VHS Review: College Kickboxers (1991) is a Martial Arts Revelation

The Karate Kid Goes to College.

Anyone who spent some time browsing the Action section of their local video store back in the 90’s can no doubt rattle off a few popular American Martial Arts movies- No Retreat, No Surrender, Rush Hour and just about anything starring Jean Claude Van Damme. You’d be forgiven for thinking these classics of the genre were as good as it got, but delve a little deeper into the VHS archives and I can assure you you’ll find some lesser-known but just as entertaining flicks out there. Eric Sherman’s College Kickboxers is one such ultimate action movie.

VHS is Best

 

In the early 2000’s one of my local video stores decided to become an industry leader and completely devote itself to DVD’s. As a movie obsessed teenager this meant only one thing- A massive, one-off sale of VHS’s at bargain basement prices. Knowing that the store would likely be mobbed by like-minded movie buffs I donned my backpack and jumped onto my BMX pronto. This sale was not something I was about to miss.

When I arrived at the store I pushed through the crowds gathered around the ‘overnights’ section, multi-million dollar blockbusters spilling out of their hands. I wasn’t about to be lured by the sirens of critically acclaimed films, I was going straight for the good stuff – The Action Section. As a skinny, pale white boy action movies were my passion, they offered me glimpses into the type of life I knew I would soon be living. Big buff heroes kicking ass and saving buxom girls, that was my future. But right now I had a store to pillage.

At $1 each I scooped up action movies by the handful, the more violent the cover-art the better. It was at the end of the ‘C’ section I came across College Kickboxers with a determined looking James Caulfied on the cover. I added it to my stack of goodies and after raiding the rest of the genre I came home with my summer holiday watching sorted. It wasn’t until a few days into my solo movie marathon that I watched the movie, but strangely it stuck with me. More to the point, the performance of Tang Tak-Wing left a definite impression- his moves were so fluid, so sharp for a man of his proportions. But more on that later.

Trained to Fight

 

College Kickboxers, released in the United States as Trained to Fight sticks to the same sort of story you come to expect from 90’s American marital arts movies. James Caulfield, played by Ken McLeod is a young martial arts master who finds himself in a new city for his freshman year of college. On his first day he butts heads with his bookworm roommate Mark, but after a brief tussle the two find a shared passion in martial arts and become buddies. It’s also on his first day that James encounters local badass Craig Tanner (played by Matthew Ray Cohen) and his racist, though strangely multi-ethnic martial arts gang ‘The White Tigers’.

James managed to find a job at a local Asian restaurant owned by the secretive Wu (played by Tang Tak-Wing). One evening at work James is jumped by The White Tigers who deal him a vicious 90’s style ass kicking. Wu overhears the commotion and intervenes, giving the gang members an ass kicking of their own. James, already a black belt in multiple styles, has never seen Kung Fu before and begs Wu to teach him so he can defeat Craig at an upcoming tournament. Wu declines stating that ‘Kung Fu for money no good’.

James doesn’t relent however and quickly proves his worth to Wu who eventually agrees to teach him provided he doesn’t fight in the tournament. James agrees, but after several more encounters with the White Tigers he’s forced to break his promise to Wu and enter the tournament. The tournament is a melee of un-sportsman like battles between the evil White Tigers and the other local martial arts schools resulting in a final showdown between James and Gary, the largest and most vicious member of the Tigers. Wu miraculously shows up to the tournament, gives his approval for James to kick Gary’s ass with Kung Fu (or was it Kung Wu?) and James wins the tournament, wins Wu’s approval and donates all the prize money to a local Karate school for underprivileged kids.

UAMC Review

There’s a lot to like about College Kickboxers. Tang Tak-Wing really shines through as Wu, so much so that he steals all the scenes he’s in. It’s a real shame Wing never really continued acting and stuck to behind the scenes roles after College Kickboxers. The fight scenes (which Wing choreographed) are also enjoyable to watch and thankfully avoided the zoomed-in, quick cut styling that crept into martial arts movies later in the decade. The movie also manages to stay on a positive note throughout, steering clear of the seediness often seen in low budget action movies.

The movie is far from perfect however. The dialogue is fairly poor and the acting is wooden at times (the initial scene where James meets love-interest Kimberly is cringeworthy). Probably most annoying is the Craig Tanner gang leader caricature. He rocks sunglasses indoors, wears fingerless leather gloves and tries very, very hard to give off seething psychopath vibe all of which leave the viewer wondering if he’s meant to be taken seriously at all.

Despite its flaws I really enjoyed College Kickboxers. It certainly isn’t an Oscar’s contender but as far as American martial arts movies go this one performs far better than many from the genre, which probably explains why I still have that $1 VHS in my cupboard. UAMC Review: 3.5 stars out of 5.


Article by Chris Z – what do you think about College Kickboxers and other martial arts UAMC classics? Let us know in the comments!

Jean Claude Van Johnson Cancelled by Amazon

And it’s a Van Damme Shame Too.

Less than a month after being released by Amazon Studios, Jean Claude Van Johnson has been abruptly cancelled before any considerations for a second season could conceivably begin. The show, which starred Jean Claude Van Damme as a tongue-in-cheek version of himself who lives a double life as part-time action movie star, part-time international secret agent, received mixed (if not above average) reviews while holding a 64% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Self Aware Action Comedy

While Amazon Prime doesn’t release its numbers, it’s safe to assume that from a cost-analysis perspective, Van Johnson was not hitting its marks from the get-go to warrant such a quick dismal. (Note: being cancelled does not mean you still can’t watch the show on Amazon Prime.) Created by veteran screenwriter David Callaham (who has his own solid, but convoluted, background in action movies having purportedly written the script which The Expendables is based on), the show mixed classic action movie tropes with the light-hearted self-aware comedy of director Peter Atencio (who directed all of the successful comedy franchise Key & Peele and their action-comedy feature Keanu).

Was it UAMC Worthy?

It’s a shame that Van Johnson isn’t going to another season. It wasn’t the greatest show, and a far cry from the ultimate action movies Van Damme starred in the 80s and 90s which cemented his legacy. It also seemed to skip over Van Damme’s kickboxing roots while making it seem like he only starred in over-the-top sci-fi flicks like Time Cop and Universal Soldier while ignoring his martial arts tournament-style classics like Bloodsport and Kickboxer. (And the movie-in-the-show which they’re filming is such a joke that it feels almost mean-spirited in its awfulness.) But, it did have its moments and gave Van Damme a great deal of opportunity to poke fun at himself as a dually capable action and comedy actor.

However, as it is with any action star, Van Damme always had a talent to make even his movies which were considered flops at the time (like Double Team and Street Fighter) memorable and awesome, hopefully Jean Claude Van Johnson will find a spot for JCVD fans to enjoy six episodes of him performing an odd parody of himself that involves some truly stupid and wacky disguises, performances and fight scenes. If not, let it quickly fade from memory and fire up your VCR to pop in your copy of Bloodsport for the 700th time!



What did you think about Jean Claude Van Johnson? Let us know in the comments!

The James Bond Gymnast: Remembering the UAMC Classic ‘Spitfire’ (1995)

Action Packed Super Spy Gymnast.

It was 1995 and director Albert Pyun (Cyborg, Dollman) was prepping to film his new cyborg/kickboxing movie, Heatseeker. Facing delays, he decided to use his time wisely and quickly film two movies back to back – Hong Kong ’97 starring Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) and Spitfire (starring gymnast Kristie Phillips).

Both films were released direct-to-video in the U.S. Because of its semi-serious tone, timeliness of the story and star, Hong Kong ’97 found an immediate audience. Spitfire, which had none of those things, took a bit longer, which is really quite a shame. For a movie without a known actor in the lead role, a rushed production schedule and a cast of really whomever happened to be around, it’s not bad.

My name is Bond, (cough) I mean Charles

The film opens in a hotel room where tuxedoed super spy Richard Charles (an under-utilized Lance Henriksen) is bedding CIA Operative Amanda Case (former Playboy playmate Debra Jo Fondren). Case tells Charles he has a daughter (a gymnast) and gives him some nuclear missile launch codes before being killed in a shootout with Soviet spy Carla Davis (Sarah Douglas). Charles escapes via jet pack, flies through the opening credit sequence of a low-rent James Bond movie, and ends up in Rome where he meets his daughter, Charlie Case (Kristie Phillips). He gives her a bag containing the launch codes, and surrenders to a gang of Soviet spies. Now Case, with gymnastics reporter Rex Beechum (the always dependable Tim Thomerson) at her side, must outrun the Soviets, get a key from a half-brother she didn’t know about and deliver it to another half-brother she didn’t know about, kick ass on the streets of Hong Kong and get to her next gymnastics tournaments in Malaysia and Athens on time.

Kristie Phillips is who again?

In the late 1980s, Kristie Phillips was kind of a household name. An alternate member of the 1988 Olympic Gymnastics Team member and a former US National Champion gymnast, she was once labeled the “next Mary Lou Retton.” That said, she wasn’t exactly household name when it came to action movies. Truth be told, after watching this movie I tried to find any reason why she would have ended up in the lead role of this movie, her sole acting credit, and I couldn’t find any. It’s almost as if Pyun started phoning around to see who was available, and then wrote a script around whomever he could get on short notice.

No matter how it happened, Phillips rose to the occasion. Now, I’m no expert on gymnastics, but her routines in this film appeared to be solid, as they should be. Pyun didn’t give her much for a script, but she delivered her lines with enthusiasm and seemed quite comfortable with the choreographed fight scenes (in one, she dodges a bullet by doing a backflip). She’s definitely someone I would have watched in another film, heck I could have even seen her teaming up with Cynthia Rothrock. Of course, that never happened.

Obscurity = Longevity

In 1995, I was at my local video store almost daily, yet I have no recollection of seeing this film in the new releases. I remember trailers for its sister movie Hong Kong ’97 (which also starred Thomerson) and I’ve seen it and Pyun’s follow-up, Heatseeker (also starring Thomerson – boy, he was busy). But this movie didn’t show up on my radar until Amazon recommended it to me (you liked Cynthia Rothrock in Guardian Angel, you’ll may also like Spitfire). I’m glad it did, because Spitfire really is a hidden gem.

 

Is it a great movie? No, but it’s certainly better than a lot of crap I’ve seen (To the Limit starring Anna Nicole Smith comes to mind.) For all its faults – an untested lead actress, an obviously rushed production schedule, scenes that literally have people walking through them, – it’s worthy of viewing.


Article by Eric LaRose – a Wisconsin-based connoisseur of action, horror and sci-fi movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s. A former journalist and podcaster, Eric wrote the ending to the Toxic Avenger Part 4, but the only person who will back up that claim is his wife.

Bob Odenkirk to Star in John Wick-esque Action Movie

Bob Odenkirk + John Wick = Falling Down?

Breaking news first reported by Deadline reveals that Bob Odenkirk (best known for his roles as Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul as well as improv comedy roots in Mr. Show with Bob and David) will star in an new action thriller tentatively titled “Nobody.” The project is being driven by John Wick directors David Leitch and Chad Stahelski along with John Wick writer Derek Kolstad executive producing along with Kelly McCormick (Atomic Blonde producer) and Odenkirk himself. No director is currently tabbed, but that group certainly has some action movie chops between them.

John Wick  Meets Falling Down

As stated in the first reports, all we currently know about the plot is that it promises that Odenkirk will play an “everyday man who gets pushed past his limits.” Which for us ultimate action movie fans sounds a lot like Michael Douglas‘ iconic role in the Joel Schumacher classic Falling Down (1993). However, the report continues to go on in a more John Wick-esque direction where “the story follow a man who comes to the defense of a woman being harassed by thugs, only to learn later that one of the men he put in the hospital is the brother of a drug kingpin, now out for vengeance.

We can only imagine Bob Odenkirk doing his goofy straight guy routine in classic action scenes like this:


What do you think about Bob Odenkirk in a John Wick-esque action movie? Let us know in the comments!

Cover photo via Wikimedia

The 10 Best Pro-Wrestlers Turned Action Movie Stars

The Best Pro Wrestlers From the Ring to the Screen.

The path from success in the squared circle to action stardom is a well trodden one these days. Since the early 2000’s the likes of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Dave Batista and John Cena have all had mainstream success while the likes of Steve Austin, Bill Goldberg and Kurt Angle have maintained steady acting and television careers in more under the radar projects. However, it wasn’t always that way and it took a few pioneers to open what were once locked doors for pro-wrestlers, so in this article we take a look at ten bruisers who did just that.

Andre the Giant

7’4, 500 lbs and with hands like dinner plates, Andre was one of the biggest men to ever step into the ring and so it was inevitable that Hollywood would come calling at some point. Surprisingly though, Andres action resume isn’t a particularly packed one which is the only reason he features so low on our list.

Perhaps because of his sheer size, there weren’t too many people in the world that could go fist to fist with the big man (he did go decades undefeated in wrestling after all) and so his acting career was mainly reduced to playing monsters and fantasy figures or more comedic roles based on his size. Obviously, he is best known for playing the giant Fezzik in The Princess Bride for which he gained some critical acclaim, but for us his most ultimate role came in an uncredited role in Conan the Destroyer (1984) as the demonic Dagoth.

He may have been buried under a rubber suit, but there’s no mistaking Andre when he starts manhandling action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger (and just about anyone else in swatting distance) and in the end it takes a good portion of the cast to put a stop to his rampage. Maybe one of the few men who was just too ultimate for the movies.

Abdullah the Butcher

The Madman from Sudan’s (via Ontario, Canada) movie career was brief to say the least with only two credited roles, but his second outing certainly makes up for the lack of quantity. Rotund, wide eyed and with a forehead that looks like a carving board, Abdullah is certainly a unique looking individual and it is perhaps only for the fact that he was so in demand as one of pro-wrestlings most feared villains over many decades that we didn’t get to see more of him in the movies.

Despite appearances, Abdullah is also an accomplished martial artist in both karate and judo and it was perhaps due to this, coupled with his fame in Japan that he found himself cast in the Sonny Chiba movie, Roaring Fire aka Hoero Tekken (1982). Having only previously starred in an obscure Canadian prison movie (Caged Men Plus One Woman) in the early seventies, Abdullah more than holds up his end of the bargain in Roaring Fire as he battles it out in some fast paced fight scenes with some of Japan’s best while showing off an unexpected turn of speed and using his size to manhandle anyone that dares to come near. Definitely someone that could have made a career out playing unique henchmen if he had wanted to.

Ox Baker

The bald headed, bushy eyebrowed, wild bearded master of the Heart Punch, Ox Baker was a feared man in between the ropes and it comes as no surprise that he was noticed by Hollywood when they needed someone to instill that fear into their audience. In a wrestling career that spanned nearly 50 years, Baker wrestled and in many cases, defeated a who’s who of wrestling stars and is one of the few men who it was claimed had killed not one, but two of his opponents.

In reality, both deaths were a result of undetected health conditions, however as both occurred after being in the ring with Baker, it certainly didn’t diminish his fearsome reputation and promoters were quick to capitalize on it. Baker’s first film appearance came the year before the role that would make him internationally recognized and would be an uncredited role in the 1980 Jackie Chan vehicle Battle Creek Brawl as “The Fighter.” A year later he would find himself on the set of his one and only blockbuster opposite Kurt Russell in the now iconic Escape From New York. In the movie Baker plays Slag, a lumbering gladiator who is tasked with finishing off Kurt Russell’s Snake Pliskin.

Although unsuccessful in his task, Baker proves to be one of Russell’s toughest opponents and it is a credit to Baker, by that point nearly 50 years old that he still had the ability to terrify. After Escape, Baker continued his wrestling career, making sporadic movie appearances along the way and training future stars of the ring, including a certain Mark ‘The Undertaker’ Callaway. Despite this, he will always be known to action movie fans as the baseball bat swinging madman, Slag and for giving Kurt Russell one of his most ultimate fight scenes.

Harold Sakata

The first man to appear on the list who is perhaps more well known for his acting career than his in-ring exploits, Harold Sakata was something of a renaissance man, excelling at just about everything he turned his hands to. Born in Honolulu to Japanese parents, Sakata first made waves in the 1940s as a weight lifter and would go on to win a silver medal at the 1948 London Olympics lifting a total of over 900 lbs while competing as a light-heavyweight.

By the 1960s he had turned to pro-wrestling and under the name of Tosh Togo would go on to win the Canadian Tag Team titles alongside his storyline relatives Great Togo, Mas Togo and Ko Togo. It was during this time that James Bond producers noticed him and he was immediately cast as Oddjob, the muscular henchman of the movies titular character, Auric Goldfinger. It was to be a role as iconic as any in all of Hollywood and Sakata would go on to make a career out of playing similar characters, even going as far as being credited as Harold “Oddjob” Sakata in some roles.

Unfortunately, Sakata died prematurely in 1982, but not before he would rack up an impressive body of work, appearing in both movies and on television as well as returning to his wrestling roots in the Verne Gagne financed The Wrestler (1974) alongside many of the most well known wrestlers of the day. However, it was as Oddjob that he really shined and it is thanks to the silent, hat wielding maniac that the world will never forget Sakata.

Professor Toru Tanaka

Who else could follow Sakata but the man many consider his natural successor? Best known in wrestling circles as the tag team partner of the universally loathed Mr. Fuji, Tanaka also had a successful run in the sixties as one of the main challengers to the rarely defeated Bruno Sammartino with the two successfully headlining Madison Square Garden on more than one occasion.

By the time the eighties came around Tanaka had all but retired from the ring and instead took up a career in the movies making his first appearance in the Chuck Norris movie An Eye For An Eye (1981). Often employed to play vicious henchmen due to his size and strength, Tanaka picked up where the slightly older Sakata had left off, fitting perfectly into the action boom of the eighties. Tanaka would star alongside many of the biggest names in action throughout the decade and into the nineties, including Sho Kosugi, Jeff Speakman and Arnold Schwarzenegger with whom arguably his most ultimate moment came, as the villainous ice skating Sub-Zero in The Running Man (1987). One of his final appearances also came alongside Arnold, in one of the latter’s few commercial failures, The Last Action Hero (1993) in a small cameo in his usual toughman role.

Although, like Sakata he was very much typecast, Tanaka had a great run in the movies at a time when he was looking to get out of the ring and his appearances in a number of action classics means he remains a much loved villain to action fans to this day. Also like Sakata, Tanaka left us too soon, as he would pass in 2000 but thankfully not before leaving his mark on both wrestling and movie fans alike.

Terry Funk

When someone is known for being one of the most demented men in a sport almost entirely populated with tapped individuals you know that Terry Funk is a special breed of wildman. So it was no surprise that at the height of action boom of the eighties that Hollywood came knocking for him to bring that ‘Funk-ness’ to the big screen. Having first appeared in Sylvester Stallone’s wrestling movie Paradise Alley in 1978 as the hulking Frankie the Thumper it would also be alongside Stallone nearly a decade later that Funk would return to the cinema in the first of his two most ultimate action appearances, this time in the criminally underrated arm-wrestling epic, Over the Top (1987).

Employed as the main villain, Jason Cutler’s henchman Ruker, Funk played it with deadpan menace throughout, looking ready to take Stallone’s magnificently named Lincoln Hawk apart at a moments notice until he falls victim to the enemy of so many eighties heavies, the plate glass door. A couple of years later he was back on our screens again looking to take out another a-lister in Patrick Swayze as the king of the bouncers Dalton in Road House (1989). Playing another heavy, the Funker was at his erratic best, throwing out insults as quickly as he was throws his fists but alas, it would his last real hurrah in the movies as the lure of wrestling was calling once more and he would soon start the next phase of his career, as the crazy old bastard of hardcore.

Despite retiring at his last count of 22 times, unbelievably Funk is still at it and wrestled as recently as last year (2017) at the grand old age of 72. His movie resume has been a far more sparse affair however, with just the occasional TV appearance and movie cameo to his name proving that as much as you try and take the man out of wrestling, you can’t always take the wrestling out of the man.

Pat Roach

Although a household name in the UK throughout the eighties thanks to his part of Bomber Busbridge in the hit TV show Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, Pat Roach might not be a familiar name to those of you on the other side of the pond. Like Sakata, he is probably better known for his acting than he was for being wrestler and also like Sakata, Roach was a man who tried his hand and excelled in a number of different areas in life. Having made his pro-wrestling debut in 1960, the 6’5 near 300 lbs Roach would find himself in demand for on screen roles from the early seventies onwards when he made his acting debut in the cult classic A Clockwork Orange (1971).

From then on he would juggle his many careers, primarily as a wrestler and actor but also running his scrap metal business, owning a gym and even dabbling in American Football for the Birmingham Bulls in the late eighties. His most ultimate action years would also come in the eighties when he was brought in to be the muscle against a who’s who of a-list actors. Having narrowly missed out on the role of Darth Vader in Star Wars, George Lucas brought him in to perform double duty in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) as the Giant Sherpa and the German Mechanic Indiana Jones fights next to the plane which ultimately gives him his unfortunate end.

After Raiders, Roach would go on an incredible back to back streak of movies, featuring in Clash of the Titans (1981), Never Say Never Again (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Conan the Destroyer (1984) and Red Sonya (1985) each time being entrusted to manhandle the stars of the show and arguably making him our highest grossing star on the list. Roach would continue to be a familiar face as an actor on British TV right up until his death in 2004 and also continued to wrestle well into the nineties too quite often using the Bomber nickname he had acquired on Auf Wiedersehen, Pet proving himself to be a true action hero in every sense of the word.

Hulk Hogan

When you think of wrestling, who is the first person to come to mind? For many, it’ll probably be Hulk Hogan. As the biggest star in wrestling throughout the eighties and nineties and the man that helped kickstart two of wrestlings most lucrative eras I think it’s fair to say that recent controversies aside it is unlikely that wrestling will ever see a bigger or more recognizable name again than that of The Hulkster.

After first getting a taste of the limelight as Thunderlips in Rocky III (1982) it wouldn’t be until the end of the eighties that Hogan’s aspirations to become an action hero really began to manifest when he took the lead role in the WWF (now WWE) financed No Holds Barred (1989). In the movie he was tasked with taking on the gigantic and terrifying Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister as well Kurt Fuller’s Brell, an evil TV executive with a band of heavies who will seemingly stoop to just about any level. Eventually, Hogan and Listers feud would spill over onto WWF television and would culminate with Hogan and Brutus ‘The Barber’ Beefcake defeating Lister and ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage in a tag team cage match. The movie wasn’t a massive success, breaking even at best but clearly sparked the acting bug for Hogan as it wouldn’t be long before he began winding down his WWF career in favor of the movies first starring in Surburban Commando (1991) (an abandoned Schwarzenegger project) and Mr. Nanny a couple of years later.

Hogan would leave the WWF in 1993 and would continue his acting career throughout the nineties as well as wrestling for WCW, during which time he participated in one of the biggest moments in all of wrestling when he turned on WCW to form the NWO and become the villainous Hollywood Hogan. Perhaps the name with the most wasted potential on the list, it’s hard to believe that Hogan’s popularity never quite translated into box office dollars and you have to wonder if he had been handed the right projects if he too would be considered action royalty today. I guess we’ll never know.

Jesse Ventura

When Ventura’s in-ring career was cut short in the mid-eighties due to blood clots on his lungs, some would have perhaps thought that it was time to take things easy. Not “The Body” though. Clad in his feather boas, loud suits and lurid bandannas, he immediately took up position as a commentator on WWF programming, infuriating his partners with his bodacious style and insulting just about anyone he laid eyes on. A seat behind a commentary booth wouldn’t be enough for Ventura though and in 1987 he would take Hollywood by the scruff of the neck by appearing in two of the biggest action movies of the decade alongside the king of action movies, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The first would see him teaming with Arnie to take on the Predator as the tobacco chewing, sexual Tyrannosaurus, Blain.

Armed with a gatling gun that he dubbed ‘Old Painless’ and with biceps to rival Austria’s favorite son, Ventura certainly wasn’t about to fade into the background. He stole the scene every time he was on screen, bringing that motor mouth that had made him so famous in the WWF and putting his background as a Navy SEAL to great use in the battle scenes. His ultimate demise also led to one of the most over the top displays of firepower in just about any movie as the rest of the cast would pepper the jungle with bullets in an attempt to kill off their invisible attacker, something you can only imagine Blain would approve of. Ventura clearly made an impression on Arnold too, as he would return a few months later, this time as his opponent in The Running Man. Ventura would play the retired chaser Captain Freedom and has to be one of the few men to actually kill Arnold on screen… well, sort of kill, anyway. Again, Ventura steals the show, both when he gets to manhandle Arnold and during his workout video, because let’s face it, who can really resist Jesse Ventura camping it up?

As the nineties arrived Ventura ventured into politics, first becoming the Mayor of Brooklyn Park and later the Governor of Minnesota which would cut down on his acting appearances, however he would still manage to crop up in Demolition Man (1993) opposite Sylvester Stallone and also make one last cameo alongside Arnold in Batman & Robin (1997) proving the door was always open for The Body. Although he hasn’t held office since 2003, Ventura is still a political commentator and makes regular appearances on politics shows both on TV and the radio and in recent years has become known to a whole new generation thanks to his opinions on a variety of conspiracy theories, a subject which he has written books and hosted TV shows for. The man really ain’t got time to bleed.

Roddy Piper

One of Hogan’s biggest nemesis’, ‘Rowdy’ Roddy Piper was known for being one of the most charismatic and unpredictable men in wrestling when he burst onto the Hollywood scene with a bang in 1988. Having starred in the 1986 Rock n’ Wrestling movie Body Slam and wrestled the infamous Mr. T at two consecutive WrestleMania’s Piper was a star on the rise when he was cast in what would become his two best loved movies in the same year. First to be released would be Hell Comes to Frogtown, a madcap, post-apocalyptic action comedy which saw Piper entrusted to repopulate the world after his capture by a group of warrior-nurses (because, the eighties). The movie would gain a cult following in later years as a classic piece of eighties weirdness but still fall firmly in the shadow of his follow up, the John Carpenter helmed They Live.

A cross between sci-fi, horror and with just enough action for Piper to flex his muscles, They Live was a hit on release but its reputation and cultural impact would grow steadily in the years that followed thanks in no small part to the artist and fan of the movie, Shepard Fairey picking up its Obey tagline for his own branding. Today, They Live is seen as Pipers finest performance, its brilliant fighting scenes, classic lines and still relevant message have stood the test of time making it arguably one of the most critically acclaimed movies on this entire list (read more about They Live‘s lasting relevance here).

However, it wouldn’t be the end for Pipers acting career and as his wrestling appearances became more sporadic, his movie and TV appearances became more prolific as he took the lead in a virtual production line of b-grade action movies alongside the likes of Billy Blanks, Sonny Chiba and Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson to name but a few. Unfortunately, Piper is yet another name on this list that’s no longer with us, but with a back catalogue of appearances to rival anyone in sheer quantity (both inside and outside of the ring) he certainly the left a lasting legacy for us to remember him by. Let’s just hope they have plenty of bubblegum wherever he ended up, because they sure as hell don’t want him to run out.


Article by Will Carter – B-Movie obsessive and record shop employee living in Yorkshire, England. Contributor to Retro Cool and The Gravel Crew and long suffering car enthusiast. Genuinely believes there’s never been a better contribution to movie history than Bloodsport. Let us know what you think in the comments!

The Hidden: A Review on 80s Excess and Action

The Hidden. Ultimate Gem.

Directed by Jack Sholder, The Hidden came out in 1987, which was a great year for action movies with such classics as Predator, Robocop, Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop. To say the 80’s was a decade of excess is a bit of an understatement.

Excessive Roots

When you think of excess and the 80’s the first film that would come to mind would be Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, which itself came out the exact same year. It got all the critical and commercial acclaim and gave birth to the immortal line from Gordon Gekko that defied the decade: “The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Now I’ve never come from money and I doubt I never will be rich. I can’t relate to Gekko because I’m not a greedy bastard. But the desire of wanting and coveting things is just human nature, but in the case of the film I’m writing about there is nothing human about the lead villain’s intentions. The Hidden is what I believe to the the definitive action movie about excess of the 1980’s.

A Truly 80s Movie

 

The Hidden is about ordinary, law abiding citizens in Los Angeles suddenly turning into criminals with no previous inclinations of violence whatsoever. A local cop called Beck (Michael Nouri) cannot figure out the motives behind the sudden crime rate which involves grand theft auto, robbery and murder from seemingly normal folks. FBI Agent Gallagher (Kyle MacLachan) is brought in to help Beck with the case and informs him that it’s not random as it appears but committed by the same person. Of course Beck doesn’t believe him but as the investigation goes on, all of Gallagher’s theories start making more sense.

The movie opens of grainy security footage of a bank when a lonely figure comes into frame. He casually surveys everything when a group of security officers with cash bags come close to him. All of a sudden he pulls out a shotgun, kills them, takes a bag of money and looks at the camera smiling, before shooting it. He leaves the bank calmly, hopes into a parked Ferrari and speeds off with some sweet trash metal blaring out of the car speakers. Cop cars quickly pursue he speeds through construction sites, tunnels and freeways with reckless abandon. He even runs over of wheelchair bound man with no remorse. This would sound like a movie version of the Grand Theft Auto video game series. It’s not until a blockade headed up by Beck stops him that the smiling assassin is taken to hospital.

While at the hospital Beck finds out his name is Jack DeVries (Chris Mulkey), a family man with no prior history of violent crime and no motive to go on a crime spree. Banged up in a hospital bed, DeVries wakes up from a coma and goes to the bed of another comatose man, Jonathan Miller (William Boyett). DeVries rips off Miller’s breathing mask, opens his mouth then an alien slug appears from DeVries’ mouth and transfers itself into Miller’s body, then Devires drops dead. Miller wakes up and proceeds to walk out and the crime spree continues. Gallagher is then assigned with Beck because of his connection to the case and together they try to stop the parasite before more people are killed.

Jack Sholder’s Action Directing

I won’t give anymore of the story away because I don’t want to spoil it for you. This was only Jack Sholder’s third movie after the horror movies Alone in the Dark and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2. He combines the science fiction and horror elements of the story really well by presenting it as a solid action movie. All the action scenes are well staged and shot, you can follow the action incredibly well. Some of the humor and jokes do fall a bit flat but that doesn’t out way the overall experience of the movie. The practical effects are done great too, especially the alien slug transfer scenes.

Acting Breakdown

Acting wise I can’t fault it to much. Michael Nouri handles the role of Beck well, even though it is an outrageous situation he plays it straight and it works. Also with the usual hardened cop flair. And keeping up with the playing it straight style, Kyle MacLachan preceded Special Agent Dale Cooper by three years with Gallagher, who is even more wound up than Cooper. But there is a reason for this which I won’t give away if you haven’t seen it. But he does the whole “boy next door” mixed with “spent too long in his parent’s basement” great, adding to the uneasy partnership with him and Beck. The supporting cast is great as well with Katherine Cannon as Beck’s wife Barbara, Claudia Christian, Clarence Felder, Clu Gulager and Ed O’Ross. Keep an eye out for Danny Trejo as a prisoner too.

An A+ B-Movie

 

All that being said, for a “B” action movie it definitely gets an “A” for effort. The script written by Jim Kouf (as Bob Hunt) seems like your typical buddy cop, Shane Black style story but because of the body-swapping angle it can be a bit unpredictable by the fact this alien can be anyone at all, like the Agents from the Matrix trilogy. It was also interesting to make the alien a gluttonous character, wanting money, fast cars and violence without repercussion as a version of humanity that left unchecked, can do incredible damage to itself and the environment. That’s why I like B movies because they can have the ability to put in social commentary and mix it up with exploitation stories. It could almost be like John Carpenter movie.

So if you want a fun, sci-fi action movie with some subtle hints on excess-driven 1980’s America then give The Hidden a try or if you have just give it a rewatch.


Article by Dan Wilson. What do you think about The Hidden and 80s Excess? Let us know in the comments. And if you have any ultimate action movies you’d like to review or write about, let us know!

First Look at Van Damme in Kickboxer: Retaliation (2018)

Van Damme Still Kickboxing.

Technically titled Kickboxer 2: Retaliation, it is the sequel to the original Kickboxer (1989) reboot Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016). Set 12 months after Vengeance, Kurt Sloane (now played by Alain Moussi) is lured back away from a successful MMA career to battle back in Thailand. Jean Claude Van Damme appears to be reprising his role as Master Durand as well.

The rest of the cast includes Christopher Lambert, Sara Malakul Lane, Jessica Jann and Game of Thrones‘ Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson – as well as a most anticipated role for Mike Tyson. IGN offers a sneak peak first look into the new trailer below.

 

While the reboot may bear JCVD’s name and approval, it’s still very much a modern action movie with gritty aesthetics and a heavy-emphasis on damp and dark fight scenes. It does look promising with several cinderblock-punching training sequences and some rough-and-tumble mixed martial arts street chases worked in. (Plus, is that guy training by having Ronaldinho kick soccer balls at him?!?)

Kickboxer: Retaliation — The Ultimate Action Movie Reboot Sequel of All Time?

Kickboxer (1989) Original Trailer

However, as fans of the Ultimate Action Movie Classics like Bloodsport and the original Kickboxer (as well as the original Kickboxer subsequent four Kickboxer sequels without Van Damme), it’ll be interesting to see where this new series stands up against one of the most ultimate movies in Van Damme’s legacy.

For more info on Kickboxer 2: Retaliation, you can read up on it’s release on its official website here.


What do you think about Kickboxer: Retaliation and the Kickboxer reboot in general? Let us know in the comments!

UAMC Classics: How ‘They Live’ is Still Relevant Today

Why – They Live – Lives On

John Carpenter’s 1988 action sci fi movie They Live is a classic example of how sometimes a deeper concept can be shown in a more entertaining way. Based on Ray Nelson’s short story ‘Eight O’Clock in the Morning,’ They Live explores how the media and leaders can manipulate the greater population and what lengths we will go to, to achieve wealth and status.

A Lasting Relevance

They Live has so many plot holes, bad acting, interesting editing among other foibles that it should be destined to B grade hell, yet people view this film today nearly 30 years on and appreciate how relevant it is today possibly even more than when it was first released. The term ‘fake news’ and people believing their side more than others because it came from their source no matter how questionable, cements the point of what this set out to achieve. Unfortunately I believe this will continue to be relevant for generations to come. In the interim, enjoy what is one of the most intelligent, yet somehow completely idiotic movies to ever be released.

Plot Breakdown

They Live follows John Nada (played by Roddy Piper), an incredibly well looked after drifter who makes his way to a new city looking for work and the grave discovery he makes which lets him see the world for it really is. Making an immediate friend in Frank (Keith David) at a construction site where he is hired to work, Nada is taken to the local shanty town where the city’s homeless live.

It is near here that he finds a church which is not all that it seems. Upon some investigation he discovers some superbly 80’s sunglasses which when one wears them, turns the world into a black and white nightmare where half the population looks like decomposing lizards and billboards read phrases like ‘Obey’, ‘Marry and Reproduce’ and ‘Consume.’

Traffic lights have speakers which repeat the phrase ‘sleep’ and small drones travel the skies keeping an eye out for people looking to disturb the peace.

John blows his cover when he freaks out and starts abusing a lizard woman who, using her watch, notifies her fellow lizard people (Steve Jobs you’re a thief!) and then decides to kill two cops who confront him. You of course finish this off by going into a bank and shooting a few more people. He escapes by taking a lady who has had way too much Xanax hostage and making her drive to her house where she manages to smash a glass over his head and push him through a pane glass window. He survives the three story fall by hanging out under a bridge for a while and then seeks out Frank which leads us to one of the greatest fight scenes in cinema history.

This includes eye gouging, biting, repetitively kneeing someone in the balls and as you would expect some great wrestling moves. This scene between Piper and David will go down in history as one of the greats, in John Carpenters own words ‘I wanted to show a real fight.’ He succeeded. Immediately following the fight Frank is awoken to the real world too, so our heroes of the lower class decide to walk bruised and battered which using the accompanying bluesy theme music, (a departure from Carpenters usual synth perfection) almost seems a parody of itself. The final act shows why Carpenter is a master of the genre, with brilliant shoot out sequences and wonderfully over the top action explosions and deaths.

A Timeless Voice

You also can’t mention this movie without talking about the kick ass catch phrases ranging from ‘brother life’s a bitch and she’s packing heat’ to the generation transcending ‘I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.

In a recent interview Carpenter has stated that Piper would use phrases like these in his post wrestling press conferences and thought they’d be great for an action hero.

Not quite sure how ‘mama don’t like taddle tales’ suits a man who weighs over 200 pounds and has a mullet that dropped panties, but who’s gunna argue with the him? Not me.


Article by: Nathan Last – an action and sci fi fan from Australia (no he doesn’t wear fishnet shirts like Bennett in Commando) who believes the 80’s and 90’s were the golden age of cinema. Part time writer, full time ultimate action fan. To get in touch drop the team a line

The UAMC is Looking For Blog Contributors

For anyone who loves Ultimate Action Movies.

Here at the Ultimate Action Movie Club, we pride ourselves on being open to anyone who loves a good action flick. Especially if it’s one on VHS and watched with friends. We also love to talk about ultimate action movies almost as much as watching them. So, in effort to expand the conversation and keep the club growing, we’re opening up the blog to all those who wish to write and contribute.

Types of Articles

We’re open to all ideas and pitches, but ultimately looking for articles on action movies from the 80s and 90s. They can be one-off reviews about one specific film, top 5 (or top 10) lists for different stars, think-pieces on different aspects of the genre, or just new news about classic movies like remakes or new special editions. Anything from a few hundred words to a few thousand. Here are some article type examples.

Plus, any other article types or ideas that you may want to contribute.

What’s In It For You

As the UAMC community continues to grow, the blog will always be a central spot for starting discussions and appreciating kick butt action movies for years to come. We’re looking for contributors who simply love talking (and writing) about their favorite action movies. If you have a blog of your own, or another similar venture to plug, you’re more than welcome to put links back to your websites, Facebook page, Twitter accounts, etc… as you’d like. The goal is just to create awesome articles for action movie fans to enjoy and share.

Also, if you’re unfamiliar with blogging or writing online, we can help and handle all the formatting and uploading for you.

How to Submit

For now, please just reach out to ultimateactionmovies@gmail.com if you’re interested in learning more. Any writing or blog examples are encouraged but not necessary. Ideally we could go back and forth with some ideas, but generally open to whatever you might want to contribute.

7 Times Seagal Proves He’s The Ultimate Action Tough Guy

Steven Steagal. Ultimate Tough Guy.

There are several characteristics that make action movie stars ultimate. While Steven Seagal may lack in bulging arm muscles like Arnold or Stallone, he makes up for it with some badass aikido-training and his ultimate tough guy attitude. Seagal, in his prime VHS days in the 80s and 90s, was a force to be reckoned with in every scene. He didn’t take lip and was just as quick to smack someone around as he was to slice an arm or two off.

Here are 7 times that Seagal proved, without a doubt, that he’s the unquestioned ultimate action movie tough guy.

7. “Anybody Seen Richie?” – Out for Justice (1991)

For tough guy Seagal lovers, Out for Justice is one of his best. As a gritty inner-city cop in Brooklyn, Seagal’s brash persona and combative detective approach is something truly amazing. Take for example this scene, where Seagal, a cop in Brooklyn, needs some information about a recent murder. Instead of, you know, doing some actual detective work.

Seagal busts into a seedy bar to rough up several prominent low-lifes to get the info from them. In a way which would nicely be called disrespectful, Seagal proceeds to mock and beat the information out of the entire bar – including the guys with mob connections. Makes ya really feel bad for Richie

Steven Seagal Goes ‘Expendables’ in New Trailer for General Commander

6. “Respect My Authority” – Fire Down Below (1997)

If Seagal has a mantra, at least in his 80s and 90s movies, it’s a pissed-off plea to have people “respect his authority.” Nowhere is this more apparent than when he literally yells as much to the naive officers in Kentucky. This is of course after he sticks a gun down one of the officers’ throats after they threaten to have him arrested.

He proceeds to double down and threaten them with arrest as he is a federal, get this, environmental protection agent. Which, as long as Seagal is concerned, he can do whatever he damn well wants when he’s on the case.

MMA Star Dillon Danis Challenges Steven Seagal to a Cage Fight

5. Train Top Shootout – Under Siege 2 (1995)

While Under Seige may be one of Seagal’s best movies, his performance in his sequel Under Seige 2: Dark Territory showcases some of Seagal’s most brazen behavior. If you watch the scene above, you’ll see a calm as nails Seagal casually kicking butt from the top of a moving train.

After kicking a guy under the wheels, Seagal lays into a gun battle with precision despite not even always being able to see the bad guys. Before hitching a ride Indiana Jones-style underneath the train. It’s also worth noting that Seagal himself has hinted at an Under Seige 3 in the future.

A Case for Under Siege Being Seagal’s Greatest Action Movie

4. Folksy Guitar Solo – Fire Down Below (1997)

While Seagal’s well known for the dirt talking, smackdown laying aspects of his tough guy mentality. He also has a tender, artistic side, which you better not ever make fun of or interrupt. As is the case in this scene from Fire Down Below, wherein the skinny punk who dares to disturb Seagal’s fingerpicking solo is about to learn a world of hurt from Seagal’s less friendly side.

Fun fact, Seagal is actually a very accomplished guitar player and musician and has even recorded a few albums.

Steven Seagal Opening His Own Winery in Russia

3. Classic Store Robbery – Hard to Kill (1990)

Continuing a trend in Seagal flicks, thugs have a way of finding, a seemingly, mild-mannered Seagal in shops or bars and proceed to mock, almost beg him, into kicking their butts. In this scene from Hard to Kill, Seagal is just getting some late night snacks when some street thugs choose the wrong store to rob.

As Seagal saunters up, they truly have no idea, or no respect, to the beatdown Seagal can easily and instantly lay down on them. Yet, Seagal, always one for dramatic timing, waits until the old store clerk is blown away before tauntingly disposing of them one by one.a

UAMC Legend Steven Seagal is Running for Governor… in Russia?

2. Skinny Seagal vs Baseball Bat – Above the Law (1988)

Based on recent photos, it’s hard to believe that there was a time when Seagal was a skinny pencil-shaped human being. However, if this scene from Above the Law proves anything, it’s that skinny or giant, Seagal was just as intimidating and tough.

Seagal, as per custom, is rolled up on and instantly drawn upon. This time with a gun, sword and several baseball bats. What does Seagal do? Well, of course he doesn’t flinch. Instead he takes a sword, slices several limbs, then takes off in full skinny-legged sprint after the last perp.

Steven Seagal and Michael Caine Share Contrasting Memories of ‘On Deadly Ground’

1. Hand Slap Game – On Deadly Ground (1994)

In one of his more personal movies, and the only one he actually directed himself, Seagal goes absolutely tough guy mind games berserk in this famous hand slap scene. For context, Seagal’s character is a Native American in Alaska up against a giant mining corporation.

In this scene, he witnesses a small town jerk try to get his ire, when Seagal ignores him, he retaliates by picking on an old Native American man, which causes Seagal to lose it. After jumping around the room and kicking most of the butts in it, Seagal calls for a showdown with the goon and proceeds to face-off in the most ultimate game of hand slaps ever made.

Of course, Seagal wins every time, getting in a punch after each slap leaving the thug bloodied and beaten. Then, in a rare moment in any action movie, Seagal’s tough guy beating so resoundly resonates with the guy that he actually apologizes and promises to change for the better. Which is what we have to assume is what Seagal has been trying to get people to understand the whole time, just by usually beating it out of them.


What are your favorite Steven Seagal tough guy scenes? Let us know in the comments!