Thursday, 20 November 2008
TRUE VENGEANCE (1997)
Directed by: David Worth
Written by: Kurt Johnstad
Starring: Daniel Berhardt, Beverly Johnson & Miles O’Keeffe
Flick opens with two snipers, heavily camoflauged up, stalking through the Columbian jungle. Sent to take out some major bad dude, Griffin (Bernhardt) hesitates as women and children become involved but his partner (O’Keeffe) doesn’t and guns down everyone before is himself shot by Griffin. Many years later, Griffin is a happy single father celebrating his young daughter’s birthday. But as is the nature of being a top class assassin his past comes back to haunt him, his daughter kidnapped by some evil Yakuza who want him to kill for them. Griffin, however, isn’t going to comply so easily and geared and ready for action sets out to destroy the Yakuza and get his kid back. Yep, its Commando rip-off number 137.
Despite the over familiar plot and standard set up for revenge, True Vengeance is actually one of the better Commando variations. There are a few sub plots thrown in here and there (cops on Griffin’s trail, O’Keeffe not really dead and back to kill Griffin) but it’s all really an excuse for lots of ass kicking and surprisingly well staged action. Apart from an uneventful motorcycle chase, the action scenes hit hard and frequently incorporating lots of gunplay, sword fights and some impressive martial arts action. The pace rarely lags meaning we are never too far away from an action scene whether it’s a raid on Griffin’s house, a shootout at a strip club or a hard hitting fight in a tattoo parlour. Shot well, never over edited and with loads and loads of bad guys getting killed, the action is what this movie is all about. Bernhardt is a whiz in the fight department and while the fights aren’t comparable to Hong Kong style fights, they are fluid in execution and feature some impressive moves and takedowns. In fact, True Vengeance is a proper action film delivering exactly what we want (loads of action) and frequently.
Bernhardt (Bloodsport 2) is a likeable hero if not the greatest actor in the world but spends most of his time kicking, butting heads and shooting guns which he does very well. O’Keeffe (Marked Man) is good, slimy fun complete with bad mid-90s ponytail and there is quality support from George Kee Cheung, Roger Yuan and Jonathan Lutz. Director Worth (Lady Dragon) keeps everything moving fast; the camera often whirling through scenes and throws in loads of cool slow motion into the action that the film never really has a chance to lag even when it becomes all kinds of silly come the last 15 minutes. Kudos to him for sticking to his guns and stuffing the flick full of cool action. The jungle scene that opens the film is also pretty cool.
The 1990s was awash with straight-to-video action flicks like this, often starring Jean Claude Van Damme knock-offs like Bernhardt (though he did go on to be in The Matrix Reloaded and starred in the surprisingly good Bloodsport 2) and True Vengeance is one of the best. Doesn’t break any new ground but does so with bones, tables and glass, and if you are at all disappointed with Segal’s recent direct-to-DVD output then check out this flick as this is how low budget action should be done.