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John Steele is a Vietnam Vet who's had trouble adjusting to life after the war. He hasn't been able to hold on to a job which includes being a cop. When his best friend, Lee who also served with him in Vietnam, and who also became a cop was killed by some drug dealers he was investigating. Steele was able to save his daughter and saw one of the shooters. He later sees him and learns that he is the son of General Kwan, another person he served with in Vietnam who was running his own deals on the side, and who tried to kill Steele and Lee but Steele not only survived but thwarted his last plan. Steele suspects Kwan is involved with Lee's death but unfortunately Kwan's a respected member of the community. And Steele's former boss Bennett is not in a rush to find the killers cause investigation reveals that Lee may have been dirty which Steele knows is not true. Steele sets out to prove Lee's innocence and to get Kwan. Written by
Beefcake actor Martin Kove joined the ranks of action genre stars with this routinely plotted but fairly amusing vehicle. Kove plays genial Vietnam veteran John Steele, who goes into action when his wartime comrade Lee Van Minh (Robert Kim), now a police detective, is assassinated along with most of his family. Helped and hindered by former colleagues like Bennett (Ronny Cox) and Tom Reese (Bernie Casey), John goes up against a wartime associate named Bon Soong Kwan (Soon-Tek Oh), who's now a drug lord in America masquerading as a crusading businessman.
I'm going to give the filmmakers (led by writer & director Robert Boris) the benefit of the doubt here, and say that the amount of laughs to be had from watching this are intentional. If one does see it as tongue in cheek, it may yield greater entertainment than if they take it seriously. "Steele Justice" does have its moments. For one thing, it stops cold for a rock video that is eventually interrupted by the ongoing battles between Steele and Kwans' minions. But the unqualified highlight occurs when Steele is shot with a poison dart, and almost nonchalantly, he removes the offending dart, sucks up and spits out the poison, and does a fine job of improvising when it comes to cauterizing the wound. The action sequences are all reasonably well done.
Kove is engaging as our sardonic hero, often to be seen with a smile on his face. Oh is an enjoyably hammy villain in the action movie tradition. Sela Ward is a lovely woman, but as the heros' ex-wife, she offers a pretty insipid performance. Ditto for Jan Gan Boyd (the young lady who was hot for Bronson in the movie "Assassination"), cast as Van Minhs' supposedly teen aged daughter. Watch this and you'll see why she never had much of a career. There's a pleasingly large amount of familiar faces in the supporting cast, although some of them have no more than cameos or walk ons: Joseph Campanella, Sarah Douglas, Peter Kwong, Al Leong, Shannon Tweed, Irene Tsu, David L. Lander, Asher Brauner, Phil Fondacaro, Kevin Gage.
Any completist of 1980s action movies should have a pretty good time with this.
Six out of 10.
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