The Rescue (1988)

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Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Ferdinand Fairfax
Starring Kevin Dillon, James Cromwell and Marc Price

    When four US Navy Seals are captured on a secret mission in North Korea and the American government refuse to rescue them. It's up to a bunch of teenagers to go into the DMZ and save their parents before they are executed.
    They are composed of Han Solo-alike rebel maverick JJ, Luke Skywalker-alike Ginger whinger Shawn, Princess Leia-alike sexy karate chick Adrienne, C3PO alike computer boffin Max and the obligatory annoying brat kid Bobby.
    They sneak into North Korea, save the four Navy Seals and all live happily ever after.

What's wrong with it?

    An 80's Rambo with kids in it…Need I say more.

What's right with it?

    There are a couple of well-handled action scenes. Noticeably a speed boat chase and a suspenseful sneak into the enemy base scene. The Teenagers aren't too annoying and acquit themselves as best as their cardboard characters will allow, even the ten-year-old (who thankfully spends much of the time hiding behind the others).

How bad is it really?

    Not too bad as it happens, the bits between the action scenes are just a bit dull. File under 'watchable'.

Best bit?

    Probably the aforementioned Speed boat chase.

What's up with…?


Production Values - Not bad but not great. The whole thing is a little murky, with moody autumnal Korean locations that actually add to the atmosphere. The stunts are a mixed bag; lots of things explode off screen. And there are endless pointless bangs. 10

Dialogue and Performance - The dialogue is fairly lame. Most of the gung-ho 'Never give up! Never surrender, that's the Seals code!' lines are done with such a straight face it's unintentional hilarious. The teenagers aren't bad, if a little whiney at times, the grieving wives and harassed government officials get into soap opera territory at times. And the captured Navy Seals don't do much other than getting roughed up by the Korean guards. 20

Plot and execution - The plot is almost none existent, it's more of a pitch really which is a shame as it's from the writers of Predator (No Shakespeare to be sure, but it had its moments). The characters are either just rip-offs from Star Wars or Indiana Jones or are just so boring you couldn't care if they were left to rot in Korea. The action and suspense is well handled by director Ferdinand Fairfax and he makes things a little more involving given the lame script. 17

Randomness - Much of it is contrived and implausible but there is a moderate thread going through it. I did find myself thinking 'What Seal is that again? Which Mum is that? He's doing who in the what-now?' 14

Waste of Potential - Reagan era action flick…Against Koreans…That's what you get! Plus points too for more stealth and thought to the rescue plan than the Rambo tactic of standing in a field firing wildly. 7

Overall 68%


Enter the Ninja (1981)

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Reviewed by Simon Drake

Directed by Menahem Golan
Starring Franco Nero, Susan George and Sho Kosugi

    After completing his Ninja training Cole (Franco Nero) goes to Manila to help his war buddy Frank battle against evil dress wearing, synchronised swimming instructor Mr Venarius (honestly!). It seems that Frank's land is situated on oil, so Venarius has been sending goons to scare Frank and his wife Mary-Anne off the land.
    When Cole arrives to protect them and whale on the goons, Venarius hires evil Ninja Hasagawa (who just happened to be Cole's enemy back in Japan) who kills Frank and kidnaps Mary-Anne.
    So Cole dons his wussy looking white ninja suit and infiltrates Venarius' lair, kills him and has a final showdown with Hasagawa and cuts his head off.

What's wrong with it?

    Well firstly, when I saw it in the shop I got it thinking it was 'The Last Ninja' which I saw as a kid. But this film, not only being the wrong one, is terrible beyond belief. The fights are pants, vaguely resembling the 60's episodes of Batman. Various mooks in flares and safari suits stand around whilst Franco Nero (the once great Django) lumpenly beats them all up. Franco completely fails to convince he's just spent ten years learning ninjitsu…With his moustache, unbuttoned shirt and bright blue flares, looks more suited to a porno movie.
    Ironically the entire film (including the acting and soundtrack) has the feel and quality of a Dirk Diggler film. Lots of hectic camera zooms, flares, garish colours and alarming misogynist leanings. The first time Cole meets Mary-Anne she thinks he's one of Venarius' men so tries to shoot him, Cole being the honourable Ninja warrior that he is, proceeds to beat the crap out of her. Then she spends the rest of the film flirting shamelessly with him, clearly 'gagging for it'.
    Cole's white ninja suit looks crap too, It's like one of those pathologist suits from Silent Witness. Whereas evil black ninja has a more cool looking traditional suit.

What's right with it?

    Not much…The end fight is slightly better than the rest of them. The music isn't even cheesily 70's; cool retro clothes though.

How bad is it really?


Best bit?

    The opening credits sequence which features Hasagawa dressed in black training with different weapons over the titles (accompanied by some shockingly clichéd Japanese ninja music). When the directors name comes up Franco Nero leaps on screen and lamps Hasagawa in the face, then leaps offscreen again.
It plays out like a Monty Python sketch.

What's up with?


Production Values - Weak. The film looks as if drunken film students made it in their first year (I should know I was one…And made shocking quality films too). The direction is all over the show, most things aren't even in the frame properly (although fairs fair, this was probably filmed in widesceen and compressed for video). There are murky shots of Manila making it look neither tropical or exciting at all. 20

Dialogue and performance - Not much in the way of dialogue other than plot explanation and "find him and kill him" rants. There's quite a good bit when Venarius's British right hand man gets an arrow through the hand and says "I think I have been hurt Sir" then is shot by Venarius "Sir…why?"
The performances are crummy; the sexy British chick stands around waiting to get captured. Franco is a planc(o). Although extra points are given to Sho Kosugi as the evil ninja who at the beginning of the film is moody and bitter, yet at the end has turned into a panto villain with obligatory diabolical laugh. "Hooo HA HA HA" 17

Plot and execution - The plot is dull and just an excuse for men in pyjamas to kick seven bells out of men in safari suits. The dire camerawork and shoddy lighting leaves it feeling like a home movie. 16

Randomness - They only mentioned Frank's land is on top of oil near the end once, and is never mentioned again. Why does Venarius wear a dress and teach swimming? Why does Venarius send his right hand man to Japan to search for a ninja when he has tape footage of Hasagawa in his penthouse? Why does Cole stab an elderly accountant by the pool…? Why oh why did I pay money for this? 19

Waste of potential - From what I remember The Last Ninja was okay, but is probably pants too. There's enough scrapping in this for die hard kung fu fans I guess. But as Kung fu/ninja movies go, this is scraping the barrel. 14

Overall 88%


Anaconda (1997)

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"You can't scream if you can't breathe."

Directed by Luis Llosa
Starring Jennifer Lopez, John Voight and Ice-T

   An anthropologist (Eric Stolz) and a film crew (including J-Lo and Ice-T), travelling into the South American rainforest to film an undisturbed tribe are implausibly hijacked, for no very good reason, by an insane Paraguayan snake hunter (Voight) who wants to capture a giant anaconda. Instead - predictably - the snake hunts them, eating most of the crew before finally getting to the snake hunter, then being blowed up by Ice-T.

What's wrong with it?

    Well, for starters, check out that casting and tell me the producer was in a legal state of mind. John Voight as the novice priest-turned-psychotic snake hunter is a revelation in his crapness, while a fairly talented supporting cast (Ice-T, Stolz, Owen Wilson) are basically relegated to the 'getting eaten and beaten' watch (Stolz wisely spends most of the movie in a coma). There are no surprises in the death toll, save that the sissy-chick is killed by the snake hunter, not the snake; in fact, you can pretty much count the seconds until each loser gets chomped. The sleazy boat pilot is never going to last, and the moment the whiny Brit drama queen (Jonathan Hyde) starts being useful and likeable, you know he's toast.
    Our ostensible heroine, Jennifer Lopez's documentary director, is by turns pissy and ineffectual. There isn't a single character you really give a shit about. And then there's the snake itself.
    The opening text tells us that the anaconda is so vicious and evil that it yaks up its prey so it can go off and eat someone else, presumably because someone pointed out that unless you have one snake per victim, it'll just chow down, then go off and sleep for a couple of weeks while it digests. This anaconda also kills by crushing, instead of suffocating its victims, as real snakes do. Oh, and at one point it fairly clearly kills a leopard. Not a jaguar, but an honest-to-god, ye olde worlde leopard.
    Factual errors aside, the snake is terrible. The model is bad enough, looking as it does, for all the world like a fuck-off great plastic snake on a stick, but the CGI is worse. Most notably, the damn thing just doesn't move like a snake. Plus the 'oesophagus-cam' shot fails to convince on any level, as does the 'Owen Wilson's screaming face showing through the gut-wall of the snake' bit.
    The plot also makes no sense. The snake hunters have this whole insane plot to hijack the film crew's boat, but the boat seems to belong to one of the hunters - the sleazy pilot - and since they don't use any of them as bait, there is simply nothing that the hunters need, that the film crew could possibly provide.

What's right with it?

    Are you paying attention? Nothing! It isn't even funny. Even the decent performers labour with tripe for dialogue, and the few swish cuts and dissolves just show up the film's inferiority compared to the classics.

How bad is it really?

    This film is a genuine piece of crap. Watch it at thy peril.

Best...Oh, I can't even pretend.

What's up with...?


Production Values - It pretty much stinks. The jungle looks OK sometimes, but the snake is dreadful. 16

Dialogue and Performances - When the acting is good, the script stinks, and the script is never good. It's not even memorably bad, just utterly banal. Ordinarily, J-Lo's insipid sultriness would win the turkey, but John Voight tops even her. 19

Plot and Execution - 'I will plot intricately to take over your boat, because I need to prove that I am evil'. And that - plus the eating - is about your plot. 17

Randomness - Why the plot to take over the boat? Hell, why the whole damn movie? Nothing much makes any sense. 15

Waste of Potential - It's a horror movie about snakes. People are scared of snakes, right? This could have been great. All it would have needed was a cast that makes sense for even a moment, a decent director, and some infernal influence to explain the snake's non-snakeyness. 13

Overall 82%