This TV Movie is one of many aimed towards the martial-arts action market, the type that goes straight to video and has clearly been done on a budget, but can nevertheless be reviewed critically. Riot sets out to do one thing: provide a platform for the butt-kicking skills of its star, Gary Daniels. He may not be Robert De Niro in the acting stakes but within his own domain, that of the B-list actioner, he is king of all he surveys.
The "plot": When his ex-fiancé, the daughter of the city's (we don't know which) British ambassador is kidnapped in an inner city riot zone on Christmas Eve, stateside stationed SAS man Shane Allcott has to come to the rescue by delivering the money to her ransomers. In doing so he comes face to face with his past, in the form of IRA terrorists.
I would imagine that fans of this kind of low budget action fest would not go far wrong with Riot. I do not count myself in their number, but sticking with this film for its 80 minutes was no chore, especially given some very competently made stunts, fight sequences, and chases. These are especially good when they are taken seriously, because at times the film can be quite powerful, specifically the scene where Sugar Ray Leonard's character falls from Shane Allcott's (Daniels) grip and onto the pavement some twenty storeys below. Seeing that sequence was a real surprise in what I took to be a mindless action fest, and showed that even in simple or even plain silly movies, you can get great moments of film. Many of the scenes in the film have a nightmarish and excited feel, as the viewer is taken into the heart of the riot zone with Allcott. That part was well done, but unfortunately the rest of the film is a mixed bag.
Realism seems to have been sacrificed for simplicity, as the writers take the complex dynamic of the conflict between the SAS and IRA and turn it into a bunch of caricatures of various stereotypes, especially in the case of the two main villains the (get this) o'Flaherty brothers, Brian and Paddy. One of them even looks like Vernon Wells in Commando. You would not find a more clichéd stereotype in an Irish theme bar. Same goes for the black gang members in the riot zone, who are built up as running things on a racial ideology, despite the very obvious multi-ethnic nature of the rioters. Although the fight scenes are well done, any pretence that the IRA are represented accurately must surely be dispensed with. The acting is generally good, with the exception of Paige Rowland, who should have been blacklisted for her attempts. The film at times feels like a cheap spoof, but as I mentioned it does have its moments, and these are when Gary does what he does best - flex his muscles and dispatch armies of villains.
All the action is handled well, not surprisingly as this is a specialist production by an experienced team. The climax is well done on a technical level, but lacks the spectacle which a few camera angles could have changed. Charles Napier, Sugar Ray Leonard, and Dex Elliot Sanders all put in good performances, but in Napier's case this is just for a cameo. I'll ignore the lack of logic in the plot and accept this is a made for video Gary Daniels action flick.
In all, fans of this type of thing will feel at home. Anyone else, if they can put aside the simplicity of this picture, may find something they like too.
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