Death Wish 4: Just Say No. Or Else!

One of the most underrated film series, the “Death Wish” series, triumphs again with “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown.” A 1987 Cannon film starring Charles Bronson, it finds legendary vigilante Paul Kersey (Bronson) EXTREMELY angry when his live-in girlfriend’s daughter dies as a result of a drug overdose. Rather than letting the authorities handle it, Bronson becomes a one-man army again and kills off anyone with any connection to drugs. Apparently a fan of “Yojimbo” and “A Fistful of Dollars,” Bronson pits two drug cartels against each other resulting in MASSIVE casualties.

This film features a woman saying about her sleazy date “I wish he’d drop dead!” right before he gets thrown off a building and onto her taxi. It also features this classic dialogue exchange: “I can be real nasty when I want to be.” Bronson: “So can I!” This film has a shootout at the end in a roller-skating rink/video games. It has Bronson watching the gangs in partially open doors in hotel rooms and NOT BEING NOTICED! It has Bronson killing people with bazookas and grenade launchers. It has a completely gratuitous dream sequence. It even has Danny Trejo in it! This flick doesn’t seem like much at first but then it surprises. I love the extreme anti-drug message; apparently you’re likely to die from your first hit of cocaine! Available for $10 on Blu-ray as part of a “Death Wish Triple Feature” with “Death Wish 2” and “Death Wish 3,” this is an exploitative delight and not to be missed by fans of good trash!


Walter Hill’s Assignment is Twisted

If there’s one movie you’re not supposed to like this year, it’s “The Assignment.” If you’re a member of the LGBT community, you’re supposed to be offended by its mere existence. If you’re the regular average Joe, the themes of sex change combined with copious male and female nudity will offend. Conversely, we at GROIN kind of like it! “The Assignment” (2016) is the new film by Walter Hill, a consistently good director whose work includes “The Warriors” and “Streets of Fire.” Perhaps dissatisfied with well-crafted but non-distinctive recent work like “Bullet to the Head,” Hill has opted to make the first action flick (that I know of) about a sex change.

Sigourney Weaver plays a brilliant, quite mad doctor who wants revenge for the death of her estranged brother. Frank Kitchen (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is a super-macho gangster who committed the crime and is about to get the surprise of his life. He is now a she, and will have to discover his feminine side as he enacts bloody revenge for an operation he never wanted. Meanwhile, the audience gets graphic male and female nudity so we are convinced that Frank is authentically male and female.

This movie kind of trashes the SF Tenderloin District lifestyle in its immorality and seediness. In between scenes there are comic book like jump cuts reminiscent of his earlier classic The Warriors. The antagonists include mad plastic surgeons, psychiatrists, Chinamen Mafioso types, and dive bar trolls. The best thing is the quick pace of the film, and the high number of action sequences. The film’s use of SF as a dark backdrop of societal collapse is effective. This movie subversively does not give the gay lifestyle a pass. As such, it is a brave film.

We are supposed to be offended, apparently, that Frank didn’t want the operation and doesn’t like being female. I was more interested in the performances of Rodriguez and Weaver. Rodriguez, who was also good in “Girlfight,” is convincing as the transgender protagonist. We believe her as both sexes, and we also believe she is tough and unhappy. For Weaver, this is her best work since the 1990’s. Proclaiming her superiority to all of mankind and outraged that more people don’t know Shakespeare and Poe front and backwords , she is the most memorable antagonist in a long time. Rent it to sneer and watch it to gasp, because “The Assignment” is the rare B-action flick that doesn’t suck.

St. Ives: A Bronson Classic

Whenever you’re looking for quick action fix, you can’t do any better than a 1970’s or a 1980’s Charles Bronson film, but for different reasons. The 1970’s films like “Death Wish,” “The Mechanic,” and “Hard Times” are genuine classics, whereas the 1980’s films like “Death Wish 2,” “Death Wish 3” and “Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects” are so-bad-they’re-good. “St. Ives,” a 1976 film I just watched, falls into the former category. It has a “Chinatown” film noir feeling that I really like, and the music is appropriate for the time.

The cast includes John Houseman, Jacqueline Bisset, Maximallian Schell, and also Jeff Goldblum and Robert Englund as hoods. Bronson plays Raymond St. Ives, a crime reporter and ex-policeman who is hired by the nefarious John Houseman to retrieve five stolen ledgers. Many deaths ensue, and Bronson ends up spear-heading a robbery to get revenge for a job gone wrong. My favorite scene in the movie is the first, in which Bronson is being confronted and accused at gunpoint, which throws us into the narrative right away because we want to know why he’s in trouble. This film is classic 1970’s cinema because it combines action, conspiracy, and a detective story. The director, J. Lee Thompson, made “Cape Fear” and “The Guns of Navarone,” as well as 8 other Charles Bronson films. This is probably the best one. If you’re looking for a classic 1970’s Charles Bronson experience look no further than “St. Ives”!

Lifetime Achievement Award : Ted Prior

About two years ago a film buff friend of mine gave me “Deadly Prey” on Blu ray for my birthday. I had never heard of it but I watched it immediately and was very impressed. “Deadly Prey” is the best “Rambo” rip-off ever made, and also probably the best Bad Action film of all time.

The plot is about a super-ripped Vietnam Vet (played by Ted Prior, director David A. Prior’s brother) who is kidnapped while taking out the garbage. He ends up at a remote facility where he and other “contestants” are being hunted down and killed and must kill in response or die! One of the people in charge of this “game” is his old drill sergeant. And eventually the Vet’s family finds him.

That’s all the plot this movie has. Basically it is scene after scene of people getting killed in the goofiest ways possible, including grenades, knives, leeches, hand-to-hand combat by the always shirtless Ted Prior. So many people die (basically everyone except the hero!) that the film becomes a kind of Zen experience that you just have to kind of roll with. Just when you think it can’t get any crazier, the movie concludes with a scalping. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a scalping on-screen.

Basically, “Deadly Prey” is a much more fun version of “Missing in Action 2” and the later “Hard Target.” The somewhat poor picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray enhance the experience. This film is cheap but hilarious and action packed! The director also made a film called “Kill Zone” which is almost the same thing and also entertaining. Some of the many works of the director include “Killer Workout” and the long-awaited 2013 sequel “Deadliest Prey,” also starring Ted Prior. Both of these are available on Blu-ray. Sadly, David A. Prior died in 2015. Because his movies are so much fun, I am giving him a lifetime achievement award, in honor of his ability to make Great Trash. If you like Bad Action, check out these films!