Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fast Gun (1988)

Fast gun cover 

Tagline:

Blink and you’re dead!

Movie Review:

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A multiple string of well orchestrated armed robberies on military armoires in the state has got the press fired up. Colonel Harper dismisses the idea of a conspiracy on camera, but as we learn he and everybody else is part of the plan to sell stolen weapons. What is not part of the plan is Nelson, the lead of each attack who has gone rogue and taken the weapons for his own gain. One of the gun runners is caught by local sheriff, Jack Steiger (Rick Hill, Deathstalker, Inferno) and his deputy Cowboy (yes - Cowboy) when they try to cross into his little town of Granite Lake. We get to see how he is known as Fast Gun here when he blows up an assault rifle defended helicopter with three shots from his pistol! It’s overlaid with music that sounds like it’s from The A-Team. This is pretty boss already.

There’s a few directors where I will watch anything they have made: Bruno Mattei, Teddy Page, David A. Prior (Deadly Prey is a masterpiece). Last but not at all least, there’s Cirio H. Santiago. Most well known for his Roger Corman post apocalyptic Mad Max clones (Equalizer 2000, Stryker, Raiders of the Sun, Wheels of Fire, Bloodfist 2050) and 70’s classic TNT Jackson, Cirio has quite a number of traditional action films under his belt as well. When I was offered this rare New Horizon’s picture Fast Gun on local Australian VHS that I didn’t even know existed, I jumped at it. The usual Santiago bit-part cohorts are here on display too, such as Henry Strzalkowski playing Coburn, Ken Metcalfe as Rupert Jessup and Nick Nicholson as a hired goon.

Jack’s past as a former Sergeant haunts him in his dreams, a classic plot device that shows him killing his partner in the line of duty - something he agin must face in the final act, of course. He looks out over the lake of the cabin he owns, shirtless, with his girlfriend draped over him. This thing is so 80’s. His girlfriend runs the local bar by the way. That bar and every other building in town are hilarious; clearly 2D set pieces erected the day before shoot, the buildings all look like they come from a Universal Studios western backlot - though the movie theatre has a poster for The Barbarians on display! Jack defends his girlfriend’s honour in her bar beating up a motorbike gang member who responds to him “I’ll come back for you, gringo!”

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“People are getting killed, what am I supposed to do?”
“Stay outta my way." 

I had a load of fun with this. Rick Hill is pretty badass as the sheriff Jack and he really lets loose at the end of the film in an impressive, explosive display for a low budget film. He uses his fists a lot and punches like a boxer, hard and mean. Fast Gun is obviously a take on the likes of Walking Tall where the small town sheriff has to clean up the invading riffraff. Unlike the Walking Tall paradigm, the riffraff are already in his town and they are less riff and more rich arms dealers running guns out of a farm. There is one traditional scene where a motorbike gang try to cause chaos in the town, but Jack dispenses with them quickly through a display of badassery.

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Deputy Cowboy stops a truck in the town centre for a misdemeanour, a fact which the Mayor (who is in on this gun-running game as well - seriously everybody in this film besides the Sherriff, the deputy and the girlfriend are getting a piece of this action) demands he let slide. Sheriff Jack notices but keeps to himself that the truck is riddled with bullet holes and has a fake number plate. He follows the truck to Rattner’s, a local rich farm owner wannabe Senator or something. Rattner is a slimy guy. The first time we meet him he’s being serenaded for his birthday by the local shit school band (seriously, they are so shit). Jack accuses Rattner of being involved in the gun running and in response, Jack is attacked at night (by the guy that called him Gringo, plus many others) who pour a bottle of vodka down his throat and beat him up. The next morning the town is messed up and Rattner and the Mayor blame the forcefully-hungover Jack in front of the whole town in the hopes of having his respect lost. Jack throws down his badge and resigns. This can mean only one thing - VIGILANTE RAMBO TIME!

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So it’s nothing original - which from the guy that ripped off Mad Max at least six times, even using footage from his own ripoffs more than once - I came to accept, and in fact applaud. I’ve said it before, sometimes you want the fancy steak and mushroom pie with red wine jus, but other times you just want a plain meat pie with some tomato sauce on the side and a thumping 80’s soundtrack. Fast Gun is that sort of pie. As mentioned in the highlight below, the ending is beautiful set-piece action. Worth the price of entry alone. Jack the Fast Gun on the highest building in town taking out gun runners with his assault rifle is fantastic. They fire back at him with missile launchers, only managing to destroy more of the flimsy set. Full Commando styles, with Rick Hill doing a wonderful Ted Prior in Deadly Prey impression. Fast Gun is another fun film in Cirio Santiago’s long repertoire of action films. Get it!

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Highlight:

The ending by far (spoilers, obviously). We’ve established that Jack is in fact a Fast Gun but he is also has a crack-shot aim. As the bad guy’s flee to the airport and their Cessna is taking off the runway, Jack positions himself and takes three pot shots at the craft with his handgun. The final shot is enough to blow the whole damn thing up in THE most disappointing fake explosion of the whole movie! But the idea that his pistol could blow up a jet aircraft is enough to make it the highlight for me.

Trailer:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Ultimate Protector aka Animal Protector (1989)

Movie Review:

Mats Helge is like the Swedish counterpart to Indonesia’s Arizal (Final Score, Lethal Hunter, The Stabilizer). He pumped out z-grade actioner after actioner, giving the audience hyper violent gun battles, badly choreographed fights and terrible (often overdubbed) dialogue. Years ago I reviewed his most well thought of film, Ninja Mission, a completely over the top, violent action fest with copious gore. I didn’t even realise what I had my hands on initially when I scored this VHS.

“The Devil’s Room”, a military base slash prison on a secluded island (actually it’s a Scottish castle, but I digress..), run by Colonel Whitlock (David Carradine), a ruthless and somewhat slimy leader who is never without a drink in his hand (more on that later). Suddenly an alarm sounds; there’s been a breakout and guards are dead. Whitlock is pissed. Meanwhile on the mainland, three lovely ladies hire a boat to go to the same island to rescue a lost dog (yes). Even more meanwhile, John Santino (played by amusingly named A. R Hellquist, himself doing a great Kurt Russell impression) and Rick Lomax of the CIA also want to hire a boat and get to the island. Why is everyone trying to get to this island?

So the girls arrive and we learn they are basically the Swedish version of PETA, here to free caged animals used for experiments in Whitlock’s base. Lomax and Santino make their way there and it immediately get’s a bit Rambo as the boys stealthily kill their way through guards protecting The Devil’s Room. Lomax is caught and tortured. Some Captain called Hicks arrives to question Whitlock about his practices, Whitlock has another drink. The PETA-girls infiltrate the base and rescue a handful of dogs and rabbits and then find captured scientists. An alarm is triggered and it’s world war three with everybody involved on the battlefield. Whitlock puts his whiskey down for long enough to join in on the fun. Satino gets shirtless, looks at the camera and snarls “Whitlock… it’s time for you to die!"

“He enjoys killing… so, kill him."

So that plot above may seem like it makes little sense. It is a pretty convoluted set-up, that’s for sure, but it is just so absurd to be highly entertaining. So many players involved, so little shits given by Carradine. But the reason you watch a Mats Helge film is for the extreme violence, and that is here in droves. We get a classic bar fight with added brutal nightclub gunplay, and just like Ninja Mission the guns with silencers sound like lasers! Pew pew pew! A boss looking guy in a leather jacket and sunglasses has a rifle with, apparently, a silencer too. Pew pew pew! It never ceases to make me laugh.

Later on we get mines exploding and plenty - and I mean plenty - of shots of soldiers flying in slow motion away from an explosion. Santino has a hilarious fight in slow motion with a plank of wood as his weapon but even MORE hilarious (and sure, spoiler warning) the end fight sees the two good guys fight against each other with one of the PETA girls telling them to stop. It’s the end level when playing Double Dragon when you fight your own brother? Hysterical. OH and an obligatory bomb disarming sequence! This film has everything. Don’t expect even B-grade cinema here though; go in with ultra-violent Z-grade expectations and you will have a good time.

The cover, and the usual good guy vs bad guy routine may make you think that A. R. Hellquist is the lead role here - well, not really (despite some awesome grimaces to the camera). I think we see Carradine on screen more than him. But truthfully it’s never really as black and white as who is the lead in Ultimate Protector. It would be better to suggest that nobody truly is. The direction focuses on everybody in short bursts and in a cycle. I’m glad it was done this way, as the re-dubbed voices of everybody and the quality of most people’s acting I couldn’t take for extended periods anyway.

Let’s talk about David Carradine. I’ve seen him in everything from Kung Fu to Kill Bill and he’s always a class act. I can’t mince words here - Carradine is clearly drunk in this film. He is off his chops. All the lines are delivered painfully slow like he is trying not to pass out, he shuffles around his desk a lot and when the scene calls for him to have a drink.. buddy, that ain’t apple juice. You can’t even simply accuse him of phoning this one in from home; he’s phoning it in from the bar while eating beer nuts and eyeing off the waitress. He does get out from behind his desk a few times and does show off a couple of slower than usual kicks to the head, but man… this is rough. That is not to say his performance isn’t entertaining! I got a good laugh out of Drunk Carradine here. His best moments come towards the end (spoiler warning again) when he engages Plan B and kills every single one of his own men - in the back, mostly! This guy just could not give a damn.

A side note: the Australian VHS I reviewed is curious. The title Ultimate Protector is not what the film is usually known as; it’s more frequently known as Animal Protector (making a lot more sense). Even more confusingly, IMDB (at least presently, though I have submitted a request to change it) incorrectly attributes Ultimate Protector to ANOTHER Mats Helge / David Carradine film - The Mad Bunch! The other interesting thing is our VHS cover pits Hellquist as the starring role and pushes the film more as a traditional action film. The rear text reads “He’s trained to think like a computer. He strikes faster than a cobra. He has the muscle to meet any challenge.” It gets worse however as it attributes “star” Lomax to Tim Earle, with a picture of A. R. Hellquist! Then it goes on to call him “The new Van Damme Dolf Lungren” (sic). And not a picture of Carradine anywhere! Amazing.

Highlight:

Spoilers. In an otherwise civilised disagreement in his office with Henderson, the two - whiskeys each - exchange schoolyard insults. “Whitlock, you’re dog meat” says Henderson. “Henderson, you’re chicken shit.” says Whitlock. Whitlock then kicks Henderson in the face whilst the glass is up to his mouth, shattering it and knocking him to the ground. If that’s not enough, Whitlock stomps on his throat, twists his foot and breaks his neck!

Trailer:

       

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