Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Cop Game (1988)

Cop game poster

Movie Review:

Cop Game 1

"I'm gonna put your asses in a sling!"

Reviewed on vhs

I adore Bruno Mattei's films, I really really do. Only he can make schlock this entertaining. Made the same time as Born to Fight and Strike Commando 2, and with the same star Brent Huff, you know you are going to be getting some Vietnam War mayhem filmed in the Philippines and that can mean only one thing: exploding huts!

Not a straight-forward war movie like Phantom Soldiers or the previously mentioned Strike Commando's, there are scenes of urban action in this as well. From the beginning: some masked soldiers in American military uniforms attack and kill a member of the elite Cobra force while he's taking a bath. Obviously this looks bad for the American army so they want it dealt with quietly. That's when two cops, an American, Morgan (Brent Huff) and a Vietnamese, Hawk (Max Laurel) are brought in to find out who wants Cobra force dead and to deal with the situation outside of military jurisdiction.

Cop Game 2

That's the plot in a nutshell. I really don't need to explain much more do I? I'm sure you can picture it already, and what you picture is probably right on the money. Morgan and Hawk run around Saigon streets chasing informants through food markets. Morgan and Hawk get involved in a car chase that sees them flying over train tracks just in the nick of time. Morgan and Hawk burst through doors with artillery laying waste to half the Vietnamese army. When they make it into the jungle it gets even more explosive with rocket propelled grenades, helicopter mounted chain guns and exploding hut after exploding hut. That's also when the plot, such as it is, thickens as Morgan and Hawk learn new truths about who they are looking for.

Morgan: "Jesus Christ cock sucking mother fucking son of a bitch!"
Hawk: "You took the words right out of my mouth!"

It goes on like this for 90 minutes, barely stopping three times to visit the same nightclub to watch the same six people dancing.  Oh and there's a smoking hot blonde informant that may be a Russian spy. Some of the plot doesn't make a great deal of sense, and the continued use of the Vietnam war theme - even though we clearly see late 1980's cars and clothing - has been seen and done a million times before, but it really doesn't matter. Seeing soldiers declare that the scenery is beautiful before tearing it up with mounted artillery never gets old. Bruno Mattei, I love you!

Huff is on top form again, roughing up anyone that needs roughing up to get answers out of them, or just plain shooting them when they don't co-operate, spilling out a few hilarious lines as he does. Max Laurel - as far as I can tell a native Filipino - is a great second banana, getting in on just as much action as Huff does, and also another grunt from Robowar (Mattei sure likes using the same actors again and again). However, the best part about the movie is the music. Sure most of the music is standard electro-symphonic rock like all these 80's Italian/Filipino movies, but most other movies don't get their own theme song! Cop Game features the song Cop Game played half a dozen times, and only half of those times is it really appropriate, but all of the times it's just glorious. Don't believe me, listen to it yourself.

Cop Game 3

"His name's Captain Kirk, just like in Star Trek!"

Romano Puppo, another Italian and Filipino action movie staple, is in this too. He was Cpl. Neil Corey in Robowar, Alex Bross in Born to Fight, Ratchet in 2019: After the Fall of New York... and it goes on like that. He's not the focus of the movie but he is the one that "knows just the two guys" to pull off this mission and makes a few appearances throughout. Mattei had the balls to call him Captain Kirk as well, which is just hysterical.

The gorgeous Candice Daly plays the female of the piece, Annie, first showing up when she leaves a message in lipstick for Morgan on a bar room mirror that she has information for him. It's a shame she didn't have a bigger part really but when she was there she provided a nice contrast to the otherwise male-dominated movie.

So it's pretty obvious that I really enjoyed Cop Game. Stuff explodes, countless clips are emptied, cars are chased and the day is saved. The journey may make little sense but it's a fun ride all the same. You're only going to find this on Dutch or Japanese VHS or grey market DVDRs sourced from the same tapes, but it's completely worth your time. Not quite Strike Commando or Robowar quality but not far behind.

Cop Game 4

The Video:

If you've seen any Italian or Filipino action film on Japanese VHS before then you know what you are in for. Soft, desaturated, murky blacks and overly bright whites. Still, it's perfectly watchable and in widescreen to boot. Runtime approx. 90 minutes.

Sourced From:

eBay, for more than a little, less than a lot.

Trailer:

You'll have to make do with the screenshots and the videos I linked throughout the review!

More Screens:

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Cop Game 17

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tactical Force (2011)

Tactical force poster

Tagline:

This drill just got real.

Movie Review:

Tactical Force 1

I had looked forward to this ever since it appeared on IMDB a few months ago. Steve Austin, Michael Jai White and most interestingly Michael Shanks all together in a SWAT action film. It sounded good on paper and I've enjoyed Austin's DTV work more than most people, so I had high hopes for Tactical Force. Plus I got a real kick out of seeing Shanks listed alongside those wrestler and martial arts types!

Hunt, Blanco and Jannard (Michael Jai White, Steve Bacic and Lexa Doig) are members of a SWAT team headed by Tate (Steve Austin). When called to the scene of a store robbery, Tate and his colleagues throw away the rule book and go in all guns blazing, killing most of the suspects and causing a quarter of a million dollars worth of stock damage in hilarious fashion. The Chief (Peter Bryant) is unimpressed, and not being swayed by the fact that they rescued all the hostages, demands that the team go for retraining - part of which is physical exercises at a training facility (essentially an abandoned warehouse).

Tactical Force 2

Unknown to them, Russian bad guy Demetrius (Michael Shanks) is already on the scene with his double-crossing goon Kenny (Michael Eklund) trying to locate a hidden package. To make matters more complicated, a rival gang of Italian criminals led by Lampone (Adrian Holmes, also in Austin's Hunt to Kill) and Storato (played by regular DTV bad guy Darren Shahlavi) are also there to retrieve the same package. These armed but fairly non-threatening bad guys shouldn't be a match for a team of elite SWAT, except for one thing: Tate and co. only have non-lethal training ammunition with them. And it doesn't help that both sets of bad guys call in their own re-enforcements...

This was amusing, and stupid (and cheap), but really quite fun. Honestly I was smiling the whole way through this. A lot of the time it was a "I can't believe they just said/did that" smile but there was also a few "that was pretty cool" smiles. The main point: I was smiling, which means I enjoyed it. From the beginning that was like a team version of the opening scene in Cobra, through to the final humorous camaraderie about how they are going to get fired, I was having fun with this. The action is why we are here though and it's all pretty decent quality. I can believe somebody would hire Austin as a SWAT team leader; he certainly has the physique for it. So does Michael Jai White, who brings the house down with his one liner at the end before firing an obscenely large weapon ("Wait, I need a line..... okay, I got one!").

Tactical Force 3

Steve Austin gets the lead role but in general, everybody gets a chance to show off their skills to some degree in this. The only downside is that that means we only get one real decent fight from Austin and Jai White especially, and not against each other as they are on the same team. Austin does get to go toe to toe with another wrestler, Keith Jardine, who is fairly new to DTV (he was in Death Warrior, Unrivaled and again with Austin in the upcoming Recoil) but he does a decent job as the hired thug. In fact he delivers lines better than Austin, though I don't think he could pull off a leading role. I'm happy to be proven wrong, though. The other two members of the team Jannard and Blanco are both sassy and slightly annoying, though don't take centre stage very often. I wonder if an Austin and Jai White buddy comedy would work?

I loved Michael Shanks in this. I'm a big Stargate SG-1 nerd and have watched Shanks lend himself to a few SyFy channel movies too, but to see him in an action movie - with a hilarious Russian accent, no less - was a great laugh. To these eyes, he stole the show, and was easily the most likeable and lively character of the bunch. He has a way of making everyone else he talks to seem stupid, even with a comedy accent. His partner in crime (literally) is Ilya, played by the quite striking Candace Elaine, who channels the likes of Trinity from the Matrix and Katya - Jeremy Irons' girl in Die Hard 3 - as she is the first to brutally draw blood in the movie.

Tactical Force 4

I guess some downsides would be the cheapness of the production in certain aspects. Every scene change involves a bad side-wipe effect that grated after a while. Being modern DTV it is of course filmed on digital HD cameras, but that's not hugely a problem as most of the movie is filmed interior, and thankfully the ADHD directing technique so frequently used in modern action films was not evident here, although some of the fights were a little too closely zoomed. Peter Bryant as Chief Barnett was an.. interesting choice for the Captain. He was funny but just didn't have the presence to do the "I aughta nail your arse to the wall!" type of Captaining. Seriously they need to iron out Ronny Cox again for these roles, he was great in One Man Force.

This is a good time. Austin isn't the strongest actor but he brings the beef well enough, and there's plenty laughs to be had (some intentional, some not) and the action is perfectly solid. I'll watch Michael Jai White kick shit anytime, even if it's only in one or two scenes. The gunplay was fine, the use of the tiny budget was well done - there's about three locations in total, and how much can an abandoned warehouse cost to rent? - and the comical bad guys were fun, especially Shanks' hamming it up as Demetrius. Oh, and there's a car chase! Worth checking out.

Tactical Force 5

The Video:

Well what can I say; it's modern DTV filmed on HD cameras, it looks fine and sharp with no obvious issues. Sounds great as well. Runtime 90 mins. approx.

Sourced From:

Region 1 disc hot off the press!

Trailer:

More Screens:

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dog Watch (1996)

Dog watch poster

Tagline:

Sometimes trouble wears a badge.

Movie Review:

Dog Watch 1

Here we are with another Nu Image cop movie. I was kind of expecting another One Man Force after reading the back of the DVD cover - "a tough cop who packs a wallop in this no-holds-barred police thriller" - but what I got was very different. That's not to say it was bad - Dog Watch is quite a decent watch - but it's certainly not Explosive Action. In hindsight though, I should have realised what this was by the use of the word "thriller" - the marketing term for "slow and methodical" and anything but Explosive Action. There's still enough cop-shoot-drug-runners and roughing up snitches to keep the pure action fan interested for the most part.

Sam Elliot plays Charlie Falon an aging, drunken, racist and sexist cop who has seen a lot in his time and that makes him cynical and angry. The last time I saw Sam Elliot he was also playing a rough cop in my first review of Shakedown with Peter Weller. He's far more rough in Dog Watch than he was in that movie and unlike Shakedown there aren't many laughs to be had here. After a night drinking with his partner at a strip club (of course), Falon readies himself to go home. When he goes to find where his partner has gone to in the back alley he finds him dead on the ground being, what he presumes, attacked by another man. In a drunken rage, Falon beats the man to death and dumps the body in the river.

Dog Watch 2

A lot of Dog Watch is classic good cop/bad cop police procedural. Once paired with his new partner Murrow (Esai Morales) the two are assigned to the case of finding out who dumped the body in the river. As the movie progresses, Murrow becomes more and more suspicious of Falon. At the same time Falon investigates who the guy he killed was and why he had killed his partner. What Falon discovers is that the man was an undercover cop and didn't kill his partner at all. Not only that, but the corruption in his precinct is what actually lead to the death of his former partner.

There was a definite noir tone to this film. The moody saxophone music rarely let up, the city was always in darkness and some shots, like the final monologue delivered by Esai Morales to the camera which then pans on a longshot to the cityscape, belong in a crime movie from the 40's. It was an interesting way to construct the film and once I had gotten over the fact that I wasn't going to get any exploding cars it was all the more intriguing. I genuinely wanted to see how the ending would play out.

Dog Watch 3

Esai Morales was pretty good as the new partner cop. He was less wet behind the ears than most "...and here's your new partner, Detective Jimmy", "Boss I don't want a new partner!" relationships. Because of the lack of humour in Dog Watch, the straight-laced performance gave him more credibility and wasn't the butt of Falon's jokes. We are also introduced to his fiance whom Falon is rude to over the dinner table. The Captain, traditionally the hard-arse of the police procedural, is the only one that provides any humour to the proceedings. He's overly large, forgetful and shouty, often going on rambling tangents about food and such. Also look out for Dan Lauria (the dad from The Wonder Years) as a detective working the same case as Falon and Murrow who may not be all he seems.

I didn't really like how the producers had to emphasise Falon's racism in the early moments of the movie ("One day you'll come home and find a Jap in your house telling you to get out!") but I guess it adds to the duality of the character. On one hand he is caring and has a lot of love for his former parter; so much so that he lashes out in the lockers and showers in a fit of rage. On the other hand he thinks women should stay in the kitchen and that presenting take-away food to a guest is an insult. Overall it makes it kind of hard to like the character, but perhaps that was the intention.

Dog Watch 4

The Video:

Solid, full screen picture. Sound is a little quiet at times but nothing that isn't solvable with a little extra volume. Runtime 95 minutes.

Sourced From:

Ninth Dimension R4 disc for $2 online. It's deleted so you may need to hunt around a bit.

Trailer:

WARNING: This is quite a spoiler-filled trailer!

More Screens:

Dog Watch 5

Dog Watch 6

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Dog Watch 17

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