Hello Again, Actionettes

Me with my adoptive Jopanyali family: (from left) Abbo, Kissa, Mangeni, Magomu, Namono, Nasiche, Madongo, Mulogo, Ogwambi.

No doubt by now you are wondering as to my sudden lapse in communications. Truth be told, I have been hired on special assignment by the Ugandan government to eradicate a local warlord. I subsist on a diet of millet, groundnuts and when lucky - goat meat. The people here are peaceful and warm-hearted. They hold strong to truth, freedom, justice and the other tenets upon which which our forefathers built our Great Nation. For reasons of security and personal safety I cannot reveal my exact location but know this - I think of you daily, my Actionettes, and when next I have a VCR and computer handy I will continue my chronicle of this great and terrible thing we call the Actionverse. Until then...

The Movie:
No Dead Heroes (1986)
The Perp: Harry Cotter (John Dresden)
The Victims: The Cotter Family

Yes, and it doesn't get much worse than this. No Dead Heroes was a bargain basement Filipino cheapie produced during the height of the Cold War Era. Its plot, such as it was, involved an US Army lieutenant kidnapped by the KGB, implanted with a mind-controlling microchip and set forth on a mission to assassinate the Pope.

In this charming scene, KGB officer Ivan has sent Lieutenant Harry on a little test run. Now this 'test run,' a product of the deviant and twisted Soviet hive-mind, involves having the hapless drone wipe out his whole family. Oh, those Reds!

The film is rife with horrendous dubbing and even worse acting. Just witness, these people can't even die convincingly...

Welcome to the Actioneer's latest and greatest feature: Bad FX Spotlite - a special showcase for those visual effects masters whose special achievements weren't quite recognized by the Academy. There's always next year, fellas. Until then you'll have to settle for the Spotlite.

Evan Lurie is a man of many talents, first and foremost his utilization of the "Chinese Balls Technique" for wooing women (watch out, Derek Evans!). As highlighted in the film Hologram Man (1995), he can also transform into an awkward, paunchy wax figurine that bears only a passing resemblance to him. How he utilizes this in the bedding of the fairer sex, remains to be seen. Conversation starter perhaps? Well, a better one than, "Have you ever seen the movie Poltergeist?"

The Movie: American Yakuza 2 (1996)
The Perp: Koji (Ryo Ishibashi)
The Victim: Psycho (Bobcat Goldthwait)

American Yazuka 2
is a remarkably forgettable mobsters-and-coppers romp remembered by few save Danielle Harris’ semi-pedophilic cult. It does, however, provide sweet schadenfreude for all you haters of 1980’s comic curiosity Bobcat Goldthwait. Bob has a brief cameo as “Psycho,” a mentally imbalanced terrorist-without-a-cause who straps himself with dynamite and holds the local greasy spoon hostage. Little does Bob know, two Yazuka are among the clientele - and Koji (Ryo Ishibashi) and Hideo (Kô Takasugi) don’t appreciate anybody getting in between them and their Moons Over My Hammy®...

The Movie:
Cyborg Cop III (1995)
The Perp: thug (Sir Anthony Hopkins)
The Victim: Evelyn (Jennifer Miller)

Kids, always remember: crime happens when you least expect it. One night you may be innocently walking out to your car and then WHAM! out of nowhere, some thug knocks you unconscious and delivers you to a cybernetic surgeon who implants microchips and other computer paraphernalia inside your body so when the opportune time arrives, he can activate you as a cyborg soldier in the service of the sinister cybernetics corporation, Delta Tech.

Cyborg Cop III, the third and last entry in the Cyborg Cop series, took a haggard, mangy, ready-for-the-shotgun franchise and lamely limped it across the finish line. It’s memorable for very little outside of Ian Roberts’ mind-shatteringly bizarre take on the villainous President of Delta Tech (and music box fetishist), Sheen.

His performance is off-kilter throughout, but this is his coup de grâce. Like Nero fiddling away as Rome burns, Roberts arrhythmically chews his way through the hieroglyphic columns of his flame-licked lair - delivering his final speech to no one in particular save the smoldering remains of his best boy, Oscar...

The sequel to Cyborg Cop, the creatively titled, Cyborg Cop II (1994) was a titular curiosity as it in fact featured no cyborg cops. It did feature an inordinately high use of the fabled air ram: that pneumatic device favored by stunt coordinators to propel stuntmen high into the air (whether appropriate to the action or not).

Some might deem director Sam Firstenberg’s (McCinsey’s Island, Motel Blue) utilization of this hydraulic catapult nigh excessive, but not us at the Actioneer - we see it as a salute to American ingenuity and compressed air and worthy of this very humble tribute...

The Movie: Cyborg Cop II (1994)
The Perp(s): Jack Ryan (David Bradley), Liz McDowell (Jill Pierce)
The Victim(s): cyborgs (Peter O'Toole, Sir John Gielgud, Sir Peter Ustinov, others)

The Cyborg Cop-series has never been notable for its use of the latest in state-of-the art special effects technology. While Terminator 2 (1991) was wowing us with morphing effects and other feats of CGI wizardry - Cyborg Cop (1993) was pulling cheap pranks like this.

So should we surprised when the second installment scraped for new cost-cutting lows? Surely not. Take this scenario, where we find fanny pack-fashionista Jack Ryan and his sexy, dead-eyed gal pal Liz McDowell unleashing epic wrath on an ineptly murderous army of cyborg criminals. Note how these cyborgs are programmed to transmorph into department store mannequins before detonating. This, as most political historians will note - famously provoked the ire of the powerful mannequin lobby - who were key backstage players behind the passing of the Mammography Quality Standards Act later that year.

The fight scene is the bread and butter of Action Cinema. Where the genre may fail in providing complex, memorable characters, sharp dialogue ripe with subtext and thought-provoking, socially-relevant themes - at the end of the day, if there's some good rock 'em sock 'em fist play, then we generally leave satisfied.

So how do you explain this, the "climactic" final battle of The Revenger? Is it pure unadorned contempt for the audience? Or did they just have to wrap up quick before they would've had to pay the Union guys overtime?

Also, I don't really understand how Frank's "finishing move" actually killed that guy. I mean he barely touched him. Did he induce some sort pulmonary embolism with some secret deadly technique he learned while playing the SoCal smooth jazz circuit? I guess some things - like Frank Zagarino's continued ability to get film roles - are destined to remain a mystery.

In these tough economic times we must be prudent and confine ourselves to a strict budget. That’s why, although we may have certain moral objections, we may find ourselves stalking the soulless, fluorescent-lit aisles of Wal-Mart; and while there, we may stop ourselves from purchasing that 32 oz. bottle of crisp, refreshing Dr. Pepper and instead reaching for a bottle of tepid, uninspiring Sam’s Choice Dr. Thunder.

"Consider yourself forewarned, Mr. Grunier: while you’re sleeping I may sneak into your hotel room, rend open your chest with my bare quivering hands and consume your still-beating heart. I apologize - this is a compulsion I cannot control."

By the same token, if you’re a producer who’s assembling an exhilarant action package tailor-made for the talents of one Jean-Claude Van Damme but budgets are tight, you may find yourself casting the Sam’s Choice equivalent of Monsieur Van Damme: Olivier Gruner.

The Circuit (2002) ups the ante, by not only starring the budget-line JCVD, but by also lifting the plot from his classic 1988 effort, Bloodsport. Olivier stars as the improbably named Dirk Longstreet (nom de porn?) former "Eastern Seaboard Champion" of an illegal underground fighting society. Dirk’s since gone straight, as a track coach at Generic Local College State University Polytech A&M - but alas, T-R-O-U-B-L-E has a habit of finding the harried French Shotokan Master.

"My brother scores a cameo in the new Rocky movie and I can only swing a role in this PIECE OF SHHHIIIIIIIIITTT!!!"

See, his little brother Jeremy (Ilya Melnikoff) has gotten himself in gambling debt to some pretty rough customers and the only way to pay off his debt is compete in the Circuit, a deadly underground fight club. Now the only way to get his brother out is for Dirk to fight! Thank Satan the living corpse of Billy Drago is there to help him freshen up his kill skills.

Yes, this plot is as well-worn and toothless as meth-addicted Atlantic City boardwalk whore and no, director Jalal Merhi does little to inject it with any fresh ideas or compelling twists. It’s further dogged by glacial pacing and bland fight choreography, in spite of including several of your favorite fighting stars you’ve only sweated over in the pages of Black Belt Magazine including, but scarcely limited to, the Dragon Twins and Billy Blanks’ brother!

Laverne Montoya as Circuit Audience Member 37: Ms. Montoya gives by the far, the standout performance of the entire film.

Apparently, The Circuit made the prerequisite $235 in profit that merits a sequel in the Direct-To-DVD world, as it was immediately followed by The Circuit 2: The Final Punch later that very same year. This film has the habit of popping up on cable every once in while - and if you should see it in your program guide, avoid it like a charging Ebola-infected rhinoceros during mating season.

Video removed courtesy of the good people at 20th Century Fox.

The Movie: Broken Arrow (1996)
The Perp: Terry Carmichael (Samantha Mathis)
The Victim: Max (Shaun Toub)

The Eighties was a great period of Nerd solidarity. The entertainment community, with outstretched arms, celebrated the Nerd with such chef-d'oeuvres as Revenge of The Nerds and WarGames. For the first time, the Nerd was granted genuine flesh-and-blood humanity and justly celebrated for his keen intelligence, technical ingenuity and ability to reprogram the targeting systems of xenon-halogen laser weapons.

Lo, the Nineties were a fallow and desolate period for the Nerd. Irrevocable damage was preyed upon their national character by the exaggerated posturings and buffoonish antics of television’s Screech and Urkel.

Broken Arrow offers little respite. Here the Nerd, despite his rigorous Navy SEAL-training is felled in under a minute by a lowly Park Ranger - and a woman at that, too.

Video removed courtesy of the good people at 20th Century Fox.

The Movie:
Broken Arrow (1996)
The Perp: Capt. Riley Hane (Christian Slater)
The Victim: Maj. Vic 'Deak' Deakins (John Travolta)

Broken Arrow was another in a string of misfires from previously relevant Hong Kong export, John Woo. The film is most notable for swathing Samantha Mathis inside a remarkably unflattering Park Ranger uniform.

It also features John Travolta's most cringe-inducing performance since Staying Alive. Witness this explosive scene, in which Ba-Ba-Ba-Ba-Barbarino is out-acted by his own stunt dummy. Man, that dummy really knows how to take a body shot...

The Movie:
Hollow Point (1996)
The Perp: a shipping crate (Gene Hackman)
The Victim: Thomas Livingston (John Lithgow)

Bad dudes, take a lesson from the Bond villains of yore: Never bask in your own vaingloriousness, don't orate or pontificate, and always look up, otherwise your dramatic death will be eminent.

Also, hell hath no fury like woman scorned by the cancellation of her middling syndicated series.

One oddball trope of Action Cinema is the “sax man with an axe (or Beretta 92FS) to grind.” This was explored to great effect in John Woo’s classic Hard Boiled. This was explored to lesser effect in How to Play Baritone Saxophone: Fixing a Sticky Baritone Saxophone Key. And then there’s The Revenger...

The Revenger stars Frank Zagarino. If you don’t know who Frank Zagarino is, he’s the blonde, charisma-impaired sock puppet behind such instant travesties as Airboss and Orion’s Key (aka Alien Chaser). Frank stars as Mike Keller, a promising young saxophonist who experiments in the sort of high-energy, experimental jazz you might have heard on the keno channel at the Sands Regency in Reno. Well, things are pretty peachy for Mike, he's got a hot record deal in the works and his eye on some sweet digs in Malibu but wouldn't ya know it, his ol’ pal Mackie (Arnold Vosloo) turns up and gets Mike involved in a high-speed police chase that results in one dead cop. And you know what means: five years in hoosegow!

"Frank, finish up your set - DeBarge is on at 7:00."

But never mind that shockingly light sentence for police homicide - Mike gets out and has a happy reunion with his sax (watch out, David Sanborn!). Also, he reunites with his best chick Lisa (Nancy Mulford).

Enter our big baddie: snuff film producer, Jack Fisher (Oliver Reed). Kids, this one of the unfortunate side-effects of a lifelong battle with severe alcoholism - one day you’re cozying up to Raquel Welch and twelve blurry years later, you’re playing opposite Frank Zagarino.

"That's it, Ollie. Just a few more hits of that rock and you'll think you're back on the set of The Three Musketeers!."

But I digress, see Jack thinks that Mike’s got a briefcase of cash that Mackie hid, so he kidnaps Lisa. What’s Mike’s brilliant idea? Find the money, but instead of exchanging it for his turtledove, stick Fisher with an athletic bag full of shredded newspaper. Good one, Mike!

When this brilliant plan comes to naught, Mike enlists the help of his dead brother’s cyclopean Vietnam pal, Harry Crawford (who apparently was eight when he landed at Da Nang) and the two bust into Fisher’s Guccionesque compound, guns a’ blazin’ and rescue the freshly-raped Lisa from Jack’s crack-addled clutches.

After a long, mind-numbing stretch of double-crossings, cocaine consumption, vaginal sculpture exhibitions, beatings administered with prosthetic limbs and trite romantic interludes, it all wraps up at Crawford’s sylvan retreat in the California hills. There's a lot of corpses, and a lot of high-flyin' flames, and one of the most unconvincingly choreographed fight scenes you should ever see in your life.

The total sum of these poorly crafted parts is roughly as exciting as working stock at Office Depot for the summer - and if your fast-forward finger isn't gettin' itchy after the first 10 minutes, then friend, you're made of stronger stuff than I.

Crappier ever after...

We all have Cedric Sundstrom for this blight upon the film world - this is the man who would go on to bludgeon the American Ninja series to death before disappearing into the bowels of South African television. And it must be said that it's truly one of life’s great ironies that Roman Polanski, the man who brought us Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, is permanently banned from our Great Nation*, yet the Cossack who squeezed this 20 paratransit pileup from his colon strolls free, a Citizen of the World. But I guess life, much like the The Revenger, doesn't make a helluva lotta sense.

* The Actioneer, its parent company and subsidiaries do not support the plying of underage girls with champagne and quaaludes, then performing lewd and lascivious acts upon them while in, or near, a hot tub.

The Movie: Wanted: Dead or Alive (1987)
The Perp: Nick Randall (Rutger Hauer)
The Victim: Malak Al Rahim (Gene Simmons)

Gene Simmons made his auspicious cinematic debut in KISS Meets the Phantom of The Park, which was about as good a movie as Hot In The Shade was an album. In 1984, the newly makeup-liberated Demon, believing his acting chops proven, made his bare-faced film introduction as the villainous Dr. Charles Luther in the Tom Selleck travesty, Runaway.

Wanted: Dead or Alive has him essentially reprising this role, this time as scenery-chewing terrorist Malak Al Rahim, the target of Rutger Hauer’s Energizer Bunny bounty-hunter Nick Randall. It’s a sluggishly-paced, ultimately forgettable film and after Gene has officially inflicted your eyeballs with gonorrhea for a burning sensation-inducing 104 minutes, Rutger mercifully pulls the pin on his fathead.

The Movie: Top Dog (1995)
The Perp: Henchman #17

“Hey, Ma. Ma! It’s Terry, Ma. Yeah, you know that movie I’m in? The one with Chuck Norris? Well, the director he liked me so much he gave me a speaking part. So, I been readin’ up, studyin’ - I got this book by this guy Stanislavski. I mean, it’s one line, but you know what they say, ‘There are no small parts, only small actors.’ No, I won’t blow it, Ma! Maybe if you believed in me, I coulda’ been somebody - maybe I coulda’ been the next Chuck Norris. Screw you, Ma! I’ll prove you wrong! I’ll prove everybody wrong! You’ll see. I gotta go, they’re callin’ me back to the set. Bye, Ma.”

Death at 24fps: Drop Zone

Video removed courtesy of the good people at Lions Gate Entertainment.

The Movie: Drop Zone (1994)
The Perp: Ty Moncrief (Gary Busey)
The Victim: Jagger (Luca Bercovici)

Zubaz: the African savanna-inspired fashion travesty that garishly adorned the legs of a legion of Miami Dolphins fans throughout the early Nineties. They would rocket into prominence in 1991 astride the WWF Tag Team Championship ascendancy of the Legion of Doom before stuttering to a blood-gurgling death as the de rigueur leg-wear choice of a certain Long Island auto-mechanic.

Well, as Mary Jo learned, “Never trust a man in Zubaz.” Luca Bercovici would have done well to heed that lesson before going skydiving with Gary Busey.

Actually, he should have thought twice about doing anything with Busey, Zubaz or not.

Funny at 24fps: Top Dog

“If a comedy plays in a movie theater and nobody laughs, is it a comedy?” From Socrates to Smirnoff, this philosophical riddle has puzzled the great minds of their age. By that qualification, is Top Dog a comedy? Well, you be the judge...

The home entertainment market is positively littered with skydiving travelogues. Most of them have ‘extreme’ titles (Freefall Extreme, Adrenaline Rush, Adrenaline Ride) and feature 90 escalatingly mind-numbing minutes of extreme dudes plummeting through the stratosphere to a bargain basement soundtrack of wank-o-rama guitar licks.

And then there’s Drop Zone (1994), which essentially is a skydiving travelogue, except they’ve attached something resembling a ‘plot’ to it. It’s sorta like that increasingly endangered species, the ‘Plot Porn’, where some hapless writer, typing away in his dingy, cold-water flat, has been tasked with writing everything that 85% of the audience is going to fast-forward through anyway.

"Theo, don't look back but I think the I.R.S. is tailing us."

Well, adrenaline junkies what will you be fast-forwarding through? Namely Wesley Snipes, who looks like he’s being led through this film by a $7,000,000 paycheck tied to a large stick being dangled just off-camera. Wesley plays disgraced U.S. marshall Pete Nessip, who travels down to Florida to investigate the seedy underworld of championship-level skydiving. See, during a Gary Busey-led terrorist takeover of a 747, his brother Theo Huxtable was offed and has been posthumously charged with “endangering the airplane.” Now, Pete’s trying to clear Theo’s (and his own) name through the extreme power of skydiving. Snap on your goggles, kids, the comely, husky-voiced Yancy “Witchblade” Butler will be your guide...

Cue the awesome aerial footage! Cue Hans Zimmer burnin’ up the fretboards with some monster riffage!

"Get on your high-heels, honey - you're Busey's date for the Larry the Cable Guy Roast!"

Director John Badham (Another Stakeout, Bird On a Wire) imbues the the whole affair with a schizophrenic inconsistency of pacing as the movie ping-pongs wildly from photogenic IMAX production to tepid action thriller and back again. Really, if you don’t give two shits about skydiving, you won’t find much of interest here - unless you’re that fringe type who’s been fervently sending forged petitions to Ted Turner to bring back Witchblade. And if that is you, Yancy Butler says to stop going through her garbage.

The Movie: Future Kick (1991)
The Perp(s): Walker (Don 'The Dragon Wilson), Nancy (Meg Foster)
The Victim: Hynes (Eb Lottimor)

A few weeks back, we here at the Actioneer learned the grisly pleasures of Laserblade, the future's exciting, high-stakes alternative to going to the Greyhound Races. Well, it's baaa-aaaaack! You see, Actionettes, it seems Eb Lottimor just didn't listen to the wisdom of the idioms of his day, namely, "He who lives by the Laserblade, dies by the Laserblade." Note here how director Damian Klaus displays the sort of cinematic technique that should serve him well in the field of gonzo pornography. Look how long he hovers on the money shot after Meg Foster and The Dragon get a faceful of Eb.

Dog Outacts Man: Top Dog


June, 1994. AARON NORRIS, producer/director/stunt coordinator/Chuck Norris’ brother, sits poolside sipping banana daiquiris with his pal, character actor, TIM GRAYEM. The afternoon sun simmers through the brown haze of LA smog on yet another mercury boiling summer day.

So, I was thinkin’.

What was you thinkin’?

My brother Chuck, we should put ‘em in a comedy.

Is he funny?

Sure he’s funny. Just the other day he was doin’ this Jack Nicholson impression. He was like, “You can’t handle the truth.” (laughs)

Oh yeah, the Joker. That’s pretty funny. Batman was a cool movie.

I don’t think that’s from Batman. It think it’s from the movie where he plays the werewolf.

Oh yeah, that movie.

Well, what should this comedy be about?

I dunno. What if he were like this black guy, a cop from Detroit and he comes to some ritzy neighborhood like Beverly Hills and then he causes all kinds of trouble, but you know, “funny trouble.” He could also have a laugh that’s funny too.

That sounds funny, but I don’t know if Chuck can play black.

Um okay, so the other I went down to video store and I rented this movie called K-9. It had that guy, you know, Belushi, the dead guy’s brother and he’s a cop but his partner, get this, is a DOG.

A dog, that’s funny. Then what happens?

Well, then the dog, you know, does funny stuff.

“A dog doing funny stuff.” I like it. But we can’t just rip it off. Somebody might sue us. What’s different about our movie?

Oh! I know! I know! Instead of that Belushi guy, you put Chuck Norris in it!

My brother, Chuck Norris?

Yeah, that guy.

High five, man, you just earned a Story Credit!

I did? High five!

They high-five.


April, 1995. It’s a slow Friday night at a typical small-town cineplex. In a largely unoccupied theater, Top Dog starring Chuck Norris plays imperviously on the screen.

This movie sucks!

The Movie:
Future Kick (1991)
The Perp: Walker (Don "The Dragon" Wilson)
The Victim: Bang (Chris Penn)

In spite of his considerable charm, Chris Penn - like Don Swayze and Frank Stallone before him - had the misfortune always to dwell in the shadow of his superstar brother (Michael Penn). He also had the misfortune to appear in this film, where he plays second banana to Eb Lottimor, a man best known for being the ex-husband of the chick who played J.R.'s would-be assassin on Dallas. Here, he's "future kicked" into a live wire by Don Wilson. And then his head explodes. And then some sort of green, bile-like substance come pouring out of his mouth.

Balboa Behind Bars: Lock Up

When we look back on 1989, it was a year of triumph: the Velvet Revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the opening of the Skydome, and Warner Bros. release of Tango & Cash, a breezy action-comedy romp starring Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell. Alas it was also a year of tragedy, the Exxon Valdez, Tiananmen Square, Woodstock ’89 and Lock Up, a middling prison potboiler starring Sylvester Stallone and John Amos.

Lock Up was the “other” Balboa-behind-bars flick of ’89. The one nobody saw apparently, as it didn’t even muster half the box office of its kissin’ cousin, T&C. Why? Well, where should we begin?

Imagine, if you would, the Shawshank Redemption,"the Greatest Movie of All-Time." Trade up Tim Robbins for the Italian Stallion. Now substitute Tom Sizemore for Morgan Freeman. Then take the bible-thumpin’ Bob Gunton and replace him with a scenery-chewin’ Donald Sutherland. Now carefully strain out the subtlety, humanity, poetic dialogue, soaring score and compelling narrative. Now go hop on your bicycle and borrow a soil auger from Ol' Farmer Littlejohn. Take said auger and drill a large post hole right in Shawshank’s cerebellum. Now flambé. Season with garlic and herbs. Serves seven.

Sly plays local mechanic, Frank Leone. Frank’s a “good guy who made a mistake way back when” and he’s dutifully paying his penance to society; when with six months left, sadistic, grudge-bearing Warden Drumgoole (eat your heart out, Dickens) has him transferred to Hell On Earth: Gateway Prison.

The rest pretty much writes itself. The Warden fucks with Frank. Frank is resilient, make a few pals. The Warden hires the seedier prison element to the fuck with Frank. Said seedier element kills one of Frank’s pals. Frank’s taken to the brink, never loses his cool, and sees freedom once again. Cue Survivor. Fin.

The end result is more akin to Chained Heat II rather then say, I Am a Fugitive From A Chain Gang. And just to drip venom in your wallet’s wound, the whole affair is saccharine-coated with one of Bill Conti’s most maudlin scores yet. The only element that makes this steaming bucket of rhinoceros piss worth recommendation is the presence of the endlessly watchable psychopath, Sonny Landham. But rather then rent Lock Up, why not purchase THIS fine item and stare at it for 115 minutes. No doubt, you’ll find the experience more intellectually stimulating.

The Movie:
Future Kick (1991)
The Perp: Hynes (Eb Lottimer)
The Victim: Two-1 (Shawn Phillips)

These days for futurist amusement we have such trivial time-wasters as Laser Quest. Thrill as you grope your way through the dark, plastic blaster in hand, becoming the latest blast-charred conquest of a Mrs. Simmons' second grade class. Sure, it's great for corporate parties but don't you wish it was a little more "real?" Does the legitimate threat of death really get your adrenal gland 'a pumpin'? Then Laserblade was tailor made for you! The controls are simple: just give your most concentrated stare, grunt like a Cro-Mag, then watch the brain matter, skull shards and blood-mist fly!

In 1982 Ridley Scott (plus a host of artisans, writers and actors) created Blade Runner, and the people declared it was good. In 1991 Damian Klaus (plus a host of cruise ship arts and crafts instructors, chimpanzees handcuffed to typewriters and State Championship kickboxing competitors) created Future Kick and the people took up torches and barn shovels and gathered in a furious mob that spilled into the streets of Encino, demanding the head of Damian Klaus.

“We demand the head of Damian Klaus,” a voice from the crowd cried.

“Yes,” shouted an elderly man, “or we will set fire to your town of Encino until nothing’s left but barren earth. Then we will toss salt on that barren earth. Then we will urinate on the salt. Then we will engage in sexual congress with women of ill-repute.”

“I say we start with the Children’s Community School,” shrieked one woman, her pendulous breasts flapping with every indignant syllable.

A local greengrocer, pistol ready at his side, ventured cautiously into the street. “Damian Klaus,” he declared, and hush took hold of the mob, “moved to Panorama City five weeks ago. But before you venture off to visit your evil deeds upon Panorama City, may I present to you this parchment signed in Damian Klaus’ own blood swearing that he will never direct another movie again.”

This placated the mob and they soon retreated to a local cineplex to see Curly Sue starring Jim Belushi. 101 minutes later, they burned the cineplex to ground. Many died. A bereft John Hughes would never direct another movie again.

Were it not for this dubious tale, recounted in the back pages of the Encino Sun, Future Kick, much like the Seal of Solomon or The Book of Thoth, may have been lost completely to the mists of time. But your humble Actioneer has recently unearthed its unique cinematic horrors, which I have found in a horrible and reeking state of decay.

The best I can say about this film, is that at 76 minutes, it’s mercifully brief. Somehow though, Damian Klaus has crafted those 76 minutes to feel like Erich Von Stroheim’s original 10-hour cut of Greed.

Imagine if Blade Runner, Total Recall and The Terminator got together for a weekend-long PCP binge/homosexual orgy. By some miracle that confounded and enraged Pat Robertson, Kirk Cameron and their ilk, Blade Runner became pregnant with child. Then while carrying the child to term, Blade Runner subsisted on a strict diet of Wild Turkey and experimental-grade amphetamines while Total Recall and The Terminator repeatedly kicked Blade Runner in the stomach for nine months. The stillborn child would be Future Kick.

It’s a film that hobbles hither and thither without purpose. The plot, what there is, lacks repeating, save to say it takes place in yet another dystopic future where there’s robots, $1-a-lapdance strippers, body-organ thieves and a deadly underground sport called “Laserblade.” Our drowsy, drooping eyes are only occasionally sparked to life by gratuitous shots of botched boob jobs and hyper-violent mayhem. Even Don “The Dragon” Wilson looks bored, as if visions of more Bloodfist sequels danced merrily in his head. In the end, the whole thing gets tied up nice and tidy with an “Oh, it was all a dream” curtain-closer.

Whoops. I dropped a “Spoiler” there without prior warning. Did I ruin it for you? Good. You can thank me later. I just granted you 76 better-spent minutes of your life back. Now go work in a soup kitchen or train seeing-eye dogs or something.

Death at 24fps: The Hitman

The Movie:
The Hitman (1991)
The Perp: Cliff Garrett (Chuck Norris)
The Victim: Hassan (Michael Benyaer)

Learn wisely from this hapless Iranian mobster's fatal lesson: Chuck is slow to forgive the Iranian hostage crisis and never, ever curse in Chuck's presence. This brief excerpt, over the course of a mere 19 seconds, singlehandedly summarizes the entire Norris ouvre: dull, witless and above all, Pro-Amurrican.

The Movie:
Soft Target (2006)
The Perp: Captain John Rouse (Gary Busey)
The Victim: Buzz (Suzanne von Schaack)

Gary Busey, he of one of the most sociopathic screen presences this side of Sonny Landham, can stamp any scene with his own unique brand of psychosis. This scene begs several questions. Where was Busey's handler this day? Was this dialogue actually in the script or was the script girl too afraid to contradict Busey? Why does his co-star look genuinely frightened? Only Gary Busey can take a by-the-numbers erotic thriller and transform it into something of Beckettian bizarreness.

The Movie:
Soft Target (2006)
The Perp: Rosie The Waitress

Hey, Actionettes! Welcome to a steamin’ oven-fresh new feature of the Actioneer: Great Moments in Bad Acting. We kick it off with this lovely uncredited lady. She plays Rosie, the waitress and resident eye-candy at Frankie Nugentti Jr.’s mobbed-up Italian restaurant.

Now many of our great actors have worked their character’s professions in order to prepare a role - Robert De Niro famously drove a cab for a month before donning Travis Bickle’s M65 tank jacket. On that token, our anonymous actress playing Rosie should have the whole waitress thing down pat. Judging by this performance though, perhaps she was studying under the animatronic serving wenches in the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland.

When you hear the title Soft Target, you're probably expecting some steamy late-night potboiler starring Shannon Tweed's rack. You'd be wrong. This one stars Michelle Kauffman's rack and another pair of boobs (rimshot) Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson and Olivier Gruner.

Director Art Camacho, apparently hot to recapture the magic that was X-Treme Fighter, teams up with Donny the Dragon again for another sure-fire snooze ride - and like that DVD-saster, he takes the more is less approach and crams the silver disc full of half-familiar second-raters and never-wuzzers.

"Okay, okay. I’ll stop calling you ‘the poor man’s Van Damme’ if you stop calling me ‘the poor man’s Mark Dacascos.’"

Black Caesar himself, Fred Williamson shows up for five minutes. So do Martin Kove (of Karate Kid fame) and adult star T.J. Hart (of Only the A-Hole 8 fame). Art also roped in Gary Busey - but come on, these days that guy will do anything (and I do mean ANYTHING) if you give him a ham sandwich and half a freezer bag of untrampled Peruvian cocaine.

Anyhoo, Dragon and Olivier are two cops, who really don’t like each other, assigned to track down high-class escort Angel (Kauffman), the only witness to a brutal police slaying. Turns out the hit was an inside job, the result of a collaboration between mobster Frankie Nugentti Jr. - played with cartoonish panache by apparent cosmetic dentistry victim, Michael Cavalieri - and a crooked cop.

"Before my life ends, I guess the best I can say is that being in this was at least less humiliating than 1990: The Bronx Warriors."

After tracking down Angel, the unlikely pair is on the run - the Mob cutting them off at every turn. Thankfully, they still manage some time for some soft-focus sex scenes. Porn cover girl T.J. and softcore Internet model Kauffman are obvious game for a little on-screen gratuitous nudity; Don, on the other hand, has the slightly ill-at-ease ‘Oh gee, my wife is gonna kill me’ look on his face as Michelle dangles her silicones mere inches from his eyes. This may explain why he gave the ol’ ball-and-chain an Associate Producer credit.

"No, I’m serious. Pat Morita: hung like a fuckin’ rhinoceros."

All in all, there’s not much to distinguish this so-so effort from the glut of other quickie Direct-to-DVD actioners out there. Unless of course you’re that one drooling lunatic locked up in their parents' attic who’s been clamoring for the day that Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson and Olivier Gruner FINALLY teamed up. Then my friend, this dud’s for you.

Everyone else, you may find THIS a bit more stimulating.

The Movie:
American Samurai (1992)
The Perp: Andrew ‘Drew’ Collins (David Bradley)
The Victim: Kenjiro (Mark Dacascos)

After losing in the final round of Live Blade, Kenjiro tries to pull the ol’ hara-kiri fakeout - but you gotta wake up pretty early in the morning to fling a Samurai sword through Drew Collins’ back...

Stallone had his marble-mouthed street savvy. Arnold had his ironic sense of humor. Jean-Claude had his Gallic sex appeal. None of ‘em had real acting chops, neither did say, Gary Cooper, but charisma not dramatic abilities maketh a star. Then what the hell did Chuck Norris have? Long before he become a Right Wing politico and a long-running Internet MEME, there was the man, the stubbly red beard and those unwaveringly monotone line-reads.

"So you see that's why had Reagan's economic policies been given more time to gestate, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today and little colored boys like you would be wealthy just like us whites. Blame your mom for voting Clinton in '92."

Whether he’s making a cold-blooded threat or cracking a sardonic joke, Chuck always sounds the same. But whereas the similarly lacking Steven Seagal often found interesting vehicles to mask his dramatic deficiencies, Chuck always managed to stumble upon material as juiceless as himself. The Hitman, while better than say, Sidekicks, isn’t really the exception.

It starts in Seattle, Officer Cliff Garrett (Norris) and his partner Del Delaney (Michael Parks) are embroiled in a dockside skirmish with local baddies. After the gunsmoke clears, Del turns on Garrett - riddling him with bullets and leaving him for dead.

"Chuck apologizes in advance for any intimate beard rash that may result from his oral attentions."

Deep in a coma, Cliffy waivers between life and death in the county hospital. The attending doc tells Garrett’s boss Chambers (Ken Pogue) that he might be a “different man” if he recovers. Boy, is he ever! Three year later, the new Chuck has ditched the mustachioed and blown dry cop crop - now he wears a full beard and a long, slippery Kentucky waterfall! He’s also become awful trigger happy as of late.

See, Garrett has become Grogan, undercover hitman for the Seattle Mafia. Never mind that his itchy trigger finger probably would have rendered the State’s case inadmissible in court and resulted in Chuck’s dischargement from the police force. None of it matters, really. By film’s end, all the targets of the State’s case are dead and Chuck, he’s become too disillusioned about the criminal justice system to give two shits about his career anyway.

"Nuncio, not tempered glass nor state zoophilia laws can tear our love apart."

How did it all come to this? Well, a new breed of hood has muscled into town: the Iranian Mob! They’re suspiciously Un-American: they practice a strange religion, eat strange food, speak a strange language and enjoy bellydancing. I smells evil, and it smells like chelow kabab! The presence of the Iranians sparks an all out gang-war involving both the Italians and the French-Canadian Mob (?) and somewhere, pulling all the strings, is Chuck’s former partner Delaney.

It’s all really bloody and all really boring. To break up the tough guy posturing and rampant xenophobia, there’s a saccharine plotline with a fatherless kid-next-door. I suppose this is meant to imbue Chuck’s character with a drop of humanity, but more likely you’ll just be giving the fast-forward button a work out. You can do the same for most of this witless, unmemorable actioner and trust me, you won’t be missing much. Still, it’s much better than THIS.

The Movie:
Cyborg Cop (1993)
The Perp: Jack (David Bradley)
The Victim: Quincy (Rufus Swart)

Well my little Actionettes, as they say all good things must come to a close - so ends our sumptuous feast of Cyborg Cop kills and thrills. But what a note to end on! Here, Officer Jack finds himself embroiled in quite a tussle with Quincy the Robot. What's an industrious man of the law to do? I won't ruin it for you, suffice to say you might find the ending a bit, well ... 'shocking'. [cue Statler and Waldorf]

The Movie:
Cyborg Cop (1993)
The Perp: Jack (David Bradley)
The Victim: Kessel (John Rhys-Davies)

How to explain this scene's conclusion? Is it a simple case of laziness? Perhaps it's some twisted homage to Raiders of The Lost Ark, which coincidentally starred John Rhys-Davies (you all know the scene of which I speak). I'll put odds on laziness.

The Movie:
Cyborg Cop (1993)
The Perp: Quincy (Rufus Swart)
The Victim: Kessel's Henchman

Here, pastel-favoring Third World despot Kessel (John Rhys-Davies) sends one of of his hired lambs to the slaughter in order to impress potential investors in his cybernetics program. Cyborg Quincy joins said lamb in a game of robot fist-human skull-shotgun. In case you don't know the rules: robot fist beats both human skull and shotgun.

The Movie: Cyborg Cop (1993)
The Perp: Jack (David Bradley)
The Victim: Quincy (Rufus Swart)

It's Friday, my little Actionettes, and in the spirit of the end of the work week, your ol' pal the Actioneer serves up a cinematic treat sure to satisfy your greedy lil' eyes. Here be the final showdown from Sam Firstenberg's trash classic Cyborg Cop. It's an epic battle so batshit-insane it could only come from deep within the bowels of Direct-To-VHS Hell. Trust me, you'll NEVER see the end of this one comin'.

John Rhys-Davies has never been a man to pass up a paycheck. For every I, Claudius in the man’s resume, there are at least ten Chupacabra Terrors. So one shouldn’t be all that surprised to see ol' Salah hamming it up as Kessel, the cabana wear-clad baddie of 1993’s straight-to-video misfire, Cyborg Cop.

"JRD gots to get paid, son."

The title is a bit misleading, this isn’t another Robocop-come-lately - this a beast of decidedly different breed. Sam Firstenberg, obviously hot to recapture the magic that was American Samurai, once again casts David Bradley as his quick-fisted, fanny pack-donning lead. Bradley plays Jack Ryan, a retired lawman who travels to the fictional Caribbean locale of St. Keith to investigate the disappearance of his long-lost brother, Phillip.

Along the way, he ‘meets-cute’ with feisty female reporter, Cathy, played by Alonna Shaw - who displays the sort of acting chops previously isolated only to adult film sets. Of course in that spirit, she will display her other ‘assets’ later on as their screen romance blossoms.

"Wha? Dis ya no Robocop sequel? Me still g'wan meet Peter Weller?"

Firstenberg makes ample use of his tropical-settings, so expect to see a generous splash of ‘local color,’ including bumbling Third World cops, low-grade Reggae and stoned-out Rastamen. And because this is the American Ninja-auteur himself, be sure we’ll be treated to plenty of poorly-choreographed fighting sequences and comically incompetent car chases.

But nothing in Firstenberg’s filmography (and that includes Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo) quite prepares you for the appearance of Quincy - a sluggish, rubber-suited cyborg whose primary objective is to exterminate our harried hero. His other less explicit, more implied objective seems to be sending the audience into fits of uncontrollable laughter. Quincy can punch through a human skull. He also has a retractable razors in each of his ten fingers. And just to over-egg the proverbial pudding, he has a gun holster soldered to his chest. But rather than inspire fear, Rufus Swart’s clumsy performance renders Quincy’s every battle a slapstick farce - especially his final confrontation with Philip (whom Kessel has transformed into another cyborg), a sequence so ineptly staged it must be seen to be believed.

In certain states, acting in this film may constitute child abuse.

Really, the same could be said for this entire film. For moments like the aforementioned ‘Battle of the Borgs’ are legion. Cyborg Cop isn’t the worst of the robot cop films - that honor undoubtedly goes to R.O.T.O.R. (1989) - but it just might be the funniest.

The Movie:
Leonard Part 6 (1987)
The Perp: Leonard Parker (Bill Cosby)
The Victim: Man Ray (David Maier)

You'd have to be as thick as a Cliff Huxtable signature sandwich to miss the homoerotic overtones of this sequence from the Cos' surreal anti-PETA propaganda comedy. After fending off a group of Medusa Johnson's veggie-thugs with raw beef patties, Leonard unsheathes the coup de grâce: his Oscar-Meyer wiener.

From the title you might mistake this for some sort of precursor to Tom Cruise’s Glory-meets-Mr. Baseball epic The Last Samurai (2003). You’d be wrong. It sucks just as much (Oh yeah, I said it!) but this is just another in series Bloodsport-come-latelies that flooded the direct-to-video market in the early 90s.

David Bradley exhibits his range by tossing aside his American Ninja throwing stars and picking up his American Samurai samurai sword. Mark Dacascos unconvincingly assumes the Bolo Yeung role as Kenjiro, Bradley’s hot-headed, Yakuza-tied half-brother. We even have a bearded Ogre buddy in the form of Harrison (Rex Ryon) and if you’ve seen Bloodsport, you know this sap isn’t long for this world. Learn well from his valuable lesson: “Never bring a Bowie knife to sword fight.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The much-told tale begins in rural Japan. When young Drew Collins’ (Bradley) plane crash lands into Tatsuya’s (John Fujioka) backyard - the aging samurai master adopts the gaijin, schooling him in the Ancient Way of the Samurai. When Tatsuya bestows upon Drew “the family sword of the Sanga Clan”, Tatsuya’s biological son Kenjiro spirals into a blind rage.

Move locations to Los Angeles. Ace reporter Drew wakes up one balmy night to be assaulted by thugs sent by Kenjiro to retrieve the sacred katana. Now swordless, Drew flies out on assignment to Istanbul to investigate the death of a fellow reporter. Turns out the dude was filleted ... with a sacred katana!

Drew does some more snooping around - with his new sexy photographer friend (Valarie Trapp) - until he’s tasered in a Turkish disco and forced to fight in Live Blade. Its exactly like Kumite, except the brackets are filled with contestants who seem to have ripped through the very fabric of time. Witness a Viking! A Barbarian! Shaka Zulu!

You can pretty much guess how all this ends. Bolo kills Ogre. Frank Dux kills Bolo. FIN.

Responding to the collective yawn of VCR owners everywhere - Bradley slipped back into the role of the American Ninja once more. For his part, Dacascos would make a personal vow: never play a villain again. Leave that to the experts.

Rambo: First Blood Part II exploded into cinemas in the summer of ’85 and don’t think our pals across the Pacific weren’t taking notes. Soon enough, the arcades were blipping and buzzing with a new litter of baby binary-John Rambos.

And now, send in the clones...

Ikari Warriors (1986)

SNK didn’t try to hide their Rambo-roots here, it was called “Rambo: Ikari no Dasshutsu” in Japan. Ikari Warriors followed two of Stallone’s split-zygote clones as they machine-gunned a path to the village of Ikari. The inane sequel found the duo “caught in a time warp, hurled thousands of years into the future” where they had to save the land of “Alexia Lomta” from “Zang Zip.” I did not make this up.

Play it!

Secret Commando (1986)

When Sega ported their Commando-clone Ashura to European shores, gone were the gi-clad Eastern protagonists, in were these First Blood Brothers. Ashura and Bishamon were such dead ringers, that when they acquired the American rights to the Rambo-license, Sega just switched out the title screen.

Contra (1987)

The game took place in the distant future (September 12th, 2631, to be exact) in New Zealand of all places. Here, blondie Bill and his brunette buddy Lance were Earth’s last hope in the face of alien intruder Red Falcon and his minions. It became a bigger hit when it was ported to the NES and introduced ‘Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-START’ to the pop-cultural landscape.

Play it!

P.O.W.: Prisoners of War (1988)

SNK’s next grab at the Rambo-gold starred second-generation Ikari clones Bart and Snake of Army Special Forces Unit "M.” Their Mission: infiltrate the “subversive organization” GOON. In case you’re wondering, GOON stands for “Government of Offensive Network.” In case you’re wondering just what “Government of Offensive Network” means exactly... well, let’s just say your guess is as good as mine.

Play it!

Bloody Wolf/Battle Rangers (1988)

Another Snake, who with his bald-pated brother-in-arms Eagle are tasked by a Trautman-esque Colonel to “rescue kidnapped president alive.” Data East went so as far as to actually include a painted likeness of Sly (and curiously enough, Arnold) on its flyer. Bloody Wolf would become a minor MEME due its hilariously mangled mistranslation. Sample line: “You! Invaders! Get you the hot bullets of shotgun to die!”

Images shamelessly pilfered from Moby Games