Category Archives: Guest Review: Vytautas Malesh

Review: ‘Above the Law’ With Bonus NICO! Game Card

Review by special guest writer Vytautas Maslesh. Visit his blog, Sardonic Shock Syndrome, to enjoy more of incisive pop culture commentary. 

 above the lawAbove the Law (alternate title:  Nico: Above the Law) was Steven Seagal’s breakout performance and the first of his three-word-title series (Above the Law, Hard to Kill, Marked for Death, and Out for Justice before breaking form for Under Siege, but then coming right back to it with On Deadly Ground).  The film did much to set the tone for not only Steven Seagal’s cinematic career, but the real-life crazy show that is Steven Seagal in real life.

Steven Seagal is, time has proven, a Grade-A bullshit artist.  It’s so obvious now that it’s almost tiresome to point it out, but lest it go unsaid, you probably had one friend like Steve back in middle school – the kind of guy who had an uncle that works for NASA and let him play around in the space shuttle when he went to visit, the kind of guy who was attacked by a bear while he and his family were camping over summer vacation and only managed to save his family by shooting the bear with the fully-automatic rifle his grandpa gave him for a birthday present – you know, the kind of guy with a Canadian girlfriend.

In Above the Law, which Steven Seagal not only starred in, but also wrote and co-produced, we get the first taste of Steven Seagal lunacy.  Whether Steven Seagal started modeling his own life on the Nico Toscani character after the movie, or if Nico Toscani is meant to mirror the life that Steven Seagal read about in a comic book once is a matter of speculation and conjecture, and is ultimately trivial.  Above the Law is where it all starts: the crazy conspiracy theories, the earnest self-aggrandizement, and of course, the bullshit.

With just a splash of TJ Hooker.

With just a splash of TJ Hooker.

Let me summarize the plot of Above the Law. Because the writing on this movie is so impossibly lazy, I decided to highlight the clichés and tropes for you.

The character of Nico Toscani is the son of Italian immigrants who goes to Japan to learn Aikido and is recruited by the CIA at a young age.  He leaves the agency, disillusioned with all the torture and gun running and such, and becomes a tough Chicago street cop who of course plays by his OWN RULES.  His partner is Pam Grier in her post-Coffy, pre-Jackie Brown years.  His wife is Sharon Stone, who is terrible.  How bad of an actor are you when you have to admit that you were showed up by Steven Seagal?  The answer is Sharon Stone. Even in this cinematic stink-bomb, Sharon Stone is out of her depth.  Then again, Sharon Stone is out of her depth in a bird bath.

The heavy is played by 1970s-1980s staple bad guy and four-time Tiger Beat cover model Henry Silva, who is doing the best with what he’s given.  He plays a TORTURE HAPPY CIA boss whose preferred tool is chemical interrogation – basically he shoots someone full of smack and then plays 20 questions before killing the dude anyway.  He masterminds a plot to something about Nicaragua and killing a senator and oh who really gives a shit?  Nico meets Henry Silva in the jungles of Cambodia, and the cruelty of the former causes gentle soul Nico to leave the CIA behind, but of course try to get out / pull me back in / etc.

The prequel to "Tropic Thunder."

The prequel to “Tropic Thunder.”

Nico stumbles on what he believes to be A PLOT TO SMUGGLE DRUGS into the country, but the drugs TURN OUT TO BE EXPLOSIVES.  There’s a plot to assassinate a priest and something mumble mumble – the point is that this conspiracy goes ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!

Unsurprisingly, Nico takes THE LAW INTO HIS OWN HANDS because OWN RULES.  Nico goes after the bad guys, but unsurprisingly they decide to GO AFTER HIS FAMILY, leading to the most pointless shootout in history – honestly, Nico and another cop who is not Pam Grier go chasing after Henry Silva, shoot up the hotel room where he’s torturing a priest, and then leave – Pam Grier is shot during the shootout even though it was only 8 DAYS UNTIL RETIREMENT, but it’s okay because SHE WAS WEARING A VEST.

Nico goes after Henry one last time.  There’s a CAR CHASE and a SHOOTOUT CAR CHASE, but Henry Silva wants Nico taken alive.  Pop quiz, Henry Silva – if you wanted him alive, why have your henchmen shoot at him?  Do you not know how bullets work?

seagal choked

Anyway, Henry Silva decides to torture Nico to death with that chemical interrogation stuff he’s been using all movie, but Nico is DRUG PROOF SUPERMAN.  He SNAPS OUT OF IT and then he snaps Henry Silva’s arm and spine.  The SENATOR IS GRATEFUL BUT CLUELESS, and the movie ends with Steven Seagal boring some reporter to death with stories of his CIA exploits which totally happened even though the government denies it so you can’t prove it didn’t happen and you could ask my Canadian girlfriend but we broke up and then she died.

The worst part about Above the Law is that it is B-O-R-I-N-G.  Steven Seagal movies work when they are over-the-top batshit, but it seems that in Above the Law, Steve might not have had 100% free rein to do whatever the hell he wanted, and so there are no Jamaican posses, post-coma montages, or Gary Buseys.  Instead, it’s a by-the-numbers cop action flick with an unnecessarily involved CIA subplot and long sequences of Steven Seagal running like a twelve-year-old girl making fun of a thirty-six-year-old gay man.

Gotta poop gotta poop gotta poop – too late.

Gotta poop gotta poop gotta poop – too late.

The mystery really is that if you’re going to completely bullshit your way through not just a film, but an entire filmic career and media persona, why should it ever be dull?  Why babble on for 30 minutes about the minutiae of CIA spying programs when you could just say that you’re an astronaut who doesn’t need a rocket ship, but rather just jumps to the moon whenever he feels like it?  It worked for Dolemite, and it would sure as hell go a long way to making Above the Law halfway watchable.

STATISTICS:

  • Steven Seagal arm snap count:  2
  • Spine snap:  1
  • Disarms a guy using slappy martial arts:  5 I think
  • Running:  Approximately 4 minutes
  • Running like a man:  0 minutes
  • Bullshit:  CIA history, Italian heritage, speaking multiple languages

TIDBITS:

There’s one kind of decent line of dialogue in the movie – after escaping an ambush, Steven Seagal disarms some assassins.  When one of them advances on him saying something about how Steve can’t shoot them all – Steve shoots the guy in the gut and says “no, but I’ll get an A for effort.”

This movie came out in 1988.  That year, Pam Grier was diagnosed with cancer.  I doubt this is a coincidence.

This is a photo of Chelcie Ross, who plays Nico’s ex-CIA partner Nelson Fox:

chelcie ross

This is a photo of Ben Stiller playing “Simple Jack” in the movie Tropic Thunder

Movie reviews muh-muh-muh make me haahh-peee.

Movie reviews muh-muh-muh make me haahh-peee.

 

Nico the game

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Filed under Bad Movies, Contains Steven Seagal, Guest Review: Vytautas Malesh, Loose Cannon Cop

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Review: Special Guest Review by Vytautas Malesh

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Movie

A sequel? It's gotta be good!

I’ve been terribly remiss in not getting a review to the lovely ladies of Rental Rehab sooner – furthermore, I have thus far not delivered on my promise to complete the three-word-Segal-movie-trilogy by reviewing Out for Justice, though that’s coming soon.  They say once you’re in a hole, you ought to stop digging, and holding out for Out for Justice would only prolong my leave, so I had to one-up my own sense of expectation and dig a real stinker out of the cinematic crap-vault that was my adolescence. 

I knew that I would have to review a movie that not only have I not seen in nearly 10 years, but a movie I couldn’t see even if I wanted to, which I don’t. If you check the Wikipedia entry for the movie No Retreat, No Surrender 2, you’ll see that no video maker or distributor intends to release the film on Region 1 DVD, and I don’t blame them.  Neither should you.

However: the internet, like god, is capricious, cruel, and merciless.  While looking for screen captures of Cynthia Rothrock’s adorable karate boobs, I discovered that No Retreat, No Surrender 2 has been posted to Youtube under it’s alternate title “Raging Thunder” in 10 barely digestible installments by user “MartialArtsKO1.”  I guess I have him to thank, and by thank I mean track down, drown in a bathtub, swaddle in duct tape, leave by the roadside in a hefty bag, and then go party, get arrested, languish in jail for two years, say I was abused as a child, get acquitted of all charges, and then go party some more.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Title Page

Press "A" to Start

The first No Retreat, No Surrender was a plucky 1980’s martial arts flick about a boy who had to defeat Soviet communism with karate.  Fuck you if you think I’m joking – it was the 1980’s: karate was the only weapon we had. Exhibit A: The Karate Kid, Best of the Best, American Ninja, Gymkata and, of course, Tootsie. 

The first No Retreat, No Surrender had everything you would expect: montage training sequences, a young martial artist out to avenge his father, an ebony-and-ivory friendship / training partnership à la Rocky III, Bruce Lee’s ghost, and Jean-Claude Van Motherfucking Damme.  That’s right – this was basically JCVD’s big breakout exempting the spy thriller Black Eagle, but that’s not what’s important.

What is important is that No Retreat, No Surrender 2 features none of the above.

Jack McBrayer Kenneth 30 Rock

Speaking of breakout roles, here's Jack McBrayer.

No Retreat, No Surrender 2 follows the worlds lankiest slack-jawed American around the drug-fueled sex-pits ofThailand, neatly avoiding all drugs and sex, in favor of some contrived plot about this gangster arms dealer guy who blah blah Russians yaketty yak his daughter kidnapping who-gives-a-shit. 

The first minute of the movie is just some guy screaming inThai.  He’s some sort of general guy, and there’s another army guy with him, and then a shady gangster looking guy behind them.  Think these people might be important?  The director didn’t’ – you can’t see their faces and so you have no way of knowing who anyone is.

After that there’s plane-flying stock footage, probably provided as a promotional consideration by Singapore Airways.  The plane breaks a cardinal rule of cinematography in that it is “arriving” from left to right.  Similarly, this movie breaks many rules of cinematography by even existing in the first place. 

Handy subtitles let us know that we are inBangkok.  We see the star of this movie, Scott Wylde, played by Loren Avedon.  He is conspicuously lanky for a leading man – I mean just absolutely gangly.

As Scott heads out of the airport to get a cab, the theme song, “Raging Thunder” persists.  This song is horrible.  It sounds like a porno soundtrack sung at a karaoke bar by a drunken castrato who has just been harpooned through the stomach.  The lyrics are nonsensical, the melody is bland, and the singer’s voice makes it apparent that she firstly knows how much shame she has brought to her family and second is about to kill herself over it.

Corey Yuen Director No Retreat No Surrender 2

At least now we know who to blame.

Once Scott finds a cab, hilarity ensues when Scott, the big tall lanky American, cannot squeeze into the tight confines of the motorcycle rickshaw.  Wakka wakka!

The motorcycle takes Scott to a Thai Dojo, or rather, an abandoned flea market that gets to dress up like a Thai Dojo for the day.  Inside, Cynthia Rothrock is beating the snot out of some poor boxer.  She is inexplicably rude to Scott, and tricks him into fighting another student at the gym.  Predictably, Scott mops the floor with him, and after some terrifically forced banter, Scott tells Cynthia Rothrock (I know the character has a name, I just don’t care) that he’s looking for Mack, his old teacher.

Cynthia calls Mack a “bag of foul wind,” thus confirming that this movie was made for weeaboos, by weeaboos.  It’s a fart, Cynthia – you’re trying to say “bag of farts.”  You are not Asian.  Saying “desu” on the internet will not make it otherwise.

Cynthia Rothrock No Retreat No Surrender 2

Esprit!

Regardless, this dialogue is more confusing than the Palin family tree.  Lines just come from nowhere, intertwine, fade into nothingness, and try to pass off babies as their own, and it’s only a minute long.  Scott heads off to his hotel, which is apparently also a brothel.  He’s bothered by a buck-toothed pimp – more comic relief, I’m afraid, and then flops down into his bed, which promptly breaks.  Ha ha ha – it’s funny, because he’s so big!  Big lanky American – you die, G.I!

In his hotel, Scott makes a date with his Thai girlfriend.  Don’t worry about her name – she doesn’t do anything through the whole movie.  They go to a Thai restaurant (boy I hope there’s a joke about exotic Asian cuisine in here), where she insults his clothes and then gives him sort of a cold shoulder.  She then makes all sorts of inferences about her dad being conspicuously wealthy, at which point I swear to god she says “My dad’s electronic, that’s all.”  Then the food arrives and it’s nothing but bugs, guts, lizards and testicles.  They kept me in suspense for all of 2 minutes on that one, but the payoff was worth it: comedy gold!

Scott takes girlfriend back to his hotel room, which is water-stained and plastered with torn-out centerfolds, and they turn off the lights so they can get it on and, presumably, catch a case of bed bugs. 

The scene switches to a relatively nice house, where a phone is ringing. Charlie Chan’s more offensive younger brother answers the phone, and insists on speaking English sort of.  I have no idea what he’s talking about, and he looks like a Thai John Waters, complete with creepy micro-mustache. Someone is either “there” or “dead.” 

Charlie Chan brother Thai John Waters

Horry go rightry do raundry.

Cut back to the hotel, where Scott professes to girlfriend that he enjoys putting his penis into her vagina.  She says she also enjoys this.  I’m not making this up.  Then two dudes bust in and kidnap girlfriend, then as soon as she’s gone, Scott goes on a berserker barrage and kills the two guys who stayed behind to kill him.  Good job, Scott – seems like you probably could have just turned into a homicidal maniac at any point; why wait until your girlfriend is gone?  Let’s take a moment to make some really obvious Freudian gay jokes.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

There, now that that’s out of our system, we see that girlfriend’s family has been gunned down.  There is a lot of graffiti in Thai or Vietnamese, but since I am a big fat McDonald’s G.I. Joe American, I can’t read it. I think the film makers should have known this, but regardless, there are no subtitles explaining what the scribblings on the wall mean. 

Scott gets arrested, offering the best single legal defense ever invented, to wit:  “You can’t do this to me, I’m an American!”  He demands to be read his rights, but the arresting officer says, “This isThailand- you have no rights.”  That or “Diss tire and you hand hold fights.”  I know it’s really not funny to make fun of foreigners for not being able to pronounce English words, but come on, central casting; you’re not giving me anything to work with.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Brothel

Exhibit A

In the interrogation room, we have more unintelligible, strained, and torturous dialogue.  Scott killed two guys, remember, and so the interrogator jokes “Do you mean to tell me they were just dying for a fix?”  I had to play that scene four times before I figured it out.

On the other side of the obligatory one-way glass, some white guy with a pedophile beard is talking to the Thai guy with a John Waters mustache from earlier.  They conspire to take him toSingapore for three months until this “thing blows over.”  Scott is taken under heavy guard to an airport, where he escapes by jumping a motorcycle over some conveniently placed ramps.  Then he’s off to find his friend Mack.

At this point in Scott’s arrival in the red light district, I feel I have to point out a huge discrepancy in video quality – it’s almost like no one gave the crew permission to shoot here, and so they had to make due with pointing a VHS camcorder out a taxi cab window. 

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Scott Red Light District

Enhance...enhance...enhance...

Scott goes into a titty bar – the kind of titty bar that only exists in movies, where girls in swim suits dance to music that isn’t actually playing. Mack is arm wrestling for money upstairs.  Scott fucks with him for a minute, nearly causing him to lose, and that’s when we see that they are arm wrestling over paired gas burners – the loser is going to be barbequed.  You’re a real friend, Scott. 

Mack wins, and the loser tries to stab Mack with a broken beer bottle, at which point I’m like “Sweet, end of movie,” but then Scott jumps in and saves the day, at which point Mack says “let’s get a beer,” and I agree.  I’m on my fifth tall boy of PBR at this point – I’m not even 30 minutes into the movie.

Mack sees Scott on the news, which of course leads to the one line guaranteed to show up in every single bad action movie ever:  “Come on, you know me better than that.”  Scott doesn’t miss his cue, saying exactly that, and the pair goes off to get some dinner.

They get ambushed and fight their way through some henchmen in, to be honest, a pretty interesting and well-choreographed fight scene.  Mack finally turns one of the thug’s guns against him, and just as they learn they have to go to Cambodia, another goon throws a plastic toy hand grenade at them.  The Foley artist didn’t even try to disguise the sound – they got this prop at Kay-Bee.  Mack and Scott throw the first goon on top of the grenade, run away, and then get showered with the dude’s chunks and gore before shooting off to Mack’s warehouse.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Scott Mack Fight

Where ya gonna find a Kay-Bee Toy Store/where ya gonna find...Kay-Bee?

Mack is an arms dealer, and he explains to Scott that Girlfriend’s dad is some big guy in world affairs.  He’s planning a coup d’état or something, and blah blah blah MacGuffin.  The VC have the girl, it’s up to Scott and Mack to get her, and Mack’s got the hardware to do it, but, there’s a twist:

Cut to: SOVIETS!  Finally this movie has something in common with its predecessor.  You don’t get much sense of just why they’re there except, per Mack’s exposition, they have some interest in assisting this upcoming coup – but we do see that girlfriend is being held prisoner.  In one of the more memorable scenes, a guard feeds her some rice gruel through a long tube that I swear to god is even less sexy than it sounds.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Torture

Oh yeah, take it all baby.

Like all good atavistic weeaboos, Scott finds a crossbow and starts fiddling with it. Mack suggests that Scott give up on Girlfriend and “find a new playmate,” but Scott is undeterred.  Mack and Scott hash out a plan and dress up like soldiers.  Scott, no shit, ties a red band around his head like Rambo. 

They get ready to depart when they discover that they are surrounded by a bunch of police who by way of a bullhorn demand that they surrender.  I think.  He might also have said “Coal hut wiff your man cup” – no way of knowing for sure.  Mack and Scott run through the jungle, the cops apparently having forgotten how to fire their rifles, and Mack and Scott catch a nearby helicopter piloted by, SURPRISE AGAIN:  Cynthia Rothrock. 

Cynthia Rothrock No Retreat No Surrender

Supplies!

Cynthia and Mack exchange some Han-and-Leia banter while Scott scratches his head and, in true bad movie fashion, demands to know what’s going on.  Egads, Scott, if you figure it all out first, please tell me. 

Next, there’s a two-minute scene with John Waters Charlie Chan and some police guy, but it’s all in either Thai or Vietnamese and, again, film makers: America McDonalds Coca-Cola no-speaky.  This scene is entirely too long, but then again: bad acting is its own language – if the director’s intent was to show me how bad these actors suck, mission accomplished. I don’t even believe they’re in the same room together, let alone carrying on dialogue.  

Our trio infiltrates Cambodia and puts down in a rice paddy near a commune. No sooner do they leave the chopper than they are surrounded by guys carrying AK-47s and wearing scraps of gingham table clothes around their heads.  I think this is supposed to look like rag-tag rebel militia, but it only made me hungry for cold fried chicken. 

They’re taken to a camp.  Mack assumes that he’s buddy-buddy with the rebel leader, presumably because of some arms sales or something.  This is a shot-for-shot remake of the Bespin reunion between Han and Lando, but only about half as convincing, and also barely in English.

Mack Scott No Retreat No Surrender 2 Movie

Mack, old buddy -- good to see you! Chewbacca you still hanging out with this loser?

As Mack’s buddy tells them about the Soviet training facility at Death Mountain, we’re treated to an improbable practice scenario where ambushers shoot bulls eyes, one handed, with machine guns, while hanging from trees and then we see a guy walking with a briefcase when, holy shit – this guy pops out of the ground and shoots him in the face. It’s all obviously done for schlock-shock value, but it raises some interesting questions.  Do they just kill people who walk into their camp with briefcases?  Or was this guy a volunteer, like a sparring partner? 

Is there a whole nearby village of these guys?  Is it a prank?  Like – “hey, take this briefcase over to the training camp” (snicker).  I’m just – wow…they totally kill people for practice.  This is why we lost, people, this is why we lost.

Just as Mack and the general wrap up their negotiations, someone starts shelling the village.  I don’t know who, I don’t care who.  Scott takes some shrapnel to the arm, and I think I’m supposed to care, but I can’t be bothered. 

Around a campfire, they trio plots its next move.  Mack and Cynthia Rothrock fight some more in lieu of the doinking they so obviously want to be doing, and Scott announces that they can do whatever they like as he is going to find the camp.  Scott and Cynthia Rothrock have a laugh at Mack’s expense, and we cut to the Soviet training camp.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Army Man

At last -- the heavy!

A helicopter touches down to much pomp and circumstance – this is the Soviet end boss.  He is presented with two captives.  In true 1980’s villain style, when he learns that one of the men is a good fighter, he offers the man a chance to fight for his freedom, but then because he is a true 1980’s villain, the soviet shoots the man and then throws him into a pit full of crocodiles. 

Mack, Scott, and Cynthia Rothrock walk through the jungle until they find a Buddhist compound.  They are treated to some stock footage of monks in saffron robes going about their daily Buddha business.  Scott is a massive weeaboo know-it-all, so he bags up all their weapons out of respect for Buddhist blah-blah something.  Mack, that scoundrel, takes back his knife.  I wonder if THAT will come in handy later!

The head monk guy offers to show them the way, and then they are ambushed in an excessively elaborate and completely ridiculous fight scene.  The monks spend a lot of time snaring the three with ropes, complete with a totally manly synchronized split routine from Mack and Scott. They get snared, they get free, they get tied up, they cut themselves free with Mack’s knife and run away, then the a bunch of Viet Kong shoot machine guns at them, blowing out their internal organs and causing them to die slowly and painfully on the filthy ground.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Monk Fight Scene

Scott, and Mack's stunt double.

God damn it, no they don’t.  The monks are nice enough to shoot movie machine guns which never hit good guys, even when the good guys are prancing around and doing cartwheels like ninnies, which is certainly the case here. Never mind that these super-elite VC commandos were, just three scenes ago, shooting bulls-eyes with fully automatic AK-47s at distances of over 100 yards.  Now they can’t even hit the world’s lankiest American ninja.

The recover their weapons and Cynthia Rothrock makes a run for a boat.  Turns out the boat was already full of VC, who proceed to shoot about 9,000 movie bullets at Mack and Scott while Cynthia Rothrock looks on.  The VC then shoot at the boys with a movie RPG which does nothing more than set fire to the hut in which they were hiding and forces them to dive into the water. 

Mack and Scott find the real monks, along with a cache of weapons luckily labeled “Made in USSR” in English.  They free the monks and take the weapons while Cynthia Rothrock is helicoptered away to the Soviet camp.  She fights her way free of the VC that brought her to the camp, then winds up in a sparring match with the Evil Soviet Heavy. The ESH gives Cynthia Rothrock a good beating and tells her that she’ll die if she’s not more polite.

As an aside, half of this movie is Cynthia Rothrock getting kicked in the titties.

Cynthia Rothrock No Retreat No Surrender 2

It's like the female equivalent of the ding-ding.

On the other side of town, we are treated to a long, long, long over-land sequence: Mack and Scott are climbing up a mountain stream.  It’s about 4 minutes of taught rope, splashing water, Mack and Scott struggling and then, finally, near the very top of the mountain, their ropes snap and they fall hundreds of feet onto sharp rocks below.  They don’t even have time for last words before they die, and the credits roll.

God damn it – why do I keep doing this to myself?  No, we don’t see Mack and Scott gored on the rocks. Instead we get about a full minute of Thai John Waters talking to some police guy, inThai.  I think they were probably just figuring out what they were going to order for lunch.  Thai John Waters walks away, and one of those VC guys pops up out of a sewer and shoots him in the chest – his life as nonsensical as his death. 

Thai John Waters No Retreat No Surrender 2

What's Thai for "I should have paid my SAG dues?"

Cynthia Rothrock is being interrogated by the Evil Soviet Heavy.  She goes into some sarcastic song-and-dance, trying to get his goat, when the ESH brings girlfriend into the room and tells both of the girls they’re going to die because girlfriend’s father left the country.  Oh no – a villain I don’t fear is going to kill heroes I don’t care about!

Mack and Scott scope out the Soviet camp from the top of a rocky hill and hatch a hasty plan.  That night, while Russians dance around a roasting pig, Cynthia Rothrock and Girlfriend compare plot exposition as they wait to be executed.  Scott sneaks up and stabs a dude through the heart – for a naive farm boy from Indiana, Scott has really taken a shine to murder.

Mack rings up some impossibly complicated booby traps using M-60 machine guns, wire, and beer cans.  The ambush is set, and apparently nobody notices the dead guard that Scott murdered.

The Evil Soviet Heavy dangles Cynthia Rothrock and Girlfriend over the crocodile pit, counter-balanced by sandbags, which one of the VC then shoots a hole through.  It’s actually a pretty ingenious death / torture, exactly the kind of thing I’d think the writer of this insufferable movie would think up.

 

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Airplane

No, please, take me instead.

Mack’s trap, it turns out, involves some remote-operated M-60 machine guns, which Scott sets off with some counterweight blah-blah-blah.  Alas the VC did not know that Mack and Scott ALSO have movie machine guns, and so despite not being aimed, or manned, or stabilized in any way shape or form, every bullet manages to hit a bad guy.  Furthermore, these are movie bad-guys, who cannot wait to do things like abandon cover, stand together in tight groups near hand grenades, or shuffle single-file into an explosive-rigged building.

I know, I’m a gun guy – but this is unconvincing if you’ve never even seen a shooting range… I digress.

More explosions, more guns, Scott zip-lines into camp, Mack gets both the girls out of the crocodile pit, gets shot in the process, and then Cynthia Rothrock shoots a guy in the head.  It’s about what you’d expect.

Scott shoots a crossbow bolt at a bunch of dudes, and there is an explosion. They aren’t even trying to not insult my intelligence at this point.  It’s like they decided: hey, if you watched this far into the movie, fuck you, you deserve it. What are you going to do, call us and complain?  You’re obviously only still watching because you can’t figure out the numbers on your remote control. 

Scott, at last thinking he’ll be reunited with Girlfriend, runs to join his friends.  Evil Soviet Heavy has other plans and tries to shoot him with a compact submachine gun, but Cynthia Rothrock jumps in front of Scott, unsurprisingly getting shot – yep, right in the cans. 

Cynthia Rothrock Dies

Did I lie? I did not lie.

 So exit Cynthia Rothrock.  Scott fights the big bad evil Russian guy in a long and drawn out fight sequence.  Scott is obviously overmatched despite his awesome Midwestern Tae Kwon Do education, but he manages to get a few lucky breaks, and ultimately kills the heavy by throwing a Soviet flag over his head, tying a rope around the guy’s neck, and dragging him with a jeep into the crocodile pit. 

Mack tells Scott that Cynthia Rothrock is dead.  The survivors walk away, and the US Government nukes the site from orbit, killing them all in a brilliant flash of light.

God damn it.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 End Fight Scene

That. Just. Happened. Did it blow your mind?

 

AFTERTHOUGHTS:

The producers want Mack to be Han Solo soooo badly.  He calls Scott “farmboy” and “kid,” and he even has this sort of hang-dog pout-slash-sneer thing that suggests he’s really riffing on Harrison Ford. It’s endearing to a point, but mostly you sort of wish someone would just stab him through the lungs.  Or, since I’m the one watching this, me.

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Harrison Ford

I got a bad feeling about this.

I studied Tae Kwon Do in a Midwestern dojang for ten years – they didn’t teach us any of the deadly shit Scott seems to know.  I got ten years of learning how to believe in myself, try hard, stay off drugs, and not be a quitter.  Scott’s not doing Tae Kwon Do – Scott is doing some sort of super deadly murder fighting that they only teach inFort Wayne. 

No Retreat No Surrender 2 Karate Kid

I got my black belt and also a Ninja Turtles pizza party.

Cynthia Rothrock may not be much of an actress, but she’s the only good thing about this movie.  Her lines might not make any sense, but she is plucky and cute and she’ll just kick your heart out.  In fact, it was looking for pictures of Cynthia Rothrock that started this whole thing, so it may as well be the thing that finishes it. 

Cynthia Rothrock 105 pounds of spunky blonde death

105 pounds of spunky blonde death.

I lied – here’s the phone scene with Thai John Waters Charlie Chan.

Written by Vytautas Malesh

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TRON: Legacy – Nothing but a shiny waste of a fanboy’s time

Olivia Wilde TRON Legacy

The fact that this is in 3D will not render you any closer to actually getting to touch a girl that looks like this.

Editor’s Note: This week, Rental Rehab welcomes guest reviewer and TRON super-mega fan Vytautas Malesh who is not wholly pleased with the Mickey Mouse approved re-imaging of his beloved childhood favorite (which hits theaters today). The review comes to us via Mr. Malesh’s always witty blog, Sardonic Shock Syndrome.

TRON: Legacy (2010)

I SAW TRON LEGACY!

and…well…

I saw it.

Really, what am I supposed to say about it?  That it was a masterfully told story that fully exploits the capabilities of the medium?  That it is a wunderkind of montage, managing to stay true to its origins while pushing the boundaries of its own mythologies?  I do not like to lie, and so I must admit that it is none of these.  It shoots for “pretty popcorn movie” and, I’m afraid, even manages to miss that mark.

A little back story here:  I love TRON.  Thanks to my friend M. Sillystring, I have an original TRON movie poster from 1982.  It is only not on my wall now because I cannot afford the solid gold, jewel-bedecked, crystal-faced frame that it deserves.  TRON completes my trinity of fanboy infatuations (right after Robotech and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).  TRON is one of the first movies I remember seeing in a movie theatre (at the Strand in Sturgis, MI – I remember it that well).

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Hot Tron Legacy Girl Olivia Wilde

And one more for good measure....

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Filed under Awesome Action, Bad Movies, Childhood Memories, Guest Review: Vytautas Malesh, Washed-up actors

“The greatest kick-a** mother f**king party ever!” – A review of Cheerleader’s Beach Party

cheerleaders beach party intro

Warning: women in film may not be as attractive as advertised.

(Editors’ note: Rental Rehab is pleased to welcome back the brilliant Vytautas Malesh, a Detroit writer and the most over-educated pizza cook you will ever have the pleasure to meet. He can argue the merits of Dostoevsky, gaming, or beer bongs; whichever your fancy. We sincerely apologize that he subjected himself to this travesty of a film in the name of our humble project. When you’re done with this, be sure to check out his entertaining review of Action Jackson.)

Cheerleader’s Beach Party was one of the last of the 1970’s cheerleader movies, these movies being a sub-genre of “nudie-cutie,” or PG-13 grade sexploitation flick. Cheerleaders are of course an all-American sex symbol, and so from 1973 to 1979, the schlockiest writers, directors, and producers took their hammiest scripts and their lowest budgets, and half-assedly crapped out movies like The Cheerleaders, Revenge of the Cheerleaders, and Swingin’ Cheerleaders.

Unsurprisingly, the plots to these movies are all essentially the same – a squad of lascivious cheerleaders discover that their home team is being threatened (say, by a rival team, or a dishonest coach) and so they use their sexual prowess to screw the threat into submission in a way that I would compare to the French underground resistance covertly sabotaging the Nazi war machine in the 1940s if I had absolutely no respect whatsoever for the brave sacrifice of the French during World War II, and also hated Freedom.

cheerleader beach party 70s movies

It’s a seizure – put a wallet between her teeth!

The amazing thing about Cheerleader’s Beach Party is that it seems singularly designed to spit in the face of the Bechdel Test despite being produced some 7 years before the test itself was ever conceptualized.  The Bechdel test, for those unfamiliar, can be used to gauge a creative narrative’s feminist value by determining if there are 1) 2 or more named female characters, 2) who talk to each other, 3) about something other than the men in the story.

CBP has four named female protagonists who for 90% of the movie speak to each other about (and here’s the part that will blow your mind) nothing but the men in the movie who themselves barely appear on screen!  It’s like the Blair Witch Project of female objectification.

football players celebrate in cheerleader beach party

Yes, I took the pics off the TV. No way was I renting this damned thing.

The movie begins with a horribly dubbed football sequence (matching the actors’ uniforms to the stock footage was probably the most work anyone put into this thing).  We hear a bunch of player names, but don’t worry if you forget them – the men are MacGuffins, and who they are and what they do is utterly unimportant.

Off to the sidelines, we see the cheerleaders doing some sort of loosely syncopated St. Vitus dance while chanting something about teams and going and winning and so on.  The cheerleaders use seductive wiggles and well-timed up-skirts to distract the rival team into critical fumbles. With the Rams victorious, a few more “hilarious” hijinks take us through the intro.

As an aside – we’ll later hear people rag on Rambling U as “second rate,” but all the footage they show of the campus reveals ivy-covered walls, gothic stonework and well-maintained grounds.  The way people talk, you’d think that Rambling was like ITT Tech or DeVry, but my hat’s off to the camera crew who got some nice shots of a lovely small university before security chased them off the campus.

Cheerleader beach party; girls showering together not sexy

As sexy as watching your mom shower with your aunts.

Unsurprisingly, the girls go home and shower together, and one of them gets taken into the bathroom to serve as a broodmare for a guy whom my roommate mistook for a middle-aged Albanian soccer player, but turned out to be the Rams’ fullback.  It’s almost beneath mention that almost everyone here is about a decade past age-appropriate, but mention it I shall so that nobody actually goes out and watches this thinking they are going to see some hot sexy college co-ed action.

cheerleader beach party star quarterback with mustache

And starting fullback for the Rams it’s…er…there’s a lot of Js and Ls in here…and some Ks…Klojojesojojai? Klakjaljaka?

The girls go to the bar with the football players, and here we learn that a recruiter from “State U” wants to lure the boys away to play for him.  The girls bring this sneaky sport seduction to the attention of the Ram’s coach, who it turns out could not care less – he’s more interested in his upcoming fishing trip, in preparation for which he has loaded up a big burgundy van with all kinds of camping equipment.

The girls steal the van and chase off after the boys to their football retreat in Bell Harbor.  The girls set up camp and watch the boys play football with a few nameless extras who seem as enthusiastic about being in this movie as I am about watching it. During this scene, we are treated to the movie’s single best line, a line that is not only jarring to hear, but also reaffirms this movie’s status as a time-traveling anti-feminist magnum opus:  the ditzy blond cheerleader takes the binoculars, looks over the assembled players and asks:

“Do you see OJ Simpson?”

The fact that this movie could make such an obviously self-aware allusion to a wife-murdering running back some 17 years before the actual horrific events involving Mr. Simpson et al. is proof positive that this movie is not only frighteningly prescient, but also malevolently misogynistic.  This movie is alive, hates women, and it can travel through time!

cheerleader beach party girls spying on boys

You’ll never see the Juice coming. Never.

The girls discover that they’ve got “competition” – State U has brought three of the saggiest prostitutes Burbank has to offer, and forced them into sexual slavery like a triune baggy-eyed Briseis in order to lure the middle-aged Myrmidons of Rambling onto the State U team. These girls are beyond skanky – they are mythically skanky, and in much the same way as Medusa could turn men to stone, just looking at these three women will give you a cold sore.

The cheerleaders hash out a ploy to seduce this bunch of 30-something men into playing for the Rambling U football team using only their vaginas.  While they quite literally profess a commitment to “make” every football player in Bell Harbor, 3 of the 4 succeed only in running a girl-train on one dumb country hick.  Meanwhile, the only actress in the movie who actually paid her SAG dues got enough speaking lines to have her own sub-plot in which she actually begins to fall for one football player who, for his popped collar, open shirt, and gold chain I will name “Douchebag Prime.”

cheerleader beach party girl falling in love with douchebag

Caption: From him all douche will flow.

It turns out that there’s some tweed-jacketed professor type who is the actual mastermind behind the whole plan to lure Rambling’s players away, and he and his stuffy British wife throw a poolside party for the football players.  The cheerleaders have crashed the party disguised as caterers, and are handing out hash brownies.  While serving up cups of spiked punch, one of the Cheerleaders overhears the dean’s stuffy British wife say that the house is haunted by ghosts.  Do you think that will come up later?

The three State-U sponsored hookers are at the party, and the cheerleaders push one of them into the pool, dump potato salad down the shirt of another, and generally unleash mayhem on the party.  Thinking they have outwitted State U’s nefarious schemers, they are dismayed to hear the boys of Rambling call the events of the afternoon, and I quote, “The greatest kick-ass mother fucking party ever!”

cheerleader beach party at the pool party

You left some swear words out – bitch cock shit damn!

Side Plot Cheerleader goes off on her own to screw Douchebag Prime on the beach while the other girls take a cue from an earlier conversation and try one last trick – remembering that the house is supposedly haunted, they dress up in ghostly makeup and do their best to scare the football players who are sleeping in the upstairs bedroom.  See how that information came in handy?

Whether or not the football players are actually scared or just aberrantly stupid is not made explicitly clear, but the tweed-jacketed professor type makes a big stink over the events of the night, and confines the players to the house after dark.

At long last, we come to the titular Cheerleader beach party.  The girls smuggle the Rambling boys out of the dean’s house, and we get to watch the Cheerleader’s strip down to bikinis and do a few cheers, roast some marshmallows, and then have an acoustic sing-a-long to House of the Rising Sun.  That’s it – that’s the whole party.

The State U hooker squad calls the recruiting guy, and he comes to put a kibosh on the festivities.  He berates everyone at Rambling for their “lax moral standards” and then reveals that Douchebag Prime has already signed up to play for State U – he…he was only using Side Plot Cheerleader!   Naturally he protests otherwise, but it’s too late – hearts have been broken, diseases have been sexually transmitted.

girls dance around fire half-naked during cheerleader beach party

As sexy as watching your mom dance around half-naked with your aunts.

The players have a scrimmage the next day, and we learn that the cheerleaders have one more trick up their sleeves.  Douchebag Prime is some sort of biology student, and while giving Side Plot Cheerleader a tour of his lab, he indicated that he had a jar of crab lice for study.  The girls dump the crabs into the boy’s jocks, and “hilarity” ensues as the boys scratch, dig, and fumble all over the field.

The dean and the recruiter generally snarl and sneer at all things Rambling, which causes the Rambling boys to trot right back over to the Rams’ side.  When the recruiter gives Douchebag Prime a speech about class ascendancy and rising above his station, DBP leaves in disgust.

All the football players, including the new recruits, ride back to Rambling in the cheerleader’s van.  They also have a bunch of balloons – no explanation is given for this.  In the dénouement and closing credits, we see the Rambling players, old and new, scoring and tackling their way to victory for the Rams.  The cheerleaders win in the end, and the careers of all involved are destroyed.  The End.

cheerleader beach party final game for the win

You know guys, I’ve learned something today…

Parting Shots:

Because I lack the oppossable thumbs and upright posture required to work a DVR, I had to take a lot of pictures off the screen with my camera, thus the poor image quality.  I also cribbed a few pics from the Movies About Girls blog, which is worth reading in and of itself.

A lifetime of volunteering in women’s shelters will not undo the damage this movie has wrought upon my soul.  I can still feel it lurking in my TV screen, waiting, hating, like a late-night on-demand Ed Gein.  I cannot un-recommend this movie enough.  Just as the devil convinced the world he didn’t exist, so too does this movie appear on late-night TV and in two-for-one $9.99 DVD combos at Big Lots, parading around as low camp but in fact unraveling the very fabric of social justice, if not reality itself. In preparing this review, I watched this movie 4 times! The damage to my brain is irreparable, but not nearly so bad as the Chlamydia I contracted from looking directly at the screen.

cheerleader beach party rival cheerleaders

Fun drinking game – take a swig every time you say “I think I saw her in a porno.” You will be dead by act 3.

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Filed under 70s Cheerleader Romp, Bad Movies, Guest Review: Vytautas Malesh, So Bad

He Turned Me Out / T-t-t-t-turned me: A Special Guest Review of Action Jackson

(Editors’ note: Once a month, the Rental Rehab gals like to take a break and watch a movie that doesn’t make them want to stab their eyes out. That’s when they hand off their duties to a guest columnist. This month’s review was penned by the brilliant Vytautas Malesh, a Detroit writer. He is the most over-educated pizza cook you will ever have the pleasure to meet and can argue the merits of Dostoevsky, gaming, or beer bongs, whichever your fancy.)
Action Jackson

This movie is set in Detroit – see if you can spot the buildings that are now abandoned!

Rated a paltry 4.6 / 10 at IMDB, and holding an insulting 10% Fresh rating at Rottentomatoes.com, Action Jackson statistically qualifies as a bad movie. Unfortunately, it is my own unbiased and totally academic assertion that these ratings are full of shit. If there were any justice in the world the soundtrack to Action Jackson would be our new national anthem, Carl Weathers would be president, and Craig T. Nelson would be the head of the CIA. Vanity would have Tyra Bank’s job, and Chino Williams would be brought back from the grave to do Morgan Freeman’s narration work.

Action Jackson fight scene

Billy! Get to da choppaaaaahhhh!

Action Jackson is the last of what I call the Commando Crew movies. The Commando Crew was a stable of action-movie all stars from the 1980’s including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham and Bill Duke who appeared together in oiled-up guy flicks like Commando, Predator, The Running Man, and of course, Action Jackson. These guys slashed, shot, impaled, defenestrated, burned, and pummeled one another across the big screen from about 1985 to 1988 when their brand of bulletproof sweaty-muscled man-movie went out of vogue.

Knowing this creates a chicken-and-egg question: did Action Jackson fumble because Commando Crew movies were going by the wayside, or did Commando Crew movies go by the wayside because Action Jackson fumbled?

Action Jackson bomb

Should have spent less time sucking the filling out of Jelly donuts, and more time learning to defuse a bomb.

Action Jackson has two significant problems. First, it’s a movie out of place and time. It is unapologetic regarding its blaxploitation roots, and a lot of those genre tropes are here: a tough black cop who has to go underground to clear his name of a crime he didn’t commit (Carl “Chubbs” Weathers, as Jackson), a wealthy, white, corrupt, and politically connected heavy (Peter Deleplane, played excellently by Craig T. “Coach” Nelson), the heavy’s sexy moll (Prince protégé Vanity “I don’t have a last name so your clever middle name joke won’t work on me” as Sydney Ash) who has a change of heart and helps the hero – this movie knows exactly what it is.

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like the audience ever did figure that out. For example, Roger Ebert thought the movie was trying to be too funny and too violent all at once and decried its inconsistent tone. Evidently, Mr. Ebert was not thinking of movies like Dolemite, Avenging Disco Godfather, Superfly, and the like, or he would have recognized Action Jackson for what it is: a mainstream experiment in blaxploitation.

Action Jackson in chains

Metaphor? What metaphor?

Because so many of his feats seem to border on the superhuman, it can all be hard to swallow. Jackson can outrun a speeding car, smash the windshield with his bare hand, and then jump over that same car when it tries to run him over. He can beat up four guys at once, and as the concluding scenes of the movie show, bullets don’t do much more than make him slightly less enthusiastic about lovemaking than if he hadn’t been shot at all.

Jericho “Action” Jackson may as well be the son of Shaft and Foxy Brown. He is a mythic figure endowed with indomitable courage, titanic strength, and saintly compassion. For some reason, he also has a degree from Harvard law. It gets mentioned twice, (we learn this about Jackson as we do most other things – by people telling him stuff about himself that he already knows) but at no point does Jackson seem inclined to put what must be an encyclopedic knowledge of constitutional law into practice – mostly he just punches people.

Action Jackson

He’s so bad, his bullet wounds don’t even appear on camera.

But excusing all this metacriticism and just taking this flick as a bloody, explosive, damn-the-man-black-power romp, you still have to deal with the second and significantly more egregious problem in this movie: Sharon Stone. This movie was made in 1988 – Sharon wouldn’t show the world her private girl parts on screen for another 4 years, and while between A-J and Vajay-jay she seems to have taken at least one or two acting classes, her performance in here could be compared to a bad soap opera turn if it wouldn’t be so insulting to all the fine young performers on Guiding Light.

As an interesting side, Stone turns in a much improved performance with Commando Crew chairman Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1990’s Total Recall, but I digress: I do not know who Sharon Stone is sleeping with or has slept with or has incriminating pictures of to get the roles she gets, but I need that person to die.

Sharon Stone in Action Jackson

No, lady, I don’t think my agent lost your card…

The Aftermath: What to take away from Action Jackson.

One: Detroit cops are witty! These guys crack wise and trade jabs with each other all day. They uphold the law and they find time to come up with new and interesting ways to insult each other’s wives, mothers – all the important women in one another’s lives. This is probably because so many of them hold degrees from Harvard law.

Example: “Can that shit, Kornblau – there ain’t been any pussy at your pad since your mother helped you move in.”

Two: If you are Italian, do not listen to Pagliacci – You are going to die! Why would you sit out on a boat in the middle of the Detroit river listening to “Vesti la Giubba?” Have you never seen a movie? Do you not know that you’re in one?

Example: “I know, but…you’re interrupting an aria…” [ominous knock on door]

And finally, Three: No matter how long you live, whatever you do, no one will ever wait around for you to deliver a baritone one-liner before shooting them in the chest with a grenade launcher. You are not this cool. You are not this tough. You are not Jericho “Action” Jackson.

Example: “Barbeque, huh? How do you like your ribs?

Action Jackson gun

I never really learned how to cook.

Rental Rehab review by Vytautas Malesh

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Filed under Awesome Action, Blaxploitation, Guest Review: Vytautas Malesh, Loose Cannon Cop, Unfairly Panned