'LOW-BUDGET ACTION WANNABES' QUADRILOGYOPEN FIRE (1989, YouTube, E.S.S.A.D.: 6/5/2015)This filmed-in-Mexico low-budget action flick has (a) Keith Carradine as the Governor of Wyoming (b) playing a John McClaine-like reluctant hero (c) trying to rescue his Debbie Gibson-lookalike daughter from (d) a villain (Pecos) with an ulterior motive. Carradine has (e) an unexplained ability to pinpoint the bad guy's lair location from his nightmares (the fuck...?) and (f) a team of sexy kung-fu female soldiers known as 'Panther Squad' (the film's original title) assisting him... except when (g) the women need to be rescued by the manly hero (boooo!). With all that, why does "Open Fire" just want to blow shit up again and again? Trees, buildings, trucks... at one point a river catches fire for absolutely no reason! Did I mention (h) 90% of all dialogue is off-camera ADR? Too bad this makes sound a lot more exciting than it actually is. 3 Stormtrooper-Trained Platoons (out of 5)COCAINE WARS (1985, A.Prime, Heath Holland: 6/29/2017)John Schneider tries and fails to shed his Good Ol' Boy image in this Roger Corman-produced, War on Drugs-inspired action flick that only remembers that the hero has to look cool and blow shit up during the final act. Most of the time it feels like a political thriller, except when the useless-as-shit henchmen (with bad English accents and silly names like 'Klausmann' and 'Wilhelm') make it easy for Cliff to get a leg up on the bark-worst-than-his-bite big bad. Character actor supreme Royal Dano steals the movie as the drunken piano player working at the whorehouse our hero frequently visits to help organize a revolution. In the parlay of FTM, "Cocaine Wars" is fine. 3 TOM WOPAT REJECTION LETTERS (out of 5)HELL SQUAD (1986, YouTube, Heath Holland: 6/5/2015)When the son of a Middle Eastern ambassador is kidnapped, who's the US gonna call to rescue him? Why, Vegas showgirls (all white?!) with a week's worth of military training. "Hell Squad" is a female "Stripes"/"Dirty Dozen" knockoff engineered for maximum 'USA Up All Night' consumption. Repeat trips to a hotel jacuzzi for the women to advance meaningless plot points topless? Sounds more like Ted V. Mikels (Troma) than Andy Sedaris (Cannon). The less said about Marvin Miller's sheik role the better. 2 NON-EXISTENT TOKEN MINORITY CHICKS (out of 5)ENTER THE NINJA (1981, Pluto, Lindsay: 6/22/2019)Human Cigarette Christopher George (clearly enjoying himself) wants a Manila plantation to strip it of the oil beneath, but has to get through Franco Nero and his ninja skills protecting his war buddy's farm workers. From its opening credits showing brightly-colored ninjas engaged in deadly combat you can see the template of the 'Canon Ninja' that'd come to define the 80's come into shape. Nero shameless switches with the stuntmen like Roger Moore in the Bond movies, but having Shô Kosugi as #HCCG's hired ninja henchman gives the the final act some much needed heft. Bloody and cartoony (with a soundtrack that alternates between awesome and pedantic), Menahem Golan proves that when he wanted to he could put together an entertaining action romp. 4 100M INDOOR OFFICE POOLS (out of 5)
Apart from Nero and George it was the indoor office swimming pool that made this movie for me.
Laser Mission (1989, dir. BJ Davis)An entirely forgettable movie with boring action, wooden acting and bad comedy. The David Knopfler song (written by his brother Mark) that plays about a dozen times in the movie is a banger though.
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Predator (1987, dir. John McTiernan)I've been mostly watching new-to-me stuff this month, but now I felt like rewatching something familiar and something good. This is definitely both.
Messenger of Death (1988, J.Lee Thomspon)J. Lee Thompson's Chinatown. But with Colorado, Mormons and Blood Atonement? It's Solid, Bronson maybe a little too low key. I did love a character who is running for office does the Nixon Peace fingers, cause it's the perfect short hand for corruption. Messenger of DEATH has some good action scenes and a terrible hitman.Shakedown (1988, James Glickenhaus)Peter Weller and Sam Elliot are the Chocolate and Peanut Butter combination of action movies. I could just watch Weller sing to Hendrix all day. I loved it.
RAGE OF HONOR (1987, dir. Gordon Hessler)Brought to you by the Argentinian Office of Tourism. Partially at least.Sho Kosugi plays Shiro Tanaka, an American drug enforcement agent. When his partner is killed and he barely survives an exploding building, Tanaka quits the drug agency and goes on a personal quest for vengeance and honor. In the best tradition of dumb 1980s action films, entertainment will follow. The plot is: Sho Kosugi fights. Though he is not a ninja here, he is still using throwing stars to kill people. Some of them are even designed to explode. The fight scenes range in quality from good to very poor. For some reason Kosugi has an entire Indian tribe trying to kill him at Iguazu Falls; it may be the dumbest thing in the film. The villain, Havlock, is not particularly memorable. A good villain goes a long way to making a good action film. The conclusion, though dumb as well, has Kosugi going full one man army. I purchased this Arrow release very cheaply, and I will likely get my money’s worth out of it. I can see myself watching Rage of Honor again for a little mindless entertainment. It does a lot with a limited budget.
Top Gun (1986, dir. Tony Scott)I've never been the biggest fan of this movie but I LOVE the Top Gun Anthem. More movie themes need to be soaring electric guitar solos. When the amusement park in my hometown (King's Island) was owned by Paramount, there was a Top Gun themed rollercoaster that played the anthem as you departed the ride. Made you feel like a hero every time...
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)Oh American Ninja 2, where have you been all my life? As soon as the opening bar fight led to the reveal of a pair of fully decked-out ninjas hiding in the kitchen I was already in love. The love increased throughout thanks to ninja beach fights, murder by spear, maniacal bad guys in white-on-white suits, throwing-stars to the head and so much more Cannon-y goodness. All due respect to Michael Dudikoff, who I do like, but Steve James should absolutely have been the star of this franchise. He’s great, and he gets to go full Rambo (complete with tied-on headband!) against an army of ninjas. Goddamn, I loved this movie! So glad I finally caught up with it, I guarantee I’ll be watching it often. In fact, I may have to put it on again right now...
Steve James is definitely the best thing in the American Ninja franchise. Even the Dudikoff-less 3 is watchable because of him.
I seriously love American Ninja but have never seen a sequel! One of these days I'll pull the trigger on the complete collection.
Exterminator 2 (1984)Had me at "flamethrower wielding vigilante."
Black Eagle (1988) Amazon PrimeA.K.A. the movie where van Damme is the villain (and not even the main one) and still is more prominent on the covers and posters than lead Shō Kosugi. Patrick has already written a good piece on it (just check the Movies A-Z section) so I won't rehash everything he said as it's pretty spot-on. Kosugi just doesn't have the presence to carry the film as a lead and he's not really getting any help from the script, the director, or most of the supporting cast. Even his relationship with his kids doesn't feel authentic and they're played by his actual real life kids. JCVD's character isn't particularly well-served by the script either, but through sheer force of will he still manages to create something out of it that draws one's attention whenever he's on screen. It's maybe telling that out of the two fights between JCVD and Kosugi, that Kosugi never has a decisive victory. Those action scenes are also the only ones in the film worth noting because the rest of the henchmen in this movie are comedically incompetent. One just falls off the top of a building to his death during a chase through no action of Kosugi's after lagging so far behind that Kosugi is able to kill his partner, dispose of the body, and carefully dispose of the weapon so as not to leave any prints.
I understand your statements about Kosugi, Ross. I watched an entire film built around him with lesser actors than JCVD in it. There were no interesting characters to latch onto. The general quality of the production was the best part about it.
Seems the missing ingredient to make Sho Kosugi look good in movies is director Sam Firstenberg. In "Enter the Ninja" Sho is wasted in an evil henchman role, and every movie after "Revenge of the Ninja" and "Ninja III" Kosugi is kind-of flat and only worth rooting for because he plays a good guy. When Firstenberg directed him, though, Sho was personable, a little funny, likable and an absolute mofo with the ninja skills. Just sayin', Sam was the man with the Midas touch.
Commando (1985) YoutubeTen things I love about Commando.1. Arnold carrying a tree on his shoulder.2. The music. James Horner's main theme makes hair grow on my chest.3. The one liners "Wrong" "He's dead tired" "I eat Green Berets for breakfast and right now I'm very hungry" "I let him go" "Just Bodies" "Let off some steam Bennett"4. Arnold in a speedo. That's how a man should look rocking a speedo.It'll make you feel bad about yourself but also you'll want to get a gym membership (well at least think about it).5. The Arnold gear up scene on the beach. You can feel the testosterone level hitting Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa levels in 1998.6. Sully. The perfect 80s, yippy, d-bag.7. The fight between Arnold and Bill Duke.8. Arnold ripping the front seat out of car cause why not.9. Arnold going full Jason Voorhees when he enters the garden tool shed.10. Arnold pushing a Chevy Blazer with no brakes, getting in, driving it down a mountain side only for it flip & blow up 3 times.Honorable mentions: The mansion shootout and Vernon Well's (Bennett) outfit from finger-less gloves to a grey crochet top.
Born American aka Arctic Heat (Jäätävä polte) (1986, dir. Renny Harlin)Savoy (Mike Norris) and his two friends are vacationing in the north of Finland and they decide to sneak across the Soviet Union border on a whim. Predictably, they are caught, mistaken for enemy spies, and sent to prison. Now separated from his friends, Savoy has to survive the harsh prison life and try to find a way out.My boy Renny Harlin's first feature length film and the only one he ever made in his home country, with a mostly Finnish cast (apart from the three leads). At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made in Finland. It wasn't a hit over here but made a bit of money in America, helping Renny get his foot in the door in Hollywood.It's competently made dime-a-dozen action shlock and if I'm honest, I wouldn't give it another thought if it weren't made in Finland. But it was, so it's an important part not only of Renny's career but also Finnish film history.Fun fact: Chuck Norris was initially attached to play the lead but had to back out when filming was severely delayed, so he recommended his son for the part and the role was rewritten for a younger actor.Another fun fact: The movie was initially banned in Finland because of its violence, but also because the censors feared it would damage Finland's foreign relations to the Soviet Union, and was only released after extensive cuts. Over 20 years later it was revealed that the USSR ambassador to Finland had a hand in encouraging the censors to ban it.
A great debut from Harlin and seriously ripe for a swanky Blu ray release, had it on VHS here in the UK under the title Arctic Heat and bought it on YouTube for a nice bargain price!
Banana Joe (1982 - Stefano "Steno" Vanzina)I searched for something out of Germany, because somehow I made this a task within this month. There wasn't much available, but this movie was at least produced with the help of a German production company and Marina Langner, a German model, played a role. Main part of this Action Comedy is Banana Joe (Bud Spencer), who lives as a simple guy within a little village at some anonymous river, apparently with a lot of his own children. He has some inhuman powers, like his enormous strength (which is a recurring theme in Bud Spencer flicks), his lounge capacity and his appetite for Bananas. Some evil dudes want to set up a casino in his village, which he opposes, so he has to battle a corrupt system and gangsters - but nothing is really a big problem for him, simply because he doesn't mind anything for real and just let his fists speak, if anyone tries to annoy him. There is nearly no good action, no real good acting, the humor is flat... yet this movie is somehow a classic in Germany and beloved by many. It was fine - at best.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzDSgSuf4oE
DEFIANCE (1980, dir. John Flynn)A loosely plotted messaround movie that’s a great Lower East Side showcase with plenty of character that goes a long way. Jan Michael Vincent and Danny Aiello (RIP to both) battle the “Savage Souls” in what turns out to be one of the better movies to feature the NYC street gangs thing (especially the Zorro hatted heavy).
Hopscotch (1980)This was not as much an action movie but more of a light spy caper. Walter Matthau plays an aging agent that has been at the job too long. This according to his boss, Ned Beatty(apparently the go to bad guy in the 70s and 80s). He tries to give Matthau a desk job. Instead, he flees to write a memoir outing the sewage in the department. It's fun to watch him outsmart Beatty at every turn. It's a nice, breezy take on James Bond.
Real Men (1987)Jim Belushi, secret agent? I know but it's true. He's on a mission to get John Ritter, a sad dad who lets his kid's bike get stolen, to a meeting with aliens for a big gun. I know what you're thinking...best movie ever? Nope. It's trying really hard to be something but it just isn't.
Southern Comfort1981, fir. Walter HillWhy the hell did I drag my feet on seeing this? I’ve liked the vast majority of the Walter Hill movies I’ve seen over the years so I’m not sure why I haven’t dug in deeper. On the surface, this should just be another hicksploitation film coming in the wake of ‘Deliverance’, but it’s actually much more hypnotically entertaining than that. The cast is entirely “that guy” character actors, including Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine, Fred Ward, Brion James, Peter Coyote, T.K. Carter, etc., all of whom are clearly well-defined and given their individual moments. The swamp setting is super harrowing and creates a thick atmosphere of dread that has you actually craning your head sideways to see the hidden stalkers amongst the trees. This must have been an absolutely miserable shoot, reminding me of how uncomfortable and restless I felt watching ‘Aguirre, the Wrath of God’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’ for the first time. Surprisingly, the movie lacked most of the southern stereotypes that I was expecting and will always roll my eyes at (I grew up in Mississippi but very close to New Orleans, so yeah, the shit that passes for “cajun” or “southern” is most movies is pretty laughable). Instead, this group of guys are the regular blue collar assholes like most of us, just trying to get through the slog and not punch someone out in the process. There was maybe less “action” than I was expecting, hence the reason I chose it for today, but the overall sense of dread and helplessness, as well as the performances, made it well worth watching.
Lock Up (1989)Well, I didn't know anything about the movie and was clearly misguided by the DVD cover (which has been sitting on my shelf for probably a decade). Not much action going on here, but I really liked it! What some might call cheesy, I found quite endearing. Stallone has some really good line delivery, takes down abusive officers, and Donald Sutherland plays an evil warden named Drumgoole. What's not to love?
Mad Max 2 a.k.a. The Road Warrior (1981)Australia's second greatest low-budget movie about snazzy vehicles speeding through the outback (right behind The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert).
Eastern Condors (1986). I've been on a real Hong Kong 80's kick lately, and enjoyed the hell out of this insane Sammo Hung war movie. It's like The Dirty Dozen in Vietnam- but really intense. Crazy fights and lots of good splosions. It's really tightly made too- Sammo has always been a director I like, it was great seeing him do an epic like this.
My favorite discovery from Junesploitation last year and I've watched it several times since then. Eureka's Sammo Hung pack is worth it for this alone.
RUNAWAY (1984) It’s the future (of sorts) where cute little robots are everywhere, except someone is using the robots… for murder. Tom Selleck is here to hunt them down. This has its moments, such as a tiny-car-versus-normal-car chase and neat tracer bullet POV shots, but I feel this type of killer ‘bot sci-fi has been done better elsewhere. 30 days of HELLO MARY LOU: PROM NIGHT II, day 8 We all love this movie for how over-the-top it is, but are the filmmakers in on the joke? Reading the end credits, the characters’ last names include Carpenter, Craven, Romero, Browning, Henenlotter, Waters, King, and Wood. There are a few – but not many – bits where the characters reference other horror movies, Scream-style. So I’m guessing that everyone knows how much this one is referential to more famous flicks, and they’re owning it.
THE LAST HUNTER (1980. dir. Antonio Margheriti) This is the one. This is it. Why exploitation movie lovers mine thru a bunch of dirt for that one nugget of gold.This is Antonio Margheriti's 'Namsploitation hell. Through all the gunfights, lost legs, ambushes, eye gushing (a gore gag I'd personally never seen - and was very Fulci-like), secret army caves and water-rat attacks, he also manages to touch some on the soldier's psychological state. This isn't always through depressive means, but you know, sometimes he throws in a full-tilt wild fruit chase through Vietcong turf, played like its a part of the Olympics with his Marine Brothers cheering him on. Whether he lives or dies is an afterthought. This film is endlessly entertaining. There are legit slaughters every time a battle ensues, and no prisoners are taken. But, it never feels like it couldn't have happened. I love this wild man.
Raw Deal (1986, dir. John Irvin)Not my favorite Arnold, but Pizza Hut isn't my favorite pizza and I'll fucking eat the shit out of that.
Well said. I love Raw Deal.
Runaway Train (1985, dir. Andrei Konchalovsky)Going in, I knew very little about this other than the fact there was a train and Jon Voight and Eric Roberts were on it. I was expecting a more typical 80's Cannon action movie instead of something with this much dramatic weight and a Kurosawa story credit. Really enjoyed it!
Solid choice. Really good movie.
I've been to watch this for a while thanks for the reminder.
The list is good. The days choices were not. So now watchingUncommon Valor(1983)This is my Ferngully to MIA and Rambo 2's Avatar. A movie I saw the trailer for during the 1982 Star Wars re-release/Jedi prep run and knew I had to see it. This film and Jedi shared space in my 8 year old brain for a year till I finally saw Jedi. And it took years but I did eventually did see it and loved it. Plots simple. Hackman finds proof his POW son is still alive and gets his sons platoon to go back to Vietnam and get him. The cast on this is stacked for real withHackman, Swayze, Fred Ward, Harold Sylvester, Reb Brown and Tim Thomerson. Cameos by Jane Kasmereck, Michael Dudikoff and Barrett Oliver. Its got heart its got action and its got the yet to be mentioned secret weapon of the film. Randall Tex Cobb. A solid watch and on sale for like 5 bucks on digital right now. You could do worse.
Above the Law (1988, Andrew Davis)I have really enjoyed my 80s Action 1988 every thing is corrupt triple. I didn't even really plan it, expect when I chose Above the Law to cap it all off. Above the Law has Junesploitation royality with Pam Grier and Henry Silva, who are great, And thanks to Patrick and F This Movie I am finding how serious Steven Seagal takes everything incrediably entertaining and kind of endearing, at least in his early movies anyway. Though Above the Law does commit the crime of giving Sharon Stone nothing to do.
The Annihilators (1985, dir. Charles E. Sellier, Jr.)Our friend Matt Bledsoe liked that I called this a "trashy secret-western" on Twitter, so I'll stick to that description here. Gangs are terrorizing a neighborhood so they bring in some vietnam veterans to clean up the streets. Yep, a typical western plot with a little Seven Samurai thrown in. Even most of the action is shoot-outs, which only contributes to the western feel.This is just the kind of corny '80s action movie I eat up. Totally enjoyed this, and all of it's completely ridiculous worldview. And it's fun to see Gerrit Graham in an action flick!
Also the last movie by the director of the original "Silent Night, Deadly Night." 🤯
Uncommon Valor left me in a good move. And I'm ready to watch an 80's action movie about a Russian. Red Heat(1988)Forgot that this was a Walter Hill film. And that I had ever purchased it.
I love Uncommon Valor.
MANKILLERS (1987, dir. David A. Prior) on Amazon PrimeThe image for Mankillers on Prime has intrigued me for a long time: a scantily clad blonde woman with big hair holding a gun. I thought this might be the ideal day to indulge my curiosity. A mistake.From the director of Deadly Prey comes a tale of a female commando unit made up of prisoners sent to take out a rogue American agent working for drug cartels. The results are entirely predictable. Having seen Deadly Prey, I knew this could be a complete mess. It certainly is, and without any of the minimal entertainment value of Deadly Prey. Mankillers did not even meet my extremely low expectations. There is no need to waste anymore thoughts about it. I wonder if the actors felt the same way when the filming was done.
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) Dir. J. Lee ThompsonStop looking for love, you lunatic. How many more people need to suffer, Paul? How many more families need to be destroyed?
LoL I know. Even being his dog would be dangerous
Predator (1987)Friends of mine are streaming a Predator marathon, but this one counts for 80s action at least!
Running Man (1987, dir. Paul Michael Glaser)I like the performances, but the best parts of this are all King — most of the action isn’t as interesting is it could’ve been with a different director
The Exterminator (1980)Odd mix of buddy movie, Taxi Driver rip-off, and sleazy 42nd Street fodder. Robert Ginty tries to avenge best friend Steve James; turns out he’s so good at it, he embarks on a disconnected series of vigilante adventures. Human cigarette Christopher George shows up as a police detective who cooks a hot dog using two forks wired to a desk lamp and seems much more interested in wooing hot nurse Samantha Eggar than in catching Ginty. Better Call Saul’s Dennis Boutsikaris shows up as a street tough. This film was his feature film debut.
Cyborg (1989)Love it love it love it
Day 8Red Heat (1988)Arnold Strong plays a stiff Russian Terminator and Jim Belushi plays Jim Belushi in this tired thriller. I love Walter Hill movies but this was just ruined by Belushi. It would have played much better if it was just about Arnold coming into a new country and being teamed up with someone who wasn't just an asshole. Belushi's constant yelling ruined what could have been an effective thriller by Hill. The score by James Horner sounded way too much like his 48 Hrs and Commando scores were remixed together. It was cool seeing a young Gina Gershon and Larry Fisheburne but it wasn't enough. My question is about what point in the mid to late 80s did Hollywood think that James Belushi could be a tough action star? He only seems to have one point and that is yell and curse. Talk about range. This movie bummed me out.
Speed (1994) - The movie that made me (and America) fall hard for Sandra Bullock! And made us collectively rethink Keanu Reeves. I was still onboard for it.
Annnnd just now saw the part about the "80s." Oops. #junesploitationfail 😂
The Annihilators (1985)If you give a man a gun, he will probably just be shot. If you teach a man to shoot, he will kill all the punks in your fallen brothers hometown and recover millions in cocaine.
Next of Kin (1989)Patrick Swayze is Truman Gates(Truman?). Hit brother, Bill Paxton, is shot in the face by Adam Baldwin in front of an infant, Ben Stiller. He is from Appalachia, naturally, and his brother, Liam, fellow Appalachian wants revenge. Swayze is a cop who plays by the rules until he is pushed too far. And he prefers a bow and arrow to a gun.
Top Secret! (1984)This is the only film I've watched so far that I wasn't sure if I had seen or not. It was one of those movies in the 80s that was always on. I'm still not entirely sure if I had seen it all the way through. Val Kilmer was so fricken talented. He dances, sings and is hilarious. There is a scene underwater that might be one of my all time favorites. Ebert loved this and it is also Weird Al Yankovic's favorite movie.
Escape From New YorkPure cinema
Raw Deal (1986, dir. John Irvin)If The Departed and Cobra hopped into the telepod from The Fly together, Raw Deal would come out the other side. Arnold stars as a disgraced federal agent who goes undercover to infiltrate the mob so he can secure his reinstatement and avenge Darren McGavin’s dead son. Lots of weird touches throughout (Schwarzenegger’s shrill wife writing “SHIT” on a cake with frosting, Schwarzenegger pouring a bowl of candy on a dead body instead of delivering a trademark one-liner, Schwarzenegger getting giggly-drunk after drinking two bottles of champagne). Still, Arnold’s presence goes a long way to elevate the poorly written and sloppily edited material. Plus Robert Davi and Ed Lautner pop up!
Die Hard (1988)A classic I went 25 years without seeing. Glad I can cross it off the list.
Ninja III: The Domination (1984)Now I know the only true way to kill a ninja. This had a lot more supernatural stuff than I anticipated.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984):Every rewatch upends my Indy rankings. From now on, I love them all equally. All three. Ninja III: The Domination (1984):I’ve seen weirder uses for tomato juice, but not many.
Bloodsport (1988)So much groin trauma, either with a fist or the splits... and sometimes both.I wonder what this movie would have been like if you remove the slapstick desertion subplot and focus the drama on the fighting, which would require the fighters to kill each other.