Film Review: Original Gangstas (1996)

Also known as: Warzone, Hot City (working titles)
Release Date: May 10th, 1996
Directed by: Larry Cohen
Written by: Aubrey K. Rattan
Music by: Vladimir Horunzhy
Cast: Fred Williamson, Jim Brown, Pam Grier, Paul Winfield, Isabel Sanford, Ron O’Neal, Richard Roundtree, Oscar Brown Jr., Christopher B. Duncan, Dru Down, Shyheim Franklin, Robert Forster, Charles Napier, Wings Hauser, Godfrey Danchimah, Bushwick Bill (cameo)

Po’ Boy Productions, Orion Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“Big talk coming from a faggot who don’t even know what sex his mother is.” – John Bookman

Strangely, I’ve never seen this until now. I actually owned the soundtrack, back in the day, but I never did get around to seeing the film.

This was directed by Larry Cohen, a guy who helmed a few blaxploitation classics back in the ’70s and then made a career out of directing some iconic B-movie horror flicks. This also re-teamed Larry Cohen and Fred Williamson, who worked together on Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem.

The film is a sort of modern homage to the blaxploitation films of the ’70s while also capitalizing off of the early ’90s urban movie craze. It doesn’t just callback to the blaxploitation era by re-teaming Cohen and Williamson, it also brought in other actors from blaxploitation and general exploitation movies: Jim Browm, Pam Grier, Ron O’Neal, Richard Roundtree, Robert Forster and Charles Napier.

Sadly, the plot is pretty weak and the film isn’t very good. I had higher hopes for it, as Larry Cohen can knock the ball out of the park when he wants to.

This is bogged down by a shitty script, shitty dialogue, predictable scenarios and absolutely nothing that doesn’t feel derivative. It’s a carbon copy of all the carbon copy hood movies of its era and adding in blaxploitation legends doesn’t raise the film up, it actually just holds those actors down. They’re better and more capable actors than what we get in this picture.

Frankly, Original Gangstas misses its mark but that’s not to say that it’s unwatchable. I enjoyed it simply because these actors were all together in one movie. However, if you take them out, this is abysmal and completely forgettable.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: the blaxploitation films it is an homage to, as well as early ’90s urban cinema.

Film Review: Loaded Weapon 1 (1993)

Also known as: National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 (complete title)
Release Date: February 5th, 1993
Directed by: Gene Quintano
Written by: Don Holley, Gene Quintano, Tori Tellem
Music by: Robert Folk
Cast: Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson, Kathy Ireland, Frank McRae, Tim Curry, William Shatner, Jon Lovitz, Lance Kinsey, Denis Leary, F. Murray Abraham, Danielle Nicolet, Beverly Johnson, Ken Ober, Bill Nunn, Lin Shaye, James Doohan, Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Corey Feldman, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Gleason, Phil Hartman, Richard Moll, J. T. Walsh, Rick Ducommun, Vito Scotti, Charles Napier, Charles Cyphers, Denise Richards, Allyce Beasley, Joyce Brothers, Charlie Sheen, Robert Shaye, Chirstopher Lambert (deleted scene), Bruce Willis (uncredited)

National Lampoon, 3 Arts Entertainment, New Line Cinema, 84 Minutes

Review:

“Nice weather? You think we’re having… nice weather? I guess you didn’t lose the only one that meant anything in your life. I guess you don’t feel burned out by the human misery and despair perpetrated by the criminal vermin that infest every pore of this decaying city, forcing you to guzzle cheap wine and cheaper whiskey to dull the pain that shatters your heart, rips at your soul, and keeps your days forever gray. What flavor Icee you got today?” – Colt

Regular readers of this site probably already know that I’m not a big fan of parody movies outside of Mel Brooks’ work. However, ever now and again, I discover a parody film that is actually quite good.

I never saw National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 because I didn’t have much interest, even when it came out in 1993 and I was a huge Lethal Weapon fan. These films tend to be predictable, lame and lowest common denominator humor. While this is pretty low brow and a bit predictable, it wasn’t lame and it was actually really well done and executed.

I think this stands above other films like it because it has a really solid cast with several heavy-hitters that just commit to the material so convincingly, it makes everything work. You buy into the goofy jokes and the absurdity of it all and frankly, Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson had good chemistry. I wouldn’t say that it was on the level of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover but they played off of each other nicely and looked like they were having a blast playing these characters.

WIlliam Shatner and Tim Curry were both enjoyable as villain characters. Shatner went into this with no fucks given and it just made his performance that much more entertaining. I loved his accent, his facial expressions and the guy isn’t just a sci-fi legend, he’s a master of comedic timing.

This ridiculous film is just a lot of fun. If you like buddy action films and have a sense of humor, you’ll probably dig this.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the Lethal Weapon films and the dozen other movies this parodies, as well as other parody films of the time.

Film Review: Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

Also known as: Rambo II (unofficial title), Rambo (shortened title)
Release Date: May 22nd, 1985
Directed by: George P. Cosmatos
Written by: Sylvester Stallone, James Cameron, Kevin Jarre
Based on: characters by David Morrell
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff, Julia Nickson, Martin Kove, George Cheung, Voyo Goric

Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Anabasis N.V., TriStar Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Pressure? Let me just say that Rambo is the best combat vet I’ve ever seen. A pure fighting machine with only a desire to win a war that someone else lost. And if winning means he has to die, he’ll die. No fear, no regrets. And one more thing: what you choose to call hell, he calls home.” – Trautman

The first Rambo movie, First Blood, is and will always be the best of the Rambo films. Frankly, it’s really hard to top but this one does comes pretty close while being a very different kind of movie.

At their core, both films are action flicks with a one man army fighting for survival against man, the wild and every other dangerous thing that arises.

However, the first picture was more about making a statement regarding the treatment of Vietnam veterans returning from war to a home that didn’t want them while this film was much more about balls out action and fun.

That’s not to say that this chapter in the franchise doesn’t have a message, it does. It sees John Rambo return to Vietnam in an effort to rescue some of the P.O.W.s that were left behind by their own government. The film critiques the U.S. government’s handling of the P.O.W. situation and shows that the government wasn’t actually too keen on getting them out. Rambo is essentially set up to fail but he blasts his way through the dangerous jungle, falls in love, loses love, rescues some soldiers, kills several evil men and then exposes his own government for spitting in the faces of the men that lost their lives and sanity for a government that abandoned them.

There are actually a lot of similarities between this movie and Chuck Norris’ Missing In Action film series. As much as I love those movies, this just feels like a better, more polished version of what those movies were. That being said, Missing In Action was actually rushed out and released in 1984 to avoid a lawsuit, as it was based off of a story treatment that James Cameron wrote for this film.

Out of all the Rambo films, this one features my favorite cast. Alongside Stallone, Crenna gets a bigger role here and then you’ve got the great Martin Kove, who I wish had a bit more screen time, Charles Napier, Steven Berkoff and Julia Nickson, who I will always remember most for her part in this film and how it inspired and gave hope to John Rambo that there could be life beyond war. Additionally, Voyo Goric is in this and while his name might not be known to most people, he was in several action flicks of the time and always played a good, intimidating and convincing heavy.

As an adult, I know and recognize that First Blood is better. However, as a kid, this was my Rambo film, as it was so over the top and action heavy that it made my young mind explode with excitement and wonder. It felt like a G.I. Joe character come to life and it was just violent and cool in a way that makes it a near perfect ’80s action picture. It feels like a Cannon Films movie with a bigger budget and a bigger star. Granted, it could’ve used a few ninjas.

One thing that makes this picture work so well is the pacing. For example, I love Rambo III but it isn’t as good as this one because it has a slow pace that hinders it. I’ll talk about that more when I review it. The pacing here though is perfect, the film keeps moving forward, a lot happens but you don’t get stuck in a spot of fixated on some plot point. Rambo blasts or punches something just about every five minutes.

Some may accuse this of being a mindless action movie, it’s not. It has a message and a point to make but it also doesn’t let that message get in the way of what’s most important: action, muscles, bullets, explosions and heavy machinery.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the other Rambo movies, as well as other ’80s and early ’90s Stallone movies.

Film Review: Wacko (1982)

Also known as: The Last Horror Show (working title), Wacko Weekend (Sweden), Crazy Doctor in Love (Philippines)
Release Date: May 28th, 1982 (Minneapolis premiere)
Directed by: Greydon Clark
Written by: Jim Kouf, Dana Olsen, Michael Spound
Music by: Arthur Kempel
Cast: Joe Don Baker, Stella Stevens, Elizabeth Daily, George Kennedy, Julia Duffy, Scott McGinnis, Andrew Dice Clay, Charles Napier

Jersey Farley Pictures, 90 Minutes

Review:

“Death to all teenagers who fuck.” – Lawnmower Killer

Like other Greydon Clark movies, this is fucking terrible. Well, unless you want to see a young Andrew Dice Clay dressed up as Superman. But even then, that’s over pretty quickly and this film is really hard to sit through.

It also doesn’t help that Julia Duffy has a scream that is like nails on the chalkboard. What makes it even worse is that she has to scream constantly and for long durations. I wanted to throw a fastball through my television set just to shut her up. It was like a banshee fucking a turkey that’s getting fucked by a horse. Sorry, I don’t know how else to describe it.

This film is also supposed to be a comedy but it’s not funny at all. It’s just a 90 minute festival of cringe and baffling bizarreness.

I guess this is supposed to be similar to the Police Academy style of humor but it doesn’t work and the screenwriters don’t have a funny bone in their bodies and none of the actors ever felt like they cared how they delivered their funny bits.

Joe Don Baker has done some terrible shit in his career but he’s still a pretty good actor on his best days. This is the worst thing he’s ever done though, at least out of the dozens of films I’m aware of.

George Kennedy is in this too and he plays a doctor that is always trying to peek at his underage daughters when they’re sleeping in their panties. Was this funny in 1982? Because I’m pretty sure it was just fucking creepy back then too.

I don’t know. There isn’t much to say about this other than it is horrible in every way and no one should ever watch it.

Rating: 1.25/10
Pairs well with: James Gunn tweets from 2008.

Film Review: Maniac Cop 2 (1990)

Release Date: July 18th, 1990 (France)
Directed by: William Lustig
Written by: Larry Cohen
Music by: Jay Chattaway
Cast: Robert Z’Dar, Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Laurene Landon, Bruce Campbell, Clarence Williams III, Leo Rossi, Danny Trejo, Sam Raimi, Charles Napier

Fadd Enterprises, Medusa Pictures, The Movie House Sales Company, Overseas FilmGroup, Live Home Video, 88 Minutes

Review:

There is a belief that sequels are never as good as the original. Well, Maniac Cop 2 bucks that trend, as it is better than its great predecessor. While the IMDb rating doesn’t reflect that, most people don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, which is why Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all-time.

We’re missing the gravitas of the first in regards to it boasting the acting talents of Tom Atkins and Richard Roundtree. Bruce Campbell comes back, at least, even if it is in a limited capacity. However, we do get Robert Davi and that’s a big plus. Clarence Williams III and Danny Trejo also have small roles in this.

This chapter in the trilogy sees the Maniac Cop return, as he didn’t die in the finale of the first film. His first order of business is to tie up the loose ends from the previous movie, which in a horror picture translates to “kill those damn survivors!”

We also learn more about the situation that sent our title character to prison in the first place. He was a good cop that went to the extreme, at times, but he was set up in a government conspiracy and made to take the fall. All this comes out in this movie and Robert Davi is on a mission to clear the Maniac Cop’s name and hopefully give him peace: ending his spree of violence.

The action in this film is a lot heavier and so much better than the first one. There are a lot of good vehicle sequences and then the big battle between the Maniac Cop and an entire police station is absolutely fantastic. Then there is the finale where he storms the prison, catches on fire and angrily stalks and murders the criminals who initially killed him behind bars, all while he is still on fire!

Maniac Cop 2 is a solid film. It is low budget horror at its finest but it is a film that has so much more than that. It also surpasses the first movie in bad ass intensity. Robert Z’Dar was so good as the monster and this is the monster at his best.

Rating: 7/10