrazin) steps in, and using state of the art 90’s tech, proceeds to steal money from/torture/kill the passengers. Only ONE man - one tough, brave, macho, heroic man - can save his girlfriend and the other passengers. And jokers are WILD.


Utter silliness and weapons-grade, uncut ridiculousness ensue as Judge Reinhold fights his way through the proceedings. Every cliche is present and accounted for on the time-honored roll call, from the abandoned warehouse fights, to the sought-after Disc that contains all the information, to the token female baddie (Brozova), and so much more. The only difference this time is that our hero is Reinholding on to the bottom of the flying helicopter, instead of the standard hold.

Of course, this is the classic video store-era genre we call the “DieHardInA” movie (this time in a train tunnel), but all those other Die Hard knockoffs don’t have a pantsless Judge Reinhold casually in bed, looking on the computer, and, ickily, fighting the baddies. Pantsless. WHY? While train-based action movies can range from enjoyable, such as The Millionaire’s Express (1986), to downright awful, such as Derailed (2002), to Seagal, such as Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), none of the aforementioned movies have the panache, the joie d’vivre if you will, of Crackerjack 2. Even towards the end of the movie when things become more standard, Reinhold’s non-stop funny facial expressions carry the movie. From moment one, he’s constantly bugging out his eyes and screwing up his face. His muggings are truly priceless. And we laughed for a good 100 minutes. Where else will you get that? The closest analogue to this movie is Airborne (1998), where Steve Guttenberg tried to - nay - BECAME an action star.



Guttenberg and Reinhold even try the same way of speaking, in a hilariously futile attempt to seem tough. I.e., speaking in a low, but gravelly tone. Add to all of this some humorously horrendous explosion effects and train/helicopter miniatures, and there you have it. The director, Robert Lee, even directed another DieHardInA movie two years before this - complete with the word “Jack” in the title, Cyberjack (1995). It’s basically the same movie, plotwise. But that one has Dudikoff. In case you weren’t paying attention, this one has Judge Reinhold. Draw your own conclusions.

Simply put, Hostage Train, or Crackerjack 2, or whatever, is the funniest comedy not labeled a comedy that you’ll find. See it soon if you want to laugh.

Also check out a killer write-up of the whole Crackerjack series by Collected Cinema!
(Thank you for the above Reinhold picture!)

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett