Archives for posts with tag: Cheech and Chong

Cannibal Mercenary

Mercenary aka Cannibal Mercenary (1983) ****

This Thai film, titled to capitalize on the success of then-recent Italian gut-munching horrors Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Cannibal Ferox (1981), finds a ragtag team of sleazy and mentally damaged mercenaries venturing into VC-infested territory to assassinate a drug kingpin who commands an army of “Draculas”, cannibal tribesmen sort of like Indochinese hillbillies.

Clearly inspired by Apocalypse Now (1979), Mercenary opens with post-traumatic battle flashbacks intermingled with a shot of a ceiling fan like the one that transfixes Martin Sheen. After a little hokey, English-dubbed melodrama to set the plot in motion, Mercenary gets down to business – and brutal, nasty business it is, with the outnumbered protagonists encountering the Viet Cong, quicksand, booby traps, and (speaking of booby traps) a treacherous, manipulative jungle bitch who threatens the cohesiveness of the group.

Idiosyncratically edited, Mercenary has scenes of high-stress, noisy, tension-ratcheting quick cuts that appear to be designed to strain the viewer’s nerves to the breaking point, such as when a henchman threatens to waste a whining kid and initiates a death countdown. Standout imagery includes a beheading, eye-gouging, maggot-eating, face-urinating, a skull being split open by a spike, and subsequent hungry brain-gobbling. Horror watchers will also enjoy the tacky, uncredited appropriation of Goblin’s music from Dawn of the Dead (1978). Recommended to cannibal movie videovores and other perverts, who, however, should not get their hopes up about seeing the pictured Aryan super soldier spring into battle, as no such figure appears in Mercenary, an all-Asian affair, alas.

4 out of 5 stars.

Devastator

The Devastator (1986) ****

Directed by low-budget action specialist Cirio H. Santiago, a master of what Joe Bob Briggs has termed the “exploding bamboo” subgenre, The Devastator is yet another generic 80s ‘Nam vet vigilante movie – or, in other words, a classic! Richard Hill, better known for playing the title part in Deathstalker (1983), stars as Deacon Porter, a vet who just wants to get on with his life, but finds himself thrust back into the fray when his old commanding officer is murdered. In the rural California community of King’s Ransom, drug lord Carey (Crofton Hardester) rules his roost with a hell-raising paramilitary force and even has the sheriff (Kaz Garas) on his payroll. When Deacon and a few of his ex-soldier buddies assemble in town, however, Carey’s days of 80s drug tyranny are numbered.

Not much in the way of plot, The Devastator is primarily wall-to-wall action – largely set to chintzy synthesizer music – with some truly impressive stunt work along the way. The most fun, however, is probably to be had from Deacon’s burly compatriot Ox (Jack Daniels!), a growling party animal who greets his old teammate by punching a hole through his door (!) and who clearly delights in over-the-top mayhem for the kicks. The villain has a healthy, thriving marijuana field, which, when Ox assaults it and sets it on fire, results in an even more humongous marijuana holocaust than the one in Up in Smoke (1978) – that, and a funny variation on Duvall’s famous line from Apocalypse Now (1979), with Ox taking big, deep breaths of the stuff and exulting like some victorious barbarian.

Rock-jawed Hill is only so-so in the charisma department, but with his muscular build the actor definitely has the look of the all-American action hero. Jack Daniels, as noted, is quite the hoot as Ox, while foxy item Katt Shea, who co-stars as Hill’s love interest, spunky gas pump attendant Audrey, would go on shortly after The Devastator to become a director of some note, creating stylish thrillers like Stripped to Kill (1987) and Streets (1990). The Devastator would make a perfect double feature with funky Gary Busey actioner Eye of the Tiger (1986), an entry to which this programmer bears a thematic resemblance. 

4 stars. Check it out!

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Ride Along

Ice Cube plays straight man to clownish Kevin Hart in Ride Along, a decent urban action-comedy set in the mean streets of Atlanta, Georgia. School security guard and police force aspirant Ben (Hart) is in love and intends to marry his girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter). Unfortunately for him, Angela’s hard-nosed top cop brother James (Cube) thinks Ben is a punk with no potential. Ben hopes that admission into the police academy will change his prospective brother-in-law’s opinion of him, but James is having none of it and decides to take Ben out for a ride along, a training day of sorts, with the intention of scaring the piss out of the weasel and getting him out of his life and away from his sister for good.

Ride Along benefits immensely from stone-faced, masculine Cube’s presence in the driver’s seat, while his smoldering, in-yo-face attitude makes the perfect foil for Hart’s lightweight ridiculousness. The latter’s antics grow on the viewer over the course of the film; but Hart still comes across as something like a poor man’s Chris Tucker, so that one wishes a livelier, more monkey-like, and facially animated performer like Tucker or Marlon Wayans had been cast in the key comic role. Laurence Fishburne collects a paycheck in a smallish part as crime kingpin Omar, while third-billed John Leguizamo (thankfully) has even less screen time.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ride Along gets extra brownie points for including an Action Jackson reference and that it is:

7. Pro-family. James is fond of his sister and puts Ben through hell only out of a sense of protectiveness.

6. Drug-ambivalent. The morphine pumped into Ben to treat his gunshot wound is played for laughs, and Cheech and Chong are visible on a television screen in another scene. Alcohol, however, is bad news and could prevent a brother from playing basketball.

5. Feminist. Damsel-in-distress Angela frees herself from her bonds and gives some assistance to the boys with her frying pan. She also proves to be a natural at Ben’s first-person shooter game.

4. Neoconservative and anti-Slav. Ben does his part for the War on Terror by fighting the Taliban in his favorite video game. James is out to stop some Serbian gunrunners from providing Omar with the firepower he needs to take over Atlanta.

3. Statist/anti-gun. Ben, demonstrating Hollywood’s contention that the average Joe has no business with a gun in his hand, makes a fool of himself with a shotgun, giving the lie to the pro-gun poster behind him at the firing range. Security at the range is overly lax and Ben walks out with one of their guns. James, presumably the sort of government agent who, in Ride Along‘s view, should have the benevolently despotic monopoly on firearms, does his badge proud by engaging in a bit of glorified police brutality, slamming a shopkeeper’s head into a counter for no good reason.

2. Anti-police. Half the Atlanta police force is crooked, which would seem to conflict with the message intimated in no. 3.

1. Black supremacist. “I’m the brains. You’re the brawns,” James informs two fellow officers. White kids are a bad influence on an impressionable black youth, who could easily grow up to be a wino just by hanging out with them, Ben admonishes.

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