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My Samurai (1992)
What My Samurai lacks in quality is made up for by the archaeological value., 1 May 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Peter McCrea (Kallo) is a terminally depressed youngster whose dad, James (O'Quinn) forces him to take Tae Kwon Do. However, his instructor Young Park (Lee) believes in him. Mr. Tszing (Mako) is a gangland boss who commands an army of funny-looking thugs. After getting involved in some police corruption, Tszing's gang shoots some people. The only problem is that the dour Peter child witnesses this. Now on the run from the baddies, Peter, Park, and James's secretary, Deborah (Hart) have to run from place to place, avoiding death at every turn. Along the way, not only does Park get into a bunch of Martial Arts battles, he also attempts to teach Peter about life, Tae Kwon Do, believing in yourself, and all that jazz. During all this, they run into a man named Reverend George (Smith). This wouldn't be relevant but for the fact that it happens to be Bubba Smith. Will Peter get out of the doldrums? Will Park connect his punches and kicks? Will our heroes escape the baddies? Perhaps we shall see...

A low-budget independent production starring a lot of strange-looking non-actors. Broken-English dialogue on top of a muffled, unhearable sound recording. Amateurish writing, directing, acting, and other technical qualities. Flat line readings. Squealing guitar on the soundtrack. Warehouse fights. Middle-Aged Punks. We're home. Clearly a movie in our wheelhouse, as any regular reader of our site knows, My Samurai would fit nicely on the shelf next to other product released on Imperial Video. It's close in spirit to the output of Ron Marchini, which Imperial trafficked in. It would also fit nicely on the shelf next to items like Hawkeye (1988) or Kindergarten "Ninja" (1994), though those movies are a lot more fun and entertaining than this one is.

The whole movie screams "dumb/awesome regional production made to sit on video store shelves in 1992". Though it is quite stupid, childish, and repetitive, My Samurai will, if nothing else, remind you of those precious video store memories. It seems unlikely that very many people took this off their local video store shelves and actually paid money to rent it, but it's easy to picture it being there amongst all the other choices. We don't know how much penetration into stores across our great country My Samurai actually had, but maybe - just maybe - if all the Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Seagal, Van Damme, Jeff Speakman, Richard Norton, and Jay Roberts, Jr. movies are all rented out on a Friday or Saturday night, and My Samurai sits lonely on the shelf, a 12-year-old boy somewhere picked it up and took it home.

Which leads to the fact that, supposedly, this movie is rated R, but it feels more like PG. When you get to the scene with the "Birds of Paradise" gang - the aforementioned Middle-Aged Punks all wearing different colored Spirit Halloween wigs - you'll know what we mean. These guys are so non-intimidating, they make the cast of Cocoon (1985)seem like the Latin Kings. Is THIS what Young Park is protecting Peter from? seeing as Peter seems suicidal throughout the movie, you'd think he'd welcome death (?) at the hands of the Birds of Paradise.

Now, it seems rather obvious that this is meant to be a DTV version of The Karate Kid (1984) and/or My Bodyguard (1980). However, Young Park is a Tae Kwon Do instructor - not a Samurai. Did the writers think all Asians are the same? Not only is the title of the movie inaccurate, it's also totally racist. I think I need to run to my safe space. In the cast department, you get plenty of Mako, which is always a good thing, and a bare minimum amount of Terry O'Quinn, but you have to wait over an hour for Bubba Smith, and what Bubba you get is minimal Bubba. We've seen better Bubba. Much better Bubba. It made us long for the magic of The Wild Pair (1987).

So, My Samurai might not be for everybody - or anybody, come to think of it - but those with childhood memories of video stores might appreciate the nostalgia factor. It's not what you'd call good, in most senses of what we all understand that word to mean, but if you're a certain kind of movie watcher, that might not matter to you. It's certainly never stopped any of us before, has it? In the end, what My Samurai lacks in quality is made up for by the archaeological value. Whether that's a bargain you're willing to make is up to you.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
You'll surely become Sofya Skya fans after watching this, 20 April 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Maya Letinskaya (Skya) seems to have the perfect life: she's a highly-trained professional ballerina, her husband Michael (Slater) is a high-powered businessman, and they have a young daughter and a beautiful family together. However, things take a 180-degree pirouette when some evil Russian (duh) gangsters eliminate Michael, kidnap the daughter, and send Maya to prison on a trumped-up charge. With baddies hot on her trail, Maya penches on the only training she knows, and taps into the awesome power of BALLET. Using the discipline, athleticism, and flexibility she previously used Swan Lakin' it up to now do high kicks and spins on her opponents, Maya must now prepare for the ultimate performance - saving her daughter's life, as well as her own. Will she show us all the true meaning of MOSCOW HEAT? (er, sorry. Wrong movie.) Will the ASSASSINS go on a RUN to find Maya? (Yeah, we know it makes no sense. But neither does the title for this movie).

The Russian Ballet. Direct-to-Video action movies. Why it took until 2013 for anyone to put these two things together is anyone's guess. Much like the McDLT - which, as you will recall, kept the hot side hot and the cool side cool - Assassins Run features an unorthodox combination of textures and temperatures and manages to make everything come out well and satisfying. For the DTV world, this is a classy and stylish gangster drama that goes full-on action after a certain point(e).

Sofya Skya - that's Sofya Andreevna Shchetinina-Arzhakovskaya to you - will certainly be one to watch going forward. Not only is she an accomplished ballerina and star of the movie, she also co-directed it and sang the end credits song, "Before You Slipped Away" (a duet with a guy named John Kahn, for those keeping track). Surely someone as multitalented as this has a bright future, and we look forward to what she does next. Helping her out is a true fan favorite, Christian Slater. He spends a lot of his time on the phone, but, then again, with his inimitable voice, wouldn't you want to talk to him on the phone? We also have Angus Macfadyen on board to provide further interest, and Cole Hauser, who, in this movie at least, looks alarmingly like noted/forgotten-about boil on society, Spencer Pratt.

Sure, after about 45 minutes there's a bit of a lull, but that's a common problem, and it picks up shortly thereafter. On the whole we found Assassins Run to be original and refreshingly different. Yes, there's the time honored shooting, fights, and it becomes a prison movie at one point, but we just loved the idea of a ballerina who uses her lifetime of training in that art who then turns it into a Martial Art. Maybe it's something about the Russian psyche that that rings true for them. To ironically paraphrase Yakov Smirnoff, "What a country!" (if reading this silently to yourself, make sure you say that in a jovial yet thick Russian accent).

Like us, you'll surely become Sofya Skya fans after watching this. After all, it is all about her in the end. Despite the great Christian Slater, this wouldn't be much of a movie if it wasn't for the presence of Skya. So be sure to check her out giving the baddies the true meaning of batterie as she plies all over their beaten-up bodies. We found the experience winning, not to mention culturally enhancing.

The Chaos Factor is kind of a middle-of-the-road affair., 7 April 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jack Poynt (Sabato Jr.) is a military man who specializes in 'demo excavation', in other words, sweeping mines out of Cambodia and saving the local villagers. Jack Poynt's life changes forever when he comes across an Army medic's diary that was written during the Vietnam War. It turns out that a fellow soldier named Maxwell Camden (Ward) committed all sorts of wartime atrocities. Now, in the present day, Camden is a big muckty-muck in the government and he will go to great lengths to stop the diary from going public - including sending his goons (one of which is Sean Kanan) out to torture and murder people. Along the way, Jack crosses paths with a ruthless, beautiful female assassin that seems like she belongs in another movie named Kim (Park). But the two will have to team up to defeat Camden and the baddies before a big arms deal goes down between China and Vietnam...and time is running out. Will Jack make his Poynt? Find out...

The Chaos Factor is kind of a middle-of-the-road affair. On the one hand, it's a PM production, so there are plenty of car chases, explosions, shooting scenes, and a decent amount of action. It's also not overly junky in the production values department and there is some nice cinematography from Jacques Haitkin. On the other hand, it's supposed to be a serious-minded drama at other times - a governmental thriller with the haunting echoes of the Vietnam conflict infusing it all. Not that that would be a bad thing, of course, but all the drama is undercut somewhat by the odd choice to have footage from Seagal's Marked For Death (1990) all over the action scenes. Tip to filmmakers: if you're going for seriousness, don't resort to Seagal footage spliced into the movie.

Adding insult to injury, the footage doesn't match very well. You don't have to be particularly eagle-eyed to know when we've whiplashed into suddenly watching a car chase from Marked For Death. Presumably, if you're watching the Chaos Factor, you've already seen Marked For Death - has anyone watched them the other way around? Regardless, this was the directorial debut of Terry Cunningham, so perhaps we should cut him a bit of slack, almost like you would for someone learning on the job. Thankfully, Cunningham had good people around him like Haitkin and Fred Ward who could dress things up significantly.

We enjoyed most of the scenes with Susie Park, mainly because that's when the movie becomes out-and-out action. Sean Kanan strongly resembles James Spader, and fan favorite R. Lee Ermey is underutilized...but would you believe he was cast as an Army Colonel? I know, wonders never cease. That brings us to Sabato Jr., who is a solid leading man for these types of things...though it should be noted that (in this movie at least) he has a tramp stamp. We don't believe we've ever seen a male action hero with a lower-back tattoo before. Much like how the Seagal footage undercuts the seriousness of the movie, Sabato Jr.'s tramp stamp undercuts our confidence in him as an action hero. It starts off as Sweepers (1998), becomes Broken Arrow (1996), them becomes No Way Out (1987), then becomes Yes, Madam (1985), all with a dusting of a Steven Segal movie from ten years previous. If this sounds like something you're up for, well here it is. The DTV world in 2000 was a confusing place indeed.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
This provides enough entertainment to sustain its running time, 24 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The town of Gary, Indiana is in dire straits. The old mill shut down, businesses and industries left, the Jackson family vacated, and the good people that remain are under the thumb of the rampant crime that proliferated in the wake of the economy collapsing. And this isn't even a post-apocalyptic thriller. When local grocery store owner Marvin Bookman (Brown Jr.) is assaulted and shot by local punks, his son John (The Hammer), a former football player, flies in from L.A. to try and help. After seeing just how bad the situation has gotten in Gary, he reunites with his old friends Jake Trevor (Jim Brown), Laurie Thompson (Grier), Slick (Roundtree) and Bubba (O'Neal). The thing is, back in the old days they were in sort of a "mark 1" version of a gang, the Rebels. They would get involved in essentially harmless no-goodery. Now gang violence involves drive-by shootings and near-constant brutality. Hence, the ORIGINAL GANGSTAS re-form to save the day. What with the new Rebels, as well as rival gang the Diablos, causing mayhem all around, the OG's certainly have their hands full…but will they triumph over the young punks? Find out today… If we're fans of any two things, it's these two things: young punks getting their comeuppance from the older generation, and Fred Williamson. Regular readers of this site will note that both have been prevailing themes for us for years. To our delight, a movie finally came along that ties both of them together: Original Gangstas. Sure, it may have its flaws, but it also combines two other genre mainstays we all love and enjoy: the 'cleaning up the town' movie and the 'assembling a team' movie. Add to all that an outstanding B-movie cast, and you have an entertaining romp.

The cast truly is one of a kind, and the concept pre-dates The Expendables (2010) by a good 14 years. We didn't even mention Isabel Sanford, Weezy herself, as Marvin Bookman's wife, and she gives a spirited performance. Also on board is Paul Winfield as Reverend Dorsey, a man caught in all the crossfire. All of what's going on around him might seem awfully familiar, as Winfield was in Gordon's War (1973), as Gordon himself. Could this be where Gordon ended up? Fan favorites Charles Napier, Wings Hauser, and Robert Forster - enough to support their own movie right there - are also on board, but in glorified (or not so glorified) cameos.

All of these familiar names are appreciated, and add to the fun and the texture of the overall movie, but, as often happens, when there's TOO many people, roles have to be necessarily small and characters get lost in the shuffle. Even the great Roundtree and O'Neal are essentially second fiddle. We noted the young Shyheim Franklin (credited as solely "Shyheim" in the opening credits, but with the full name for the end credits) as Dink. He stood out, of all people, amongst the pack.

There are a few things you can always count on with a Fred Williamson flick - his cool, his charisma, he'll be chomping a cigar, and there will be a live performance in a club or bar. In this case, he got the Chi-Lites, which was a good get. Like a lot of other modern-day Freds like Down N' Dirty and GONE!, when the older actors are on the screen, classic soul music plays. When the young punks are on (and they actually get called punks by their elders), rap plays. So, to counter the Chi-Lites, in a party scene we can see Bushwick Bill and Scarface, though they don't perform. That symmetry could only come from the mind of the great director Larry Cohen. Even we don't know if that last sentence was sarcastic or not, but Fred is credited as co-director of OG's.

Other things we learned: Jim Brown looks badass in a British Knights jacket, there is an actual place called East Chicago, Indiana (where some of the movie was shot), and if you don't like Fred Williamson, you probably have mental problems. While OG's would never come near the movie theater today, it certainly did back then, which must have been nice for everyone involved. I (Brett) even remember seeing commercials for it on TV when I was 15 or 16. It could certainly be said that this movie set the stage for the DTV Freds that came in its wake, as stylistically it is very similar.

Though OG's predates the show South Park (only by one year, however), there are dramatic and tear-filled readings of the line "they killed Kenny!" - other mentions of people killing Kenny are said throughout the film's running time. We know it's just a coincidence (or IS it?) but it did kind of help to keep the movie in the goofy zone. There are people out there that are disappointed that OG's wasn't some sort of serious treatise on the issue of gang violence. We think the filmmakers should have gone more in the other direction: how awesome would it have been to have seen Weezy mowing down gang members with a machine gun? Or even doing Martial Arts…dare we suggest we missed an opportunity to see Weezy-Fu? Well, we should be happy with what we have.

For true OLD school Blaxploitation - though all involved probably hate that term - in the mid-90's, pretty much the only place to turn is Original Gangstas. It provides enough entertainment to sustain its running time (the cast alone could propel pretty much anything), and DTV/action die-hards should enjoy it, or at least appreciate it.

They've kidney!, 10 March 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Deacon Lyle (Van Damme) is just a guy out on the town in the Philippines, when he brings a nice lady home from a disco. When he wakes up in the morning, he is in a pool of his own blood and discovers someone has opened him up and stolen his kidney. Deacon then teams up with his religious brother George (Ralston), his old buddy Kung (Aleong), and the mysterious Ana (Peters), all in some sort of mission to get to the bottom of the kidney conspiracy. A baddie named Drake (Shahlavi) - a man more unpleasant than the music made by his namesake - may be behind this, or is there a conspiracy that goes...ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP? Further complicating things is the fact that Lyle's niece is on the kidney transplant list. Will Deacon Lyle kidney-punch his way back to renal health? Just try to hold in your excitement...

They've Taken (2008) my kidney! is basically Van Damme's battle cry in this somewhat puzzling new outing. Somehow a missing kidney isn't as compelling a motive for revenge as a missing daughter...or are we missing something? He still has one left, as far as we know. Van Damme is good in the fight scenes, and he moves especially well for someone who has just had some unauthorized, highly-invasive surgery done on him. There's even a novel excuse for him to do his famous split (yes, he's still doing it, and proud of it, it seems) - but some not-so-novel excuses for rampant Van Damme nudity. We don't need to see your whole body to know you've been kidneynapped.

But we give ol' JCVD credit for trying. The opening alley fight is a standout, and the overall vibe of the movie is on the serious side, in keeping with most of the recent DTV JCVD output. Perhaps to maintain the "dark" vibe, to counterbalance the kidney-stealing plot, there are some religious themes that run throughout. This is mainly achieved by the brother character, the fact that Van Damme is named Deacon, and the fact that Deacon beats people up with a bible. Yes, as a society, we've reached a point where we're subjected to Biblefighting. This might not be a good thing.

But rather than concentrate on "dark" subject matter, director Barbarash - of fellow Van Damme vehicle Assassination Games (2011) and Michael Jai White vehicle Falcon Rising (2014) fame - REALLY should have "turned off the dark", if we may paraphrase the title of that brilliant Broadway play. Why, oh, why do we always have to ask that filmmakers turn the lights on in their movies? Is that really so much to ask? And another no-no is here that is painfully obvious - green screen and CGI. Is it really so much better and easier to have chintzy-looking computer-graphic bullet hits on walls and gunsmoke? We're really getting tired of what we call "Alt-E", meaning some dork in an editing suite somewhere hitting "Alt-E" for "Explosion" instead of employing the technical mastery of pyrotechnics experts. So, to recap, we have barfights, darkfights, and biblefights. (We didn't mention the barfight before, but of course it's there).

With the money they spent on CGI and green screen, they could have used on lighting. Priorities, people. There is some light Punchfighting, but it's barely there and hard to see (like everything else). Van Damme's buddy Kung - played by Aki Aleong of Gang Wars (1976), Out for Blood (1992) and Deadly Target (1994), among others - could have been played by Mako, if he hadn't died in 2006. Actor Darren Shahlavi - so memorable as the baddie in Bloodmoon (1997) passed away in 2015 and the film is dedicated to him. With his passing, we've lost another actor/Martial Artist so integral to the fabric of the DTV action movies we've dedicated ourselves to celebrating. He will be missed.

On a lighter note, one of the highlights of the movie, appearing almost exactly an hour in, is when we see the actual kidney donor list. This might mark the first time we've seen an English-as-a-second-language attempt at a list of people's names. We have Varko Bosilhoc, Consuela Pym, John Smythe II and even Simon Rants III. Will this be important to the plot? Just wait and find out. Also there was a Boris Sharlyakov, but it looked like it said Borts Sharlyakov. We wish it said Borts. We really do. There are other names on the list, but those were some highlights. Maybe it's just us, but we found that funny.

Some elements of Pound of Flesh are worth your time, but what's good about the movie is dampened by the inability to see anything, the insistent usage of green screen/CGI, and some pretty dumb dialogue. (Let's just say Kung talking about how much he loves coffee isn't likely to rival anything said by Portia from The Merchant of Venice anytime soon). It's kind of a mixed bag for Van Damme. It doesn't change his standing in our eyes or anything like that, but with some simple tweaks, it could have been significantly better.

Tai Chi Warriors (2008) (V)
Will the power of Tai Chi prevail?, 25 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When college student (?) Henry (Sefton) invites his friend Bruce (Covington) to stay with him while in China, little did they know they would be staying at a run-down orphanage/Tai Chi center run by the aging Master Dragon (Chiang). While Dragon puts them through their paces during training sequences, the guys find a budding romance with Lin Lin (Jacqueline Lee) and Fay (Yan Bing Zhang). However, all is not right in the world of Tai Chi. Master Dragon's former rival is still bitter and angry about...well, their rivalry, and organizes a fight to the finish with his crew of fighters, a bunch of unscrupulous kickboxers led by Yuri (David Majuri). Will the power of Tai Chi prevail? A monument to the concept of broken English (that is, when you can hear the muffled dialogue), Tai Chi warriors is a low-budget Martial Arts film that looks far older than it really is. Maybe older film is cheaper in Hong Kong, but even though the end credits state "October, 2004" (interesting that they would put a month), it looks like it was filmed in the early 90's or perhaps even 80's.

This is the type of DVD you might find in a gas station or other place that sells dollar movies - and the only audio options are English or Portuguese. Go figure. While it does go down a similar road we've all seen before - a road traveled by American Shaolin: King of the Kickboxers 2 (1991), among many others - here we're treated to all the familiar low-budget pitfalls as well: the aforementioned bad sound and picture quality, stilted performances, slow moments, etc., but this time around it all feels very childish. That particular vibe didn't sit well with us, but there are a few bright moments as well...

The scene of "no rules bowling" was a standout, as was the bicycle fight, and there are some classically silly pretexts for fight scenes, but it's all mixed in with some wire-fu and needless Godfrey Ho-style jumping around, plot-wise. Why a White college student in his early 20's would be best friends with a middle-aged Black gentleman was never explained, but it must go to show that people were a lot less racist in the 80's. I mean 90's. Sorry, "2000's". The whole outing is rather impenetrable and even Master Dragon's mullet couldn't save it.

Normally we list misspellings in the credits when we find them, but there are far too many this time around, so we'll have to leave it to your imagination as to which of the many words were spelled incorrectly. Or you could watch the movie for yourself, but we wouldn't necessarily recommend that.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
We absolutely recommend this enjoyable winner of a film., 9 February 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A mysterious hired killer named Yo (Dacascos) - known as the Crying Freeman because after he executes his victims he sheds tears - is seen practicing his deadly trade by a woman named Emu O'Hara (Condra). Awesomely, he even has exploding guns to help cover his tracks. Soon after their chance encounter, they're both caught in the middle of a Yakuza war, with only the skills of Yo keeping them both alive. Detective Forge (Chong) and Detective Netah (Karyo) are trying to sort it all out, but Netah may have more going on than meets the eye. It may all seem simple, but in the world of the Crying Freeman, nothing ever is. Will the Power of Yo prevail? Find out today...

Crying Freeman is an excellent film that everybody should see. How it compares to the original Manga or Anime we wouldn't know, but as a film in its own right it succeeds brilliantly. In other words, you don't really need to know the source material to appreciate this. Maybe it helps, but there's plenty to recommend even if, like us, you were unfamiliar with its origins and background. Classily directed by Christophe Gans - known primarily for his Brotherhood of the Wolf (2008) - he balances sensitive and poetic passages that are downright painterly and beautiful with violent action setpieces involving everything from Martial Arts, gun-fu, blow-ups, and even a bow and arrow. Its artistic soul meshes well with the violence. The overall effect is intoxicating and adds up to be, we believe, a must-see.

Since this is quite obviously a work where the filmmakers clearly had high standards of quality, the whole thing seems solid and professionally made on every level - writing, directing, and, notably, the cinematography. It's all very solid, and it's comforting feeling you're in competent hands. Naturally, fan favorite Mark Dacascos shines in the role that he was perhaps born to play. Co-star Julie Condra must have been impressed - they later married. They are backed up by some familiar names: Rae Dawn Chong and Tcheky Karyo are on board and acquit themselves well, though, interestingly, Condra and Karyo were overdubbed by Deborah Kara Unger and Ron Perlman, respectively. Other B-Movie stalwarts are here to be found too, such as Byron Mann and Jerry Wasserman (check out our Virtual Assassin review for the reason why we're always pointing out these unsung actors) - and lest we forget fan favorite Mako.

A little over an hour in there's a bit of a lull, but that's common and to be expected. That's really the only criticism we have of Crying Freeman. And unlike most of its other brethren from 1995, this seems far more timeless. Shockingly - criminally - this didn't receive a U.S. VHS release during the video store era, and only came out here on DVD quietly in 2008, and that release is now out of print. There are some fine international releases out there, and even a Blu-Ray now. But why this didn't come out here when it would have done the most good for its reputation is puzzling and maddening. I guess it's all part of the adventure of movie watching and collecting - you never know what you're going to find, or where you're going to find it. Occasionally you turn up a gem like this.

Crying Freeman should be more well-known, especially in the U.S. We absolutely recommend this enjoyable winner of a film.

It tested our patience to the limit, 27 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It appears that sometime in the year 2047, some bad guys called the Confederate Central Government, or CCG, is up to no good. Just exactly what they want is not made clear. The top brass at CCG are Colonel Asimov (Hauer) and Major Anderson (Hannah). A soldier on the opposing side, which is evidently called GreenWar (not to be confused with anything else that may be a bit more peaceful) named Ryan Willburn (Baldwin) is sent into some sort of danger zone to collect evidence against the CCG. If they're so all-powerfully evil, we're not sure why this is necessary. The man sending him on the mission is named Sponge (Glover) and he spouts nonsense philosophy and types away on old-school computers. Things get complicated for Willburn's mission when he meets an Avatar-style mutant/alien/whatever named Tuag (Leoni). When the CCG hires a flashy mercenary named Lobo (Madsen) to do God-knows-what, chaos breaks loose. Apparently chaos can be quite boring. Anyway, will Ryan Willburn and Tuag live to look confused in the dark again? Don't bother finding out...

We're not sure what this was supposed to be, exactly. There's no there there. Death Squad is a movie that runs solely on the charisma of the actors involved, and nothing else. If it didn't have Hauer, Hannah, Madsen, and Baldwin, and had a bunch of no-name actors running around in the dark on the one set they had, it would have been complete torture to watch (AKA Albert Pyun-level). As it stands, there are moments that you think just may be entertaining enough to be stupid. Either that, or moments that are stupid enough to be entertaining. We're still not sure which.

Whenever Madsen is on screen, he livens things up. He has a cool coat and even his own theme music. This time, his attitude of not caring is entirely justified. The audience can relate. Rutger Hauer spits out some nonsensical dialogue and seems confused. Daryl Hannah is there as one of the Nazi-esque soldiers, and Baldwin was clearly recalling his role as Weed in the classic Dead Weekend (1995). Danny Glover does what we call a 'sit-down' role, though we think he stands up briefly at one point. There's even what we call the PT (Prerequisite Torture), but this time it's PTT - the Prerequisite Torture of Tuag. All of this should have hit video stores somewhere between 1998 and 2003. Yet, inexplicably, it came out in 2014. Audiences should demand to know why.

While, yes, the movie has no structure, it's filmed on what appears to be one set, in the dark, actors look at computerized screens and say nonsensical things for 80 minutes, and it's all doubtlessly stupid, it's still better than April Rain (2014). That's the tricky thing about watching - and reviewing - movies. Whether you realize it or not, it's all about context. If you watch April Rain, then just about anything else, the movie you watch after that is going to seem good - perhaps better than you'd normally think it would be. Your experience is colored by subconscious comparison. If we had watched something really awesome beforehand, we might be tougher on Death Squad, but because we watched April Rain the day before, we were in a really forgiving mood. All that being said, it still tested our patience to the limit and we came away unhappy.

Irons makes this a classy revenge film, 13 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jack Elgin (Irons) is a hardworking magazine editor. He loves his wife, son, and daughter, and he decides to combine work with a family vacation when they all fly to India. Unfortunately, terrorists hijack the plane and kill a lot of people along the way - including two members of the Elgin family. Suddenly, the genteel Elgin becomes irritated and aggressive, and has revenge on his mind. After, typically, trying all the traditional channels to get justice, he realizes the only true justice will come by his own hand. Along his road to revenge he meets CIA agent Davidson (Priestley), FBI agent Bernard (Whitaker), and reconnects with old contacts such as a woman named Kate (Rampling). Will our unorthodox hero iron out the bad guys once and for all...or will he find out he has too many IRONS in the fire? Find out today...

Before Taken (2008), Before Harry Brown (2009), before The Gunman (2015), and before the trend of what Hollywood snidely dubbed "GeriAction", we had The Fourth Angel. If a bunch of high-class British people made a Death Wish sequel in their own milieu, and instead of Charles Bronson got Jeremy Irons, The Fourth Angel would be the likely result. There's something awesome about Jeremy Irons one minute wearing white pants and a polo sweater or off pheasant hunting, and the next minute he's wearing the time-honored Revenge Jacket, speeding down the street on a motorcycle, smoking a cigarette and blowing away the bad guys with an arsenal of guns and grenades.

Director John Irvin, who has had a long and distinguished career but would be known to us and fans of the site as the director of the classic Arnie vehicle Raw Deal (1986) - no one gives Schwarzenegger a Raw Deal, just in case you forgot - and Dot.Kill (2005), does more than a solid job; he is in control of the proceedings and directs with style, excitement, and fluidity. The Fourth Angel rarely gets boring, and you really care about Jack and his son. You truly want Jack to blow the baddies to kingdom come, but with style, aplomb, and some classic British restraint.

The movie delivers the goods on a lot of levels, and is a satisfying watch. Irons is backed up well by his co-stars: Rampling has a small role but always adds something to whatever she's in, Forest Whitaker we all know has charisma and commitment, and Jason Priestley is too old to be a teenager, but too young to be a CIA agent. He's caught in the middle, age-wise, but we're glad he's here. We guessed the filmmakers thought Luke Perry would be too much of a Himbo to take on the role. So naturally they got Priestley instead.

The Fourth Angel is certainly what you would call a classy revenge film, which shows that our favorite subgenre has many flavors and varieties. Just when you think you've seen 'em all, along comes Jeremy Irons to show terrorists the true meaning of "Class Warfare"! We give a hearty recommendation to this fine film.

Very enjoyable to watch., 1 January 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Mark Fierro (Testi) is a pretty top-notch COTE (or Cop On The Edge, as we call them), who is transferred from his normal district of Tampa, Florida to Miami to where all the action is. It seems there is a gang war going on, with drug-related murders galore, and Fierro takes it upon himself, personally, to stop it. Of course, his partner Hoagy O'Toole (Nummi) - who is not an overweight Bond girl - is along for the ride as well. Of course, Fierro finds time for romance with an attorney named Lori (Cavalli) while he fights his way to the main mob boss, Tony Romeo (Guerrini), but he also has to try to repair his relationship with his daughter Paloma (Bellini). In the midst of all the warring factions, will Mark Fierro emerge as the...FIRST ACTION HERO? Of all the contemporary titles to cash in on, it seems sort of odd for someone to pick the classic (?) Arnie vehicle Last Action Hero (1993), especially since this is a sort of latter-day Poliziotteschi and Austin O'Brien is nowhere in sight. We're huge fans of Fabio Testi - his The Heroin Busters (1977) alone puts him in the action movie firmament forever - but, let's face it, he's not the first action hero. That's clearly Jesus. Or maybe Imhotep. We're not sure how far back "first" really entails. The original title, Il Burattinaio, translates from the Italian as something like "The Puppetmaster". Why couldn't they have left it at that? But, quibbling about the title aside, if you love those great Italian crime films of the 70's but always wished you could see one set in Florida and everyone wears 90's-style high-waisted pants, your dream has come true.

We get some funny dubbing, some great, breezy music on the soundtrack (by director Grassia with Aldo Tamborelli), and classic characters like Spuds and Hoagy. Hoagy, of course, not to be confused with Hogie from Detention (2003) and the classic, anguished cry of "HOOOAaaaaggyyyyyy!!!!" The TV show Miami Vice went off the air in 1990, and Miami Beach Cops came out in 1992, so the world was prepared for the Miami-set action of First Action Hero in 1994. It was pretty common for Italian filmmakers to come to the U.S. and shoot their films there, however.

There are some baddies that show up at funerals and hospitals and shoot people with machine guns. That's considerate of them, at least their respective victims are in the right place. Sometimes these masked shooters even wear "X" baseball caps, further reinforcing the 90's vibe. But overall it was great to see a then-53-year-old Testi blowing away the bad guys like nobody's business, mouthing off to his superiors, speeding around Miami, and even letting sticks of dynamite show his enemies his own brand of justice. Even into the 90's, he was an awesome dude with an attitude.

Speaking of which, it all comes to a bang-up climax which is very, very enjoyable to watch. Sure, there are some slow moments throughout the 100-minute-plus running time as Testi puts on his detective hat and tries getting answers from people the old-fashioned way - not to mention the drama entailed by his relationship with his daughter, his partner, and his girlfriend - but all that's to be expected and we really had no problem with it. Especially when that jaunty song comes on, followed quickly by a scene of mindless shooting.

If you've seen every Poliziotteschi movie out there and are still craving for more, First Action Hero, while certainly not perfect, probably shouldn't be last on your list.

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