Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Killer Instinct


Directed by: Cirio H. Santiago
Written by: Joe Mari Avellana
Starring: Robert Patrick, Robert Dryer, William Steis, Morgan Douglas, Lydie Denier, Barbara Patrick, Joe Mari Avellana

One time action-movie-machine, Cirio H. Santiago cranks out his millionth Vietnam/jungle/warfare flick, Killer Instinct and it’s just as nutty, action packed and a helluva a good time as the other million. A very young and eager Robert Patrick, before his time as the iconic T1000, stars as Johnny Ransom (awesome, awesome action hero name!) a gung ho, bad-ass Vietnam soldier who, along with his crew, get captured by a pesky Russian general and his horde of bad guys. Tortured and humiliated, Ransom nevertheless escapes and after some recuperation, a bit of romance with a lovely anti-war campaigner (Patrick’s future real life wife, Barbara) and lots of shouting and disagreeing with his commander, Ransom heads back into hell to rescue his POW buddies and a kindly old communist defector: M16 gun blazing craziness ensues. 

Robert Patrick started out his career in several Cirio H. Santiago action epics (including Equalizer 2000 and the similar Vietnam gun blast-fest Eye of the Eagle), and Killer Instinct (or Behind Enemy Lines as it’s also known) is typical of the era: low budget, shot in the Philippines, a bit of plot, a good dose of zaniness and tons and tons of M16 shell case dispensing and jungle hut blowing up action. While not as good as say the likes of Santiago’s Nam Angels, Killer Instinct sticks to its bullet blistering intentions and serves up the action good and plenty. Santiago also squeezes in a bit of an anti-war stance in the form of Barbara Patrick’s war opposer, who spends her time mostly shouting at Ransom to then only go and fall for him and, of course, bed him because you know, “He just wants to get the job done and get his boys home damnit!” Ransom and his crew also team up with some other resistance fighters (who appear to be French, complete with stereotypical berets!) and there’s a woman resistance fighter who appears to be dressed as Indiana Jones for some inexplicable reason! So see, there is a lot going on in-between the jungle being shredded and blown up!

But really Santiago just wants to get to the next M16 bullet strewing scene and there are lots of them along with Patrick riding a helicopter and blowing up the Russian’s base in explosive style. We also get plenty of rocket launcher action and an army jeep complete with multi rocket launchers blowing the crap out everything in the finale: wow! Seriously what’s not to the like: Santiago, war action, explosions galore and a very young T1000 blasting through the jungle and various abandoned quarries all in the name of 80s action entertainment?


Friday, 13 February 2015

The Last American Elvis


Directed by: Dominique E. Othenin-Girard
Written by: Dale Trevllion
Starring: William Forsythe, Kari Wuhrer, Leo Rossi, Sharon Farrell & Dennis Hayden

A wannabe cool crime thriller from a time in the 90s when every director and his brother were trying to make a cool Tarantino/indie type film, The Last American Elvis (or Beyond Desire to give it its original title) would like you to think it’s a cool (man that’s a lot of cools!) drama/thriller akin to something like Wild at Heart or True Romance but really it’s just another B-movie action film of the look and type that were produced by the hundreds in the 90s (and the type of which this lowly, and very uncool, reviewer loves and usually laps up!). Unfortunately, it disappointingly forgets to bring the action and instead focuses on a muddled crime story, a would-be Elvis aficionado (complete with working Elvis song titles into the dialogue: groan!) and a whole lot of not-very cool-criminal-posing rubbish. Two things save it from bargain basement oblivion: a very cool red corvette and the always awesome, beautiful and in this case very energetic Kari Wuhrer: cool.

It’s the predictable story of William Forsythe’s Elvis loving wannabe getting out of prison after a 14 year stint for a crime he didn’t commit (yawn!) and speedily shacks up with Wuhrer’s blonde bombshell/femme fatale, who may or may not be on the take. Factor in Leo Rossi’s ridiculous crime boss (who seems to have walked in off the set of some mafia parody movie!), the quest for some missing loot, a ton of sex and nudity, a smidgen of gunplay action and all the cool posing, kooky camera angles and 90s crime quirkiness you can cram into 80mins and you have yourself a cheap jack pulp crime noir.

Director Dominique E. Othenin-Girard (of Halloween 5 and Omen 4 fame) tries his best to make things, ahem, cool and interesting on a limited budget but with Forsythe’s character coming across more as an obnoxious burke than a slick Elivs loving anti-hero, the predictability of the whole scenario, forced (and now dated sounding) “edgy” dialogue and the lack of anything really happening until the couple of decent shootouts in the finale, mean one will just be waiting until the next Kari Wuhrer scene of nudity: which thankfully there is an abundance of. To be fair, the flick is quite racy for a mid 90s low budget action thriller and while she does get nude quite a bit, Wuhrer also injects the film with energy and edginess it lacks everywhere else. As well as being lovely to look at, Wuhrer is a gifted (and underrated) actress and acts everyone else off the screen here.

Meh, it was ok.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Man of Tai Chi

Check out my new review of Man of Tai Chi over at Far East Films.


Check out my new review of Skills over at Far East Films.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Operation Hit Squad


Directed by: Tonie van der Mawe & Kathy Viedge
Screenplay: Kathy Viedge
Starring:  Vera Johns, Charles Segal, Gael Taylor, Ken Gampu, Brian O’Shaughnessy

With the above cover, the title Operation Hit Squad, a character with a rocket launcher crossbow, the premise of a group of highly trained commandos heading into some badlands to rescue a bunch of captured rich women and the fact this is from the 80s, one would be right in thinking this is going to be awesome. Alas, despite all the aforementioned coolness Operation Hit Squad was not in fact awesome. Unfortunately this one was a bit of a dud. Sure it has its heart in the right place, what with some rich guys wives needing saving after their plane is shot down by a group of militia type nut jobs and a squad of commando type bad assess hired to go and find them (complete with tooling up scene before they head off on their mission!) but the cheap jack production values, plodding pace and a whole lot of meh, huh and what!, added up to B-movie action blandness.

Nothing wrong with a cheap jack action movie but with too-obvious dubbing of all the actors, cameramen reflected in computer monitor screens (!) and the truly mind boggling scene of superimposed smoke on the plane crashing scene (which makes one ask why even bother superimposing it on when it looks that bad: bad even for 1987!!), the cheapness becomes too much of a hindrance to the enjoyment of the B-movie action. The pace is too plodding (with scenes going on and on with no dialogue for no discernible reason!), with random edits and fades meaning scenes often end abruptly and coupled with a weak attempt at injecting serious drama (the out of nowhere suicide attempt by one of the female captives), one becomes impatient waiting for the action to begin. It eventually does but not until almost an hour in. Ack!

Thankfully this is where the film picks up a little. Not that the action is particularly great as it’s often random in nature with stuntmen running around looking confused and slow motion over used to the point of insanity. However, what it does have is explosions. Lots and lots of epic explosions. When the Hit Squad raids the bad guy’s compound: shit goes boom spectacularly with stuntmen flung around left, right and centre. The explosions are impressive and many of the stunts look extremely dangerous: though bizarrely, but somewhat entertainingly, said stunts are often repeated over and over from every angle imaginable! There is plenty of Uzi fire, running around and even a motorcycle with rocket launchers is utilized in one crazy action moment. See, Operation Hit Squad has all the right ingredients (rocket launcher crossbows and motorcycles!) but just can’t mix them into a tasty entertaining B-movie action whole. For explosion and action film oddity complete-ists only.