FILM: GUN DEALERS AND GANGS COME TO KILL IN 'KILLPOINT'
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - March 12, 1984
Author: Rick Lyman, Inquirer Movie Critic
The wonder is that people who go to see crud like Killpoint ever go see a movie again. It's not just that there's absolutely nothing to recommend it, but that watching the thing is such a tedious experience.
The newspaper and television ads make Killpoint sound like an urban- thriller showcase for Richard (Shaft) Roundtree. What's the use of beating around the bush? That's a lie. Roundtree's hardly in it.
The real star is a galumphing lump of martial-arts senescence named Leo Fong. He plays Lt. Jim Long, hard-bitten mainstay of the Riverside, Calif., detective squad.
Cameron Mitchell plays Joe Marx, a Palm Springs arms dealer whose agents knock over an armory and get away with dozens of supersophisticated automatic weapons. Marx's assistant is a big, humorless guy named Nighthawk (Stack Pierce), who also answers to just Hawk. He doesn't like anybody.
I'm going out on a limb describing the plot - because the way the movie's edited you can't really tell what it is - but for some reason Marx decides to sell these automatic weapons to gangs of Riverside street punks. The punks use them to rob grocery stores, stick up gas stations and settle gang vendettas.
There are three or four scenes of guys with automatic rifles barreling into a room and letting rip while glass shatters and people go flying. The special effects are of the crummiest variety - a shot of the guy shooting his gun cutting to a shot of the victim screaming, throwing up his arms and hurling
himself over a table.
You couldn't fool an idiot with effects like that.
The real mystery is why the people behind this movie decided to make Leo Fong its star. He can't act. His lines are, on the average, about three words long, and he seems to have an enormous amount of trouble remembering them. For a martial-arts star, he doesn't seem limber. If Richard Roundtree is the marquee draw, why not make him the star of the movie? Give him something to do besides bark into a telephone.
This is, by my count, at least the third movie in the last year that has claimed to have Roundtree as its star. In each case, he appeared for a couple of scenes and then disappeared. What's going on with him? Does he charge by the hour?
This is not to imply that lack of Roundtree is Killpoint's only problem. The only purpose of the movie's dialogue is to repeat plot points, give you another chance to see how stupid everything is. It's not that the people who made this film do a lousy job of building character; they don't even try. Same with the camera work - some of the lighting is so bad that it can't be blamed on mere ineptness. They don't seem to have even been trying.
One more thing: I saw the movie Friday afternoon at the Duke & Duchess Theater at 1605 Chestnut St. For some reason, perhaps the previous evening's snowfall, the ceiling was leaking bucketfuls of water into the theater at about mid-aisle.
Nobody mentioned on the way in that the matinee included a water show; really, the noise of the water gushing onto the drenched, stinky carpet was so loud that it was hard to hear some of the lines.
It was quite a scene - three-dozen people sitting in a damp, smelly theater watching a terrible movie while water literally was pouring out of the ceiling, crashing to the floor and rushing toward the screen.
Produced by Frank Harris and Diane Stevenett, written and directed by Frank Harris, photography by Frank Harris, music by Daryll Stevenett, and distributed by Crown International Pictures; running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes. *
Lt. Long - Leo Fong
Joe Marx - Cameron Mitchell
Nighthawk - Stack Pierce
Anita - Hope Holiday
Candy - Diana Leigh
Agent Bryant - Richard Roundtree
Parents' guide: R (violence, profanity)
FILM: VENGEFUL FRATERNITY BOYS UNLEASHED IN 'YOUNG WARRIORS'
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - January 30, 1984
Author: Rick Lyman, Inquirer Movie Critic
It's being sold as one of a new breed of urban thrillers , motorcycle vigilantes with a new-wave twist.
But Young Warriors is a stranger mutt than that - a loony revenge drama about Malibu frat boys taking armed forays into L.A.'s barrio to dispense a little justice and wreak a little vengeance.
A troupe of undistinguished and indistinguishable blond surf boys is supported by a cast of weary has-beens, and the whole mess is dedicated, so help me, to director King Vidor, "for his encouragement." It's like dedicating Smokey and the Bandit III to the memory of Ernst Lubitsch.
The movie starts with our four sandy-haired frat brothers tormenting a new crop of pledges at a rush party. We bear witness to several good-natured pranks - including one involving shaving cream, a block of ice and an olive that I don't think I'll ever be able to forget - and all seems to be going quite well.
But meanwhile, the teeny-bopper sister of one of the frat boys is driving home from her first formal dance. Her boyfriend's a nice sort of lug, also blond. Out of the darkness, comes an evil-looking van with a death skull painted on the side.
Before you can say Death Wish, the boyfriend is dead, the car is aflame and the girl is being stripped and abused. She stays alive long enough for her brother, Kevin, to come see her in the hospital. I'll get those guys, he vows. I'll make them pay.
Kevin's father, Ernest Borgnine, is a homicide detective. Let the cops handle it, he says. His mother, Lynda Day George, says listen to your father. His father's partner, Richard Roundtree, says listen to your mother. But Kevin just can't be restrained. Justice must be done.
Pretty soon he has got his frat brothers armed to the teeth. This is explained by having one of them, a rich doctor's son, give a lot of money to another one, an ROTC student, to bribe an Army supply sergeant. Yeah, sure.
They get in Kevin's snazzy Jeep and come down out of their safe Malibu
hills into the nether regions of the barrio. The reason they know where to look for the black van is that they've gone back to the scene of the crime and found a matchbook that the police overlooked. Sure. Whatever you say.
Kevin, meanwhile, is getting wackier by the minute. He starts to like blowing people away. And he won't even stop when one of his frat brothers gets his throat slit by the bad guys.
His girlfriend, Lucy (Anne Lockhart), puts on her negligee and shimmies around, begging Kevin to calm down and put his bitterness behind him. But he just can't. He's too worked up. Am I going crazy, he asks?
Meanwhile, everybody hanging out in the barrio turns out to be just as healthy-looking as the frat boys, maybe slightly scruffier. Most of them are blond, too. What is this, a Swedish barrio?
This is one of those movies where a dozen or so corporations have paid the producers to get their products on screen, including Coors, Schlitz and Jack
At the climactic shoot-out at a barrio cantina there's a Jack Daniels sign about two-stories tall and two or three neon Coors lights. Kevin sprays the place with enough bullets to arm a Central American death squad for a month. People go flying through the air, windows smash, bottles shatter. But none of those beer or liquor signs falls down or go out.
These guys may not know how to make a movie, but they sure know where their bread is buttered.
Produced by Victoria Paige Meyerink, directed by Lawrence D. Foldes, written by Lawrence D. Foldes and Russell W. Colgin, music by Rob Walsh, and distributed by Cannon Releasing; running time, 1 hour, 37 mins. *
Kevin - James Van Patten
Lt. Carrigan - Ernest Borgnine
Lucy - Anne Lockhart
Sgt. Austin - Richard Roundtree
Prof. Hoover - Dick Shawn
Beverly - Lynda Day George
Parents' guide: R (violence, nudity, obscenity)
LYNDA DAY GEORGE IN 2 MINDLESS FILMS
Philadelphia Daily News (PA) - February 1, 1984
Author: JOE BALTAKE, Daily News Movie Reviewer
"Young Warriors." A drama starring James Van Patten, Anne Lockhart, Ernest
Borgnine, Richard Roundtree and Lynda Day George. Directed by Lawrence D. Foldes from an original script by Foldes and Russell W. Colgin. Photographed by Mac Ahlberg. Edited by Ted Nicolaou. Music by Rob Walsh. Running Time: 103 minutes. A Cannon Films release. In area theaters.
"Mortuary." A thriller starring Mary McDonough, Christopher George and Lynda Day George. Directed by Howard Avedis from an original screenplay by Avedis and Marlene Schmidt. Photographed by Gary Graver. Edited by Stanford C. Allen. Music by John Cavacas. Running Time: 91 minutes. An Artists Releasing Corp. release. In area theaters.
This week's bottom-of-the-barrel movie entries - sleazoid flicks guaranteed to revolt any civilized moviegoer - cannibalize everything from "Death Wish" to "Pyscho." And for better or worse, they also provide us with a sort of mini Lynda Day George Film Festival.
In "Young Warriors," a young woman is gang-raped and murdered by a bunch of roughnecks. Her brother (James Van Patten) enlists the help of his fraternity buddies to hunt down the street scum.
While they're at it, they decide to root out other killers and, if possible, interrupt other street crimes in progress. Kevin - that's the boy's name - does all of this without the permission of his police-officer father (Ernest Borgnine) or his mother (Lynda Day George) who insists that skull- crashing is the job of the police.
Before long, Kevin and his chums are dressed in military camouflage uniforms and carrying weapons of all sorts as they stumble onto crimes and whip the daylights out of the subhumans committing them.
"Young Warriors" is a half-hearted, simple-minded tribute to vigilantism, telling us that violent sex and brutality are not nice, while wallowing in both. You'll need to empty out your brain cells to make any sense out of this kind of misguided logic.
In "Mortuary," a clone of Norman Bates - named Paul Andrews (and played by Bill Paxton) - is terrorizing Small Town, U.S.A. with the embalming fluid
from his mortician-father's lab (workshop?). This unbalanced kid gets a kick out of extracting life juices from people while they're still warm.
Naturally, he comes from a bad home. His daddy (the late Christopher George in one of his last film roles) is heavily into black midnight chants, satanism and things that go bump in the night.
Like other films of this ilk ("Halloween," etc.), "Mortuary" finds true weirdness at the heart of Midwest normalcy. Its "suspense" revolves around Paxton's sick obsession with a sweet girl-next-door type (Mary McDonough of ''The Waltons") and around her deadly involvement with the father-son mortician team. Lynda Day plays the girl's mother, who may or may not be in on the weirdness.
**SINGLEG* Parental Guide: Both are rated R for language and violence.
FILM: WILLIAMSON DOES EASTWOOD IN 'THE BIG SCORE'
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - December 26, 1983
Author: Rick Lyman, Inquirer Movie Critic
There are two or three nifty sequences in Fred Williamson's latest low- budget urban actioner, The Big Score.
In one, Williamson, playing a Chicago policeman named Hooks who is somewhat a black version of Dirty Harry, chases a cocky heroin dealer through vacant lots and over train trestles.
In another, Hooks, armed with fragmentation grenades, tear gas and a machine gun, goes to a meeting with drug dealers.
They're both good, solid, well-edited action sequences. And the South Side locations have a nice, seedy feel - authentic urban sleaze.
Unfortunately, the rest of the picture is a lamely acted throwback to the black-exploitation pictures of the early '70s, lacking in imagination and continuity. The message is the same old claptrap about lenient courts and police hogtied by regulations.
Williamson, who also directed, can muster a decent screen presence, but he's hard-pressed to convey even the moderately narrow range of emotions necessary to carry a movie like this. Too much is left to supporting performers like Ed Lauter, Joe Spinnell and John Saxon, who struggle like troupers under the weight of the banal, obscenity-strewn lines.
Richard Roundtree, one of the biggest stars of the early '70s black- exploitation cycle, is given a meaningless walk-on. His name is listed and his picture displayed prominently in the movie's ads, but he has only one or two scenes with a couple of lines of dialogue and then - blink! - he's gone, never to return.
The so-called black-exploitation pictures died about a half-dozen years ago, but Williamson never got the word. He has kept right on churning them out, one worse than the next. Vigilante, maybe the worst of the bunch, showed up in Philadelphia over the summer. So it's something of a shock when he manages to turn out The Big Score, a half-decent, even promising film.
Williamson plays a dedicated narc who has to watch with suppressed rage while the target of his big bust is turned loose. When a major heroin buy goes down, Hooks blasts a few of the crooks, then chases down the guy with the money. The only problem is that by the time he catches the creep and guns him down, the money is missing.
The police suspect Hooks of grabbing it. The Mafia kingpin behind the buy also thinks Hooks has it. So Hooks finds himself suspended from the force and getting threatening phone calls from hit men.
Nancy Wilson has a nice supporting part as Hooks' former wife, the owner of a Chicago nightspot, who tells him between her songs what a great guy he is.
Williamson's screen presence owes more than a little to Clint Eastwood: a combination of swaggering, sneering and s-l-o-w speaking. The dumber the line, the slower you talk. In The Big Score, he talks really slow.
The surprise here is that his direction also owes something to Eastwood, who has proved himself more than able at complicated, well-paced action sequences. If Williamson could come up with a more coherent plot line, a better grade of dialogue and a slightly larger budget, he could probably turn out a decent cop thriller .
It's worth a try.
THE BIG SCORE
Produced by Michael S. Landes and Albert Schwartz, directed by Fred Williamson, written by Gail Morgan Hickman, photography by Joao Fernandes, music by Jay Chattaway, and distributed by Almi Productions; running time, 1 hour, 20 mins. * *
Hooks - Fred Williamson
Pete - John Saxon
Gordon - Richard Roundtree
Angi - Nancy Wilson
Parks - Ed Lauter
Mayfield - Joe Spinnell
Parents' guide: R (violence, obscenity, nudity)
AN INCOHERENT PLOT, UNINSPIRED ACTING MAKE 'FORCE' DEADLY
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - July 9, 1983
Author: Rick Lyman, Inquirer Movie Critic
Deadly Force is a unctuous little movie, a quilt of a film that takes its patches from just about all of the urban thrillers and cop series of the past decade.
As such, it's a confusion of styles and attitudes with a plot that swims around aimlessly, then is magically tied together with one of those strokes of inspiration that used to hit Sherlock Holmes just seconds before Moriarty would have gotten away.
Its hero is one Stoney Cooper, your basic ex-cop gun-for-hire. He's not a vigilante on a revenge binge, a la Charles Bronson in Death Wish, but a professional doing the dirty jobs that the cops can't manage because "the system" ties their hands.
There has been a string of weird murders in Los Angeles involving a disparate collection of victims from all over the city. Each is found with the letter "X" carved in his forehead.
There's a $250,000 reward out for the capture of the killer, dead or alive, and those are the kind of numbers Stoney understands. Besides, by going back home to Los Angeles, he'll be able to help an old pal whose daughter was victim No. 16, and reunite with his ex-wife, Eddie, a television reporter who, coincidentally, has been assigned to investigate the murders.
Stoney hits town and starts investigating like crazy. His method involves paying off street snitches, stealing police files and making endless calls on a pay phone in the rain.
All this furious and meaningless activity is interspersed with arguments between Stoney and Eddie, who lives in one of those giant, warehouse lofts that chic people inhabit in movies these days.
Stoney is played with lots of energy but not much coherence by Wings Hauser, a rough-hewn pretty-boy who seems to lack direction. Hauser was last seen in an execrable item called Vice Squad, where he played a psycho pimp who dismembered his hookers with a coat hanger.
He made a nice, kinky psycho precisely because he was playing against his soft-featured good looks. When he pulled out his coat hanger and his eyes took on that evil glow, it was truly unnerving. But here he's playing the macho hero, the James Bond of urban mercenaries, and he doesn't seem big enough or hard enough to carry it off.
Fact is, he seems a little pudgy, a little too much like one of the Brady Bunch after a few hard years and a bad marriage. And the case he's unraveling is so obvious that he has all of his brilliant deductions about a half hour after we do.
Joyce Ingalls is completely forget-table as his ex-wife, but Paul Shenar pulls off a strange supporting performance as Joshua Adams, the leader of a positive-attitude cult that figures into the proceedings. He's so smarmy it's almost beautiful, and his voice is pure radio sleaze.
People who go to these films hoping to see women butchered will be disappointed, I'm afraid. Virtually all of the killer's crimes take place off camera, and none are particularly gory.
There is one seriously erotic love scene between Stoney and Eddie that involves a hammock, but the director stuck a goofy song on the soundtrack that sucks the steam right out of it. You're not so much aroused by their love- making as amazed by their sense of balance.
Produced by Sandy Howard, directed by Paul Aaron, written by Ken Barnett, Barry Schneider and Robert Vincent O'Neil, photography by Norman Leigh and David Myers, music by Gary Scott, distributed by Embassy Pictures; running time, 1 hour, 37 mins.
Stoney Cooper - Wings Hauser
Eddie Cooper - Joyce Ingalls
Joshua Adams - Paul Shenar
Hoxley - Lincoln Kilpatrick
Parents' guide: R (nudity, obscenity, violence)
THE 'FORCE' ISN'T WITH THIS FLICK
Philadelphia Daily News (PA) - July 13, 1983
Author: JOE BALTAKE, Daily News Movie Reviewer
"Deadly Force." An action drama starring Wings Hauser, Joyce Ingalls and Paul Shenar. Directed by Paul Aaron from an original script by Ken Barnett, Barry Schneider and Robert Vincent O'Neil. Photographed by Norman Leigh and David Myers. Edited by Roy Watts. Music by Gary Scott. Running time: 95 minutes. In area theaters.
Last year, producer Sandy Howard and star Wings Hauser teamed for an effectively lurid street thriller titled "Vice Squad," in which Hauser plays an amazingly resilient villain named Ramrod who has a penchant for using his Pimp's Stick, a nasty gadget, on his prostitutes.
"Vice Squad" has no redeeming moral values and only a few cinematic ones, but it's wonderfully demented fun, largely because of Hauser's menacing, scenery-chewing bravado. With his baby face with its sizable overbite and hair of ringlets, he makes the perfect psychotic villain. He's versatile, too, a point proven in the song he warbles over the end credits of "Vice Squad."
But Hauser isn't that versatile. Whoever had the bright idea of casting Hauser as the hero in Howard's "Deadly Force" immediately thwarted the film's chances of working as another grimy, low-down actioner. As a tough, efficient cop who yearns to be a pianist (a plot point similar to the one used in "Flashdance"), Hauser seems smaller - diminutive, almost squashed - and more than a little uninteresting.
What's more, the plot here is less kinky than the one employed in "Vice Squad." It is strictly TV stuff, with Hauser as the kind of cop who spends 99 percent of the screen time arguing with his superior (Lincoln Kilpatrick), his ex-wife (Joyce Ingalls) and the film's assorted creeps and criminals.
Actually, Hauser is a former cop here - a displaced Californian trying to make it big in the music biz in New York. He is summoned back to Los Angeles to solve a string of murders involving women and a knife-wielding fanatic. En route to the airport, he stops off to help out an old friend whose factory has been taken over by a human bomb.
Much more interesting than Hauser is Paul Shenar whose flaccid "pod" portrait of a sleazy entrepreneur who specializes in lectures on "change" and "success" is right out of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
Ingalls, as Hauser's wife, a budding TV reporter, looks and sounds awful, providing the film with a genuinely comic streak of nastiness: she plays the kind of nitwit TV personality that stations like to team with palooka-types - you know, the newsroom stewardess and the landbound pilot.
Unfortunately, this is something "Deadly Force" never pursues. Its plot
keeps returning to Hauser who, when he isn't trying out his tonsils on someone he doesn't like or having his face pounded by one of the assorted creeps, moodily tinkles at the ivories.
Cripes! Bring back the Pimp Stick.
Parental Guide: Rated R for its violence and one fairly graphic softcore sex sequence.
Image from AMOEBLOG
'LADIES CLUB' EXPLOITS FANTASY OF GETTING EVEN
Detroit Free Press (MI) - April 11, 1986
Author: CATHARINE RAMBEAU Free Press Movie Critic
Every woman who has ever been raped has surely fantasized about getting even with her rapist.
That's the premise of "The Ladies Club," as it was of "Rape Squad" and " I Spit on Your Grave ," other films in which vigilantes punish their rapists with impunity.
So it's too bad that despite decent acting and the film's avoidance of the standard-issue nude scenes this 90-minute film seems to exploit women while giving lip service to their desire for justice. Too bad, too, that it looks like a TV movie-of-the- week.
Perhaps that's because almost everyone involved hails from TV and television's KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid) theory is more obvious on a large screen. Perhaps the problem was simply beyond the control of director and screenwriters. (On her first feature picture, director Janet Greek used the pseudonym A.K. Allen, reportedly because of problems with the film's editing and marketing.)
"LADIES CLUB" opens with the gang rape of policewoman Joan Taylor (Karen Austin), complete with a ruinous beating and endless anti-woman filth spewed by the trio of rapists. It continues stacking the deck, tossing the usual rape statistics and stereotypes -- men who blame women for being raped, the violated and now catatonic kid sister -- into this nasty stew of violence. Yes, these stereotypes exist; but reliance on them undermines the film.
During her recuperation, Taylor makes friends with obstetrician Constance Lewis (Christine Belford), whose own daughter was raped and murdered. When the jury pronounces Taylor's rapists not guilty, cop and doctor organize a ladies' club and begin locating, drugging and castrating career rapists.
P Not a bad idea, perhaps. But I have an ugly suspicion "The Ladies Club" (originally called "Violated") may appeal less to women who have been raped than to men who hate women and enjoy seeing them humiliated.
Any movie so thoroughly focused on gratuitous physical, psychological and verbal violence against one sex should be suspect. Since rape is an emotionally loaded issue on which hardly anyone one is neutral, and since the film's political attitudes are neither radical enough nor conservative enough to please either side, "The Ladies Club" fails.
THE LADIES CLUB
RATING: 3 out of 10
Joan Taylor-Karen Austin
Lucy Bricker-Diana Scarwid
Dr. Constance Lewis-Christine Belford
Richard Harrison-Bruce Davison
Directed by A.K. Allen. Screenplay by Paul Mason and Fran Lewis Ebeling from the novel "Sisterhood" by Betty Black and Casey Bishop. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Cinematography by Adam Greenburg. Edited by Marion Segal and Randall Torno. Production design by Stephen Myles Berger. Produced by Nick J. Mileti and Paul Mason. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
PARENTS' GUIDE: R; extreme violence, intense subject matter, profanity, bad English.
REVIEW / MOVIE\ MAD MAX' GETS IT THRILLS FROM ALL SIDES
Boston Globe - July 4, 1980
Author: Bruce McCabe Globe Staff
Directed by George Miller, co-written by Miller and James McCausland. Starring Mel Gibson. At the Beacon Hill and suburban theaters and drive-ins. Rated R.
When I was in Cannes last year, the chic film to see was this futuristically styled, gothic Australian motorcycle opera which also functions as an homage to the American B picture and its graphic concerns.
Ironically, the film is being distributed as an exploitation picture by the studio, American International, which has kept the B picture alive as a feature film even as television has appropriated the form.
The film is a compendium of references to the American films which have treated the outlaw of the modern Industrial Age, an outlaw who functions within the law (wearing the policeman's badge) as well as without. You can see references in "Mad Max" to everything from "The Wild One" and "A Clockwork Orange" to "Easy Rider," "Death Wish" and "In Cold Blood," not to mention a host of American International Pictures' motorcycle movies that sucked the life from the originals and left them as empty husks.
The references are not obvious enough, however, to make "Mad Max" pretentious. It has been skillfully crafted to appeal to both the drive-in crowd and the cineaste. There is enough violence and retribution to satisfy the most pseudo-pathological sensibility. Simultaneously, there is enough restraint and taste to keep the film from sliding into the mire that so often covers the genre. There are also psychological and political overtones rarely dramatized in the conventional genre. Director George Miller suggests that the violence of the motorcycle outlaw and the lawman who pursues him is rooted in a repressed homosexuality that manifests itself in strange forms. What redeems the suggestion is Miller's irrepressible humor. He squeezes the ritual of the genre for all it's worth and then some with a sort of grinning-death's-head japery.
The scenario involves a war to the death between a sleek, bullet-headed, futuristic highway patrolman named Max (Mel Gibson) and a decadent motorcycle gang. The war begins when a member of the gang, a psychopath called The Night Rider, burns to death in a car crash concluding a wild police chase. The gang, led by another psychopathic personality called The Toe-Cutter, vows vengeance. Max's partner is burned to a crisp in a fiery crash precipitated by the gang. The piece de resistance, however, is the gang's pursuit of Max's wife and infant son. When they are both run down on the highway, Max snaps and methodically sets about exterminating the vermin that has made his life such a nightmare.
As directed by Miller, the film makes the genre's conventions almost congenial. Cars are always breaking down at the most inopportune times (the motorcycles don't). Max's wife and son persist in leaving him at the most hazardous moments. At one point they have to be rescued from the gang's clutches by a crippled old woman brandishing a rifle. The ideas aren't original but they're redeemed by Miller's consistently deft manipulation of them. He operates with surgical proficiency.
If punk is a sensibility as well as an adjective, "Mad Max" is a punk movie. Its Australian setting enhances it, authenticating its futuristic aura. The landscape is a bleak desert sliced by a highway under an impassive sky. Death and destruction are cleaned up quickly and effectively. It's hard to get involved with these accidents because the people who have them are as flat and colorless as their surroundings. These people almost need speed and violence to remind them they're alive. They're almost dead anyway.
A Bumper Crop of Movies On Smashed-Up Cars
Washington Post, The (DC) - September 6, 1977
Author: Tom Shales
America's love-hate relationship with the automobile has gotten awfully lopsided in favor of hate. As evidence we have a new race of movie that promises audiences they will see car upon car abused, tortured or demolished. Children, especially, seem driven to these vehicles.
"Thunder and Lightning" and "Grand Theft Auto," now separately dominating a large number of area screens, deliver the promised carnage in abundance. There are at least 15 smash-ups in "Thunder" and no fewer than 35 in "Auto - a bumper crop of four-wheeled corpses.
Auto wrecks have long been staples of movie comedy, and car chases are practically Essence du Cinema. But never before have collisions themselves been the whole point of so many popular films. Ads for "Auto" say, with anything but subtlety, "See the greatest cars in the world destroyed!"
Considering the rigidity of the form and the regularity with which the machines are thrown at one another, you almost get the feeling you're watching auto porno - a movie made for a drive-intheater full of unoccupied cars. Or maybe they're exploiting a widespread grudge against Detroit, and have been made to titillate the little Ralph Nader that lives within us all.
More likely, the films represent a rebellion against machines in general and a backlash against the materialist excesses of a time of plenty. "Auto" makes a point of smashing up not just cars, but expensive cars. A bronze Rolls-Royce is in fact the star of the film, with a yellow Porshe and two black Lincoln Continentals in supporting roles. A Cadillac Seville is spared only because it fails to start.
As a movie, "Grand Theft Auto," about a money-fueled chase from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, is pretty much a crashing bore, with a spoiled-brat mentality behind it. Ron Howard, who co-wrote, directed and plays the lead role in the film, completely lacks the ability to sustain a story between collisions. Aspects that are bluntly imitative of Stanley Kramer's "Its a Mad, Mad, Mad World" and Steven Spielberg's "The Sugarland Express" don't help; they just remind you how superior the originals were.
But "Thunder and Lightning" is not only in the new tradition of crash-'em-ups but also in the old American tradition of crackervilly humor. David Carradine, who is getting to be a pretty ingratiating rascal on screen, and Kate Jackson star as a moonshiner and honeybunch in the Florida Everglades. They zoom around protecting the small businessman against organized moonshining in a black '57 Chevy that survives somersaults, fenderbenders and leaps through the air.
Perhaps because one may be expecting something a bit mor malicious, and cheerful high spirits of the fflm come as a breezy surprise, and Corey Allen's whizbang direction is masterful for a small-budget film. "Thunder and Lightning," except for its overly scatalogical dialogue, is good clean wanton destruction. The final scene of reunited lovers riding in a truck driven by sympathetic old geezers brings back a hundred bucolic-romantic movie memories.
In defense of both films, it should be noted that almost all the damage is done to property rather than people; mangled human bodies as a matinee diversion. Virtually every crash, no matter how devastating, is followed by a scene of the people in the cars walking or swimming away from the scene, dazed but unbloodied. Thus we have violent films striking a blow against violence.
To some extent, the movies also seem a reaction against television - even though both exploit TV names (Howard of "Happy Days," Jackson of "Charlie's Angels"), there is a comic reference to Carradine's old "Kung Fu" series, and an actor playing a hit man in "Thunder" complains about too much violence on the air.
Nevertheless, the films provide an alternative to television in that TV treats us as consumers first and people second and is regularly punctuated with homages and paeans to the glories of merchandise and conspicuous consumption. The auto wreck movies answer that with conspicuous destruction; they take symbols of American affluence and trash them to smithereens.
There is a therapeutic satisfaction to be gleaned from seeing cars killed on the screen (it would be nice if they threw in an electric typewriter now and then). And it may even be healthier in the long run than the sentimentalization of computers and machines in "Star Wars." We have to keep remembering - it's them or us. Autowreck movies give the victory to the people.
'ELIMINATORS' HAS ITS CLEVER MOMENTS
San Jose Mercury News (CA) - February 1, 1986
Author: GLENN LOVELL, Mercury News Film Writer
THE GoBots/transformer set should have a ball with "Eliminators," a comic-book action adventure that teams a reassembled man, a novice ninja, a resourceful woman scientist and a rowdy charter-boat skipper who is obviously patterned after Humphrey Bogart in "The African Queen."
A hybrid of "Terminator" and the classic western "The Magnificent Seven," this low-budget arrival was shot in Spain (the setting being Mexico) and comes from B-movie merchant Charles Band, whose sci-fi/ horror variations include last year's "Ghoulies" and the fun "Troll," which trundled into town last week.
Producer Band's production values, as always, range from neat-o to non-existent. He opens with a swirling-colors time- travel sequence that looks chintzy even by TV standards, but then he comes on strong with fun robot hardware and first- rate laser-gun effects (by John Buechler of "Ghoulies" and "Troll").
A nuts-and-bolts actor named Patrick Reynolds plays "John Doe," a pilot who crashed a year ago near the jungle lab of an evil, disfigured genius named Reeves (Roy Dotrice). Reeves collected what was left of the pilot and transformed him into a "mandroid" (half man, half robot), complete with one infrared eye and such interchangeable components as jet boots, torpedo-launcher arm and knockout-gas dispenser.
The joke is that most of these sophisticated accessories, including an attachable half-track mobile unit, keep misfiring, leaving our tin-man hero embarrassed and vulnerable.
Little wonder Reeves calls for his $6 man to be dismantled. John blows a fuse over this and flees the compound. On the road he teams with the pretty robotics technician Nora (Denise Crosby), a con man guide (veteran meanie Andrew Prine showing a real flair for comedy), and an uptight samurai (Conan Lee).
The kids should especially get a kick out of the klutzy bad guys and Crosby's whiz-bang reconnaissance robot, S.P.O.T., which is part Tinkerbell and part R2D2.
''Eliminator," in patches, is as campy and clever as the best "Superman" installments. We have director Peter Manoogian and especially writers Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo to thank for this. Their wacky touches and the amusing Tin Man/Dorothy banter between John and Miss Fix-It deserve a more interesting and charismatic hero. Batteries and lubricant were obviously not included with the lockjawed Reynolds.
ELIMINATORS. Directed by Peter Manoogian; scripted by Paul DeMeo, Danny Bilson. Rated PG. (star)(star)
MOVIEGOERS ARE VICTIMS HERE
Miami Herald, The (FL)
September 10, 1984
Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic
The Executioner, Part II is an ultra-low-budget action picture from 1982. It is of interest only for its shoddiness, which is surpassing; this is the first film in recent memory to fail in every aspect of the filmmaking craft.
The performances are wonderfully bad; most of the actors, of whom Chris Mitchum is top-billed, have a hard time just reading their lines. And Aldo Ray, who gets star billing, is in the film for a few 15-second scenes, each obviously shot one afternoon and inserted later; Ray is never seen in a shot with anyone else, though he is always exchanging dialogue with characters offscreen. Attempts to disguise this, using a body double and over-the-shoulder shots, are particulary clumsy.
Much of Executioner II is out of focus. The editing is so inept that in a number of scenes, sound effects or lines of dialogue are repeated; in other scenes, they're missing. The dubbing is so bad that it is impossible to tell what language the film was originally made in; it might have been English.
The plot has to do with a vigilante on the streets of Los Angeles, where, the voice of a "radio commentator" explains, the killer "shoots his victims, cuts them with glass or puts live grenades in their clothes." There are a number of subplots, each inexplicable, and one of the characters has recurring Vietnam flashbacks.
Even the ya-hoo crowd comes away disappointed, however, for among the film's missing pieces are most of its of violence and sex. There's one brief flash of nudity that is obviously accidental; it comes as a surprise to the actress, who giggles.
THE EXECUTIONER, PART II (R) NO STARS
Chris Mitchum, Aldo Ray, Antoine John Mottet, Dan Bradley, Renee Harmon, Jim Draftfield.
Director: James Bryant. Producer: Renee Harmon.
A 21st Century Distribution release. Running time: 95 minutes. Vulgar language, brief nudity, sexual situations, violence.
`DEAD END DRIVE-IN PAYS PUNK HOMAGE TO KUBRICK
The Record (New Jersey) - September 8, 1986
Author: By Will Joyner, Staff Writer: The Record
MOVIE REVIEW @@ DEAD END DRIVE-IN: Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith. Written by Peter Smalley. Photography by Paul Murphy. Music by Frank Strangio. With Ned Manning (Jimmy), Natalie McCurry (Carmen), Peter Whitford (Thompson), and others. Produced by Andrew Williams for Springvale Productions in association with the New South Wales Film Corporation. Released by New World Pictures. Opened Friday locally. Running time: 85 minutes. Rated R: profanity, nudity, adult situations.
You spot an ad for a movie called "Dead End Drive-In," and what comes to mind? Low-rent, late-night horror , right? Lots of screaming teen-agers caught with their clothes off, lots of blood. Bad acting, bad direction, mercifully bad lighting.
Duck into the "Dead End Drive-In" that opened Friday, and you're going to get something entirely different. It's not a great movie, by any means, but it's also not a picture cynically planned to feed on the public's worst fascination with violence.
First, "Dead End Drive-In" is an Australian production, filmed on the industrial outskirts of Sydney. Second, it's a fairly provocative allegory about the near future an open homage to Stanley Kubrick's classic "A Clockwork Orange" without any pretense to the same profundity, as well as an unabashed echo of "The Road Warrior. "
Third, exploiting an ugly low-budget look, the film is a playful send-up of a punk visual style now irrevocably in vogue all around the world.
The time is halfway through the 1990's. Nuclear mishaps happen frequently. Rioting over dwindled resources is widespread in the United States and Europe. A full-scale racial war has engulfed South Africa.
In Sydney, a cheerful young man named Jimmy (Ned Manning) incongruously jogs through rubble, past lots protected by barbed wire and barking dogs, along a greenish horizon dominated by chemical-spewing factories.
Jimmy's in training to be just like his big brother Frank that is, employed as a tow-truck driver, one of the few lucrative jobs left in this strange, auto-obsessed society. (A tow-truck driver has to be in great shape because any radio call requires combat, against other towing companies and against ghoulish scavengers known as "cowboys. ")
As good as he is, though, Jimmy's also a boy who just wants to have some naughty fun. One night, he borrows Frank's vintage '56 Chevy, emerges from their bunkerlike home (a deserted underground parking garage), and takes his vampish girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to the Star Drive-In.
The ad for "Dead End Drive-In" may be misleading, but it's correct when it says, "The price of admission is your life. " The place turns out to be an internment camp for unemployed young people, where, just as they're getting down to sexual antics, their cars are dismantled by roving policemen.
There's no escape, even for the odd ambitious type like Jimmy. Thompson (Peter Whitford), the kindly old man at the ticket booth, issues blankets, and coupon books for junk food and drugs. There's a cafeteria and a shower house, both covered with brightly colored graffiti murals. ("The Lord is coming," one says. "Wear a raincoat. ") This is life, for the duration.
This is also all-too-obvious symbolism of a postindustrial country's inability to motivate its youth, but "Dead End Drive-In" has a crude charm anyway. The drive-in's residents are done up in such an outrageous array of leather duds, black-and-blue makeup, and spiked hairdos that the movie turns into campy street theater, where unsubtle messages are perfectly appropriate.
The unsubtle message is this: Locked up or not, many of tomorrow's (and today's) youth are going to spend their days listening to music, puffing marijuana, and reveling in their rude docility. A few will have the gumption to jump the fence.
Ned Manning, as Jimmy the fence jumper, feigns just enough dated forthrightness to make everyone else who's wandering the dusty, car-strewn landscape half Kafka, half Lower East Side seem hilarious. Especially memorable is a punk cricket match that robs the game of every trace of gentility.
"Dead End Drive-In" has its share of bad acting, misguided direction, and bizarre lighting (the cinematographer went wild experimenting with filters, adding to the movie's glow of abnormality). And it eventually hits a narrative dead end of its own. But at least a razor-wielding psychopath isn't waiting in the shadows there.
Movie Review- `Stalker' can't find credibility
The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution - October 9, 1986
Author: CAIN, SCOTT, Scott Cain Staff Writer: STAFF
Charles Napier, a rugged character actor usually seen in supporting roles, is the Dirty Harry of Los Angeles in "The Night Stalker," a lively but unconvincing murder mystery.
Napier plays J.J. Striker, a boozing police detective who muscles his way int o a bizarre homicide case in which the victims are prostitutes. Their corpses are painted like Oriental silkscreens.
Director Max Kleven goes for a tone of gritty realism in most of "The Night Stalker," yet the killer's first victim empties a pistol into his body at point-blank range without doing substantial damage. This immediately puts "The Night Stalker" into the supernatural realm and, when a down-to-earth explanation is provided, it simply can't be credited.
Napier is a solid professional. He does classic hangover scenes and is wonderful as he huffs and puffs during a foot chase, telling himself that he's too old for these antics. Napier is perhaps best known as the cynical bureaucrat who betrays "Rambo" and, if "Night Stalker" had worked out, he might have become a star in the Charles Bronson mold. Too bad.
Robert Viharo, another craggy actor, is a fit companion for Napier as the detective's doomed partner. (Partners exist in movies of this type for the purpose of getting rubbed out.) Gary Crosby plays Napier's jaundiced competitor on the police force. Crosby may yet carve out a career playing egomaniacs who get humiliating comeuppances.
"The Night Stalker." A horror movie. Rated R for abundant violence, profanity and nudity
The response to this film, armed or unarmed, is 'yuck!'
San Diego Union, The (CA) - December 9, 1986
Author: David Elliott, Movie Critic
Rarely passes a day that I do not thank the god of puff -- whose name is said to be Morty -- for movie press kits. Were it not for the promo packet on "Armed Response," I wouldn't know that...
Director Fred Olen Ray "has received attention among horror film buffs for 'Prison Ship,' 'Bio-Hazard' and 'The Tomb'..."
Brent Huff, playing one of Lee Van Cleef's three sons, is "one of the fashion industry's leading male models" and "one of the entertainment industry's most exciting new stars" (thanks to such star-makers as "The Perils of Gwendoline" and "Nine Deaths of the Ninja.")
Michael Berryman, the giant actor with the most notable deformed face in movies since Rondo Hatton, has "additionally gained notoriety for his recent appearances in two Motley Cru music videos."
But let us tear ourselves from this pasture of plenty and chew the cud of crud that is "Armed Response." Yes, Lee Van Cleef -- who has perhaps the ugliest non-deformed face ever to grace a screen -- does indeed turn paternal, after decades as a vicious lone rogue. If you grew up watching '50s Westerns, you knew the villain was likely to be (a.) Lee Van Cleef, (b.) Jack Elam, or (c.) both of the above.
So now he appears gray and grizzled, yet with those rodent teeth and slit eyes still scary enough to spook a moray eel, and he has three sons (the only possible resemblance to Fred MacMurray). Van Cleef plays an alcoholic World War II vet who runs a bar with son Jim (David Carradine), a Vietnam war vet, on the fringe of L.A.'s Chinatown. Other sons, apparently veterans of street crime, are Clay (David Goss) and Tommy (exciting new star Brent Huff).
Trying to work a deal involving a stolen statue, Tommy is double-crossed by slimeball hustler Cory (Ross Hagen). Cory is working a bad number on mobster Tanaka (Mako), who gets his devil mitts on Tommy and tortures him by "bone-scraping" with acupuncture needles. What follows is quotable:
Tanaka, dripping irony: "Here we are again -- the evil yellow man torturing the valiant white hero."
Tommy, expiring proud: "Thank God I was born American!"
Well, Tommy dies American. So does Clay. Now down to one son, Van Cleef boils into a revenge spin. In the midst of flashbacks to Vietnam napalming, Jim (Carradine) unleashes his kung-fu death feet on the hoods. In a Chinatown curiously deserted, father and son win a long, blazing battle while a police unit sits a few blocks away, deaf to explosions.
Payoffs include Jim blowing up Tanaka after the dispatch line, "Rest in pieces," and the stunningly homely Berryman, one of Tanaka's boys, doing a suicide car crash into Van Cleef's bar. Then, though their livelihood is wrecked and two of the brothers are freshly dead, the surviving family survey the ruins and laughs -- the family that slays together stays together?
Other jollies include Laurene Landon as Deborah, a crazed, machine-gunning mama who is described as "a little hyper." And, for connoisseurs, a running duel of klutz acting between Van Cleef (at 61 still a master of the non-nuance) and Ross Hagen, who does dodo reactions of surpassing awkwardness.
Director Fred Olen Ray grubs straight down to sleazoid basics; he even makes the Vietnam scenes look like a National Guard exercise equipped with Korean War surplus. There's craft, if not art, in reducing pork bellies to dog food. Ray has the gift.
"Armed Response" * A CineTel release. Directed by Fred Olen Ray. Written by T.L. Lankford. Produced by Paul Hertzberg. Photography by Paul Elliott. Music by Tom Chase and Steve Rucker. With David Carradine, Lee Van Cleef, Mako, Lois Hamilton, Ross Hagen, Laurene Landon, Michael Berryman. Rated R. In local theaters.
2 FILMS: ONE'S A CRIME DRAMA, THE OTHER'S JUST A CRIME
Philadelphia Daily News (PA) - November 5, 1985
Author: JOE BALTAKE, Daily News Movie Reviewer
"To Live and Die in L.A." A crime drama starring William C. Petersen, Willem Dafoe and John Pankow. Directed by William Friedkin from a screenplay by Gerald Petievich and Friedkin. Based on a novel by Petievich. Photographed by Robby Muller. Edited by Bud Smith. Music by Wang Chung. Running time: 105 minutes. An MGM/U.A. release.
"Death Wish 3." A revenge drama starring Charles Bronson. Directed by Michael Winner from a screenplay by Michael Edmonds. Based on characters created for a novel by Brian Garfield. Edited by Michael Kagan. Music by Jimmy Page. Running time: 93 minutes. A Cannon release.
Both films are in area theaters.
First the bad news, then the bad news. Some weeks are like that.
For starters, gun-toting, bullet-pumping he-men are back on the screen, in not one but two new movies, and one of them has the forboding title of "Death Wish 3." I spent most of Friday seeing both films, in which cars crash, blow up and fly through the air, people are garroted, bludgeoned, spiked and terminated and in which the aggressors always enjoy the best sex imaginable. (There's a message here, I guess.)
I've read that there's a correlation between violent movies and anti-social behavior, and now I believe it: I came away from these movies in the worst mood possible, and I'm really not up to writing this review, so if you interrupt me, you're dead meat!
Now, with that said, let me make it clear that not all the news is bad. William Friedkin's "To Live and Die in L.A.," despite its graphic violence and overall inhumanity, is a damned good little movie, an intelligent, melancholy policier that's as fatalistic and as tinged with mood (and moodiness) as the very best foreign crime dramas have been.
Coupling it with Michael Winner's absurd "Death Wish 3" probably isn't totally fair, but the fact is, both movies are doing and saying the same things and also leave the same awful aftertaste. There's also the unfortunate coincidence of their being released at the same time.
The only real difference is that Friedkin's film is as stylish and as grown up as Winner's film is poorly made and infantile: "Death Wish 3" was made for the yahoos and no one else; "To Live and Die in L.A." was made for yahoos and those few perceptive moviegoers who can see beyond the carnage, see it for what it is (movie-fantasized reality) and savor the tight, tough, unsentimental story at the movie's core. (It really is unfortunate that Friedkin's film wasn't made in a foreign language and presented with subtitles.)
Let's dispense with "Death Wish 3" first. It falls somewhere between the original 1974 film that, despite its wretched vigilante stance, had genuine substance and dramatic charge (it made sense) and the sequel of two years ago, which is about as unwatchable as any film can get.
The new film is so deliriously unreal that it's almost funny - almost. In this go-round, Charles Bronson's Paul Kersey is back in New York, only this time the great city looks like a bombed-out war victim. It is overrun with punks who trample over old people and, naturally, frustrate the police. Kersey is recruited to splatter the creeps with his Wildey .475 Magnum pistol.
"It makes a real mess," Bronson explains, something that he's been doing as an actor on screen for nearly three decades now.
His film is actually a ripoff of a deservedly obscure Stephen Verona movie called "Boardwalk," which cast Lee Stranberg and Ruth Gordon (and others) as old Jews being terrorized by punks. These films are romantic in that they seriously convey the dubious notion that anyone who fights back, wins.
Not so in "To Live and Die in L.A.," a stark drama that has no delusions about right versus might. Directed by Friedkin in an unrelenting visceral style (a la "Miami Vice") from a Gerald Petievich novel, this movie is about L.A. counterfeiters and the patrol-car tensions between two plainclothes agents who are at odds, with each other and their superiors, about how to handle the case.
Richard Chance (William L. Petersen), your token hothead, sexed-up type, has a personal vendetta: His former partner was slaughtered by the film's flashy villain (Willem Dafoe). Chance's new partner (John Pankow) is a nervous, by-the-books type whom we suspect will mess things up in this cat- and-mouse game.
But "To Live and Die in L.A." has as many surprises (one of which is genuinely shocking) as it has dead bodies. This is an intense, vital and honorable movie. It doesn't glorify Chance's tactics the way another movie would (in fact, a more complacent agent solves the case), and it doesn't pretend to have the answers.
It is a contemporary horror story of justice miscarried, a harrowing experience, that has no surcease and not even the catharsis of promised reforms. And in William L. Petersen, it has the most sexually charged actor to come along in a long time. Don Johnson and his "Miami Vice" are kid's stuff compared with Petersen and "To Live and Die in L.A."
Parental guide: Both films are rated R for their violence and language.
"Rolling Thunder": Twisted Violence
Washington Post, The (DC) - October 29, 1977
Author: Gary Arnold
John Flynn's crisp, laconic direction and evocative use of Southern Texas locations - the San Antonio area, with particularly effective, sinister excursions to border towns like Del Rio - transorm "Rolling Thunder," now at area theaters, into a more distinctive exploitation movie than it deserves to be. The screenplay, which originated with Paul Schrader, the writer of "Taxi Driver," is miserably vicious, a hybrid of "The Wild Bunch" and "Death Wish" in which a returning P.O.W., an Air Force major who spent eight years imprisoned in North Vietnam, sets out to massacre a gang of hoodlums who break into his home, shove his right hand down a churning garbage disposal and shoot his wife and son.
The premise is twisted in a way that could serve as a textbooks example of pornographic violence. All the major's ordeals - physical and emotional, as a prisoner and a returning serviceman and family man - become pretexts for kinked-up, brutal sensations and a final orgiastic shooting spree.
There's no point in responding to the hero's situation with ordinary sympathy or human interest, because these amount to sucker's responses in this context. Flynn directs the homecoming encounters between William Devane as the major, Hordon Gerler as his son and Lisa Richards as his wife, who has become romantically involved with another man, with such admirable stillness and concentration that one could be fooled into believing that the film intends to deal with his readjustment problems conscientiously. In retrospect, one may recall this as the neatest single illusion in the picture and wish John Flynn a more appropriate subject for stylistic concentration the next time around.
it doesn't take long to discover that the humanistic murmurs are setting up nihilistic knock-out punches. Bringing on the murderers spares a screenwriter the drudgery of trying to resolve the estrangement between the major and his wife. At the same time it's presumed to give a melodramatic warrior a "mission" worthy of his training and value system. Yet there's no conviction behind this mission of vengeance, no sense of values that might deserve to be protected or offenses that might deserve to be punished.
On the contrary, the hero and a fellow P.O.W. who joins him, played by Tommy Lee Jones, are justified on the basis of professionalism rather than motive. We're supposed to accept the platitude that they're emotionally dead and have been since their capture during the war. The major has become a stranger to his family, and while he's offered a girl friend who might be some consolation - Linda Haynes, who resembles a careworn Tuesday Weld, makes an appealing impression as a cocktail waitress whose down-to-earth aspirations and apprehensions correspond to the audience's - he must reject her, or else miss the climactic shootout.
The major's comrade leaves a household conceived as the meanest of lower middle-class sancturaries, a haven for prattling women and unheroic men. In its simultaneous contempt for the homefronts the heroes ostensibly march out to avenge or protect and for the scummy adversaries they'll face, the movie exposes an emotional and moral blackout far more genuine than the perfunctory daze ascribed to Devane and Jones, both very capable actors. This picture was conceived by someone - presumably Schrader - who glorifies violence, yet only responds to it as a transcendant, abstract pictorial spectacle, an esthetic thrill, like the nomcombatants who derive more satisfaction from combat than professional soldiers.
There are some exceedingly ugly notions in "Rolling Thunder," and they're never mitigated by the kind of character exploration and embiguity that strengthened "Taxi Drive." For example, the major is depicted recalling nightmarish scenes of torture and then reenacting some of those scenes, with a hint of of masochistic gratification. His severed hand is replaced by a prosthetic device that becomes even better than a hand for the purposes of this story, because he can file the to a point and use it as a deadly weapon.
The big showndown self-sconsciously justaposes sex and violence. The setting is a Mexican bordello, so naked actresses scurry about trying to stay out of the line of fire while the actors pretend to have it out. Speaking of having it out, Jones is depicted being undressed by a whore seconds before the shooting starts, and he comes out of her room with an automatic rifle in one hand while zipping up his fly with the other. "Rolling Thunder" is undoubtedly Spawn of Peckinpah, but some of its kinkier wrinkles might shock the originator himself.
'The Choirboys': An Out-of-Tune Precinct
Washington Post, The (DC) - December 24, 1977
Author: Gary Arnold
Among the Los Angeles patrolmen characterized - or, to be precise, caricatured - in "The Choirboys," now at area theaters, the term "choir practice" is a euphemism for an all-night drunken toot in MacArthur Park. At some stage the original author, Joseph Wambaugh, and the director, Robert Aldrich, must have envisioned a profane popular comedy patterned after "M*A*S*H," with the choir practicesserving the same purpose for overworked, pressured and sometimes brutalized urban cops that the binges and practical jokes served for the battle surgeons in Robert Altman's film.
"The Choirboys" belongs to the tradition of service comedies, but I doubt if anyone will hail it for doing a service for either cops or movie auidences. If the filmmakers had ironic or satirical intentions, the finished film totally obscures them. There's no contrast between cops at work and play. The whole movie suggests a dirtyminded "McHale's Navy," with scenes pivoting on gross set jokes alternating with scenes pivoting on grosser sick jokes.
Some of the jokes are so raucously or goofily low-minded that you may laugh out of a kind of shocked weakness. At a certain level there is something funny about the idea of a drunken slob creeping under a glass-topped coffee table to get a peek up a women's skirt or the idea of a jumper being provoked to her doom by a cop who tries to use reverse psychology and dares her to "go ahead and jump."
However, once commiting your entertainment in this direction, it may be impossible to change. Towards the end "Choirboys" attempts to get serious about the sordidness that it has been wallowing in for gratuitious, episodic laughs, and this switch seems both deceitful and laughable. It's much too late to take a different tack, and at the fadeout the mood returns to cackling facetiousness. The promotion for this movie should probably be built mately, neither the filmmakers nor the characters feel any credible pain. They're just rowdy fraternity boys in blue.
Wambaugh, who did the original adaptation of his own best-selling novel, has been busy disowning the film. He succeeded in having his name removed from the screenwriting credits and placed an ad in movie trade papers complaining that Aldrich had done him wrong. It's difficult to see how. The comic vulgarity originated in the novel, and surely no one could imagine the director of "The Dirty Dozen," "The Longest Yard," "Hustle" "The Killing of Sister George" and "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" suddenly developing a delicate touch.
It's more likely that Wambaugh came to the realization that visualizing this colection of tales told out of school could be more embarrassing and misleading than simply publishing them. "The Choirboys" is a vaudeville of precinct scandals and follies that may not mean the same thing to cops that they mean to civilians. Although he supplied the pretext and context, Wambaugh may not care to associate himself with the misconceptions about police work and psychology that could result from the film version.
"The Choirboys" takes a fairly obnoxious place among a burgeoning genre of Hollywood films determined to revel in raunchiness. "Slap Shot" set, the pace earlier this year. Now we have "Looking for Mr. Goodbar," "Saturday Night Fever," "The Gauntlet" "The Choirboy" and even "The World's Greatest Lover" straining to keep up, The spectre of television must be partly responsible: To a certain extent these movies recommed themselves because they'll need to be expurgated for telecasting.
Charles Durning has the most prominent role in a large, able but largely wasted cast as the hard-bitten patrolman "Spermwhale" Whalen, suggesting a cross between Spencer Tracy and Los Costello. Not too surprisingly, Burt Young creates the most human and appealing impression as a motley-looking but gentle natured vice cop. Tim McIntire also gets something distinctive into the boobytrapped assignment of the resident redneck bigot. Robert Webber cops the booby prize for his teethgrinding closeups as, naturally a mealy-mouthed brasshat.
REVIEWS MOVIES\ NINJA' A FISTFUL OF MARTIAL ARTS MAYHEM\ REVENGE OF THE NINJA - DIRECTED BY SAM FIRSTENBERG, WRITTEN BY JAMES\ R. SILKE, STARRING SHO KOSUGI, KEITH VITALI, VIRGIL FRYE, ARTHUR ROBERTS,\ MARIO GALLO, GRACE OSHITA, ASHLEY\ FERRARE, KANE KOSUGI, AT THE PI ALLEY AND SUBURBS, RATED R.
Boston Globe - September 17, 1983
Author: Jay Carr Globe Staff
"This is no job for the police. Only a ninja can stop a ninja." That quote sums up " Revenge of the Ninja ," a brainless, but peppy, martial arts outing
from Golan-Globus, the people who gave us "Hercules."
This one is set in Salt Lake City, a possible first. An art dealer talks a ninja into bringing his mother and tiny son there after the rest of the family has been wiped out by a gang of bad ninjas in Tokyo.
When the dealer helps the ninja by whipping a pistol out of his pocket and gunning down a few heavies, his mother says: "I do not trust this man, my son."
Neither does anyone else in the theater, except the hero, an honorable type played by Sho Kosugi. He opens a gallery specializing in dolls which, unknown to him, are loaded with heroin. This brings the angry Mafia into the picture. Not only are they no match for a single ninja, but they're played with exceptional awfulness.
A ninja, by the way, is a killer who augments his knowledge of martial arts with lots of lethal gear. No self-respecting ninja would think of leaving the house without a suitcase full of dirks (throwing stars), swords, darts, shrapnel and other hardware.
The film's reason for being, no less than the ninja's, is killing.
Kosugi, helped for a while by a karate-wise cop (Keith Vitali), takes out virtually the entire population of Salt Lake City, with the possible exception of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, before his ultimate square-off against the Darth Vader-like art dealer in a volleyball court on the roof of a high-rise.
Ashley Ferrare provides decorative interludes, and Kane Kosugi, the hero's son in real life as well as the movie, is one cute little ninja.
" Revenge of the Ninja ," in short, contains all the blood-spattered violence you could hope for, unless you feel that transforming killing into an art form by introducing ballet and technology to it is perhaps a trifle decadent.
MOVIE: ' REVENGE OF THE NINJA ' IS ANOTHER MARTIAL-ARTS OFFERING
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - September 19, 1983
Author: Rick Lyman, Inquirer Movie Critic
It would be hard to think up a genre more ridiculous than martial-arts movies.
Singing cowboys? The Bowery Boys? Blondie movies?
They don't even come close.
It's not that there's anything ridiculous about the martial arts - they've just been trashed by movie-makers hungry for a buck. It's just that everyone who has attempted to make a good, intelligent martial-arts movie has fallen on his face (John Frankenheimer's The Challenge is the most recent attempt). So instead we get cheap rip-offs of terrible originals.
I sometimes wonder what true martial-arts proponents, people who train for years to fine-tune their skills and their discipline, really think of these abominations. They should be howling mad.
One particularly silly offering, Revenge of the Ninja , opened Friday all over the area. Though it's a cut or so above most of the Hong Kong-made martial-arts junk, the difference is so slight, it hardly seems worth mentioning.
If you plan on wringing any enjoyment out of it, it might prove helpful to take a few karate chops to the head on the way into the theater.
The Ninja, in case you've been hiding in a shoebox for the last couple of years, is a 400-year-old Japanese sect of specially trained, nearly invincible assassins. They travel in packs, move like the wind and pounce like tigers. They know 1,000 ways to kill, we are told, though most of them seem to involve knives and other sharp instruments.
The point is, they're so tough they don't need hand grenades. They laugh at guns. A howitzer might shake their concentration, but only for a moment.
There have been Ninja books, Ninja movies; there's probably a Ninja candy bar.
A martial-arts movie stands or falls on the strength of its fight scenes. Usually the hero is called upon to defend himself against a dozen or so villains. He jumps over the top of them, twirls, lashes out, kicks them in the throat.
There's a goofy, ballet quality to most of the fight scenes in bad martial- arts movies - the characters move in slow motion and then lurch forward. It resembles fight scenes as Busby Berkeley would stage them, so overchoreographed they're reduced to the level of the ludicrous.
The fight scenes in Revenge of the Ninja are particularly phoney. Several times the hero is surrounded by a half dozen bad guys who are stupid enough to come at him one at a time.
They shoot an arrow at him - he catches it in his left hand. They shoot another arrow - he catches it in his right hand. They shoot another. What does he do? Why, catches it in his teeth, of course.
Our hero is Cho, a Tokyo resident who moves to Los Angeles to open a Japanese art store when Ninja assassins wipe out his family. (They'd have gotten him, too, but there were only 20 of them.)
Cho is himself a Ninja. "Most people think that Ninja are all bad," he says. "Not so."
In L.A., Cho hangs up his sword and goes into the art business. What he doesn't know is that his partner, Belden, is really an international heroin dealer using the art gallery as a front. And besides that, Belden is secretly a Ninja (a bad Ninja). Pretty soon even the Mafia is involved and it's chop, whack, powee!
The fights are phony, the sets are tacky and the lines are silly ("You cannot escape your karma, my son").
If there really are any Ninja out there, I have a pretty good idea who their next targets are going to be.
And believe me, it'll be no occident.
REVENGE OF THE NINJA
Produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, directed by Sam Firstenberg, written by James R. Silke, photography by David Garfinkel, music by Rob Walsh, distributed by MGM/UA Entertainment Co.; running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.**SINGLEG*Cho - Sho Kosugi
Jackson - Keith Vitali
Belden - Arthur Roberts
Kane - Kane Kosugi
Parents' guide: R (violence, nudity)
AS BAD CINEMA GOES, THIS IS A MASTERPIECE
Miami Herald, The (FL)
September 10, 1986
Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic
Estimated printed pages: 2
The movie business having become a thing of the vast, mediocre middle ground -- few highs, few lows -- you can wait years for a movie as bad as Cut and Run. As rare as a masterpiece is the film that is awful in every respect: script, direction, performance, sound, cinematography, the works. Cut and Run probably had lousy gaffers, too.
Mark and Fran (Leonard Mann and the hapless Lisa Blount) are a two-person cable-TV news crew out to rip the lid off the
drug-peddling racket. Fran is ambitious; she's after a Pulitzer.
On stakeout, they nearly get the scoop on a Colombian woman using the now-legendary hollowed-out baby method of cocaine smuggling. Alas, by the time they break into the gang's Miami headquarters, everyone inside has been murdered, and they're forced to settle for a standup amid the corpses. (It won't be their last disappointment, either; wait till they find out that Pulitzers are for print reporters, not broadcasters.)
Anyway. Mark and Fran hitch a ride to the Colombian jungle, where they hope to find more cocaine smugglers, a survivor of the Jim Jones Guyana massacre who's leading some sort of crazed gang, and the missing son of their producer back home. Pretty much everyone is dead at the jungle outpost, too, so they do another standup with the bodies. Fran breaks down. Who can blame her? The corpses all have blow-pipe wounds, and there are crocodiles in the river.
Eventually it turns out that there are at least three separate sets of villains in Cut and Run, not counting the
filmmakers. At no point is the action more than vaguely comprehensible, and there are whole stretches that make no sense at all. The film is notable only as further evidence of the remarkable career slide of Lisa Blount, who had her moment in An Officer and a Gentleman, and for the curious presence of Karen Black, looking florid and unnerved in an expanded cameo. Without exception, the cast is atrocious.
Cut and Run (R) no stars
CAST: Lisa Blount, Leonard Mann, Willie Aames, Richard Lynch, Richard Bright, Michael Berryman, Karen Black.
CREDITS: Director: Ruggero Deodato. Producer: Alessandro Fracassi. Screenwriters: Cesare Frugoni, Dardano Sacchetti. Cinematographer: Alberto Spagnoli.
A New World Pictures release. Running time: 87 minutes.
Vulgar language, nudity, implicit sex, violence.
**** Excellent; *** 1/2 Very Good
*** Good; ** 1/2 Worth Seeing; ** Fair
* Poor; 0 Worthless
DEATHSTALKER' PLAYS IT FOR LAUGHS
Miami Herald, The (FL)
September 6, 1983
Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic
Estimated printed pages: 3
The once-ballyhooed "sword-and-sorcerer" boom in films flopped faster than any movie trend in memory except, perhaps, Smell-O-Rama -- from the mediocrity of Conan the Barbarian it has been a short slide into the Valley of the Truly Wretched. So it is a pleasant surprise to be able to report the release of a hunk-against-the-barbarians film that, while not quite recommendable, nearly transcends its tatty genre.
The film is Deathstalker, and its hero is the muscled swordsman by that name who is pressed into reluctant service to recover the Magic Chalice of Power and the Magic Amulet of Power, thus reuniting them with the Magic Sword of Power, such unions being the conventional harbingers for the loosings of Good upon a Troubled World.
And there's trouble in this one, which appears vaguely post- Camelot; as the hero remarks early on, to a disenfranchised king who wants his help on a quest, "I steal and kill to stay alive, not for the luxury of glory."
The Deathstalker -- he is called Deathstalker by some, and Stalker by others, though no one uses his first name -- is reluctant to help largely because he has heard the story of how the Evil Sorcerer, Munkar, turned the last army to march against him into sheep. Deathstalker is offered an entire kingdom for his help, but observes, with the kind of concise analysis usually lacking in heroes of his ilk, that the kingdom "isn't worth much to a sheep."
Yes, Deathstalker has a humorous cast to it. In fact, there are times when the film reels rather drunkenly, abandoning its skimpy value as fable for the easy laugh. The result is a silly film that never takes itself seriously, which in turn makes it watchable. (The scene in which a hulking brute with the head of a pig tires of pummelling an enemy with his fists, and instead rips the arm off a passing warrior and uses it as a club is played for -- yes -- whimsy, and it works.)
This is also the first of the s-and-s films to give sex nearly equal time with disembowelment, a story concept we can only cheer. (Some of the sex is of the rape-and-pillage style, but the times, as we have noted, were troubled.)
There is no point in a detailed discussion of plot, quests being pretty much the same everywhere. Deathstalker hits the road in search of Munkar, meets an Amazon gal who fights with her shirt off, makes sausage of the pig-man and generally saves the day.
Among the women he is obliged to rescue is a princess played by Barbi Benton, who apparently clings to the idea of an acting career like a castaway to flotsam. Sadly, Benton has not yet learned even how to feign alarm; she smiles winningly throughout her rape.
Richard Hill, on the other hand, though trapped in the beefcake role (he's the Stalker), plays it wry and never lets
himself look stupid.
Help always arrives, in the guise of comic relief. In one scene the Deathstalker visits the scene of a medieval women's mudwrestling bout that is interrupted by some posturings by Munkar, who announces that the upcoming gladiatorial games will determine "whether Good, or Evil, will rule." At this point, a large man squirts up from the mud, fist raised, and shouts, "Evil." It's hard to hate a film with a scene such as that.
Deathstalker (R) **
Richard Hill, Barbi Benton, Richard Brooker, Lana Clarkson
Director: John Watson
Producer: James Sbardellati
Screenwriter: Howard R. Cohen
Cinematographer: Leonardo Rodriguez Solis
Music: Oscar Ocampo
A New World Pictures release
Nudity, implicit sex, violence and gore
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'CHAINED HEAT' LIKELY TO LEAVE FILMGOER COLD
Miami Herald, The (FL)
May 30, 1983
Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic
Estimated printed pages: 2
Chained Heat is your basic visit to the snakepit, with a few twists. One is the presence of Linda Blair, as the innocent (she's in for vehicular homicide, "an accident," which makes her cell-hardened fellow inmates snicker with anticipation). Another is that rarely in the history of either movies or the?penal system have prison officials and guards been seen to be quite this despicable.
In Chained Heat, one of the problems the gals have is with Ernie, the warden (played by John Vernon, once wonderful as Dean Wormer in National Lampoon's Animal House). Ernie has an office, but he also keeps a big-house sin pad, where he has hidden video cameras and a jacuzzi. He likes to have the inmates in for the night, get 'em in the bath and tape the whole deal. He saves the tapes and tells everybody about them. He's not very smart.
But he has problems of his own, because someone is muscling in on his illegal-drug racket; someone else is selling cocaine to the prisoners. The rival pusher is Ernie's gal Friday, Capt. Taylor (Stella Stevens), but Ernie doesn't know this, and he's pumping his informants for the truth. All the guards take sides, including one of the men, who is a rapist, and for whom the female guards act as pimps, and...
And so it goes. Chained Heat is pretty slimy all around, but it does have three moments of marvelous dialogue:
* In the midst of a wave of knifings, garrottings and bashings, most directed at squealers among the inmate population, Blair's character has just squealed. Confessing this to another inmate, she weeps softly and says, "Val, please don't hate me."
* Rioting prisoners are trapped inside the prison when a police helicopter arrives, and a voice comes over the bullhorn: "We've got the place surrounded."
* Ernie, while taping an inmate in the jacuzzi: "Don't call me Warden, call me Fellini."
Chained Heat (R) *
Linda Blair, John Vernon, Sybil Danning, Tamara Dobson, Stella Stevens, Sharon Hughes, Henry Silva, Edy Williams
Director: Paul Nicolas
Producer: Billy Fine
Screenwriters: Vincent Mongol, Paul Nicolas
Cinematographer: Mac Ahlberg
Music: Joseph Conlan
A Jensen Farley Pictures release
Vulgar language, nudity, sexual situations, violence, adult themes
At Omni, 167th Street, Ambassador, Cutler Ridge, Kendale Lakes, Suniland, Coral Ridge, Ultra-Vision, Cinema Four, Sheridan, Coral Springs Movie Center, Movies of Plantation, Apollo
WARRIORS' LOSES BATTLE OF BRONX
Miami Herald, The (FL)
September 5, 1983
Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic
Estimated printed pages: 2
New York under siege by rampant thugs is a premise that continues to engage filmmakers, and has at least since Walter Hill's fantasy-of-violence, The Warriors, in 1979. Provocative as the urban jungle may be, the idea nonetheless has appealed to filmmakers of successively smaller skill, and the movies -- Escape From New York, The Exterminator -- have grown worse as the mini-genre expands.
The latest in line is 1990: The Bronx Warriors, a poorly dubbed Italian production and an obvious synthesis of what has gone before. Youth gangs in a variety of colorful costumes do battle in the South Bronx, vicious killer-cops use flame and buckshot to rout them, blood flows.
It is 1990, of course, and the opening titles fill us in on the decay of civilization: "The Bronx was officially designated a high-risk district." (Always a bit behind the times, these guys -- that "designation" seems to have been acknowledged in the 1970s, and in fact the South Bronx is now in the process of being recovered.)
Anyway, Ann -- who wears a Chemise Lacoste sweater and is later billed as "the wealthiest and most affluent girl in the world" runs away from Manhattan and holes up with Trash, Ice and the rest of the Riders -- they may be thugs, but they're apparently more sensitive than the button-down men back at the Manhattan Corp., of which Ann is the heiress ("controls 60 per cent of the world's arms production.").
Ann's presence triggers slaughter -- rival gangs bubble with sexual tension, and the Hammer (the late Vic Morrow) and the Hot Dog (Christopher Connelly) are working for the Corp., trying to rescue her at all cost. Ann notes the bodies of two shotgunned Riders, and feels remorse: "They'd still be alive if I hadn't come here." Trash adjusts his leather vest and counsels, "Stop blaming yourself."
It's all pretty much like that until the final bloodbath. Morrow, Connelly and Fred Williamson walk sourly through their roles, aware that these are not resume-builders. In the background, the sounds of a film editor trying feverishly to make some sense out of the thing may faintly be heard. The subgenre has nowhere to go but up.
1990: The Bronx Warriors (R) *
Vic Morrow, Christopher Connelly, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory, Stefania Girolami
Director: Enzo G. Castellari
Producer: Fabrizio De Angelis
Screenwriters: Dardano Sacchetti, Elisa Livia Briganti, Enzo G. Castellari
Cinematographer: Sergio Salvati
Music: Walter Rizzati
A United Film Distribution Co. release
Running time: 85 minutes
Vulgar language, violence and gore
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Picture stolen from www.enzogcastellari.com. Visit today
A FILM SO BAD THAT, ODDLY, IT'S ALMOST A GOOD TIME
Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) - May 27, 1983
Author: Rick Lyman, Inquirer Movie Critic
1990: The Bronx Warriors may well be the worst movie currently playing in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. We're talking worst - by about three furlongs - and that includes such distinguished entries in the sweepstakes as My Tutor, Curtains, Porky's and that new Cheech and Chong thing.
So why do my eyes mist over when I think of the poor, addled miscreants who dreamt it up? Why do I wander through memories of people impaled and burned alive - the whole phantasmagoria of the modern urban thriller - and feel
somehow warm and merciful?
Because, heaven help me, it was so bad, so unbelievably dumb and filled with so many unintentional howlers that I had something resembling a good time, in a deformed sort of way.
Not that I recommend actually spending money to see it, unless you have an unhealthy taste for dementia.
Some movies grow to be so bad, contort themselves into such strange shapes to rip-off previous hits, that they rise from the muck and flower, grandly, as something exalted and awesome. You sit there in a numb state of silence, watching cast-off character actors squinting through their hopeless lines, and no-talent new faces reaching for third-rate emotions they can never reach. And, in a limited, not altogether pleasant way, you have a tiny bit of gruesome fun.
The movie opens in the year 1990, when the borough of the Bronx has been declared a "high-risk area" by the government. The police have simply stopped trying to keep order, and street gangs have taken the law into their own hands.
In our first scene, we see a young, frightened woman scurrying into a midnight alley. Suddenly, a gang of killers emerges from the shadows - they wear white helmets, scurry about on roller skates and carry what look like metal hockey sticks. Before you can say Great Gretzky they're trying to use her as a puck.
Enter our heroes, The Riders. They're a leather-clad cycle gang led by a noble savage named Trash. You know they've got style when they show up with glowing skulls mounted on their handle-bars. They rescue the damsel who, miraculously, hasn't even gotten her Izod blazer dirty and carry her off into their darkened urban kingdom.
The girl, Anne, turns out to be the sole heir to the gigantic Manhattan Corporation, which controls "60 percent of all the arms sales in the world." She's described by the chairman of the board as "the wealthiest, most affluent girl in the whole world." But the idea of going to board meetings was so repulsive to her that she decided to take her chances across the river in the Bronx.
The corporation, which needs to get her back so she can sign official documents, hires a mercenary named Hammer, played with a grim sort of inevitablity by the late Vic Morrow. He's to sneak into The Bronx, get her back and kill as many punks as he can in the process. He teams up with a club- footed street slime named Hot Dog.
Hammer's idea is to get The Riders into a war with the Ogre, a fearsome character who claims to be the King of the Bronx. But Trash and Ogre are too smart for Hammer and Hot Dog. They vow to band together, save Anne and keep the greedy Manhattan Corporation on the other side of the river, where it belongs.
Besides, Anne likes it with Trash. "It's the first time I've ever really belonged to something, been a part of something that was totally mine. Don't let them take me away, ever. Just hold me, hold me."
I suppose it would be redundant to point out that the movie is a bizarre and poorly blended mixture of Escape from New York, The Warriors and Death Wish.
But the strangest part of the whole mess, the truly awesome under-pinning, is that all of the outdoor scenes are quite clearly not filmed anywhere near the Bronx. I'm no expert on New York geography, but I know that if you're standing in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, you're nowhere near Yankee Stadium.
As Anne says to one of the bad guys: "Foiled at the last minute; how could you think you'd ever get away with it?"
1990: THE BRONX WARRIORS
Produced by Fabrizio de Angelis, directed by Enzio Castellari, written by Dardanno Sachetti, photography by Sergio Salvati, music by Walter Rizzati, distributed by United Film Distribution Co.; running time, 1 hour, 28 mins. *
Hammer - Vic Morrow
Trash - Mark Gregory
Ogre - Fred Williamson
Hot Dog - Christopher Connelly
Anne - Stefania Girolami
Parents' guide: R (violence, profanity)