October 11th, 2009

NINJA EMPIRE (1987) *

An imprisoned soldier doing hard time gets pardoned so he can single-handedly take down a Hong Kong crime organization.  He also happens to be a Ninja and possesses the power to teleport himself at will.  The crime family has problems of its own and pretty much succeed in killing each other off by the time the Ninja finally shows up.

 

My suspicion is that Ninja Empire is really two unfinished movies edited into one.  You can tell because the Ninja never interacts with anyone in the crime family and is only featured in the beginning and end of the film.  Speaking of endings, Ninja Empire has one of the worse endings I’ve ever seen.  The Ninja shows up, rescues a girl, kicks a few guys, and then runs off.  The flick ends right then and there, mid-scene; almost as if they ran out of film or something.  I’m not complaining though because I don’t know how much more of the movie I could’ve watched without falling asleep.

 

Ninja Empire has little to recommend about it; save for the silly scenes where the Ninja disappears and reappears wearing camouflage Ninja pajamas.  Other than that, Ninja Empire is a complete turd.  Director Godfrey (Undefeatable) Ho directs the interchangeable “action sequences” stiffly; the lone exception being the fairly decent motorcycle chase.  The dialogue scenes are boring as fuck.  Imagine watching a complete stranger’s poorly filmed Bar Mitzvah video, and that should give you some idea of a how much fun the bulk of Ninja Empire is.  

 

AKA:  Ninja Phantom Heroes.

A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS (1987) *** ½

New Line Cinema wisely brought back the original Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven to co-write and executive produce this installment.  They also brought Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) back as well as her dad (John Saxon), so it really was a homecoming.  Despite their presence, Part 3 is still not quite in the same league as the original film, but it’s definitely a lot of fun.

 

This time Nancy is a counselor helping suicidal teens in a nuthouse.  They all dream of Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) who murders them in their sleep and makes it look like they committed suicide.  Kristen (Patricia Arquette) is Freddy’s main target.  She has a gift for pulling other people into her dreams and Nancy uses her power to rally together all the kids to fight Freddy.

 

This is the one where Freddy stopped being “scary” and started being “cool”.  You can say a lot of complimentary things about Dream Warriors, but scary is not one of them.  The tip-off that you probably shouldn’t take any of this seriously is during the opening credits when you see the title that says:  “Special Appearance by Zsa Zsa Gabor”.

 

I think Dream Warriors is the movie where Freddy jumped the shark and became more of a comedian.  Every kill is punctuated with a one-liner that’s related to how the kid gets murdered.  I know Part 2 had more problems than a math book but at least they tried to keep Freddy in the shadows a bit.  Here he’s front and center cracking wise.  

 

This isn’t really a criticism though because I really like Dream Warriors a lot.  Freddy has some really cool kills in this flick.  I think the best part is when he cuts a guy’s veins out of his hands and feet and walks him like a marionette to his death.  Then there’s the unnerving scene where Freddy kills a druggie chick.  His hands become needles and he gives her an overdose right in her pulsating track marks.  (“What a rush!”)  And let’s not forget about the immortal scene when Freddy shoves a chick’s face into a TV.  (“Welcome to prime time bitch!”)

 

The big quibble I have with this entry is that it breaks Horror Movie Sequel Rule Number 2 and gives Freddy a stupid back story.  The kids’ doctor (Craig Wasson) talks to a ghost nun that is revealed to be Freddy’s mother who tells him that her son was conceived when she was gang raped by a bunch of lunatics.  Try not to laugh when she calls him “The Bastard Son of 100 Maniacs.”

 

Then of course there’s the lame subplot about Wasson having to bury Freddy’s bones on hallowed ground.  Freddy doesn’t like that too much so his skeleton comes to life and tries to kill him.  (It looks like a refugee from a Sinbad movie.)  This is intensely stupid because Wasson isn’t dreaming when the skeleton starts attacking him, so how in the fuck is this even possible?  The capper comes when Wasson uses holy water to kill Freddy.  I didn’t know that Dracula Rules were in effect.

 

And the less said about role-playing paraplegic kid who becomes The Wizard Master the better.

 

Englund delivers another terrific performance as Freddy.  They gave him some really bad dialogue (“Feeling tongue tied?”) but he overcomes that by chewing the scenery like a pro.  Occasionally he’s allowed to do some gross stuff to remind you that he’s not just a comedian but he’s also one sick fuck.  Like the part when Nancy shoves a pole through him.  What’s he do?  He takes it out of his stomach then licks it.  (Sorta like when Bruce Lee would lick the blood after he had been cut.)  What’s weird is that sometimes he speaks in a synthesized voice and sometimes he just sounds like Robert Englund.  I don’t know if that was a goof on the filmmakers’ part or what.  All I know is that it’s kinda distracting.

 

The other performers are solid enough.  Arquette makes for a likable heroine and she’s a good screamer to boot.  Langenkamp is pretty good, although Craven and his writers (which include Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont) never really give her a whole lot to do.  Same goes for John Saxon too. 

 

A Nightmare on Elm Street 3:  Dream Warriors is generally regarded as the best sequel in the series.  Although I think that title goes to Freddy vs. Jason, it’s still pretty high up there.  Re-reading this review, it seems like I bitched a lot about the film’s various shortcomings.  In the long run, they don’t add up to all that much and shouldn’t ruin your enjoyment of the film.

 

Oh, and if you don’t raise a fist and bang your head to the Dream Warriors theme song by Dokken, Freddy will find you in your dreams and kill you.

 

<Tomorrow’s Horror Franchise Movie:  A Nightmare on Elm Street 4:  The Dream Master>

THE EVIL THAT MEN DO (1984) ***

The Doctor (Joseph Maher) is this stuffy British dude who goes around South America teaching Torture 101 to classes of prospective dictators.  In one such class, he puts electrodes on a reporter’s gonads and tortures him to death.  This was a big mistake because the reporter’s best friend was Charles Bronson.  

 

If Death Wish 1-5 have taught us anything, it’s that you don’t senselessly kill any of Chuck’s nearest and dearest unless you want The Moustache breathing down your neck with a big gun.

 

The Evil That Men Do isn’t a great Bronson vehicle but it contained enough moments of badassery from the man that kept this die hard Chuck fan entertained.  The baddest of the badass moves Bronson did in this one came when some jackass tried to hit on his girl.  What did Chuck do?  He grabs onto the guy’s dick and twists on it WITH BOTH HANDS for a good minute or so.  From the looks of things, I bet old Chuck could get a job at Auntie Anne’s twisting pretzels.

 

This movie also has a sort of Kinjite vibe to it too.  Consider the one scene where Bronson poses as a bisexual swinger to lure The Doctor’s bodyguard into his hotel room where he sticks a knife in the guy’s neck.  You don’t see Chuck flirting with another man very often and when you do, it kinda makes you sick.  You know the guy was going to get killed something fierce if Chuck had to pretend to be a switch hitter in order to get to him.

 

There’s also a pretty funny scene when Bronson goes to kidnap The Doctor’s sister and hides under the bed to wait for her.  Little does he know that she’s about to get down and dirty with a lesbian (who has a giant bush) and he has to wait until they’re done fucking to make his move.  Chuck’s double take after he crawls out from under the bed was priceless.  I haven't laughed that hard since Obama won the Nobel Prize.

 

The thing that prevents The Evil That Men Do from breaking out and venturing into classic mode is Chuck’s awful supporting lady.  He dumbly takes her down to South America with him as part as his cover.  He should have dumped her once he got over the border.  This chick is just there to tell Chuck that killing is wrong, bitch and moan, and occasionally translate for him.  Had the screenwriters just wrote her out of the script, The Evil That Men Do could’ve been another Ten to Midnight.

 

What The Evil That Men Do does have is a killer ending.  Those who don’t want it spoiled, skip down to the next paragraph.  Chuck actually doesn’t get his hands on the killer, which may infuriate some people, but I dug it.  The ending is reminiscent of Freaks as The Doctor’s misshapen and disfigured former patients do a little surgery of their own on him with some rusty pick axes.  This makes sense to let The Doctor’s victims get their revenge because after all, Chuck was just avenging the death of a friend.  Now if Chuck was avenging the death of his wife or something; that would be a different story.

 

The Evil That Men Do was the fifth of nine collaborations between Bronson and director J. Lee Thompson.  Oddly enough, it was one of the few of their films that weren’t produced by Golan and Globus’ Cannon Films.  The film is a solid Three Star Bronson flick, but one can only imagine how much more sleazier things could’ve been had it been released by those guys.