With my wife and kids away for a week, I had to capitalise on the situation so called in the guys (regular writers Justin Richards and Andrew Skeates) for another Weekend of Trash. For the uninitiated, previous write-ups can be found in the category archive.
We crammed in plenty of films this time around and had a high hit-ratio, so it was one of the best of the bunch. As usual, I’ve cobbled together reviews of everything we watched over the weekend of gratuitous nudity, violence and downright nonsense. I’ve included clips and trailers when possible too.
Tough and Deadly
Director: Steve Cohen
Screenplay: Steve Cohen, Otto C. Pozzo
Starring: Billy Blanks, Roddy Piper, Richard Norton
I actually watched this one on my own whilst waiting for the others to arrive, but it fit the bill so I figured I’d include it in my write-up.
Tough and Deadly begins with CIA agent John Portland (Billy Blanks) getting badly injured in a sting operation. He ends up in a hospital in Elmo Freech’s (Roddy Piper) neighbourhood. Elmo is a private detective who thinks John might be a potential lead for a job. When John comes to he’s got amnesia though, so Piper helps him remember who he is whilst the bad guys keep showing up to take them out.
This hits all the action movie stereotypes – barroom brawls (2!), diving from explosions, drug warehouse finale, amnesia subplot, bad guys getting kicked off high buildings, homo-erotic undertones etc. but it’s all the better for it. With charismatic leads, absolutely tonnes of hard-hitting action, plenty of amusing one-liners and just enough plot to keep you watching, it’s a whole heap of fun. The copy I watched was atrociously edited for violence though, which was annoying.
Director: Jack Sholder
Screenplay: Jim Kouf (as Bob Hunt)
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri, Claudia Christian, Clarence Felder,
A spate of violent crimes and murders are committed by seemingly average, law-abiding citizens. Detective Tom Beck (Michael Nouri) investigates and is forced to work alongside the unusual FBI agent Lloyd Gallagher (Kyle MacLachlan). The audience soon discovers the culprit is, in fact, an alien that takes over the bodies of its victims and does what it likes, causing death and destruction along the way.
With effectively gross monster effects, used sparingly, this is an enjoyable ‘hidden enemy’ film. The concept has been done better in The Thing of course, but this is still a decent, less grim take on it. It’s well-produced all round, looking slick and moving along at a decent clip. Kyle MacLachlan makes a great alien (spoiler alert, though you’ve got to be an idiot to not pick up on this pretty quickly), as his character follows the classic 80s movie trope, the ‘fish out of water’. With a fair dose of humour, heart and often quite brutal violence, it’s a fun time at the movies.
Director: David Heavener
Screenplay: David Heavener
Based on a Story by: Thomas Baldwin
Starring: David Heavener, Stuart Whitman, Darwyn Swalve
Cody (played by director and writer David Heavener) is a preacher whose family is slaughtered and sister raped by a gang of lowlifes roaming the post-apocalyptic wastelands, who leave him for dead. He’s nursed back to health by Duke (Stuart Whitman), who teaches him how to use a gun. When Duke is killed by the gang and they wreak havoc on a small town, Cody decides he’s had enough and swaps his clerical collar for a six-shooter to bring his own brand of justice to the bad guys.
This was absolutely terrible through and through, yet strangely watchable. It’s a low budget post-apocalyptic vanity project for its writer/director/actor. I say post-apocalyptic but I think the setup was just an excuse to make a Western without having to buy period costumes. You can tell it’s a vanity project because any sane casting agent wouldn’t put the lifeless Heavener up front and centre in a film. He seems to think he can copy Clint Eastwood just by looking grumpy and not saying much. He also gives himself an unnecessary sex scene.
It’s all hilariously bad, with the music a low-rate 80s ripoff of spaghetti western themes with an annoyingly ‘jolly’ twist. The film boasts the worst (yet funniest) gunfight ever too, which sees no one shooting anywhere near each other or trying to get out the way. So, as bad as the film was, we did enjoy ourselves watching it.
Coyote Run (a.k.a. Sworn Enemies)
Director: Shimon Dotan
Screenplay: Rod Hewitt
Starring: Michael Paré, Macha Grenon, Peter Greene
This Canadian action thriller sees Michael Paré play Pershing, an alcoholic veteran, haunted by the past. He finds a chance for redemption when a mob massacre takes place in his home town. However, when he discovers an old friend who left him for dead back in his army days is behind the hit, it gets personal.
This was a big disappointment because it started so well. The opening massacre is stylishly and cleverly executed, aided by some cool songs on the soundtrack (Tom Waits – twice!). The neo-noir cinematography is great too, featuring a long almost 360-degree dolly shot at one point. However, it all gets a bit pretentious with too much pseudo-deep dialogue and a slow pace as it goes on. Peter Greene is a great bad guy, but his character goes through a big change I wasn’t convinced by and the film is derailed when this happens. It’s all a bit messy in general, with lots of random side characters built up for little reason, other than ‘colour’. It does make the film enjoyably quirky at times but also drags out the running time.
So, after a strong start, it becomes a bit of a slog and goes off-the-rails in the finale, becoming an over-baked drama rather than the action-packed thriller we hoped for. It certainly has its moments though and is slickly produced, so was worth a look.
Director: Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman)
Screenplay: Fabrizio De Angelis (as Larry Ludman), Dardano Sacchetti (as David Parker Jr.)
Starring: Kim Rossi Stuart, Ken Watanabe, Jannelle Barretto, Enrico Torralba
Country: Italy, Philippines
This Italian-produced but Philippines-set Karate Kid rip-off sees young Anthony (Kim Rossi Stuart) travel to the Philippines to see his father who works in Manilla as a journalist. Whilst there, Anthony sees how a local martial arts champion, Quino (Enrico Torralba), is terrorising the locals. When he tries to stand up to the bully, Anthony is badly beaten up and left for dead in the woods. He’s found and nursed back to health by Master Kimura (Ken Watanabe), who teaches Anthony karate so he can teach Quino a lesson.
This was watchable but pretty disappointing. It boasts a pretty cool score by Simon Boswell and makes great use of locations. I particularly loved the wise master’s place in the woods by a waterfall. The streets are always bustling with life too. Crucially though, there’s not a lot of martial arts action. The ridiculous magical ‘dragon blow’ move is fun, but the fighting is few and far between. The hero is rather po-faced too so isn’t very charismatic.
It’s engaging enough and cheesily entertaining on the whole but very generic and not particularly exciting.
Director: Krishna Rao
Screenplay: Krishna Rao, Raman Rao
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Josh Charles, Stuart Wilson, Andrea Roth
This sci-fi adventure sees Josh Charles play Joe, a typical 18-year-old who’s not having much luck with the ladies. At a party, he comes across a beautiful young woman, Laura, (Andrea Roth) though and gets embroiled in an inter-dimensional conflict. You see, it turns out Joe’s dead father was from another dimension and entrusted his son with a special crystal that controls a magic staff that can bring whoever wields it a great power. An evil bad guy (played by Stuart Wilson) wants it of course, but Joe, Laura and her friend A.T. (Rutger Hauer) do all they can to stop him.
This is the sort of fun, high-concept fantasy movie you don’t get anymore but was staple fodder back in the 80s and 90s. The MacGuffin-centered story isn’t anything special but it’s cool when the characters are jumping around in space in the final act. The early CGI isn’t too bad either (at least on grainy VHS). Rutger Hauer, RIP, is his amazing sardonic self as usual and a young Jack Black plays the hero’s party-animal friend. Christophe (Frozen) Beck provides the score too, so there’s plenty of talent behind it. Overall then, it’s a decent, enjoyable hi-concept fantasy movie, but hardly mind-blowing.
Director: Joseph Zito
Screenplay: James Bruner, Chuck Norris,
Based on a Story by: James Bruner, Aaron Norris
Starring: Chuck Norris, Richard Lynch, Melissa Prophet, Alexander Zale
Mikhail Rostov (Richard Lynch) is heading a plot to invade North America with an army of terrorists but crosses paths with Matt Hunter (Chuck Norris) along the way. The two have a history together and Rostov can’t resist trying to kill Hunter before he puts his US domination plans into action. He fails, of course, so carries on with the invasion, with his plans for revenge on the back-burner. As chaos reigns around the country, Hunter enters the fold to restore order single-handedly!
I loved this. Like all of Norris’ Cannon Films output, it’s ridiculous, cheesy nonsense but this hits all the sweet spots for an action-junkie like myself. It’s really violent for starters, featuring some ultra-nasty bad guys. There’s even a crazy, pretty harsh scene where a group of terrorists blow up a bunch of suburban homes one by one using a rocket launcher! It’s pretty epic for a cheesy Chuck Norris movie too, with some impressive carnage, particularly in the spectacular finale. With a big budget and impressive production values, it’s one of Cannon’s finest hours. Norris is his usual bland macho persona, but it works and he gets to kick a lot of terrorist ass, which is what you watch his films for. All-in-all it’s perfect Weekend of Trash entertainment.
Mom and Dad
Director: Brian Taylor
Screenplay: Brian Taylor
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Selma Blair, Anne Winters, Zackary Arthur, Robert T. Cunningham
Country: USA, UK
Mom and Dad shows us what might happen if the common cry of “sometimes I could kill you” parents often blurt out in frustration at their kids were to actually be true. A strange phenomenon (possibly linked to TV signals) is causing parents all across America to turn on their kids and murder them in a wild rage. Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair play two of these parents and we follow their children Anne Winters and Zackary Arthur as they try to survive.
I really enjoyed this. It’s a fast and furious satire on the complex parent-child relationship. There are some impressively f*cked up scenes, such as when Blair’s sister has a baby and immediately tries to suffocate it. Cage is at his bonkers best too, in a role well-suited to his OTT performance style. Blair is also very good, delivering a more nuanced character, without losing a sense of menace. The script doesn’t bother trying to explain why it all happens and doesn’t tie it up in a neat bow afterwards, which I very much appreciated. Instead, after a well-controlled build-up filled with hints of what’s to come, it throws you in to enjoy the carnage. Short, sharp, intense, funny and brutal, it’s a wild ride.
Director: Raffaele Donato (as Raf Donato), Joe D’Amato (uncredited)
Screenplay: George Nelson Ott
Starring: Frank Baroni, Cort McCown, Keith Kelsch
A group of four teenage friends meet up in their seaside hometown during the summer after having largely spent the year apart. However, their lives are torn apart when one of the boys is killed by a great white shark, who also chomps up another couple of locals. As the authorities struggle to stop the creature, the boys decide to take it on themselves and get revenge for their friend’s death.
This is clearly a Jaws ripoff, but it’s a long way from matching Spielberg’s classic. Attempting to do so was always going to be an uphill struggle, but this fails at every attempt. For starters, the shark attacks are largely just a combination of stock footage, a couple of underwater POV shots and victims splashing around in red water. There’s also an awful lot of filler and far too much time devoted to family drama and teenage angst. It’s slow-moving and dull, for a killer shark movie. The music is totally inappropriate half of the time too, and horribly insipid – a far cry from John Williams’ classic score. Even the finale is lame, so it’s a damp squib all the way.
Trailer (in German):
The Big Trees
Director: Felix E. Feist
Screenplay: John Twist, James R. Webb
Based on a Story by: Kenneth Earl
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Eve Miller, Patrice Wymore, Edgar Buchanan, John Archer
This classic western sees Kirk Douglas play Jim Fallon, a timber baron who’s plotting to use a legal loophole to get his hands on acres of land in California containing valuable redwood trees. His conniving ways seem to be getting him what he wants, until he comes upon a Quaker colony, among which is the strong Alicia Chadwick (Eve Miller), who won’t let him take their land and the mighty trees living there.
Kirk Douglas is superb as the slimy, devious and money-grabbing Fallon. He’s perfectly cast, with the charm and charisma to believably talk others into doing his evil deeds. There’s some great dialogue too, with plenty of sly, sardonic comments. The film has a strong message damning greed and calling for the preservation of our natural habitat. This message, particularly the former, is rather blunt perhaps, but films of the era aren’t known for their subtleties. It has quite a complex story for an old oater though, with some legal aspects that can be a little confusing. You could say it’s a little overly-complicated perhaps, causing it to feel a little long and over-stuffed, but it makes for a more substantial watch than many classic westerns. It’s interesting that we spend most of the time with the ‘villain’ too.
There are some beautiful locations among the giant redwoods and it’s shot in bold, if a little unnatural colour (though the ropey DVD I have didn’t do it justice). The film takes quite a turn in the final act, with a lot of action coming into the otherwise dialogue-heavy drama. The action is pretty good too, with a cool train rescue and an epic explosion near the end. The film’s a bit talky perhaps and wears its morals very much on its sleeves, but it’s refreshingly sharp and very enjoyable.
The opening scene:
Back in Action
Director: Steve DiMarco, Paul Ziller
Screenplay: Karl Schiffman
Starring: Billy Blanks, Roddy Piper, Bobbie Phillips, Kai Soremekun, Nigel Bennett
After thoroughly enjoying Tough and Deadly, we figured we’d also squeeze in the other pairing of action stars Billy Blanks and Roddy Piper, Back in Action. Piper plays cop Frank Rossi, whose partner is brutally killed in a botched undercover drugs bust. Also at the bust is Billy (Blanks), who is there to take his sister Tara (Kai Soremekun) away from the life of crime she’s getting into through her boyfriend. Drug lord Kasajian (Nigel Bennett) thinks Tara was the one that told the cops about the deal though, so sends his goons to kill her. Billy, of course, won’t let this happen and crosses paths with the vengeful Frank, who’s determined to take Kasajian down.
I might as well copy and paste my review from Tough and Deadly as my feelings are very much the same – there are action movie cliches through and through but it’s loaded with action and enough charm and energy to make it an easy recommendation to fans of the genre. There’s some particularly brutal violence here, such as when Frank’s partner gets sliced up. Piper shows he was actually a pretty good actor with this type of material, as he does well with the one-liners and has a couple of ‘real acting’ moments. Billy Blanks isn’t quite as natural but makes up for it with his impressive martial arts skills and intense persona.
Another action winner then, like Tough and Deadly. Someone desperately needs to remaster the pair and release them in a Blu-ray boxset with loads of features!
Director: Michael Kennedy
Screenplay: Michael Kennedy
Starring: Lorenzo Lamas, Claire Stansfield, Michael Champion, Raoul Max Trujillo
Lorenzo Lamas plays Andrew, a cop and expert fencer with a psychic ability to see what killed people by touching their blood. He also suffers from recurring dreams which see him fighting a vicious and fatal battle, seemingly in the distant past. When a precious sword, once owned by Alexander the Great, is stolen and dead bodies appear around town with sword-wounds, Andrew investigates and discovers the case might be linked to his visions. His investigation brings him to the attention of Stratos (Michael Champion), who invites him to take part in his underground sword-fighting tournament, which generally involves fighting to the death!
I’ve always been partial to a bit of swordplay (no innuendos at the back, please), so it’s nice to have a modern-day action movie based around it. The film comes across like a swashbuckler meets neo-noir with a splash of fantasy for good measure. It’s definitely channelling/ripping-off Highlander but just about holds its own.
It’s nicely atmospheric, with an unusual, quiet and creepy villain and some cool moody 90s cinematography. It takes things a little too seriously though, so can be a little dreary, but it’s engaging and well put together.