BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981) ***
In 1970, three babies were born during an eclipse. Ten years later, they turn into psycho killers that murder townsfolk by strangulation, shovel bludgeoning, baseball bat bashing, arrows to the eye, and of course; shooting them with revolvers. In short, these tykes are fucking awesome. They’d kick those kids from Children of the Corn’s ass any day.
I’ve got to tell ya, I love the fact that you see the kids killing people right off the bat. There’s no build-up or mystery as to who’s doing the killings or why. It’s fucking killer eclipse kids and they’re fucking nuts and they’re fucking killing people. I liked that. It cuts right to the chase. These little fuckers are so unassuming that people just invite them right into their home and don’t even flinch or anything when they pull a gun on them because they think it’s a toy.
Four years before he became the American Ninja, Michael Dudikoff had a bit part in this. If you can’t pick him out, just look for the dude with the impeccably frosted hair. He isn’t given much to do here. All he really does is attend a funeral, smokes dope, and makes out with Julie Brown; which would be enough for me if I was in his shoes.
Speaking of Julie Brown, if you loved her in Earth Girls Are Easy; you’re guaranteed to go gaga for her here. She has what is without a doubt one of the greatest nude scenes in 80’s horror film history. It’s just so damn gratuitous. And by gratuitous; I mean AWESOME.
In addition to featuring a healthy amount of nudity, Bloody Birthday delivers in just about every department you’d expect a horror movie from 1981 to deliver. The kills are solid, the Friday the 13th rip-off music is quite good, and the tracking shots of girls walking down the street are straight out of Halloween. And like most horror flicks, it leaves the door open for a sequel; which unfortunately for us, never happened.
Bloody Birthday starts out like it’s going to be a classic, yet the film kinda flounders in the final act. I was also hoping that those kids would get their comeuppance but sadly, that didn’t happen. Although the flick never quite manages to live up to its early potential, Bloody Birthday nevertheless remains a heck of a lot of fun. It’s one Birthday that’s definitely worth celebrating.
AKA: Angst. AKA: Creepers.
VIRTUAL ASSASSIN (1995) ***
Futuristic cop Michael Dudikoff cracks under pressure and lets his partner get killed in the line of duty. Dudikoff winds up getting kicked off the force and the only job he can get is being a janitor at this computer lab where scientists are perfecting a living computer virus. He’s also been having some problems with some loan sharks, so Dudikoff decides to hide out in the lab after hours. Of course, that also happens to be the night that Brion James leads a team of gunmen into the facility and takes control of the building a la Die Hard. Since James is also the guy who killed Dudikoff’s partner, it gives Mikey Boy an opportunity to redeem himself. But things aren’t going to be all that easy; especially once James injects himself with the computer virus and turns into a cyber-killer.
Virtual Assassin is one of those movies that are goofy as Hell but there’s also some legitimately good stuff in there and the combination of the two makes for 97 minutes of pure fun. Let us first focus on the goofy shit. I like how in the future, cops will wear a black shirt, then Velcro a bulky 90’s cell phone to the front, and pin on a police badge they got out of a box of Crackerjacks and call it a uniform.
Then there’s the notion of injecting a human being with a computer virus. Of course, this results in the person having the ability to shoot green lasers out of his eyes. Naturally, everyone’s gut reaction to stop him is to try to shoot the infected person. Personally, I would’ve just injected him with some Norton Antivirus Software in a syringe, but that’s just me.
You know, I miss these Virtual Reality action sci-fi flicks from the 90’s when filmmakers didn’t know dick about computers and made up random shit like this. I also miss Die Hard in a Blank movies, so Virtual Assassin worked for me on both accounts. Not only is Dudikoff trapped in a building full of terrorists, he also has to resort to crawling around in a ventilation shaft just like old John McClane. The combination of the Virtual Reality Killer genre and the Die Hard rip-off genre is a weird one, but somehow it works for the most part.
As previously stated, there’s some legitimately good stuff sprinkled in with the cheese. There’s a clever scene where the villains kill the front desk security guard and use a hologram of him to fool people into thinking he’s still on duty. Then we have a great scene in the ventilation shaft where Dudikoff Molotovs the holy fuck out of some random goon.
Speaking of Dudikoff, he is excellent here and gives one of his best performances. This flick is really the perfect kind of vehicle for him. He is great a playing this kind of down and out character that has something to prove to himself.
And Brion James is good for a hoot and a holler. For starters, he has this bizarre accent where sometimes he sounds Cockney and other times Australian. Then sometimes he sounds like he’s from Noo Yawk, and then there are times when he sounds like well… Brion James. And wait until he starts zapping people with his glowing green eyes. If you can’t already tell, this is some high quality Brion James we’re talking about here, folks.
The flick also has a couple of quirky touches that I appreciated. Like the fact that James’ right hand woman wears a silver Viking breastplate for no discernible reason. And Dudikoff’s run-in with a VR belly dancer is good for a laugh too (and provides the flick with some much needed T & A).
Virtual Assassin can’t really sustain its momentum for the entire running time. The film particularly gets bogged down when Dudikoff has to square off with a police robot that mistakes him for a terrorist. Things perk up once again once James injects himself with the virus and starts zapping people with green lasers out of his eyes. I could’ve done without the annoying Lawnmower Man-ish ending though.
Naturally, James gets all the best lines; my favorite begin: “After tonight, God will be lucky if I return his calls!”
SOLDIER BOYZ (1996) **
Soldier Boyz finds Michael Dudikoff as an ex-military man-turned-social worker trying to get through to some gang members in a jail for troubled kids. Some rich guy approaches him to rescue his daughter who’s being held captive by Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa in Vietnam. Dudikoff accepts the mission but only as long as he can take a couple of these kids with him. Because the teens are in opposing gangs, racists, or otherwise psychotic, Dudikoff has to make sure they don’t kill each other before they kill the enemy.
So basically what we’ve got here is a gangbanger version of The Dirty Dozen with The American Ninja in the Lee Marvin role.
Let me get this off my chest. The plot of this movie is fucking stupid. I mean who in their right mind would authorize sending incarcerated gang members to Vietnam on a top secret mission? MILITARY prisoners, sure; but generic hoodrats? Please. Plus, the title is also misleading because there’s a girl on the team too. I guess Soldier Boyz and One Gurl just didn’t have the same ring to it.
Whatever the flick lacks in the probability department, it makes up for in the earnestness of Dudikoff’s performance. He really gives it his all and does a helluva job here. As misguided as most of the movie is; Dudikoff gives it some gravitas at least.
Despite the highly unlikely set-up, a good movie could’ve been made from this material. Often times, the flick plays like an OK first draft of a potentially good film. Maybe if they beefed up the villain a bit more and actually worked to make the gang members likeable; it could’ve worked.
Then again, since Louis (The Hitcher 2) Morneau, was in the director’s chair, the flick probably never stood a chance. Although there is quite a lot of gunfire and explosions; most of the action is routine and the finale is weak. The flick also loses major points for giving guys like Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa and Don Stroud (who wears an eye patch) virtually nothing worthwhile to do.
The flick is at its best during the scenes where Dudikoff whips his team in shape. It’s here where you can see glimpses of a decent movie trying to get out. Once Dudikoff and his “Boyz” start soldiering, it’s not much to write home about.
THE SHOOTER (1997) ** ½
Michael Dudikoff rides into town and guns down a couple of outlaws who are beating up a prostitute. One of the guys that The Duds kills happens to be the son of William Smith; and as we all know, William Smith is definitely one dude you don’t want to fuck around with. Smith eventually catches up to Dudikoff and beats him up, breaks his hands, and crucifies him. Before the flick can become The Passion of the Dudikoff, the whore he helped in the beginning pulls him off the cross and takes him back home so he can get healed up. Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger (Randy Travis) who has some unfinished business with Dudikoff worms his way into becoming sheriff so he can finally get some revenge on the Dudster.
The Shooter is kinda like Fred Olen Ray’s half-assed remake of Django. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. It’s actually decent for the most part. Ray (who also has a small role as a gambler) stages the shootouts rather well and keeps the flick moving at a brisk pace. As you all know, I’m a big Fred Olen Ray fan and The Shooter proves that he can make a competent movie in just about any genre.
I do have to say that Michael Dudikoff is a bit miscast as the steely eyed gunfighter. It seems to me like he was trying to pull off the whole Man with No Name thing but instead of looking bitter and badass; he wound up looking bored and out of sorts. Plus, the outfit he was wearing didn’t do him any favors. He looked more Gabby Hayes than John Wayne.
The supporting cast fares much better. William Smith is a fucking badass in this movie. He could never be anything less of course, but he really gave a multi-faceted performance. Because of that, we can actually sympathize with his character. He’s simply fantastic in this and lends the flick a touch of class.
And Randy Travis is pretty good too. Not as good as he was in Black Dog but still. I liked how his intentions were slowly played out and how his character morphed from ally to villain as the film progressed. B movie fans will also enjoy seeing guys like Andrew Stevens (who also produced), Robert Quarry, and Kane Hodder popping up as well.
The Shooter is an amicable way to spend 90 minutes. It doesn’t really kick ass or anything but I kinda liked it. I guess the biggest drawback is the overall look of the film; as it resembles your standard issue Hallmark Hall of Fame western (although you wouldn’t see any tits on Hallmark Channel, that’s for damn sure). Still, it’s the sort of movie your dad or grandfather would like a helluva lot more than you would.
AKA: Deadly Shooter. AKA: Desert Shooter.
THE SILENCER (2000) **
Quinn Simmons (Michael Dudikoff) is an assassin working for an “extreme right-wing terrorist group”. Jason Wells (Brennan Elliott) is an ex-CIA agent who gets reinstated with the bureau to infiltrate the organization. Dudikoff takes him under his wing and shows him the hitman ropes. It all turns out to be an elaborate plot by the organization to implicate Jason in the murder of a presidential candidate. Quinn eventually lets his conscience get the better of him and he helps Jason clear his name. Predictably, Quinn is also harboring a dark secret that could put his friendship with Jason in jeopardy.
Here’s another case where Dudikoff tries to play the aloof loner type and it doesn’t quite work. In The Silencer, Dudikoff tries to talk in a Clint Eastwood voice, but it just comes off sounding like he has a sinus infection. I did like his quieter scenes where he tries to settle down with his teacher girlfriend though (he brings her an apple). This isn’t his best performance by a mile but he easily outshines the rest of the cast.
Elliott is merely OK as Dudikoff’s pupil-turned-traitor-turned-ally. I did find it hard to believe that Dudikoff didn’t sniff this guy out as a rat much sooner. I don’t think his greasy ponytail and his cheesy goatee was fooling anyone.
The Silencer started off like it was going to be a tortuous bore, but the flick slowly gets better as it goes along. I enjoyed the conspiracy angle and the scenes where Dudikoff mentors Elliott kinda plays like a low rent version of The Mechanic. Overall, it's just thoroughly middle of the road.
Suggested Drinking Games: 1) Take a shot every time Dudikoff uses a silencer. 2) Take a shot every time Dudikoff “silences” his target. 3) Take a shot every time someone says the word “Silencer”.
I want to thank my pal Ryan Kenner from Movies in the Attic (http://moviesintheattic.blogspot.com/) for providing me with copies of Virtual Assassin, The Shooter, and The Silencer.
We’re not going to have a Movie-Palooza next month because I’m going to be doing the annual 31 Days of Horror-Ween thing where I review a Horror Franchise Movie every day throughout the month of October. This year I’m also going to try to watch and review exclusively nothing but horror films. Time will tell what kind of Palooza we’ll have come November.
BLOODY BIRTHDAY (1981) ***