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 flambĂ©. 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...