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Matters get to a great start in this at least with some nice special fx work depicting the inception of a war in space - Great say I and I was immediately filled with high hopes.....but it was sadly not to be for any initial positivity was subsequently dashed horribly upon sitting through this to the end. Frankly, this film is a mess; Irritating characterisations, a story that goes nowhere and poor action sequences do not a good movie make!
Both main stars, Howell and Piper are utterly wasted in their roles although the latter at least does appear to be enjoying his role somewhat whilst the supporting cast are made up of infuriating oddities such as an annoyingly voiced priest/bookie, David Carradine as a psycho ventriloquist(!) and an annoying soldier who spends half the film beating up on his subordinates.
There's really very little to say about this film in fact other than to avoid it - it's ninety or so minutes better spent on the toilet if you ask me.
Cyber Tracker (1994)
Undemanding but fairly enjoyable
Those action mad loonies of PM Entertainment, Joseph Merhi and Richard Pepin deliver this somewhat fun Terminator rip off starring former kickboxing champ, Don 'The Dragon' Wilson.
Funny thing is, despite his obvious skills in the ring, I have never much liked Wilson's on screen fights and this film proved no exception. Even the final fight against martial arts star Richard Norton – a fight which should have been awesome, proved to be decidedly mundane.
But enough about the fights – what of the rest of the film you might ask?
Well, it's derogative stuff at best and clearly knows it but with Merhi and Pepin on board, plots invariably play second fiddle to the action scenes at any rate. In this regards, there are some admittedly cool sequences on offer which really elevate the film.
Acting wise? – Probably best not mentioned but overall a fairly fun little film that should keep action fans mildly amused for ninety or so minutes.
Black Friday (2001)
You know, I always feel really sorry for Gary Daniels for not making it bigger than he has. OK, so he isn't exactly a great thespian by any stretch of the imagination but in terms of martial art skills, our Gaz is without doubt, one of the very best the West has to offer. How sad then that he has invariably found himself landed in some rather mundane affairs at best. I also find it doubly sad to compare the wonderful production values of something along the lines of the criminally underrated, Fist Of The North Star to the vast majority of his subsequent efforts. Such is the case of the film reviewed here for instance, which if the truth be told, more closely resembles a student film in terms of production quality. Shot on cheap video stock, this somewhat bland effort meanders along pretty aimlessly, effectively completely wasting Gary's talents with even the fight scenes themselves hardly ticking the boxes.
I'll give it credit for a nice twist at about the hour mark but even this can hardly compensate for the decidedly lacklustre direction and excessive 'talkiness' that so permeates proceedings.
For fellow Daniels' fans it's probably worth a peek but just don't get your hopes up as this will likely leave you sorely disappointed. A real shame.
Queen's Messenger (2001)
A poor show indeed for Daniels fans
Gary Daniels headlines in this sadly flat and by the numbers action flick which was shot on the cheap in Eastern Europe.
Our man plays Captain Strong of the SAS who is assigned the task of Queen's messenger - a role which seems to attract trouble like a magnet. Indeed, no sooner has our hero cuffed the requisite briefcase to his arm, he is besieged by a succession of loonies, all eager to murder him and anyone around him. Unfortunately, the above synopsis probably makes this sound much more interesting than it actually transpires on screen; In fact, in regretful truth, the film itself is somewhat of a chore to sit through from beginning to end suffering from bland action scenes, clunky dialogue and some pretty risible acting from most of the (clearly non-English speaking!) cast. Most disappointing of all,Daniels himself hardly gets to show off his fine martial arts skills! - Sacrelige!!!
How sad especially, to compare the production values of Daniels earlier, Fist Of The North Star to this shoddy effort made only five years later. A real shame for Daniels who could and indeed should, in an ideal world, have gone on to much greater things.
Sudden Death (1995)
There's trouble at the big game....
Powers Booth absolutely shines as a particularly nasty piece of work in this Die Hard inspired outing starring Jean Claude Van Damme. As many other reviewers have detailed the plot I will omit the said details and cut straight to the chase as regards the film quality; Good news.........this is rather splendid stuff in fact!
It's clearly a quality production wise, has oodles of tension and some great action set pieces throughout. OK, so there are a few rather bloody stupid moments such as in one particularly ridiculous scene, amidst the middle of all the action, Van Damme dons goal keeper duties and goes out to play ice hockey(!!!!!) - but if you can just put them to the back of your mind as (unintentional?) humour, then you should have a great time with this.
Vintage Van Damme
The target of much vitriol upon its initial release, it would appear that attitudes have however somewhat mellowed towards this early Van Damme vehicle. In this post apocalyptic tale, our favourite ripped Belgian plays a tough as nails hero for hire with a score to settle against a particularly ruthless bandit called Fender. Albert Pyunn directs this somewhat bleak tale with a touch of visual panache and includes a fair few rather exciting action set pieces as our hero shoots, stabs and of course, kicks his way to his final objective.
Whilst Van Damme's legs and feet are certainly on fine form, the same cannot sadly be said of his acting chops....... Still, it matters not and in truth he doesn't get many lines to bumble through at any rate. Funnily enough, Van Damme isn't the worst actor on show anyway......that honour must go to the aforementioned main bad guy but he cuts such a menacing presence that it matters not a jot not a tickle again.
Visually stylish with a great musical score, Cyborg is essential viewing for Van Damme fans.
Traitor's Heart (1999)
Shades of Total Recall.......
......Feature in this fairly decent conspiracy thriller starring Bryan Genesse. Genesse plays Nick Brody, a family man who seems to have the perfect life; A perfect (and bloody hot!) wife and a pleasant little nipper called Sean. However, after a chance meeting with a mysterious stranger, Brody stumbles upon ever more convincing information that his past is not what it seems..... You see, Brody was involved in a helicopter crash five years previously and has no recollection prior to this time. Indeed, it becomes quickly evident that many powerful people don't want Brody to remember his previous life and will stop at seemingly nothing to prevent him uncovering the truth.
Unfortunately, this was erroneously marketed as an action film which in truth, there isn't that much of. Needless to say, this will inevitably disappoint those wishing for a quick fix. However, if you approach this as a low budget conspiracy thriller then you may well glean some not inconsiderable enjoyment from this as I did.
Fearless Tiger (1991)
Incompetent in virtually every conceivable way............
.......But oh so much fun! Yes indeed, step right up folks for here we have a real stinker; Witness in disbelief a lead actor (who happens to be none other than Joseph Merhi's brother!) who can barely speak the English language(!), some pretty lousy fight sequences throughout (especially surprising considering that the legendary kicking maestro Jean Frennette is on board here!), Bolo Yeung dancing...badly(!), and some of the very worst acting performances this side of an average children's nativity play! Yes indeed, this is a truly amateurish mess if ever I've seen one; But you know what? Such gross incompetence in every area only serves to make this all the more endearing; Truly, this took some staggering ineptitude to make by all those concerned. Yay, I hereby do award this travesty my highest recommendation for fellow bad movie lovers.
Great final third......shame about the rest
Albert Pyun is hardly known for his stellar directing skills so it came as little surprise when I began to watch this to find it a horribly disjointed and muddled affair. Indeed, such is the case until about a third of the way through before things do finally start to settle down! Certainly I'd previously heard many good things about the film as regards its action sequences but in truth, said scenes don't really kick in until the final third or so(!) bar one or two OK sequences such as the start. Having said this, when the said scenes do take place, they admittedly do so in style; Indeed, whilst we have to wait for the action to kick in, when it does, it doesn't let up with some superb stunt work on display, big and beautiful explosions and bullets flying left right and centre. Also of note is some very good special effects work such as one android/cyborg who's face opens up to reveal a gun - yikes!
Fans of Gruner may be a little disappointed initially to learn that the kickboxing champ hardly performs any of his trademark martial arts in this but as if to make amends, he performs many of his own stunts - always a sign of a true trooper! Finally, keep an eye out for a pre-fame Thomas Jane in this who gets some early exposure in this......by exposing himself!!!! Oo er!
Well worth a look (the film that is, not Thomas Jane's - um, oh, you get the picture!)
At last! The sequel to Monsturd!
Well, it's time to throw political correctness right out of the bloody window now as the comedic genius of Rick Popko and Dan West bring us the long awaited sequel to the faecal favourite, Monsturd. This time the dastardly Dr Stern is performing experiments upon special needs students which whist initially highly beneficial (it turns them into savants!) has a rather unfortunate side effect........it subsequently transforms them into flesh hungry zombies! In no time at all Butte County consequently descends into chaos as the ever growing army of the living dead devour all in their path. It falls upon our intrepid heroes from the first film to save the day....but will they survive this brutal onslaught?
Well first things first, if you are at all offended by either a) politically incorrect depictions of disability or b) bucket loads of gore then I'd hastily advise you to give this one a width berth. For those of you left, you're in for a real treat with this guaranteed!
What can I say? This is simply hilarious fun from start to gore drenched finish with gags (and entrails!) flying left right and centre. It's also great to see virtually everyone involved with the first film making return appearances here again to, not least of all Popko and West themselves as the bumbling, bickering deputies.
Best scenes? So many to choose from and indeed far too numerous to list but for me the very best bit is another extended puking scene just like in Monsturd which features here as Dr Stern is handing our weak stomached heroes the entrails from a corpse (don't ask! - You really need to see it to find out why!)
Tremendous stuff and definitely one of the funniest films I've seen all year. Now......please, please can we have another sequel?
City of Fear (2000)
Passable albeit not exactly notable
For me at least, alarm bells immediately start ringing if I learn that a recent action or horror film has been shot in an Eastern European location. Please note that is in no way whatsoever any disrespect to the utilised foreign crews, quite the contrary - they are entirely as competent as any other, rather my problem is that the recent trend to shoot genre flicks in said countries has invariably produced some of the most truly mundane and inane action and horror fodder there is going! The film in question only reaffirms my viewpoint in fact and proves to be a fairly lacklustre affair affair at best. Having said that, matters do at least get off to a cracking start with our hero, Gary Daniels having a great fight in a car park. Sadly, this is undoubtedly the highlight of the entire film and certainly the best action scene contained in its run time. To be fair, it's not a terrible film by any means and Daniels surprisingly gives a better acting performance than normal (no, really!) but I'd be hard pressed to recommend it to anyone other than die hard fans of Gary's work. A shame really.
The Silencers (1996)
Far from PM's best but watchable enough nonetheless
Jack Scalia headlines in this somewhat low brow effort from the PM guys as a government agent who goes head to head against a Men In Black plot to bring forth unto our world, a conquering army via an inter-dimensional portal. Sounds bad eh? Well, luckily for our hero, he is aided by a friendly alien named Comdor who has been sent through the same portal in order to close it forever. Yes, it's a buddy movie at heart with Scalia as the hard as nails and down to earth 'cop' and Dennis Christopher playing the naive yet charming alien who eventually, naturally wins over his new found partners hard exterior and warms his heart etc.....(the sort of plot we've seen a zillion times before in fact).
What can I say? Sadly, this turns out to be a strictly by the numbers affair and is not helped any by some particularly groan inducing attempts at light hearted humour. It's doubly a shame as the notion of covert agencies such as the infamous MIB's provide such wonderful scope for storytelling; Alas, it was sadly mostly squandered here and cheap special effects scenes such as the actual portal itself hardly help matters any.
Having said the above, all is not entirely lost for this is after all a PM Production and if there's one thing that you can always count on from a PM flick it's plenty of crazy action scenes! Sure enough this delivers insane stunts and action aplenty from insane freeway chases to some well handled shoot outs.
For fellow PM fans it's certainly worth a peek but don't expect too much - you'll likely be somewhat underwhelmed.
The Sender (1998)
Fairy mundane but by gum the alien was gorgeous!
Now don't get me wrong - I like Michael Madsen; He has a certain screen presence about him that always somewhat lifts any production he appears in. However, one thing I don't like about the chap is his ostensible arrogance and aloofness as regards certain films in which he has found himself. In fact he is very openly and vocally critical regarding many of the productions with which he has been involved. Certainly I appreciate honesty (and in the ghastly false world of Hollywood it is truly a rare phenomenon!) but I have always found the WAY in which Madsen airs his disdain to be highly disrespectful to all those who have no doubt worked hard around him. In fact Madsen himself has been quoted as citing, '...These horrifying straight-to-video things'(!) for which he received 'Very little money'. Such is obviously the case in point with the film in question in fact; Clearly, this is one of the very films he refers to and his subsequent response to ending up in such a production? - He gives a deliberately dreadful performance so as to indicate his vast superiority to the relevant material. OK, so Madsen at his very best could hardly be listed anywhere remotely near in the same ranks as the Olivier's or the Brandon's of the world but there is simply no excuse for such a monumentally lazy performance as he turns in here.
Rant over now and what of the actual film aside from Madsen's lacklustre effort? Well, it's a fairly run of the mill affair at best in fact (but this STILL does not excuse Madsen's antics!) but is harmless enough viewing for ninety or so minutes. With director Richard Pepin on board you can of course count on some good action scenes and he doesn't disappoint including some cool freeway chases (and explosive crashes!) However, the best thing about this for me was the absolutely beautiful alien lady in it! - Truly she is stunning to behold and lit up the screen every time she appeared.
For fellow PM fans, this is sadly probably one of their weakest efforts it has to be said, yet it isn't without its moments.
Our good old pal Godfrey Ho directs this decidedly confusing effort for Filmark International which stars Korean kicking maestro, Hwang Jang Lee. Needless to say, with Ho in the directors chair it subsequently will come as little surprise to discover that he's been up to his old cut & paste tricks again as demonstrated here by some newly edited in footage featuring a chubby, ginger haired/moustached, headband wearing slob who displays what must surely rank as the most dreadful Preying Mantis kung fu ever committed to film!
The baffling 'plot' (to use the term very loosely!) from what I could discern, centres around various gang related tribulations plus a long running feud between a scruffy looking detective who spends the entire film shivering as though suffering from Heroin withdrawal symptoms(!) and Hwang who plays his old friend who has clearly landed on the wrong side of the tracks as it were and is now head of a gang called the Yellow Tigers. Throw into this mix a sub plot involving the lucrative ownership of a night club, a woman searching for her missing sister and of course the newly edited in footage which details the hired goons fighting on behalf of the gangs and you have a truly head scratching affair on your hands to put it mildly!
It has to be said that despite this joyously muddled plot, the film is sadly bit of a chore to sit through although there are thankfully however a few good scenes which pop up every now and then seemingly in order to prevent one from fully dozing off. For one there are plenty of fights on offer ..oh yes ..in fact they seem to break out every few minutes for no discernible reason whatsoever! Two especially stand out; In one, Hwang and our hero go at it in a building and succeed in virtually demolishing the entire inner structure(!) also the finale is a pleasantly chaotic mass battle which ends in style with Hwang and our hero battling multiple foes down the length of an underground tunnel. As is very usually the case in these flicks, the newly edited in scenes are of especial hilarity; This proves no exception in fact and they contain some truly priceless dialogue alongside the God awful fight choreography. Also of note include such amazing scenes as one poor geezer who starts puking during a fight(!) and another scene in which another unfortuitous chap has his head shoved down a urine filled toilet(!!!) Classy stuff there! The best bit of all for me however was a truly WTF gem of dialogue which transpires between our hero and Hwang who is attempting to bribe him. Our hero decides to decline the offer on moral grounds musing that if he were to it would ultimately result in many innocent people going out of business. To illustrate his point, he then goes to the trouble of citing two specific cases in point namely and I quote, 'The old woman who made 100,000 dollars selling lunch boxes and the student who made 100,000 selling eggs to prostitutes'(!!!!!!) WTF?!?!?!!!!! Give a gold star to the script writer for that one!
Cold Harvest (1999)
Below average but with some nice fight scenes
Well, we've seen this all before really.....set in the future after a global catastrophe and humans are subsequently roughing it on the streets.......crime is rife etc and bounty hunters clean up the scum....blah, blah. Yes, it's been done a plethora of times before and a damned cite better to if I'm being honest. However, to be fair the fight sequences in this are good to watch as one would expect from Gary Daniels although it has to be said that this is far from his best outing. Having said the above I did enjoy the inclusion at the end of a 'speed load' shoot out which is backed by an admittedly great Ennio Morricone inspired score and you've just got to love the fact that whilst Daniels is only using a six or eight shooter revolver, he never and I repeat NEVER reloads it once in all the action despite firing off a seemingly infinite amount of rounds(!) Hmmmm......not really much else to report here I'm afraid; If you're a Daniels fan then it's certainly worth a peek but otherwise I'd skip it.
Banlieue 13: Ultimatum (2009)
Good...but not a patch on the original
The incredibly acrobatic pairing of Parkour pioneer, David Belle and martial arts maestro Cyril Raffaelli team up once again for this sequel to the simply breathtaking District 13. It seems that the happy ending of the original film didn't come to fruition and the run down district of the films title is as crime ridden and grotty as ever. Once again, a shady government faction has designs to blow up the place (there's a bit more to it than that actually but that's basically it in a nutshell!) and it's up to our boys to re-team in an effort to put a stop to their nefarious plans.
Well, it has to be said that I concur with the general tide of opinion as regards this one; It's certainly a great watch in its own right yet pales against its predecessor not least of all due to the incredible Parkour displays which so elevated the original being extremely toned down here.......Why?!?! Nonetheless, as if to balance this, Raffaelli at least gets to show off far more of his incredible fighting skills in some truly amazing sequences, the like which are so seldom seen outside of Hong Kong cinema. It would have been really nice to see a few more appearances from members of the original cast (the hulking K2 and Leito's incredibly sexy sister would have been most welcome!) but it was not to be sadly. Still, as said previously the film stands well in its own right.....just try to overlook the somewhat sappy ending though.
Game of Death (1978)
Admittedly highly flawed yet very entertaining.
As is common knowledge, the plot of this film bears very little resemblance to the original envisioning held by its legendary star, Bruce Lee who tragically passed away before filming could be completed on the project. A few years later with only limited footage of the cherished icon having been caught on tape the makers decided (presumably driven by the lure of dollars!) to revisit what little footage they did have and via a completely reworked plot plus a combination clips from Bruce's previous filmography and a number of 'lookalikes' (none of whom bare any resemblance whatsoever to the great man I might hastily add) to complete what was to be Bruce's 'final' film. Needless to say the results are somewhat uneven to put it as mildly as possible! Indeed, some of the 'tricks' utilised in this in a desperate bid to show Bruce on screen are downright terrible such as in one infamous scene where a cardboard cut out of the late martial arts stars face is placed over a mirror in front of an actor(!!!!!) Yes, very convincing.....not!
Strangely, despite all of the above flaws, the film nonetheless proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable watch - kudos to veteran director Robert Clouse. I've actually seen two versions of the film; The differences are relatively minor as regards the actual content however - one contains some extra scenes such as our hero fighting an opponent in a room full of potted plants plus a slightly different ending, although the soundtracks are very different. Personally I much preferred the excellent John Barry scored version which additionally carries a beautiful ending composition serving as a highly poignant tribute to the life of this extraordinary martial arts star.
PM Entertainment's and Gary Daniels finest hour
Well, if ever there was a definitive example of a 'mindless fun' action film then this must surely be it! The plot here is ludicrous, the acting even more so and the action scenes - well, let's just say that to call them OTT would be a dramatic understatement.......but by God - this is so damned ridiculously entertaining from start to glorious finish.
Daniels plays a primary school teacher(!) who's seemingly idyllic life is one day plunged into absolute turmoil when a desperate man brandishing a gun jumps into his car and demands Daniels to help him escape from a group of decidedly shady pursuing government agents. It turns out that said agents are conducting clandestine and immoral experiments with an experimental serum designed to create a super soldier. Well, it doesn't take a prophet to foresee that our hero ends up as the next unwilling participant in these trials. Unfortunately for his captors however, our man turns out to be a tad more unruly than the previous experimentees and promptly goes crazy and kills everyone in the secret facility(!) before hightailing it out in a bid to reclaim his freedom. Needless to say, the dastardly agents can't allow any evidence of their illicit experimentation to become public knowledge and subsequently set out to eradicate all traces of their antics i.e by killing off our man!
Well, there's the plot in a nutshell (what there is of it!) but really such a wafer thin notion is only present to serve as an excuse for the amazing non-stop action in this. Literally hardly a moment goes by without either a massive shoot out, Daniels displaying his awesome martial arts skills or else an insane car chase of some description.
Best scenes? There's simply so many to choose from but a number stick out including a hair raising freeway chase upon Daniels' escape from the lab, the lab massacre itself, an hilarious scene in which Daniels is attacked by a mad dominatrix and her 'servant'(!) a mall shoot out which shamelessly plugs other PM output via having part of the carnage take place in a video store(!) and best of all, a truly sidesplittingly stupid (but hilariously fun) sequence in which Daniels swings from the side of a building and lands (amazingly!) on a helicopter(!!!!!) Simply insane fun from start to wonderful end - you NEED to see this!!!
Executive Target (1997)
If car chases are your cup of tea then step right up!
Michael Madsen apparently sleep walks his way through this undemanding but nonetheless fun entry from the ever reliable guys at (the much sadly missed!) PM Entertainment.
Madsen plays a stunt car driver who is sprung from a prison bus by a shady government organisation who have hatched a dastardly plan to kidnap the president of the United States and are planning to utilise our hero's amazing driving adroitness in a daring bid to abscond with him. Well, if insane car chases are your cup of tea, then you'll love this for sure. Cars flip, spin, screech, explode and perform all manner of hair raising feats in this adrenaline pounding ride. Unfortunately, it has to be said that there is very little substance other than the aforementioned so if you are requisite of character development, a more abstruse plot and good performances then it would probably be wise to look elsewhere.
Whilst certainly not one of my personal favourites from PM's extensive catalogue, this is nonetheless worth a look for fans of automobile chaos and awesome GENUINE (as opposed to lazy CGI crap!) stuntwork.
Fist of the North Star (1995)
As with any movie adaptation based upon any much cherished cartoon (or for those choosing to be pernickety in this instance, anime) and/or comic book, one thing is guaranteed and that is a subsequent sharp divide between those fans who will embrace the new envisioning and those of a more purist persuasion who will generally loath it. Certainly, as a huge fan of the original animated series (and the subsequent animated movie) that this is inspired by I am initially sad to report that this isn't an entirely faithful adaption of its source material......in fact, quite far from it.......bad news there then. Having said this however, what we do have is an entirely admirable and indeed commendable attempt nonetheless for a great number of reasons.
For a start, production values are absolutely top notch with some truly wonderful set designs, some great (and joyously gory!) special fx and a tremendous musical score. The combination of aforementioned aspects lends the film a truly epic feel - far, far greater than one could conceivably imagine given the relatively small budget this was made with.
So to must I commend the casting; Gary Daniels especially has never looked better (and his moves have never looked finer) in the role of Kenshiro (even if perhaps he is far too softly spoken in the role). Costas Mandaylor gives a suitably cold performance as Shin and despite no former martial arts training looks rather good (thanks to the wonderful fight choreography of Winston Omega). Christopher Penn to is clearly having a ball with his character and hogs all the best lines in the film including such gems as, 'It's not easy being sleazy.'
As said previously, this is anything but a faithful adaptation of the anime yet if one can overlook this fact and judge it on its own merits then it is a hugely entertaining effort with much going for it. My advice....give it a chance and you may well be (as I was) very pleasantly surprised.
The Master (1984)
Formulaic but watchable
Ah the early 1980's......how I miss them! The era embodied a sort of innocence which dissipated towards the end of the decade and has sadly yet to return. Who can forget the fads of the time; In music we 'bopped' along to the sounds of New Romantics, pioneering synth pop acts and additionally were blessed with a wonderful array of 'big hair' heavy metal bands. On TV we enjoyed such classics as Knight Rider, Airwolf and the incomparable, The A-Team and in cinemas we were treated to probably the best decade for horror and action movies......yes, the eighties....ah, they were the days.
There was actually another craze that swept the western world during the early part of the decade also; What was it you may ask? Why it was Ninja Mania! We just couldn't get enough of these enigmatic stealth assassins in fact. The public obsession first began proper when the Cannon Film Group released the Sho Kosugi outing, Enter the Ninja in 1984. Kosugi himself went on to a semblance of super stardom literally overnight - this despite the fact that he was actually playing the films main villain! Such was the mystique and allure that these historical figures exuded on screen. Needless to say, more ninja flicks were swiftly put into production by a plethora of film companies, each trying to out do the last and cash in on the publics apparent insatiable fixation on all things connected to the ninja. It was inevitable of course that these seemingly semi-mystical beings would break out into other entertainment mediums also. This they did in the form of numerous comic books, novels, toys, games and in the instance reviewed here, a television series starring veteran actor, Lee Van Cleef and as it happens, the by this time living legend, Sho Kosugi.
The plot concerned Cleef's character returning from Japan where he had spent years studying the ninja arts, in order to find his estranged daughter. Also along for the ride was the token wise cracking side kick (as was a somewhat unfortunate trend of the eighties....) who becomes Cleef's new student. Unfortunately, our veteran ninja is also being hotly pursued by a fellow ninja from his clan (Kosugi) who is incessantly intent on sending him to the great beyond.
Despite ninja mania in full swing at the time, the show curiously lasted for only one season before disappearing as quickly as......um.......well, a ninja in fact.
Whilst mildly enjoyable in its own right, it has to be said that the series was unfortunately hampered by its incredibly formulaic treatment. As with the vast majority of eighties TV shows, the plot was never more ambitious than to set our heroes (who just like in every other eighties show), travelling around from place to place helping out those in trouble (invariably a sexy, feisty female) from evil property developers and the like. Every now and then to spice things up, Kosugi puts in an appearance and it's no coincidence that these episodes are the best of the series which sans his presence is somewhat pedestrian at best.
For a bit of nostalgia or else those still desperate for a fix of anything ninja related the series is probably worth a look as long as you don't set your expectations too high.
Rolling Thunder (1977)
A criminally forgotten classic
Well I'm going to start this review with a little rant, so please forgive me; The fact that this film has not (at the time of writing) received a decent DVD release is frankly baffling at best and criminal at worst, not least of all considering much of the inept dross that has happily found its loathsome way onto disc and subsequently sits joyously on the rental shelves waiting to lure in the unwary.
Simply put, this is a forgotten classic. Now of course I could of labelled it as many have, a classic of the revenge/vigilante sub genre however, I believe that to do so would be to severely undermine this film and I do not say this as an insult to the aforementioned genres, rather, this in reality is so much more than an exploitative revenge fest. In fact, the revenge angle doesn't even kick in until about half way though the films running time; Up until this point we have an absolutely fascinating and superb character study (thanks to the acting skills of William Devane and a young Tommy Lee Jones) of the post psychological effects suffered by the protagonist/s after years of confinement and torture in a Vietnamese POW camp. In one particularly moving scene, Devane explains how himself and his fellow prisoners referred to their pre-confinement days as when they were 'alive'. In essence even coming home to loved ones, these men can never be the same again after the suffering they have endured, effectively now 'dead' inside.
As previously mentioned however, there is a revenge sub plot at work in the latter half, instigated after Devane's character is viciously beaten and mutilated (in a particularly wince inducing scene!) and his wife and young son murdered. Matters culminate in a superbly executed final shootout wherein our hero, teaming up with his fellow former POW who has nothing else to lose, take out those responsible......and revenge is truly sweet.
As said previously, this is a criminally little known film which deserves a much wider audience - a factor which could be so easily remedied by a decent DVD release. As it is, at least we B-movie fans can cherish it....invariably on cheapo DVD-R's!!!!
The Sweeper (1996)
Merhi delivers again!
The very sadly missed PM Entertainment......Without a doubt, they consistently delivered some of the best and most OTT action sequences ever filmed and for proof one need look no further than this testosterone oozing, car exploding, crazy stunt filled effort starring C Thomas Howell as a bad ass cop with a proclivity to kill the bad guys. Yes, you did indeed read that last part correctly, C Thomas Howell does indeed (against all odds!) make for a great action star in this typically exhilarating action offering brought to us by the consistently superb Joseph Merhi.
Howell's no nonsense approach to law enforcement stems from a childhood trauma wherein he witnessed his entire family murdered and was himself left for dead by a sadistic team of hit men. Back to the present and now a highly loose cannon, our hero's habitual excessive use of force finds him in constant hot water from his superiors and has inevitably cost him his marriage. Matters take a strange turn one day however when he is initiated into a clandestine organisation calling themselves Justice Incorporated, a sanctioned group of law enforcers who operate a zero tolerance policy above the usual constraints of the law system. Yes, it's shades of the Dirty Harry outing, Magnum Force here. All seems to be going well for a while with the bad guys getting their just deserts.......that is until our hero discovers that the organisation sanctioned the execution of his family years previously...... Revenge is now on the cards.
Well, if you can overlook the highly derivative storyline and a particularly rushed conclusion then you'll find much to enjoy in this little gem, not least of all the absolutely incredible action sequences and stunt work on display throughout. Most notable is the introduction which features an absolutely crazy car chase down a pier in which literally scores of people are getting run over left right and center(!!!!) Truly an incredibly staged scene. Also of amazing note include a truly scary looking roof top dive wherein our hero simultaneously manages to hang a bad guy(!) and a particularly explosive and thrilling freeway chase that would surely make even Michael Bay jealous. Add to this a whole load of bloody shoot outs and fights and a sadly somewhat out of place but nonetheless exciting grand finale with our hero dangling perilously off of a bi-plane(!) (with the stuntman scarily close to the propeller throughout!) and you have a wondrously entertaining one hundred or so minutes.
Simply tremendous stuff......it's such a true shame that PM Entertainment are no longer making films these days.
OK....mix together elements of Die Hard, Blade Runner and the Terminator and hey presto - welcome T-Force! Yes it's yet more B-movie heaven from director Richard Pepin who apparently not only content to steal basic elements from the aforementioned classic flicks, additionally directly lifts scenes from them to(!), most notably an almost scene for scene swipe of big Arnie's attack on the police station from the original Terminator film. Well, normally I would berate any such blatant plagiarism with the utmost haste and deduct points from the offending film like there was no tomorrow......but you know what? - This film is simply so much damned fun that I can't but help to love it and actually find the rip off elements to actually ADD to it's bizarre charm (a factor which so often occurs in B-movies in fact).
Also adding to the enjoyment is the assembled cast including (in the beginning at least) Vernon (Bennett!) Wells, a still incredibly sexy Erin Gray (damn, I used to fancy her like crazy when she was in Buck Rogers!) and he of the cleft'd chin (no not Kirk Douglas!) Jack Scalia. I've just got to award another point to this for its inclusion of one of the most stupid excuses for a sex scene ever in which two of the cybernauts get down to it......after looking at a dirty mag(!!!!) Tremendously entertaining stuff from start to finish! Alas, shame there wasn't a sequel (yet.....)
The Underground (1997)
Typically fun entry from PM.
Jeff Fahey stars in this amusing little addition to the extensive catalogue of action output from PM Entertainment. As with all output by the PM guys, you can therefore rest assured on lots of super cool car chases, fights, shooting and explosions will ensue and sure enough, this entry doesn't disappoint. What really makes this stand out though is the bizarre and somewhat ridiculous plot which involves a seventies disco group who take revenge upon a former fellow member after he makes the huge mistake of sampling some of their old material into modern gangster rap tracks(!!!!!!!) Well, how can anyone not warm to such an hilariously daft story line?
Fahey turns in an incredibly laid back performance yet nonetheless, is great fun to watch as always and his new partner played by Michael Mcfall, is similarly entertaining in a role that had the budget been bigger, might have gone to Samuel Jackson.
Well, what more can be said? If you've ever watched anything from the PM guys before, you'll know exactly what to expect and if you haven't yet had the pleasure of a PM release then why not take this opportunity to try one?