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I got on the Olivier Gruner bandwagon late in life. But the more I see of the man, the more I like him. He’s kinda like an economy Van Damme, and I mean that in the best possible way. Today we’ll look at three films from ol’ Olivier.

First up is…

THE FIGHTER (1995) ***

Olivier Gruner stars as a French soldier in Texas after the Civil War. He wants to enter a fighting tournament to get his hands on the $500 prize. Gruner winds up protecting a couple of homesteaders (Ian Ziering and Ashley Laurence) from a greedy businessman (R. Lee Ermey) who is trying to steal their land. After playing the reluctant hero, he eventually enters the contest to help pay the couple’s taxes. What Gruner doesn’t count on is facing his former arch nemesis (The Beastmaster himself, Marc Singer) in the tournament.

The Fighter is probably the best Kung Fu western starring a French kickboxer I’ve ever seen. The terrific cast helps to elevate the material. Ashley Laurence gives the best performance as the pioneer woman in peril. Of course, she looks more like a feisty babe from the 90’s and not a little lady on the prairie. And believe it or not, 90210 alum Ian Ziering isn’t bad as her overprotective husband.

Olivier Gruner gives probably his best performance of his career in this film. He does a fine job at playing the mysterious gunfighter/kickboxer. And the faux-Morricone score highlights what a badass he is.

The movie really belongs to Marc Singer though. He’s a lot of fun playing the German tough man champion. Sporting a monocle and a hilariously overdone German accent, he looks like he’s having a blast.

I guess it should be noted that the brand of kickboxing Gruner uses in this movie is called “Savate”. Sometimes though they just call it “French boxing”. Like French kissing, it’s like regular boxing, only more intense.

Director Isaac (Undisputed 2 & 3) Florentine handles the action scenes very well. They’re nicely choreographed and benefit from the unusual surrounding. Seriously, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen pioneer people cheering on a kickboxing tournament.

AKA: Savate. AKA: Point Blank.

Our next Gruner film is…

TNT (1998) ** ½

Olivier Gruner stars as a soldier on a “Tactical Neutralization Team”. They’re bankrolled by a billionaire (Eric Roberts) who issues orders out of his mansion. Gruner eventually learns that the team is more or less Roberts’ personal assassination squad, so he quits. He moves to a small town and settles down with his girlfriend, but Roberts decides he knows too much and sends his squad after Gruner to silence him once and for all.

Gruner gives a solid performance here. He has good chemistry with Randy Travis, who plays the small town sheriff. There’s a funny bit when Travis gets shot and Gruner says, “If you die, I’ll never speak to you again!” There’s also a funny scene where he plays blackjack with his dog, so if anything, the film shows that Gruner has some comedy chops.

It’s also fun seeing Eric Roberts in this. He looks like a professor with his trimmed beard and glasses. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time.

TNT was directed by Robert Radler, director of Best of the Best 1 and 2 (which also starred Roberts) and The Substitute 3 and 4. It’s not nearly as great as any of those films, but it’s OK. The flick begins and ends with a bang, but the middle sections are hampered by too many scenes of Gruner debating whether or not he should ask his girlfriend to marry him.

Easily the best part of the movie comes when Gruner is teaching his aerobics class. Seeing buxom Playboy Playmate Traci Adell in a tight workout outfit jumping rope is a rather amazing sight. Too bad that’s about all we see of her though.

TNT proves the Video Vacuum Rule: If a squadron of soldiers is going to jump out of an airplane in a low budget movie from the 90’s, you can pretty much count on seeing the skydiving footage from Navy SEALS.

And our final Olivier flick is…

INTERCEPTOR FORCE (2000) * ½

An alien ship crashes in the Mexican desert. Brad Dourif and Ernie Hudson send Olivier Gruner, William Zabka, and Glenn Plummer to recover the wreckage. Their team is then killed off one by one by an unseen alien hunter.

Interceptor Force gets off to a good start. Gruner walks into a top secret facility and he’s immediately apprehended. The guards try to interrogate him unsuccessfully (and by “unsuccessfully” I mean he keeps kicking their ass). It’s a fun scene, but it’s all downhill from there.

Once Gruner’s team gets to the crash site, the movie becomes a cheap and boring Predator rip-off. (One guy gets turned into a bloody puddle, the alien is invisible, it sees in a different spectrum of colors, etc.) When we finally do get to see the extraterrestrial sumbitch, it looks like something out of a Nintendo 64 game. The filmmakers must’ve known it looked shitty too because they make it take the form of Gruner’s fallen comrades for the bulk of its screen time.

There’s a good brawl in a biker bar near the end. At one point, a Ninja inexplicably jumps through the saloon doors and Gruner throws him behind the bar. Unfortunately, this scene and the interrogation scene are the only worthwhile bits in the whole movie.

Gruner, Zabka, and Plummer are pretty much left out to try in this movie. Dourif and Hudson fare even worse and spend their time barking orders behind computer monitors. And for some reason, Dourif says all of his dialogue S-L-O-W-L-Y, like he’s stalling (or trying to get more screen time, either one).

AKA: Interceptors. AKA: Alien Interceptors. AKA: Predator 3: Interceptors. AKA: The Last Line of Defence.

Next week’s Legend: Brian Bosworth.

Comments

( 3 comments — Comment )
darksteel6
Dec. 15th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
I enjoyed TNT and Interceptor Force, haven't seen Savate though.

BTW which Bosworth films are you checking out?
thevideovacuum
Dec. 15th, 2012 02:33 am (UTC)
You should definitely check it out. It's my favorite Gruner film so far.

I'm doing Spill, One Man's Justice, and Mach 2 for Bosworth.
darksteel6
Dec. 15th, 2012 02:36 am (UTC)
One Man's Justice is a great film, the other two not so much, Virus is extremely boring and Mach 2 is a pretty average Die Hard rip-off.
( 3 comments — Comment )

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