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Maximum Impact

Maximum Impact wears out its welcome quickly and leaves minimal impact on the viewers.
When Secretary of State Robert Jacobs (Roberts) travels to Russia on an important mission, his teenage daughter Brittany (Butorina) tags along. The main reason she does this is so she can run off with a boy band pop star she's been texting with. This seems like the ideal time for a baddie named Tony Lin (Dacascos) and his sidekick Ian (Hues) to kidnap her.

After a lot of bumbling around, they finally manage to do this, and so an American CIA (?) agent named Kate (Hu) has to team up with a Russian FSB strongman named Maxim Kadurin (Nevsky) to save the girl, and, if time allows, her date. As if that wasn't enough, a criminal mastermind of some sort named Sanchez (Trejo) and his goons are causing trouble all over Russia. How do Barnes (Arnold), Scanlon (Ling), and, perhaps most enigmatically, "Man In Shadows" (Baldwin) all fit into this picture?

Much like director Bartkowiak's prior Exit Wounds (2001), Maximum Impact is a mix of action and comedy that features Tom Arnold. The emphasis this time around seems firmly on the side of comedy, even though there are some silly and not entirely serious fight scenes and some car chases, both of which appear to be green screen-enhanced. Stick with Exit Wounds. Or, also featuring Dacascos, Drive (1997).

The jokey tone and childish dialogue start to get tiresome after a while, and expecting the viewer to tolerate this over the course of an inexcusable 109-minute running time is just asking too much. On the plus side, it has a lot of energy and a fast pace, but it just goes on and on too long.

Yes, there are fruit cart chases and a lovely framed Eric Roberts picture on the wall, but on the other end of the spectrum there are green screen missiles and helicopters, teenagers texting, and dialogue that mentions Instagram and Snapchat. Have we really fallen that far from Charles Bronson blowing away the bad guys with a rocket launcher? If this is truly the state of action in 2017, we'll stick with the old classics, please.

There are too many people in the cast to really break down fully, but let's just say this is a classic case of Lone Tiger Effect. Hell, it even has Matthias Hues, as if to underline the point that much more. Did all these people know they were signing on for a goofy comedy? It has all the Bartkowiak trademarks, such as putting hip hop beats under the dialogue scenes, and a wacky coda during the credits.

William Baldwin just makes wacky faces into a screen. There's a place called Grump International Plaza. Tom Arnold's running gag is about his bladder. We could go on, but we won't. That being said, Alexander Nevsky somehow manages to come out of all this relatively unscathed. Maybe that's because he's credited as a producer on the film.

Comedies and action movies shouldn't be more than 90 minutes. Don't filmmakers know this by now? Maximum Impact wears out its welcome quickly and leaves minimal impact on the viewers.


Hijack is not exactly essential viewing...unless you really, really, really like train-set action movies.
Eddie Lyman (Fahey) is an ATF agent with a burning desire to take down a domestic terrorist organization called the Firebird Action Network, or FAN. He has so much dedication to his job, in fact, that he goes rogue and gets suspended from the force. When his wife (?) Valerie (Toussaint), a PR flack for Senator Douglas Wilson (Hudson the Elder) is called away to accompany him on a train trip through the outskirts of L.A., trouble follows. FAN baddies David Anderson (Huff) and Carl Howard (Kilpatrick) HIJACK the train and arm it with a nuclear bomb and direct it towards a high-population area so it can blow up and do maximum damage.

Thankfully, Lyman is also on board the train. Back at HQ, fellow ATF agents John Gathers (Miano) and Frank Jennings (Hudson the Younger) are holding down the fort. Will Lyman keep things on track? Or will the FAN fan the flames of terror? Will you be interested in finding out?

Another day, another train slog. As if Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), Derailed (2002), and Death Train (2003) weren't enough, along comes Hijack. To be fair, Hijack is better than those latter two entries in the Train Slog canon, but it's very similar. It will feel familiar to anyone who watches DTV action movies, theatrical action movies, train movies, TV movies, or pretty much anything. It's a train-slog-by-numbers that doesn't offer much new to a well-worn subgenre of Die Hard-esque escapades.

The cast is very good, however, and fan favorites like Fahey, Hudson, Miano, Huff, and Kilpatrick do their best to sustain interest, but it's hard when there's nothing to work with. It's a testament to these professionals that they did what they did with the material.

Fahey is always a quality hero (or villain for that matter) and as Lyman, the jigsaw puzzle-loving ATF agent, he doesn't snap into action nearly quickly enough. He should have been busting heads sooner than he does. Ernie Hudson is typically terrific as the senator (he wouldn't get to be President until Stealth Fighter), and here we also get two Hudsons for the price of one, as Ernie Hudson, Jr. is also on board. Huff and Kilpatrick, as the baddies, spout a lot of amusing political dialogue which marginally helps to sustain the viewers' interest. Toussaint looks a lot like fitness star Jillian Michaels.

Michaels should have been the heroine in at least one action movie. Maybe that will happen someday.

In the end, Hijack is not exactly essential viewing...unless you really, really, really like train-set action movies. That's action movies set on a train. Not a train set like the toys. You know what I mean. Anyway, if you want to see something like Hijack but done much better, check out Militia (2000).

Death Kiss

What's not to love about Death Kiss? We absolutely are looking forward to anything Bronzi does in the future.
A mysterious man known only as K (Bronzi) is cleaning up the streets. While he remains a stranger to everyone he comes into contact with, he looks oddly familiar. Maybe it's the face. Maybe it's the hair or the mustache. But something about him rings a bell. After he blows away the criminal scum that are polluting our streets, he gives money in an envelope to a woman named Ana (Hamilton), so she can help raise her wheelchair-bound daughter. While K tries to give them the money in anonymity, Ana tries to forge a relationship with K. But he's not exactly the chatty type.

Meanwhile, an evil baddie named Tyrell (Tyson) and his goons are on the loose. K faces one of his biggest challenges to date as he goes after them. Throughout all of this, a talk radio host, appropriately named Dan Forthright (Baldwin) electrifies the airwaves as he lays down truism after truism (we would definitely listen to the Dan Forthright show if it was in radio or podcast form). Remember, it's not a Death Wish, it's a DEATH KISS...which is, you know, pretty close.

By now, you may have heard of a man named Robert Kovacs (AKA Robert Bronzi) - a man who looks exactly like Charles Bronson. It must be hard for Bronzi to walk down the street, because if there's anyone out there who didn't know that Bronson passed away, you'd really think it was him. If he wasn't doing movies like Death Kiss, he could make a lot of money on the lookalike circuit. Maybe he could do parties with women who look like Marilyn Monroe and such. Just watching Bronzi walk in the movie is incredibly entertaining. Never mind when he starts shooting the baddies. Now, we always say that low-budget filmmakers get actors that resemble other actors (case in point when Counter Measures needed a Christopher Titus lookalike), but this is ridiculous! Ridiculously fun, that is.

We applaud everyone involved with Death Kiss for making such a labor of love. Their love for the original Bronson (something we have to say now) and the Death Wish series in particular is evident, and infectious. Stylistically, Death Kiss is comparable to recent "throwback" DTV offerings like the similarly-themed Skin Traffik (2015), or Instant Death (2017). Those were also low-budget tributes to the 70's revenge genre. The bullet hits in Death Kiss are certainly over the top and ridiculous, with cascades of Kool-Aid exploding at every turn, which gives the film a certain comic-booky feel. Hopefully that's what they were going for. It's certainly quite unlike the original Death Wish film in that respect.

It was nice to see Baldwin and Tyson reunited for the first time since the underrated The Pandora Project (1998), although they don't share any scenes together. Tyson's look in the movie is quite different from most of his past work that we've seen, with his long dark hair and dark beard. He must have been proud of the project, as he's listed as an associate producer. This is also one of Baldwin's best roles in years; his very well-delivered monologues are very enjoyable and are the glue that holds Death Kiss together.

One of the biggest assets that Death Kiss has on its side is the wholly cool and highly appropriate synth score by The Darkest Machines (AKA director/writer/cinematographer/editor Perez). This is exactly the sort of score a movie like this should have. We were really happy they went in this direction for the score - an old-school style revenge movie with a man who looks uncannily like Charles Bronson topped off with a synth score is what the world needs now, and thankfully Perez and his cohorts gave it to us.

What's not to love about Death Kiss? We absolutely are looking forward to anything Bronzi does in the future. He very well could be one of the brightest stars of modern-day DTV.


With "Roughcut", Sean P. Donahue has officially entered national treasure status.
Garrett (Sean P. Donahue) is a DJ at the local rock station. When not spinning the latest grunge hits of the day (it was 1994, after all), Garrett loves nothing better than to go on hunting trips with his friend Pauly. When the two guys accidentally witness an illegal diamond buy gone wrong, they become the target of nefarious diamond seller John Caine (Lynch) and his goons. Blade (Patrick G. Donahue) is one of the lead heavies for Caine, probably because he always wears a black trenchcoat and a machete on his belt.

When Pauly is killed by the baddies (not a spoiler because it happens in the beginning), Garrett snaps into action. Getting no help from the police, except for his buddy TJ Boyle (Flanagan), they now take justice into their own hands. Will it be just diamonds that are ROUGH CUT, or will it also be the baddies themselves? Find out today!

With "Roughcut", Sean P. Donahue has officially entered national treasure status.

As if a string of classics like Kill Squad (1982), Omega Cop (1990), Blood Hands (1990), Savage Instinct (1991), Fighting Spirit (1992) and especially the awesome Parole Violators (1994) wasn't enough, along comes "Roughcut" - and, yes, the onscreen title is one word, in quotes, just like the similar and equally-fantastic "Geteven" (1993). If you liked any of the above-mentioned titles (and if you don't, shame on you), then you'll find a lot to love with "Roughcut". The line readings from the actors are just as hilarious as the kills, which are just as hilarious as the action scenes and beat-em-up portions. It's all so much fun you can't help but love it.

The scene in the Mexican restaurant is a movie highlight and must be seen. We also appreciated how Garrett used his DJ abilities to trick the baddies. Interestingly, his DJ name is "The Parole Violator". Something about those two words must really have stuck with the Donahue family. Speaking of which, Patrick G. Donahue plays Blade with aplomb, and the fact that his name is Vinnie but is continually bugging his co-workers to adopt his scary new nickname seems to be a running gag. He loves his machete so much, he drives his car with one hand so he can always be holding his machete with the other. Now that's dedication to your craft.

Whenever you see the names Sean or Patrick Donahue on a movie, you know you're in good hands. We could go on all day about the many highly entertaining and enjoyable moments in "Roughcut", but to save time we'll just note for the record that no explanation is given as to why Garrett is a master of Martial Arts and deception, and there's an extended scene of characters rolling down a hill that rivals the one in Black Sheep (1996).

It's frankly criminal that the Donahue canon is so hard to get a hold of. We don't know if any Blu-Ray releasing companies read this site, but if so, how about a Sean Donahue Collection set that could include this, Blood Hands, Parole Violators and the rare Ground Rules (1997)? It could introduce these wonderful and little-seen movies to new audiences. We're also available to do commentary tracks, should that be a bonus feature, by the way.

In the meantime, head over to YouTube and watch "Roughcut" - a great time will be had by all.

Heroes Three

Heroes Three is a so-called "Chop-Socky" film with a difference.
Sailors Dutch Hagan (Postma) and Jim Burstall (Kelly) are on shore leave after traveling from Taiwan to Hong Kong. When a bunch of masked assailants start a brawl with them once they arrive, local private detective and part-time Tai Chi teacher Horatio Lim (Tan) joins in the fray with his newfound friends.

When Burstall goes missing, it sets in motion a chain of events that leads all the way to the top of the Asian high finance industry. An unscrupulous businessman named Winter (Lovett?) wants to monopolize the gold market and it seems Burstall is involved somehow. However, there are a myriad of baddies looking to cause trouble for Hagan and Lim, as well as Hagan's new love interest, who just happens to be Lim's sister. These men, naturally, are named Ah "Coffin" Fang (Lim Wai-Kee), Night Club Wu (Hudson Leung), and Junkmaster Cheong (Kim Bill). Of course, many melees ensue. What will happen to the HEROES THREE?

Heroes Three is enjoyable, modest, and entertaining. It's set in Hong Kong - and one of the movie's strengths is some of its fascinating location photography - but has something of an international pedigree thanks to some of its American, British, and European cast and crew, as well as the fact that it was written by a guy named Pat Dunlop, who mainly worked in American TV. There's a mix of the old culture of Hong Kong, and some of the new, modern technology of that time. For example, Lim has a high-tech command center complete with a stand-up arcade machine, and there are other scenes of characters playing arcade games. So the 80's-ness is on display clearly, which gives it automatic points in our book.

Speaking of which, it all starts with a jaunty, synthy song which we think is called "Looking For You", and sung by Rowena Cortes, who sings the closing ballad as well. Cortes had a nice career throughout the seventies, releasing five albums and two singles in the decade, even winning the 1976 Hong Kong Popular Song Contest. As far as we can tell, her work for Heroes Three was her last.

The whole outing kicks off (literally) with not a Fruit Cart chase, but a Fruit Cart fight. After this display, one character calls another, and we quote, "a snoopie". If anyone has ever called you or anyone you know a snoopie, please write in today. There are some large and funny burned-in English subtitles in some scenes that are quite amusing. Additionally, some poor schnook is not a victim of Chinese water torture, but Chinese milk torture. So, overall, there are some interesting tweaks that let Heroes Three stand out, and they don't take things overly seriously, so it all has a fun vibe that is easy to like.

As in a lot of movies, there is a goon that looks a lot like David Cross. His name is Max Schwartz in the film, so do look out for him. But all the heavies in the movie are no match for Dutch Hagan, who wears a very intimidating Donald Duck sweatshirt. He has a lot of great activewear in the movie, but that shirt was probably the favorite. And, as if there was any doubt that it's a Donald Duck sweatshirt, it has the words DONALD DUCK emblazoned in large letters across the top. Why this sweatshirt is made in adult sizes, we may never know.

In the end, Heroes Three is a so-called "Chop-Socky" film with a difference. There's a lot of action and fighting, but there's some welcome diversity and it never gets boring. While the movie was released in many countries worldwide over the years, it didn't have a ton of market penetration here in the U.S., and it was probably overshadowed by the contemporary Ninja Boom of the day. (Just to be clear, there are no ninjas in Heroes Three). Now that it's on Amazon Prime - as of this writing - we say check it out.


Thunder is B-Movie action fun as only the Italians can serve it up.
Thunder (Gregory) is a mild-mannered Native American minding his own business and just trying to live his life in Page, Arizona. That is, until a crew of construction workers attempt to bulldoze an ancient Navajo burial site. He goes to the local police station, but Sheriff Bill Cook (Svenson) is no help, and his crew of angry, racist deputies, led by Barry Henson (Harmstorf) only seem to want to harass and torment Thunder.

After yet another gang of redneck attackers assaults Thunder, he finally snaps - into action, that is. Armed with a bow and arrow, a bazooka, and several bits of stolen construction equipment, Thunder gets in touch with his warrior roots and goes to war with the entire town! Luckily, on his side is the local DJ, who sends out encouraging messages, and a reporter named Brian Sherman (Malco) also gets behind Thunder's mission. What will be left in the wreckage after THUNDER rolls in?

Here we have the first entry in the Thunder trilogy, all of which are directed by Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman of course), and starring Mark Gregory, AKA Marco Di Gregorio. As has been noted before, Thunder is very closely modeled after First Blood (1982), down to the veritable re-creation of certain scenes. That doesn't detract from its appeal, however. In fact, it only adds to it. Thunder boasts some fantastic location scenery, fights, car chases, and blow-ups. It's all set to a typically-great Francesco De Masi score and has some familiar B-Movie names we all know and love (though, to be fair, there should have been just a bit more Bo Svenson).

We really don't want to repeat what we said in our reviews for the other Thunder movies, especially part two, because much of that could apply here as well. A lot of the same stuff happens in all three movies in the trilogy. For example, the local redneck population call Thunder a barrage of racial slurs, including "redskin" many, many times. The fact that Thunder is played by Marco Di Gregorio, who was born in Rome and is about as Native American as Pope John Paul II, is very amusing.

The grandfather in the Thunder family steals the movie, or maybe it's just his dubbing. But we really enjoyed every scene this elderly gentleman was in, and the final third is a satisfying destruction spree you can't help but love. If you really do love it, you can watch it two more times in the sequels. Everything catches fire (literally) when Thunder hits his Breaking Point - not unlike Bo Svenson himself in the 1976 film of that name.

Thunder is B-Movie action fun as only the Italians can serve it up. It was perfect for the video stores of the day (even if, let's be fair, the minimal plot of the deputies chasing Thunder for almost the entire running time does wear a bit thin after a while). But it all ends on an encouraging note with a memorable final line. As an example of classic Rambosploitation, it's hard to do much better than Thunder.

Danger Zone III: Steel Horse War

For the most part, it's all done pretty competently and it has funny dubbing to boot.
Reaper (Random) is an evil outlaw biker who is assembling an army of his fellow "bikies" (as they're called in Australia, we believe) in a trek around the deserts of Trona, California.

It seems there is a cache of buried gold that was put there by some confederate soldiers back during the Civil War, and Reaper is out to find it. He wants to use the gold to fund an all-biker city where he is king. He's causing murder and mayhem along the way, but he's finally met his match in Wade Olsen (Williams), a former cop and "good" biker who wants to end Reaper's reign of terror. Teaming up with man of mysticism Rainmaker (Subkoski) and female bike-ette Skin (Ranney), Olsen is hot on Reaper's trail as he and his biker buddies harass models on a photo shoot, female student archaeologists, and other hapless victims. Who will come out victorious in the STEEL HORSE WAR?

We've been trying to figure out why the movie The Danger Zone (1987) has not one, but TWO sequels. Our guess: The late 80's and early 90's were a boom time for video stores and DTV, and evidently customers hungered for more of their favorite characters. Which, in this case of course, are Wade Olsen (spelled as Olson in the prior two Danger Zone movies, for those keeping track of Danger Zone minutiae at home), Reaper, and Skin, who appeared in the other outings.

This installment in the trilogy features plenty of pudgy and/or overweight bikers. Tattoos, whippings, and a classic prison transport gone wrong (do they ever go right?) are also on show, as is one of the most brain-cell-depleting fights we've seen in some time (the one at the gas station). Wade Olson even has his own "Q" in the style of James Bond, a guy that gives him a panoply of nifty gadgets he can use in his biker war. We appreciated that sort of ingenuity.

We would say that Olson's sidekick Rainmaker is a dead ringer for Kenny Rogers, but that's too easy. Let's just say he's a dead ringer for Frederick Offrein, the Swedish man that we know from all the Mats Helge movies. You know, the guy who we lovingly refer to as "The Kenny Rogers Guy".

The three Danger Zone movies were each directed by a different person. Intriguingly, for each of the three men (Henry Vernon, Geoffrey Bowers, and Douglas Bronco, respectively) their go in the director's chair for their Danger Zone movie was their one and only credit. Literally nothing else exists for any of the three men. No acting credits, no second unit, no best boy grip, nothing. Just Danger Zone for all three. It's one of the mysteries of life, I tell ya.

What Bronco did for his turn was give the whole thing a wraparound where an elementary school kid is reading a comic book called Steel Horse War that is the action of the movie, almost in a Creepshow (1982) style. A lot of the goings-on are a bit violent to be in a kids' comic book (though there is no real nudity, it gets close). The little kid gets to see a "white power camp" that we know is a "white power camp" because the words "white power camp" are spray-painted on a bedsheet. Pretty intimidating stuff, especially for a young tot.

For the most part, it's all done pretty competently (with the possible exception of the dubbing, which adds an amusing layer for the viewers all on its own). You probably won't be bored, and it's entertaining enough. Danger Zone III: Steel Horse War is perfectly fine for what it is, but it must be said that we missed The Skirts.

Mortal Kombat: Annihilation

Let's face it, you don't go out of your way to watch Mortal Kombat: Annihilation because you're looking for a Eugene O'Neill-level of drama.
The good guys, led by Rayden (Remar), have to fight the bad guys, led by Shao Khan (Thompson) before the "merger" of Earth with the baddie lair of The Outworld. That's it. We're not being lazy. That's really it.

Here's a question the filmmakers behind Mortal Kombat: Annihilation must have asked themselves: How do we fashion a 90-minute movie not just out of a beat-em-up video game (because we already did that once before) - but do it again with a sequel? It seems like the answer they came up with was just to feature as many Mortal Kombat characters as they could, and simply by them being there, that would satisfy young people who were already fans of the franchise or simply didn't know any better.

It does seem that the priority here was being true to the game. Maybe they worried that if they didn't include at least brief appearances by all the countless characters that existed by the time Mortal Kombat 3 rolled around, all the 12-year-olds in the audience would revolt or something. So then they just threw a bunch of childish dialogue, plot points, and CGI/green screen silliness at the screen and hoped for the best.

There are non-stop fights, as you might expect, but it feels like a video game, not so much a movie. It seems like the priority with the casting was to find people who physically resembled the game characters, and then fit them in costumes that followed suit. As our friend Brendan pointed out, it seems like this movie was made by someone who had never made or even seen a movie before, but had existed solely on a diet of video games their whole life.

After getting off to a rocky start, the movie struggles to find its feet, and by the time that happens, you find that the whole outing is just too silly and nonsensical to really hate.

Of course, that hasn't stopped anyone from adding this movie to lists of the worst of all time. Fan favorite actors such as Brian Thompson, Malibu, Robin Shou, and James Remar (who even does some brief Remar-Fu) manage to keep some level of interest, and there does seem to be a kid-friendly message of "believe in yourself!" but the whole outing is very, very ridiculous and is the type of overblown, unnecessary, computer-generated crud that could only have come from the Hollywood system. It seems that that's all they're good for making these days. So, in that sense, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation was ahead of its time.

Featuring all your favorite techno hits on the soundtrack, it's hard to imagine exactly who this movie was aimed towards: if you're a fan of the game series, you're bound to be disappointed, and if you're not, and for some reason you just jumped in cold to the movie, you're bound to be confused and irritated. So, for that reason, it must be "the children" that was the target market. So if, in 1997, they could get their eyes off of Power Rangers or BeetleBorgs for a few minutes, they could watch this.

For everyone else, it might be wise to steer clear. Let's face it, you don't go out of your way to watch Mortal Kombat: Annihilation because you're looking for a Eugene O'Neill-level of drama. You do it to experience the continuing exploits of Ermac.

Angel of Destruction

It's probably one of the last true exploitation pictures in the grindhouse style
Delilah (Mark) and her sidekick Reena (Chanda) are the hottest act on the Hawaiian pop scene. They combine the female togetherness of T.a.T.u with the 80's-esque rock stylings of Pat Benatar. And they both perform live and in their music videos topless. Naturally this makes unhinged stalker/former mercenary Robert Kell (Broome) even more nutso. Not only does he kill prostitutes for sport while enacting a bizarre wedding ceremony with them, he also offs Brit Allwood (Spradling), a police officer tasked with protecting the duo.

When Brit's sister Jo (Ford) finds out what's going on, she's none too pleased. Not only does she take up Brit's former role of protecting the gals, she also goes on a one-woman rampage to find and stop Kell. After he kidnaps Reena, all bets are off. Jo then pulls out all the stops to save Reena and save the day. For Kell, will Jo be his ANGEL OF DESTRUCTION?

I want to live in a world where extremely attractive cops wear sleeveless half-shirts as their normal work attire. Even the female ones. Anyone who has ever seen any Roger Corman-produced action movies, from TNT Jackson (1974) to Firecracker (1981) to Silk (1986) to Angelfist (1993) to Black Belt (1992) and beyond will be very familiar with the formula used here, again, for Angel of Destruction. At this point it's basically comfort food. It adheres to the Corman-mandated 85-minute running time and meets or exceeds the nudity requirements. Most importantly, however, it's very entertaining.

We could all use more Maria Ford in our lives and here is a chance to see her as the tough chick who gets results. She fights in the time-honored barfight, among other beat-em-up moments (including the classic almost-naked fight scene Corman has used before, but once you've struck gold there's no need to mess with the formula).

The first song performed by Delilah and Reena, which is either called "Are You Changed" or "Are You Chained" is a catchy one, and is a clever way for director Moore to improve upon the rather boring stripping scenes Corman insisted upon around this time. Yes, there is stripping during the song, but it's an original song and a live concert performance, not just a strip act (although Maria Ford as Jo, who does mention she was a former stripper, also strips in a later scene. Apparently even though she's now a highly-capable cop, the lure of the old ways is just too strong).

Jessica Mark as Delilah is a mystery. Despite her - dare I say - exquisite, model-esque beauty, this is her only credited acting role and she doesn't have a Wikipedia page. Her career could have been massive, but it seems she just dropped completely off the map. Chanda is less of a puzzle - she appeared in a decent amount of 90's erotic thrillers before disappearing herself (more than likely marriage and kids with a producer, but that's just a guess). Oddly, legendary adult actress Georgina Spelvin is credited as Foley Supervisor. And yes, it is the same Georgina Spelvin, even though her credit is spelled as Spellvin. Can anyone explain this? Just another mystery, evidently.

Because it was shot in the Philippines, some familiar faces are on display - Jim Moss, Nick Nicholson, and Henry Strzalkowski, among others, but Ford's love interest looks like John Stossel. Well, he has a mustache like Stossel. Angel of Destruction is as close as you'll get to seeing Stossel-Fu. For now.

Naturally, it all ends in a Final Warehouse Fight. This ticks off the final box required, so now we can officially say that Angel of Destruction delivers the goods. It's good old fashioned, Cinemax-style, brainless fun. There's bullets, beat-em-ups, and babes. It's a nice fantasy and it won't take up much of your time.

It's probably one of the last true exploitation pictures in the grindhouse style, and we applaud that to the utmost. Would that more movies had the guts to be this shamelessly entertaining and have such dedication to nudity.

With that, how could we not recommend Angel of Destruction? See it tonight!

Angel of Vengeance

You could do a heck of a lot worse.
Tina Davenport (Poynter) arrives in a small California town, and all she wants to do is write a biography of her late father, a Green Beret. In her off hours, she goes spear fishing and sings Bob Dylan songs in the woods. Her rural idyll is spoiled when she stumbles upon a rumble between a local dirtbike gang, The Thrill Killers, and a self-made platoon of Doomsday Preppers out in the desert. Knowing she's got what it takes, she makes an offer to Head Prepper Major Hargrove (O'Hara) to have him and his comrades hunt her in the desert, Most Dangerous Game-style. Naturally, they agree, but she then begins to turn the tables on them as the battle for survival turns deadly...for them! As if all that wasn't enough, a duo of "Random Killers" (that's actually how they're credited) are on the loose and causing havoc. Will Bo Gritz make a surprise appearance? Or maybe Blake Bahner? One never knows, but one thing we do know: Tina Davenport is the ANGEL OF VENGEANCE!

Finally, here is the mashup of Savage Justice (1988) and Savage Instinct (1991) we've all been waiting to see. It's a little surprising they didn't call this Savage Angel. Anyway, director Ted V. Mikels brings the no-budget drive-in horror/exploitation style we all know from such classics as The Corpse Grinders (1971) and Blood Orgy of the She-Devils (1973) to this, but here applies it to an action romp. The idea of dirtbikers vs. Preppers in some sort of a desert-set brawl is a good one, and introducing a tough-gal character like Tina into the mix amps things up even more, but, sadly, the movie overall doesn't live up to that promise.

That's not to say there aren't some points in the win column for Angel of Vengeance. It's populated by a lot of people with interesting faces, and the desert setting is a good one (we're told, quite threateningly, by Hargrove that "It's a box canyon!!"). The dirtbikers haven't graduated to the leather jackets of their Harley-riding counterparts, so they all have Thrill Killers M.C. T-shirts. Not quite as intimidating, but they're getting there. It's like training wheels. The Preppers love camouflage - not just their outfits, but their truck and their hideout are all camouflage. It's a wonder we can see them at all. (Not to rain on their parade, but it's all green camo in the desert, which doesn't help all that much.)

Happily, Angel of Vengeance is a scant 73 minutes (on Amazon Prime anyway). It still felt a little long because not a lot happens and there isn't really any character development to speak of, but it's still better than 90-plus minutes. So while the majority of the goings-on are outdoors and characters' voices still sound marred by microphone distortion, it never gets too bothersome because it all ends relatively quickly. While this is the only screen credit for Jannina Poynter, shout-outs to the other cast members we'd like to give are for Carl Irwin who played Ron and Mary Bee who played "Old Lady" - a woman who sells bread door-to-door and looks like she would have been more at home on the set of Mama's Family. Irwin went on to have a solid career as a character actor, while, like Poynter, this was the only credit for Mrs. Bee. Watch out for them, as they enliven the proceedings.

Interestingly, fellow "trash film" auteur Ray Dennis Steckler started the film, but Mikels completed it. You really can't tell; their styles are very similar. That would also explain why the dirtbikers are called The Thrill Killers, after Steckler's 1964 outing of the same name (maybe he had some promotional shirts lying around?) The whole thing concludes with the end-credits song "Take Me Home" not by Phil Collins, but by T. Craig Keller, who also played Craig, one of the Preppers, and acted as an associate producer. In the end, Angel of Vengeance (AKA Warcat) is far from an action classic, but it features some blow ups, gun shootin' and a handful of silly fights. For those out there that like their action off the beaten path and are willing to plumb the depths a little bit, you could do a heck of a lot worse.

Angel of Death

There are worse ways to spend 77 minutes.
Eve (Bell) is a hitwoman in L.A. On one of her missions, during the course of a fight, she receives a head injury. Although she recovers, she begins seeing visions of a young girl who got caught in the crossfire. While trying not to get too distracted by this, she begins her revenge mission against the underworld mafia types who become the target of her ire. Meanwhile, she has to juggle the needs of certain people in her life, like her co-worker Franklin (Huen), her neighbor Vera (Lawless), her doctor, Rankin (Jones), among others. Not to mention there are enemies on her tail and the law wants to catch up with her. Is Eve the ANGEL OF DEATH for the baddies?

We really liked Zoe Bell in this. She especially shines in the fight scenes, and those are well-executed and fun to watch. There perhaps should have been one or two more of them, but the bathroom fight scene is definitely a highlight. The movie around her, unfortunately, is not that great. There's a certain heartlessness to it. There's a lot of stupid, mindless dialogue and the plot is nothing you haven't seen before. It reminded us of The Contract (1999) or Bounty Hunters (2011). It's not quite a Tarantino Slog, but it certainly has Tarantino Slog-esque tendencies.

Because it was originally a web series that was edited into movie form, the running time is only 77 minutes, which we greatly appreciated. More movies should have that length. And because Ed Brubaker, who apparently is well known in the comics world, has a credit of 'Written and Created By', there is a definite comic-bookiness to the visuals. This comes out most obviously in the panels that we sometimes see. The score is Hendrix-like blues rock guitar and it more or less suits the film.

Ted Raimi has a cameo and Lucy Lawless has a small role as well. Both were involved with the TV series Ash Vs. Evil Dead - could there be a connection from that to this? Or is it just a coincidence? In other casting news, both Eve's boss and the main villain were both Fugitive Champion-esque twerps. It was hard to tell them apart because not only did they look alike, the baddie wasn't at all scary or threatening. He tried to be, but it just seemed like he'd be late for his high school classes. I guess it's all part of the experience.

All in all, Angel of Death could have - and should have - been better (especially in the writing department), but Bell is engaging as usual and she helps to keep things afloat. It's sort of a "cheap, quick, and dirty" type production, and there are worse ways to spend 77 minutes.

Angels' Brigade

For those of you out there seeking undemanding entertainment from the disco 70's, you could do a heck of a lot worse than Angels' Brigade.
Elaine (Robin Greer), April (Cole), Kako (Chinh), Michelle (Kiger), Terry (Anderson), Maria (Velasco), and their young assistant Trish (Liza Greer) are a special team of ladies assembled to take down drug gangs and evil militias in the L.A. area. All of them take time out from their day jobs when a baddie named Mike Farrell (Palance, not the guy from MASH) starts causing havoc all over town. Using their unique skill sets, and feminine wiles of course, they proceed to take down the bad guys in their own inimitable way. Armed with a high-tech van (it was the 70's after all), can any force on earth stop the ANGELS BRIGADE?

A light, frothy, and some may say inconsequential bit of fun, this PG-rated actioner was clearly inspired by some of the TV shows of the day, most obviously Charlie's Angels (Neville Brand plays their "Charlie", but you can see him), but also The A-Team (hence the van), Wonder Woman, Knight Rider, and The Bionic Woman also come to mind. Even with the alternate titles, Angels Revenge and Seven Angels, the word "Angels" was never dispensed with.

Although clearly inspired by those shows, Angels' Brigade was also somewhat ahead of its time, as teams-of-deadly-women movies mostly came later in the 80's and into the 90's with such films as Hell Squad (1986), Mankillers (1987), and Sweet Justice (1992), among others. The film is also reminiscent of the Cheri Caffaro Ginger series as well as Caffaro's Savage Sisters AKA Ebony Ivory and Jade (1974).

There are lots of stunts, shootings, and blow-ups, and it's all very comic-booky, as reinforced by the "wacky" scene transitions and star-wipes and such. A lot of what we see is in the editing that way, such as the very cool opening credits sequence and a terrific montage as the ladies prepare for battle with their matching outfits and classic 70's van. We did think, however, that with a little less goofing around the film as a whole could have been stronger. There's only so many times you can hear the sound "BOINGGGGG!" during a fight scene before you realize the unserious vibe of the whole thing.

The girl power message of Angels' Brigade is reinforced by the fact that the ladies are not just a formidable fighting force, but they all had good, independent jobs outside of their Brigade duties. There's no nudity and the exploitation factor is low. The character of Michelle is a professional singer, for example, and a movie highlight comes when we see her Vegas act, and Susan Kiger performs the song "Shine Your Love On Me" by Patty Foley for a reasonably enthusiastic crowd. Interestingly, Kiger was also in the movie Seven (1979), directed by Andy Sidaris, the same year as Angels' Brigade. Apparently she felt safe with that number, having appeared in two movies with the number seven in one year. Coincidence?

As if the eye candy wasn't enough, director Clark also brought on board what are basically a series of short cameos by not just Jack Palance and Neville Brand, but also Alan Hale, Peter Lawford, and Jim Backus, and there's special mention of "Arthur Godfrey as himself". Godfrey was an entertainer from a previous era of American history and his appearance in Angels' Brigade was during the swan song of his life and career. An interesting way to go out, to be sure. In the end, while Angels' Brigade has a positive, upbeat overall feeling to it, and is reasonably enjoyable for what it is (and not nearly as bad as some people seem to think), its one-dimensionality more or less sinks it in the end. But, then again, perhaps we're overthinking it and it wasn't meant to be examined that closely.

For those of you out there seeking undemanding entertainment from the disco 70's, you could do a heck of a lot worse than Angels' Brigade. At the very least, it's a one-time watch.

Angel Town

Angel Town is a classic example of what was on video store shelves starting in the early 90's.
Jacques Montagne (Gruner) is a Frenchman from Paris who saves up all his money so he can get an engineering degree from "Southern California University". On his first day in the United States, he has trouble getting off-campus housing. Not knowing the difference between where the "nice" areas of L.A. are and where the "ghettos" are, he ends up in a gang-infested barrio. He ends up renting a room from a nice lady and non-gang member named Maria (Saldana). The local gang wants to recruit her son into the gang so they resort to the usual tactics such as terrorizing the town around them.

Unfortunately for these gang baddies, Montagne had a troubled upbringing in Paris where he was forced to learn to fight. So, teaming up with his buddy Henry (Kwong) and the local wheelchair-bound Vietnam Vet, Montagne takes on the baddies using his considerable Martial Arts abilities. but will he be able to take on the gangs and win?

Angel Town is an amusing beat-em-up that's reminiscent of similar titles such as Street Corner Justice and Enemy Territory. A gang or gang lays siege to a house or houses and the hero has to fend them off or eliminate them altogether. It doesn't rise to the heights of Private Wars or The Annihilators, but there are some entertaining moments.

The main problem is that it can't really justify its 102-minute running time. If Angel Town was 80 minutes, we'd be dealing with a classic. The idea of a French guy getting in the middle of a drive-by shooting by Mexican gangs towards college students (this actually happens in the movie) is a novel and almost-brilliant idea. There are some enjoyable brawls that go on, and Olivier Gruner is likable. They actually gave a reason why his accent is so thick, which isn't always the case. It has a good amount of un-PC dialogue, which was more than welcome, and there because the movie has a copyright of 1989 (though it came out in '90) - the golden era before political correctness ruined everything in our society. Perhaps we need Jacques Montagne to clean things up now more than ever.

What's interesting is that, in The Circuit series, Gruner plays the immortal role of Dirk Longstreet. Dirk Longstreet is a college instructor. Could Jacques Montagne be like a forerunner, or precursor, to Dirk Longstreet? Perhaps that's the Longstreet origin story we've all been asking for.

In other casting news, one Tom McGreevey plays Dr. Rice, a very rude and almost Animal House-esque college professor. He steals all his scenes and is a lot of fun to watch. There are also blink-and-you'll-miss-em early appearances by Bruce Locke and Mark Dacascos (credited as "Dacascus").

Director Karson has a history of churning out middling action fare such as The Octagon (1980) and Black Eagle (1988). So, despite its unnecessary length, that officially qualifies Angel Town as his best actioner. In any case, lots of vatos wear button-down plaid shirts with only the top button buttoned, with a hair net and sunglasses. They say "homes" and "ese" more than John Travolta in Chains of Gold. So it's not a total loss.

The songs are provided by Gil Karson (presumably the director's brother?) who also appears onscreen as a member of The Hot Heads Band, who play at the college party that gets driven-by by the baddies (is that how you would say that?) - anyway, the movie was originally released on an Imperial VHS, but now is available on Blu-Ray as part of the MVD collection. It's also available on Amazon Prime as of this writing, in a fine transfer that more than likely comes from the same place the Blu-Ray is sourced from.

Angel Town is a classic example of what was on video store shelves starting in the early 90's. As good as many aspects of it are, it overstays its welcome with its unnecessarily long running time. Though it does overextend itself, there are definitely bright spots throughout Angel Town.

Black Oak Conspiracy

Jesse Vint makes a likable hero and you really grow to love Jingo Johnson.
Ralph "Jingo" Johnson (Vint) is a hard-working stuntman trying to make his way in the tough world of low-budget action movies. When he goes back to his hometown of Black Oak, California (not Arkansas as you might think) to visit his ailing mother, he discovers some mysterious doin's are afoot that can only be described as a BLACK OAK CONSPIRACY.

An unscrupulous father-son team of mining bosses named Bryan and Harrison Hancock (Fowley and Lyons, respectively) are buying up all the land in town, and the corrupt Sheriff Grimes (Salmi) is backing them all the way. When they knock down Jingo's beloved family home, he starts on the trail of unraveling - and putting an end to - the BOC. Not Blue Oyster Cult, but the Black Oak Conspiracy, of course. Jingo gets plenty of help from his buddy Homer Metcalf (Cassel), but he's also trying to win back his lost love Lucy (Carlson), who has been stolen away by the nefarious Harrison. Will Jingo Johnson be the hero that saves Black Oak? Find out today...

We really enjoyed Black Oak Conspiracy. It exudes that wonderful 1977 atmosphere, and you can imagine people pulling into their local drive-in, putting that speaker on their window, and watching it. Clearly it was influenced by previous so-called "good ole boy" movies such as White Lightning (1973), Gator (1976), Walking Tall (1973), and Fighting Mad (1976), among many others. However, it pre-dated The Dukes of Hazzard by a couple years. This sort of plot and style was popular throughout the 70's, and BOC is a prime example.

Jesse Vint makes a likable hero and you really grow to love Jingo Johnson. Vint is also credited here with story and production, and the working title of the film was Jingo, so clearly this was Vint's moment and he created a memorable, relatable hero. He's not the sort of unkillable superman that appeared in movies later on, he's just a down-home dude the audience warms to. Seymour Cassel is perfectly mellow and understated as his sidekick, and Salmi and Lyons as the baddies are the perfect 70's small-town villains. The whole cast should be commended for a fine job all around.

Perhaps one of the most noteworthy and attractive things about Black Oak Conspiracy is the pure Americana on display. Local waitress Melba Barnes (Blythe) works at a small café called the Midget Kitchen (which I don't think is a restaurant name that would exist today) and is going out with lovable lunkhead Billie Bob (Foster).

The whole town attends the dance at the community center, and it's not just a country band that plays, but it's more like a talent show. The movie takes the time to show some of the talent on display, including a group of girls in an all-kazoo band buzzing through patriotic songs and, of course, the showstopper: a full - and we mean full - rendition of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" by a lady who sucks in a bag of helium first. To see this nostalgic look at a time gone past not only sets BOC apart from its competitors, it also gives greater weight to some of the violence we see later on.

What's needed in today's times of overblown, trillion-dollar blockbusters are more unpretentious outings like this. Featuring some standout cinematography (especially during the climax in the mine pit), have a good ole time with Black Oak Conspiracy. You'll be glad you did.

Otelo (Comando negro)

It's certainly unlike any Shakespeare adaptations we've ever seen.
Now here's Shakespeare as they should've taught it in school: with blow-ups, gun-shooting, bazookas firing, and at least one minor character screaming while shooting a machine gun! Just as "The Bard" intended, of course. During both dialogue scenes and action bits, many different Beethoven pieces blare on the soundtrack. The whole thing has an odd and stilted pace.

We've got to give actor/director/Shakespeare dialogue adapter Max H. Boulois a lot of credit here. While the whole outing might not be perfect, we give him a lot of points for at least trying something different and not serving up a Jungle/War Slog as are so often churned out (both then and now). With Boulois as Othello, Joanna Pettet as Desdemona, and in a masterstroke of casting, Tony Curtis as Iago, Othello: The Black Commando is an oddity that's worth checking out.

Now, with all this talk of Shakespeare and Beethoven, you might be forgiven for thinking you're watching something highbrow. That's not exactly the case. It's still a B-grade actioner from the 80's; lead star Max Boulois looks (and acts?) like a precursor to the late Kimbo Slice; for some unexplained reason, only in the beginning of the film, he can read Desdemona's thoughts; and a band at a house party plays an unauthorized cover of "Oye Como Va". Over and over again. On top of that, Tony Curtis goes wild with his over-emoting, Bronx-accented Shakespeare. Again, just as intended in the 1600's.

While Othello: The Black Commando never broke into a wide audience and remains pretty under the radar (at least in the U.S., despite a VHS release), the cast as a whole has a noteworthy Euro-cult pedigree.

Because the film was shot in large part in Spain, Euro-Western stars Fernando Sancho and Aldo Sambrell make appearances, as does Nadiuska, who appeared in Leon Klimovsky's The People Who Own The Dark (1976), among other genre items. Ramiro Oliveros, who plays Cassius, was in The Pyjama Girl Case (1978) and Cross Of the Devil (1975). Gerard Barray, who plays Stafford, appeared in The Twilight Girls (1957), just one of many genre titles in his long career.

But because Othello: The Black Commando happens to not be a giallo, but a crazy action/Shakespearean mash-up, it's not likely to see a Blu-Ray release anytime soon. It's never namechecked by the well-known writers on Euro-Cult cinema.

To wrap things up, Othello: The Black Commando isn't like most action films of its ilk. And it's certainly unlike any Shakespeare adaptations we've ever seen.

But it's from the greatest decade ever, the 80's of course, and that golden era is still serving up surprises to this day. We're more than willing to overlook any minor technical flaws and amateurish moves in order to celebrate that. So, with a gesture with our palms in the air in a quizzical expression of "what the...?" we do indeed celebrate this odd duck of a movie.

Equal Impact

There are some definite "laffs" along the way.
Dave Conner (Joe Gates) and Josh Conner (Jay Gates) are twin brothers who also just happen to both be Tae Kwon Do experts. During their latest Martial Arts competition, they run afoul of evil Tae Kwon Do man Bobby Souk (Geriene). Souk may be a malevolent mulleted muttonhead, but he's the least of the Conner brothers' problems. It turns out that criminal mastermind Donald Moss (Estevez) is using Souk's dojo as cover for his counterfeit ring.

After a brawl in an alley with the Moss gang, Josh Conner takes some of the counterfeit money from one of the baddies. Now Moss is hoppin' mad so he kidnaps not just Dave Conner (come to think of it, isn't he a character on Roseanne?) but also Josh's new love interest - and potential Bobby Souk bride - Alison (Nikka Bailey). Just when all seems hopeless, help arrives in the form of the mysterious and taciturn Ray Tobin (Z'Dar). Will our unlikely allies, as well as the baddies, both put forth an EQUAL IMPACT? And who will come out victorious?

We know we say this a lot, but where are the McNamara brothers when you really need them? Just when you thought the stars of Twin Dragon Encounter (1986) and Dragon Hunt (1990) had cornered the market on low-budget, twin-based kicking and punching, along come the Gates brothers. They seem downright plain by comparison. Even their names, Joe and Jay, seem lackluster. That being said, we'll do our best to get over our pro-McNamara bias and try to be objective here.

As far as the quality level, try to imagine a cross between Radical Jack (2000) and Warrior Of Justice (1995). Some people may call it amateurish just because its budget is low and it isn't structured very well. These same people might note that the lighting, sound, and acting are also not the best. But we choose to point out that there is entertainment value to be had with Equal Impact. There are some definite "laffs" along the way.

For example, not only does the movie feature the aforementioned twin brothers, but the baddie looks exactly like them. Why they cast yet another skinny Tae Kwon Do nerd who looks exactly like the supposed heroes is inexplicable. Add to that the poor lighting and the viewer quickly is seeing triple. They could have called the movie Triple Impact but that title was already taken. And yes, apparently there is such a thing as a Tae Kwon Do nerd. If you've never seen one, watch Equal Impact. You'll soon see three. And you can't even tell who's who by their voices, because all of them have soft, reedy, non-intimidating pipes that wouldn't even cause a mouse to flee away from them.

Naturally, the whole thing ends with a classic Final Warehouse Fight, and earlier on in the proceedings we get to witness one of the silliest barfights we've seen in years. They should really give out awards for these things. Maybe we could do it and call them "The Actionies". Equal Impact could at least be nominated in many categories, and very well could win "Silliest Barfight".

Of course, Joe Estevez and Robert Z'Dar are on hand as well. Hey, a job's a job, and these guys clearly like to work. They seem not to be influenced by how small a film production may be. I guess if the price is right, they'll appear. We're happy they're here, because they raise the interest level pretty considerably. Even though Z'Dar does more smoking and drinking than talking this time around, we remain big Z'Dar fans and will watch the movies he's in with as little prejudice as he has when choosing his roles.

Because it was the 90's, the whole thing ends with a wussy song. Gone were the days of driving AOR anthems to pump you up on the soundtrack. That was a strike against the movie, but the biggest problem with Equal Impact is its 108-minute running time. Why, why, WHY is this movie so long? Even glossy Hollywood blockbusters often fail to justify a movie with that length. What hope does Equal Impact have? What were they thinking? Because it has a bunch of funny/entertaining moments, if it was trimmed down to 80 minutes, we would be looking at a gem. As it is, it's pretty overlong.

It should also be noted that, according to the credits, Flight Choreography is by a man named Edgar Bailey. Let's put it this way: The Blue Angels are nowhere in sight. Nor is any aircraft. We're pretty sure they simply misspelled the word "Fight". Not a good sign for an action movie.

As stated earlier, Equal Impact does contain some entertainment value, but it should have been shorter. It was also in dire need of some Steven Nijjar. But, then again, what movie isn't?

One Way Out

It's a ton of fun in that AIP-esque, Leo Fong-meets-Chuck-Jeffreys-with-a-dusting-of-Miami-Connection kind of way.
Detective Joe Weeks (Rogers) is a Cop On The Edge (or COTE), who naturally has to deal with a White Yelling Chief (or WYC), Captain Toback (Sutherlin). A man of strong and, some may say, silent emotion, Weeks takes many risks and chances in life. This is because after something unspeakable happened to his wife, he became not just sullen and withdrawn, but suicidal as well.

Now teamed with an attractive female partner (Brooke), the two must break up the ring of crime lord Frank Hanna (Irk). But it's not going to be easy, as Hanna has many goons to contend with and many trials and tribulations occur along the way - not the least of which is when Weeks has to turn in his badge and gun and go rogue. But will it be a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top? We implore you to find out...

We've met our new hero, and his name is Ivan Rogers. This awesome man wrote, produced, and starred in One Way Out - not to be confused with One Man Out (1989), One Man War (1990), One Man Force (1989), or many other similar titles. He's a man of few words. Very few. There are many instances when you think he's going to speak, as any normal person would, and then he doesn't, which is funny. Because he has a soft voice and it's post-dubbed, whenever he speaks, that's funny too. You can't lose. He's a man who shoots first and doesn't say anything at all later. He looks like a mélange of Philip Michael Thomas, Billy Dee Williams, Giancarlo Esposito, and Richard Pryor. We want to see more.

Director Paul Kyriazi, known to action fans as the director of Ron Marchini outings Death Machines (1976) and Omega Cop (1990), here has a different strong, formidable main star. But it should give you an idea of what you're in for: an awesomely 80's ride filled with wonderfully "off" pacing, silly voices and sound effects, and a low-budget charm that can't be beat.

The audio alone is fantastically entertaining. The voices are funny. The gunshots are funny. Every kick is funny. Every punch is funny. Scenes go on awkwardly/too long. And there's a man that when he speaks his voice is distorted as if he's going through the McDonald's drive-thru. Just to be clear, he's not. You gotta love it. Also they show the main title twice during the opening credits.

You know you're in for something special when one of the other opening credits is "And Abdullah the Great as Mike". And it only gets better from there on in. The score by Vincent Smith is also noteworthy. It's funky, it's synthy, it's percussive, and there are a lot of really great cues. It really could use a re-release. Forget "Axel F". Get ready for "Ivan R." They even found time to use a Watchtower song, "Violent Change", from the Energetic Disassembly album. It blares out of a boombox in one of the top 35 most ridiculous(lyawesome) scenes in the movie. One Way Out really delivers the goods.

It's a ton of fun in that AIP-esque, Leo Fong-meets-Chuck-Jeffreys-with-a-dusting-of-Miami-Connection kind of way. Just one of the millions of reasons the 80's were great is that it was before all this annoying irony and people were actually earnest and hardworking. It just so happens that this movie, One Way Out, is an entertaining blast to watch and will put a smile on your face, guaranteed. And what's wrong with that?

Arizona Heat

Arizona Heat is a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full situation.
Larry Kapinski (Parks) is a man perfectly suited to be named Larry Kapinski. He's rude, crude, and has a bad attitude. He's a male chauvinist pig and naturally he thinks he's God's gift to womankind. His favorite hobbies include drinking beer and womanizing. He's also a cop, and when his WYC (White Yelling Chief) teams him up with his new partner Jill Andrews (Crosby), they are, to quote the great Collision Course, "As different as hot dogs and sushi!", but instead of being American and Japanese as in that film, in this case it's American and Lesbian. Well, you know what we mean. We don't want to be accused of being as sexist as Larry Kapinski.

While Jill and Larry are constantly bickering back and forth about the nature of men and women in society, an evil, insidious cop killer is roaming around Arizona. Will they be able to get along long enough to catch the baddie? Or Will Kapinski's actions finally send the well-meaning Jill over the edge? Will anyone be able to stand the ARIZONA HEAT?

Arizona Heat can fall neatly in the "mismatched buddy cop" drama/thriller/action/comedy vein of the aforementioned Collision Course or perhaps Red Heat (1988). Even both titles include the word "Heat". On the one hand, we want to applaud Arizona Heat for including a lot of un-PC dialogue.

On the other hand, a lot of other dialogue in the movie is juvenile and sophomoric. It becomes very repetitive after a while. It spins its wheels and loses momentum. "Yes! We get it! You two are different!" you may be yelling at the screen as the movie is still drilling this point home at around the 80 minute mark even though we as viewers understand the conflict right from the jump.

To be fair, Arizona Heat does have some good qualities as well besides the lack of political correctness (although the fact that the Chief is in a wheelchair, and the fact that he teamed Kapinski up with a lesbian just for the sake of it would seem to indicate otherwise).

The soundtrack features the time-honored wailing electric guitar riffs we've come to expect of 80's actioners. There's a quality (although silly) car chase scene and some shootouts. It was a change to see Michael Parks in a rare non-baddie role, and it's always nice to see Denise Crosby. There's a peppering of goofy humor throughout the whole thing, and the bottom line is they just don't make movies like this anymore. It may be worth seeing for archival value alone.

Arizona Heat was director John G. Thomas's next effort after Banzai Runner (1987). Perhaps the video store era should've been kinder to Thomas, because he didn't direct anything after 'Heat until 1994. Part of the reason for that might be Republic Pictures's awful VHS box art.

Whoever designed this cover completely failed when it came to highlighting the movie's strengths, or really making it eye-catching in any way. While it was distributed well throughout the U.S., no one had any reason to take this generically-packaged tape off the shelf. That error was very much corrected by the fantastic European art. Not too many paintings feature a guy giving you the finger. Much less a likeness of Michael Parks. Much less next to Denise Crosby giving him the thumbs-down. Now that's how you do fantastic artwork to promote your movie.

The end-credits song, "Caught In the Heat", by Gary Stockdale, is a winner. So much so that they should have used it in the movie proper, perhaps a scene of Crosby and/or Parks training or working out. They could have taken out a scene of them bickering and put that in. That would have improved things.

In the end, Arizona Heat is a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full situation. You could either see it as a movie with a lot of silliness and some unpleasant dialogue and situations, or you could see it as an 80's artifact with some redeeming qualities. Either way, however, it's the type of film that will never be made again. Let's all concentrate on that aspect of it all.

Blue Tiger

Virginia Madsen versus the Yakuza. Killer idea. Thankfully, the movie more or less delivers.
Gina Hayes (Madsen) is a loving single mother to her young son Darin (Mortensen). When Darin is shot in the crossfire of a Yakuza war, Gina drops whatever it was she was doing, learns Japanese, dyes her hair black, and puts on her leather revenge jacket. She obsessively and single-mindedly attempts to track down her son's murderer, and her only clue (because the assailant wore a mask) is that he has a very recognizable tattoo on his chest.

She gets a job as a waitress in a dance club where the Yakuza hangs out, then begins the laborious process of coming up with reasons for all of them to get shirtless so she can identify the killer. When ailing tattoo master Smith (Stanton) emblazons her body with a certain red dragon, it signals that she is close to fulfilling her mission. But the Yakuza is getting wise, her friend Emily (Varda) is against her, and "Asian Crimes Inspector" Lt. Sakagami (Okumoto) is on her trail. With time running out, she must unravel the true nature of her newfound relationship with Seiji (Nakamura). Who - or what - is the real meaning of BLUE TIGER?

Virginia Madsen versus the Yakuza. Killer idea. Thankfully, the movie more or less delivers. It's well-shot and technically is quality all the way around. It can certainly stand with other movies cut from a similar cloth such as American Yakuza (1993), American Dragons (1998), and White Tiger (1996). It's noticeably better than Distant Justice (1992), another American-Japanese co-production from the same era.

While it does feature some beat-ups and shooting (including a noteworthy, classic-90's drive-by), we're not in PM territory here. The movie concentrates largely on drama, but is punctuated at appropriate times with well-executed action scenes. The Japanese actors acquit themselves well as usual, and the presence of top-flight actors like Madsen, fan favorite Harry Dean Stanton, and No Retreat No Surrender's Dean Hallo really help things. Virginia's brother Michael has a cameo as a gun dealer for the classic scene where the revenge-seeker (in this case Virginia, of course) goes to a gun range and learns to shoot.

Blue Tiger is a worthy addition to the revenge movie canon. Thanks to films like this one, video stores in a now-bygone era had added color and interest. It's all very professional and serious-minded. Perhaps too much so: it actually could have been more exploitative and trashy, but that was eschewed. The plot is a bit slow-moving in the middle, but it rights itself.

Blue Tiger is recommended, especially for revenge film fans.

Shadow Warriors II: Hunt for the Death Merchant

If you're willing to accept "The B-Team", you could do a lot worse than Shadow Warriors.
Mike McBride (Hulk), Roy Brown (Weathers), Hunter Wiley (Tweed), and possibly some other guy are the SHADOW WARRIORS. They're a team of mercenaries, but they're good mercenaries who rescue kidnapped children and fight terrorists. But that's only, in true A-Team fashion, "if you can find them". Tasked with fighting some baddies with chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, our Shadow Warrior team snaps into action. They even enlist the help of their buddy Andy Powers (Kove), sort of an auxiliary Shadow Warrior. The only problem is McBride was injected with some sort of poison and is slowly dying. Can he get an antidote in time? Will they stop the launch of the missile? Will they save the children? WHAT'S GONNA HAPPEN?!?!

Shadow Warriors is a made-for-TV (TNT to be exact) outing, and you can really feel it. It feels like a pilot for a show that was never picked up, and it would have been (and should have been) a syndicated series that would air after Xena or Hercules or Relic Hunter on channel 9 on Saturday afternoon. That's not to say there isn't action - there are plenty of shootouts, fights, chases, blow-ups and the like. But it feels sanitized, and the whole outing is very paint-by-numbers.

That being said, there are plenty of funny moments to be had. Hulk Hogan attempting to act "troubled" is worth the price of admission alone. The Hulkster mows down middle-Eastern terrorists holding two large machine guns, and later gets the old Prerequisite Torture treatment. Carl Weathers brings his trademark charisma, and Shannon Tweed practically salvages the whole thing just by being there. Of course, you do get some classic Tweed-Fu. Martin Kove seems to be going for the David Letterman look of the day. They all walk in slow motion away from an explosion, and Hulk Hogan punches people on a hovercraft. So it's not a total loss.

The whole thing is rife with stereotypes and stupidity, as you might expect from another pairing of director Cassar with Hulk Hogan around the same time as The Ultimate Weapon (1998). But you shouldn't go in expecting more than that, and there is fun to be had with what's there.

So, if you're willing to accept "The B-Team", you could do a lot worse than Shadow Warriors.

Mister Deathman

While this isn't exactly essential viewing, it may appeal to those who enjoy undiscovered spy thrillers.
Geoffrey Graves (Broadnax) is an international superspy, or secret agent, or something along those lines. After a run-in with two low-level mobsters, Graves somehow gets embroiled in a complex web of kidnapping, murder, and Stella Stevens. He has all the tricks up his sleeve that a James Bond-esque dude might have, which will come in handy as he fights his way towards the mysterious Mr. Czee. This entails a lot of intrigue in South Africa, which comes to a head in a very perplexing computer room. Who exactly is MISTER DEATHMAN? Is it Graves or is it someone else? Perhaps it's now up for debate...

A movie that ends as abruptly as it begins (or at least that's the case with the version we saw), Mister Deathman is more of a spy adventure than a pure action film, but it does have some action moments and blow-ups. It certainly follows in the footsteps of other South African outings like Cobra Force (1988) and Vengeance Cops (1971). Maybe we're just watching the wrong South African movies, but it seems like the one common denominator to all of them is that they're afraid to go full-out action. They all seem to pull their punches to a certain degree. Whether that's down to censorship or some other reason, we have no way of knowing.

While we enjoyed David Broadnax as Graves, and there are some bright spots peppered throughout the movie, probably our favorite thing about it was the score. Unfortunately we don't know the name of the composer as of now, but they did a fantastic job and it almost single-handedly keeps the movie afloat, especially in its slower moments (and there are plenty of those). Broadnax should have done more in his career. While the only other feature film he appeared in is Zombie Island Massacre (1984), he does get a "based on an original story by" credit here. Of course, he plays the lead as well. What ever happened to Broadnax?

Mister Deathman isn't in any way bad, it just loses steam at a certain point and should have been more of a straight-ahead action movie. While it has a cool title, it doesn't really live up to it, unfortunately. Low-budget, foreign-made variations on James Bond featuring a one-time lead actor are a tough sell for just about any potential viewers.

Perhaps that's why it never received a wide release, including the U.S. It should be noted as a point of interest that director Michael Moore (and no, it's not the Michael Moore that we unfortunately know today, but a Canadian gentleman who passed away in 2013) was the second unit director on Never Say Never Again (1983). Maybe he felt that qualified him to make his own Bond with Broadnax.

In the end, while this isn't exactly essential viewing, it may appeal to those who enjoy undiscovered spy thrillers.

American Rampage

It has a rough-hewn homemade charm that's easy to love.
Samantha Rork (Jane) is an L.A. vice cop who shoots first and asks questions later. She's teamed up with many different partners, among whom are Ryan Hayes (Elliott) and a certain man named Bart (Gates), but the important thing to know is that she really wants to bring down the drug pushers, pornographers, and other criminal lowlife scum of the city. Because this takes a toll on her mental state, she has therapy sessions with Police Psychiatrist (Donahue). He's so integral to her life, he doesn't have a name. Eventually she finds her way to the mansion of the main drug kingpin and yet another shootout ensues. Is Sam Rork going on a classic AMERICAN RAMPAGE?

We really loved American Rampage. It's completely fun from start to finish, in a Samurai Cop (1991), Death Flash (1986), or Savage Harbor (1987) kind of way. It's silly, it's utterly ridiculous, and it's totally 80's. In other words...awesome. The soundtrack is washed in synthesizers, and there's a scene at a mall (apparently the South Bay Mall somewhere in Southern California) where the synths blast, and director DeCoteau has a brief cameo. Hayes, one of Sam's many partners on the police force, is perhaps the only cop in recent memory to wear a stonewashed jacket with the collar up. Most of the male characters in the film have some form of mullet, making the Mullet Per Minute (or MPM) quotient higher here than in any other movie in memory.

Porn purveyor John T. Bone plays - you guessed it - a pornographer. His name in the film is Mike Raisin. Many other characters have silly names like that. All of the characters and their motivations are spelled out during a lengthy slide show sequence towards the beginning of the film. It's a cheat sheet of sorts for the goings-on of American Rampage. Fan favorite Linnea Quigley plays a drug courier who takes a shower and then dies. There is a ton of hilariously gratuitous nudity, including from fellow fan favorite Michelle Bauer, and a woman named Jasae, who appeared in Road House (1989).

It all starts out with the time-honored convenience store shootout, where many bottles of New York Seltzer meet their demise. And not just New York Seltzer, but also Zeltzer Seltzer. Lots of carbonated water goes flat in this sequence. This sets the tone for all the fun to be had throughout the rest of the film. Of course, there is a classic WYC (White Yelling Chief) that Sam and her partners have to contend with. It's a shame that Kary Jane (credited as only Kary J. on the film, and many of the other actors only did initials or pseudonyms as well) did only this movie. She could have been a rival to Brigitte Nielsen at the time.

While American Rampage received a U.S. DVD release back in 1998 on the low-budget Simitar label, thankfully, Massacre Video has now rescued the film and released it on Blu-ray. Not only did they pair it with the Dan Haggerty film Danger USA (1989), but there is a commentary track by DeCoteau and producer Raj Mehrotra. Also included is a deleted scene that features Linnea Quigley that previously was only available on the French VHS release.

While you can't hear Mehrotra too well on the commentary track, DeCoteau does most of the talking anyway, and he repeatedly mentions PM and AIP productions as his contemporaries at the time. He also namechecks Amir Shervan and Hollywood Cop (1987). He even mentions that a stuntman who worked on American Rampage later died doing a stunt on a PM film, but he doesn't mention their name. There are numerous instances where DeCoteau and Mehrotra crack up laughing during the track. They do mention that the genesis for the film was that foreign markets want "American guns, American cars, American cops, and American girls". Hence, the name American Rampage.

That formula does makes sense, if you look at how many movies were released at the time with the word "American" in them, which we talked about on one of our podcasts. This even goes to low-budget foreign productions like American Hunter (1989). As long as people in other countries view America as the zany universe that American Rampage takes place in, I'm okay with that. I wish we lived in a world where Sam Rork always was there for us and always had our back.

For a thoroughly enjoyable and mirth-filled night of entertainment, it's hard to beat American Rampage. It has a rough-hewn homemade charm that's easy to love. The Blu-ray is a standout, and keeping in mind that we have nothing to do with Massacre Video and they probably don't even know we exist, we absolutely recommend purchasing their American Rampage/Danger USA release. You won't regret it.

Steele's Law

Can't go wrong with Fred!
Lt. John Steele (Fred) - not to be confused with the John Steele from Steele Justice (1987), who is a different person that you unleash - is a Chicago cop with a bad attitude. Surprisingly, he also plays by his own rules. When some FBI suits recruit Steele to foil a terrorist plot, he travels to Dallas to stop an assassination attempt. In this case, a maniacal baddie named Joe Keno (Ingram, whose name may be spelled incorrectly in the credits) is planning on killing the Iraqi ambassador.

Once in the Lone Star state, Steele makes fast friends with Sheriff Barnes (Svenson) and the mission begins. Along the way, Steele, Barnes, and his contact, "Peacekeeper" face all sorts of trials and tribulations, usually ending with Steele's coolness saving the day. But will Steele be able to change the course of the first Gulf War? Find out today...

Released the year before Three Days to a Kill (1992), Steele's Law is likely the first Snizzlefritz production. Three Days is the second Snizzlefritz production. Now that that's cleared up, we can say that Steele's Law faithfully follows the Fred formula. It's far from fantastic, but it's fine for his followers. In fact, the film is fairly fun. If you have seen and liked other Fred Williamson movies, you will know what to expect and you'll probably dig what he's layin' down.

Certain ideas, themes, and even scenes and character types appear again and again in the Fred canon. He won't get much credit in the snooty circles for being an auteur, but that's what he truly was, if I understand the definition of auteur correctly. Maybe it's because certain gay-stereotype characters and/or prostitutes are played for laughs, which is un-PC these days.

But so is Steele's rogue cowboy ways and tough-guy masculinity. That's why people are re-discovering these movies. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Or maybe it's because all of his movies have scenes with loud incidental music that drowns out the dialogue. Either way, Fred is an American Original. Even his films that aren't top-flight have something worth watching going on. Steele's Law is no exception.

For example, Steele's Law gets going instantly with a slam-bang opening scene. He's tough and cool right from the jump, and is a master of weaponry, as we soon see. But, inevitably, he has to go from street action to the office of his Chief, just as night follows day. He isn't quite a BYC, but he teeters on the edge. He also has questionable hair. Steele displays more of his classic bad attitude, but he agrees to go after his former nemesis, Keno.

Once in Dallas he gets into a classic Barfight, but probably the trainyard fight trumps it as a movie highlight. As is typically the case, there are some doldrums in the film during the course of the reasonable 90-minute running time. Perhaps this is best exemplified when we see Steele casually cross a street - the whole street - while the 'Don't Walk' sign is lit. What a badass. We then see him walk back from where he came from. Every step. We're not sure why this was necessary, as scenes like this tend to lessen the overall intensity of the film, but perhaps it was there to build character. We now know Steele has a cool walk. Wait, didn't we already know that? Well, anyway...

Other highlights include the Mike Logan score (presumably not the character from Law & Order), even if it does blare while characters are talking. But that's not Logan's fault.

Also, when Steele is teamed up with Peacekeeper - which was the working title for the film but they must have been familiar with Dolph's The Peacekeeper from 1997 - we get a classic "cool guy meets nerd and they're the Original Odd Couple" scenario, recently seen between Matt McColm and Clint Howard in Body Armor, also from 1997. And you've got to see the cell phones used in this movie. They're awesome. If anyone ever starts a cell phone museum, they should consult Steele's Law as a reference point. It almost makes the whole thing worth seeing right there.

It appears that Steele's Law is one of the rarer Fred movies, at least here in the U.S. However, you can still find those cheaply-produced "gas station" DVDs that are floating around out there. That's what we stumbled across at the Salvation Army. If you do see one, pick it up. It won't kill ya. Especially if you're a Fred fan. And if you're not...why not?

Death Wish 3

Our credo: Charles Bronson now, Charles Bronson forever!
Paul Kersey (Bronson, of course) is back in action and back in New York City in this classic Cannon outing. When Kersey arrives, ostensibly to visit his old buddy, he immediately gets into a whole heap o'trouble, as you might expect. When a devious cop named Shriker (Lauter) unleashes Kersey into a crime-ridden East New York neighborhood, all he asks is that Kersey occasionally reports back to him, because he knows crime stats will drop dramatically.

But Kersey is more interested in helping the poor inhabitants of an apartment tower that's plagued with the rampant crime in the neighborhood. He makes fast friends with Bennett (Balsam), and even finds time for romance with public defender Kathryn Davis (Raffin). But the main order of the day is to take down gang leader Fraker (O'Herlihy) and his rampaging underlings. Soon enough, Kersey wages his one-man war against the baddies and ne'er-do-wells of New York...who will survive the onslaught?

Did Judas Priest write the song "Delivering the Goods" about this movie? Well, probably not, as it's from 1978, but they easily could have. Death Wish III is when the franchise went from being serious-minded and 70's to being ridiculous, over the top, and 80's. On the one hand, it lost some of its "serious points". But on the other hand, it gained a lot in terms of the fun quotient. And this movie is a ton of fun.

The 80's was the golden age of movies where punks take over the streets. Tenement (1985), Exterminator 2 (1984), Enemy Territory (1987), and Chains (1989) just to name a few. It's a joy to watch Bronson blow the baddies away with a wide variety of weaponry. And set all that to a stellar Jimmy Page soundtrack, and you have a classic winner all around (and that's not a pun based on the director's name).

Martin Balsam is the classic old salt and he and Bronson make a stellar pairing. When Balsam first appears on screen, you expect to see a credit like "And Martin Balsam as Charles Durning in The Hal Holbrook Story, featuring Burgess Meredith and Ernest Borgnine, and with a special appearance by George Kennedy". Needless to say, it's awesome to watch the triumph of the older gentlemen over the disrespectful young whippersnappers.

While wags may describe the movie as "stupid" or perhaps "mindless", we say that anyone that levels those charges has no sense of fun and mirth. And if it is stupid, it's the good stupid we're always talking about. Honestly, ask yourself: is there anything better than Charles Bronson in the 80's with a rocket launcher? After some deep soul searching, you will find the answer is no. Trust us, we've been there, man.

Don't get us wrong, we love the first two Death Wish movies. But the bleak, dour tone is gone here. Death Wish III marks the moment when the gray, overcast clouds broke and the sunlight flooded in. Our credo: Charles Bronson now, Charles Bronson forever!

Plato's Run

The plot is unnecessarily complicated.
Plato Smith (Busey), along with his fellow former-Navy SEAL buddies Sam (Bauer) and Dominick (Speakman), are just, to paraphrase both this movie, as well as the song by Ensiferum, "warriors without a war". That all changes when a mysterious woman named Marta (Warden) enlists Plato and Sam to go to Cuba and extract the son of a powerful crime boss. At first they refuse, of course, but then they decide that the money is too good, especially because Plato's business is failing and he's going to be evicted from his house. Since Plato is trying to repair his relationship with his daughter Kathy (Myatt), it seems like a good move.

Of course, the job isn't as cut-and-dry as it seems, and soon Plato is on the run because he was framed for the murder of said crime boss. Additionally, the REAL power behind the scenes, dastardly arms dealer Alex Senarkian (Scheider) is now testing/using/shipping mines all over the world and even has a mine testing facility at a secret, evil compound.

Things go from bad to worse when Kathy is kidnapped and Sam and Plato are trapped in the testing facility. With only their wits, and outside help from Dominick, will they be able to escape their doom. Will this be Plato's last run?

Not to be confused with Hitman's Run (1999) or Da Vinci's War (1993), Plato's Run is not exactly a movie you'd put at the top of your "to watch" list. To be fair, it's better than Busey's Warriors (1994), and about on par with the other Busey-Scheider team-up, The Rage (1997). It all starts promisingly enough - the power trio of Busey, Bauer, and Speakman are in a Florida bar and almost apropos of nothing, a very silly barfight ensues. But then it slows down and it all becomes a bit more standard.

Yes, there are action scenes with shooting, blow-ups, beat-ups and the like. And while the movie is shot well, and it's all very clear, somehow something is missing. Bauer and Busey had good chemistry together, which was all well and good, but the movie needed more Speakman. Certainly it needed more Speakman Martial Arts.

The plot is unnecessarily complicated. It should have been the big boss, Senarkian, sending out waves of baddies for our triumvirate of heroes to beat up. Instead, it gets bogged down with other things such as land mines, Busey running around a lot, and plot intrigue. The central baddie of Scheider can't hold all that together.

Of course, we should have suspected all this because we knew two things going in: It's a Nu-Image movie from 1997, and the director, James Becket, also made Ulterior Motives (1993). For those who may not remember, that's the unfortunate Thomas Ian Griffith outing that somehow manages to botch the idea of TIG wielding a samurai sword. But that was Becket's first movie. He should have picked up a few tricks by the time of Plato's Run. It seems he did not, which is a shame.

Despite some well-placed humor, and the fact that the ingredients are all there for a successful DTV actioner, Plato's Run, if we're going to be brutally honest, is video store shelf-filler. We're always looking for titles that rise above that sort of station, but, unfortunately, despite its good points, Plato's Run doesn't do that.

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