|Index||6 reviews in total|
Immortal Combat (1994) was another direct-to-video film that starred
former W.W.F. pro wrestling superstar Roddy Piper. He's the best of the
wrestlers-turned-actors. Not a classic thespian mind you, but he's a
charismatic guy who makes rubbish worth watching. The movie also marks
the U.S. movie return of Sonny Chiba. He hasn't lost a step and the two
action stars make a likable duo.
The story isn't that great and the direction is flat out tedious. But the natural charm of the two stars somehow make this run-of-the-mill action film a fun watch. Saturday night, nothing to do? If this movie comes on the tube sit back and relax. Please, take it for what it's worth.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(Contains vague but ultimately inconsequential spoilers.) Honestly, I
can't tell you what this film is about. I can, however, make a
checklist of things that are in this film that might peak your
1) Ninjas 2) Coke and sex parties 3) Uzis 4) Vaguely impossible, massive gangster (and likely coke/sex-fueled) brawls 5) Spotty martial arts 6) Multiple abominations of the laws of physics (including at least one man who can leap five clear feet out of water (mind you, completely submerged)) 7) Body builders who don't believe in shirts
And the back of the VHS box does confirm there are:
8) 109 minutes of action! 10) Headlocks 11) Running tackles 12) Action/Adventure and 13) Sonny Chiba.
Through complex mathematics, I've inferred that if you are interested in at least five (of thirteen) of those concepts, this feature-length presentation is right down your alley.
As far as I can tell, this movie is actually something of a puzzler. I'll lay the plot as frankly as I can: men who are apparently immortal waste their time trying to kill each other. They will shoot and punch and heave and throw and remove articles of clothing, but it is simply no use. Not a one of them can die--a reason for which I thoroughly enjoyed this flick.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
John Keller (Piper) and his partner J.J. (Chiba) are cops. J.J. is also
a ninja. Keller travels to the Caribbean island of Saint Marta and
discovers that a company called HybriCo is manufacturing a race of
super-warriors, presumably so they can be victorious in punchfighting
matches around the globe. Quinn (Foster) is the lead baddie-ess who
controls her nefarious employees, who look like off-duty Ghostbusters.
HybriCo's main success story is Muller (McBee, AKA fan favorite
Malibu), an unkillable super-oaf who wears a sleeveless tuxedo shirt
with a red bow-tie and red matching cummerbund. While in Saint Marta,
Keller makes friends with Yanagi (Lister), and develops a romantic
interest with (yet another) journalist named Karen (Greene), but while
initially J.J. stays home and trains, eventually he joins Keller on
Saint Marta so they can put an end to all the madness...but will their
combat be IMMORTAL? Find out today...
Immortal Combat is classic 90's fun all the way. It kicks off with a bang-up opening sequence and pretty much maintains a peppy pace throughout, with plenty of action, fight scenes, and other shenanigans. The filmmakers were in tune with what fans want, which is a rarer phenomenon than you might think. While the movie overall is a winner, truth be told, it is overlong at 109 minutes. If they could have trimmed it down to 90 or less, we'd be talking about an all-time classic right now. As it stands, it's still a winner - it's what Overkill (1996) SHOULD have been. Just imagine a Raw Force (1982) for the 90's - but with more shirtless men punching each other.
Roddy, as usual, is engaging and charming in the lead role, and he brings energy to his fight scenes. Chiba brings an old-school badassery that's a nice counterpoint to Roddy. Chiba's English isn't that great, which doesn't really help when he's getting emotional in the scenes with his pretty, white, blonde daughter (he's explaining why he has one, which we wish they didn't bother doing), but it doesn't matter when he's doling out ninja stars like playing cards. Besides, it gave off a Chinatown Connection (1990) vibe, which is never a bad thing. Plus, Roddy has found himself in a similar situation in Last To Surrender (1999).
It was nice to see Roddy teamed up with his old They Live (1988) pal Meg Foster, and she does indeed make the most of her role here. We also enjoyed seeing a happy, upbeat Tiny Lister, instead of the usual evil version. Why he plays an Asian (?) man named Yanagi remains to be discovered. Of course, the real star of the show (in all of our hearts) is Malibu, who, naturally as a course of being immortal, grunts a lot and makes strange noises. More than usual. His hair is especially Lorenzo Lamas-esque this time around.
There's punchfighting, slo-mo gun-shooting, a WYC (White Yelling Chief), and the whole concept of putting Roddy Piper in a situation with ninja action was inspired. Rounding out the 90's cred, it even goes into a Surviving the Game/Most Dangerous Game situation at one point. We wish the Karen character wasn't a clichéd reporter role, and had more involvement in the butt-kickery, but hey, it goes with the territory.
Featuring plenty of songs by Liz Constantine, including "Resort To Kill" (also the alternate title of the film, which, presumably, was changed at the last minute to cleverly put a spin on SubZero, Johnny Cage, Sonya, Scorpion, Joe Lieberman, and the gang), and released by A-Pix entertainment on VHS, despite its length, Immortal Combat is a gem and well-worth seeking out.
Overall, this movie wasn't that bad if you judge it for what it was: an action movie with a lot of fight scenes. Both Piper and Chiba were great in the fight scenes, and had the script been a bit better, the overall movie would have been fairly good. The problem was, too many scenes that were unneeded or outright stupid. For instance, the scene where Ms. Keeler is caught trespassing and Piper comes to her rescue was annoyingly badly written and unnecessary overall. The one surprising thing was the supporting acting was fairly good, with the exception of Deron McBee who needs to go back to American Gladiators. The acting by Piper was quite good, with the best example being at the beginning of the movie in the inital fight scene which was well choreographed, and quite comical with the addition of Chiba. Overall, I can't say it's one of the best movies ever made, but, as an action movie it's fairly good.
This movie is really rotten, but I think it's worth watching to see Sonny Chiba run up a tree, do a back flip and then kick the guy chasing him. See if you can do that when you turn 55. Also Roddy Piper is a lot better performer than your average wrestler turned actor. He'll never earn an oscar.....or a critical acclaim, but his acting is better than many of the top name action stars.
Without a doubt, this is the best Roddy Piper/Sonny Chiba movie EVER.
Not many people know this, but these two great action stars made over
200 films together, although this was the only one released stateside.
That's probably not true. At all. It would be funny if it was, though. Roddy Piper, a wrestler that knew his own acting limits and stayed within them (no "suburban commando" for him. just dumb and violent stuff, thank you very much), stars in this film that is kind of about immortal bad guys. I say "kind of" because this movie manages to veer away from the dumb-but-enjoyable premise of fighting the unkillable for almost two hours and needlessly complicate the matter by involving power-hungry white-collar bad guys. Who cares about the mortal baddies when the immortal have to be killed? Certainly not this movie's target audience: drunk college kids and boys under the age of ten.
My problem is this: former American Gladiator Malibu (Derron McBee) is the immortal bad guy. He has all the acting chops one would expect of someone who has been paid to joust with large Q-Tips on TV. Still, he's a ridiculously cartoony bad guy who makes the beginning scenes fun to watch. Then he's gone for about an hour, until the very end. Huh? Who plotted that? Does the audience care about Roddy Piper's sort-of romantic interest that doesn't get naked? No! Do they care about the non-immortal non-combatant bad guys? No!! Do they want to hear Roddy Piper fake a Southern accent? Well, maybe. It's pretty funny bad.
Sonny Chiba is in this movie, too. He's credited as Sonny "J.J." Chiba an his character's name is "J.J." too. Presumably, J.J. is his real nickname and he plays himself in the movie because the movie is based on events from his life. Sonny has a Caucasian daughter in this movie. There is some sort of drama involving her being surprised that he's not her real dad or something. It's hard to pay attention to all of this movie. I'm lucky to be able to recall even that much. This plot just sucks the interest right out of your body.
Oh, remember the wrestler Zeus? He's in this movie, too. He makes friends with Roddy Piper after he watches Rodddy break a guy's nose for pestering a woman. That isn't integral to the plot, mind you. It is, however, exactly the sort of thing that I imagine Zeus likes in his acquaintances.
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