Sunday, April 14, 2019

Warriors? Stay Inside Today!


So many action films from the 80s built their macho mythos on the concept that those who violated the peace of the main character(s) no longer deserved the common decency of civil rights or due process. The hero’s need for vengeance trumped any legal roadblock. Face it, who’s gonna complain when another murderin’, rapin’, stealin’ douchebag is blown away with a shotgun, stick of TNT, and/or a rocket launcher? Certainly not the middle-class audiences such fare catered to.

I’m not attempting to apply our current state of politically correct blaming to things done and over with ages ago. Most of the bad guys in those action movies were evil to a ridiculous extent. It is not a stretch to accept that there are far worse examples of humans as feces in the real world, but in the cinematic world, they often represented the endless assault the white male ego was going through with the rise of the women’s rights and civil rights initiatives in the fallout of the 60s and 70s. Seriously, how many of them were written by and/or directed by women? Yeah, that’s what I thought. (Note: I happened upon a film in this genre called “Maximum Breakout” that was directed by Tracy Lynch Britton, as well as cowritten by Britton and Michelle J. Carl. Oh my! It deserves its own review.)

What would happen if Dirty Harry paused to consider the consequences of blowing someone’s brains out? Would John McClane have found a way to stop the theft without blowing up half of the building and endangering everyone inside and out if he had considered his options? What about the moral dilemma of slaughtering 20% of Vietnam’s population when Braddock went back to rescue troops?

That seems to be the angle anti-director Lawrence D. Foldes takes with his remarkable “Young Warriors”. When I say “remarkable”, I don’t mean that in a good way. It is one seriously confused movie that wants to be all things to all people and in the end, it achieves a fever dream-like insanity that bad movies fans can only pray for.

Meet Kevin Carrigan and his buddies. We see them make a lame spectacle of their high school graduation. This tells us how incredibly cool they are and that they don’t play by anyone’s rules. These are our heroes. These are also the guys who are douchebags in real life. You will have a difficult time figuring out which side they belong on.

Needlessly, we jump ahead a couple of years so our awesomely cool heroes can be the head guys at their frat in college. This way, the audience can see what a bunch of crazy, fun-loving guys they all are. Of course, they are extra cool because they have a mascot dog who wears baseball caps and mirrored sunglasses; because that dog is a white poodle, we all know they are confident in their testosterone levels.

Kevin wants to be an animator. For his animation class, he repeatedly ignores the assignments because expressing all the “stuff” inside him is more important. Get used to this aggressively infantile emotional state as nearly every character revels in reacting to most everything as if they are 13-year-old boys on a sugar binge.

At home, Kevin explains to his longtime cop father, played by Ernest Borgnine in an almost bored fashion, that they plan to run the initiates through the usual rites, including “raping and pillaging”. Remember that for later; there will be a test.

We get a bunch of silly hijinks from the so-cool frat brothers while Kevin’s little sister goes to her first formal. We learn nothing new about the mental or emotional capacity of our heroes, and we have to wonder why we are having the kid sister suddenly shoved in our faces. Is the director attempting to show the vapid nature of the frat brothers’ activities when compared to – the younger sister being a bit of a buzzkill at the formal?

No. It is a lame attempt to build tension. The little sister and her date head home, but her date decides to take “the scenic route”. Out of nowhere, a black van full of stereotypical 80s thugs rolls up from the darkness. They smash into the rear bumper to amp up the tedium before running the couple off a convenient drop into a stream. The girl climbs free, but the boy is trapped when the car explodes. While still in shock, she is beaten and gang-raped by the thugs. (Wanna bet Kevin regrets his flip comment from earlier?)

She dies. Kevin butts heads with his father about the lack of police action to bring in the guys responsible. You can see where this is heading, and it does. 

After a long and painful section of macho posturing, our gang heads out to stop crime as it happens. First stop? Why, in the ghetto part of town, of course! After beating up a group of African-Americans dismantling a car, everyone is arrested, but our frat boys are released while the black guys get processed. White privilege!! Holy shit! Borgnine’s partner is Richard Roundtree! Fucking Shaft, man! And he’s okay with this? I guess he just shook his head and grabbed the pay check. I would have.

Another thing that just doesn’t jive here is that the “heroes” say that they don’t want to be recognized (as the worst vigilantes, maybe?), yet, even when they smear camo paint on their faces, they tool around in the main character’s rather singular open-top, slightly jacked-up Jeep. With their frat mascot right in the windshield. I should just give up at this point as it is obvious that Mr. Foldes knows less than Jon Snow. (That’ll be a dated reference that will require explaining in about 5 years.)

The gang progresses from assault and battery to murder as they decide to pack guns. After one such gun fight, the gang finds a cache of assault rifles, sub-machine guns, ammo, and a case of hand grenades. Instead of calling the cops to dispose of the stuff, they figure that a batch of upper middle-class kids know better how to use such things. Again, remember this as it will appear later in the course.

Want to be surprised by the end of the film? Skip down to the last two paragraphs, as I will continue to poke the end of this movie like the dead body it is.

As you can tell, our guys are losing their grip on right and wrong as well as slowly dwindling in number as characters with minimal dialogue are blown away. (Yes, the dog dies, like that comes as a shock? Come on.) Yet they spend so much time shooting random bad guys and then feeling guilty about it that we almost forget that this whole mess started because of the van full of sweaty thugs.

After Kevin uses an assault rifle to mow down two kids robbing a liquor store with a toy gun, his addled mind decides it is time for the final showdown with the thugs who killed his sister. The likely truth is that the finances for the film would not allow more pointless scenes of random shooting.

Like any cliched Western, the two groups face off in a saloon – sorry, bar. What could have mercifully been about 45 seconds of blinding gunfire is turned into a slow-motion drag that I am sure the director felt was an homage to “The Wild Bunch”. This is why we still talk about Peckinpah and you have most likely never heard of Lawrence Foldes.

Everyone seems to die except for Kevin and one of his buddies. Given what is about to happen, killing everyone during the climatic fight would have been the best option with Borgnine showing up at the last minute to kill the first guy to rape his daughter in an effort to save Kevin. Unfortunately, Kevin would die after uttering some inane crap, like, “Felt right, didn’t it, Pop?”

This did not happen. 

Instead, the already unhinged Kevin drives his buddy back to their frat house where Kevin is haunted by sound bites from earlier in the movie. At this point, he has his first adult realization: His life is utterly fucked. Like a tween in a melodramatic seizure, he pulls the pin on a grenade and blows himself and his friend to pieces. Didn’t ask if his friend wanted to die. Didn’t stop to think about the damage to the houses on either side of their frat house. His only thought was that since he had no reason to live, fuck everything and everyone else.

Thank god the film ends in such a way as to discourage a sequel. It’s been over 30 years, and Foldes hasn't threatened a follow-up. I think we are safe.

“Young Warriors” is bad. It showcases nearly every trope from the 80s action films whether they had a place in the film or not. Yet, the film does not keep you watching because of the action, pacing, characters, or plot. You keep watching because you know that, as bad as the film is at THAT moment, it will only get worse. In that respect, “Young Warriors” does not disappoint.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Trust Me, There's No Rush!


Ever wondered what a Nancy Drew-type mystery would be like if you crossed it with a slasher flick and set it in “National Lampoon’s Animal House”? No? Well, someone did, and we have “Rush Week” to prove it.

Perky little Toni wants to be a journalist, so she is told to cover Rush Week at the university. This leads her to the Beta Delta Beta (so “beta” that they had to tell you twice) house. BDB is finally back on campus after being kicked off for flagrant violations of Greek policy and school morals. Cue the loud music, beer kegs, half-naked coeds, and obnoxious dolts we are supposed to either admire or root for.

Toni bumps into Jeff Jacobs, who is the chapter president. The intensity of her disdain for him when they meet tells you exactly how quickly they will fall for each other. Nice to know our heroine will sell out her ideals for a guy just because he looks like a hunky soap opera star.

Meanwhile, a mousy coed makes her way across the campus as she hears approaching footsteps but never sees anyone. Once in the science building, room 304, she suddenly transforms into Ms. Hot Bod while a large male figure takes her photos. After getting a few shots of her in the embrace of a cadaver (some like it in the ground, nine days old), the guy leaves, and our hooded killer offs the poor girl with a double-edged axe, just like the one used by the BDB fraternity. Ah, a clue, perhaps?

After accidentally leaving her tape recorder in the dean’s office during an interview, Toni learns of the missing girl and decides it is a much juicier story than Rush Week. She goes into full clueless detective mode, which means most of the information she gathers is either by accident or by contrived methods that only work in movies like this. Still, she looks appropriately cute and innocent which is the only device to generate suspense the film has, so expect to see her in those cozy, fuzzy little sweaters over button-down shirts a lot.

Despite the film doing everything except run a crawl stating, “This person is the killer!!!” when they first show Toni meeting the person in question, Toni begins to suspect her new love interest to be the killer while the actual killer seems to be aware of Toni’s poking about the murders and is zeroing in to end her investigation.

If you are a gorehound, please step this way to the Egress. While “Rush Week” uses the slasher concept, it does not carry the blood-soaked flag as other films would, whether they could afford to or not. The murders, with only a couple of exceptions at best, take place off-camera. The only one that gets full attention is the death of the killer, and even that is 90% dry. The deaths in this film are only there to give Toni a reason to be nosy. I mean, even the first victim in the film is literally named “McGuffin”, which is the term for a thing that sets a film’s plot in motion.

If you like a good mystery, look elsewhere unless you are one of those folks who can NEVER figure out who the killer is. As previously mentioned, “Rush Week” pretty much shines a spotlight on the killer during that person’s first major scene. Because of this, it makes the rest of the film a bit silly when you know more than the characters because of poor script writing and inept direction. If you have ever seen “Splatter University”, you can pretty much skip this movie as the setup for the killer is the same; plus, “Splatter University” has way more blood for your buck.

Did you check into this movie because you can’t get enough of puerile college-boy antics? In case you haven’t figured it out, this is strike three. You get the standard “mooning” scene, motorcycles in a bicycle race, and a hooker set up with a corpse. Just the mooning incident would be enough to get the frat kicked off campus again, but since the BDB house is crucial to the film’s plot, nothing happens to the gang of low-brow miscreants no matter how much trouble they create.

Even though there is nothing worth recommending here (not even the nudity), the film is watchable. If you are stuck between this and “Gigli”, go with “Rush Week”. That way you can watch Greg Allman wander through his role as if he knows what he is doing, though you secretly suspect he is utterly stoned and doesn’t care about what is going on.

That may be the secret to enjoying this film. Quick, pass the bong.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Holy Killer Clergy, Father!!


One of the strangest things about being a film and television fan for 50-plus years is watching people who were once stars fall down the popularity escalator and end up taking most any acting job just to keep making ends meet or to stay in the limelight. Admittedly, a number of such actors ruined their own careers with drugs, drinking, sex addictions, bad luck, and piss-poor life management.

Others just fade away because the next juicy hot bod comes along. Look at Harry Hamlin. Once voted People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive and his face was everywhere. He’s still working, but most people wouldn’t recognize his name from Ed Brugel (the man loves his handbells).

“The Divine Enforcer” brings together four old-school character actors who were all popular many years ago and presents them all in what must be the nadir of their careers. Except Jan-Michael Vincent. He was at least able to mumble through his lines thanks to script sheets taped to the newspaper he is constantly reading. Better than his work on “No Rest for the Wicked” where he could not even keep his head up during most shots due to drunkenness.

Other than Jan-Michael, you also get Erik Estrada playing a monsignor who only shows emotion when telling Mr. Vincent’s character to shut up. Probably due to actual frustration with blown takes or just having to smell the alcohol in his co-star’s copious sweat. Beyond that, I think he probably required that he be dead center of any group shot. Seriously, watch, and you’ll see I’m right.

Then Judy Landers plays a bubbleheaded housekeeper working for the church. Her breathy-voiced, brainless shtick is the same here as it was in the 80s, and she looks the same as always. Honestly, she comes off better than most of the other performers, but I’m not sure if that is much of a compliment given what she’s stacked against.

Last but far from least is Don Stroud playing Otis, the “vampire” serial killer. He likes to remove the skulls of his victims and use them for cups, bowls, and decorations. He also likes to mumble a lot, so good luck understanding most of what he says. Stroud used to be a solid character actor when you needed a semi-hunky, Beach Boy-looking dude to play either a star’s buddy or the film’s bad guy. Lots of film and TV roles, and yet here he is poking hookers with needles while rolling his eyes and doing utterly pointless stuff to look bonkers.

Jim Brown and Robert Z’Dar also show up for about 3 minutes, but they can be forgiven because of the briefness of their roles as well as the fact they don’t really do anything other than what they normally do – look tough and sound menacing. I just hope they got decent pay checks for their day’s work.

What is “The Divine Enforcer” and why should these actors rue the day they spent working on it?
The film starts with Stroud as Otis. He drives a hooker into the country (she doesn’t find this odd?) where he attempts to drink her blood before a chase cribbed from a dozen silent comedy films results in death for a random rapist and the hooker being taken captive.

Without an establishing shot, we are watching another rape attempt in a different location with different people. A guy shows up, snaps a few limbs, and leads the victim away. This would be, as we find out later, Father Daniels, the new priest for the local parish. He is played by martial arts expert Michael Foley. Let’s be perfectly clear here: He is not an actor. He doesn’t completely embarrass himself, but you’ve seen brick walls with more emotive ability.

Daniels moves into the rectory (the establishing shot is of a normal house with no church in sight) and begins getting weirdos during his confession duties. He exhibits a psychic ability that allows him to see visions connected with the confessions he hears. Using these visions, the priest starts hunting down drug dealers and street scum with the use of his crucifix-emblazoned knives, shuriken, and ivory-handled .45 pistols.

While he is paring down the criminal populace, Father Daniel’s vigilante activities are being questioned by a secret organization aware of his real identity. Don’t get too interested in this sub-thread as it goes nowhere, but it sets up an interesting hook for a sequel.

Ultimately, and after WAY too much filler, our killer priest starts zeroing in the “vampire” loony dumping bodies on a nearly daily basis.

By this time, you have either turned the movie off or you are glued to the insanity going on. Either way, you can’t unsee what you have already seen. The dreadful acting, the nonsensical plot developments, Foley’s bugged-out eyes, and a smack-talking skull will all float down in the sewers of your mind for days.

Actually, this could be a way to stir up interest in the Catholic Church after all those sexual assault charges tarnished their reputation. Recruit people to be holy avengers for The Lord. Portray the Church as taking an active role in pushing back against the evil and injustice in the world. Teach nuns to wield swords. Holy gun ranges. This film could be a gamechanger; someone call the Pope!