Some streets you don't double cross.
I was pretty stoked to find this early Gary Daniels fight movie used at a local pawn shop. It has a frankly awesome cover which you can see above. I'd not heard of the movie but it comes a year after Capital Punishment (which I also picked up the same day) and a year before Full Impact. It was directed by Steven Austin who also did Expert Weapon aka American Dragon with Ian Jacklin and Sam J. Jones.
We start ten years ago when Jake Turner (Daniels) is a gang hoodlum working with a friend to blow up a bar whose owner is behind on his "rent". It all gets messy and Jake's partner is killed. Jake drives into the distance clearly over this kind of work. Cut to the 1992-present and Daniels is now a business man in Hong Kong with a ponytail and a suit. He receives a call from his somewhat estranged mother in the U.S. who says his brother Randy (Ian Jacklin; Death Match, Kickboxer 3, Ring of Fire 2) has gotten in with the wrong crowd as an underground kickboxer who fights dirty for cash and drugs. Randy flies home to convince him to stop but Randy wants to go right to the top and refuses. Jake wants to look out for his little brother so convinces tournament runner Ogawa that he will fight instead of his brother.
You're not as good as a Ninja Turtle!
You would think you could already work out how this movie will play out. Jake takes his brother's place in the ring of battle and progresses to the top in various tournament bouts ala Ring of Steel. Perhaps his girlfriend gets abducted along the way for collateral and in the end he kills the boss. I was as suprised as anyone to find out this was not the case with American Streetfighter... though plenty of the old action movie cliches are still there for our enjoyment.
I don't want to give too much away but there really is only one bout in the ring involving Jake and he gets his arse handed to him. This is when he finds out what happens to combatants that don't succeed; they get used as drug transport containers! Jake is getting prepped to begin a new life as a cadaver and have a bag of drugs stowed in his chest for transport to Colombia, but the anaesthetic wears off and he escapes, badly injured. He manages to get home to his mother's house but passes out, waking up at his old girlfriends place. She lives with her ten year old son Billy who helps Jake get back on his feet in a pretty amusing training montage.
Where the movie really shines is in the last 25 minutes (don't they all?). It get's pretty strange and shows off its Hong Kong pseudo-roots. While at home resting with Billy, a motorbike comes crashing through the wall and Jake gets into a fight with him. Then Jake seems to nick the bike and get chased by a car but also is followed by a biplane and by a helicopter with some guy taking pot shots at him with a rifle! It's pretty strange and Jake is presumed killed when he crashes the bike into the side of a car at a speed that should have killed him (but instead he gently rolls over the top of the hood).
I'm back in Vietnam.. and I show no mercy!
Daniels brings it, both early on with his Bon Jovi hair and cowboy jacket and later as the well dressed businessman trying to help his brother. He also has the balls to street fight in denim jeans, belt and keeps his shirt tucked in. That's a good effort when kickboxing I must say, keeping your shirt tucked in. If I had a go at that I'd end up with my shirt around my neck or something. Jacklin is pretty decent as the brother Randy and sports a Dave Mustaine look (very 80's hair-metal this movie) and is a competent fighter too.
The real fun is Gerald Okamura (a staple in bad action movies like Shootfighter, Deadly Bet, Showdown in Little Tokyo) as the bad guy Ogawa who both runs the tournaments and the drug smuggling ring. He speaks in riddles and haiku and is good with a samurai sword. The final battle between him and Daniels hilariously takes place in front of an open casket funeral! You've also got Kent Ducanon as "Grandpa" who smokes cigars, wears an eye-patch and who delivers the Vietnam line I highlighted above, and not much else!
This is a good one if you like Gary Daniels and are curious about his real early stuff, if you are okay with low budget Hong Kong style action complete with sometimes bad dubbing, chop-sockey sound effects and plots that veer on the point of ridiculousness. If you weren't into that kind of movie, why would you be at a blog called Explosive Action?
This is another early Payless R4 DVD like Blood Hands and is about as good in quality; that being it's not. Clearly from VHS or at best a VHS master tape, the colours are both washed out and too bright, or at night too dark. Overall soft but watchable, though there are even digital encoding errors at times. Still the audio was good and the presentation wasn't nearly as distracting as Blood Hands, so pick it up if you ever see it used somewhere. Runtime 80 minutes.
Picked it up at a used store for $3. I've never seen the disc around before so don't know how you'll go finding it, but ebay has a few R1 discs going for 99c.