11/30/2014

Maximum Conviction (2012)

Maximum Conviction (2012)- * *

Directed by: Keoni Waxman

Starring: Steven Seagal, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Aliyah O'Brien, Steph Song, and Michael Pare









Two ex-Special Forces soldiers, Cross (Seagal) and Manning (Austin), who are “The Best” (obviously), are assigned to go into a prison and lead two female prisoners, Charlotte and Samantha (O’Brien and Song), who clearly were arrested for their appearances in Sex and the City, out of the building to safety. Trouble arises in the form of Blake (Pare), a super-evil baddie who wants the prisoners for his own reasons, which are not very clearly delineated. So Blake sends teams of his goons to go after Cross and Manning. As the four of them try to exit the building, the “secret identities” of the mysterious women slowly come out into the open. Meanwhile our two heroes have to use their training to fend off many attacks from the goons. Will they all make it out alive?

The good: it was interesting that Steve n’ Steve (as their team-up should invariably be called) weren’t at odds and didn’t bicker the whole time. They were on the same side, which was nice. Stone Cold certainly looks intimidating, which goes a long way, and kind of counterbalances Seagal’s painted-on, Eddie Munster hair and the silliness that arises from the fact that because the movie is so dark (apparently the budget couldn’t include ever turning on the lights - yes, it’s one of those) - and Seagal wears loose, flowing black clothing, so he just looks like a floating head a lot of the time. That of course when he’s not wearing a backwards baseball cap and sunglasses, in a patently absurd Mountain Dew-slamming attempt to look “young”. And when you distill it all down, there’s a few minutes worth of decent material, most of it coming from Austin and Pare.


The bad news: Steven Seagal plays yet another unlikable mush-mouth who beats and mangles his fellow human beings with unnecessary cruelty and a marked lack of fun. He actually has an unlikable fighting style, if that makes any sense. Ostensibly it’s Aikido, but thanks to Seagal’s weight, his proclivity for slapping people, and the fact that he thinks he’s Asian, he truly is America’s E. Honda. But Honda was never a sadistic torturer like Seagal seems to have become in his more recent DTV efforts. We certainly don’t want to pile on Seagal for his weight issues, on the contrary, this movie seems to be spinning his girth for the positive. For example, there are a few obvious shots of his double chin, and the character of Cross always seems to know what’s going on, regardless of his location in the movie. So perhaps, as Spider Man has his “spidey sense”, Cross has some sort of “double chin sense” that helps him.

 

But as for the movie itself, besides the aforementioned lack of lighting, a horrible trend in moviemaking we hope goes away soon, there are lots of gimmicky editing tricks, which don’t need to be there and seem like an attempt to be “cool”. There are CGI bullet hits, among other CGI stupidity, and the whole outing gets off to a slow start, a lot of the beginning portion could have been trimmed down. Pare is good, and we’re glad he was involved, but we would have liked if his character had more dimension. He pretty much just says “get to the extraction point” numerous times and does a generic bad guy thing. If his character, not to mention all the other characters, had just a tad bit more depth, the movie would have been a lot better overall and you’d really care. But as it stands, its budgetary limitations show due to the fact that it was all shot in one location, in Canada no less - but the real problem is that this movie is, sadly, a product of the modern-day times. Baddies have iPads and the whole thing is just heartless and soulless.

Despite a couple of little things going for it, the overall joylessness sinks Maximum Conviction.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

11/27/2014

Savage Dawn (1985)

Savage Dawn (1985)- * *

Directed by: Simon Nuchtern

Starring: Lance Henriksen, Karen Black, George Kennedy, Claudia Udy, Leo Gordon, William Forsythe, Mickey Jones, and Richard Lynch








Ben Stryker (Henriksen) is a former soldier who rolls in on his motorcycle into the dusty ol’ Western town of Agua Dulce. He’s a man of few words, and lets his short spiky blonde hair do the talking. Or, failing that, he’s pretty handy in a fight. He goes to see his wheelchair-bound buddy Tick (Kennedy), and his son (?) Danny, and reconnects with his old girlfriend Katie (Udy). But breaking up all the fond camaraderie is the notorious Savages biker gang. They come to the quiet town and start raising all sorts of hell. Led by Pigiron (Forsythe) and Zero (Jones), their growing presence in the town is pushing the residents to the breaking point. Even the local bar-mistress, Rachel (Black) has taken up with Pigiron, and no one, from the Sheriff (Gordon) to Rev. Romano (Lynch) can do anything about it. That’s when Stryker is pushed to do what he does best: Stryke. Will he drive the Savages out of town forever?

The first thing you’ll notice about Savage Dawn is the amazing cast. Lance Henriksen is very good as the sly Stryker (who’s also a byker) - another in a long line of men named Stryker or Striker that we’ve seen over the years. He makes a nice addition to the Stryker family. And because he co-stars with William Forsythe and the movie is about bikers, this can be considered as a sort of precursor to Stone Cold (1991). But here they’re at odds, in Stone Cold they’re buddies. But this is like a dry run for that, and in our opinion Stone Cold is the better movie. Karen Black was in Hostage (1987) with Wings Hauser, who was...Striker. Coincidence? George Kennedy put in a sympathetic performance as Tick, and fan favorite Richard Lynch is on board as the creepy reverend. Claudia Udy of Nightforce (1987) and To the Death (1993) gets into a catfight with Karen Black, and Mickey Jones plays Zero, as opposed to Wash Pot. We think he only plays dudes with nicknames. Lockdown (1990)’s Elizabeth Kaitan has a small role, as does, supposedly, Sam Kinison (?) and with all this star-power, you can’t go wrong...right?


As we’ve mentioned too many times before, we invented the phrase “Lone Tiger Syndrome” to describe the incidences when you get suckered into watching a movie because there are a lot of names you like or recognize in the cast, but then the movie itself is not that great, and you realize that having a lot of talented actors on board doesn’t mean the writing and directing is good. Too often the scales are tipped too far in one direction. We believe that is the case with Savage Dawn - a movie with a lot of filler that doesn’t live up to its potential. Which is a real shame, because it was SO CLOSE to being a winner: Henriksen is cool as the renegade “good biker” with all the great lines, George Kennedy has a rocket launcher, and there’s even some surprise Punchfighting, but here are the problems...


The movie is too long and too slowly paced, which might be more tolerable if it didn’t primarily take place in one location. It seems the majority of the film takes place in basically a backyard. The choppy editing doesn’t really help matters, and, to add insult to injury, Claudia Udy has a very unflattering hairstyle. All this movie would have needed is a snappier running time, and more Stryker mowing down baddies. Then we’d really have something. But the movie is bloated and sabotages itself at almost every turn. But at one point there is a fruit-cart fistfight, as opposed to a fruit cart car chase, so that’s something different. And stunt genius John Stewart of Action USA fame is here as “Blood” and behind the scenes as stunt coordinator. Plus the score is by Pino Donaggio, but somehow all these elements never work together to make a forceful statement.

As for the Image DVD, it’s an obvious “needle-drop” job (for those that don’t know, at least in the world of CD’s, fans use that term to mean when companies don’t go back to the master tapes, don’t remaster anything, or do anything technical to improve matters, they literally just “drop the needle” on the original vinyl and then release that as a “finished” product - too often that is done in the world of DVD as well) - it’s basically a rip of the VHS, complete with tracking lines. Luckily, we don’t care, we’re die-hard VHS watchers, but others out there might take issue with that. It’s also highly unusual for a company like Image to release something like that. What happened?

In the end, despite some worthwhile moments, Savage Dawn is a disappointing missed opportunity.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty 






11/25/2014

To Die Standing (1991)

To Die Standing (1991)- *1\2

Directed by: Louis Morneau

Starring: Cliff De Young, Robert Beltran, Jamie Rose, and Orlando Sacha








Broderick (De Young) is a DEA agent who plays by his own rules. His latest assignment takes him to Lima, Peru where he is tasked with bringing down Castillo (Sacha), the biggest drug lord in the area. To do this, he reluctantly teams up with local cop Delgado (Beltran), and the personalities of the two men don’t exactly match. Broderick has a glib, streetwise sense of humor and Delgado is very straitlaced. This original odd couple do indeed work together to bring Castillo to justice, but it’s not going to be easy. Helping them is government agent Constance Bigelow (Rose), but where do her true allegiances lie? Will Broderick and Delgado be able to make the streets of Peru safe from cocaine once and for all?

While it was nice to see Cliff De Young as the main star of a supposed action movie, we felt To Die Standing was a disappointment. De Young is good in it, and his bolo tie is stylish, but that’s just not enough. It feels like we’ve seen this type of thing before (and not in a good way). Mix Diplomatic Immunity (1991) and Prime Target (1991), and you get To Die Standing, also released in 1991. ‘91 must have been a banner year for action movies that needed more action. But that’s the problem: the whole thing is a bit too goofy for its own good, and any time it starts to get close to being tough or gritty, it backs away. And thanks to a lack of a big, scary, menacing villain (not to mention a lame ending and some early “fast motion”), To Die Standing, despite its cool title and box art, is a letdown.

Granted, the movie was from a more innocent time - a time when you could bring a gun on an airplane and have it out in an airport, and you not only WEREN’T a terrorist, but  you were one of the good guys! Despite the fact that the movie was released by a major studio on VHS (Columbia), its reach doesn’t appear to be that long, as it remains obscure and very few people have seen it. Maybe it’s all for the best, but people should be able to make up their own minds. But it was produced by New World, and the project suffers from Roger Corman’s middle-of-the-road sensibilities.

This was director Morneau’s first directorial effort, and he continued to make more DTV movies after this, such as Soldier Boyz (1995).

Sadly, To Die Standing doesn’t have “it” and with all the competition in video stores at the time, it just kind of faded into the background.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

11/24/2014

Tiger Heart (1996)

Tiger Heart (1996)- * * *

Directed by: Georges Chamchoum

Starring: Ted Jan Roberts, Timothy Williams, Art Camacho, Christopher Kriesa, Rance Howard, Jennifer Lyons, Matthias Hues, and Robert LaSardo






Eric Chase (Ted Jan) is a teenager who lives to practice Martial Arts at his local dojo. Even when his best buddy Brad (Williams) cajoles him into going to parties with bikini-clad babes, nothing can stop Eric from sparring with his local tots and his Sensei (Camacho - simply billed as “Sensei”). When Eric meets the beautiful Stephanie Simmons (Lyons) at the deli across from his beloved dojo, it seems first love may be in the air. Unfortunately, Nat (Kriesa) is your classic evil land developer, and he’s sending out squads of punks and/or goons to scare people out of their homes and businesses so he can build one of those despised malls on their property. Led by Paulo (LaSardo), the goons eventually end up at Mr. Johnson’s (Howard) deli - where Eric’s paramour Stephanie happens to work. Defending her honor, Eric uses his long-practiced Martial Arts skills on the goons - but can this one kid fight off the coming real estate war? Find out today!

Classic Ted Jan all the way. If you’re familiar with his work, such as the entertaining A Dangerous Place (1995), here is more of the same. Which is a good thing, because both movies have a youth-oriented, fun, upbeat feel. The likable Roberts did a lot of work for PM, but this may be the standout. His buddy Brad is the wacky sidekick. To him, the Haim/Feldman vehicle License To Drive (1988) is more than a movie. It’s a template to base your entire life upon. Even though  Brad begs for his dad’s car keys and promises to eat his vegetables if he can have them, actor Timothy Williams was 29 years old at the time of filming! Let’s not forget this is a man/kid who wears a Hawaiian shirt with a Billy Joel “River of Dreams” T-shirt underneath - tucked in. Clearly this is a man who knows where he’s going in life. Interestingly, Ted Jan co-starred with Feldman in A Dangerous Place. Coincidence?


Once again, Roberts wears hugely oversized clothing, and his age is indeed in question. One minute his sister (McComas) says she has to babysit him, the next minute he’s driving and saying he’s going to college next year. But one thing is for certain: Eric can’t go out and fight evil land-developer punks unless he finishes his summer reading. That’s almost an exact quote from the movie. This indeed might be the first recorded instance of the term “summer reading” on film. What a first. But the movie is totally 90’s through and through, from the clothing to the dialogue. Robert LaSardo gets a lot of nice screentime here. Normally he’s relegated to the background, but he’s the main “street baddie”. His fellow punks walk around with boomboxes on their shoulders, so you know they’re evil, not to mention disruptive. The “save our community” plot was also done in fellow PM movie Private Wars, and some scenes feel very familiar.

The title song is a lot of fun too, and it even features the lyrics “power comes from discipline!” - you don’t hear that, lyrically, every day. Thank you John Gonzales and Derol Caraco for that. It’s hard to believe that this fast-paced romp was directed by the same guy who directed the abysmal Musketeers Forever (1998). This is so much better than that. The PM style is out in force, so it’s almost like, abstractly, PM itself directed the movie. Also, it should be noted that there is an uncredited cameo from Matthias Hues to watch out for.

Tiger Heart is an enjoyable “entry-level” action movie best suited for people who don’t take themselves so seriously.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


11/20/2014

Ninja Wars (1982)

Ninja Wars (1982)- * * *

Directed by: Kosei Sato

Starring: Hiroyuki Sanada, Noriko Watanabe, and Akira Nakao and Sonny Chiba








Set in the Japan of the past, Ninja Wars tells the tale of Jotaro (Sanada) and Kagaribi (Watanabe) - two lovers whose lives are violently interrupted by the evil Lord Danjo (Nakao). Because of what he’s been told, he believes that if he marries Lady Ukyo (also Watanabe), he will be the ultimate ruler of Japan, if not the world. The problem is, he needs to make his own aphrodisiac in order to seduce her, so he kidnaps her sister, who happens to be Kagaribi. Her tears are a vital ingredient in the potion. Jotaro is not happy about this and goes on a quest to find her and rescue her, but he has to contend not just with Lord Danjo, but also his henchmen, known as the Five Devil Monks. Thankfully, Jotaro is a ninja, and he will need his skills to strike back at the power-mad Danjo and his axis of evil. Will he succeed?

Ninja Wars opens with a freeze frame, which is a promising start to a fine film - normally we’re satisfied with a movie that ends with one. But that detail aside, The Ninja Wars (or simply Ninja Wars as the big-box Prism VHS that we saw calls it - apparently the “the” was too cumbersome for them) is a very well-shot, traditional Japanese period piece. But it also is chock full of weird, wacky and off-kilter ideas. It has a lot of the ninja weaponry and costuming we’ve come to expect, and seeing as how it is actually Japanese (as opposed to the many knockoffs which aren’t), it commands more respect from the viewer.


The movie fluctuates back and forth between a serious drama, complete with beautiful costumes, wonderful sets, and the aforementioned excellent cinematography, and a bizarre, fairy tale-like flight of fancy, which the flying ninjas, strange weapons, and items like the “Crescent Sword Technique”, which is like an ancient light saber, only serve to reinforce. The dubbing on the VHS is highly ridiculous at times, especially the monks, who with their ridiculous gravelly voices sound like Cookie Monster. There are many spoken moments familiar to viewers who have seen dubbing jobs like this before: take note of the “HA-HA-HA-HA!!!” laughter by Lord Danjo and you’ll know what we mean. Speaking of the Devil Monks, apparently (at least one of them) pioneered the afro haircut. They were evil henchmen, and fashion-forward.

Ninja Wars was a Toei production, known today mainly for having a barely-noticeable appearance by Sonny Chiba. We didn’t even know he was in the movie before going into it, and frankly, it doesn’t matter. We were mainly drawn in by the amazing box art, and during the golden age of the video store, when the Ninja Boom was in full swing, you had to do something to stand out from the many competitors. Prism definitely did. But the fact is, Ninja Wars is more than a simple ninja movie, and couldn’t be farther away from the epics of Godfrey Ho. Granted, we like Godfrey Ho, but this really shows the range and diversity even within the Ninja Boom, that we could get things on opposite ends of the spectrum like this and one of Ho’s movies. That’s one of the reasons why ninja movies of the 80’s are well worth exploring today. Like a lot of movies of any kind, however, Ninja Wars loses a bit of steam towards the end, but it’s still well worth checking out.

For a Ninja Boom-era movie with more, Ninja Wars should be what you’re looking for, and now that it’s on DVD, it’s easier to find than ever before.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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


11/19/2014

Terminator Woman (1993)

Terminator Woman (1993)- * * *

Directed by: Michel Quissi

Starring: Karen Sheperd, Jerry Trimble, Michel Quissi, Ashley Hayden, and Ted Le Pat









Sgt. Jay Handlin (Trimble) and Sgt. Julie Parish (Sheperd) are cops with an ongoing rivalry about who is the better Martial Artist - but could there be some sparks flying in the romantic department as well? In the midst of trying to figure these things out, the pair travel to Africa of all places to try and bring down crime lord Alex Gatelee (Qissi). Consequently, they get into a ton of fights and face some other trials and tribulations - Julie is kidnapped, Jay has to reject the advances of Gatelee associate Myra Bolo (Hayden), and so forth. After enlisting the help of some locals, their Martial Arts abilities are truly put to the test when they face the ultimate showdown - Gatelee himself, of course. Will Jay be Handlin business? Find out today...?

Terminator Woman, not to be confused with Lady Terminator (1989), is professionally-shot and competently made - could it be a coincidence that this was not one of Trimble’s Roger Corman-produced actioners? That being said, the pacing is off and things get a bit dull at times. If about 10 minutes were lopped off, this whole outing might have a bit more verve to it. But the leads are all top-notch: You’ve got fan-favorite Trimble, who, in the most complimentary sense, resembles a more meatheady Emilio Estevez, and his trademark raspy voice is instantly recognizable. Then you’ve got fellow fan-favorite Sheperd, an enjoyable screen presence whose Martial Arts skill is excellent and wonderfully captured here. Finally, there’s Qissi, who also directed the movie, who very convincingly plays the baddie. So those are the movie’s strengths and weaknesses for you, and they fight it out - like everyone else on screen - throughout the running time.

Generally speaking, we don’t really care for ‘Africa Slogs’, as we call them, but this one is tolerable, thanks mainly to the aforementioned leads. The Trimble/Sheperd team up was an inspired choice, and it might remind you of similar pairings, such as Richard Norton and Cynthia Rothrock in the Rage and Honor diptych, or Steven Vincent Leigh and Sophia Crawford in Sword of Honor (1996). If nothing else, the movie as a whole plays to the strengths of the leads, and there are plenty of fights - as well as some good-natured stupidity - to prove that.

The whole thing is very 90’s - just witness the scenes at the Backlash club for proof. Maybe it’s an Africa thing, or maybe it’s an action movie thing, but it’s hard to imagine a dance club in the U.S. being named “Backlash”. It’s a bit too angry for us. Judging by the large “TW” logo on the U.S. VHS box art, perhaps the filmmakers were attempting a bit of branding: this is the one and only TW, and in their ideal world, people would ask each other around the water cooler, “have you seen the latest TW movie? I did, and it was awesome.” Latest, because surely more TW’s were planned. As it stands, presumably Sheperd is the TW, but the movie isn’t solely about her and her quest. Trimble is an equal part, and they didn’t call the movie “Terminator Man” - though, to be fair, Steve Railsback is the true Termination Man. Schwarzenegger ranks somewhere in there too, I’m sure.

In the midst of all the action, Trimble finds time to do a spontaneous shirtless Martial Arts workout/display alone in his hotel room whilst wearing tight jeans. The only outfit a 90’s action star needs.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

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

11/17/2014

Breathing Fire (1991)

Breathing Fire (1991)- * * *

Directed by: Lou Kennedy, Brandon Pender, and Brandon De-Wilde

Starring: Jerry Trimble, Eddie Saavedra, Jonathan Ke Quan, Ed Neil, Laura Hamilton, T.J. Storm, Wendell C. Whitaker, and Bolo Yeung






Breathing Fire is the family saga of the Moore clan. Michael Moore (Trimble), who is the original Michael Moore and not to be confused with the noted unappealing and unpleasant blowhard who stole his name, masterminded a bank heist and stole plenty of gold bars. He has one White son, Tony (Eddie Saavedra in unfortunately his only movie role) and one Vietnamese son that he brought back from ‘Nam when he was serving there, somewhat distastefully named Charlie (Ke Quan). Both sons are Martial Arts enthusiasts and compete in local tournaments. When a young girl named Annie (Hamilton)’s parents are killed by Michael Moore, she goes on the run with Michael’s brother David (Neil), who also served in Vietnam. They end up at Michael Moore’s house, where David reluctantly trains them in his fighting style, and many baddies, including Thunder (Yeung) are fought against in the quest to unravel the truth about a highly-valuable piece of plastic pizza. You’re just going to have to watch to understand, which you should do today...

Usually when a movie is credited to three directors, that spells trouble. Just look at Slaughter High (1986). But in this case, it means silly fun for everyone. With its wacky and youth-oriented spirit, Breathing Fire wouldn’t be out of place in the canon of Ted Jan Roberts. Instead of Ted Jan, we get Mark-Paul Gosselaar lookalike Saavedra, who gives us his own personal vision of what a Zack Attack should be. The movie also strikes a blow for the Americans with Disabilities Act, because it features a boy with a speech impediment (Ke Quan) in a fight scene with multiple midgets (excuse me, “little people”), and doesn’t dwell on or exploit the fact. And any movie with a cross-dressing Bolo Yeung simply demands to be seen.


The movie is chock full of great line readings, fascinating T-shirts, training sequences (a lot of which could easily be mistaken for torture), Vietnam flashbacks, and much more. There’s a killer disco sequence, the token female baddie of the gang is of course here, and it all concludes in - you guessed it - an abandoned warehouse.  And let’s not forget the time honored “young person/people have to prove they’re worthy to the great master before he’ll work with them” subplot involving Ed Neil, not to be confused with Ed O’Neill (though both are Martial Arts masters - O’Neill is a practitioner of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Why Al Bundy himself hasn’t been cast in any Breathing Fire-type movies remains an open question). Ed Neil should have done more as well. A team-up with Ed O’Neill as Karate-kicking cops would have been amazing. It’s never too late.
 

Despite, or perhaps because of, the three directors, there are plenty of humorously abrupt cuts, and other...what look like shortcuts, on display. It all adds to the entertainment value, and the fight scenes have that Hong Kong-style fast energy. While that style of fight scene is more than welcome, it almost seems out of place in this kinda-sorta-quasi-almost kids movie. The whole “brothers in ‘Nam” idea was an interesting concept, and could have been developed into a movie in its own right. But in the end, Breathing Fire is a wacky good time, with both Bolo and Trimble at their absolute best. (Side note: watch out for the Code of Silence (1985) poster at Tank (Wendell C. Whitaker in unfortunately his only movie role)’s house. )

Breathing Fire has got the fights you want, the silliness you need, and the “totally 90’s” vibe you can’t get enough of. And the DVD is dirt cheap. What’s not to love?

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, 10k Bullets, DTVC, and Fist Of B-List !





11/13/2014

Full Contact (1992)

Full Contact (1992)- * * * *

Directed by: Ringo Lam

Starring: Chow-Yun Fat, Anthony Wong, Frankie Chan, Ann Bridgewater, Bonnie Fu, and Simon Yam











 Jeff (Yun-Fat) is a bouncer at a nightclub and one of the coolest dudes ever. He and his friend Sam (Wong) get mixed up with a gang of three unhinged criminals: the flamboyant and amoral Judge (Yam), his mohawked meathead sidekick Dino (Frankie Chan) and Virgin (Fu), the overheated female member of the group. While Jeff is after the money a potential heist might bring so he can help Sam with his gambling debts, not to mention to improve his own life and the life of his girlfriend Mona (Bridgewater), things naturally get out of hand and Judge gets very close to killing Jeff, but Jeff narrowly escapes. Jeff then spends his time in Thailand training to get back into fighting shape so he can take on Judge and his buddies once and for all. And the final showdown will be an epic one for the ages. So get ready because this is going to be some FULL CONTACT revenge!

In our estimation, Full Contact is among the finest action product - or any product - produced in the fertile 90’s in Hong Kong. It’s a crown jewel of the genre, a shining example of what action could be and should be. It’s just an awesome movie, directed with energy and verve to spare, that’s gigantically entertaining and holds up to multiple viewings easily.  From the opening guitar lick forward, you know you’re in for something special.


Chow Yun-Fat has never been better. As Jeff, the seemingly indestructible bouncer who coasts along on his motorcycle while wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigarette while shooting baddies with two guns, he defines the word “cool”. This is the role he should be known for. Every great action movie needs a super-evil baddie, and Simon Yam as Judge is perfect. He’s deceptively fey one minute, and deadly the next. His charisma is of a completely different sort than Jeff’s, and the contrast is noticeable and they make perfect rivals.


Adding to the excellence of this movie are the time-honored training sequences and disco scenes. The song used, “The World Has Gone Insane”, by Alan Tam, perfectly captures the spirit of not just the movie but the time in which it was produced. As do the songs by Extreme. Full Contact is also Ringo Lam at his best. He fashioned a powerful, intense and fast-paced ride of a movie that’s directed slickly and confidently. It’s filled with the violence and stunts we’ve come to know and love, but somehow this movie is on a higher level than most. There’s even subtle themes to look out for, such as Jeff getting shot in the middle of his hands and bleeding, possibly a reference to the stigmata of Jesus? Regardless, Full Contact delivers the goods in spades and at this point in time is in a “much imitated, never equaled” sort of situation.

It’s well worth owning, so make sure you go on Amazon and buy the DVD post-haste, if you haven’t already.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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

11/11/2014

Terminal Rush (1996)

Terminal Rush (1996)- * *

Directed by: Damian Lee

Starring: Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Roddy Piper, Brian Warren, and Brett Halsey




 “It’s classic stupid if you ask me.” - Snookie





Jacob Harper (Don the Dragon) is a Deputy Sheriff in a small town near the Hoover Dam. As if having to fend off rednecks who harangue him because of his Indian (i.e. Native American) ancestry wasn’t enough, now a team of heavily-armed baddies has taken over the dam. They threaten to blow it up if they don’t get twenty-five million dollars in ransom. (They’re holding the dam hostage, so that makes sense, right? Eh, never mind...) Raising the stakes are the fact that Harper’s wife is pregnant and his beloved father, Nate (Halsey) is trapped in the dam. Harper’s going to have to use all his wits and Martial Arts skill (actually just a bunch of pew-pew gun-shooting, but more on that later) to save the dam and beat the bad guys. But has he met his match in Bartel (Piper)? The VHS box art would seem to indicate so. For Harper to complete the mission, will it be dam successful or dam impossible? And you thought we wouldn’t do a ‘dam’ pun in the first paragraph...

Terminal Rush is a scraggly straggler in the unending 90’s parade of “DieHardInA” movies. Ironically enough, the long list of such films is interminable indeed. And this ranks towards the end of the pack, if we may mix a metaphor. While the opening of the movie is highly ridiculous and funny, with government officials spitting out random nonsequiturs in between credit titles, while throughout the whole sequence, a big, framed, centered picture of Bill Clinton beams out at us, the audience. So far, so silly. But then it takes a turn for the mediocre, with tons of mindless shooting between no-one-knows-who, and instead of an abandoned warehouse, it’s the inner workings of the dam, which looks exactly the same. The whole look of the movie is drab and washed-out, in typical Damian Lee style. He’s not reppin’ Canada properly. And we’re not even Canadian. So why do we keep watching these things?


Because we think our cinematic heroes, Don The Dragon and Roddy Piper will save us. Granted, Roddy plays a rare baddie role here, but you get the point. In classic fashion, Don’s character, Harper, is ex-Special Ops, ex-Special Forces, and “if anyone can save us, he can”. But, as we alluded to earlier, he does more shooting than Martial Arts, which was a disappointment. His minority Indian status allows him to get away with moments like: after he beats up/kills a baddie, his one-liner is, and we quote, “That’s a dreamcatcher”. If you didn’t just groan, feel free to do so now. Viewer warning: it doesn’t get any better from here on out.

Yes, the movie is startlingly dumb, but it does have Roddy wearing bizarre eyeblack throughout the entire outing, which can be seen on the box cover. It truly is the original guyliner. Just why he wears it - and why he wears it for the entirety of the movie - is never explained, but our introduction to it is lifted from a gag from Airplane! (1980). Roddy can pull it off. The gag, not the eyeblack. Meanwhile, there’s a Black guy named Snookie (Warren). Truly he’s the original Snookie. The Jersey Shore cast members must be huge Terminal Rush fans. And what could be more apt than naming a little orange moppet after a strapping Black gentleman? Plus his voice sounds exactly like Samuel L. Jackson’s. If you ever wished Jackson appeared in Terminal Rush, just close your eyes during Snookie’s scenes. You’re not missing much anyway.

Sadly, a few silly beat-em-up scenes, an exploding helicopter, and Roddy Piper with a missile launcher can’t distract from the fact that the whole endeavor lacks interest or suspense. But it does have one of our favorite items, repeated footage. Apparently some goons walking down steps while shooting machine guns was deemed so amazing, we had to see it multiple times. Featuring the typical 90’s word Terminal in the title (see our Terminal Justice review for a more detailed analysis of this phenomenon), this Terminal Rush is a terminal bore.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

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










11/10/2014

Terminal Entry (1988)

Terminal Entry (1988)- * * *1\2

Directed by: John Kincade

Starring: Edward Albert, Patrick Labyorteaux, Paul L. Smith, Rob Stone, Sam Temeles, Heidi Helmer, Yvette Nipar, Jill Terashita, Tracy Brooks Swope, and Yaphet Kotto









Captain Danny Jackson (Albert) is a Strike Team Leader who is trying to stop Islamic terrorists from crossing over the borders of the USA from Mexico. He’s working with Colonel Styles (Kotto) and their mysterious and overweight boss Stewart (Smith). Complicating their job is the fact that the terrorists are now communicating via the all-new technology of “going online”. This is confounding them, especially Jackson, who is a man of action who would rather be shooting a machine gun from a speeding jeep than tinkering around on a computer like some kind of nerd. Which brings us to the activities of six teens - Bob, Tom and Howie (Labyorteaux, Stone and Temeles) and their prospective girlfriends Chris, Tina and Gwen (Helmer, Nipar and Terashita) who go out to a remote cabin in the woods to play the awesome new online game, Terminal Entry. What they don’t realize is: this game just got real. The kids are messing around with the same system the terrorists are using to communicate, and that Jackson and Styles, along with reporter Dominique (Swope) are trying to crack. It all comes to a head when the teens, the baddies and the heroes converge. What will happen?

We LOVED Terminal Entry. It was only natural that a movie would be made that marries together two standards of the video stores of the day: action movies and Romps (teen sex romps as we call them). But one of the most fascinating things about this movie is how ahead of its time it was. Who else in 1988 was talking about computers going “online”, Islamic terrorists (“suicide hit squads” in the movie) crossing our borders, and kids with headsets heavily involved in interactive video games? The movie is so ahead of its time, the filmmakers didn’t even realize it was unrealistic to give all the guys girlfriends. It was before the trope of “girlfriend-less dork” even developed in the popular consciousness. Of course, Terminal Entry will never get any credit for being ahead of the curve by anyone except us.


It’s wall-to-wall “80’s Awesome” as everything from the clothing, to the dialogue and of course the computer graphics scream 80’s. To us, that’s a very good thing. Even the Celebrity Video intro oozes with 80’s charm. It’s probably our favorite VHS label intro. Further increasing its 80’s cred is the presence of Rob Stone, who is instantly recognizable to Mr. Belvedere fans as Kevin on that classic show. Sadly, this is his only film role to date. Also, the movie features Edward Albert at his coolest, as he plays the hero with aplomb with machine guns and missile launchers. He’s the only dude awesome enough to bring nunchuks to a rural forest fight outside of a Godfrey Ho joint. Presciently, he says, “They’re bringing the war to us.” Yaphet Kotto is always nice to see, and he puts in a cigar-chompingly good role. We also loved seeing fan favorite Paul Smith. Tracy Brooks Swope, who was in such “classics” as Counter Measures (1999) and the immortal Keaton’s Cop (1990) is also on board.


And lest we forget Patrick Labyorteaux as Bob. He’s the charismatic, funny, wacky kid who looks like an 80’s version of Leave It To Beaver’s Tony Dow, and lives by BPOL - Bob’s Philosophy Of Life. Based on his monologue during the end credits (which are yellow on blue), perhaps they were setting up a series of “Bob” movies or TV shows. They seemed to be investing a lot in his character. Fascinatingly, it was all produced by the mysterious Sandy Cobe, the man behind the great Revolt (1986) and a few other items. The music by Tweed Sneakers is appropriately 80’s, and our man John “Action USA” Stewart did stunts.  It all adds up to a solidly fun movie that is ripe for reappraisal.

Before The Net (1995), before Hackers (1995), there was Terminal Entry. As it says on the back of the box, “Terminal Entry picks up where War Games left off.” We think it should be enjoyed by a new generation of fans.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty









11/06/2014

The Big Racket (1976)

 The Big Racket (1976)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Enzo G. Castellari

Starring: Fabio Testi, Vincent Gardenia, Glauco Onorato, Orso Guerrini, Renzo Palmer, and Romano Puppo











Nico Palmieri (Testi) is an Italian cop investigating an especially brutal gang whose specialty is extortion. If local shop owners don’t pay their protection money, the gang of toughs stop at absolutely nothing when it comes to ruining their lives. As Nico delves further into their world of amorality and violence, he realizes it doesn’t stop at extortion - it goes way higher up into international drug trafficking and funneling the money into larger and larger projects. Fearing the evildoers will soon be taking over all of Italy, Nico turns to Pepe (Gardenia), a criminal himself, albeit a charming one, for help. As the stakes rise, and realizing that the only way to handle the situation is by doing it themselves, Nico organizes what might be called a Revenge Team - getting together victims personally hurt by the baddies - and exacting their own brand of vigilante justice. The team consists of Nico, Pepe, Mazzarelli (Onorato), a man permanently crippled by the gang, Rossetti (Guerrini), an Olympic marksman whose wife was raped and murdered by them, Giulti (Palmer), whose daughter was raped by the gang and who then committed suicide, and Doringo (Puppo), a mercenary who wants a favor from Nico. Will they succeed?

The Big Racket is another highly entertaining masterpiece by the amazing Enzo G. Castellari. We’re huge fans of his, and as we’ve discussed in other reviews of his work, he seems to succeed in every genre he turns his hand to. This is a top-notch Poliziotteschi, and has a darker and more serious tone than his other collaboration with the great Fabio Testi, The Heroin Busters (1977). Testi’s crime film with Lucio Fulci, Contraband (1980) is yet another classic of the genre and well worth seeing if you haven’t already. As always for the Italians, and for Enzo specifically, the film is very well-shot, and is interestingly edited. It’s certainly colorful, as the time-honored disco scene proves. The music by Guido and Maurizio De Angelis is also typically excellent and fits the tone of the movie perfectly. The whole package is irresistible and you really can’t lose.


Out of the three Poliziotteschi directed by Enzo that were released on DVD by Blue Underground - Street Law (1974), The Big Racket and The Heroin Busters - The Big Racket is probably the most intense. Not to mention angry and perhaps nihilistic. Additionally, Fabio Testi (who is the original Fabio) has never looked cooler. These movies are fascinating records of the time, and the frustrations felt by the audience, who were living through real-life crime waves in Italy at that time, are perfectly expressed by Enzo and his team. Showing how solidly made they are, these movies more than stand the test of time today. They are perfectly suited for today’s audiences as well. That’s surely the sign of quality. It’s doubtful Blue Underground would have released them if, hypothetically, they were unwatchable, incoherent crud by today’s standards. The only real crime here is that BU is probably not going to release any more Poliziotteschi - by any director - anytime soon. We believe, sadly, that the ship has sailed on a wide enough audience buying these films on DVD, enough so that the company can make a profit. We certainly hope that isn’t the case, but we fear it is. The DVD boom of the early-to-mid 2000’s is over (seemingly it just got started...) but at least we have some of Enzo’s fine work which made it to disc at the right time.

The Big Racket is a classic of the genre and we recommend it highly.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

Also check out write-ups from our buddies, A Hero Never Dies and 10k Bullets! 


11/05/2014

Year Of The Dragon (1985)

Year Of The Dragon (1985)- * * *1\2

Directed by: Michael Cimino

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Ariane, John Lone, Caroline Kava, and Raymond J. Berry









Stanley White (Rourke) is a Cop On The Edge (and Vietnam vet) in New York City. Assigned to Chinatown, he discovers the area is rife with gangs demanding protection money from shopkeepers, illegal gambling, and other activities that are against the law - U.S. law. When White confronts the leaders of the community, he is informed that their traditions are thousands of years old, and he can’t just waltz in and change things. But then the violence spins out of control and the murder rate rises. The headstrong Stanley just won’t tolerate their growing domination. Meanwhile, Stanley finds himself growing apart not just from his colleagues on the police force, but from his wife Connie (Kava). He develops a relationship with Asian TV reporter Tracy Tzu (Ariane), and when she gets caught in the middle between Stanley and his growing sense of vengeance to crime leader Joey Tai (Lone), fireworks - literally - occur. Will Stanley clean up the streets of Chinatown? Find out today!

Michael Cimino is one of the only currently-living masters of American cinema, and with a screenplay co-written by him and Oliver Stone, in a movie produced by Dino De Laurentiis, you know you’re going to get a high-quality production. It’s an expertly-shot and acted film as well, and with some of the themes it deals with, it was ahead of its time in 1985. It’s filled with intense moments, and its length and pace bespeak its status as an epic crime drama, which would make sense as the novel it’s based from was written by Robert Daley of Prince of the City (1981) fame. So we applaud that it did not cave in to the trend of “MTV editing”, and it comes out smelling like a rose in the 21st century.


Mickey Rourke was the ideal choice to play Stanley. This was at the height of his initial fame in the 80’s, and he’s looking young and trim. Stanley, despite appearing, on the surface, like a brash, insensitive, politically-incorrect brute, actually has a highly sensitive soul and a powerful and overriding sense of morality. But he’s caught up in a corrupt world so he deals with it the best he can. Rourke, one of the most talented actors currently working today, can expertly play that subtlety and complexity. Plus not only does he have cool hair, he has a cool hat, and when he’s not wearing his cool hat, the coolness of his hair can shine, and his hair seems to get cooler as the movie goes along.


On top of the cultural knowledge and references in the movie, not just of Asian culture but biblical as well (could Stanley’s shot in the middle of his hand with its blood be a reference to the stigmata of Jesus?) , it’s important to recognize that this was the 80’s, after all, and we get the disco scene we all love, and arcade games Pac-Man, Galaga and Defender can be seen. This movie truly has it all.

So for a serious-minded, extremely professional cop/crime drama that has all the hallmarks that we know and love, plus a lot more, it’s hard to beat Year of the Dragon.

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett

11/03/2014

Ballistica (2009)

Ballistica (2009)- * * *

Directed by: Gary Jones

Starring: Paul Logan, Martin Kove, Robert Davi, C.B. Spencer, and Andrew Divoff





 “My Ballistica is better.” - Dragomir



When the dastardly terrorist group Hand of Truth and its leader Dragomir (Divoff) threaten to blow up many people with something called a micro-pulse bomb, CIA director Riley (Kove) unleashes the ultimate weapon on the baddies: Damian Sloan (Logan). A meatheaded CIA agent with an attitude, Sloan has at least one particular trick up his sleeve that will render evildoers of the world useless...can you guess what it is? Sloan teams up with token female scientist Alexa (Spencer), but Riley is continually being kept in check by the mysterious Macarthur (Davi). After getting into a bunch of underlit fights, chases and scrapes, loyalties turn, and allegiances change, but Sloan stays overly serious throughout it all. Will Sloan - or the terrorists - finally go Ballistic(a) on us all? Find out today!

Ballistica is at least three things: 1. A supremely silly action escapade 2. The name of a Martial Arts style that incorporates guns into the physical movements that doesn’t look completely ridiculous at all and is taught by the inimitable Paul Logan 3. A concept that exists throughout time and space and that lives on in all of our hearts. If the movie had come out in ‘87, it would have gone to the theater. If it had come out in ‘94, it would have gone to video stores. In both instances, it may have found an audience. But in 2009, the era of chintzy green screen, grade-school CGI, back-projection car chases, and filming stuff in the dark so you can perhaps cover up some flaws, it’s hard to imagine anyone out there hearing of this movie, renting it or buying it, then nodding approvingly as they watch it. It’s quite hard not to laugh at the scenes of Ballistica, however (among other unintentionally funny moments), so this could be a movie you can round up some friends for and watch together and have some laffs.


So, just to reiterate, Ballistica is a thing. And who better to introduce it to the world than a man named Paul Logan (not to be confused with Crocodile Dundee himself, Paul Hogan). We all remember Logan from The Ultimate Game (2001), right?...right? He looks like a ‘roided-up Jerry O’Connell, has the charisma of a piece of shrimp toast, and also looks like a ‘roided-up Jason Bateman. He deals with his emotional pain by remaining shirtless as much as possible. You’ve heard of a therapy dog? Well he doesn’t have a therapy shirt. He might be our new favorite human being. Something tells me we haven’t seen the last of Logan. Because Logan’s not done being Logan.

There are some other fan favorites in the cast too, underscoring the fact that this movie would have been better off in the 80’s or 90’s. Martin Kove has a mustache, but, more importantly, a Southwest Indian vest he wears at crucial moments in his career. If there’s an emergency in the CIA Situation Room while he’s in his office, he throws on his Indian vest and runs to meet the urgency. Just like all CIA directors. And, just as suddenly as it appears, it enigmatically fades away, like an Indian smoke signal. He had a similar wardrobe in Endangered (1994) - maybe he’s doing the whole Seagal “buckskin jacket” thing. But with a vest.


Top fan fave Robert Davi plays the typical “suit” role he’s assayed many times before, but we always love seeing him, and his presence raises the level of the movie overall. Though in a scene in a conference room with Martin Kove, Kove’s voice seems normal, but Davi’s sounds like it’s coming through a telephone. Somehow, Davi manages to be both on the phone and in person at the same time. It’s truly uncanny. We’d say it’s almost Night of the Kickfighters-esque, but the sound of both the movie and the DVD is poor. If you watch the DVD, you’ll have to crank up the volume to hear anything. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise, or we may not have noticed Davi’s tele-ventriloquistic abilities. Also, the great James Lew and Simon Rhee appear in nothing roles as “Chinese Guard #1” and “Chinese Guard #2”, respectively. That’s just shameful and wasteful - they deserve better.

Just like how Sheryl Crow’s teeth are whiter than white, Ballistica’s budget is lower than low. But the movie is TRYING, which is more than you can say for other DTV crud of a similar ilk. The fact that it’s all taken so seriously is absolutely hilarious (unless it’s not and we missed the joke) and makes it worth watching. As we’ve discussed before, there are many types of dumb - some good, some bad. Luckily, this is fun dumb, so you can easily have fun watching Ballistica.

Comeuppance Review by: Brett and Ty