March 18th, 2009

SHADOW WARRIORS 2: HUNT FOR THE DEATH MERCHANT (1999) **

Hulk Hogan, Carl Weathers, Shannon Tweed, and Martin Kove return for this straight-to-TNT sequel to Shadow Warriors (or Assault on Devil's Island, take your pick) as an elite commando unit sent to rescue Lisa (Hello Mary Lou, Prom Night 2) Schrage's daughter from the clutches of her slimy rich ex-husband.  After wrapping up that adventure in record time, Hogan next sets his sights on bringing down an arms dealer responsible for killing his former platoon.  When the baddie injects Hulk with a deadly poison, he must race against the clock to find an antidote as well as stop an impending attack on Seattle.

 

It took me forever to figure out that this was actually Shadow Warriors 2 and not the first one because the title on my copy was simply "Shadow Warriors".  You'd think that the ORIGINAL title, Assault on Devil's Mountain would be a lot cooler, but oh well.  (Although I do like the subtitle, "Hunt for the Death Merchant", which has to rank right up there with "Operation Stranglehold" as one of the tightest subtitles for a sequel ever made.)  Why in the world the DVD company would release a movie AND it's sequel under the same exact title is beyond me, but whatever.

 

Hogan is actually pretty good in this.  He has lots of flashbacks to the first movie and adequately portrays the character's "emotional pain".  Weathers (who was also in Rocky 3 with Hogan, although they didn't share any scenes together) does a fine job as Hogan's No. 2 man and Tweed looks beautiful as always; even though she doesn't get naked.  Kove is great as the constantly mugging, bargain basement version of Q with a hilarious blonde dye job.

 

Because the flick premiered on TNT, all of the action sequences are pretty tame and bloodless.  While the action isn't as graphic as I would've liked, there certainly is plenty of it to go around.  I particularly liked the scene where Hogan singlehandedly attacks a terrorist camp all by himself.  Tweed also has a great Kung Fu catfight and most of the other fight scenes are well choreographed. 

 

On the downside though, the flick just seems like a prolonged television episode than an honest to goodness action movie.  In the end, you'd be better off watching a two-part Renegade episode.  Still, the presence of Hogan, Tweed, Weathers, and Kove is pretty irresistible; I don't care who you are. 


AKA:  Shadow Warriors.  AKA:  Assault on Devil's Mountain.

THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991) ****

The Last Boy Scout is one of the true unsung classics of the 90's.  And I'm not talking about classic action movies either; I mean classic MOVIES period.  It's one of star Bruce Willis' and director Tony Scott's all time best.  It's a lean, mean, thrill machine that's cheerfully violent and nihlistic.  It's also fucking hilarious.

 

The plot has a down-and-out detective (Willis) teaming up with a washed-up football player (Damon Wayans) to stop a corrupt team owner (Noble Willingham) from assassinating a senator.  Most of that doesn't matter though.  The movie only exists to showcase some truly awesome action sequences and hilarious one-liners.   This movie is so over the top that it plays just as well as a straight up comedy as it does an action movie.  This is the kind of flick where a bad guy just can't fall off a high ledge; he's got to fall into the whirling blades of a helicopter.  There's also a great Monday Night Football parody that has to be seen to be believed.  The flick moves at a lightning pace and screenwriter Shane (Lethal Weapon) Black's dialogue is deliriously foul and highly quotable.  ("I think I fucked a squirrel to death and don't even remember it!") 

 

Bruce and Damon have a great rapport with one another and bounce a stream of endless insults off of each other.  Next to his performance(s) as John McClane in Die Hard, this is my favorite Willis performance.  He's simply terrific and makes you really care about his scumbag character.  Damon is equally good in his semi-dramatic scenes and it's a shame his later films didn't live up to this one.  The supporting cast is equally fine.  We get Taylor Negron acting cool as shit as the slimy henchman, a young Halle Berry as an ill-fated go-go dancer, as well as a pre-Tae-Bo Billy Blanks as a football player who guns down the opposing team on the gridiron.

 

This is just one of those movies that I just can't say enough good things about.  No matter how much I tell you about this movie, the only way to truly appreciate The Last Boy Scout is to watch it for yourself and have a kick ass time.

 

Scott's next was True Romance, which incredibly is even better.

PASSENGER 57 (1992) ***

Before Wesley Snipes was regulated to Direct-to-DVD Hell and stopped paying his taxes, he starred in this, the second best Die Hard rip-off ever made in the year 1992.  (I'd say Under Siege is THE best Die Hard rip-off of 1992.)  He plays an off-duty security advisor who happens to get aboard an airplane with a maniacal terrorist (Bruce Payne) who hijacks the plane.  Naturally, it's up to Snipes to kick some ass and save the day.

 

Everybody who's watching Passenger 57 probably already knows what they're getting into.  It's a Die Hard rip-off plain and simple.  Nobody reinvented the wheel on this one, but that doesn't mean it's not a lot of fun.  Although the flick occasionally gets bogged down whenever the plane is on the ground (the cracker cops are especially gratuitous), whenever the plane is flying high, so does the movie.  The action sequences are consistently solid and the performances fit the material like a glove.  Snipes brings his cool charisma to the table and does a fine job in the ass kicking department.  (He gets to display his Kung Fu technique in several scenes.)  Payne is appropriately slimy as the villain and the scene where he escapes a plastic surgeon's office (he keeps changing his face) is quite memorable.  I also liked seeing a fresh-faced Elizabeth Hurley as one of the highjackers as well as a young (and skinny) Tom Sizemore.

 

What really makes Passenger 57 different from the glut of Die Hard rip-offs out there is the dialogue.  Seriously, this movie features one of the greatest lines in the history of cinema.  It comes when Snipes has a verbal showdown with Payne over the telephone.  He says (and I quote), "You ever play roulette?  Well let me give you some advice... Always bet on black!"  No matter how many times I see that shit, I still crack up.

 

Director Kevin Hooks went on to helm the immortal Patrick Swayze action flick, Black Dog six years later.

POINT OF NO RETURN (1993) ***

Bridget Fonda stars in this Americanized remake of La Femme Nikita from criminally underrated director John (Blue Thunder) Badham as a junkie slut who kills a cop in cold blood.  Fed Gabriel Byrne sees potential in her, so he fakes her death and sends her away to a special school to be an assassin.  There she learns Kung Fu, weapons training, and umm... manners from Anne Bancroft.  She graduates by performing a hit in a classy restaurant and is then sent off to Venice Beach to await further orders.  It is there where Bridget predictably falls in love with a photographer (Dermont Mulroney) and tries to start a new life for herself.  Naturally though, she still has to blow people away in between romantic interludes with her boyfriend. 

 

The great cast helps to elevate Point of No Return from the myriad of middling remakes Hollywood churned out in the 90's.  Fonda does a fine job in the lead and carries the film nicely despite being woefully miscast.  Byrne is equally good and he and Fonda have considerable chemistry together.  It's Harvey Keitel who really steals the movie though with his brief but memorable role as "The Cleaner" who ties up all the loose ends after Bridget botches a job.

 

Badham is one of those directors that have an invisible style, which gives the film's action sequences a more realistic edge to them.  Badham doesn't dress up the action in a Hollywood way and the film is all the better for it.  Point of No Return is fairly efficient and entertaining, but in the end, it's kinda predictable and a bit forgettable.  The lame lovey-dovey subplot is groan inducing (the ravioli scene is particularly nauseating) and probably knocks things down a notch or two.  It's still worth a look if you're an action fan who loves seeing a hot chick kick a little ass.

 

AKA:  The Assassin.