2/28/2014

Strike Commando 2 (1988)

Strike Commando 2 (1988)- * * *

Directed by: Bruno Mattei

Starring: Brent Huff, Richard Harris, Vic Diaz, Mary Stavin, and Mel Davidson










Michael Ransom is back! This time around, he’s played by Brent Huff, and he really has his hands full for this particular adventure. His old Major in Vietnam, Vic Jenkins (Harris) has been kidnapped, and his captors want ten million dollars in diamonds in return for his release. The baddie doing all the dirty work representing the terrorists who not only kidnap people, but have a large heroin-making facility, is named Kramet (Davidson). He wears a white suit in the dead of summer and has an army of ninjas backing him up wherever he goes. Soon, Ransom ends up teaming up with local tavern owner Rosanna Boom (Stavin) and CIA guy Kelly Sellers (Vanni) (who is coming up with these names?) - to ultimately shut down the drugs operation, run by the nefarious Huan To (Diaz, because this movie was shot in the Philippines) and save Jenkins, but some twists and turns might say otherwise. Will Ransom pay the ransom for Jenkins? Find out today!

While Strike Commando 2 has some good moments, overall we prefer the first entry in this two-part series. It must have been tough for Huff to fill the shoes of Reb Brown, and he even tries his hand at a Reb-style scream, or, Reb-el yell as we call it, towards the end of the movie. While it would have been a perfectly serviceable scream in its own right, compared to the master Reb, it falls short. But the main problem is that there are too many “wacky” musical stings, which highlight some attempted comedy. Usually this comes in the form of the typical bickering between Brent Huff and Stavin, who plays the stereotype “nagging woman” role. That is, until they can learn to get along. Adding some loopy clarinets and silent movie-style sped-up fights detract from the intensity the movie should have.


But there are plenty of positives to be found as well: many high-quality explosions are on show, and of course the main victims of these blow-ups are huts. There is some funny dubbing and some unintentional “laffs” as well. Naturally, there is the prerequisite torture scene, and in this jungle, many guard towers fall, or, poor unfortunate watchmen fall out of them. And lest we forget Richard Harris, of Richard Harris fame, whose presence here is inexplicable - but extremely welcome. Maybe the Academy Award voters held this against him and that’s why he was a nominee but never a winner? Regardless, this is Harris as fans want to see him, and, like a true professional, he doesn’t treat the material as inferior. He gives a strong, classy performance.


Michael Ransom has some UNFINISHED BUSINESS - with his automatic rifle and his missile launcher. Despite some missteps, if you can see SC2, do go forth and watch. Don’t leave in a Huff, check it out if you get the chance.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and Good Efficient Butchery!

2/26/2014

China O'Brien 2 (1990)

China O'Brien 2 (1990)- * *1\2

Directed by: Robert Clouse

Starring: Cynthia Rothrock, Richard Norton, Toshishiro Obata, Harlow Marks, Keith Cooke, and Billy Blanks









China (Rothrock), Matt Conroy (Norton) and Dakota (Cooke) are all back - and we’re definitely happy about that, but there’s a creeping suspicion that this sequel never really needed to exist. Famed director Clouse should have re-purposed the cast and settings into an all-new movie. But as it stands, it’s decent enough, as China and the gang fight an evildoer named Charlie Baskin (Marks) and his goons as they try to disrupt their idyllic small town life with their crime spree. That’s pretty much it for the plot. Technically, that’s all that’s really necessary to make a good Martial Arts movie, but this particular outing lacks intensity most of the time. Obviously the fights are the highlights of the film, and that is where everything clicks and comes together, but what surrounds it is kind of mushy, if that makes any sense.

China O’Brien 2 is “country Cynthia” - as opposed to City Cops (1989), we presume. She fights overweight bumpkins named Bubba while pedal steel music plays in the background. It shows her versatility. Plus the all-acid wash outfit she wears while fighting is awesome. Keith Cooke’s fighting style is quite dynamic, and he adds a lot of life to the proceedings. It’s hard to believe Billy Blanks went uncredited. His pants alone are worth a credit. His zebra print Zubaz, or ZPZ’s for short (you’d be surprised how often we need to abbreviate this) single him out and bring him to the forefront, so how dare they not credit him? Oh well, fans know it’s him, so, it doesn’t really matter in the end.


Toshishiro Obata, who has had an interesting career, having been in many movies covered on this site, from Ghost Warrior (1985) to fellow Rothrock/Norton vehicle Rage and Honor (1992), among others, stands out as well as “Man With Claws”, a goon who wears Wolverine/Freddy Krueger-like metal claws on his hands. There’s also a baddie who dresses like Indiana Jones and even brandishes a whip. So there are a few little standout things, but China O’Brien 2 isn’t really essential viewing, unless you’re a fan of Rothrock, Norton, or Blanks and need to see everything they’ve done. It’s not a bad movie at all, but the stuff in between the fight scenes is a bit lacking.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy DTVC!-Thanks for the Billy Pic too!

2/24/2014

Class Of 1999 2: The Substitute (1994)

Class Of 1999 2: The Substitute (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Spiro Razatos

Starring: Sasha Mitchell, Nick Cassavetes, Gregory West, and Caitlin Dulany










In the future of 1999, punks rule the hallways and classrooms of our nation’s schools. Sure, they may look like they’re between 35 and 40 years old, but they still enjoy spray-painting the walls and causing general mayhem. But not if John Bolen (Mitchell) has anything to say about it. Bolen is a stone-faced cybernetic organism that believes just about everything in the world “leads to anarchy”. So he stops problems at their source by violently killing anyone he believes to be a no-goodnik. When a young, pretty, and somewhat naive teacher, Jenna McKensie (Dulany) wants to testify in a trial because she witnessed a murder perpetrated by evil student in his mid 30’s Sanders (West), school authorities do nothing, local cops advise against it, and her boyfriend Emmett (Cassavetes) is relatively ineffectual. It’s a good thing John Bolen is here to bring corporal punishment back to the school system! For some unknown reason, Jenna actually takes a shine to the possibly misunderstood killer robot. But when Bolen flips out and can no longer “maintain order”, will he mistakenly turn on Jenna? Find out today!

Why a second sequel to Class of 1984 (1982) - let’s not forget about Class of 1999 (1990) - technically speaking, needed to exist, we don’t exactly know - but there’s plenty of fun to be had here. Because it was filmed in the 90’s, it not only has some VR (because in the future students will learn using those big, bulky masks), but the final third of the film actually is a Paintball Gone Wrong, or PGW, slog. But therein lies one of the problems with the movie. It moves along at a nice clip for a little over the first half, but then slows way down towards the end. It’s almost like a robot running out of fuel. It needed to have a giant lunch like John Bolen does in the movie. The movie is at its best when Bolen is going around killing punks, but can that sustain a whole 90 minute film?


Sasha Mitchell is great as Bolen. Imagine a robotic Keanu Reeves. Which shouldn’t be too tough. Mitchell as this Keanu-bot shines in his role, especially when he just stands there emotionlessly after walking away from an explosion. Most people would continue to walk. He just stands. That’s just how emotionless he is. He really meets his match against the punks (even in the end credits, they’re known as “punks”). They tend to wear jumpsuits, and have strange makeup and bizarre hair. Because it’s the future, you see. Sometimes they even wear their jumpsuit with a leather vest. Now that’s a fashion statement. But as we’ve seen before, Bolen has an all-black “revenge outfit” that he puts on when things get serious. Mitchell has some good lines and some very entertaining stone-faces that help the movie along. But once it gets to the PGW section, the movie as a whole seems to lose focus and go off the rails.


The whole venture is classic 90’s, from the VR to the PGW. This particular VHS seemed to be a video store mainstay back in the day. While some people may say this movie is nothing more than a “Substitute” for a better film, we say it brings back video store memories and isn’t bad. And any movie that takes place in the future which is now the past gets extra points in our book.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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

2/21/2014

No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1990)

No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Lucas Lowe

Starring: Loren Avedon, Keith Vitali, Joseph Campanella, Sherrie Rose, Luke Askew, Wanda Acuna, and Rion Hunter










The Alexander brothers couldn’t be more different: Casey Alexander (Vitali) is a CIA operative like his father, is a straight shooter and a dutiful son. His brother Will (Avedon), however, is a disaffected and unlikable jerk who gets irritated any time anyone says anything to him. Even when their father John (Campanella) is mercilessly killed, the brothers have their own ways of doing things. Will travels to Florida and goes undercover as a guy named Jesse just so he can get close to the evil Franco (Hunter) and his criminal organization. Casey also goes to Florida and teams up with Maria (Acuna) to try and get answers in his own way. Of course, the paths of the two brothers intersect and they end up fighting Franco together. Will this be the end of sibling rivalry after all?

The No Retreat No Surrender series have all been solid entertainment, and this installment is no different. It’s an in-name only sequel, with Avedon playing a different character, but no one really cares. It’s all about the great stunts and very impressive Martial Arts fights. Funnily enough, Avedon’s character, Will, goes through no arc whatsoever. He’s a jerk at the beginning, remains a jerk, and is still a jerk at the end. It’s a good thing Avedon is a competent Martial Artist, or there would be nothing for audience members to latch onto. His counterpart Keith Vitali is cool, and the guy definitely has moves as well. He more than holds his own with his on-screen brother and in many cases outshines him. Rion Hunter of Cage (1989) fame plays the very Matthias Hues-like baddie well, and only a bad guy could have hair like that.


The weirdness quotient is maintained with such moments as when a video-generated on-screen quote from Chairman Mao is randomly inserted into the proceedings and looks like an editing mistake. Avedon drives angrily while chomping down equally angrily on a piece of bread, and Casey’s one-way conversations with a computer, which predate Siri by twenty years or so. But the old standbys are here too, such as the abandoned warehouse and the prerequisite torture. But the movie undoubtedly gives you what you want, especially the blowout ending. The actors and stuntmen clearly were working overtime to entertain the audience, and that effort is on screen, and much appreciated.

Written and directed by the same guys that did King of the Kickboxers (1990) and American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers II (1992) (Keith Strandberg and Lucas Lowe, respectively), and released on VHS by Imperial, surely a good time will be had by all with this classic 90’s beat-em-up.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett



2/19/2014

Thunder Warrior 2 (1987)

Thunder Warrior 2 (1987)- * * *

Directed by: Fabrizio DeAngelis

Starring: Mark Gregory, Raimund Harmstorf, and Bo Svenson












Yavapai County, Arizona, is a dusty ol’ hamlet inhabited by a lot of Native Americans. A Police Deputy named Rusty (Harmstorf) is an angry, corrupt racist who is working with drug-dealing biker gangs when he’s not verbally abusing the local Indian population. So he really doesn’t approve when Thunder (Gregory), a big, muscular, and incorruptible local Indian joins the police force. Now caught between Thunder and Sheriff Roger (Svenson), Rusty plants some drugs in Thunder’s locker at the police station. Thunder then undergoes some brutal hardships at the local prison, biding his time until he can get out and take revenge on those who wronged him. Rusty and his cronies better prepare for the oncoming THUNDER STORM!

In the grand tradition of “persecuted Indians on the run but with some revenge” movies such as Johnny Firecloud (1975) and Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969) comes Thunder Warrior 2 - or, to make things a bit more simple, just take First Blood (1982) and make Rambo an Indian. The fact that there are THREE Thunder Warrior movies is a testament to the video store era, when stores clamored for product to fill its shelves, and Italian companies (and so many others) were more than happy to oblige. Shot in the American west by a team of Italians, led by Fabrizio DeAngelis (under his normal pseudonym Larry Ludman), It has that certain Italian feel we all know and love. Maybe it’s the dubbing, maybe it’s hiring Mark Gregory - Trash himself - as an American Indian, or maybe some other indefinable quality, but a work like Thunder Warrior 2 could only have come from those mad Italian geniuses.


They get very impressive scenery on film, maybe it’s the outsider’s view of America. We can’t be sure it’s an in-joke, but at one point a character says to Thunder, “This ain’t no place for trash like you!” - could that be a reference video junkies at the time (and today) are meant to recognize? Also in the noteworthy dialogue department, Rusty is blatantly called “The most corrupt in Arizona”! Well at least he isn’t trying to hide it. Raimund Harmstorf, who plays Rusty, was an actor the Italians used often when they needed a blonde, blue-eyed guy for a change. He was a shoe-in to play the evil racist. Maybe it’s his name, “Rusty”, but in this movie at least, he has a certain Chuck Norris-esque quality.

Thunder Warrior 2 has a good amount of action scenes, and most of them, including the stunts and car chases/crashes, are in slow motion. This predating Hard Target (1993) by many years. Plus who can forget the heart-stopping “Thunder on a rope” sequence? And like how many people, when they’re about to get revenge, put on a special “revenge outfit” (the best example being Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs in Quietfire), Thunder goes full-on Indian regalia before he breaks out the bow and arrow with missile-tipped arrows! Granted, they look a lot like lipstick tubes, but so what?  Plus, other characters just casually call this hulking brute “Thunder”, as in, “hey Thunder, what’s goin’ on?” - his name is THUNDER, okay? THUNDER. Show the proper amount of awe.


Released by TransWorld in one of their standard big-boxes (you gotta love the original retail price of $79.95 printed on the sleeve), Thunder Warrior 2 was the middle half of a Thunder sandwich (also a great name for this movie) and we think you pretty much know what to expect.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, The Video Vacuum!

2/17/2014

Tiger Cage 2 (1990)

Tiger Cage 2 (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Yuen Woo-Ping

Starring: Donnie Yen, Robin Shou, Rosamund Kwan, Michael Woods, John Salvitti, and Cynthia Khan












Alan Yau (Yen) is an ex-cop on the edge. After being kicked off the force for his rogue ways, his wife files for divorce. This would help explain why he’s on the edge. Leaving the law office after being served with divorce papers, he gets swept up in a violent robbery. During this encounter, he saves the life of lawyer Mary Chang (Kwan). (NOTE: these are the names of the two leads in the dubbed version that we saw. In other versions, presumably any subtitled ones, their names are Dragon and Mandy, not Alan and Mary.) Now on the run from amoral and unscrupulous gangsters, they go through many mishaps and misadventures, not to mention relationship woes. It turns out there’s a complex money laundering scheme at play and a lot of money is missing. But Inspector Yeung (Khan) suspects Alan and Mary are involved, even though they’re innocent. Meanwhile, the super-evil “Mr. Big”-type gangster boss Wilson Chow (or Waise Chow, depending on your international version), (Shou) wants the heads of Alan and Mary as well. So now they’ll have to fight - and fight and fight - to prove their innocence. Can they do it?

Tiger Cage 2 is pretty much an in-name-only sequel to the first film. Donnie Yen returns this time around, but as a different character. There’s good news and bad news here: the bad news is that plotwise, this is a silly comedy. The plot and characters are not as good as the first film, and since they’ve upped the comedic elements, there are silly sound effects such as overly-exaggerated “eating” noises such as crunching and soup-slurping. Plus the dubbing, should you see the dubbed version like we unfortunately did, is very silly, especially the guy who dubs Donnie Yen. And, Rosamund Kwan plays the stereotypical “complaining woman” that fights and whines all the way through her adventure. So those are the negatives.


The GOOD news is that the fight choreography is amazing. Perhaps even better than the first film. And that, after all, is the main reason anyone would watch Tiger Cage 2. There are non-stop, expertly executed fight scenes, and most memorably, there is a rockin’ sword duel between Donnie and John Salvitti. Salvitti is a real-life friend of Donnie’s, and he’s appeared in such classics as Private Wars (1993) and Shootfighter II (1996). Michael Woods, who played a heavy in the first Tiger Cage movie, here returns as “Black Henchman”. In fairness, Salvitti was “Caucasian Henchman.” fan favorites Robin Shou and the great Cynthia Khan also get in on all the high-kicking, bone-breaking action, making Tiger Cage 2 a must-see for HK action junkies.


Plus there are some great cliches at work, such as the climax in the abandoned steam factory, and the Prerequisite Torture of the hero. Granted, this time the torture is a bit more unorthodox, as Donnie Yen is tied to a stationary exercise bike’s wheel and Rosamund Kwan is forced to pedal into his chest! Talk about feeling the burn! Hey-o! There’s also the standard scene at the disco which we always like seeing. Speaking of which, the music in this movie is very enjoyable and keeps things buoyant.

The strength of this movie, and Yuen Woo-Ping, are fight scenes. So concentrate on what this movie really is good at, and you will truly appreciate what Tiger Cage 2 has to offer.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, A Hero Never Dies!

2/14/2014

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)

Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)- * * *

Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Starring: Charles Bronson, Kay Lenz, John P. Ryan, Soon-Tek Oh, Perry Lopez, Dana Barron, George Dickerson, Mike Moroff, and Danny Trejo











Having seemingly retired from vigilante-ing, Paul Kersey (Bronson) continues with his architecture work. He’s in a loving relationship with reporter Karen Sheldon (Lenz), and he has a great relationship with her daughter, Erica (Barron). But the streets keep calling Kersey back, as a new wave of drug violence, primarily cocaine and crack, are causing havoc in L.A. When Erica becomes a victim, Kersey snaps back into his old ways, and soon punks everywhere are fearing the name Frank Lloyd Wright...er...Kersey. Apparently, his reputation precedes him, as a wealthy bigwig (Ryan) hires him to work his magic on two rival gangs, one run by Zacharias (Lopez) and the other by Romero (Moroff). Kersey then pits the two gangs against each other, thereby cleaning the streets in the process. But two cops, Reiner and Nozaki (Dickerson and Oh, respectively) are watching Kersey’s every move. You’d think they’d appreciate the help, but anyway, Kersey must go it alone against the evildoers of the night. Can he do it...again?

You’ve gotta love Bronson and the Death Wish series, and this installment makes it easy to see why fans have such loyalty. It’s a very enjoyable movie, that simultaneously stays current, shrewdly using the then-current crack epidemic to leverage another series installment, while maintaining an awesome “anti-young punk” attitude later perfected by Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino (2008). Bronson and director Thompson , while technically eligible for their AARP cards, prove the point that young punks suck and old badasses rule.
Plus we liked the idea that at this point in his vigilante career, he might consider hanging it up, but he ends up working for someone else. We thought that was a cool way to advance the series-wide plotline. From the second he says “I feel like she’s my own daughter”, about Erica, we know...it’s on.


Plus it’s great to see him in a variety of different situations - a lot of which are hugely nostalgic to 80’s buffs like us - such as a video store (with posters for fellow Cannon titles Breakin’ - interestingly it’s for its title Breakdance - and Field of Honor, among others) and not just an arcade, with Spy Hunter and other games, but a combination roller rink/arcade, as a separate location. It doesn’t get any more awesome if you’re looking for a cool place to hang out in the 80’s. But when Kersey rips through with his machine gun while chasing the baddies, you know he cares not for frivolous fun, he’s out for blood.


Well-directed by the veteran Thompson, with a nice pace and plenty of cool moments, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (get it? Crack? Crackdown? Eh?), released by Media, proves to be a reliable winner.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

2/12/2014

Ring Of Fire III: Lion Strike (1994)

Ring Of Fire III: Lion Strike (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Rick Jacobsen

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Natalie Barish, Jonathan Wilson, Art Camacho, Michael Delano, John Del Regno, and Michael Jai White










 Dr. Johnny Wu (The Dragon) is once again taking on the baddies in this third (and, to date, final) entry in the Ring of Fire series. Johnny and his son Bobby (Wilson’s real-life son Jonathan) decide to take a break and they drive into the country to relax at the cabin of a fellow doctor.  Unfortunately, this is really bad timing, as the Italian and Russian mobs are joining forces to form an international criminal alliance. Their first order of business now that they are teaming up (and gathering lots of street thugs as foot soldiers to boot) is to get some nukes, a ton of money, and a computer disc (what else?) with all the important information baddies need to take over the world. By sheer accident, Johnny Wu ends up with the disc, so, far from enjoying this idyllic pastoral setting, he’s kicking and punching his way through wave after wave of goons who think they can beat him. Along the way, he gets help from local park ranger Marla (Barish). Will the bad guys get the disc? What will happen to Johnny and his son? Find out today...

Lion Strike (as it’s simply called in its on-screen title) is a movie of two halves. The first half has that wacky, freewheeling style we always love. Common sense is thrown to the wind and there are plenty of nonsensically enjoyable moments. The second half is your standard beat-em-up, filled with brain-numbing action bits. The fact that there are no less than three credited directors for this movie may have something to do with its schizophrenic character. While the first half has a machine gun-toting grandpa, an exploding helicopter, angry punks that drive their motorcycles into a hospital, and Don’s son mercilessly beating up a bag of popcorn while wearing a li’l leather jacket, among other delightful moments, the second half just has some punching and kicking. So to whoever directed the first half of this movie, kudos. To the director (s) of the second half...you should have done better to keep the momentum of the first half going.


Because this is a PM movie, after all, it has plenty of high-quality explosions, and its time-honored car stunt. And Michael Delano is in it. While criminals searching for “The Disc” has been seen in countless actioners, there are plenty of classic 90’s moments on display, such as Don’s first-generation cellular phone, and Bobby’s bowl haircut, which no 90’s tot could be without. And because Joe Pesci was huge in the 90’s, there’s a classic “annoying Italian guy” with a nasal voice named Vinny (Del Regno) ready to give him a run for his money. As in most Don movies, he gets shirtless for no reason. Moving on, there’s also the tried-and-true final warehouse fight. The fact that this movie gives Don the opportunity to take on the Russians and the Italians, working in concert, among other goons, is somewhat novel.

Fan favorite Michael Jai White is in it for a very small amount of time, inexplicably playing a guy named Silvio. We definitely wanted to see more of him. Also, as in other Don movies, at least one of his titles is on-screen with him in the opening credits, but why is “World Kickboxing Champion” in quotes? Is he not really? So, in the end, fans of the PM style or Don The Dragon will enjoy this, but we wish the whole movie delivered on the promise of its first half.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out a write-up from our buddy, DTVC! (Thanks for the hotlink to The Old Man With The Uzi Pic!)


2/10/2014

Ring Of Fire II: Blood and Steel (1993)

Ring Of Fire II: Blood and Steel (1993)- * * *

Directed by: Richard W. Muchkin

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Maria Ford, Sy Richardson, Ian Jacklin, Vince Murdocco, Shari Shattuck,  Evan Lurie, and Eric Lee













Doctor Johnny Woo (The Dragon) returns. This time around, he’s engaged to Julie (Ford) and looking forward to a quiet life together. That is, until Julie is kidnapped and stolen away to an underground society called...The Underground. It’s its own separate city, with its own rules, laws and gangs. No one from the surface world ever goes down there, and guns are not allowed. But Johnny ventures down there anyway and battles away for his wife-to-be. Along the way he meets Ernest (Richardson), an embittered vet, who ends up helping him. It turns out the main baddies in The Underground are Kalin (Jacklin) and his lackey Predator (Lurie). They stage Punchfighting matches for fun and they want Johnny to face off against them. Backing up Johnny is his crew from the previous film, which includes the return of comic relief Kwong (Lee). Will Johnny and his compatriots rescue Julie and make it back to the surface world? Find out today!

Ring of Fire II certainly doesn’t skimp on the action: there are constant fights, blow-ups, car chases, broken glass, and even some Punchfighting. It keeps up like this with a good pace until right before the climax, when it starts to drag, and the repetition of it all becomes brain-numbing. But in the set and costume design, there is a lot of creativity which sets it apart. Sure, the basic plot is a melange of The Warriors (1979), Escape From New York (1981) and The Running Man (1987), but weird sets and the bizarre costumes of gangs like The Avengers, Shadow Warriors, Nightrats and personal favorites The Garbage Gang keep things nicely different. The lighting can also be odd, but a lot of the movie is too dark. So, visually not only is it different from the previous Ring of Fire installment, but it’s different from most other movies of this kind.


Cleverly, the first image of the movie is a “Ring” - but it’s Julie’s engagement ring. Sadly Maria Ford does almost nothing in this movie. The cast is very impressive - Eric Lee is up to his classic wacky antics, Evan Lurie shows his time-honored Meatheadyness, and Ian Jacklin wears a metal cummerbund. As in Firepower (1993), Gerald Okamura is here but you can barely see him. At least he’s credited this time. Art Camacho is also here as a generic gang member. The great Sy Richardson gives the movie much-needed weight, and lest we forget Vince Murdocco and Michael Delano. Both in front of and behind the camera, the cast and crew give it that PM style we all know and love.


Happily, this movie is not at all a retread of the first, which in lesser hands it easily could have been, and we give them credit for that. There’s also no courting or love story, because that was taken care of in the first film. Unfortunately, there is some filler, and the Punchfighting subplot is pointless and goes nowhere. The baddies just beat up on nameless, unseeable goons and there is no rhyme or reason to it. There’s no escalation in fight prowess. It’s seemingly there just to fill time. We love a good Punchfighter, but that’s not really what this movie is and it feels like an afterthought. Adding to The Warriors feel, there’s a radio DJ who periodically pops up to give updates. But those of you who have seen Riot (1997) and Fists of Blood (1988) will see there is also a (no pun intended) underground influence, as well as a more mainstream influence to the proceedings.

Finally, it should be noted that Don is shirtless for most of the movie’s running time. He, of course, loses his shirt in a fight when he first enters the underground, and he must go through his entire odyssey bare-chested. It’s worth noting because it’s the longest single instance of unnecessary shirtlessness we’ve seen to date. There’s NO reason for it, especially considering how long it lasts.

Ring of Fire II may have its flaws, but it’s basically an enjoyable movie. It’s not a title you need to rush out right now and buy, but if you see it somewhere, pick it up.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

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


2/07/2014

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)

Kickboxer 4: The Aggressor (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Albert Pyun

Starring: Sasha Mitchell, Thom Matthews, Kamel Krifa, and Michele Kransnoo












At the start of this installment of the Kickboxer franchise, we learn that the dastardly Tong Po (Krifa) has framed David Sloan (Mitchell) and sent him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. As if that wasn’t enough, Po kidnapped Sloan’s wife. The DEA then approaches Sloan with an opportunity to get Tong Po: enter his underground Martial Arts tournament under an assumed name and take him down from the inside. Sloan agrees, mainly so he can find and rescue his wife. So he goes to Mexico where the tournament is being held, and he ends up meeting a spunky female fighter, Megan (Krasnoo), but also has to contend with Tong Po’s ruthless bodyguard, Bill (Matthews). Will Sloan finally defeat Tong Po and bring his wife to safety? Find out today!

Kickboxer 4 shows us a more serious, more adult David Sloan. Gone are the carefree chuckles and bright, multi-colored Zoobas. Now he wears toned-down plaid shirts and never cracks a smile. Albert Pyun, as he always does, creates a black hole of happiness where no fun can escape. But that being said, this is one of the strongest Pyun movies we’ve seen to date. It has a nice pace and maintains the viewers’ interest with a variety of different methods.

The movie opens with some clips from the previous three Kickboxer installments. There are even a few spoilers, so watch out. But now, Tong Po has gone through a hilariously absurd evolution: in the first movie he was simply a Thai kickboxer, but now he’s “the most powerful drug lord in Mexico”. How you make a job transition like that, we can’t figure out (nor do we want to). And let’s not forget that this movie came out in 1994, at the height of Mortal Kombat-mania. The tournament set up by Tong Po bears many similarities to the classic game, and in case any of these were lost on you, Po even says at one point, “finish him”. But perhaps the most stunning aspect to Tong Po’s reinvention is that he’s now...wait for it...a record producer! Imagine him in the control room with your band! We wish this angle was expounded upon more, and not just mentioned in a throwaway line.



As far as the DEA giving David Sloan a secret identity, the name they chose for him, “Jack Jones”, isn’t going to win them any prizes for originality. Unless they’re trying to confuse Tong Po, making him think the British pop singer from the 60’s is now a Punchfighter. Sloan spends a lot of the running time of the movie sneaking around the compound looking for his wife. He even dresses up as a ninja to do so. But if he really wanted to blend in, he’d wear a wildly-colored button-down shirt. Whoever chose the shirts for the goons in the movie is to be applauded. They’re one retina-singing eyesore after the next, and they look like if Jackson Pollock designed a line of Cosby sweaters. But Tong Po’s “shirt patrol” literally are one of the most colorful aspects of this movie. Like how tennis matches have ballboys, Po’s death fights have colorful blobs drag the beaten, bruised and dead bodies off the court.


Interestingly, one of the fighters has a Dacascos shirt, and he was to take up the mantle from Sasha Mitchell in the next and (to date) final installment, Kickboxer 5 (1995). Could that have been foreshadowing?  But as for the movie as a whole, clearly Pyun learned something about fighting movies after the horrendously awful Bloodmatch (1991). Sure, a lot of the fight scenes could have used some music, and Pyun does seem to have some sort of allegiance to Thom Matthews, but on the whole, Kickboxer 4 is a crowd-pleaser. Seemingly against all odds, Pyun pulled off a decent movie this time. We’ve got to give credit where credit is due.

So if you’re ready to see Cody, er...I mean David Sloan back in action one more time, you just might find that Kickboxer 4 is a pleasant surprise.


Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from buddies, Ruthless Reviews, DTVC, Ninja Dixon, and The Video Vacuum!

2/05/2014

Kickboxer 3: The Art Of War (1992)

Kickboxer 3: The Art Of War (1992)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Rick King

Starring: Sasha Mitchell, Dennis Chan, Ian Jacklin, Noah Verduzco, Alethea Miranda and Richard Comar












Ace kickboxer David Sloan (Mitchell) travels to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, along with his trainer/mentor Xian (Chan) for an exhibition bout. When destitute street scamp Marcos (Verduzco) tries to steal his camera, Sloan realizes Marcos and his sister Isabella (Miranda) have a hard life and need some guidance and understanding. So he takes a liking to the two urchins. Meanwhile, Sloan prepares to face off against an evil, ruthless kickboxer named Martine (Jacklin). His manager is Lane (Comar), a criminal who also has his hands in white slavery and prostitution. When Lane and his goons kidnap Isabella, it becomes personal for Sloan, and he, along with Xian and Marcos (“The gringo, the philosopher, and the boy”, as their “Machine Gun Joe” character notes) go on a revenge mission to save Isabella and get justice. Will they succeed?

We really enjoyed Kickboxer 3. It’s a lot more entertaining and fun than you might think. The whole concept of a guy, who, as far as we know, is just a simple kickboxer, going on a dangerous mission and shooting people to save a girl he really just met is just so great. More plots should be like this. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, but something about Sasha Mitchell is also very appealing. He makes a good lead man. A total change of pace from Van Damme, Mitchell appears to be the ultimate California dude. A cross between Freddie Prinze Jr. and Keanu Reeves, when we first see him in the movie he’s wearing red overalls with no shirt. And his outfits just get better from there on in. Plus he has a winning chuckle that really brings you over to his side. And when Lane hatches his nefarious plan to “tire him out” before the big fight, his assistant says, “he’s like a machine!” - the fact that he’s an indefatigable warrior who is proficient in guns as well as fists, but that he also cares about children, makes you really root for him.


Mitchell has some amazing line readings as well...but his wardrobe is quite impressive: he has not just one, but two Benny The Jet shirts. Giving him a counterpart in the clothing department is his wise sensei Xian. Xian is always ready with a learned maxim, such as “clothes don’t make a woman beautiful...but it helps!” A movie highlight comes when, in their travels around Rio to get answers, they run into a gay Samba choreographer. For some unknown reason, this guy has goons! In the midst of some sort of Carnival rehearsals, he sics his goons on Sloan, Xian and Marcos! It’s nutty ideas like this that move Kickboxer 3 above its seemingly lowly status as a third entry in a series. But let’s also remember director Rick King’s previous movie before this was Prayer of The Rollerboys (1990). So, there you go.


But back to Sloan’s true nemesis, Martine, Ian Jacklin doesn’t say too many actual lines of dialogue (It‘s mainly just your classic yells of “RAAAAHHHH!!!), but he’s still sufficiently evil. He even taunts his opponents by spontaneously breaking into a dance of “The Running Man”. Weirdly, Ian Jacklin, here more than ever, resembles another Ian, Brown. Both the actor/fighter and the singer for The Stone Roses have a distinctly monkey-like face and could be brothers. No insult is intended, it’s simply a description. Ian Brown should have gone into acting instead of pursuing a solo career. Then a movie could be made where Keanu Reeves and Sasha Mitchell are brothers, and Ian Jacklin and Ian Brown are brothers. Sadly, it looks like we won’t see that imaginary film any time soon.

While there is a bit of filler during the “evil training” sequence, Kickboxer 3 provides solid entertainment and is pretty crowd-pleasing. Some of its more absurd moments and ideas help a lot, as does its winning cast, so we can certainly recommend it.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out write-ups by our buddies, DTVC, The Action Elite, Ninja Dixon, The Video Vacuum, and Ruthless Reviews!

2/03/2014

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)

Kickboxer 2: The Road Back (1991)- * *1\2

Directed by: Albert Pyun

Starring: Sasha Mitchell, Cary-Hiroyuki Takawa, Vince Murdocco, Michel Quissi, Dennis Chan, Heather McComb, Peter Boyle, Brian Austin Green, and Matthias Hues


***900th Review***


"Better than Kickboxer"-L.A. Times







David Sloan (Mitchell) runs a humble gym in L.A. where he teaches street kids the philosophies behind fighting. When hot shot fight promoter Maciah (Boyle) and his associate Sanga (Tagawa) offer to give Sloan some major fights and basically rocket him to fame, Sloan declines, because money and notoriety mean nothing to him, he has far too much integrity. Disappointed, they take on Sloan’s friend and fellow fighter Brian (Murdocco) as a client. Unfortunately, Brian must fight the evil Tong Po (Qissi) - the man that killed David’s brothers. So the fact that Kurt Sloane (Van Damme in the previous movie - who spells his name with an “E”, which is either an indication of Estevez-Sheen-style family dysfunction, or a simple oversight) is now dead and there’s a brother that was never previously mentioned, and it’s something us as viewers are supposed to simply ignore. Seeing as how Tong Po has some sort of strange, unexplained obsession with killing the entire Sloan (e) family, Xian (Chan) trains David, and then the climactic moment finally comes when this new Sloan brother takes on the vicious Po in the ring. What will happen?

While it’s a good thing that Sasha Mitchell took over from Van Damme - if the Kickboxer series was to continue without him, anyway - because Mitchell is likable and has good screen presence, the other side of the coin is that Albert Pyun directed Kickboxers 2 and 4. Pyun’s movies tend to have many scenes that drag, and this movie as a whole is too dark and logical. There are no wacky, bizarre edges. Thankfully, the non-Pyun-directed part 3 in the series was a much-needed shot in the arm and is a lot of fun. Sadly though, Pyun returned for part 4, as if to say “you kids were having too much fun in part 3”. Old Albert does have an over-reliance on slo-mo, but Pyun does include a montage with a great song, “A Man Alone” by Savoy Brown and a training sequence, separate and apart from each other. So it’s not a total loss.


Of course, none other than Peter Boyle himself is on board as Maciah, a man who wants to turn men beating each other into a worldwide commodity. In that way, this movie predates UFC. To see Boyle standing side by side with fan favorite Matthias Hues (inexplicably playing a guy named “Neil Vargas”) was a rare treat. Vargas’ brand of spandex-based fighting was certainly of its time, and perhaps an effective intimidation tactic. I know if I saw a long-haired musclebound brute with aqua tights on, I’d run the other way. But part of Xian’s training ritual for David Sloan is to have him wear a similarly-colored half-shirt while working out in the park, so maybe he’s fighting fire with fire. Or aqua with aqua.


Even before Sloan meets Xian, he seems to have a cultured philosophical mind, but Mitchell’s Keanu Reeves-like California Dude voice makes him seem like he’s going to end every thought-provoking maxim with “...Dude”. But Chan plays the Mr. Miyagi-like role endearingly enough, a mirror image of the suave but corrupt Sanga, played by regular face on the site, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. So we’ve got Sasha Mitchell, Peter Boyle, Matthias Hues, Dennis Chan, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Vince Murdocco...what could be missing? Of course, Brian Austin Green! He plays a classic 90’s punk kid with a King Diamond shirt who, much like Thomas did to Jesus, doesn’t believe in the awesomeness of David Sloan. This must be what Megan Fox finds so endearing about him. Last but not least is Michel Qissi as the strange-faced Tong Po. Who now is just an out-and-out murderer who has the outward appearance of a kickboxer. He’s a serial killer who just uses kickboxing as his method of death. But as we’ll (briefly) hear about in part 4, he does become a record producer. So there’s that.

Kickboxer 2 is something of a mixed bag. The cast is good, but the Pyunniness is not. It’s a rocky way to start off the parade of sequels, but it’s not without some charm. It’s a mainstay in many used VHS sales, so if the price is cheap enough, it’s a viable addition to your collection.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC, The Video Vacuum, Ninja Dixon, and Ruthless Reviews!