Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Talons of the Eagle


Directed by
: Michael Kennedy
Written by: J. Stephen Maunder
Starring: Billy Blanks, Jalal Merhi, Priscilla Barnes and Matthias Hues

Talons of the Eagle is the epitome of early 90s American martial arts films: low budget, tons of fights, a little cheesy but a whole lot of fun. The first film to pair B-movie stalwarts, Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi (they would also make TC 2000 and Expect No Mercy), it pits the duo as maverick cops going undercover to bust evil crime lord, Mr Li (James Hong).

The first half is essentially a Bloodsport riff, as the heroes are sent to a special martial arts school in order to hone their skills to enter an illegal fight tournament organised by Li. Under the tutelage of Master Pan (Master Pan Qing Fu) they undergo a lengthy montage (complete with dodgy music) of pain-inducing (for them) training and fighting. We see the pair lift tree trunks, perform press ups while Pan sits on them, and watch a woman bathe in her underwear (sounds like my kinda training). Then it’s on to the fight tournament, where the newly skilled fighters effortlessly win. Catching Li’s eye, they are hired as muscle. Teaming up with a fellow undercover agent (Barnes), the film switches gear to a martial arts thriller as they all set about bringing down Li’s reign of terror.

Produced by Merhi, this is a typical production from the low budget uber-producer: somewhat vain and over the top but packed with enough fights and energy to make it worth any martial arts fan’s time. Blanks will never win an Oscar (and seems to have given up acting altogether now), yet he is likeable and displays a never-ending supply of dynamism in the combat scenes. Hong camps it up as Li and the towering Matthias Hues (Dark Angel) provides solid bad guy muscle. Merhi…wears leather trousers (!).

But, as mentioned, Talons of the Eagle is a 90s martial arts flick meaning there is a abundance of kung fu and action scenes. Blanks is infinitely the better fighter with a cool fight in a kitchen and his brutal dust-up with Hues (though not as good as their one in TC 2000) showcasing his talents. While the fights aren’t as fluid and intricate as their Hong Kong counterparts, they still pass muster and feature a variety of weapons and styles.

Despite a flurry of risible one-liners (“I told you I had balls of steel”) and some of the least convincing sex scenes put to screen (plus Merhi in his Y-fronts…oh dear) Talons of the Eagle is still an enjoyable action romp. Not as good as Expect No Mercy but a little more fun than TC 2000, it’s a film that encapsulates a by-gone era. This reviewer grew up watching these kind of movies (probably explaining his current state of mind) and finds much undemanding enjoyment in two wisecracking cops kicking ass. In fact Mr Merhi, bring on Talons of the Eagle 2 (just no leather pants and Y-fronts this time).

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