Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Kickboxer (1989)

Here's a typical film scenario courtesy of "the muscles from Brussels": Man (JCVD) travels to foreign land (in this case, accompanying his kickboxing legend moustachioued douchebag brother) for martial arts tournament. Brother destroyed by local legend. Man swears vengeance, appears in way over his head. Man gets ass handed to him for most of the final fight. Man comes back from near death to win bout with a bunch of slow-mo, repeated blows while seemingly unbeatable foe suddenly forgets how to block punches or...um...fight altogether. Man doesn't get laid during film's runtime. Ok, I think I probably missed/added some things but you get the gist. This picture, Kickboxer, is run of the mill. It's also the gayest thing Van Damme's ever done.

The movie centers around a couple of brothers that are clearly pining for each other's balls. Eric Sloane (Dennis Alexio) is some kind of kickboxing champion. The picture opens with him kicking ass across, what can only be, minor circuits. The first thing that tipped me off to his gayness was the Gold's Gym muscle shirt. The second thing was the moustache. Still, he's a pretty solid fighter and this becomes more clear when we realize the guy manning his corner is Jean Claude Van Damme (playing Kurt Sloane). These guys have had it with their current, lack of, competition and so they pack their bags for Bangkok, Thailand to challenge the current Thai champion known as Tong Po. Before the fight we get a nice little montage of the two brothers touring the city, arm in arm, as a sweet little 80's ballad serenades us. Eric eventually retreats to the hotel with a couple of hookers as his brother sorta just shrugs off his closeted ways. Later, the fight takes place and Eric is paralyzed barely a round into the thing ("these guys use their elbows!"). Stubborn son of a bitch should have listened to his brother who ran into Tong Po earlier knocking down cement beams with his shins. Oh well, live and learn I guess.

Of course without the back breaking, we wouldn't really have a movie or, at least, not a very good one (we still don't). Kurt vows to avenge his brothers crippling (at least now when Eric can't get it up for chicks he'll have an excuse) and journeys to a more forested region of Thailand to train with "Muay Thai" legend, Xian Chow (Dennis Chan). Along the way, Kurt meets a girl, deals with some Thai mobsters, and of course has a training montage (a nifty way to keep movies from exceeding months in length). Suddenly he's better than his brother ever was (as if that's hard to believe). He's more than ready to face Tong Po. If only Kiki, Chow's dog, was as confident as Kurt was ("someday, Kiki will believe in me.").

This is one of those movies that starts off shitty but by the time Kurt and Tong Po are facing off with fists wrapped in cloth, dipped in resin and covered with glass, you are completely won over and then the movie keeps going and just becomes pretty shitty all over again. Nothing about this picture is believable. First of all, no way was Eric ever a better fighter than Kurt. No way would that girl show any interest in Kurt. And, for fuck's sake, are we really supposed to believe that Eric and Kurt are american brothers. In Kurt's defense he does claim they are originally from Belgium. Eric just took the better ESL program I guess.

The final battle is interesting. Thai mobsters capture Eric before the fight and let Kurt know that he has to suffer through every round or his brother will suffer a horrible death. So, it's up to Xian Chow and Winston Taylor (Vietnam vet living in Bangkok that befriends JCVD. I think he's working as a pimp.) to rescue the brother before Tong's punishment becomes too much for Kurt to endure. Tong is relentless. He's also a rapist apparently since he chastises Kurt after one particularly brutal round with the following line: "You bleed like Mylee (Kurt's girl, duh). Mylee....Goooooood fuck." Then he whipped his ponytail around and licked his lips. Tong Po, like the majority of Thai's portrayed in this movie, is pyschotic.

I won't spoil what happens but let's just say that once Kurt sees Eric sitting with the audience, as comfortably as one can be in a wheelchair, that Tong Po doesn't stand a chance. Oh wait, I just spoiled it! This was also the moment when I realized that I hate the way all Jean Claude Van Damme pictures end. So, clearly Tong Po was never a match for the guy. Kurt was near death, guts dripping out of his stomach, glass embedded in his skull, etc. We know he endured this for his brother. Still, wouldn't he be a bit out of sorts from things like blood loss, for instance? Ok, I get it, it's a fucking movie. Also, why doesn't Van Damme have the confidence in his abilities to cut most of his fights in real time? Why do we have to see him do that double punch, or that Jump kick, three times and in slow motion? It completely takes you out of the picture. I fucking can't stand the way his fights are cut. Suddenly, I realized what I was watching wasn't a fight, but masturbation.

Oh well, he can't win them all I guess. Bloodsport suffers from the same technical issues. It's still a much better film. Cyborg isn't bad even though it's directed by Albert Pyum. Jean Claude, I think, just lacked the scripts and charisma, albeit limited charisma, that make Steven Seagal pictures such a pleasure. Anyway, Kickboxer works on a simple level. It's not transcendent, or even good. It's pretty bad. Mostly, it just is.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Movie Wars Volume II: Invasion U.S.A. vs Revenge of the Ninja

A while ago I started this series called "Movie Wars" where I take a look at two pictures, have them duke it out, and see which one is left standing. Well, in this case, I figured it would be great to apply this to the current month (or two) where I review 80s action cinema. Also, I watched both of these pictures over a week ago and didn't really feel like doing a full review for either one.

Nostalgia is a fucking bitch. I loved both of these films when I was a kid and had not revisited them since. 9 times out of 10 when I rewatch a childhood treasure I'm disappointed. Anyway, let's take a look at the carnage, shall we?

Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

As a kid I pretty much only wanted to grow up to be one thing: A fucking ninja. I bought the magazines, I made a wooden sword in my friend's Dad's workshop, I honed my "skills" in the backyard. I was stealthy, quick, daring. I'd climb trees and sit on the top for hours, biding my time. I'd practice hiding in plain sight. Most of all though, I devoured any and all ninja films I could get my hands on. American Ninja I-II, Ninja Wars, um...not much else. Those movies were fine I suppose. American Ninja pissed me off because it was about an...um...american ninja. Michael Dudikoff was just some douchey white guy. The only real ninja, as far as I was concerned, was Sho Kosugi. This guy was good enough to be on a poster occupying prime real estate on my bedroom wall. And, he was Japanese.

To be honest, my days of being a ninja, or caring about them, are long gone. I am pretty sure I would look ridiculous if I were to put on one of those all black suits. Since I'm a white guy tradition might dictate I wear a white suit. I'd look pretty silly skulking around the city ambushing petty criminals and their bosses. I've never taken a martial arts course in my life so my ass would probably be handed to me unless I had one of those smoke bombs handy to make a speedy getaway. What kind of ninja would I be if I attacked and ran all the time. Not a very good one is the likely answer. Certainly no Sho Kosugi is the even more obvious answer.

Revenge of the Ninja is the middle film of a ninja trilogy (all three starring Kosugi). Enter the Ninja led things off and Ninja III: The Domination concluded things. It's really just a thematic trilogy though since Sho's character was decaptiated (spoiler alert!) at the end of the first one by some douchey white guy no less (Franco Nero!). My memory of Ninja III, however, is a bit more cloudy. There was a white female possessed by some evil ninja I think and then also a massacre at a police officer's funeral or some shit like that and I don't even remember how Sho Kosugi fit into the cast. If it was half as good as Revenge of the Ninja then I will say it was pretty good.

This one is fun even if it is far less than great, which puts it several notches below how I remembered it. Here's a warning to all you "kids": Do not revisit childhood masterpieces. No good can ever come from it. Anyway, the story is simple. Kosugi is living a peaceful life in Japan with his family, etc. For some reason, while he is away of course, some evil ninjas attack his little idyllic countryside home and slaughter most of his family. Kosugi arrives too late and kills off the evil assassins. He's peturbed to learn that his wife and son are dead though. Thankfully, he's got another son who survived. Also, his grandma made it through ok, but that is little consolation. Sho quickly retires from ninja-ing and moves to California (with his surviving son and grandma) to sell Dolls on the advice of his white friend with the sinister evil ninja-like name, Braden (Arthur Roberts).

Braden, as it turns out, isn't really Sho's friend and proves it by smuggling heroin into the country using Sho's dolls. Also, Braden puts on black ninja garb and conceals his eyes using a silver mask and kills the grandma after the plot is revealed. This is another clue that Braden isn't really Sho's friend. Braden also tries to kill Sho's son (ably played by Kane Kosugi) but that little guys exhibits some ninja-like qualities himself and is able to escape. The movie is one fight scene after another bridged together with scenes or minimal character development. Friends are made, friends are betrayed, friends are killed. Even the mafia gets involved. Let's face it, no one is watching this thing for the characterizations. It's all about the fights and these are terrific. Sho Kosugi deserved some of the fame bestowed upon Jackie Chan because this guy is amazing.

The scene that sold him as a legitimate martial artist was the one where some mob guys break into his gallery to steal some dolls (heroin). Kosugi refuses to give up even after having been beaten to a pulp. He's dragged by their van Indiana Jones style at one point. The stunt work was terrific. His final battle with Braden (both in ninja garb) takes place on the top of a skyscraper and is fantastic. It culminates with that old Japanese standard, arterial spray. I think this picture could have used some more of that.

I actually think, as great as Sho Kosugi is, this picture is worth watching for the performance of his son, Kane. This kid takes on an army of bullies and holds his own. He evades capture and certain death by Braden and, at one point, kicks the shit out of a sumo wrestler. He's like 3 feet tall and 40 pounds. Oh, and the movie also features the requisite boobies and was directed by Sam Firstenberg who would never be better than he is here (American Ninja and American Samurai). The only thing this picture was lacking was Steve James.


Invasion U.S.A. (1985)

I used to think this was the definitive Chuck Norris picture. Fuck man, was I wrong. This is a piece of god awful shit. I guess the definitive Norris picture has to be Braddock: Missing in Action II. The movie starts out well enough. Terrorists, from every middle eastern nation (and maybe Cuba), invade the country from the sea and start committing random acts of violence. They shoot up suburbia on Christmas eve, take out a hot dog stand, shoot up a mall, attempt to blow up a school bus full of kids. Basically, anything that is quintessentially American, these fuckers want to destroy.

Ok, I'm not really sure if they were middle eastern or not. I'm an american so, to me, all foreigners with tan looking skin look alike. I am pretty sure that their leader was some soviet douchebag played by Richard Lynch. And, Chuck Norris is in it playing ex-CIA or ex-Special Forces. He's retired and living in the everglades wrassling gator's and stuff but comes out of retirement when these guys kill his best friend. Like all 80's action heros Norris "works alone" and has a silly name like Mike Hunter or Matt Hamster. Norris slips on his blue jeans (it's about a 3 hour process), puts on his denim shirt and straps on a couple of uzis. Then he spends the rest of the picture miraculously appearing whenever the terrorists are about to shit on another american treasure like church and says things like "didn't work, huh? now it will" as he drops the bomb into the hands of some dumbfounded terrorists that were about to blow up that church and were wondering why the detonator didn't work. It didn't work because Norris cut the wires and then reattached them as the punchline to his joke.

I don't know, I used to love Chuck Norris but he lost a little bit in my eyes when he started stumping for that guy Mike Huckabee. I thought Norris was unbeatable but his guy didn't even make it past the primaries so the lustre is starting to wear off. Also, I can only take so much of people that wear american flags on their shirts, a symbol I used to admire but has since come to represent things like anti-choice and also things like evolution is for fags. I still think the guy is a pretty good fighter and a champion and stuff like that but I also wish he had a few more brain cells. I guess Bruce Lee knocked them all out. At least his tears can cure cancer. It's just too bad he never cries. Maybe that's why he is anti-stem cell. He is just waiting for the day when someone makes him cry and then he can say "look guys I can cure cancer. We can continue letting those aborted fetuses go to waste. Here are some tears I cried while watching Beaches last night. I bottled them for y'all. Also, here is some sperm free of charge. Please....take it."

Invasion U.S.A. is a relic. We'll never see another one like it. It's weird since the politics in this thing are all skewed. Here we have a typical right wing tale of one man who must stand against an invading force to protect religion and hot dogs and yet the only reason that invading force was able to make it into the country is because the current administration (also right leaning) didn't really have an eye on our own borders. What the hell am I to believe? I think vigilantism is probably the way to go. In Norris' defense, it's hard to argue that two rights can make a wrong so what the hell do I know. Politics aside, this picture blows.

Final Thoughts

Ninja star to the eye, Norris and his piece of shit movie fall to the mat. His sperm is still usable, so there is that.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Extreme Prejudice (1987)

This picture has a solid pedigree; Walter Hill directing (48 hours and The Warriors), John Milius co-scripting (Apocalypse Now and Red Dawn), Nick Nolte, Powers Boothe, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, William Forsythe, Rip Torn, Maria Conchita Alonso's tits, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, etc. It's like a who's who and a what's what of people and things guys like. Call it "The A-Team" by way of Sam Peckinpah, which isn't that much of a stretch considering Hill, at one time, learned under Peckinpah.

Fuck, one thing you don't really remember, or understand, as a kid is just how right wing all these pictures were. The stories usually involve one man, armed to the teeth, standing up against an army of drug runners, viet cong, invading cubans or some shit. Forget about calling for back up. I think 99% of these pictures were produced by CAROLCO, remember them? The women are usually completely perfunctory except to provide some kind of motivation for the hero to act usually in the form of revenge. Also, sometimes they get to show their boobies and often are employed as a stripper, a singer, or maybe a whore. These were pictures made for men by men about men with men and if you think that's gay, you've got another thing coming. Well, some of them were gay (Top Gun, not that I'm going to continue to beat that dead horse).

Extreme Prejudice is decidedly not gay. Nick Nolte stars as Jack Benteen, 3rd generation Texas Ranger, grizzled, emotionless, a guy who probably would have chastised Sheriff Ed Tom Bell for being a sissy. He's the kind of guy that thinks it's bad practice to give up his gun and is "particular about who he drinks with". He spends his days patrolling a dusty old border town trying to keep the drugs from coming in from Mexico. He spends his nights sleeping next to the beautiful and feisty Sarita (Maria Conchita Alonso). Sarita wants more from life than a roof over her head apparently. She wants adventure, money, maybe even fame. Which is why she goes back with her old flame, Cash Bailey (the terrific Powers Boothe), Jack's former best friend and current drug lord. Boothe is best when playing a villain, and this one he plays very well and is supported by his distinctive voice ("I got a feelin the next time we run into each other, we're gonna have a killin'" and "show us your tits if you want to be useful"). We know what kind of guy he is in his first scene when he let's a scorpion crawl into his palm so he can crush it.

Into this squabble between old friends come a group of six ex-soldiers, classified as dead, now working covert operations for the United States government. Consisting of the likes of Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption) and William Forsythe (Raising Arizona) and led by Major Paul Hacket (Ironside). Lamar from Revenge of the Nerds is in the group as well and he's not that gay here. Apparently, these guys were inspired by "The A-team" except they actually kill people for real and, if shot, they actually bleed. There is also a B.A. Baracus type character and a Murdoch (Forsythe) type character but thankfully we are not subjected to a scene where the B.A. character receives a blood transfusion from the Murdoch character and also they don't have to knock B.A. out before getting on a plane. If they did, it's offscreen becuase their first scene is in an airport after they land. Also, the Murdoch character in Extreme Prejudice is cooler than the TV version because he told a young woman "as long as I got a face, you got a place to sit." I've been waiting for the right opportunity to finally use that line in public. Hasn't happened yet, but I will keep you posted.

So, anyway, these A-team guys are actually trying to fuck with Cash Bailey's empire and by "fuck with" I mean destroy. Jack is a little more diplomatic, since they were best friends and all, and tells Cash to just "cut and run" but Cash is drunk with power by this point and a little crazy so bad things are going to happen. The movie is rife with double crosses and operatic gun violence. Sarita starts off the double crossing by leaving Jack to go with Cash in a heart rending moment that pretty much proves she is a money grubbing whore. Hell, I nearly forgot about Rip Torn, who shows up in the beginning as a wise old yoda like Texas lawman. He doles out some good advice to Jack such as "the only thing worse than a politician is a child molester" which is funny since he occupies the elected position of Sheriff. Then he's gun downed by the fat brother of the fat drug runner Jack gunned down in his first scene.

The first great set piece of the picture involves Ironside and his boys robbing a bank that is basically controlled by Cash, the monetary unit and the drug lord. These guys are pretty good. Murdoch and B.A. staged a fight to get themselves thrown in jail for a night so they could study the interior of the police station (number of cops, amount of artillery, switchboard type, etc). The following day, the guy that reminded me of Face, drives a Hydrogen truck into a factory to create a diverson. Meanwile, B.A. and Clancy Brown are disguised as armored truck drivers and Ironside is Hannibal. They all wear panty hose on their heads. These guys are not like the A-team in one respect. They kill without remore, with "extreme prejudice" one might say. Whatever is necessary to win the war on drugs. I wonder why we don't send in some "deceased" special forces to rob the bank of Iraq or Yemen or wherever to win the war on terror? It's just a thought because what we are currently doing doesn't seem to be working very well. I hope Obama reads my reviews.

The picture is very Peckinpah, except for the lack of slow motion. Jack eventually joins forces with Ironside and his guys but Ironside has other things on his mind and orders his men to kill Cash and then to also kill Jack, to "terminate with extreme prejudice". By the way, that line and this picture's title is lifted directly from Milius' own Apocalypse Now. Of course the picture ends with a bloodbath in Mexico, reminiscent of Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, on their independance day no less! Cash is king down there and leads an army of Mexicans, gringos, and professional athletes. Tommy "Tiny" Lister shows up as his #1 bodyguard, an ex-american footballer, a guy that made the Pro Bowl in fact. The fact that he is now taking bullets for a drug lord in Mexico doesn't really speak well about the NFL's pension plan. On first meeting Jack he explains "I banged up my knee" to which Jack replies "I think you banged up your head".

This is a terrific picture my friends and just goes to show that a friendship in Texas can mean many things except usually not forever. The border towns were a brutal place, probably still are. People were desperate and turned to the easy money provided by drugs. It's moderately better than dirt farming and teatotalling. Fuck that shit. These people need their tequila and they need it straight. As Cash says, "there ain't no right and wrong, there's only choices." Unfortunately, the cycle of violence is endless. After Cash, some other guy, most likely a Mexican this time, will don the white suit and the only thing he'll find across the border is a stubborn son of a bitch named Jack who refuses to look the other way. Unless the border town he crosses into is corrupted. In that case, all bets are off. I have no idea if Jack took Sarita back, but i do know she's got a nice rack. This is a very good one and incredibly underrated. For the love of Christ, though, please put out a good DVD. It's inexcusable that a picture featuring beautiful wide open Texan and Mexican vistas should only be available fullscreen and with a god awful transfer. Bullshit, man.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987)

Ok, like I said, I'm going to focus on a particular genre for the time being. I was going to concentrate on action pictures from the 1980s for the month of November but now I think I'll extend that to however the fuck long I want. If Netflix didn't screw me over by leaving me without any new DVDs for the past week I may have stuck with my original plan. There are plenty of pictures I want to touch on, plenty of names I want to cover; Milius, Hill, Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Kosugi, Van Damme, Swayze, Peckinpah (yes, his last film came out in 1983), Norris, Nolte, etc. Will I get to them all? Doubtful.

Anyway, I'm not sure why I went with Wanted: Dead or Alive. I didn't particularly remember that much from my initial viewing (1987). All, I remembered was the bad ass ending. It stars Rutger Hauer but I didn't really start to appreciate him until much later. I've always disliked Kiss, so the presence of Gene Simmons as a middle eastern terrorist does nothing for me. The director, Gary Sherman, wasn't actually known for action films. Hell, he's got a pretty solid background in horror though (Dead and Buried and Raw Meat). The movie also features fine supporting work from Robert Guillome ("Benson"!) and Jerry Hardin (deep throat from "The X-files"). Actually, the most action-y thing this picture has going for it, pre-viewing, is that it's based on an old Steve Mcqueen series of the same name from the late 50s. I guess Hauer is supposed to be Mcqueen's great great nephew or some shit like that.

To be honest with you, I wanted to like this a whole hell of a lot more than I actually did. It's got a solid opening, an ass dragging middle, and a slam bam thank you mam finale. Hauer is great but that's not surprising. I've never really seen the guy give a bad performance. He plays a bounty hunter named Nick Randall. He works closely with police officer seargent Danny Quintz (William Russ of "Boy Meets World" fame) in tracking down scum, getting them off the street, and then collecting a reward. One guy, he beats the shit out of and stuffs in his trunk and then drops him off at the station so Quintz can book him. The scum bag asks if he's ever heard of "miranda", but Randall just looks at him and dead pans, "got news for ya, I'm not a cop". So, this is a guy that was being like Dog while Dog was still a pup or getting his high school girlfriend pregnant but this guy is cooler than Dog and he wears his mullet better. Also, Randall is ex CIA so he's seen some pretty bad shit in his days. And, he has a headquarters that sort of resembles a bat cave for the real world and his car has GPS which is pretty bad ass for the 80s. Also, he's got a sweet girlfriend who lives with him on a boat (as action heroes tend to do) while she is studying for her law degree or her CPA or something like that. Still despite all of this something was missing.

The first thing missing is an actor capable of playing a middle eastern villain. It's clear they hired Gene Simmons for his name since this guy cannot really act. He was also in that picture with Magnum P.I. called Runaway, the one with the robotic spiders, and he was pretty terrible in that thing. I think they told him to tone down his act for the clearly more introverted Malak Al Rahim, so they told him to barely speak (also, since he can't do a competent accent) and, hell, they even told him to stay out of most of the picture all together. His first scene is a good one though, I'll give him that, when he plants a bomb in a movie theatre that happens to be playing Rambo. I'm guessing First Blood Part II, but they didn't specify. One of his bomb technicians is excited about a new detonator he developed, one that will work from a distance of up to 2 miles, but Rahim is not really impressed; "What's the point of that if I can't watch?" Anyway, walking out of the theatre, he stops to caress the face of an innocent child. He is a terrorist with a heart of gold. 144 dead.

So, of course Nick and Malak have a history. When Nick was in the CIA he was commisioned to take out seven terrorists. He took out six. Guess who the seventh guy was? Malak isn't just in
L.A. to visit disneyworld and blow up children. He wants to kill Nick as well (maybe make him suffer a bit). Anyway, the middle part of the movie sorta forgets about Malak as we are treated to some character "development". Unfortunately, the movie sorta grinds to a hault with these scenes. There's also a somewhat tedious side plot about corruption within the police ranks led by the shadowy Jerry Hardin. Guillome is Hardin's underling and just about the only friend Nick's got. Well, Quintz was a pretty good friend too, but then he was blown up on Nick's boat (unfortunately, so was Nick's girlfriend) to give our hero a little bit of extra motivation to not hold back. Once that boat blows up, the movie kicks into a higher gear and becomes something pretty cool.

Here are some thoughts on the portrayal of middle eastern terrorists in this picture. It's kinda insulting. Maybe these guys became terrorists in real life because of these harmful stereotypes in hollywood action films. I mean, isn't it possible we made them this way or maybe this is just one of many reasons they hate us? Not trying to lay any blame for 9/11 here, but maybe if Nick Randall didn't use the term "rag head" so much we would all be friends by now. Still, these particular "rag heads" are evil, even if most of them are probably not of middle eastern descent; they blow themselves up, they blow up babies, they blow up women, etc. One moment, in particular, was a bit shocking when two terrorists were driving a getaway car and I guess the driver, who happened to be a woman, did something wrong so the passenger shot her in the head and then licked the brain splattered window in an apparently sexually aroused state. Well, that is pretty evil and just plain sadistic but that is all besides the point. What I want to know is what the fuck were these guys doing hiring a woman?

Hauer has some pretty good scenes in this one with my favorite being the one where he interrogates a terrorist that he stuffed in a locker with a shotgun. This guy is pissed off. That poor terrorist was blasted with the shotgun on most of his extremities and then, later, when Hardin and his cronies show up still has to undergo extreme interrogation tactics 80s (and 2000s) style. Some things never change. The ending is pretty famous. I think you might remember it. Nick has caught Gene Simmons and brings him out to the waiting cops with a grenade shoved in his mouth. He makes an arrangement with Hardin to have his fee ($250,000) sent to the widow of the friend that was blown up on his boat. He's also promised a bonus ($50,000) for bringing in Simmons alive. Fuck man, I really want to spoil what happens here but I guess I will refrain. It's an 80s action film so I don't really think I spoiled anything by revealing the good guy catches the bad guy did I? This is a solid picture with some classic moments, a few good lines of dialogue and a suprisingly melancholic coda which features Hauer harmonicanizing "You are my sunshine". Sniff sniff.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The New Kids (1985)

Initially, the plan was to watch this one and review it for October but now I'm kinda glad I didn't. While there are some horrorish elements, this thing actually fits in more with my planned theme for November (80s action) so we'll go with that. Actually, this is more of a thriller with some fun action moments. Netflix classifies it as horror; It's got Tom Atkins in it (for barely five minutes), it's directed by Sean S. Cunningham (director of Friday the 13th and producer of Last House on the Left), there's copious amounts of cruelty to animals, there's a scene where a girl is stalked while she's in a shower. So, yeah there are several elements of a horror film present here. What I completely didn't expect was how the whole thing follows the traditional formula of an action film. Hero rises to the top. Hero takes a fall (in the form of a vicious mens room beat down). Hero takes out bad guys one by one in a final showdown (with a little help from Hero's sister). Here's the kicker. These are high school kids! This is like the Brick of action films.

Our story begins in small town U.S.A. as the relationship between 'Mac' Macwilliams (the Tom Atkins), an officer in the armed forces, and his two teenaged kids, Abby (Lori Loughlin of the "Full House") and Loren (Shannon Presby) is established. Loren is actually a guy if you can believe it. Don't be fooled by the names. Also, this is, for some strange reason, his last picture. I'm not sure why because he's pretty great in this thing. He's the Steven Seagal of high school. Anyway, Tom Atkins is pretty badass himself. He drives his kids to succeed. He rousts them at dawn to go for runs. He single handedly took out five terrorists on a Boeing 747 and, for his efforts, is receiving a reward from the President himself. There's no problem leaving the kids alone for a few days while he and the misses drive out to accept the award. His kids (and a few friends) eat Pizza, drink soda, and beam with pride as they watch on TV. A phone call interrupts their evening. Loren answers and quickly hushes everyone. Something is wrong. "Both of them?" he asks.

Anywho, with the 'rents dead, Abby and Loren go to live with Uncle Charlie in his Florida tourist trap known as Santa's Funland. Charlie is the anti 'Mac'. He's a fun loving guy who is always looking for his next get rich quick scheme. They always fail. His life is completely void of any thing resembling discipline. He's got a wife, but she doesn't seem very happy. Into their lives come these two kids that will melt their hearts. Their arrival also leads to the infamous "petting zoo massacre". Life is never easy and that's most certainly true in that shit hole town in Florida. Loren and Abby quickly ingrain themselves within the high school community. Loren starts dating the sherrif's daughters. Abby fends off the advances of some red neck bullies (led by the Aryan like James Spader in his second role). Finally, she settles on Eric Stoltz. Good choice in my opinion. Spader, suprise surprise, is the villain of the picture. He doesn't take too kindly to rejection so him and his yokelish gang make life a living hell for Abby, Loren, and Uncle Charlie. Unfortunately for Spader (he played a guy named Dutra), he didn't count on Loren fighting back.

I think this picture is the reason Spader was cast in so many villanous roles throughout the 80s. He's pretty great here. This guy put the "c" in "creep". "C" as in cocksucker. He's a real good ol' boy son of a fucking bitch. He gets off some great lines in this with my favorite being "What are you? Made of mouth?" Also, I loved the scene where he pulled up to Santa's Fun Land to gas up his van (yes, Santa's Fun Land is also a gas station) and ask Abby to the school dance. His persistance is incredible especially considering that he comes across as an outright asshole from the start. He storms off with "bitch, you had your shot!" His gang is really not much better. They hang out in the sticks (I'm just kidding, everywhere is "the sticks" in this part of Florida) training their pit bull to dog fight by cutting off the head of a chicken and drenching a pull-rope with its blood. They also sniff lots of coke which is something villains do I am told. My second favorite villain was Gideon played by this guy John Philbin. This guy was Chuck in Return of the Living Dead. I can't really remember who Chuck was so maybe you, my readers, can remind me. One of the punks I'm guessing. It's been a long time since I've seen it so I guess it's time I rewatched it. Anyway, Gideon is great. He and Dutra have a bet about who can bang Abby first. He asked her to a drive-in to see a movie called Saturday Night Girls that he confesses to having already seen seven times and then, aftewards, they can take in a dogfight. He also made cuninlingus motions with his tongue and then spit on her computer. I don't know Abby, they are both winners.

Anyway, things escalate. The bullies key Uncle Charlie's beloved Caddilac which doesn't sit well with Loren. There's a great scene where he breaks into Dutra's house in the middle of the night, gags him, holds a knife on him and forces him to fork over some drug money to pay for the damages to the car. I didn't expect this. The kid obviously learned a lot from Pops. I'd stick Loren in a foxhole with me anyday (and I don't mean that to sound gay). Later, he kicks the crap out of the other red necks and quickly becomes the most popular kid in school. The fight scene is actually pretty well choreographed. Loren can fight and he can act, so already he has a leg up on Seagal. Unfortunately, it's his last picture so clearly his heart wasn't in the biz. I wonder what he's up to now?

The final scene is a fantastic one. The bullies abduct Abby and begin to torture her. They douse her in lighter fluid and I half expected things to devolve into Last funland on the left. She escapes, to the funland, and they follow with shotguns but that's not really enough. Loren's a badass. Still, those red necks get in some good shots before they die including the first ever "petting zoo massacre". Lots of animals die in this picture. Molly the rabbit. So and so the goat. Ricardo the rooster and so one. They even shotgun poor Uncle Charlie. Loren gets pissed and takes them out one by one and sometimes two at a time, Seagal style. He wasn't even armed so, yeah, it's badass. This guy stalks through funland rigging the ferris wheel (rednecks used it as a lookout), diving and somersaulting to avoid gun fire, and killing without remorse. His final duel with Dutra involves the gas hose doubling as a blowtorch. Spader didn't stand a chance. Other than the offscreen deaths of the parents at the beginning, no one died until the last ten minutes or so and then they died in spades. It was worth the wait.

Not many people know of this picture I think since it doesn't have a wikipedia page and there are only a few reviews online that I could find. It's vintage 80s. Hell, it defines the 80s. Elevator music-like score (from the usually good, except for here, Lalo Schifrin), a terrific montage where they get Santa's funland ready for its grand re-opening set to a tepid 80s song ("Stand up!"), some fun fight scenes, snorting of cocaine, and a high school dance. Also, Stoltz and Spader. Hell, even Uncle Charlie (Eddie Jones) gets in some good lines here and there (to his wife, "soon enough, we're gonna be fartin' through silk." What?). I'm glad I watched this after halloween though. It's a good start to the new month. I was sitting on a few other horror reviews but to be honest I'm all horror'd out at the moment. You will just have to sit tight in anticipation of my write-up for Who Can Kill a Child? I recommend you check this one out. More, traditional, 80s action to come!