by Patrick Bromley
If you're a regular reader of F This Movie!, you know of my undying love for #HeavyAction. I love the big budget classics, but I love the smaller DTV movies, too. To celebrate '80s action day for #Junesploitation, I thought it might be fun to highlight some '80s action movies that don't get talked about enough.
Like with any "underrated" list, this one is sure to offend some people who feel like these picks assume they haven't seen a lot of movies that they have, of course, seen. I get it. That's happened to me on the internet. But it's not my intention at all. I didn't name the list "10 '80s Action Movies You've Never Heard Of" because this isn't Buzzfeed and I'm not an asshole. If you're a student of the genre, there's a good chance you know most or all of these movies. This is a list for those who might not be as well-versed in #HeavyAction but who are looking to explore some of the lesser-known titles in '80s action. We can all relax and talk about some kickass movies.
Here are 10 underrated '80s action movies, presented in no particular order.
10. Red Scorpion (1989, dir. Joseph Zito)
9. Turkey Shoot (1982, dir. Brian Trenchard Smith)
8. Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except (1987, dir. Josh Becker)
Sam Raimi in a rare acting role. Besides having an incredible title, Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except (aka Stryker's War) has the same charm as the early work of Raimi and his friends -- they're a group of enthusiastic and creative people who made movies in their backyards because they love it. Both Bruce Campbell and Sheldon Lettich (future regular collaborator of Van Damme) receive story credit. The movie is crude but effective and its heart is in the right place. It is very much an exploitation movie and one that should be more widely known.
7. Enemy Territory (1987, dir. Peter Manoogian)
6. Vigilante (1983, dir. William Lustig)
5. Avenging Force (1986, dir. Sam Firstenberg)
Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, American Ninja and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation. This, one of his three collaborations with Cannon regular Michael Dudikoff in the 1980s, is gloriously stupid, violent and trashy -- in other words, perfect Cannon fodder. It's technically a sequel to Invasion U.S.A. (Dudikoff is playing Chuck Norris' same character), though not so as you'd know it. Frequent Cannon bad guy John P. Ryan plays the leader of a shadowy right-wing cabal called the Pentangle, which Dudikoff and best friend Steve James must take down. This movie, like so many action movies in the '80s, has a Steve James problem (filmmakers make him the "best friend" and often kill him off when he should probably be the lead), but it's dopey and entertaining in the proudest Cannon tradition.
4. Number One With a Bullet (1987, dir. Jack Smight)
3. The Punisher (1989, dir. Mark Goldblatt)
2. Cyborg (1989, dir. Albert Pyun)
Albert Pyun, did you? While probably not his best '80s effort, Cyborg (aka Slinger, the title under which Pyun released his director's cut) is probably the film of his from that decade which can most easily be classified as an action movie. It's messy, having been re-cut and re-scored, but has a cool post-apocalyptic vibe about it and works with very little dialogue. Pyun originally envisioned making a rock opera; instead, he made a futuristic western.
Walter Hill) Again, is it underrated? Anyone who's seen it has to agree that Extreme Prejudice is one of the toughest, baddest, most kickass action movies of the '80s. It's on the list because not enough people have seen it. This is the movie Sam Peckinpah would have made if he was still alive -- a showdown between two towering figures on opposite sides of the law and a murderers' row of a cast that includes Nick Nolte, Powers Booth, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, William Forsythe and Rip Torn. This movie is so good! SO GOOD. It has only received a lousy full frame DVD release in the U.S. (from now-defunct Artisan Entertainment) but is out on Blu-ray in the UK.