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Craig Alan is our new hero!
Wow! Now here's a hidden gem if there ever was one. Commander (AKA Last American Soldier), we can safely say, is one of the best - if not the best - Exploding Hut movie of all time. Probably more huts explode (along with just about everything else within a 100-mile radius) in this movie than in any other Exploding-Hutter...COMBINED. The plot, if there even is one, is nothing more than a simple excuse to perhaps win a Guinness World Record for the most jam-packed kaleidoscopic cornucopia of blow-ups, explosions, detonations, fireballs, firebursts, fireblasts, combustions, ignitions, flare-ups, and, yes, cannonades ever committed to film. And if you think there isn't a difference between all these things, Commander will show you the subtle nuances, and the whole outing gives new meaning to the band name "Porno for Pyros"! Sure, you may have seen some Italian-made, jungle-set "Rambo knockoffs" before such as Tornado (1983), Rolf (1984), Strike Commando (1987), Strike Commando 2 (1988), etc. (or non-Italian outings such as Mannigan's Force (1988) or anything on the Mercs box set), but here we have something special. For starters, we have true American hero Craig Alan in the lead as Commander. He's a one-man army of epic proportions, an unshaven, beer-swilling killing machine who's so macho he makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like Richard Simmons. His voice sounds like a narcoleptic Elvis. At the end of every line he utters, you're just waiting for a "thank yuh, thankyuhverymuch." But he cares very much about freedom, and if he has to slaughter entire regions to make his dream of freedom happen, then, so be it. Evil Russians and commies have to get what's coming to them. And speaking of Arnie, don't get confused - the title Commander isn't meant to recall any other movie titles, surely. Actually, if this movie brings anything similar to mind, it's high body count-classics like No Dead Heroes (1986).
It should also be highlighted that his name is Commander, which leads to actual dialogue such as "Commander seems very efficient." Evidently his rank is Sergeant, which would mean his name is "Sgt. Commander". That alone makes this movie worth seeing. God bless losses in translation. Of course, the director, Ignazio Dolce, also directed Last Flight to Hell (1990), which, as we all know, had a great sceenplay.
Mike Monty has very minimal screen time as a Major, but that doesn't stop Commander from getting into a conflict with him. Apparently all this is happening some time after the Vietnam war, and Commander is helping the people of Southeast Asia to be free, before the commies can take over their villages. He has a girlfriend of sorts named Cho Lin (Gomez), but a lot more time is spent on the Prerequisite Torture than on any time with her. In between blow-ups, there's some shooting. Then some more shooting. And maybe a few knifings. For extra added spice, there's some neck snaps. But it's all about the explosions (helicopters certainly included), and this movie delivers, and then some. It makes Hollywood pap like Blown Away (1994) look like Larry Crowne (2011). And it's all set to a quality Simon Boswell score. How can you lose? Criminally, Commander was never released on VHS in the U.S. Evidently it only came out in Greece, Brazil, and, of course, Japan (they get everything). Based on that kind of poor decision-making, is this even a country Commander would want to serve? We didn't even release COMMANDER for God's sake. Well, what the world needs now - RIGHT now - is this movie. In our wimpy, wussy, overly-PC, "Gun Free Zone", wet-noodle, touchy-feely culture, Commander stands as a raging, double-middle-finger "F-you" to all the liberal sludge polluting our lives. Craig Alan is our new hero, and he will be yours too when you see this utter classic of the action genre. This movie just rules. See it ASAP.
Zhong jin shu (1994)
Hong Kong action fans will no doubt be very interested in Satin Steel!
Jade Leung (evidently as herself, as she is portrayed by...Jade Leung) is a female Hong Kong Cop On The Edge. As she is a fearless and take-charge officer, her higher-ups put her in charge of the case of a lifetime - stopping the illegal, international arms dealings of a Mr. Fowler, a classic super-evil white guy. To accomplish her mission, she must travel to Indonesia and Singapore, all the while teaming up with Ellen Cheng (Lee of Tiger Cage 2 fame), a fellow policewoman/beauty. Together, the two face all kinds of scrapes, from local, indigenous, bulletproof (?) shamans, to keeping control of the classic "disk", to a fighter with a bionic arm. But the men in their lives are causing complications as well, as they are wont to do, and our heroes also have to deal with Ken Chan (Wong), and a guy who calls himself Jean-Paul Belmondo (Chan). Will our heroes be more satin or more steel? Find out today...
We tracked down Satin Steel because it is directed by a man named Siu-Hung Leung, who directed fan favorite Superfights (1995), as well as Bloodmoon (1997), so we wanted to see more, especially from his earlier Hong Kong period. Satin Steel has been described by others as a female Lethal Weapon (1987), but Lethal Weapon didn't have the cartoonish, at times wacky vibe (note the muzzle flashes, which essentially are cartoons). Naturally, that fun, high-energy HK style is on display most of the time. Not that it doesn't flag at a couple of points, but that's only natural. Jade Leung and Anita Lee make a great team, and this was only the first movie Leung had been in after debuting with Black Cat (1991) and Black Cat 2 (1992).
Hon-Kam Lee delivers a rockin' theme tune and his music helps things along well. The fact that the movie overall is well-shot, with interesting locations, has plenty of Martial Arts action, blow-ups, and top-quality stuntwork, as well as silly humor, not to mention the beautiful and talented leads, mean Satin Steel is never anything less than entertaining. It even includes a classic workout montage. The film stands on its own as a HK action outing, produced during a time (the 90's) when it seemed Hong Kong was really cranking them out. Not that they didn't produce some of the greatest action of all time, but there were so many, some tended to get lost in the shuffle. At least today, we can shine a light on Satin Steel and give it some love.
Hong Kong action fans, especially those who love female protagonists, will no doubt be very interested in Satin Steel.
A Certain Justice (2014)
A tough sit
John Nguyen (Le) has all sorts of problems. After serving his country in Iraq, he comes home to L.A. and has to deal with not just his PTSD, but also his lazy, none-too-bright roommate (not sure of his name, but he could possibly be in the next casting for Jersey Shore, if his acting was better). One night Nguyen unleashes his Martial Arts skill on some toughs harassing local prostitute Tanya (Evigan, daughter of My Two Dads' Greg Evigan), and some of the guys die. This upsets crime boss Hollis (Dolph). So Hollis sends some more of his goons to kill Nguyen's family. Now in full revenge mode, Nguyen vows to go after Hollis - but to get there, he must get info from Bennett (Jones) and figure out what the detectives investigating the case know. Will Nguyen get revenge? Will someone die of PUNCTURE WOUNDS? Man, this Cung Le guy looks like Cuba Gooding, Jr. I mean, he REALLY looks like him. Note how on the box art, his Cuba-face is strongly emphasized, while no actors' names are present. Could this be a trick? Well, that aside, it's a dark day in DTV-land once again, as these modern-day productions prove time and again they cannot hold a candle to their far-superior 80's and 90's counterparts. You know it's a bad sign when two separate directors get two separate credits (and on the version on Netflix streaming at least, it's shown under its alternate title, A Certain Justice). Here is no exception. The stupidity is all-encompassing, as everywhere you turn in this movie, something dumb is happening - with the possible exception of Dolph. Whenever he's on screen, things are better, but he and his walrus 'stache can't save this turkey from its own sophomorically-written ways.
It is indeed hard to believe someone over the age of 14 actually wrote this inanity down on pieces of paper. Hey, writers - instead of writing down to us, how about writing UP to us for a change? We're action movie fans, not automatons that will just accept any old slop. From the unnecessary narration, to the gratuitous use of slow motion, to the puzzling stylistic choices such as quick cuts and foggy, blurred edges on screen, to printing the names of the characters on screen as if that matters/has never been done before, to the nu-metal-esque soundtrack, the whole thing seems targeted towards the 'stupid market'. It all screams "NEW DTV production", to its detriment. Yes, we're glad Dolph is still working, and it's nice to see mainstays like Vinnie Jones and Robert Lasardo (who is in one scene), so we don't want to seem ungrateful, but Puncture Wounds is just not enjoyable to watch. We're sorry, but there's no getting around that, no matter how hard we try.
The premise is even very similar to fellow Cung Le vehicle Dragon Eyes (2012) - Cung moves into an apartment complex in a bad neighborhood in L.A., beats up a bunch of people, and there are crackheads running around. But thankfully Dragon Eyes was directed by John Hyams, so it was better than Puncture Wounds. While we liked seeing Dolph as the baddie, and we thought that was a nice change of pace, it was really a wasted opportunity.
So, yes, Puncture Wounds does have some action, but at what cost? The movie typifies some of the worst aspects of modern-day DTV, unfortunately. We thought it was a tough sit
Blood Warriors (1993)
It's a disappointment.
Wes Healey (Bradley) is an ex-Marine who travels to Indonesia while on the hunt for his old buddy Keith Stone (Zags). Healey wants answers about the death of a mutual friend, and while in this foreign land, he stays at the palatial estate of Keith's sister Karen (Campbell). However, it transpires that Keith is a megalomaniacal, unstable nutjob who has corralled some locals into becoming his own personal fighting force. He even demands they train in front of him while he watches them beat the living snot out of each other, for his own amusement, of course. When Healey rejects all the madness, Stone turns on him, and he has to save Karen and fight a bunch of goons. This, of course, leads to the final confrontation between Healey and Stone. And who exactly are the BLOOD WARRIORS here? Huh? What? Oh, we're supposed to review Blood Warriors. I'm sorry, our eyelids were getting heavy. You'd think - you'd REALLY think - a movie starring David Bradley and Frank Zagarino, directed by Firstenberg, would be a no-brainer winner. Well...not so much. It's almost like they came up with the title first, but worked backwards - in the wrong direction. Here's a conversation that probably happened: "I've got a great title for a movie!" "Oh, what is it?" "Blood Warriors." "Yeah, that is good! Now what happens?" "Eh, I don't know..." Basing our thoughts off of this supposition, we noticed that the whole movie's vibe is just off. It's like the rhythm of it all is wrong - it gets off on the wrong foot and struggles to recover for the rest of the running time.
Now that's not to say that there aren't a plethora of unintentionally funny moments. Blood Warriors is like watching a heart monitor for someone struggling to live: for a long period of time there's a flatline, but then out of nowhere a few spikes will shoot up, then it will go back down. The movie was co-written by Bradley, which may explain why he speaks in a tightly controlled rasp, wears a black cowboy hat that makes him look like country music star Clint Black, and can jump in slow motion off buildings and cars, and essentially slow down time and space at his will so he can fight nameless goons and shoot them. He also picks up a guitar at one point and begins serenading Karen. A crooning David Bradley. Now we've seen everything.
Everything about this movie screams "stereotypical stupid". From the funny/dumb action scenes on down, from the Prerequisite Torture (this time not of the hero, but of Karen), to the boat chase. Said boat chase features music on the soundtrack that can only be described as "90's Chase Rock." Anyone who's ever seen an action movie from this time period knows what we're talking about - generic rock with distorted guitars and squealing, wailing guitar solos. Naturally, it all caps off with the time-honored warehouse fight. But the whole outing is slow - Zagarino doesn't even show up until 50 minutes into the movie even though he's second-billed. Blood Warriors drags for much of the proceedings and should have been chopped by about 10 minutes or so. Then we'd have something.
Yes, there are some occasionally funny moments that pop up in Blood Warriors, but is that what we're watching these movies for? If you have some time on your hands and you don't mind waiting to have a few yuks, by all means go ahead, but on the whole it's a disappointment.
Cleopatra Wong (1978)
The dubbing is classically ridiculous!
Cleopatra Wong (Lee) is an Interpol CID agent tasked with getting to the bottom of a dastardly counterfeiting ring. As she travels around Asia, she gets into many precarious situations which involve her beating up/shooting the baddies. She and her cohorts finally trace the operation to a monastery in Manila. There she encounters counterfeiters so evil, they have imprisoned a bunch of nuns so they can continue their criminal operations. But Cleopatra Wong is on the case...so the bad guys better beware! Will she use her feminine charm, as well as her Martial Arts skill, to restore the currency and save the Asian economy? Find out today! Starting with the on-screen credit "And Marrie Lee as They Call Her Cleopatra Wong", you know you're in for a rollicking good time. Cleopatra Wong, the movie, will make you miss drive-ins. Even if you were born after a time when they were prevalent, you will still miss them. At least that's what happened to us after seeing this. It conveys the whole drive-in vibe very well, and the 70's fashions, decor, and music (and even the Martial Arts style) only serve to reinforce that. Of course, the plot only serves to set up a bunch of action scenes featuring Cleopatra, and thank goodness. It never gets bogged down with unnecessary stuff, although the "dressing up as nuns" section before the climax does drag a bit (heh heh), and sinks into Blind Rage (1978) territory. But the movie pulls itself out of it for the final confrontation, where Cleopatra pops wheelies on her awesome motorcycle and shoots people with what can only be described as a "Supergun".
There's nothing we like better than a disco scene, and even more so if it transitions from a karate scene. The dubbing is classically ridiculous, but how can you lose when, in a scene referring to the counterfeit money, the Chief says (well, more accurately, shouts) lines like "It's too real to be fake!" - you just can't make them like this anymore. Adding to the fun is 1 (one) exploding helicopter. So, yes, there is a slowdown in the final quarter or so of the film, but let's not dwell on that. We should concentrate on the movie's many positives, as listed above. Plus, the music by one Romeo Galang (who also is credited as co-writer) is memorable and very upbeat, which helps a lot.
Producer/co-writer/director Suarez would follow this up with the superior and more serious-minded The One Armed Executioner (1983), and helpfully, Dark Sky has released both on a double-feature DVD that is well worth picking up.
Storm Catcher (1999)
eel free to catch this storm tonight.
Jack Holloway (Dolph) truly has it all. As a proud member of the U.S. Air Force, he gets to live his dream of flying a radical stealth bomber called the Storm Catcher, serving under General William Jacobs (Miano). When he's not off going Mach 3 Turbo before it was a shaving razor, he spends time with his loving wife Jessica (Bax), and as a devoted football coach to a girls little league team featuring his daughter Nicole (Zima). However, the skies become less than friendly when someone dressed as Holloway kills a bunch of people, and, naturally, Holloway becomes the prime suspect. Breaking out of custody, Holloway and his buddy Captain "Sparks" Johnson (Clark) try to clear his name. But things get really real when Jessica is assaulted and Nicole is kidnapped. Realizing he's in a race against time against an evil cabal of baddies intent on misusing the Storm Catcher for their own evil ends, will Holloway be able to stop the madness? Storm Catcher is really a lot better than you probably think it is. Sure, it seems like another plane/guys-sitting-at-radar-monitors-giving-coordinates slog, and, to be fair, there are elements of that scourge of the later 90's, but it manages to rise above the others, much like Holloway's beloved stealth bomber. It's certainly better than Freedom Strike (1998), and that had Tone-Loc. Tone-Loc. So there was a lot to prove. Out of the movies from the "Dolph hitting the skids" period of his career, this one is the best. Unfortunately, things would sink back down after this brief high (no plane puns intended) when Dolph re-teamed with director Hickox the next year for the dreary Jill the Ripper (2000). So enjoy the small pleasures of Storm Catcher while they last, and there is plenty to enjoy here.
We see what the movie was trying to do. It was trying to go for that "theater-ready" vibe, what with the big-sounding score, the fact that it was shot well, and it includes some prescient dialogue that seems to apply more to today's political situation than ever before. It even includes some classic action bits like people running away from an explosion, and plenty of people get shot/beat up/blown up. But no matter how hard they may have tried, alas, it was destined for the video store shelf. Hickox never seemed to accept that he was a DTV director; at least for the first half of his career, notably with Full Eclipse (1993), he certainly tried to imbue his films with a professional, mainstream feel. Dolph probably liked his role as Holloway because he got to be the action hero as always, but he showed a sensitive side with the little league football scenes. Our guess is he would jump at the chance to do a Ladybugs (1992)-type movie, because he likes showing he's more than just an action guy. That will probably never happen in our overly-PC world, where kids are discouraged from football, especially girls, and especially with no helmets. Dolph was probably miffed that footage from this movie was nonsensically and lazily edited into the abomination that was Agent Red (2000).
Robert Miano again proves he's one of the more underrated actors out there, and the Storm Catcher plane is so technologically advanced, you can voice-text things you want to say (much like the Dragon program whose ads are constantly on TV), and it has minidisc abilities. It would probably be nothing without its minidisc player. Once again, Dolph delivers the goods against all odds. Feel free to catch this storm tonight.
American Hunter (1989)
Chris Mitchum is at his best!
The brilliance of Arizal shines once again with this wildly fun and entertaining outing. All of Arizal's films are absolutely great, even priceless; it's our contention that it's only because none of his films got U.S. distribution during the golden age of the video store that he isn't a household name like so many other directors. Because their movies could be found in video stores, so-called "cult" directors like Russ Meyer, David Lynch, and John Waters, as well as the horror contingent big names like Romero/Carpenter/Craven, are just some of the directors that are in the public consciousness. Or at least they are among film and video freaks. Fact: Arizal deserves to be among them in the pantheon of great cult directors. Maybe with time, that will occur. We'll do our small part to shine a light on his highly impressive body of work.
Now we'll get off our soapbox. The plot, which is quite simple to provide plenty of space for action, concerns rival factions vying for a much sought-after piece of microfilm. At least it's not the time-honored "disc" so many people in these movies are looking for, but we can't remember a time when anyone ever wanted a microfiche. But we digress. Jake Carver (Mitchum) wants the microfilm, so he travels to Indonesia. But Adam (Superfoot) and his henchman Frank (Abbott) also want it. A man named Hope Seleck (O'Brian, The Stabilizer himself) also wants it and he feels the wrath of Jake. So the baddies kidnap Jake's girlfriend Janet (Iasha, like O'Brian a veteran of another Arizal movie, in her case Final Score) and all hell breaks loose. Shooting, stunts, fights, helicopter chases, cars flipping over and blow-ups galore ensue. Will one of the baddies be an American hunter, or will Chris Mitchum be an American Hunter? Definitely find out today! Right now! Much like Arizal's ability to create impressive action on a rock-bottom budget, our love for him knows no limits. The movie just STARTS - we're thrown in the pool and left to swim right from the first second, almost Godfrey Ho style (Abbott was a Ho mainstay). But would you want it any other way? But you can tell it's Arizal bein' Arizal right from the jump. The amusement of the audience never lets up (isn't that what cinematic entertainment is all about?) , and you never have to wait long for action. At the very least, there will be a silly punch-up or two just to remind you who's boss.
Chris Mitchum is once again at his best, taking down hordes of Asians with his Martial Arts ability, all while in a leisure suit. Well, when he's not in a stonewashed jean jacket, that is. Who else but Mitchum could master the art of the "nonchalant backflip"? Naturally, there's the Prerequisite Torture of the hero, but this time it's better than usual. His nemesis, Superfoot, is also at his best here. His acting is almost John Miller-esque, though, to be fair, no one could really scale the heights of Mr. Miller. Clearly Mitchum vs. Superfoot is the true clash of the titans, and if you want to see what happens, just watch this fast-paced, enjoyable and fun outing. There's no excuse to miss it.
Arizal should be counted as one of the preeminent action filmmakers of his day, and American Hunter is just more proof that his talent is not a one-film accident. American Hunter seals the fact that his star should be in the movie-making firmament with the greats.
Hot Boyz (2000)
Here is your classic example of what we call the "homie movie".
Hot Boyz is the sad and tragic tale of Kool (Tha Shocker) and his homies (not something gay as you might reasonably expect). Kool is an aspiring rapper who is probably still aspiring because he can't come up with a better name for himself than Kool. He and girlfriend LaShawna (Crutchfield) are in love, despite the protestations of her mother, who disapproves of Kool's homie-ing ways. One night while walking down a dark alley (always a bad idea, especially in the 'hood), LaShawna witnesses a murder and is then accused of it and thrown in jail. It turns out she stumbled into a network of fully corrupt cops like Officer Mack (Huff) to pretty corrupt cops like Det. Tully (Busey) to not-that-corrupt cops like Officer Roberts (Howell). While fighting for LaShawna's release, Tully convinces Kool to infiltrate the criminal organization run by Saint (Powell). But when things take a turn for the worst, Kool and his homeboys C-Dawg (Snoop Dogg, stretching), Moe (Master P), Remo (C-Murder), Tyrel (Mystikal), and Pee Wee (Johnson) suddenly become crime lords in their own right. Will all this gangsta-ism lead to a bad end for Kool and/or the gang? Also Jeff Speakman is Kool's Kenpo teacher. Kool takes Kenpo lessons.
Here is your classic example of what we call the "homie movie", but because it's also a PM movie, it has C. Thomas Howell, Gary Busey, Brent Huff and Jeff Speakman in non-homie roles. And also a bunch of shooting, car chases, and other PM hallmarks. In between most scenes there is an aerial shot of L.A. while some No Limit rapper lays down his popping' fresh rhymes. And behind scenes of C. Thomas Howell or Gary Busey talking, there are yet more rap beats. And of course, during any chase scenes, more rapping can be heard. Pretty much every homie movie cliché is out in force: barbecue parties (where Snoop doles out potato salad), bouncing cars, basketball games, evil whiteys (especially cops), and young ghetto-dwellers dreaming of escaping using the time-honored methods of drugs and violence. I guess it's what you'd call "Master P's Theatre"(groan).
Sure, you feel every aspect of its low-budget, but certain personalities shine through. Clifton Powell and Shireen Crutchfield stand out as the baddie and Kool's inexplicably devoted girlfriend, respectively. And you've got to respect Snoop - he remains one mellow cat at ALL times, whether hangin' with his homeboys or shooting a bunch of people in a (wildly extended) shootout. For this reason, he comes off as highly naturalistic, especially compared to his screen-mates such as Mr. Tha Shocker, who is clearly trying, but in a way that suggests a child trying to fit their little feet into their parents' shoes. As for the fan favorites, Howell doesn't do all that much, Huff is one-dimensionally evil, Speakman's role is largely unnecessary to the plot (although it was welcome and we wished there was more of him) and Busey is Busey. Busey is no stranger to the 'hood, having also been in Down 'n Dirty (2001) and On the Edge (2002).
It almost goes without saying, but Scarface (1983) seems to be a natural jumping-off point, at least for the second half of the movie, where the "Hot Boyz" are born and form their own criminal empire. When Kool earns his black belt, Master Keaton (Speakman) says to him "now you're a man", and later, Saint congratulates him on going from a boy to a man. The movie also could have been called "Bar MitzvahZ".
But we don't think you're supposed to think about it all that much, just get your own group of "Hot Boyz" together, pour out a 40 for your dead homiez, and pop in the DVD. If this is your thing at all, you'll be in homie heaven.
Enemies Closer (2013)
Van Damme fans will want to check this out
Henry (Scott) is a forest ranger in a remote part of the U.S.-Canadian border. A former Navy SEAL, an event in his past has caused him to seek the solitude to "clear his head". One night, his calm and serenity are shattered when two events occur: A man named Clay (Jones) arrives on his doorstep to take revenge against him for said past event, and also a gang of evil French-Canadian mercenaries invade the forest looking for a shipment of drugs. Because Xander (Van Damme) and his goons are so evil and murderous, Henry and Clay must reach a "great compromise" (just a little historical humor for ya) and work together to combat the baddies. Also a girl named Kayla (Cocker) is involved in all this...but how? Enemies become friends, friends become enemies, French-Canadian mercenaries are the enemies...but which of the enemies will be...CLOSER? In The Shepherd: Border Patrol (2008), our beloved JCVD was on the Mexican-American border. Now he's on the Canadian-American border (well, actually it's Bulgaria. Where else did you expect?) in another DTV B-Movie. It works well enough on its own terms, and the audience-friendly running time of 79 minutes (without the end credits) is a length far more movies should aim for, and we give it credit for that. Plus, Van Damme has re-teamed with the elder Hyams, Peter, once again, after their classic 90's collaborations Timecop (1994) and Sudden Death (1995). Enemies Closer has a simple premise that doesn't demand too much of the audience, and is executed professionally. Sure, there are a couple of the standard low-budget pitfalls such as a bit of clunky acting and dialogue (though not for Van Damme, he's a standout as the baddie), and a really annoying tendency during the fight scenes to have these obviously removed/cut frames in order to speed up (?) the action. We wish they didn't do that. Plus because the movie is primarily set in the forest at night, it's very dark. We're getting really sick and tired of all these too-dark, underlit movies. We're always ranting about this, it seems. Would some freakin' LIGHTS be too much to ask for a visual medium like film? Well, anyway...
Tom Everett Scott plays the "nice guy" very well, almost in a Tom or Colin Hanks mode, but it's a little jarring when he unleashes his Tom Everett Fu on the bad guys. It's hard to imagine one of the Hanks clan doing this. And not just regular Martial Arts either - takedowns with crazy, acrobatic flips and stuff. Same for Orlando Jones. What with his newfound Orlando-Fu, apparently any B-movie actor is now a Martial Arts expert? What's next, Wallace Shawn-Fu? But I guess it's all part of the fun. Presumably you're not supposed to take it all that seriously, though certain scenes are reminiscent of Killing Season (2013). But instead of Travolta and De Niro, it's Scott and Jones. Hey, it's all DTV. If Travolta and De Niro can go DTV, it can happen to anyone. It's the great equalizer.
But, as you might expect, Van Damme is truly the centerpiece of the movie, and he shines as the lead bad guy. Our guess is he probably relishes the chance to be the villain, which he doesn't get to do too often (unless you count Villain), and you can tell here. With his red, somewhat clownish hair and almost whimsical evil, he's like a French-speaking The Joker. But everyone involved does their part to make Enemies Closer a reasonably enjoyable, if fairly routine action/wilderness thriller.
Van Damme fans will want to check this out, of course, and anyone who enjoys these types of DTV outings will likely walk away happy with Enemies Closer.
One of the better Nu-Image titles out there.
At some point in the future, world governments have everyone under strict control (hmmm...) so Wade (Hauer) and Merrick (Dacascos) work as smugglers. While in Russia on what seems like a routine smuggling operation, Merrick shoots Wade and leaves him for dead. What Merrick forgot is that this is the future, so, using some form of biomechanical technology, Wade is resurrected. All Wade wants is the money he lost to Merrick during their smuggling, and if there's time, maybe some revenge. He then teams up with a woman named Katya (Scio), and off they go on their mission. Coming up against a large criminal syndicate, they get into a lot of shootouts and fights. Will Wade finally draw a REDLINE in the sand? Not to be confused with any of the other myriad movies with the name Redline (most of which are about cars), this one, of course, is the Nu-Image production starring Rutger Hauer and Mark Dacascos. Tom Berenger, "Turbo" and the rest of the gang from Cutaway (2000) are nowhere to be seen. Sure, Redline shopped for its influences at the same store as everybody else: Robocop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Demolition Man (1993), and, of course, Blade Runner (1982) - but thanks to healthy doses of violence and nudity, it's a largely entertaining watch. At worst, it's a painless one, anyway.
Rutger Hauer is an underrated actor and a fan favorite, and he looks a lot like Robert Redford in this particular outing. Actually, better than Redford looks now. Of course, Wade is ex-CIA and since he's the hero, he's subjected to his Prerequisite Torture, but on the bright side, when he comes up against what can only be described as Corey Haim-style Rollerboys, it appears he calls the lead Rollerboy "Butthead" and they all go blading away in fear for their lives. It helps a lot that his sidekick is Yvonne Scio, and that she shoots and beats up the baddies with the best of them. Fellow fan favorite Dacascos, here as the antagonist, complete with goatee and accent, provides good balance to the film overall, though he only displays his Martial Arts abilities in one scene. He previously teamed up with director Takacs with the prior year's Sabotage (1996), and evidently Takacs liked what he saw, so he used him again here. It worked out well.
Yes, there is a lot of clichéd dialogue and many scenes are very darkly lit, but because it was a movie about the future that was made in the 90's, naturally we get some VR. It wouldn't be complete without the VR, of course. Plus, Redline was ahead of its time with scenes of drones attacking people, characters use FaceTime, and a woman who looks suspiciously like Hillary Clinton is "The President". Hopefully not all their predictions come true. But all in all it has a nice pace, especially considering its running time, so it adds up to being one of the better Nu-Image titles out there. It compares favorably to other 90's Rutger future movies such as Split Second (1992). The end result is better-than-average DTV fare, especially for its late-90's vintage (not the best time for DTV, for those who don't know).
Featuring the enjoyable and wonderfully incongruous end-credits song "Dub 1 Dub" by the Axel Boys Quartet, if you see Redline on DVD cheap, don't be afraid to add it to your collection.