5/29/2014

Peacemaker (1990)

Peacemaker (1990)- * * *

Directed by: Kevin Tenney

Starring: Robert Forster, Robert Davi, Lance Edwards, and Hilary Shepard









A mysterious alien lands on earth and is seemingly unstoppable by the cops because on the planet he comes from, any kind of wound can be quickly healed. He ends up convincing Dori Caisson (Shepard) to help him get back to his home planet. Learning English overnight from watching TV, he ends up calling himself Townsend (Edwards). You can’t really blame him, Robert Townsend was huge at the time. But there’s trouble in the form of fellow alien Yates (Forster), who Townsend claims is an intergalactic serial killer and must be brought back to justice. But it’s not going to be easy, as the two are causing all sorts of havoc all over L.A. But who can Dori trust? Both claim to be “Peacemakers”, their planet’s version of police officers. One must be lying, and Dori is caught in the middle. Meanwhile, Sgt. Ramos (Davi) is trying to put law enforcement into the middle of this mess, all the while hitting on Dori. Who is the real Peacemaker? Find out today!

Fries Home Video was never a major player back in the video store days. They were just one of many labels vying for the patron’s dollar. Peacemaker seems to be their attempt at competing with very similar but higher-tier titles like I Come In Peace (1990), The Hidden (1987), The Borrower (1991) and even Critters (1986). Plus Lance Edwards’ accent and overall demeanor is unquestionably Terminator (1984)-esque. Thankfully, it’s all done with enough energy, enthusiasm and humor, ensuring that this movie is not a slog at all; it’s actually quite enjoyable. In our personal estimation, one of the main reasons for that is that it’s more of an action thriller, and the sci-fi elements, such as they are, aren’t oppressive, they’re just enough to support the plot. Stunts (courtesy of BJ Davis and Mike Norris, among many others), chases, shooting and other action scenes firmly place Peacemaker in the action camp, and we’re grateful it weighs more heavily on that end of the scales.


Robert Forster looks cool with his bomber jacket and giant gun, and fan-favorite Robert Davi puts in an interestingly low-key performance. We were also very thankful that the character of Dori was not annoying. So many times before we’ve seen situations where that type of character is always irreparably confused or whining the whole time. But Dori is likable, perhaps because she was a classic 90’s-style jokester. 1990 was when having a wry, referential and somewhat cynical sense of humor was cool, before it became overdone, and before things were dripping with irony.  Dori, like the movie itself, hits that sweet spot before things went to hell because of MTV and such. Come on, apparently this movie was made at a time when cops at the precinct still smoked pipes for goodness’ sake. Pipes! Well, at least one guy did. This “PipeCop” as we called him, intrigued us and we wished we knew more about him. Perhaps a spinoff TV show would have answered all of our questions. Sadly, to date this has not happened. But with Hollywood dredging up everything from cartoons to board games because they’re bereft of ideas, hasn’t PipeCop’s day truly come?

Peacemaker is well-made and fun to watch. While they may have overdone the twist of “who’s really the bad guy?” (you can’t keep doing that over and over - it would have been more effective if they had done it less, in our opinion) there are far more positives than negatives here. We say check it out.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC and RobotGEEK!

5/28/2014

The Danger Zone (1987)

The Danger Zone (1987)- * *

Directed by: Henry Vernon

Starring: Suzanne Tara and Robert Canada











When Heather (Tara) receives word that her girl group, The Skirts, is going to be performing on national television on the TV show “Celebrity Exposure”, she couldn’t be more excited. The Skirts are comprised of six members, and all six pile into a station wagon and drive through the desert to get to Las Vegas where the show is being taped. Unfortunately, the car breaks down and they become stranded. After walking for a while, they find what looks like a dilapidated town and they go in to investigate. It turns out to be the lair for a gang of ruthless criminal bikers, led by the nefarious Reaper (Canada). The girls happen in at a bad time, as the bikers are in the midst of executing a huge drug deal. So the bikers hold them hostage - but the girls might be getting some help from an unexpected source. Will they live to sing another day?

According to the back of the VHS box (released by Charter), this is “A film that will chain you to fear - terrorizing your senses and violating your sensibilities - THE DANGER ZONE takes you on a ride through the fires of hell.” This might be a bit overzealous, but it does feature a woman spraying a snake with a can of hairspray and bikers delivering drugs to Mexico via toy airplane. So count my sensibilities as violated. The Danger Zone is a biker movie where the bikers are the most uninteresting part. By far the best parts of the movie involve the girl group, The Skirts. Because the 80’s rule, and their storyline was more 80’s, we wanted to see more of them. But sadly there are no really well-drawn characters in this movie anywhere. The Skirts are like a cross between The Flirts (known for the album “10 Cents A Dance”) and some primitive version of The Pussycat Dolls, and their car trip is really quite something.

The movie slows down considerably once it becomes a hostage drama, and we were wondering where Werner Hoetzinger was when we really needed him. Naturally, when the bikers appear on screen there is an “evil guitar riff” on the soundtrack. To balance that out, the girls always have music with classic 80’s synths and the time honored sax solo. So you know who is good and who is bad. The Danger Zone (which, inexplicably, has two sequels) would make a perfect double feature with Blood Games (1990), the Gregory Scott Cummins/Ross Hagen/George “Buck” Flower movie about a team of female softball players that fight baddies. There’s a guy in The Danger Zone, however, who really should have been played by Wings Hauser, but at least he has a sleeveless shirt that says “I’m Not D.B. Cooper”. The movie’s stupidity comes through most during the fight scenes.

Besides some TV work, Suzanne Tara only appeared in one other feature film besides this - and it’s none other than Deadly Prey (1987). 1987 must have been an amazing year for her. This was director Vernon’s only movie...we wonder why? Additional thoughts: the TV show Celebrity Exposure pre-dates American Idol, the big song by The Skirts, “Hearts on Fire” shouldn’t be confused with the Rocky song of the same name, and Heidi The Dog gets a credit for “Hound” in the end credits. The Charter tape is of good quality, with bright colors. And let’s not forget about the end-credits song, “Bad Men Ridin’”, by Joe Turano.

Not to be confused with the Robert Downey Jr. movie of almost the same name, The Danger Zone may have some funny dialogue and amusing moments, but it needed more energy overall.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

5/26/2014

Operation Cobra (1997)

Operation Cobra (1997)- * * *

AKA: Inferno

Directed by: Fred Olen Ray

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Evan Lurie, Rick Hill, Deepti Bhatnagar and Tane McClure



"His Strike Is Deadly..."





 Kyle Connors (The Dragon) is an Interpol agent who is somewhat on the edge. During a “night at the museum” bust where he and his partner are planning to take down some baddies, Connors’ partner is killed thanks to the unadulterated evil of Davaad (Lurie). In a quest for vengeance, Connors travels to India because that’s where he believes Davaad and his evil empire are located. While Davaad is your classic monosyllabic meathead, he somehow controls a squadron of Indian doctors and scientists who are working on a code to decrypt anything on any computer, ever. Meanwhile, Connors has his hands full not just fighting goons, but with two mysterious women: Callista Sinclair (McClure) who is supposedly some  kind of British special agent, and Shalimar (Bhatnagar), an Indian beauty as stunning as the Soul Train act from whence she was named. But who can he trust? With twists and turns aplenty, it’s going to take everything Connors has got to tame this Cobra...

Operation Cobra is an amusing Don The Dragon romp that doesn’t take itself too seriously or go on too long. It provides light thrills and is pretty enjoyable, with all the classic cliches we’ve come to sink into like a warm bath. While it does involve  “The Disc” (something that characters in these B movies always seem to be searching for), and features many dumb moments that act as glue that holds the story together between action scenes (which luckily are plentiful), the fact that the movie is set in India provides interesting and different atmosphere. Director Fred Olen Ray’s long career is spotty at best, but this proves to be the best action effort we’ve seen from him to date.


This is a good role for Don, as it puts him in a James Bond-like adventurer role. Perhaps a lot of the aforementioned dumbness is a by-product of having Evan Lurie be the main bad guy. That’s not a slam on Lurie, we definitely love his work (if we didn’t, how do you explain the fact that we’ve seen more of his movies than perhaps anyone on the planet?) but come on. The guy’s head simply oozes meat maybe more than anyone else who appeared in 90’s DTV’s on a regular basis. That said, his jumping ability is pretty impressive in this particular outing. Perhaps his being a solid meathead gives him better equilibrium than other humans. As if the fight between Evan and Don wasn’t enough for you in Ring of Fire II (1993), here they go for a second round. So many DTV personalities fight each other numerous times, but there are combinations that never happened. How about a fight between Don The Dragon and Lorenzo Lamas? Or maybe Evan Lurie and Matthias Hues? Or we could get really crazy and dream up Harrison Muller Jr. Vs. Ron Marchini. The combinations are truly endless...

Besides trying to find “The Disc” and characters being Ex-Marines, another staple that we love to see is the club scene. We both love the 70’s-80’s-90’s discotheque and the one here is a real winner, thanks to some outstanding background dancers. Watch out for it.

In the final analysis, Operation Cobra might be one of the better Don outings out there. It balances the dumb with the slightly-less-dumb in a nice way and we don’t have too many complaints.


Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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

5/23/2014

Ninja Strikes Back (1982)

Ninja Strikes Back (1982)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Bruce Le and Joseph Kong

Starring: Bruce Le, Wang Jang Lee, Dick Randall, Harold Sakata, Bolo Yeung and Chick Norris













When the “American Ambassador” (Randall) gets a call that his daughter Sophie (we don’t know her name but she looks like Elizabeth Hasselbeck) has been kidnapped, there’s only one man suitable for the job: Bruce (Le), of course! Using his expertise in Martial Arts, Bruce travels to many countries in search of the girl. He has to face the evil Sakata (Sakata) - you can see how much effort was spent in naming the characters - and his henchman, portrayed by Bolo Yeung. But after many fights, trials and tribulations, will Bruce achieve his goal?

This is classic “Drive-in Kung Fu” action at its most wonderfully nonsensical and implausible. The silly fun never really lets up. Starting with the very cool title sequence, and continuing on with Bruce Le’s bowl haircut and awesome shades as he takes on giant men in shirts advertising flour, and of course “Chick Norris” (actually producer Dick Randall’s wife Corliss). The movie jumps all over the place without a care in the world, and would you really want it any other way?


Whenever Harold “Oddjob” Sakata is on screen, the James Bond theme plays, and he even throws a deadly hat at Bruce. Are they allowed to get away with this? How were they not sued? But in addition to a killer hat, he also has an iron spiked glove, predating Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) but sadly not Blood and Black Lace (1964). The enjoyability of this movie even filters down to the sound effects and noises the characters make. “Yaaaaaaahhhh!!!!” seems to be the integral noise to Bruce’s fighting style.

And the music is incredible - it features plenty of songs you might recognize! One of our favorites was “Disco Magic” - does anyone out there know who performs this song? Naturally it was in the disco scene which we’re always on the lookout for. But there are plenty of other funky tunes on the soundtrack as well.


There are plenty of fights, and the climax certainly doesn’t skimp on the Martial Arts action. Something happens in this fight that we won’t give away, but is awesome. It also turns up in the must-see Challenge of the Tiger (1980), AKA Gymkata Killer (!), another Bruce Le/Dick Randall extravaganza. C of the T is on DVD thanks to Mondo Macabro, and Ninja Strikes Back was released by Media Blasters/Code Red in a very nice looking widescreen print. Both are worth owning, if your taste runs toward the more bizarre end of the Martial Arts spectrum.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

5/21/2014

High Explosive (2001)

High Explosive (2001)-1\2 *

Directed by: Timothy Bond

Starring: Patrick Bergin, Desiree Nosbusch, Dan Petronijevic, Nina Muschallik, Mpho Lovinga, and Ian Roberts



“These mines will kill us all!!!"





 
Apparently in Angola, buried mines are a serious problem. There has been a civil war going on for over 30 years between the government and the rebels. American Jack Randall (Bergin) and his annoying jerk son Tom (Petronijevic) are working there trying to discover the mines under the ground and deactivate them. A local named Gabriel (Lovinga) and the token hot chick, Kat (Muschallik) are helping them out. When the rebels get out of control and become dangerous, the group must flee to the Namibian border, along with Kat’s mother, a physician named Hildy (Nosbusch). An evildoer named, of all things, VanDamm (Roberts) is acting as General to the rebels. With mines aplenty and danger at every turn, will our heroes reach safety?

Don’t be tricked by the title or box art. You’d think a movie called “High Explosive” would be awesome, right? Instead, it’s a weak, boring, tame tale, and you’ve seen it all before a thousand times. It seems like a TV movie commissioned by Amnesty International or even the wretched UN. There’s no excitement, and you don’t really care what happens to the characters. Especially the super-irritating son (which is just a cliche by now that the filmmakers naturally stepped into) who gives Esteban Powell a serious run for his money.  Sure, there are some blow-ups, and maybe a violent incident or two, but they can’t possibly hope to make up for this tough sit.

While this did pre-date The Hurt Locker (2008) in terms of its subject matter, as is so often the case we can say “Dolph did it first!” in his African mine-sweeping movie Sweepers (1998). Even though that’s not one of Dolph’s best, it’s a masterpiece compared to this, and if you must see one African mine-sweeping movie, see Sweepers.


Of course the main baddie (who’s not in it enough, established well enough, evil enough, or dealt with properly enough) is blonde - that’s a nice shortcut to tell the world you’ve got an evildoer on your hands. But despite being a ruthless, sadistic dictator, he’s partial to breaking out his electric guitar and rockin’ out all by himself. When VanDamm (groan) did this, it proved to be a movie highlight. We know, it’s not saying much. But the forces of good are led by an equally weak force - Patrick Bergin is just an odd choice for the “action hero” role, as he’s looking a bit chunky with his expanding gut, as well as his hat with the comically wide brim.

Sure there are flaws galore, but it’s shot well so there’s some semblance of quality, at least visually. But there are problems infesting everywhere else in this slog.  One of the main problems is that they tried to split the difference and came up with nothing: As a PSA-like politically-correct cautionary tale, there’s too much violence to show in schools, and as an action movie, it feels mishandled and watered-down. So there’s nothing for any side to grab on to. So the best you can really say about High Explosive is that...it’s a movie. It’s definitely a movie, but, eh.


Then after some portentous narration about how hidden mines are disemboweling innocent children, the credits roll with a wildly happy, upbeat and sprightly tune, “Dancing In the Moonlight” by Wozani. It seems odd and inappropriate. Especially in light of the loss of limbs. But Gabriel is definitely a fan, as he dances to the song earlier in the film.

A computer game of Minesweeper would be more entertaining than this movie.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

5/19/2014

Da Vinci's War (1993)

Da Vinci's War (1993)- * *

Directed by: Raymond Martino

Starring: Joey Travolta, James Russo, Vanity, Richard Foronjy, Branscombe Richmond, Melissa Moore, Harold Joseph Green, Sam Jones, and Michael Nouri












When his sister is violently murdered by arch-baddie Mintz (Russo), Frank Da Vinci (Travolta) wants revenge. Da Vinci, a highly-decorated Vietnam vet, wants to leave his past behind him and move on with his life, getting involved with his local mission, and forging a relationship with the religious Lupe (Vanity), who cares for his young niece when he's not around. But Da Vinci is also still in touch with his 'Nam buddies, who all have too-appropriate nicknames such as the Shakespeare-quoting Hamlet (Foronjy), the guy in the wheelchair named Wheels (Green), and the guy of unimportant Asian origin that may or may not be Hawaiian, Don Ho (Richmond), among others. But even Da Vinci's ever-loyal charges aren't enough to get to the bottom of the murder of his beloved sibling, so he enlists the help of hired killer China Smith (Nouri). At first Smith doesn't want to be bothered with Da Vinci and would rather concentrate on his girlfriend, mysteriously named Fred (Moore). But after inexplicably talking to his computer (the computer never responds), he gets some info on Da Vinci that changes his mind, and he enlists in DA VINCI'S WAR. But will there be victory or defeat?


 The original Da Vinci code, this is pretty much an Italian-American variant on Gordon's War (1973), right down to the title. But this particular War is about as "Direct To Video" as it gets in its look and feel. Around these parts, however, that's not considered a negative, but other people might want to be forewarned about the low-budget vibe. Director Martino is a largely un-talked about figure in the DTV world, having worked a lot with City Lights/PM and been involved with their Anna Nicole Smithsploitation in the 90's. He obviously spent his budget on the stellar B-movie cast, which besides the aforementioned names also features fan favorite Sam Jones, as well as Bob Golic and a whole bunch of Travoltas, such as Rachel, Nicole, and Sam (the latter behind the camera, along with Addison Randall). Joey, quite possibly the most talented Travolta to date, is initially unrecognizable with his facial hair. But once he utters the immortal line “Aw Geez!”(in a surprisingly dramatic reading of that Travolta-ism) we know it can only be him. In other cast news, there’s also Gino Dentie, who released the “Direct Disco” album in the 70’s, and who also collaborated on the song “Da Vinci’s March” with Branscombe Richmond. So there’s more than enough on-screen talent, but it doesn’t entirely translate into a wholly enjoyable and completely cohesive final product.


What’s good about Da Vinci’s War is that it is from a time before Tarantino knockoffs polluted the market. And that both James Russo and Joey Travolta, at different points, walk in slow motion, thus looking cool. Plus Michael Nouri gets a great intro to his character. What’s bad about Da Vinci’s War is that it falls prey to the typical low budget pitfalls: stodgy acting, a stiff feel, and low-energy valleys that we as viewers have to go through. Not to say that there aren’t a few okay moments (not to mention some unintentionally funny moments), but the balance isn’t always in the movie’s favor.

While the epilogue after the movie states that it is dedicated to all the homeless veterans, the sentiment is undercut somewhat due to the fact that on a banner over all the vets, they misspelled the word “homeless”! If they’re trying to get our sympathy by informing us of the “homless” vets, they should run their banner through spell check. Unless the point is to announce their lack of hom. Or maybe they’re going the route of little moppets selling lemonade with a sign with a few backwards letters in order to draw us in. Our vets deserve better than that. But the banner is over what can only be described as a shuffling “Homeless Veteran’s Choir” and they all sing, led by Vanity of course. So that must be a movie first.

In the end, Da Vinci’s War sports a never-to-be-replicated cast assemblage, but it lacks the forceful punch it could have had.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 

5/16/2014

Virtual Assassin (1995)

Virtual Assassin (1995)- * * *
AKA: Cyberjack

Directed by: Robert Lee 

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Suki Kaiser, and Brion James











 Set sometime in the future, Virtual Assassin is the story of Nick James (Dudikoff), a cop who, after the death of his partner at the hands of the evil Nassim (James) hits the skids. Due to his drinking and gambling, he lives in a trailer and is generally down and out. He gets a job as a janitor in a computer research facility, where Dr. Royce (Kaiser) is working on containing a deadly virus. Then along comes Nassim back into Nick’s life - he and his band of goons overtake the facility, with the aim of controlling the virus and Nassim becoming the lord and master of the universe because he holds untold power. But they didn’t count on one thing: a badass janitor who intends to foil their nefarious plans. Will Nick James settle the score with Nassim? Or will he become the ultimate VIRTUAL ASSASSIN? Find out today!

It’s comforting to see Michael Dudikoff’s hair is still awesome in the future. Virtual Assassin is one of the better “DieHardInA” movies we’ve seen to date. Besides Die Hard (1988), the movie seems to be influenced by Blade Runner (1982), Robocop (1987), The Terminator (1984), Firepower (1993) and Freejack (1992) (the movie’s original title, Cyberjack, would seem to indicate that). But, far and away the film that Virtual Assassin most closely resembles is Virtuosity (1995). It borrows many ideas and plot points from that movie. Even the re-titling would indicate the desire to bring more “Virtuosity” to the goings-on. But it was the 90’s after all and cyber-things were huge. Hackers, VR, giant helmets and The Lawnmower Man were everywhere. So it was only a matter of time until two of the most popular DTV concepts of the 90’s - cyber-matters and DieHardInA - merged, and thus we now have Virtual Assassin for our viewing enjoyment.

Dudikoff rarely disappoints, and here he’s great as the grizzled, burned-out ex-cop who just wants to listen to baseball on a transistor radio (you’d think the technology would be a bit better there - everything else around him is a tad more high-tech), but has to not only face plenty of goons in order to save the day, but also a law-enforcement robot which doesn’t at all resemble ED-209. Brazenly, there’s something called “Skynet” - where have we heard that before? That seems especially blatant. Dudikoff’s personality carries the movie - but luckily it also has a good pace, some good ideas (besides the stolen ones) and is entertaining. Helping with that is the performance of Brion James, which is especially animated. Here he seems to be playing yet another albino baddie - let’s not forget Nightmare at Noon (1988) - but he’s better here. He makes a great villain to face off with Dudikoff. Face off with Dudikoff would also make a great name for a talk show.


Of course, because this is a Die Hard-esque DTV movie from the 90’s, there has to be one of those super-annoying, skinny, Eurotrash underlings, here named Numb (Cross). Probably the funniest underling is Reef (McKenzie) who is a stereotypical Jamaican who wants to trick Nick James into “smoking some spliff” with him. The impressively-named Topaz Hasfal-Schou as Meghan, Nassim’s evil female sidekick, resembles Robin Quivers, and Jerry Wasserman as Neil Jervis deserves some recognition as being one of those working actors you see a lot, but never makes the talk show or magazine circuit. We applaud actors like Wasserman. But just why all Nassim’s underlings are dressed in strange Halloween costumes is not explained.

Thanks to some nice touches and Dudikoff’s performance, Virtual Assassin rises above its lowly station as a humble 90’s Cyber-Die Hard. We enjoyed it, and the 90’s nostalgia factor has only ensured its enjoyability for the forseeable future.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


Also check out write-ups from our buddies, DTVC, Saturday Night Screening, and The Video Vacuum!

5/14/2014

Bounty Hunters 2: Hardball (1997)

Bounty Hunters 2: Hardball (1997)- * *1\2

Directed by: George Erschbamer

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Lisa Howard, and Tony Curtis











 Jersey and B.B. (Dudikoff and Howard) are back, bounty huntering it up in this sequel. This time around, crime lord Wald (Curtis) is causing all sorts of trouble for our heroic pair. They must dodge his goons - as well as relationship problems - along the way to bringing in their prize catch. Will they succeed?

You might be asking yourself, “Wow, there is a sequel to Bounty Hunters? Why? Was the first one such a success?” At least, that’s what we were wondering. Like Cage 2, what we get here is more of the same (if you’ve seen the first one, you know what to expect) - but some minor differences, like this one seems a bit more talky. They’ve upped the humor quotient, but somehow it’s not as funny as the first film. Many of the same people are back, both in front of and behind the camera, so the same sort of silly vibe is maintained.

Tony Curtis is on hand as the main baddie, but he’s not really on screen for very much time. The main asset he brings is his distinctive voice. Curtis was starting to pop up in DTV items around this time, see Center Of The Web for a good example. He didn’t quite reach the heights of Cameron Mitchell in this department, but he probably could have.


While even in this installment they managed the prerequisite torture scene, and there is a very cool moment involving Michael Dudikoff with a rocket launcher, there are so many unanswered questions lingering from the first movie. Such as: What happened to the rap career of Deimos’ butler? And where is Word, Jersey’s sassy neighbor kid? But while those may remain the great mysteries of the universe, what’s intact is the chemistry between Dudikoff and Howard, which seems to have improved. Had the series continued (or become a TV show), they could have become the action equivalent to Nick and Nora (William Powell and Myrna Loy) from The Thin Man (1934) and its sequels. But then again, it’s probably good this didn’t happen, because we felt the Bounty Hunters theme had run out of steam by the end of this movie. Perhaps they should have quit while they were ahead.

If you enjoyed the first movie, with its mix of action and humor, you’ll find more of the same in this sequel, which honestly probably didn’t have to be made, but Dudikoff and Howard look like they’re enjoying themselves, so perhaps you will too.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out a write-up by DTVC!

5/12/2014

Bounty Hunters (1996)

Bounty Hunters (1996)- * * *

Directed by: George Erschbamer

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Lisa Howard, Ashanti Williams, Benjamin Ratner, and Erin Fitzgerald








 Daniel “Jersey” Bellini (Dudikoff) is a former Navy SEAL turned bounty hunter who always gets his man. Deimos (Ratner of White Tiger and Breach of Trust fame) is the newest, most evil crime lord on the block. Bellini is a bit strapped for cash so he takes the risky assignment. However, his former girlfriend and fellow bounty hunter B.B. (Howard) also wants to take down Deimos. So B.B. and Bellini reluctantly re-form their partnership. But they also have to dodge the mafia as well. They meet plenty of interesting characters along the way, from Jersey’s sassy next door neighbor Word (Ashanti Williams), to hooker Starr (Fitzgerald). Will Jersey and B.B. be able to avoid all pitfalls and get along with each other long enough to bring Deimos in for good?

Here we get to see the more humorous side of Dudikoff, as he makes a bunch of surprised, bug-eyed faces, and gets himself embroiled in a bunch of silly situations. There’s still action in this movie, but it all has a very jokey tone which some viewers might not like. Not all action has to be gravely serious, and all action stars should get a few chances to work their comedic chops. So in this sense, Bounty Hunters is pretty harmless, and the dumbness might actually work to its advantage in this case.

When this movie was shot, it was a  pre-Dog-The-Bounty-Hunter world, so it was clearly made before bounty huntering was cool. But why didn’t Jersey Bellini get his own show? It would be perfect for syndication, like Walker Texas Ranger or Renegade. But we did get Cobra with Dudikoff, so that’s good. But Jersey would have made a good TV star. It’s surprising enough that there is a sequel to this movie. Who knew it did so well as to warrant that?


Movie highlights include Jersey’s home security system, his relationship with his neighbor, Word, who clearly brings out his childish side, the visit to the rap club inexplicably named “Meat”, and the complete and total lack of subtlety of any kind. Also Jersey has his weapons in a foam-lined case, and in the foam the shape of the weapon is cut out (you know the kind) - but in Jersey’s case he has special cut-outs for his cigars amongst his guns and knives! It’s silly moments like that which keep Bounty Hunters from ever becoming boring.

Also noteworthy is a scene in a video store, which we always love seeing. There are prominent posters for Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster (1989) - and guess who directed that? You guessed it, Bounty Hunters director George Erschbamer. Nice in-joke.

On the negative side, the movie is too long and the ending scenes seem like they’re in the wrong order. There’s the climax, then a bunch of other stuff happens. Erschbamer also does this in Snake Eater (1989) - it can’t be a coincidence. It must be his style. But Jersey and B.B. return in the sequel, so if you can’t get enough of their wacky antics, there’s more on the way.

Bounty Hunters has humor and inoffensive action, which should please viewers who want a break from more serious viewing.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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

5/09/2014

Chain Of Command (1994)

Chain Of Command (1994)- * * *

Directed by: David Worth

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Karen Tishman, Todd Curtis, and R. Lee Ermey 

Merrill Ross (Dudikoff) is an ex-Green Beret who now works as a consultant for an oil refining company in the country of Qumir in the Middle East. When terrorists take over the facility, this starts a chain of events (or perhaps commands) that lead Ross through a complex series of double crosses and entanglements involving the CIA, the Qumir government, the terrorists, oil barons, and the militia groups fighting the terrorists.  Can he trust the mysterious Maya Robenowitz (Tishman)? See if Ross can negotiate his way through this quagmire tonight!

Dudikoff is at his most personable and happy-go-lucky here, and this sort of upbeat performance undoubtedly carries the movie. At 97 minutes, Chain of Command drags at times. This could easily have been remedied by chopping 7 minutes, but Dudikoff’s performance buoys the movie nevertheless. Because the main baddie, Rawlings (Curtis), strongly resembles Michael Angelo from Nitro (and has the laugh-out-loud hairstyle that that would imply), and Dudikoff has his trademark cool hair, it’s truly a case of cool hair vs. evil hair in true 80’s style, even though this movie is from the 90’s.


We also see R. Lee Ermey with glasses, a mustache and a bolo tie, and Keren Tishman, who plays Maya, is a horrid actress, but, interestingly, gets hotter as the movie goes on. The jaunty music matches Dudikoff’s personality this time around, but still there are some classic cliches such as guard-tower falls/blow-ups, and the prerequisite wacky taxi driver. Speaking of that, this seems to have been shot in some of the same locations as previous Cannon vehicle Deadly Heroes.  As far as room decor, there are multiple pictures of Bill Clinton on the walls. Not just presidential portraits, mind you, but one is a painting lovingly recreating his moment on the Arsenio Hall show where he wore sunglasses and played the saxophone!


Director David Worth, of Air Strike fame (?), does a competent, if silly job, and underrated actor/director/stunt-coordinator Guy Norris is also on hand. Norris directed Rage and Honor 2: Hostile Takeover, and also worked in various capacities on Day of the Panther and Hurricane Smith, among many other things. His profile as someone in the film industry should be higher.

And we can’t possibly overlook the brilliant, hard-rockin’ tunes by Canadian band Slash Puppet: “When the Whip Comes Down”, and “Rippin’ on a Wishbone”. These songs are pure hair metal, coming rather late in the day for that sort of music. But they are enjoyable and basically disposable, much like Chain of Command itself. Slash Puppet I tell you. Slash Puppet.

So is Chain of Command one of the best Dudikoffs or one of the best Cannons? No, not really, but you gotta love how 80’s-style action continued to thrive into the 90’s with this generally entertaining outing. 

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from buddies, The Video Vacuum and DTVC!

5/07/2014

The Human Shield (1991)

The Human Shield (1991)- * * *

Directed by: Ted Post

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Steve Inwood, Tommy Hinkley, Hanna Azoulay-Hasfari, and Uri Gavriel









It was 1985 when Doug Matthews (Dudikoff) first crossed paths with the diabolical Dallal (Inwood) while he was in the military working for the U.S. embassy. Matthews was stationed in northern Iraq, and the two men had a life-changing altercation. Fast-forward five years later, and Matthews is safe back home in America...but Dallal’s goons have kidnapped his brother Ben (Hinkley). Receiving no support from his own government, it’s not long before Matthews goes rogue and travels back to Baghdad to rescue his  beloved brother. He gets his Kurdish friend Tanzil (Gavriel) to help him, as well as an old acquaintance, a doctor named Lila (Azoulay-Hasfari), but it’s going to be difficult to face the ruthless Dallal and his supporters. With the clock running out on the life of the diabetic Ben, Doug Matthews is going to have to shield himself from the onslaught of bullets...HUMAN shield himself! Yeah, that’s the ticket...

The Human Shield was perfect for video stores in 1991 - it starts with Dudikoff riding an open-topped jeep in the desert with his awesome hair blowing freely in the breeze. Jeeps seem to be Dudikoff’s vehicle of choice in this movie; he really uses them to maneuver around the machine gun fire and even rocket launchers aimed at him this time around. It’s also perfect for video stores because before the movie starts, there are no trailers for other Cannon films, or any other movies, but there is an anti-drug PSA. You gotta love the 90’s. It truly was a time when anti-drug PSA’s were inescapable: you couldn’t even watch Parker Lewis Can’t Lose or any of your other favorite shows without crazed maniacs smashing fried eggs or children screaming “I learned it from watching youuuuuuuu!!!!!”. You go pop in a VHS tape looking for some respite, and they’re there too. No wonder no one does drugs anymore.


But back to the topic at hand, the movie is filled with innumerable mustachioed extras. At any given point while watching The Human Shield, there are an average of five men in the background, whether they be soldiers, baddies, or just plain townspeople, with thick black mustaches. It was either the height of fashion in the middle east, or maybe it was a “no mustache, no paycheck” financial matter. Regardless, it truly is a catalogue of distinctive facial hair on your screen.

If you enjoyed films such as Death Before Dishonor (1987) and Dudikoff’s Chain of Command (1994), you’ll surely also like The Human Shield, even if it does have some slow moments, as well as some awkward camera zooms. Those things shouldn’t be enough to put you off. Dudikoff has to pretty much carry the movie on his shoulders, and while he is capable of doing that, another major name would have helped out the proceedings. Someone like Lee Majors the Second, Jay Roberts Jr. or Evan Lurie, to name but a few shining stars in the DTV firmament, could have helped Dudikoff bear his load. But the movie does include many of our favorite items: plenty of blow-ups and shooting, not one, but two screams of “Nooooooooo!!!!”, and of course a baddie admonishing his underlings that there better be “No More Mistakes”.

It was also somewhat refreshing that Dudikoff’s brother was kidnapped. It’s not usually an adult male that is the target of the hero’s rescue mission. It’s usually a woman, a young girl, or a young boy. So that was an interesting difference. Also we got to be privy to the Pentagon gym. There’s even a title card on-screen that tells us we’re in the Pentagon gym. Never before have our eyes gotten to witness where Dick Cheney does his squat thrusts and where Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) blasts his lats. Thank you Human Shield for this inside information.

The Human Shield is classic early-90’s Dudikoff fare.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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

5/05/2014

Musketeers Forever (1998)

Musketeers Forever (1998)- *

Directed by: Georges Chamchoum

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Lee Majors, Sylvie Varakine, and Martin Neufeld










Three middle-aged men with a lot of time on their hands decide to open a bar together. Naturally, their leader is Lee Majors, and after a classic “fixing up the place” montage, they turn an old, run-down building into the tavern of their dreams. The men clearly bonded because of their mutual love of two things: old blues musicians, and Alexandre Dumas’ Musketeers lore. Unsurprisingly, and, in fact, pretty painfully, they identify themselves as the three Musketeers and even will use any excuse whatsoever to use a certain catchphrase (which shall not be mentioned here). When the son of one of their old war buddies, a man who just happens to be named D’Artagnan (Dudikoff), comes to town, they give him a job as a bartender and things seem peachy keen. But, predictably enough, an evil gangster, Kenton Crawford (Rudolf Schenker lookalike Neufeld) wants to take some Indian land and build a casino on it. Some local Native-Canadians actually object to this, one of which is D’Artagnan’s love interest Irina (Varakine). Then some barroom brawls erupt and you go to the kitchen to get a snack. Will you get another snack later? Find out today!


This Canadian variant on Road House (1989), or, Road Hoose, sadly, pretty much lacks everything a sane human being looks for when they seek out filmed entertainment. It’s chock-full of dialogue that’s so poorly written it’s cringe-inducing, the plot is trite and boring, there’s a ton of unfunny humor, the bad kind of cliches, and fight scenes so woefully amateurish they make the barfights in Billy Ray Cyrus’ Radical Jack (2000) look like a Jet Li movie. It all has a junky look and the stupidity level is so high, you don’t care about the characters or their plight. Dudikoff is reasonably charming, but there’s nothing for him to work with here. He deserves better material he can sink his teeth into, not cinematic empty calories. Even his hair isn’t quite as cool as it normally is. Perhaps it has a sixth sense of its own and decided to hibernate during this long Canadian winter.

Besides, this is an obvious ripoff of Ring of the Musketeers (1992), but instead of the power-team of Cheech Marin and David Hasselhoff, this has Dudikoff and Lee Majors. Not Lee Majors the Second, mind you, but the original one. There are no cool, standout moments to be found in this substandard effort. Because the plot deals with Indians, the name of the town where all of this takes place is “Indian Creek”. This should give you an idea of the level of creative powers going on here. Though, out of the blue, in reference to D’Artagnan (groan), someone says the line “he had to sell his crossbow for gas money”. You don’t hear that sentence everyday. That was by far the only worthwhile two seconds in this dud. We truly tried to see the bright side and this was all we could come up with. The remaining 90 minutes remain DOA. (Though, to be fair, local band Too Many Cooks get a lot of screen time - but then again, do they really want this on their resume?). 

Unfortunately, Musketeers Forever is a major(s) disappointment.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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

5/02/2014

Moving Target (1996)

Moving Target (1996)-* *

Directed by: Damien Lee

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Billy Dee Williams, and Michelle Johnson




“It is not the same world at dawn as it is at dusk.”






Sonny McClean (Dude) is a bounty hunter who just wants to find the escaped criminals he’s assigned to find, then go home to his pregnant wife, Casey (Johnson). Of course, she wants him to quit the skip tracer game and get a less dangerous job. Sonny doesn’t necessarily disagree - but first he has to disentangle himself from a complex web involving being framed for murder and having to contend with two different factions of the Russian mob. In too deep, Sonny tries to enlist the help of his old buddy Don Racine (Williams), but will it be enough? Using only his wits (well, that and his fists), Sonny will have to fight the mobsters, clear his good name, and get home to his wife on time. Can he do it?

The fact that both Michael Dudikoff and Billy Dee Williams are both charming and likable are pretty much the only things that keep Moving Target afloat. Director Damian Lee - responsible for such unmitigated turkeys as Agent Red (2000), and, to be fair, decent movies like Last Man Standing (1987) - imbues the movie with an overall bleak feel, with nothing but cloudy, overcast skies and the bare trees and cold, snowy environs of the Canada all his movies seem to be set in. On top of that, Moving Target takes its sweet time, with some long, meandering bits in between the fight scenes or more relevant scenes.  But many of the cliches we’ve come to know and love are present and accounted for, such as the abandoned warehouse and the prerequisite torture scene (which naturally takes place in the abandoned warehouse).


Speaking of which, Dudikoff does get beat up a lot in this movie. The polar opposite of Seagal (who refuses to be punched or kicked, much less bested in a fight, just like in real life) - Dudikoff is getting wailed on in seemingly every other scene.  Perhaps that’s what he gets for continuing to be a bounty hunter, because the same year as Moving Target, he was also in Bounty Hunters (1996), with Bounty Hunters 2 (1997) following just a year later. It was fun to see a drunk and slurring Billy December Williams (that was part of his character, we’re assuming. And hoping.) - as much as Dudikoff gets beat up, Williams is drunkenly shambling around and swigging a beer. It was unusual for him, and we liked it. Michelle Johnson should have been insulted to play the stereotypical character of the grousing woman. Surely there are better roles for female actors than one-dimensional parts like this. However, she did show us that you can be part of a Lamaze class even if you’re not even close to showing with your baby. So that was helpful.


Not to be confused with the Don The Dragon movie of the same name from 2000 (or any other movie by this name), Moving Target features the mindless shooting and relatively inconsequential antics we’ve come to expect from Damian Lee. Only the two leads make this worth watching. Featuring a catchy song we believe to be called “Rock Me With Your Love” (typically, no artist is credited), Moving Target is hit-or-miss.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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