Archives for posts with tag: Death Wish 2

Enemy Territory

 

Enemy Territory (1987) *****

Pleasantly, this action blast from the heyday of Charles Band’s now-defunct Empire Pictures has been uploaded to YouTube in its entirety for the world’s entertainment and hateful enlightenment. Your humble reviewer finally watched it tonight and can concur with the assessment of Mr. Kersey of SBPDL.

Whereas many street crime films of the 1980s promoted a myth of postracial gangs with no particular color coordination apart, perhaps, from distinctive wardrobe or insignia – with memorable multiracial gangs appearing in such films as The Warriors (1979), Vigilante (1983), Death Wish 2 (1982), Death Wish 3 (1985), Exterminator 2 (1984), and Tenement (1985) – Enemy Territory joins the modest ranks of those relatively few exploitation entries of the period, such as Ghetto Blaster (1989), that tell the truth about the racial alignment of gang activity.

Peter Manoogian’s film follows Jewish insurance salesman Barry Radchik (Gary Frank) as he unknowingly ventures into the heart of a cultish black gang’s turf to collect an elderly lady’s premium and so casually walks right into the Vampires’ “castle”, a dilapidated tenement splattered with glorious 80s graffiti and infested with savages with names like Psycho and Decon.

Enemy Territory VHS cover

 

Barry has hardly set foot in the building before he has somehow managed to offend the delicate, petulant sensibilities of a young black thug (Theo Caesar) and so also incurred the wrath of the hissingly bloodthirsty Count (Tony Todd), leader of the Vampires. Soon every punk in the building is hunting the head of this unwelcome “ghost”.

Thankfully, a few decent blacks come to Barry’s aid, chief among them Vietnam veteran Will (Ray Parker Jr. – in what is perhaps a piece of facetious casting, a “ghost” calls on the aid of the man behind the Ghostbusters theme!). Also livening up the place is Parker (Jan-Michael Vincent), a racist, paranoid, wheelchair-bound gun owner – and, significantly, the only figure the Vampires are known to avoid.

Enemy Territory, with its nocturnal edge, its sense of tension, and scenes of urban siege, savagery, and pursuit, shares some traits with action classics like the original Assault on Precinct 13 (1976), The Warriors (1979), and Tenement (1985), and ought to please admirers of 80s sleaze and suspense. It ups the ante on the aforementioned, however, by spiking its entertainment value with nasty, politically incorrect truth about simmering tribal strife.

Recommended.

SBPDL on Enemy Territory

PointBreak

Point Break (1991) *****  Point Break was this reviewer’s second Kathryn Bigelow movie after the underappreciated 1987 vampire horror Near Dark. Like that film, this one is a consistently inventive take on a standard genre, in this case action of the undercover and heist/caper varieties, that goes for a style-heavy approach that in no way detracts from the substance.

The cinematography, and particularly the overcranked (i.e., slow motion) work, is elegant and appropriate to the beauty the characters find in their various philosophically informed adrenaline rushes and passions of choice. The opening credits appear over intercut images of surfing and target practice – married pictures of recreation and violence – that capture the fun but dangerous tone and thematic concerns of the story as a whole. At times Point Break feels like an L.A.-flavored super-episode of Miami Vice, with its undercover operation, sun, and political cynicism – conveyed most creatively in its vision of American presidents as bank robbers, which underscores Point Break‘s constant relativistic tension.

Johnny Utah is an interesting part for Keanu Reeves, a transitional role bridging his 80s dude persona, as exemplified by Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Parenthood, with his later, more serious (but less noteworthy) turns in films like Speed and The Matrix. Reeves even does a little undercover work on the beach in Spicoli mode, acknowledging where he has been as an actor in the midst of cutting his teeth as a leading man of masculine weight.

Swayze is surprisingly scary and darkly charismatic here, and may prompt some viewers to wish he had essayed more antagonistic parts in his unfortunately short career. Busey is entertaining as always, as is Vincent Klyn (Cyborg‘s Fender) in his supporting gig as hardcore surfer hooligan Warchild.

This reviewer is tempted to place Point Break in the highest tier of 80s/early 90s action films. Point Break falls short of being a Conan the Barbarian, a First Blood, or a Running Man, but it is on a level with Red Heat or Shakedown and better than RamboCobra, or Death Wish 2. The absence of a Stallone or Norris in no way handicaps Point Break, an action-adventure-drama with a sensibility all its own. 5 stars, easy.

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