6/29/2014

Blood and Bone (2009)

Blood and Bone (2009)- * * *

Directed by: Ben Ramsey

Starring: Michael Jai White, Eamonn Walker, Dante Basco, Nona Gaye, Bob Sapp, Gina Carano, Kimbo Slice, and Julian Sands











Isaiah Bone (White) gets out of prison and ends up renting a room at an L.A.-area house run by Tamara (Gaye). Bone is a quiet and mysterious man, and we don’t know much about his past. What we do know is that he’s an outrageously talented fighter, and he proceeds to get involved with the illegal, underground Punchfighting circuit. Immediately recognizing that Bone is head-and-shoulders better than the normal street thugs, charismatic fight promoter Pinball (Basco) takes him under his wing and Bone moves up the ranks. This puts him in the sights of James (Walker), a high-class thug with aspirations to join the ranks of the ultra-wealthy, as represented by Franklin McVeigh (Sands). James also recognizes Bone’s fighting talents and wants to use him to break into the really big time. But Bone has his own reasons for doing what he’s doing, and only his strength and personal honor and integrity guide him through his mission. But will he make it out alive?

Blood and Bone is as good a movie as you could possibly hope for in the world of the modern-day Punchfighter. There’s just enough depth and interesting things going on with the plot and characters to raise it above the muck and mire of the “I-punch-you-you-punch-me-and-that’s-it” Punchfighters out there. Seemingly, it’s a movie out of time, as we felt this could have come to the movie theater, had it only been released in 1997 or so. The only things that mark it as new are some brief - but still unfortunate and unnecessary - uses of CGI. Otherwise, the plot has a nicely familiar feel, and Michael Jai White makes a powerful hero.

As for MJW, we’ve always been huge fans. His Martial Arts abilities and screen presence have only continued to improve since Ring of Fire III (1995) and Ballistic (1995), which is rare. It’s a joy to watch him execute his moves. One of the great injustices in life is that Steven Seagal is more of a household name than White. White deserves to be in the action pantheon with Dolph, Van Damme, and (unfortunately), Seagal.  His appearances in two of the Universal Soldier movies make sense towards that aim, but it seems MJW is primarily known in the action community. We feel he deserves wider recognition. As for fellow fan favorite Gina Carano, she has a criminally small part. It would have been awesome to see her team up with MJW to take down the baddies. Maybe someday that will happen.


As for Julian Sands, you might ask yourself as to why he's in an urban-themed modern-day Punchfighter. His one scene where he verbally faces off against James should answer all your questions. One of the things that make Blood and Bone a worthwhile movie, besides its pleasantly surprising spurts of intelligence at times, is its sense of humor, which is well-portioned out. We don’t know if this was on purpose, but in a throwback to the Blaxploitation movies of the 70’s, all the Caucasian characters are just lightweight, silly, stereotypical whiteys. The Punchfighter “Cowboy” is just a “redneck” stereotype, the white family that eats dinner with James wear sweaters around their necks and listen to Wang Chung, and Julian Sands is the whitest person on earth. It’s hard to discern whether the tried-and-true plotline and some characteristics of the movie are homages to the past, or just a simple lack of originality. That’s the danger of homages, the audience might misunderstand your intentions. The Hitter and Lionheart seem to be primary influences.

But just as in all great movies, Blood and Bone gets its own title song during the end credits. Seeing as how it’s a competently-made film with just the right amount of depth, and you really have a hero to root for in MJW, we feel that Blood and Bone is one of the better modern-day Punchfighters out there.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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

6/27/2014

Mismatched Couples (1985)

Mismatched Couples (1985)- * * * *

Directed by: Yuen Woo-Ping

Starring: Donnie Yen, May Lo Mei-Mei, Yuen Woo-Ping, Anna Kamiyama, Kenny Perez, and Dick Wei











Eddie (Yen) is a happy-go-lucky guy who loves breakdancing and Martial Arts. He lives with his stern sister Ah Ying (Wong) and the cute Stella (Mei-Mei). He has a geeky friend named Mini (Woo-Ping), whose clumsiness and awkwardness is always getting him into some kind of wacky trouble. Seeing as Eddie loves the beautiful Anna (Anna Kamiyama, in her only film role), Mini loves Ah Ying, and Stella loves Eddie, many mishaps ensue in their respective quests to win their desired mate. Meanwhile, Eddie faces challenges in his two hobbies: Kenny (Perez) wants to beat him on the dance floor (and the tennis court), while the batty and maniacal Fight Champion (Wei) wants to fight Eddie in the ring. How will Eddie and  Mini navigate all this? Will everyone end up with who they want to end up with? Find out today!

It’s kind of hard to put into words just how awesome Mismatched Couples is. It’s loaded to the bursting point with upbeat, high-energy, colorful, happy, funny scenes that work overtime to try and please the audience. On top of that are highly impressive physical feats relating to the dance scenes as well as the Martial Arts scenes. Director (and co-star, as the bespectacled Mini) Yuen Woo-Ping, gets the most out of every scene, which, one after another, are just delightful escapades that are just wildly enjoyable. It’s easy to see why he’s well-known now. His skills are evident even in this early outing. The same goes for Donnie Yen, who is at his absolute best here.


We’re always championing Martial Arts movies as well as 80’s dance movies, and, amazingly, we found a movie that combines the two! In other words, this very well could be the perfect Comeuppance Reviews movie. The music alone is very entertaining (as are the sound effects). Add that to everything else, and you have a super-winner. In America, in the 80’s, we had comedies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), among the steady stream of  other John Hughes movies, among many other examples. Now cross that with Breakin' (1984) and Breakin' 2 (1984), and Mismatched Couples is in some sort of context. 'Couples should be ingrained in the minds of everyone as a solid, mesmerizingly 80’s comedy, and the only reason it’s not is simply because it comes from Hong Kong. It absolutely deserves to be in the firmament with all the others, as it preserves a very sweet moment in time, with no apologies.


There’s so much more we could say about this movie, but we want to keep things to a “Mini”-mum (heh heh) because we want you to discover the charm of Mismatched Couples for yourself.  We loved it and we know you will too. It gets our highest and most enthusiastic recommendation...just see it!

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

6/25/2014

Ride In A Pink Car (1974)

Ride In A Pink Car (1974)- *1\2

Directed by: Robert J. Emery

Starring: Glenn Corbett, Big John Hamilton, and Erni Benet










Gid Barker (Corbett) returns home to the small town of Benton, Florida after some years away in ‘Nam. As it turns out, the townsfolk don’t receive him warmly and are all antagonistic towards him. During one of his conflicts with the locals, Gid ends up accidentally killing one of the good ol’ boys. That’s more than enough for the town to want to lynch him, so he steals the titular “pink car” and goes on the run with his buddy Rainy (Benet), who is also a pariah because he’s a Native American Indian. So then there are a bunch of chases and weak confrontations until the final outcome. What will it be? Find out today?

Ride In A Pink car is not the best example of the “guy comes home from Vietnam and faces hostility” movie that seemed to bubble up in the 1970’s. The No Mercy Man (1973) is a far better film, and, even trumping that fine work is the modern-day masterpiece Rolling Thunder (1977). First Blood (1982) perfected the formula by the early 80’s. Unfortunately ‘pink car is a casualty along the road getting there. We desperately wanted to like the movie, but it’s very slow, dramatic in the wrong places, and there’s a severe dearth of action. Perhaps that’s unfair if this wasn’t meant to be an out-and-out action movie, but we’re just thrown into the middle of the plot right from the get-go and it’s hard to shake off the feelings of confusion and uncaring. Though, to be fair, the audio and video quality of the VHS release are absolutely horrid. Given a cleaned-up DVD treatment, the movie might deserve a reassessment.


The movie is also clearly influenced by the then-current hit Billy Jack (1971) - imagine a regional version. There are some car chases (of the “fruit-cart” style, naturally) and maybe a few mild blow-ups, but the movie needed at least one sort-of-known name. Jimmy Dean, Bo Hopkins, Bo Svenson, Bo....Jackson, somebody! But the music, by Vic Caesar, is enjoyable, and lines of dialogue such as “smells like rancid perfume gone flat”, in reference to the local booze, keep the movie from being a total waste, but just barely. The above line was said by Pinky, a man who dresses all in pink, and from whom Gid gets the classic Pink Car. It does seem somewhat effeminate in these post-General Lee times we‘re living in, however.


But strange-looking people, characters continually drenched in their own sweat, and a Sheriff who wears a bolo tie with his Sheriff’s outfit don’t save the movie. It’s too staid. The character of Gid needed more rage. Ironically, the plot has no drive. As stated earlier, our willingness to like this movie was disappointed at every turn. Shot in Rubonia, Florida, Ride In A Pink Car (the cover models on the VHS box above were created and have nothing whatsoever to do with the movie), sadly, stalls out when it should be putting pedal to the metal.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 


6/23/2014

The Protector (1985)

The Protector (1985)- * * * *

Directed by: James Glickenhaus

Starring: Jackie Chan, Danny Aiello, Roy Chiao, Saun Ellis, Mike Starr, Kim Bass, Big John Studd, Moon Lee, and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace











Billy Wong (Chan) is a tenacious and dedicated cop who always gets his man - but doesn’t always play by the rules. Because of his rogue ways, he’s busted down to “crowd control”. While with his new partner Garoni (Aiello) at said crowd, a fashion show displaying “shimmering cocktail wear”, a woman named Laura Shapiro (Ellis) is kidnapped by marauding thugs which crash the fashion show. Tying her kidnapping to the nefarious Hong Kong crime lord Harold Ko (Chiao), Wong and Garoni travel all the way from their home base in New York City to Hong Kong to rescue Laura and bring down the criminal enterprise of Ko. While there, they team up with some unlikely allies, Stan Jones (Ballistic director Kim Bass) and Soo Ling (Lee). Will they achieve their mission, and not destroy Hong Kong in the process? Find out today!

We really loved The Protector. It’s classic 80’s fun all the way, with no shortage of action. Not only does the movie look great, thanks to its excellent cinematography, but it truly is Jackie Chan as you’ve never seen him before. We can see why he and director Glickenhaus had a falling out over differing visions, but, without giving away any spoilers, you just have to check out the scene between Jackie and none other than Big John Studd. It’s amazing. In the New York City scenes, there are some great shots of the World Trade Center towers that add another layer of nostalgia. But besides the WTC, there’s also a great example of a WYC (a White Yelling Chief, that is). The entertainment value never lets up.


This movie was released at the height of Glickenhaus’ powers as a director - we can see why Golden Harvest wanted to do a deal with him. He was smart enough to give action fans all of what they want, and none of what they don’t. There’s no stupid, annoying kid, there’s no stupid, annoying romance, it’s just one super-cool action setpiece after another, with Jackie doing what he does best. What more could you want?


Plus, we get to see a slimmer Danny Aiello teamed with Jackie Chan. This truly was a once-in-a-lifetime pair-up. We thought they made a great team. Aiello wears a red jacket with no shirt, but with a medallion, which was a cool style for the day, and he’s familiar with Hong Kong in the film because he was in Vietnam and they used to go there for R & R.

The Protector is a winner - it’s just wildly enjoyable fun from beginning to end. Featuring the song “One Up For the Good Guys” by Chip Taylor, we strongly recommend The Protector.

NOTE: We really didn’t discuss the two versions here - but it appears the American DVD is the ideal way to view this film.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

6/20/2014

The Foreigner (2003)

The Foreigner (2003)- * *

Directed by: Michael Oblowitz

Starring: Steven Seagal, Harry Van Gorkum, Max Ryan, Sherman Augustus, and Jeffrey Pierce











Jonathan Cold (Seagal)...is a guy named Jonathan Cold.  He’s also a former “deep cover operative” (whatever that means) and at the moment is living in Paris. Because he’s American, perhaps that makes him “the foreigner”(?) but now he has been entrusted to deliver a certain very valuable package from France to Germany. He doesn’t know what’s in the package, but he does know that a man named Dunoir (Ryan) has been tasked to assist him, and the person he’s delivering it to is wealthy industrialist Jerome Van Aken (Harry Van Gorkum...or is it Jerome Van Aken as Harry Van Gorkum...not really sure). Along the way, Cold finds out that a lot of baddies and goons want to try to stop him from delivering the package, including Mimms (Augustus). So Cold deals with them the only way he knows how, i.e., coldly. Just slightly more aggressive than giving them the cold shoulder. When Dunoir turns out to not be all that he says he is, Cold turns to his brother Sean Cold (Pierce) for help, but not before going to the funeral of their deceased father Jackson Cold. Will the package be revealed? Will it get into the right hands? It truly becomes a “Cold War” as Jonathan attempts to complete his mission. Will he succeed?

What’s good about The Foreigner is that it looks more professional than a lot of Segal’s other DTV work of late. Maybe that’s because there was talk of this going to the movie theater. Regardless, there is more style to this outing than usual. And the fact that it was actually shot in Germany and Poland, as opposed to Bulgaria, really does make a difference and helps to convey a classier look. But, to be realistic, this movie is basically a poor man’s The Transporter (2002). Not to be cruel, but if you’ve ever thought that watching Jason Statham is a bit too exhausting because he’s so active and in shape, we think we’ve found the movie for you.


It hurts to overly criticize this particular Seagal romp. Because you can tell they were at least trying this time around to imbue the film with some sort of style and quality. Director Oblowitz also made Out For A Kill that same year, 2003, with Seagal. Maybe he couldn’t get enough of his winning charm. But then again, they haven’t worked together since. Oblowitz includes some things that fans have seen before, such as an all-important “disc” (which seems to pop up a lot), and plenty of 90’s-style techno music on the soundtrack. But, believe it or not, the plot is actually overly convoluted and even slow at times. Had the movie only been shorter in length, and, please forgive the pun, had some of the fat trimmed from it, The Foreigner could have ranked pretty darn high in the Seagal standings. But once you see the silly quick-cutting effects during the fight scenes, that kind of dooms the movie.


Not that there aren’t some worthwhile moments: The age difference between the supposed “brothers” Jon and Sean Cold is amusing - Jonathan could be Sean’s father. The movie overall could have used more Sean Cold (or “Seanathan”, as we called him) - the actor who played him, Jeffrey Pierce, was engaging, and the plot thread connecting the brothers wasn’t really expounded upon too much. Maybe Seagal worried about being upstaged. Plus there is dialogue such as Van Aken saying “Eliminate Cold”, and Seagal talking about his old buddy Delbert, which we think he also did in Fire Down Below (1997), but can’t quite remember.


There are certainly worse Seagals out there - at this point in his career he’d yet to sink to the utter depths of the execrable Kill Switch (2008) - but it all depends on your tolerance for his output. He sure has a “love him or hate him”-style fanbase, and we try to take him movie by movie, but we feel we know him almost, we’ve been following his career for so long. A Seagal action movie is just that, a Seagal action movie. This one in particular is largely kept afloat by the cinematography. It’s by far the best part of the film. If you try to imagine these same proceedings, but not shot as well, the results are not great. So in the end, it’s kind of mid-range Seagal, aspiring for better, but probably will only appeal to his fans.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


6/18/2014

Street Law (1974)

Street Law (1974)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Franco Nero, Giancarlo Prete, and Barbara Bach 











Carlo Antonelli (Nero) is a humble, but fairly well-off Genoese engineer. One day while at the bank, a gang of street toughs break in, rob the place, and assault some of the patrons. Unfortunately, Carlo is one of those unlucky customers, and the baddies even briefly kidnap him during their quest to evade the law. Carlo is profoundly changed by the experience. At first seeking help from the proper authorities, his anger and frustration grows and grows due to their lack of help. He decides to take matters into his own hands. Along the way he meets Tommy (Prete), a small-time thug who reluctantly agrees to help Carlo in his search for justice and revenge. Carlo also tries to enlist the help of Barbara (Bach) but her style of assistance isn’t nearly as forceful and effective as his and Tommy’s. Will Carlo track down his assailants? Find out today!

Street Law, aside from being a great and highly entertaining movie, is probably the most well-known example of Poliziotteschi in America. During the heady days of VHS, the cassette got wide distribution by VidAmerica. Most people with memories of video stores can remember that box, with the hooded thug pointing his gun at you. Sure, that guy isn’t really in the movie, and the artwork kind of takes away from the serious-minded tone of the film, but so what? Once again, director Enzo G. Castellari proves himself a master of any genre he turns his attention to, imbuing the film with a confident, competent, professional vibe that never drops the ball in the entertainment department.


Maintaining the intense, angry core of the movie is the great Franco Nero. You really feel for his character, and the violent bits have all the more impact for it. In classic Italian style, there are many insane, real stunts where it looks like dudes are seriously putting their lives at risk to entertain us. No CGI here! All of this is set to the incredibly beautiful background of Italy. Everything from the car chases to the few humorous asides are all directed and shot to perfection by Enzo and his team. But his trump card is getting the fabulous Guido and Maurizio DeAngelis to do the music. Their main theme is pitch-perfect and the awesomeness of this song, “Goodbye My Friend”, just raises the bar even more for the movie as a whole. Just the way the song is cued at specific parts of the movie shows a genius for editing and rhythm.


Of course, Street Law is filled with 70’s style. Sure, it’s a film relevant to the time it was made thanks to the subject matter, but the clothes, hair and home/office decor are fascinating in their own right. The prevailing style of the day seems to be to wear a sweater with a large-collared shirt underneath, with a blazer. All of which are made of different materials and designs. A lot of the exterior shots do look like it was cold out, so this probably kept everyone warm, not to mention stylish.

How can you lose with a movie about a one-man justice squad starring Franco Nero and directed by Enzo? You can’t, and the inoffensive dubbing doesn’t get in the way, plus the cool climax puts the icing on the cake. If you don’t already have it, be sure to pick up the Blue Underground DVD.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

6/16/2014

The Dangerous (1995)

The Dangerous (1995)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Rod Hewitt

Starring: Robert Davi, Michael Pare, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Joel Grey, John Savage, Saemi Nakamura, Sven-Ole Thorsen, Paula Barbieri, and Elliot Gould








When their sister is murdered while doing an expose on drug dealers (never a good idea), her brother Kon Seki (Tagawa) and her sister Akiko (Nakamura), a team of sibling ninjas, snap into action and start killing drug goons all over New Orleans. Cop Random (Pare - his name in the movie is Random, just for clarification) is assigned to the case - but for some reason that isn’t quite clear, he’s assigned a non-police, motorcycle-riding, rogue badass named Davalos (Davi) to be his partner. While Davalos and Random hire local weirdo Flea (Joel Grey, not the bass player) to help them out, the baddies also hire a knife-wielding killer named Lautrec (Savage) to do their dirty work. Will the forces of law and order learn to co-exist with the secretive ninjas in order to fight the baddies? Find out today!

The Dangerous. It seems like that title should have another word or two in it...but despite the seemingly-truncated title, the movie itself is really cool and surprisingly good. It boasts an interesting idea, a top-notch B-movie cast, and is competently written and directed. It’s hard to ask for more.

It’s truly Robert Davi at his absolute best. When we first see him, he’s out in the desert and looks like Walker Texas Ranger-era Chuck Norris. Then, mere seconds later, he’s on his chopper, sporting a half-beard and strongly resembles Renegade-era Lorenzo Lamas. But regardless of who he happens to look like, here Davi is tough, witty and gets all the best lines. He even speaks Japanese. He and Pare make a great team. The movie was even smart enough to ensure there was none of that annoying bickering that goes on between partners with different attitudes. That sort of detail shows us that The Dangerous is a cut above the rest. It’s really surprising there were no sequels - the 90’s were full of apparently unnecessary sequels: if there can be three Snake Eater movies, and three Crackerjack movies, why not at least one more The Dangerous movie?

Speaking of the 90’s, The Dangerous is pitch-perfect for 1995. For those that remember going to your local video store around that time period, this movie will stand out as highly typical of that era. “1995” exudes from every frame of film. That’s a good thing, by the way. There’s a lot of solid action, from the Louisiana graveyard shootout, to the pre-Hard Target (1993) action scene in the warehouse where they keep all the Mardi Gras floats. Naturally there is the fruit cart car chase/crash, among other favorites. But Michael Pare’s car has cool stripes on the door. So there’s that.

Besides the aforementioned Pare, Davi, Tagawa, Grey and Savage, it’s certainly worth noting that none other than Elliott Gould is also on board. For some reason he has a cameo as a projectionist in the scene at the movie theater (another cool action setpiece and sports some interesting posters in the background to boot). The filmmakers could have gotten any actor for this part, but getting a major star like Gould must have been a coup. Not quite on the same talent level as Gould, Ron Jeremy also does a one-scene cameo as a porn director. And Sven-Ole Thorsen appears as a bodyguard. So everywhere you look in The Dangerous there is a familiar face.

Featuring some hair metal-type songs from a band called Skindiver, The Dangerous is an enjoyable movie that delivers what you want.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Note: Robert Davi contacted us via Twitter and here are his tweets about The Dangerous:

"THANKS FOR REVISIT ON THE DANGEROUS !! 1 thing the Mardi Gras warehouse was a location I picked and Hard Target COPIED US." 

"We actually shot the dangerous before hard target !!! it was made in 92 released later"

6/13/2014

Challenge Of The Tiger (1980)

Challenge Of The Tiger (1980)- * * *1\2
AKA: Gymkata Killer

Directed by: Bruce Le

Starring: Bruce Le, Bolo Yeung, and Richard Harrison










When a super-secret new drug hits the market that will kill all the sperm in the male body, bad guys the world over want to get their hands on the formula so they can use it to take over the world. Unluckily for them, two of the best CIA agents in human history are prepared to go to any lengths to stop them: Huang Lung (Le), who, naturally, is a great Martial Arts master, and Richard Cannon (Harrison), who is the ultimate ladies man. But he’s going to have to put his rampant womanizing on hold so he can join Lung.  Traveling from Spain to Hong Kong to get justice and prevent the formula from getting into the wrong hands, can this odd couple do it?

We’re big fans of Ninja Strikes Back (1982), which is kind of like a companion film to Challenge of the Tiger, in the sense that they are both Dick Randall productions, both star Bruce Le, and are both clinically insane. While we happen to prefer NSB a little more, there’s plenty of pleasure to behold within COTT. You’ve got to love the 80’s, a time when if you weren’t an Asian gentleman with a Johnny Ramone haircut doing Martial Arts moves wearing tight flared jeans and a white sportcoat or Lacoste jacket, you just weren’t cool. By those standards, Bruce Le is the height of awesomeness, doing what he does best, and even co-directing the movie.


And lest we forget Richard Harrison stretching his acting chops as Richard Cannon. At least this movie is relatively coherent as opposed to his Godfrey Ho appearances. As the last word in suavitude, Cannon, inexplicably for a CIA agent, has a compound filled with topless chicks that do activities with him such as play tennis and go swimming. This guy puts Hugh Hefner to shame. Well, even more shame. Also in the cast is one Brad Harris, who plays a bodyguard named Leopard. He resembles The Stabilizer’s Peter O’Brian, and has some killer shades. Bolo Yeung is also on board, playing a character named Comrade Ban, but every time he’s addressed in the movie, it sounds like they’re calling him “Conrad Bain”. Wouldn’t Bolo acting as the father on Diff’rent Strokes be amazing? Now that really would be a different stroke. Also there’s some seemingly stolen footage of Jack Klugman and Jane Seymour thrown in. Klugman is seen talking to Bruce Le. What could they have been talking about? Even though he didn’t seem to be aware that he was being filmed, Klugman should have had a bigger role in Challenge of the Tiger.


The music is excellent, a winning kind of soul-funk that complements the onscreen action well. There are even unabashed ripoffs of Bobby Bloom’s “Montego Bay” and Isaac Hayes’ “Hung Up On My Baby”. The fact that there was no legal action that we know of is a testament to the freedom of the run-and-gun 80’s. The 80’s were just better than now. They just were. Anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong. Exhibit A in our court case: Challenge of the Tiger. (Exhibit B would be all the 80’s slasher movies). Richard Cannon’s lovin’ the ladies would probably be classified as “sex addiction” today. Need we go on?

This movie is just fun, funny enjoyable fun. Repetitive? Yes. Fun? Undoubtedly. Just check out the scene that gives TRUE meaning to the word “Bullfighting”. Seeing as the Mondo Macabro DVD is paired with the legendary Weng Weng vehicle For Your Height Only (1981), there’s no reason not to own that fine disc.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

6/10/2014

Stranglehold (1994)

Stranglehold (1994)- * * *

Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago

Starring: Jerry Trimble, Jillian McWhirter, and Vernon G. Wells










When Ohio congresswoman Helen Filmore (McWhirter) and her staff fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to visit Chemco, a new chemical weapons facility, all hell breaks loose when terrorist Richter (Wells) and his goons commandeer the place and take Filmore and her staff hostage. Luckily, she has a badass bodyguard with an attitude, Ryan Cooper (Trimble). Cooper singlehandedly must take down the baddies and save Filmore. But with Richter’s goons at every turn, can he do it? Find out today!

Stranglehold is yet another addition to the 90’s “DieHardInA” sub-genre that we’ve covered extensively on this site. Lethal Tender, Deadly Outbreak, Crackerjack and many others populated video stores with scenarios oddly reminiscent of the Bruce Willis film. Thankfully, our main hero this time around is the inimitable Jerry Trimble, who looks like Sean Penn in a bout of ‘Roid Rage. (Interestingly, he resembles Penn when he’s wearing his suit. When he changes to fatigues - he only has two outfits in the movie - he looks more like Emilio Estevez. Go figure). Nevertheless, Trimble has a great voice, and it sounds a lot like Reb Brown’s. It’s highly enjoyable to watch him fight baddies and shoot one-liners. And more baddies. To quote the tagline: “Bare hands. Fast feet. Short temper. Ryan Cooper needs no weapon”. That’s all you need to know, really.


Besides Trimble and his ponytail, and his utterance of lines such as “Maybe a diet sandwich?” to a portly compatriot (we think Trimble may have unwittingly invented something awesome here. But we suspect he does a lot of things unwittingly), there are some other B-movie greats onboard. Jillian McWhirter, who we knew from Beyond the Call of Duty (1992) and the great PM movies Last Man Standing (1995) and Rage (1995) is good as the congresswoman. And we always love to see Vernon G. Wells, and here he puts in a wonderfully hammy performance as the bad guy with the prerequisite German name. And because it’s a Cirio movie under the Corman auspices, the running time is only 73 minutes! So it’s easy to fit this one into your movie-watching schedule.

The shooting and kicking in an industrial scenario, exploding things, not the least of which is at least one helicopter, and the keyboard-based soundtrack will feel nicely familiar to action fans and it gives the movie an 80’s feel. On the whole, we enjoyed Stranglehold, because there’s nothing NOT to enjoy. It delivers action goods in a compact package, and we applaud that.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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

6/09/2014

The Package (2012)

The Package (2012)- * * *

Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson

Starring: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Keenleyside, Monique Ganderton, Darren Shahlavi, Mike Dopud, Lochlyn Munro, and Jerry Trimble









Tommy (Austin) and his partner Julio (Dopud) are Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who work for big shot mob boss Big Doug (Keenleyside). They go around collecting debts for Mr. Big and everything seems peachy keen. One day, Tommy is entrusted to deliver THE PACKAGE to rival crime lord The German (Dolph). Seems simple enough, but Tommy’s life is about to get a lot more stressful, because hordes of baddies start chasing him because they want what he’s supposed to deliver. Devon (Shahlavi) commands a gang of highly-trained assassins, including token female gang member Monique (Ganderton), and others, such as Carl (Trimble) fight Tommy every step of the way. Tommy just wants to get back to his wife Darla (Kerr) but it’s going to be a battle to get there. Will Tommy survive, or will The Package be marked Return to Sender? Find out today...

We enjoyed The Package. It had an old-school vibe that we could really get into. All the movie really consists of is a series of fights between Stone Cold and various other characters. For us, the highlights naturally were the fight with Darren Shahlavi, who was so memorable as the baddie from Bloodmoon (1997), the fight with none other than Jerry Trimble, who we thought looked and sounded great, time has been very kind to him and we hope this revives his movie career, and of course the Dolph-Stone Cold battle that the whole film leads up to. Dolph is known only as “The German” - it seems he plays a lot of Russian, American, and now German characters, never any Swedish ones it seems - and it was nice to see him as a baddie after a long string of hero roles. It seems his last bad guy role, or at least the only one that comes to mind, was way back as Ivan Drago.


Not to be confused with the Gene Hackman vehicle The Package (1989), this particular The Package makes for entertaining and pleasant DTV action viewing, and has a different look and feel than another Anchor Bay-released Dolph outing, The Killing Machine (2010) (which interestingly also featured actress Monique Ganderton) - so if you’re worried that Anchor Bay is just pumping out a mindless, samey stream of Dolph movies, have no fear, that’s not the case. Besides, where else will you see Dolph extolling the virtues of a good fruit salad? That alone makes The Package worth at least one viewing. Of course, the classic cliches are also delivered (pun intended?) - the Prerequisite Torture of the hero, the wife of the hero who wants him to quit his dangerous job/lifestyle, and a favorite of ours, when the baddies find a place where they know the hero is, then break out at least one machine gun and proceed to shoot up the place from outside, in an extended shooting scene, rather than go inside, giving the hero ample time to survive.


It was comforting to watch a solidly-made modern-day actioner - it always helps to know you’re in capable hands (speaking about the writing and direction, and all the other technical aspects, which were all pretty much right on target). Director Johnson had previously made Pit Fighter (2005), so we were familiar with him from that. The Package gets our stamp of approval.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

6/06/2014

Jill The Ripper (2000)

Jill The Ripper (2000)- * *1\2

Directed by: Anthony Hickox

Starring: Dolph Lundgren and Kylie Bax










Set in Boston in 1977, Jill the Ripper is the tale of Matt Sorenson (Dolph), an ex-cop who may or may not have gotten in trouble because of his rogue ways and possible drinking problem. When his brother, a politician who was meant to be spearheading a massive underground tunnel project, ends up mysteriously murdered, Matt tries to piece together  who may be behind it. It turns out a female serial killer is on the loose, and Matt tears up all of Toronto, sorry, BOSTON, trying to get answers. As might be expected, his search leads him to seedy S & M dungeons where men are constantly being whipped and humiliated, Zipperface (1992) style. Will Matt Sorenson get to the truth, or will he get all “tied up” (groan) ?

Jill the Ripper was made during Dolph’s “hitting the skids” period of the late 90’s-early 2000’s. He was caught in between his 80’s glory and his modern renaissance. Hence cruddy crud like Agent Red (2000), Storm Catcher (1999), Hidden Agenda (2001) and Detention (2003). Missionary Man (2007) catches Dolph right in the middle of production companies shrugging their shoulders and announcing “we don’t know what to do with him”. This proves that even being the world’s greatest human being still isn’t good enough for Hollywood or small independent companies. He must have felt he was in a bind, much like Jill the Ripper’s victims.


Dolph does get to stretch his acting muscles a bit, because, after all, this is more a mystery/drama than anything else. There are large swathes of the movie that consist of dour dialogue scenes, and Dolph probably enjoyed a chance to get away from being seen as “just another musclehead”. Though we know that isn’t true, he still got to show some dramatic range here. The fact that it’s a 70’s period piece was interesting, and appreciated, but the movie as a whole has a “not theater ready” feel that many Canada-shot DTV items seem to have, and the whole 70’s vibe might have been done better under different circumstances. For example, there’s a Black guy with an absurd afro wig and an outfit that looks more like he’s on his way to a 70’s-themed party than anything else. Either that, or he sincerely believes the fact that funk will never die.


So while the movie isn’t a typical beat-em-up, it kind of made us wish that it was. It’s more of a ponderously over-serious bore, though it does include the time honored barfight. Let’s also remember the late 90’s/early 2000’s were a dark time for DTV - in more ways than one. It was the beginning of the “Too Dark Cliche”, or TDC, which is highly prevalent today in both TV and movies. That being the phenomenon of under-lighting scenes to the point where it’s not moody or interesting, you just can’t see anything. So, for the above stated reasons, it doesn’t hook you in, and you don’t really care all that much. Law and Order: SVU episodes, generally speaking, have similar themes and are more watchable.

Jill the Ripper was generally relegated to the dusty netherworld of un-perused video store shelves of the day. And that seems to be the final fate of this item from the interim phase of Dolph’s career.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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

6/03/2014

Blackjack (1998)

Blackjack (1998)- * *1\2

Directed by: John Woo

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, Kam Heskin, Padraigin Murphy, Saul Rubinek, and Fred Williamson









Jack Devlin (Dolph) is a man handy with a deck of cards - and, being as tough as he is, he’s a man you definitely want on your side. When he saves a young girl named Casey (Murphy) from a home invasion by hired killers, the two develop a father-daughter-like relationship. During the course of this fight, Jack’s vision is impaired and he develops a phobia of the color white. Casey eventually comes to live with him in his NYC apartment, where Jack also lives with his manservant Thomas (Rubinek). Jack then becomes the personal bodyguard to up-and-coming supermodel Cinder James (Heskin). But there are still killers on the loose and Jack must do his best, despite his new disability, to take down the baddies. Can he do it?

Apparently, Blackjack was meant as a pilot for a TV show about Jack Devlin, and you can totally tell. There’s really nothing about Blackjack you wouldn’t see on shows such as The Point Man, The Lazarus Man, Profiler, or any other action/drama programming on USA or UPN at the time. Sure, we still appreciate the stunt work - the scene in the forest is the standout - but the whole movie has a wacky vibe that will no doubt make you laugh, but is that really the point?


Fred Williamson is in it for a criminally small amount of time (what this movie should have been is Fred and Dolph as cops busting heads in a gritty NYC scenario, not this silliness) and Rubinek adds to the silly tone with his eyepatch and accent. Even though this was directed by John Woo, it feels more like a parody of Woo than Woo himself. Blackjack needed to be shorter and snappier, not to mention grittier. As it is, it feels like watered-down Dolph. He does his usual charismatic job, but it’s kind of hard to care. It seems like the whole vision plot was just an excuse for him to wear his awesome shades.


There does seem to be a reference to Zatoichi and the Baby Cart series if you’re looking for it, but on the whole this is pretty junky for John Woo, and the TV-movie vibe doesn’t really help matters. Though  it came out in the late 90’s, it was reassuring to hear some classic 80’s-style sax on the soundtrack. Dolph fans will always find something to love about the man, and Blackjack does have its moments (although most of them are silly moments) but it seems a different approach to the material would have helped immensely. It’s not a bad idea, there’s just something a bit wonky about the execution.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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

6/02/2014

Cover-Up (1991)

Cover-Up (1991)- * *1\2

Directed by: Manny Coto

Starring: Dolph Lundgren, and Louis Gossett Jr.












 Mike Anderson (Dolph) is an ex-Marine, now an investigative journalist based in L.A. He travels to Israel to try to get the story on some murders at a military base. A terrorist group called Black October is claiming responsibility, but is that the whole story? Anderson also is attempting to get to the truth through CIA operative Lou Jackson (Gossett Jr.). It seems Anderson is getting close, because several attempts are made on his life. He must uncover the conspiracy before it’s too late. Can he do it?

It seems Cover Up was an attempt by Dolph to do something a bit more “respectable”. There’s certainly nothing wrong with trying to change things up and attempting to break away from typecasting  - it’s just that Cover Up is kind of on the dour, dark and dry side. He’s more than entitled to try something different, but it’s just a shame that it’s this - because it’s still trying to keep one foot in the action world with some blow-ups, and maybe some mild shooting and fighting - but it’s not entirely a straight drama either. Despite the more serious-minded tone of the film, Dolph still manages to appear shirtless for no apparent reason. Some things can’t change, apparently.


If Dolph really wanted to break away from the cycle of action movies he was doing at the time, he probably shouldn’t have re-teamed with Louis Gossett Jr. after The Punisher (1989). Not that we mind, of course, they make a fine team, but what action remains in this movie is too close to his old work, yet not far enough away to separate himself from it. In Dolph’s defense, it’s a tough line to straddle. And he does look very cool with his cigar. It really makes you think Gossett was supposed to appear in The Peacekeeper (1997) to make a Dolph/Gossett trilogy, but instead Montel Williams of all people showed up to fill the role.

A good example of how this is an atypical Dolph movie comes when there is a scene in a pool hall, and all they do is talk and play pool. In any other movie, punches, kicks and pool cues would be flying. But Mike Anderson is a reporter, you see, not a fighter. Although he is “ex-military” (classic cliche we all love). So what about that? Presumably it explains what fighting does occur later in the movie.


The Israel locations are some of the highlights of the movie (and are shot very well by the cinematographer). The King David hotel, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, among other sites in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are on show. The climax during the religious procession also gets the local flavor very well. Cover Up may be lacking in overall excitement, but as a travelogue there’s certainly something to see.

To keep things in perspective, Cover Up is much better than The Last Warrior (2000), Agent Red (2000) and Detention (2003). Cover Up is really not even a bad movie, just a bit on the dull side. Dolph seemed to realize this, because he came roaring back into classic form with his next movie after this, Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991), one of his best and a Comeuppance Reviews favorite. Dolph fans will still appreciate Cover Up, and it makes a good one-time watch.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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