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 grĂ¢ce: 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

Death at 24fps: Cobra

The Movie:
Cobra (1986)
The Perp: New World Cultist
The Victim: Innocent Bystander (Bradley Bovee)

In a hostile world takeover there’s bound to be a little collateral damage - enter this poor sap. This fellow, possibly a mild-mannered CPA on his way to celebrate his anniversary with his mousy wife, is hacked open like a Thanksgiving bird whilst walking back to his car after work. While his demise is certainly less heralded than the Night Slasher’s epic hook-and-furnace extinction - his surprised “Hey! Hey!” right before he takes it in the sternum with an axe is priceless.

Feel The Heat: Cobra OST

1986’s Cobra re-teamed Sylvester Stallone with First Blood Part II director George P. Cosmatos. Its respectable, if unspectacular, box office performance proved lightning doesn’t always strike twice. Neither did its accompanying soundtrack. While similar in style to the soundtrack of Sly’s other hit from 1985 (Rocky IV), it didn’t take hold of the American public like its predecessor had.

‘Springsteen-lite’ John Cafferty provides the movie’s theme song, “Voice of America's Sons” and thematically, it has little to do with the film whatsoever. It’s a peppy, summer radio tune driven by a roller-rink organ, as pleasantly inoffensive as any of Cafferty’s contributions to the Eddie & The Cruisers soundtracks.

Righteous Brother Bill Medley turns in two undistinguished duets, neither of which are worthy of his muscular, soulful baritone. The Miami Sound Machine and Robert Tepper contribute a couple of blue-collar odes to “workin’ hard” and “tryin’ to make a livin’” - they’re nice, but Tepper’s “Angel of the City” doesn’t quite match the standard of his own “No Way Out” from the previous year.

There’s also a pair of ‘inspirational’ anthems here, the sort that were churned out by the hundreds for 1980s movie soundtracks. Impressively-mohawked Jean Beauvoir invites us to “Feel The Heat” and its sound and lyrical conceit have the feel of a Rocky IV track that just missed the cut. Same in the case of Gary Wright’s “Hold On To Your Vision” (Sample lyric: “You live to the wall / takin’ all ‘till you fall / but you always get back up again.”).

Sylvester Levay provides the original score and it’s a punchy mix of synthetic-gloss and guitar heroics - but it’s not something you’ll find yourself revisiting more than once.

Scotti Bros. reissued this in 1992, and it’s gone out of circulation since. Rocky IV, on the other hand, was re-released in 2006 as a remastered special edition with bonus tracks.

Jean Beauvoir - Feel The Heat
John Cafferty - Voice of America's Sons

The Warners people obviously had big plans for Marion “Cobra” Cobretti in summer of ’86 . Thinking the kiddies would take Cobretti to heart as they had with Rocky and Rambo, they struck a licensing deal with the good folks at Manchester, England-based Ocean Software Ltd.
This wasn’t the first time Sly was digitized, he had previously appeared in Rocky Super Action Boxing (1983, ColecoVision) and Rambo (1985, MSX). If the quality of those offerings is any indicator, well, you should know what you’re in for with Cobra.

Marion begins his high-octane Commodore 64 adventure in the mean, pixelated streets of LA where he’s in hot pursuit of his main chick, Ingrid. Frustration sets in early as we realize Cobra is not the finely-tuned killing machine he was in the film...

Our boy’s got a four-pronged arsenal of grenades, a knife, a pistol, and his signature laser-sighted machine-gun. Problem is, when the dude steers like an Edsel stuck in Mississippi mud, the entire Fort Bragg weapons locker couldn’t help you out. Hence, a lot of the game consists of watching your “Burgometer” dissipate into crumbs as you're continually bested by even the lowliest New World thugs.

What’s a Burgometer you ask? Well, Marion’s health is represented by a cheeseburger, yes, a cheeseburger which slowly fragments as he takes damage. When your cheeseburger’s all gone, so are you. That’s probably the most unique element of this vessel-bursting Rush'n Attack knock-off.

If you have the patience to endure Cobra’s three frustrating levels, you’ll come face-to-face with the dreaded Night Slasher himself. If you’re like most, I’d advise you consult your manual:


Let’s Bleed, Pig!: Cobra

By year’s end, Sylvester Stallone had the key to the city. Over a six-month-period he had starred in two of the Top 3 Grossing Films of 1985. The second Rambo had been especially huge. Sly also wrote it. So naturally, reason stood that he would write the next one. Then they would hire that big, fat Italian mook who shot Rambo II. You know, you team these two goombas up again, you can’t lose! You just lean back in your overstuffed Verona leather executive chair and watch the green pour in.

It didn’t quite pan out that way. Three reasons why:

1) Paramount would release Top Gun the previous weekend. It would be the top-grossing picture of the year.

2) Stallone wasn’t the only writer on Rambo. A talented young fellow named James Cameron had done the first draft. The Terminator had been a sleeper hit, but James was about to blow up in a big way with Aliens. The kid had his finger on the pulse of the public.

3) John Rambo and Rocky Balboa were already known quantities to movie-goers. Marion Cobretti wasn’t.

"See that? That's the last guy who told me Oscar sucked!"

Essentially Dirty Harry re-tailored for the Sly-persona, its respectable, if unspectacular, box office performance was a disappointment to the Warner Bros. suits. It signaled a fallow period for Stallone, who found himself in a bit of a funk until he tied on the red headband again for the abysmal Rambo III.

The film starts out assuredly enough, with a well-staged grocery store scene in which Cobra chugs a Coors before dealing out his throw-knives-first, ask-questions-later-brand of justice. Of course, the liberal pussy media and liberal pussy Detective Monte (Andrew Robinson) are up in his shit about the way he takes care of business - thank God at least Reagan’s in office.

"Bitch, you better have my Snowboard Academy money!"

From there, Marion hops into his impossibly cool, customized-to-Kingdom Come 1950 Mercury Monterey and things get a bit hazy and forgettable. There’s a lot of explosions and car chases and civilian casualties but there’s nothing really iconic here like Rambo reaching into his quiver of explosive arrows. Probably the most memorable bit in the sagging mid-section is Brigitte Nielsen’s bizarro robot modeling shoot (set to Robert Tepper’s “Angel of the City”) - cocaine, anyone?

After much human and automotive carnage, it ends where all action films end: an abandoned (but curiously still-operational) industrial site. This time its a refinery. Director Cosmatos uses the environment well - particularly in the dispensation of fiery death to primary villain, the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson). Then Cobra grabs his lady love and hits the road - right after he hits Detective Monte.

Cobretti doesn't play by the rules: he uses SCISSORS to slice his pizza.

This ain’t bad, it just ain’t top-shelf Stallone (Rocky) or even fun bottom-shelf Stallone (Over The Top). It’s an 80s artifact down to its MTV-editing, synth-heavy soundtrack and hawkish political message. Despite Cobra’s cool box office reception, the source novel would be remade yet again as Fair Game with the white-hot pairing of Cindy Crawford and Billy Baldwin ‘steaming up’ the screen...or was it ‘smearing their own shit’ on the screen? But that’s a subject for another blog entry...