UAMC Reviews: Why No One Is ‘Cooler’ Than Patrick Swayze in ‘Road House’

Road House (1989): Swayze’s Greatest Legacy

Much can be said of Liam Neeson’s late-career resurgence from a traditional thespian into a full-blown, grade A, American action hero (albeit one with a suspiciously strong Irish accent). Nobody could have predicted the way male audiences would embrace him decades later in the action genre if you saw a sampling of his early filmography.

That same could be said of a young Patrick Swayze. Yes, he co-starred in Red Dawn (really an ensemble piece) and had bit parts here and there, but for Pete’s sake, he was recognized as an accomplished dancer through and through. Music video? Check (4:24 mark). Music-based movies, successful and not so successful? Check. Legend has it that his mother ran the best dance studio in Texas. She named him “Patrick Swayze” when he was born because she thought it would look good on a movie marquee.

I hope someone bought that woman a beer for that foresight.

How ‘Point Break’ Perfectly Balances Ironic and Sincere Awesomeness


After turning down a co-starring role in Tango and Cash with Sylvester Stallone, Swayze accepted the lead role in Road House — which no man I have ever met claims to dislike. This timeless movie, quite frankly, has no peer. Think about it: It’s about a bouncer (aka “cooler”) who cleans up a corrupt bar run by an even more corrupt sleaze.

How does he do this, you ask? He lives by three simple rules: One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.

I have been with my wife for 17 years, as of this writing. She doesn’t understand my complete adoration of this movie. I suspect most women don’t. They will never appreciate the level of nirvana men feel during and after watching this movie. Swayze’s Dalton (his last name is never uttered, but that’s just one more reason that the movie is awesome) is a man who men want to be and women want to be with.

He elegantly spouts philosophy, a direct result of his NYU degree in philosophy. And, oh yeah, he’s as honest as a Boy Scout, smokes like a chimney, does Tai Chi, has a physique with less than 4% body fat, and gets to date Kelly Lynch in all of her 80s-ness. His bro-mance with Sam Elliott’s Wade Garrett is nothing to sneeze at, either.

UAMC Reviews: ‘The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot’ (2018)

Everyone Loves Dalton

How much do I love this movie? I WANTED TO NAME MY FIRST-BORN SON “DALTON.”

These are actual lines of dialogue from this epic:

Cody, Band Singer at Double Deuce: Man, this toilet is worse than the one that we worked in Dayton.

Dalton: Really?

Cody, Band Singer at Double Deuce: Oh man, it’s a mean scene around here, man. There’s blood on the floor of this joint every night.

It doesn’t take an NYU degree to break down that a blind man is describing the scene to the viewer. (By the way, I wonder which bar in Dayton he was referring to. I only ask because I work in Dayton.)

On a scale of awesomeness from 1 to 10, this movie ranks about a 92.

Red Dawn: Back When American High Schoolers Kicked Russian Butt


Want more? Dalton brings his medical charts to the emergency room after getting injured in a fight. Why? “Saves time.” When the doctor, played by Kelly Lynch, wants to give him anesthesia, he declines. Why? “Pain don’t hurt.”

TANGENT TIME: Two years ago, I had to be rushed to an E.R. My hand was ripped open, I was bleeding profusely, and I obviously needed stitches. The surgeon took one look at my open wound and hurriedly asked me, “Are you in pain?” With all the cool I could muster, I looked her in the eye and said, “Pain don’t hurt.” I’m pretty sure they waived my co-pay.

Dear reader, I don’t know who you are; I’ve never met you. I can’t ascertain your age, where you live, or any vital statistics associated with you. I only know few details that I can glean based upon context: A) If you’re a guy who has seen Road House you love it. B) If you are anyone else who has not seen Road House (for whatever reason I won’t hold against you), you NEED to see this movie.

The Top 100 Ultimate Action Movies of All Time

Simply Put: Everyone Should Watch Road House

The movie’s trailer is less than two minutes long, but I am certain it contains more fantastic content in it than anything on television or in any movie currently playing.

I know for a fact I will sit my kids down one day and watch Road House with them. Why? It is my firm belief that it should be standard viewing for any American male entering adulthood. Why? It answers any question he may have. Topics such as fighting, women, philosophy and others are covered in Road House.

Even how to respond when someone tells you, “I thought you’d be bigger.”

Let us know what you what you think in the comments!

The Most Villainous Bad Guys in Ultimate Action Movie History

The Best Bad Guy Villains You Love to Hate.

For UAMC fans, an ultimate action movie really only needs two things. One, an ultimate action movie star. And two, an ultimately villainous bad guy’s butt to kick. The badder the bad guy, the better the butt kicking and the more ultimate the action. Even those that we love to hate deserve to be kicked around a bit before they meet their ultimate demise. So, let’s look at 10 of the baddest of the bad from some of of the most ultimate action movies known to mankind.

10. The Night Slasher: Cobra (1986)

Sylvester Stallone’s Marion Cobretti represents everything we love in an ultimate action movie hero. He’s an idealistic lone wolf cop whose lip curls at the mere thought of any unruly punk stepping out of line.

In Cobra, citizens are terrorized by a supremacist group of strung out wackos looking to bring about a new world order. The Night Slasher (played by Brian Thompson), is the craziest, stringiest, mouth-foaming bad guy in the bunch.

As far as final showdowns go, the Night Slasher’s inevitable fate impaled on a meat hook drawn through a furnace is about as ultimate as they come. And great justice for any creep bold enough to torment Brigitte Nielsen in Cobra’s town.


9. Clarence Boddicker: RoboCop (1987)

Like Cobra, action movies in the late 80s thrived on terrifying movie-goers with strung out, yet well manicured junk heads who snapped like hounds at any man, woman or child they saw on the streets. Clarence Boddicker, though, was of a different level.

Played by Kurtwood Smith (perhaps best known as Red Forman on That ‘70s Show), Boddicker seamless blends between his manic street thug gang and the corporate aristocracy which RoboCop equally lampoon’s throughout.

His volatile temper shoots from zero to a million in an instant, and his dangerous and creepy demeanor makes his death (not executive Dick Jones’) RoboCop’s greatest triumph.


8. Roy Batty: Blade Runner (1982)

Before American audiences were fed a fear of hopped up street punks, the biggest foes in early 80s action movies were those who could only be defined as ambiguously foreign.

With Blade Runner’s blend of action and science fiction mind games, Roy Batty (played by Dutch actor Rutger Hauer) fits the bill for a perfectly generic looking android who has an accent. Unlike other android villains, Batty’s sophistication and clear blue eyes somehow makes him that much more sinister.

While his end is met as sort of an anti-climax by action movie standards, Batty stands as a tentpole for what a non-American, non-human bad guy can be.


7. Richie Madano: Out for Justice (1991)

It’s a well-established fact that Steven Seagal is the toughest tough guy in action movie history. His no bull crap demeanor and supreme confidence in himself and his abilities is rarely challenged throughout his movie career.

So, it takes a certain anti-tough guy presence to counter Seagal’s impermeability. That guy is Richie Madano in Out for Justice, played by the equally celebrated tough guy bad guy William Forsythe who basically plays some version of the same character in everything he does. But in Out of Justice, it’s his best performance by far. Take this scene for example where Madano, at the height of his gangster inner-city power, point blankly shoots a woman driver in the face because she honks at him in broad daylight.

Forsythe’s performance powers the entire flick, which gives Seagal ample opportunity to bust heads and tough guy it up when he goes looking for Richie.


6. Fender Tremolo: Cyborg (1989)

An unlikely classic from Cannon Films‘ heyday of ultimate 80s action, Albert Pyun’s early Jean Claude Van Damme vehicle stands out for its ultimately awful cyborg bad guy Fender Tremolo.

Played by Vincent Klyn (who also has a notable bad guy role in Point Break – albeit a minor one at that), Tremolo cuts quite a figure up against Van Damme in one of the most ultimate (and probably longest) final showdowns of all time.

Tremolo’s ferocity and maniacal fighting ability pairs well with his vampire bat looking features and animalistic grunts and screams. Plus he just keeps. popping. up. again. Van Damme has to conjure every split kick roundhouse he has just to get Tremolo down again and again.


5. Ramon Cota: Delta Force 2 (1990)

The American drug epidemic of the 80s found a new form to fear in action movies with the shadowy, menacing drug lords. From this vein of evil-doers we have Ramon Cota up against Chuck Norris in Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection, a merciless dictator and drug peddler from the “NOT Colombia” South American country San Carlos.

Ramon (played by Billy Drago) has an aura of sleaze and ruthlessness that is a rare sight to see. One dark example of his personality is when he catches one of the female workers in the cocaine fields tending to her child instead of toiling away.

He immediately has her husband and baby murdered and we later find that he, of course, used the dead child’s body as a method to smuggle drugs into the United States.


4. Bennett: Commando (1985)

What. to. Say. about. Bennett. In a movie where Arnold is an indestructible force as they come, he’s pitted up against a tubby, whiney chainmail mall cop who has a face his own parents would love to slap around.

Throughout 80 plus minutes of Commando, Bennett (played by Vernon Wells) does absolutely nothing to warrant any fear, respect or intrigue, yet as far as ultimate final battles go, there’s none more memorable and awesome. Maybe that’s what’s so endearing about Bennett.

It’s a huge suspension of disbelief that he could match strength with Arnold’s arm cannons, so when he does meet his end, it’s to the thankful relief of everyone (probably himself included) that it can be delivered with the greatest one-liner of all time.


3. The Terminator / T-1000: The Terminator / Terminator 2 (tie)

We actually have a tie here at number 3. It’s hard to disconnect Arnold the Terminator from his role in the original Terminator, with the nurturing protector Terminator he becomes in T2.

Luckily, Robert Patrick’s performance as the T-1000 is such an demonstratively refined killing machine, that we can reach a draw. While the Terminator kills with a curt and monotone manner which seems unstoppable by his sheer size and strength, the T-1000 is equal parts terrifying with his intense and resolute demeanor.

You know that both these guys will quite literally stop at nothing to accomplish their missions, and even when they do, you kinda doubt that another one won’t just be sent again tomorrow.


2. Chong Li: Bloodsport (1988)

Early in his career, Van Damme forged his superstar career by showcasing his martial arts prowess in these tournament style flicks like Bloodsport. We could just as easily talk about his matchup against Tong Po (Michel Qissi) in Kickboxer, but here at the UAMC, we just love Bloodsport so much!

It also has Bolo Yeung as Chong Li, who is as ultimate as they come. Not only does he put Ray Dux’s buddy Ray Jackson in the hospital, Li’s dangerous pecs and utter lack of respect for everything the Kumite stands makes for an epic final battle for the ages.

Bolo Yeung, an accomplish martial artist in his own right, made quite a career based off of this performance and even got a rematch against JCVD in Double Impact (spoiler: he loses. again.)


1. Hans Gruber: Die Hard (1988)

Ah, now finally we can talk about an action movie villain with class. Die Hard is more than your average action flick. It’s a classic. It’s a holiday staple. And it has an elegance to it which is 100% delivered by Alan Rickman’s performance as the sophisticated, well-spoken and ultimately deadly Hans Gruber.

A role so deftly delivered that all action movie villains after will aspire to match. Bruce Willis, for all his boyish likability and ingenuity, feels like hardly a deserving foe matching speeches like Gruber’s ‘Alexander Wept’ with cowboy quotes like ‘yippie-ki-yay’.

Yet, when Gruber meets his end, like all villains do, we’re left with a resolute ending that’s both glorious as it is disappointing that we can’t see Gruber live so that we can all buy stock in his splinter cell organization and wait for him to eventually take over the world.


Honorable Mentions:

For the amount of ultimately awesome action movies out there, narrowing a list down to a top 10 means there are many ultimate bad guys who barely didn’t make the cut.

While many famous bad guys are left off simply because they’re not from the 80s and 90s heyday which the UAMC is all about, here are several who deserve to be mentioned and appreciated on their own: Bill Strannix in Under Siege, the Predator in Predator, Kurgan in Highlander, Qualen in Cliffhanger, Benedict in Last Action Hero, Gary Busey (Joshua) in Lethal Weapon, Chains Cooper in Stone Cold, Scorpio in Dirty Harry, Viktor Rostavili in Red Heat, Joan Freeman in Murphy’s Law, Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man, Warden Drumgoole in Lock Up and of course Hans Gruber’s brother Simon in Die Hard with a Vengeance.

Let us know what you what you think in the comments!

Nicolas Cage in ‘Con Air’ – The 90s Action Hero We Never Knew We Needed (Part 2)

Con Air (1997): Part 2 of the Beige Volvo Trilogy

Note: This is part 2 of The Beige Volvo Trilogy. Read Part 1 on ‘The Rock’ first!

Whoa, baby. This is it. The Nicolas Cage masterpiece we’ve been waiting for. Although there is one more film in The Beige Volvo trilogy, this is the apex of the entire saga. The mecca. The holy grail of not only Cage Action, but all of 90s action. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am talking about… CON AIR! A Jerry Bruckheimer production (his first without longtime co-producing partner Don Simpson, who died during production of The Rock), and directed by former commercial director Simon West, Con Air is a movie so jacked up on testosterone and so gloriously over the top that it double backs on itself.

You could literally feel the dude sweat pouring off the screen. If this movie were a gymnast, it would win all the gold medals at the Olympics. It so perfectly encapsulates everything that was great about 80s action and 90s action. There are just so many good things I can say about this movie. I might make this article a two-parter. Just kidding, but not really. The love I have for this movie is immeasurable. But I know what you’re thinking. Why?? What is it about this movie that makes you love it so much?? Well, let me start at the beginning…

“This Spring, Buckle Up!”

It was 1996. The Rock was just released on VHS after a successful theatrical run. Ahhhh… The good old days of VHS. After popping it in the VCR, the usual stuff occurs: FBI warnings, logos, etc. Then, a trailer came on. But it wasn’t just any trailer. It was the teaser trailer for Con Air. And… my god, was it a thing of beauty. The great Hal Douglas narrating an epic 90 second montage of fire and fury. Cars Crashing. Guns blazing. Fireballs raging. And in the midst of it all, the Cage Man himself. All chiseled and cut up as fiercely as 80s Action Mount Rushmore member Sylvester Stallone was in Rambo III.

And with a beautiful mane of hair swaying so elegantly in the background like Superman’s cape. It was unbelievable. My 12 year old eyes couldn’t believe all the awesomeness they were seeing. As an all American kid in love with all things action, I was in love. I must’ve watched that trailer about 200 times after that. Hell, I’d pop in the VHS just to watch the trailer. To hell with The Rock. And this is coming from someone who loves that movie. But until June 6th 1997, I watched that trailer over and over, practically every day until the movie came out. And when it finally came out?? It was a revelation! A cinematic seminar of bodacious badassness! I was in complete awe in that theater. But that was 1997. It’s 20 years later. Does it still hold up?

Welcome to Con Air

Cage plays Cameron Poe, a former army ranger recently paroled after serving 8 years in prison for killing a man in self defense. How did he kill him you ask? By SHOVING HIS NOSE INTO HIS BRAIN! Nice! He is scheduled to take a flight on The Jailbird, a prisoner transfer plane overseen by US Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack). Also scheduled to take this flight is his friend/cellmate Baby O (Mykelti Williamson), as well as dangerous convicts William “Billy Bedlam” Bedford (Nick Chinlund), Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones (Ving Rhames), John “Johnny 23″ Baca (Danny Trejo), and Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), who are being flown to a new supermax prison. During the flight, Grissom and Jones manage to hijack the plane, and plan on meeting up with drug lord Francisco Cindino (Jesse Borrego) at another transfer, who has conspired with them to escape from custody and flee the country on another plane at a different location.

At that transfer, they acquire pilot Earl “Swamp Thing” Williams (M.C. Gainey) and notorious mass murderer Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene (Steve Buscemi) in the process. Having the chance to get off and finally reunite with his wife Trisha and daughter Casey, Poe decides to stay on the plane as to watch over Baby O, who is a diabetic and in desperate need of insulin, and guard Sally Bishop (Rachel Ticotin), who after being taken hostage during the hijacking, is being harassed by Johnny 23, a serial rapist. While on board, he finds “creative” ways to correspond with Larkin, forming an unusual partnership in the process. Poe thought his ranger days were over, but he’s about to find out he still has one day left to be a hero. And today… just happens to be that day.

Love your work!

One of the defining things about Con Air is not just the action, but the cast. I mean, how could it not be? Cage. Cusack. Malkovich. Buscemi. Rhames. Trejo. Chinlund. Hell, even a young Dave Chappelle shows up! This is quality casting here! In my opinion, this is the last great action movie cast until Expendables 2 15 years later, which was also directed by Simon West (Why did I skip the first Expendables? Because the cast in part 2 is better. Sue me.) And leading them is Cage, an all American he-man with a hilariously thick southern drawl. And an amazing mullet. Seriously. His mullet is top 5 movie mullets of all time. I’d put it at number 2, second only to The Boz’s ultra-pelt from Stone Cold. Cage’s Poe is a man’s man. Tough, but caring. Strong, yet sensitive. A man who would just as diligently walk an old lady across the street as he would break a guy’s neck. Justifiably, of course. He isn’t someone who takes pleasure in killing, and after offing a bad guy, is visibly upset. But, if push comes to shove, he will do what he has to do.

Such an interesting contrast to the cold blooded killing machines of the 80s. Just a hard man with a conscience. I like that. Going against him is Malkovich’s Cyrus, a borderline brilliant guy, but sociopathic all the same. Malkovich kinda portrays Cyrus almost like a demented Dennis Miller. Exacting, methodical, and coldhearted, Cyrus is a bad guy’s bad guy. And Malkovich as Cyrus is a blast to watch. A really fun character. Even though he is incredibly evil. Rounding out the leads is Cusack, who seems to be having no fun. Seriously, he walks around with a “why am I here?” expression throughout the entire movie. It’s obvious he did this purely for the check. And while he doesn’t completely sandbag his performance, he is clearly phoning it in. The rest of the cast back them up ably, particularly Buscemi as Greene, a wholly insane murderer that’s, oddly enough, played for laughs. Yeah, we were still in that weird time when murderers could be considered funny, i.e. Freddy Krueger. But it is what it is, and Buscemi is the true standout of the cast.

Put… the bunny… back… in the box

But enough of that, let’s get to why we’re really here: ACTION!!! Now, I must say… this movie isn’t brimming with wall to wall action. But it feels like it is. And I think that’s because it’s shot, edited and directed with such frenetic energy that the whole thing feels like one long action sequence. It’s as if the movie was coated in nitroglycerin and if it didn’t throw in a thousand pounds of awesome per minute before the end, it would explode. And when the action does come, it is exquisite. Fisticuffs. Epic gun battles. Chases. Crashes. This movie was actually unique in that it combined 80s action movie aesthetics with 90s action movie characteristics, particularly the disaster movie. See, back in the mid to late 90s, disaster movies were all the rage. Twister. Independence Day. Daylight. Dante’s Peak. Just to name a few. Big destruction scenes were really popular, and that seems to have been incorporated in Con Air, much to our pleasure.

Things blow up really big and really good. Debris flies past people only inches away from their heads. And fireballs. Fireballs everywhere. Fireballs engulf so many scenes in this I think this actually started out as a sequel to The Towering Inferno. Irwin Allen would be proud. Do I have a favorite sequence? Gotta be between the epic gun battle at the airfield and the plane crash on the Las Vegas strip. Awe Inspiring stuff here. Simon West really steers this ship confidently, stylishly and assuredly. I thought he was going to give Michael Bay a run for his money after this, but that turned out to not be the case. He did a few things here and there (The General’s Daughter, Tomb Raider) but nothing came close to the peaks he reached with Con Air until Expendables 2. And after watching that, I believe he still has it. He just needs the right projects.

Make a move and the bunny gets it

Any nitpicks? Aside from the aforementioned phoned in performance from Cusack, I have a problem with SPOILER ALERT!!!: the deaths of the villains at the climax. Now, I don’t mean Cyrus. He has an epically badass death. See, I am a firm believer in that an action movie is only as great as its main villain, and a great villain deserves a great death. And by god, does Cyrus get one! No, that’s not it. Actually, my problem is with the deaths of Nathan and Swamp Thing. You see, after the plane crashes in Las Vegas, Cyrus, Nathan and Swamp Thing escape and steal a fire truck as Poe and Larkin give chase on motorcycles. And while trying to jump onto the fire truck, Poe sends his bike crashing into Nathan, killing him. And… it’s such a cop out of a death.

It’s as if the screenwriter could not think of a creative way to get rid of Nathan, so he just wrote “The bike crashes into him… for some reason.” Same thing with Swamp Thing. Larkin jumps on top of the truck and pumps water into it (how he manages to accomplish this as the truck is in motion and therefore cannot pump water is beyond me), and when the truck crashes into a car, Swamp Thing goes flying through the windshield… because?? I know that can actually happen, but the truck was still in motion! It was going full speed ahead! How does he go flying through the windshield?? Ugh! Look at me, looking for logic in Con Air. I should know better. END OF SPOILERS!!!

Cy… Onara

All in all, in my opinion, Con Air still holds up 20 years after its release. One of, if not the, quintessential 90s action movies. It takes what we loved about our action movies in the 80s and blended it with what we liked in our action in the 90s. And with Cage kicking ass as only he can, makes it even better. With this one, he went from Nic Cage to Nicolas MuthaF**kin Cage in a millisecond. He could do no wrong in my eyes. He was 2 for 2, baby. Back to back grand slams out the park. But, like all good things… Yep, we are now up to the final chapter in The Beige Volvo trilogy. The swan song. The epic conclusion known as… Face/Off. But that is another tale.

My daddy taught me that

Side note: I can understand if you’re not convinced as to why I love this movie so much. So let me leave you with this little tidbit. Back when this came out, The Lost World: Jurassic Park had come out a month prior. Me and my dad had seen it and enjoyed it. The weekend Con Air was released, my father had some business to attend to. So we most likely wouldn’t see it until Sunday. My cousin was over that weekend, so I hung out with him in the meantime. Then, out of nowhere, my older cousin’s husband (who also lived in the same building with me and my family) walked up to us and invited only my cousin to go with him to see Lost World. I wasn’t invited because he said I already saw it. Mind you, he didn’t know that. He just said I couldn’t come because I’d seen it.

So, they left and I dejectedly went back upstairs to my apartment. When my father heard about this, he told me to grab my stuff and get in the car. He must’ve been so tired from working, but he said “Nobody is gonna leave my son stranded like that!” So we went to a theater with the biggest screen I had ever seen in my life. Got me a huge bucket of popcorn with some Twizzlers and a big soda, and we enjoyed the hell out of that movie. And when we got home? “Hey man, where’d you go? You went to see Con Air? Why didn’t you tell us? We would’ve went with you guys instead of Lost World!” And I said… “It’s ok. I already saw that with my dad.” HA! I was petty! But that’s why I love that movie so much. Not just because of how awesome it is, but because it’s a reminder of how awesome my dad is. Just thought I’d close out with that. Until next time…

Let us know what you think about the article in the comments!

UAMC Interview: ‘Commando Ninja’ Kickstarter Creator

Commando + Ninjas = Commando Ninja (2018)

If you were to ask me who was the first action hero I wanted to be when I was a kid, I’d know the answer in a heartbeat: Snake-Eyes from G.I. Joe. Between his all-black action figure and the Marvel comic book run of the 80s (the TV show barely used him, strongly favoring Duke instead), he was the guy who encapsulated all that being an action hero was to me. And, two words associated with him were purely epic: “commando” and “ninja”.

As one of the “original” (I use that word in quotes because the G.I. Joe toy line of the 80s was in itself a reboot on the 1960s line) G.I. Joe soldiers, his character description was listed simply as “Commando.” It was his job to infiltrate enemy territory and complete his mission — but do so in as clandestine manner as possible. He could accomplish such a feat because he was trained by the Arashikage clan in Japan, i.e., he was an American ninja.

But when push came to shove, and circumstances dictated that he use his trusted Uzi or katana sword, no number of enemy combatants were safe from his wrath.

Throw in the facts that A) he couldn’t speak because his vocal cords were damaged when he saved Scarlett (the unit’s incredibly attractive redhead intelligence agent) from flaming helicopter wreckage, and B) he wore a mask to keep his identity a secret at all times, and you had the perfect action hero to a young me.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon an upcoming Kickstarter campaign for an independent film from Ben Combes called Commando Ninja. Based on the trailer below and my undying affinity for Snake-Eyes and all that he stands for, I knew I had to get in touch with Ben to learn more about the project.

UAMC Interview: ‘Commando Ninja’ Creator

John Acquavita: Ever since I heard of your Kickstarter campaign, I’ve been salivating to watch this movie. I’ll try to help promote it in any way I can, and I think this is a good start. So, how did you come up with the idea for Commando Ninja?

Ben Combes: First, thank you very much for salivating over our movie! I’m an independent filmmaker and a lover of 80s action hero movies. I first dreamt of making my own movie five years ago, set in the 80s. When I saw the success of Kung Fury and the 80s revival wave, I thought it was now or never. At first, I hit a stumbling block because I couldn’t find the perfect “American hero,” but when I met Eric Carlesi, we immediately started the project.

JA: What films influenced you for the project?
BC: The project is more than influenced; it’s a tribute to my favorite 80s action movies, and you’ll be able to recognize each of them in different scenes. The main influences are:

  • Commando
  • Predator
  • Terminator
  • American Ninja
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • 3 Ninjas
  • Mad Max

Of course, there are a lot more…

Funding an Ultimate Action Movie

JA: What are your funding goals for the project? Ideally, how much would you like to raise?
BC: Our funding goal is $30,000. If we raise that, we’ll be able to properly finish the movie. The good news is that the movie is already half-way finished. This money is intended to shoot the most expensive scenes, do the post-production and create the physical rewards.

JA: Kickstarter is rife with projects that never get off the ground. What incentives can people look forward to receiving if they decide to fund your film?
BC: First, with this movie, people will receive a love letter to their favorite 80s action movies, full of nostalgia: action, muscles, crude language, humor, violence — without limitations.

Of course, there will be rewards: a Blu-ray with behind-the-scenes footage and commentaries, T-shirts, posters, and if we get more money than expected, action figures!

JA: Is this your first major film funded through Kickstarter? If not, can you tell us a little about the previous one(s)?
BC: Yes, it is! I don’t know if “major film” would be the correct term, as our project is a 45-minute short film, independently self-produced.

JA: The trailer for Commando Ninja is beyond epic! When are you hoping to release the film?
BC: Thank you! We hope to be able to release it before this summer.

JA: In the event the film is well received by the audience (which I highly suspect it will, based solely on the trailer), will you consider filming a sequel?
BC: This is a major question. You have to realize that the film (due to various economic and personal reasons) is only the first part of the story. Our idea is to tell the other part in a top-down shooter video game. Producing a 45-minute independent action movie was already a huge challenge! But of course, if the movie succeeds beyond expectations, and we are solicited, we will think about that!

Capturing 80s Action Movie Nostalgia

JA: Any final words you’d like to say about the project?
BC: While I was making this project, I re-watched again all my favorite action movies starring the likes of: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Seagal, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, and Dudikoff. I watched them all again and thought, “My god, this is the thirtieth time I’ve watched this movie and I can’t get tired of it. How is that possible? What are the details in those movies that make them tireless to watch?” As a lot of people hate those movies, but I think this is all about growing up with them and growing up with real heroes, not super heroes. I hope my project, at this independent movie level, will be able to bring you the nostalgia and the envy to plunge you back into 80s action movies.

(And kill Communists).

For more info on this project, check out the Kickstarter here – and get more updates on the creator’s Facebook page here.

Part Tony Manero, part Rocky Balboa, John Acquavita is a N.Y.-area transplant currently living in Ohio. He uses his “particular set of skills” to contribute to various websites covering 1980s-era action movies.

Let us know what you what you think in the comments!

In Memory of Shotgun Jones’ Baadasssss Song

Ian ‘Shotgun’ Jones Lives On.

Welcome to Los Angeles. It’s 1989 and a mad basher is picking up hookers and killing them in cheap hotel rooms. The streets are dirty, the drugs are flowing in from across the border, and justice has a name – Ian “Shotgun” Jones

This is Shotgun, the PM Entertainment direct-to-video action masterpiece that follows the exploits of a lanky white cop (played by Stuart Chapin) with a penchant for firearms and dispelling his own brand of violent justice.

With a partner dynamic lifted directly from the pages of Lethal Weapon, and one-one-hundred-fiftieth the budget, Shotgun is the epitome of low-budget action films. But while it has all the trappings of any super-cheap production – clunky dialogue, reused sets and locations, unsatisfyingly bizarre story arcs and one cop cliché after another – Shotgun works on a level that many micro-budget movies can only dream of.

He used to carry a badge, now he carries a shotgun

While many cops deal with the seedy underbelly of society, Ian Jones has a complicated relationship with it. His sister is a call girl, and he and his partner Max (played by Rif Hutton, who went on to star as Dr. Ron Welch in Doogie Howser, M.D.) are familiar with the prostitutes on their beat. When they start showing up in disgusting hotel rooms beaten to death, Ian and Max take it personally.

But, as they’re chasing down the perps, internal affairs division is hot to bust Jones for police brutality and boot him off the force. IAD eventually gets their wish, and Jones becomes a shotgun-toting bounty hunter (he prefers skip tracer) allowing him to continue his pursuit of the man behind the killings.

Hot on the killer’s tail, Jones takes a tank down to Mexico for one final epic desert standoff – completed with people on fire, explosions, grandiose gunplay and justice dispersed with a shotgun.

The man behind the gun

Stuart Chapin was an unlikely star. With basically no acting credits to his name, the long-limbed, red-haired Chapin really wasn’t an actor. He was a writer who moved out to California when his script got some attention. Working as a word processor for a large law firm when his girlfriend at the time, who was an actress, dared him to go on an audition. He auditioned for a different PM Entertainment movie and was subsequently cast in the lead of Shotgun.

“I wasn’t out to be an actor, as you can tell,” Chapin said in an interview with ‘80s Picture House. “I went out for the first audition, it was at PM Entertainment, which was just some office block in Sun Valley. They gave me a script for a J. Jonah Jameson type and I just tore into it. Chomped my imaginary stogie. And they came back and said, ‘we cast that part differently, but we want you for Ian “Shotgun” Jones.’ I came back and got the script, and it was the lead.”

Chapin said the movie was shot in 10 days for $100,000 – no permits, no union performers, no costumes, (he had to wear his own clothes), no green room. He made $100 a day. They went through 20 pages of script a day, shooting at least 12 hours a day. There were no second takes. Good for picture, good for sound, moving on.

All the while, Chapin knew what he was making.

“This is a Lethal Weapon rip off. Actually, it’s a Mel Gibson rip off.” He said. “We start off with Lethal Weapon and we end with Mad Max.”

Chapin auditioned for a few other things after Shotgun, but he didn’t have the drive to continue his acting career. He did work as a specialty extra, including as a swordfighter in Hook (1991). He wrote and directed the horror comedy Deadlock (1997) and played a couple of roles in the web series The Hunted – a project by his brother, visual effects artist Robert Chapin. He eventually left California and became a public school creative writing teacher.

The Legend of Shotgun Jones

Shotgun never hit American theaters. PM Entertainment presold it to the Bolivian market – making it immediately profitable. It was released in the U.S. and the rest of the world directly to video stores with very little promotion and a video box featuring a voluptuous blond who wasn’t even in the movie. Like most PM Entertainment movies, viewers had to discover it by accident.

Saying Shotgun has a cult following would be generous. Even the most hard-core video hound would have had a hard time finding a copy at their local video store – wedged somewhere between Shocker and Tango & Cash. But today there is an immense amount of appreciation for Shotgun.

The aforementioned ‘80s Picture House has an annual Stuart Chapin Day on June 7 (Chapin’s birthday), which includes a viewing of Shotgun, and several other action aficionados (Explosive Action, Movies or Minutes, Stomp Tokyo) have expressed deep admiration for Shotgun

There’s good reason for it. Despite its shortcomings, Shotgun is unbelievably watchable. From the guitar-heavy soundtrack to the over-the-top gunfights (and Chapin’s awesome sweater), it is the ultimate in cheap action movies.

Sadly, the last Stuart Chapin Day was the first one without Chapin. In the summer of 2016, Chapin lost his nine-year battle with colorectal cancer. But up until the end, he was tickled that Shotgun was still expanding its audience.

“I’ve got nothing but affection for this movie” Chapin said jokingly to ‘80s Picture House. “That, and, great embarrassment.”

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.

Let us know what you what you think in the comments!

An Ultimate Ranking of the Dirty Harry Movies

Ranked Dirty Harry Movies
Ranked Dirty Harry Movies

The Best of Dirty Harry Callahan. Ranked.

Dirry Harry Ranked
The very best of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry franchise films!

Tough assignment, this one. The Dirty Harry franchise is my favorite action movie series. Why? Clint Eastwood, of course! The man redefines bad ass in these movies, and his charisma and “don’t give a damn” attitude puts other Hollywood tough guys to shame, even now.

I grew up on these flicks. When I was 8, I saw the first film on VHS, then the second, then the third, and then the fourth. I was lucky enough in 1989 to catch Clint Eastwood star in The Dead Pool on the big screen during its Australian theatrical run, and I LOVED IT!!

I’m expecting to catch hell for my rankings, as this beloved films series has created much debate among fans, and left-wing commies who consider the pics nothing more than an extended advert for fascism. The commies couldn’t be more wrong.

5. MAGNUM FORCE (1973) Director: Ted Post

Magnum Force Ranked

Harry’s second adventure is certainly bigger and more epic than the first, but it’s also far more complicated and preachy than it needs to be, and as a result, the pacing of the movie feels off, and at 124 minutes, is mercilessly long-winded. This time Harry is up against a gang of vigilante cops who will stop at nothing, and spare no one, in their quest to rid San Fran of crime. If civilians get in the way, it ain’t their problem.

In case trailer doesn’t work – click here.

Naturally, Harry is soon in their crosshairs and fighting for his life. While it’s interesting that despite his brutal tactics and take-no-prisoners attitude, Harry himself is against the vigilantes. They fight the crime, without compromise. He fights to protect the people and uphold the law, well, his version of the law. 

There’s certainly some meaty stuff to this film, but by the time the conclusion comes around, it all ends rather drearily. Thankfully the film survives by the effortless charisma of Eastwood and his sterling supporting cast. The shooting range sequence ain’t half bad either!

The Birth of ‘The Man with No Name’ Action Movie Archetype

4. THE DEAD POOL (1988) Director: Buddy Van Horn

The Dead Pool Dirty Harry Ranked

Eastwood’s last appearance as gruff San Francisco inspector Harry Callahan came to be when Eastwood promised his long-standing homebase studio Warner Bros. a hit after they financed some personal films he wanted to make. Instead of phoning it in (not Clint’s style), he delivers a violent, albeit somewhat lighter, Harry adventure that passes comment on media manipulation and political correctness gone mad.

In case trailer doesn’t work – click here.

All of this occurs while Harry and his new Asian partner are chasing a serial killer, and fighting off murderous mobsters who want to bury Harry. It didn’t seem like much at the time, but the story is more relevant than ever now, and Clint easily slips back into the character with ease.

And there is some strange comfort from watching him blast the hell out of bad guys with his now legendary .44 magnum. Not as solid as some of the other entries, but still fun. And Lalo Schifrin’s music is an added bonus. Harry’s final one liner is a scream!

Cop: James Woods Gives New Meaning to the Genre

3. THE ENFORCER (1976) Director: James Fargo

Dirty Harry The Enforcer Ranked

Back to the formula that worked so well, The Enforcer is more of a straight up cop vs. crims action/thriller. And a damn good one, and definitely the most accessible of the series. There’s a little bit of plot, involving Harry taking on some terrorists who wanna blow the hell out of his beloved city, but mostly the film is about Harry and his new partner, Kate Moore, played perfectly by Tyne Daly.

In case trailer doesn’t work – click here.

Moore somehow unlocks the softer side of Harry, and to our surprise, he lets her in. The two actors work well together, the direction is sharp and fast and there isn’t any dead points in the screenplay. The action sequences are brutal, like the opening liquor store robbery and climax on Alcatraz, and there’s also a brilliantly realized and shot foot chase over the rooftops of San Francisco that makes the most of the city’s stunning locations.

Funny but also moving, thrilling, and loaded with the requisite .44 magnum shootouts, The Enforcer is easily one of the best in the Callahan series. I frequently go back to it all the time. Regular series composer Schifrin was unavailable and was replaced with noted jazz composer Jerry Fielding, who’s score is, not surprisingly, jazzy and full of beat, and perfectly in tone with the mid 70’s culture of the film. All and all, a well-made and explosive effort in the franchise with another mega-star turn by Clint.

Ranking the Die Hard Movies From Worst To Best

2 SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) Director: Clint Eastwood

Dirty Harry Sudden Impact Ranked

This is a tough one, and the end result was almost a tie. In Sudden Impact, Callahan is after a lone shooter, who is gunning down perverts all over San Fran and neighboring cities. He’s also got his hands full with some mobsters who blame Harry for their death of their beloved don. Harry did in fact cause him to have a heart attack at his daughter’s wedding, and the scene is definitely one of the pic’s highlights as it is humorless, and showcases Harry’s utter contempt for crime.

In case trailer doesn’t work – click here!

Unlike the other Harry films, this one has a little more on its mind – is murder a crime if the victims deserve it? Harry soon finds himself attracted to the vigilante shooter, played by his then real-life live-in love Sondra Locke, and he begins questioning his belief in the law. Eastwood brings Harry full circle as a cop sworn to uphold the law, to man who realize that the justice system has let down a victim. He knows he’ll have to abandon what he believes to make it right. Sudden Impact is an effective, and bold entry into the series, and even with all the story and nuances, it still manages to deliver the expected shootouts and violent thrills we’ve come to love from a Dirty Harry picture.

It’s got it all: Vile bad guys. Check. Cool music. Check. Excellent action scenes. Check.  And the film has a great supporting turn from Locke, who is given a meaty role for a change. Incidentally, this is was the only Dirty Harry film that Eastwood chose to direct himself, maybe because of the story and potential for impact, and it’s the best looking film in the series by far. Well done, sir.

VHS Classics: Wings Hauser in DEADLY FORCE (1983)

1 DIRTY HARRY (1971) Director: Don Siegel

Dirty Harry Movies Ranked

Renegade cops exacting their own brand of justice on criminals might seem like old hat these days, but back in 1971, it was unique, and when Dirty Harry arrived, it exploded across screens, introducing a new modern hero to audiences: San Francisco Inspector Harry Callahan. Already familiar with audiences from his spaghetti westerns and TV shows, Eastwood made the role his own, and ended up making himself a superstar in the process. The story is straight forward, a grizzled cop is after a homicidal killer who is gunning down innocents all over the city, but thanks to the earnest, and almost confronting style of the film, it seems fresh, scary and even worse, real.

Back in the day, Hollywood cops were well-dressed, well-spoken gents who wore fedoras and packed snub-nose .38 revolvers. Their methods of catching of the bad guys was straight forward, and legal. Harry is the polar opposite of these past law enforcers. Hard-boiled, bitter, angry, and packing a giant .44 magnum. Harry is no gentleman and he has his own rules. It was quite a culture shock to audiences back in 71 and the film still holds up to this day. Andrew Robinson must get a special shout at as the villain. He is so sick and repulsive that by the time the end of the films rolls around, we can’t wait for Harry to blow a giant hole in him. 

In case trailer doesn’t work – click here!

Eastwood copped flack for his performance in the film, with many civil liberties groups, the press and commies labelling his character a fascist. Of course, he didn’t care, and went on to make four more of these hugely successful films, and thank God he did. Modern action cinema entered a new era when Dirty Harry premiered, and it’s safe to say we wouldn’t have gotten other classics actioners like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard had this film not come out. Eastwood introduced the “silent loner” hero with Harry, and other big stars like Stallone, Seagal and Norris soon followed his lead. Imagine if they hadn’t?

Dirty Harry was a one-of-a-kind movie that launched a whole new genre. The film is too well made and acted to be dismissed as popcorn entertainment, and that’s why it’s still awesome today. Anyone who hasn’t seen these film, needs to check ‘em out – now!!

From a small country town where not many films played, Kent Church grew up on a steady diet of Coca Cola, horror magazines and action movies on VHS. If the movie didn’t have Chuck Norris or Eastwood on the cover, he wasn’t interested. His one core belief: Arnold Schwarzenneger must be President!! And James Woods vice –President…

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Kung Fury: What Michael Fassbender Signing on Means For the Feature Length Release

Retro CGI Send-up ‘Kung Fury’ is Set to Go Big Screen.

In case you missed it, some totally tubular dudes from Sweden brought us all back in time with their Kickstarter mega-hit Kung Fury, which was up until now, a fun, tongue-in-cheek, CGI-filled romp through 80s action flick nostalgia. However, a long planned feature length version looks to be finally on its way. Plus has a big name star already attached – no, not just David Hasselhoff. Although he is in it!

The Most Ultimate Crowdfunding Video of All Time

Way back in 2012, David Sandberg, a music video director slash 80s love child living in Sweden quit his day editing job and scraped together $5,000 to produce one of the most insane and ambitious send-ups to action movie cinema ever conceived. An initial kickstarter campaign was launched, which included a trailer with details about the balls-to-the-wall project, showcasing Sandberg’s creative CGI chops and spot on impersonation of 80s action movie cheese.

The project, which asked for $200,000 went on to raise over $600,000 and took the internet by storm. Expectations were high, but as promised, a stellar 30 minute version was completed and generally met with kick-in-the-face laud and approval.

David Hasselhoff Approved

There’s little reason to doubt Sandberg’s 80s action credibility, as one of his first calls on the heels of his kickstarter’s runaway success was to German pop sensation David Hasselhoff, who Sandberg watched as kid in Knight Rider. You can read about the phone call here, but Hasselhoff was quick to sign on and even provided the theme song for Kung Fury, which Sandberg returned the favor for by directing an equally insane music video for his track ‘True Survivor‘.

The Long Rumored Feature Length Version

For those curious, here is the 30-minute version of Kung Fury released free online.

Now six years since the original Kickstarter introduced Kung Fury to the world, the ultimate goal has always been a feature length version of the project. While the concept has been pretty quick to the punch as a short and funny send-up, a feature length version would need to find a way to take a one-joke pony and turn it into something that the greater public can get behind for a likely 90 minutes.

Which makes the most recent news, as reported by Hollywood Reporter, that Michael Fassbender is joining the cast, a serious step in the right direction. Fassbender is perhaps best known for major action roles as Magneto in X-Men (First Class, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse) as well as an android in Alien: Covenant (and Prometheus) and more serious roles in Steve Jobs and 12 Years a Slave. But pedigree aside, he’s a well respected actor who should give the project a whole new level of class.

So, here at the Ultimate Action Movie Club, we’re officially stoked to see what Sandberg can put together for a feature length now that it’s been in progress for so long (and so successfully). Here’s predicting Fassbender isn’t the last big name star to sign on and definitely not the last we hear about David Sandberg and Kung Fury as part of a much needed ultimate action movie revival.

Article by Jourdan Aldredge – born in the golden year of action cinema (1987), Jourdan has been an ultimate action movie fan and avid VHS collector since high school. He is an original founding member of the Ultimate Action Movie Club and the Managing Editor of the blog.

What do you guys think of Kung Fury’s big addition? Let us know in the comments!

What Are Your Most Ultimate “So Bad, It’s Good” Movies?

We ask you, the reader, to share your favorite cult classics.

Chances are, you’ve read or clicked on a listicle article recently. The internet is full of listicles, i.e., articles in the form of lists. Some folks accuse listicle writers as being lazy by banging out a “Top 5 of the Week” story in lieu of actual research.

Either feeling something was omitted from an article that should have been included or something actually in the article wasn’t to their liking, “Top 5” listicles invariably rub readers wrong, one way or another.

So today I’m changing that and putting the onus for content on you, dear reader.

Movies That Are So Bad, They’re Good

Imagine this: It’s Saturday night, your funds are low, and no amount of swiping will result in a date for the evening. So, you do what any red-blooded American male would do in this situation: you pop in an action movie! (What did you expect me to say?)

We all know which elements define a stellar action movie, but what constitutes a movie so bad it’s actually good? What things in a bad movie would elicit someone to actually want to share the experience with a buddy? Let’s explore this and delve a little deeper, shall we?

A low budget is probably the single most common denominator of all “so bad, it’s good” movies. With limited funds to spend on things like “writing,” “acting”, “directing,” “lighting” and “special effects,” filmmakers have to get creative throughout the course of a project. Acting gets wooden. Effects look cheap. The same people are used as extras in several different scenes. Boom mics appear from time to time during a film. You get the picture.

Introducing “Cult” Movies

Unbeknownst to the people struggling to laboriously get through these projects, something magical happens: they create a cult film beloved by scores of people devoted to a genre of movies who actually appreciate their efforts.

If I was in an elevator with any U.S. Senator, Congressman or Fortune 500 CEO, I wouldn’t have any idea who they were. But if Ted PriorMike Danton from 1987’s Deadly Prey himself — was there, you’d best believe I’d recognize him and shake his hand vigorously as I thanked him for creating a timeless masterpiece.

That’s the beauty of a “so bad, it’s good” film.

What Are Your Picks?

But rather than me creating a listicle for you readers, I want to read your entries to the genre. Which movies — regardless of whether they starred action superstars such as Sly, Arnold, JCVD, Seagal, Chuck, etc. or your average B-level actor — were so bad they were good? Which ones are so beloved and endearing to you that should anyone disagree with you, the result would be a full-on, spirited disagreement?

I’ve written this piece here to chew bubblegum and read your responses. And I’m all out of bubblegum.

Part Tony Manero, part Rocky Balboa, John Acquavita is a N.Y.-area transplant currently living in Ohio. He uses his “particular set of skills” to contribute to various websites covering 1980s-era action movies.

Let us know what you what you think in the comments!

Nicolas Cage in ‘The Rock’ – The 90s Action Hero We Never Knew We Needed


At the 1996 Academy awards, Nicolas Cage was awarded the Oscar for best actor in a leading role for Leaving Las Vegas, cementing his status, at the time, as one of the best actors of our generation. Now, most actors would have parlayed that achievement into a series of Oscar bait movies. But no, not Nicolas Cage. Cage said “To hell with that, I want to be the greatest action hero ever!”

He had tried before. He starred in the 1990 action movie Firebirds aka “Great Value Top Gun, but with helicopters”. And it failed. But he persevered. And over the span of one year, he gave us three of the greatest action movies known to man, a series of movies that have become known to the world as: The Beige Volvo trilogy. Named for the reference/appearance of a beige Volvo in each movie, this series of movies took cinema fans by storm.

And while Stallone and Schwarzenegger were slumming it in movies like Cop Land and Batman & Robin, Cage was kicking all the ass in movie theaters around the globe. Probably why they did those movies. No ass left to kick. Cage kicked it all into outer space. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Let’s us settle down, and start with Chapter one: The Rock (1996).

Nicolas Cage in The Rock (1996)

The Rock was released on June 7th, 1996. It was produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (their final movie together, as Simpson passed away during production.) Also, this was the second film directed by Michael Bay, released a year after his debut, also for Simpson/Bruckheimer, Bad Boys. Yes, this was directed by Michael Bay, the cinematic apocalypse himself. But, and I say this with pure sincerity, this was a time where Bay was being touted as the next great action director. And it all came from this movie. The success of Bad Boys was attributed more to the pairing of Will Smith and Martin Lawrence than it was to Bay’s abilities as a director.

The Rock was where audiences and critics first took notice of him and declared “Hey… this guy is really good!”. Then two years later, he released Armageddon, and everybody declared “Well, maybe not.”. And you know, that’s kind of a shame. Because some of his movies have turned out to be almost unwatchable, his entire filmography is considered a joke. And good movies like this one, The Island, as well as 13 Hours, have become guilty by association. And that’s just not fair. Because this movie kicks so much ass! So enough background, let’s get into the juicy bits!

Stanley Not-so-Goodspeed

Cage plays Stanley Goodspeed (I’m not kidding), a meekish FBI agent who is recruited by the government when five star general Francis Hummel, played by acting great Ed Harris, seizes control of Alcatraz Island, along with 81 tourists, and declares that if a huge sum of money is not paid to the families of his fallen comrades that the government has neglected over the years, he will fire 15 missiles onto San Francisco that are loaded with a deadly poison gas.

Goodspeed, whose specialty is chemical weapons, is assigned to accompany a crack team of Navy SEALs to infiltrate the island so he can neutralize the poison gas within the missiles. Coming along is John Mason, played by Sean Connery, an imprisoned 60 year old former SAS agent who is tasked with leading them into the island undetected, as he is the only man to have ever successfully escaped Alcatraz. I guess the Clint Eastwood movie Escape from Alcatraz is non-canon in this universe.

Anyways, after things take a turn south, Goodspeed and Mason are the only ones left to stop Hummel and his squadron of badass commandos. Will this unlikely duo be able to band together to stop the missiles, take down the bad guys, and save the hostages? Does a bear s*** in the woods?

Great Characters and Story

The movie has truly great set pieces to go along with its compelling story. One of the many things I like about it is how every character’s motivation is clear and understood. Especially Hummel. Although he is the main villain of the movie, you completely understand where he is coming from. And even though his actions are excessive, you can somewhat sympathize with his position.

Connery’s Mason has been wrongfully imprisoned for over 20 years and just wants his life back, Goodspeed wants to keep his pregnant fiance safe, and Captains Frye & Darrow, played by Gregory Sporleder & Tony Todd, just wants their f***ing money. Everybody is thought out. And the performances are spot on. Harris. Connery. William Forsythe. John Spencer. Todd. And Cage. Oh Cage. How I love you. Cage plays the character of Stanley like a nerd who is kind of cool, but thinks he’s much cooler than he actually is, but in reality is a nervous wreck.

Nicolas Cage at his Nicolas Cageness

I could see this role in the original script being intended to have been played more straight and narrow, but that just wouldn’t do it for Cage.  He wasn’t full throttle Cage in this, but his little “Cage-isms” seep through into the character of Stanley Goodspeed. For instance, Stanley is so meekish, that he doesn’t even curse. He’s shouts words and phrases like “Gee-whiz” and “A-hole” in place of profanity when he’s upset. And it works so well.

This is what I call “Smooth Jazz Cage”. As opposed to something like The Wicker Man or Ghost Rider, which is “Hard Rock Cage.” On the action side, most of the heavy action bits are handled by Connery, who I must admit hasn’t been this badass since his 007 days, but Cage gets to kick some ass. He’s shooting guns, punching bad guys, doing hero leaps in slow motion.

I guess because he’s more or less the sidekick, he was saddled with fewer things to do than Connery. But it’s still cool action stuff. Just think of this as a precursor to his role in– Oh. Wait. Let me stop myself right there. Must not mention THAT just yet…

Filled with Amazing Action

But I know, I know. What about the action?? Well… The Rock is filled to the brim with amazing action. Shootouts, fistfights, car chases, and sooo many explosions. S**** gets blown up real good in here. Just some of the most beautiful, humongous orange fireballs to ever grace a movie screen. And a lot of them in glorious slow motion. Any standout sequences? Well, take your pick. There are so many to choose from. The car chase through San Francisco, which in my opinion rivals the legendary one from Bullitt.

And any scene on Alcatraz. The washroom scene. The underground tunnel. The morgue, etc etc…This is action movie heaven. Everything expertly staged and choreographed. And this is the 90s, so no shaky cam, or quick cuts. Amazing static shots. Tight editing. All of it in perfect view. That’s how I want to see my action. Crisp, clean, and crystal clear. Bay was in fine, peak form when he directed this. Definitely the best one in his filmography, in my opinion.

Hanz Zimmer and Spoilers

And major points to Hans Zimmer for writing such a incredible score for this movie. Definitely one of my favorites scores from him. It perfectly captures the epicness of the proceedings. It was this score and the one from Crimson Tide that made Zimmer one of my favorite composers working today.  Any nitpicks? Maybe two. 1. While I completely understand his stance, I’m don’t agree with the actions of Commander Anderson, played by Corporal Hicks himself, Michael Biehn.

SPOILER ALERT!!! As they’re trying to gain access into the prison, they unintentionally trigger a motion sensor, alerting Hummel and his team to their position. And when Hummel asks for him to peacefully surrender, Anderson defiantly rejects the notion. This confrontation unfortunately leads to the deaths of all the SEALs. If I can quote my uncle, who was in the military, Anderson is a “Proud Idiot”. A man who put his own pride before his men. He said that if he were in the same situation, he would have surrendered. Not out of fear, but for the safety of his team. END SPOILERS!!!

And 2. The stereotypical gay hairdresser. Although funny when it was first released, it is now seen as a sign of things to come from Bay, who has become synonymous with all things insensitive. But those are just minor quibbles.

When Blockbusters (and Nicolas Cage) Were Ultimate

So in closing, I truly think The Rock stands the test of time as a really great action blockbuster almost 22 years after its release. Man, 22 years ago. Heh. I remember when this movie came out, I was in Junior High School. And a bunch of us in school were declaring it the best action movie ever. I know what you’re thinking: We might have gotten a little carried away with that declaration.

But, even though I do admit it’s definitely not the greatest action movie ever, I still think its right up there with the best of them. And the first step of things to come from Cage on his quest to become the definitive action star of the 90s. It’s just amazing to recall. The same man who starred in movies like Moonstruck and Vampire’s Kiss went on to give us three of the best action movies the 90s had to offer. He became cooler than the other side of the pillow to me and my friends.

A Cage movie was an event after that. It had to be seen. No hesitations. I know that maybe hard to fathom these days, but Cage was the man back in my youth. I guess you just had to have been there. But… this is just scratching the surface. The tip of the iceberg. Because nothing could prepare us for the greatness of the next chapter in the explosive Beige Volvo saga. The end all, be all of 90s action cinema. Of course, I’m talking about… Con-Air! But that… is a tale for another time.

Article by The Cinema Drunkie – a cinematic alcoholic from the mean streets of Brooklyn, New York who spends his all of his free time getting drunk off the beauty of all things movie related… and vodka. You can check out his blog here. Let us know what you think about the article in the comments!

The Top 10 Reasons Why Bloodsport is Van Damme’s Magnum Opus

Bloodsport Is Peak Van Damme.

In 1988 Cannon Films would finally unleash a movie upon the world that had been sat on their shelves gathering dust for a couple of years.

The movie in question starred a young, thickly accented Belgian martial artist in his first leading role as well as a veteran, monosyllabic Chinese bodybuilder as the main villain and would be set within the walls of an inhospitable no man’s land ruled by gangsters and bootleggers.

That movie was Bloodsport. To say Cannon didn’t have faith in the movie would be an understatement, in fact, they came within weeks of scrapping it altogether until the movies young star, Jean-Claude Van Damme took it upon himself to re-edit the movie and coax the b-movie legends into releasing it.

Thankfully, for everyone involved, they did just that and by the end of 1988, Bloodsport had become the company’s most successful movie of the year and instantly propelled Van Damme to action movie stardom. Now, 30 years later we take a look back at the cult classic and discuss why, all these years later, it is still Jean-Claude Van Damme’s ultimate magnum opus.

UAMC News: ‘John Wick’ Directors Looking to Helm ‘Bloodsport’ Reboot

10. It has Forest Whitaker in it

I think most will agree that action movies get a bad rap when it comes to the acting stakes, so the fact that Bloodsport has a future Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe winner among its ranks certainly lends weight to its claim as being one of the best action movies ever. Forest Whitaker plays Rawlins, the rookie to Norman Burton’s grizzled Helmer as the bumbling taser wielding CID officers tasked with bringing Frank Dux back from Hong Kong.

As you can probably guess, this was a fairly early movie role for Whitaker coming at a time when he was transitioning from television work to films. Having spent most of the eighties appearing in walk on parts in shows such as Diff’rent Strokes and The Fall Guy, Whitaker’s career was on something on an upswing by the time he appeared in Bloodsport coming off the back of appearances in Hollywood smashes The Color of Money, Platoon and Good Morning, Vietnam.

His quality as an actor is evident throughout Bloodsport, displaying great comic timing and some brilliant slapstick moments as he and Helmer are foiled at every turn by Dux. Whitaker’s career would of course come on in leaps and bounds as the nineties hit and today he is considered one of Hollywood’s most respected actors, which makes it even more of a guilty pleasure seeing him chasing Van Damme through the streets of Hong Kong and cheering along with the rest of us at the movies climax.

A lot of actors could have played Rawlins as a stock heavy, but it took an actor of Whitaker’s quality to find the charm and humor in the role and in turn taking a generic character and making him a memorable one.

9. That soundtrack

Let’s face it, when it comes to soundtracks and scores, the eighties owns all other eras. The rise of the synth brought a whole new sound to movie soundtracks and they are used to full effect all over Bloodsport by composer Paul Hertzog.

He manages to capture the mood of the movie perfectly throughout ranging from dark mysterious pieces to far more airy and light themes during the movies reflective moments. Okay, that might sound all a bit arthouse-y, but I dare you to listen to the soundtrack and not be transported back to Hong Kong in the late eighties, he really does smash it here.

However, I think for most the highlights probably come with the three signature tracks, Steal the Night by Michael Bishop and Stan Bush’s Fight to Survive and On My Own. All three are perfect slices of eighties power pop and will have you singing along after just one viewing and let’s face it, when a basically unknown song (let alone three) can do that, you’re onto a winner.

Hertzog would also return the following year to score Van Damme’s Kickboxer as well as Breathing Fire in 1991 starring none other than Bolo Yeung giving him a long lasting legacy for Bloodsport fans and actors alike.

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8. Ken Siu as Victor Lin

Ken Siu’s acting career was something of a flash in the pan, lasting just four years over the course of five movies but in Bloodsport he stands out as one of the most memorable characters by far.

As the fast talking bespectacled Victor Lin he acts as the interpreter and guide to Frank Dux and Ray Jackson in Hong Kong and is the man who helps get Dux into the Kumite, admonishing officials with the line ‘what’s the difference if Bruce Springsteen is his shidoshi?‘ when they question Dux’s training. Throughout the movie he pops up with pieces of sage advice and at times, savage sarcasm making him highlight every time he’s on screen.

However, it was off screen that Siu’s career was far more prolific as a director, assistant director and writer in his own right and we find him pulling double duty here too as the assistant to another legendary assistant director, Newt Arnold in one of the latter’s few directorial roles.

Siu continued to have a long running career as an assistant throughout the nineties and well into the 21st century working alongside Van Damme again in the following years with Kickboxer and in a number of Hong Kong movies as well as Rush Hour alongside Jackie Chan. But it’s a Victor Lin that Bloodsport fans will remember him best with I’m sure many agreeing that it’s a crying shame that we don’t have enough of him committed to tape.

7. The Coolest Fighters

I think sometimes martial arts movies can be guilty of being a little generic when it comes to presenting opponents, not Bloodsport though. Sure, there’s a quite few Bruce Lee-alikes here (it is set in Hong Kong after all), but among them are some of the coolest and most memorable fighters ever committed to celluloid and it’s this variety that keeps you wanting more when it comes to the tournament scenes.

There’s someone for everyone here, whether it’s Joao Gomez whose tactics appear to be win via voodoo curse, the guy who mirrors Dux move for move or future Tong Po, Suan Paredes and his brittle leg, but I think for most the favorites (outside of the main cast) have to be one of the following trio. First up we have Pumola, the giant and deceptively ripped sumo guy, who in my head has always been from Mongolia.

I think he was probably one of the favorites to win the tournament outright, he seems pretty impervious until Dux punches him in the nether regions causing the big man to collapse. It’s a low blow both figuratively and literally and I’m not sure we can really blame the giant for hitting the mat after that.

Next up we have Paco, the Muay Thai boxer with easily the best shorts in the entire tournament. Like Pumola, Paco has to be another tournament favorite as he demonstrates throughout that he is one double hard fighter, none more so when he and Dux have the kick off into each others ribs. In the end it takes a signature roundhouse kick of the highest order to put him down. I’m still waiting for the return fight on this one.

And last but certainly not least, my personal favorite: Ricardo Morra. Okay, so the name might not ring a bell and arguably, doesn’t really fit the character, but if I say Monkey Style Fighter, you’ll instantly know who I mean. How can you not love a fighter who hops around the entire time and trains by smashing coconuts off of branches?

Politically correct it isn’t, but it still makes him the stand out guy for me and he actually fights pretty successfully throughout, leaving me in no doubt that we need a Dux vs Morra fight in our lives. So there you have it. What other movie brings you that kind of diversity and all out insanity when it comes to opponents?

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6. The Dux/Jackson Bromance

A bromance before bromances were cool, Dux and Ray Jackson hit it off instantly as the unlikely couple of the movie and actually share some pretty un-action-like tender moments together. Jackson is as brash as they come and immediately makes you think he’s going to be yet another villain for Dux to overcome, but he flips it instantly to become Dux’s most loyal ally.

Quite what a fighter as unskilled as Jackson is doing in the Kumite is never made apparent but his fascination and support of Dux is endearing and he does prove himself to be a pretty tough dude when taking a beating, so we’ll let him off. The massive Donald Gibb is perfectly cast here. Probably best known for being Ogre in Return of the Nerds up to this point he is the perfect combination of imposing and lovable and it’s due to this that you actually get your heart strings tugged when this great bear of a human finds himself in dire straits.

Since Bloodsport Gibb’s career has mainly consisted of television cameos, where his size and comedic qualities can be utilized to their full effect, however he would return as Ray Jackson in the Van Damme-less Bloodsport sequel, The Next Kumite (1996) making him the only member of the original cast to appear in both movies.

As far as I know Gibbs and Van Damme haven’t shared any screen time together since Bloodsport, which is a shame as they had great chemistry together, however in terms of the Bloodsport universe, let’s hope Dux and Jackson are still sat in a bar somewhere hunched over a game of Karate Champ and arguing over who’s tougher.

5. Montages upon Montages

Every truly great action movie needs some montages and Bloodsport delivers them by the bucket load. Whether it’s flashbacks, training or fight sequences, Bloodsport has you covered. The best and most iconic come when Frank Dux is being trained by his Shidoshi, Senzo Tanaka in place of Tanaka’s late son and Dux’s friend, Shingo.

Tasks include fishing goldfish with his hands, blindfolded waiter service and of course the tree splits, because let’s face it, are you really watching a Van Damme movie if no one does the splits? This also gives us some great fight scenes between Dux and Tanaka with Roy Chiao playing the old master perfectly, giving Van Damme a real run for his money and a great bit of background info into why Dux finds himself at the Kumite.

However, the biggest shout-out has to go to Pierre Rafini who plays Young Frank in flashback scenes. Now, I’m sure Pierre is a perfectly nice person, but an actor he was not. I can only assume that poor old Pierre was the only teenager in Hong Kong with anything resembling a Belgian accent because he bears no resemblance to Jean-Claude, appears to have no martial arts skills and even less acting chops.

But still, it adds an unintentional level of comedy that wouldn’t be there otherwise and a couple very quotable moments. He wasn’t going to steal the katana, honest.

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4. Location Location Location

Hong Kong is an ever evolving city, with such a dense population certain areas find themselves under constant redevelopment meaning that each time it is committed to film it could be the last time that it looks as it does.

In Bloodsport the city becomes a character in itself, with the neon lights, high-rise buildings and beautiful harbor all playing the perfect backdrop to some of the movies best scenes. However, it is the Kowloon Walled City, where the Kumite is taking place that is the star of the show. Notorious for its crime and black-marketeering the Walled City was as dangerous as it was made out to be in the movie for an outsider.

Still, this didn’t stop people spending their entire lives within its winding corridors and many levels and the city would see entire generations come and go within it. In 1987 (the year after Bloodsport was filmed) the Hong Kong government would announce its plans to demolish the city, but it would take until 1994 for the eviction to be completed, with many unhappy to leave their homes despite what seemed like poor living conditions to outsiders.

The city would also become the setting or inspiration for many movies, books and video games through the years, however of all of those only Bloodsport and Long Arm of the Law actually filmed within the walls, making the footage in Bloodsport of genuine historical interest as a document of some of the final years within Kowloon.

3. Chong Li

If there has been a more imposing movie villain than Bolo Yeung’s Chong Li, I am yet to find them. Despite only standing at around 5’6, Bolo’s solid mass and planet sized pectorals make him someone you instantly know you don’t want to mess with. The man just exudes strength and all round menace and he turns this up to eleven to play Chong Li. Brutal and sadistic, Chong Li is the ultimate movie villain who will stop at nothing to break those who dare oppose him.

By the time Bloodsport came around Bolo was certainly no newcomer to the movies, having starred in hundreds of Hong Kong productions since the early seventies and was probably best known for appearing opposite Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (the movie where his Bolo nickname came from) as well as dozens of ‘Bruceploitation’ movies following the great man’s death.

Despite this, Bloodsport is often considered his breakout movie to Western audiences and he would parlay this into a successful B-Movie career throughout the late eighties and nineties opposite the likes of Jahal Merhi and Billy Blanks as well as teaming up with Van Damme again for Double Impact. But it’s as Chong Li that he truly shined and it’ll be a long time before action movies sees a character quite as destructive as the South Korean killing machine again.

2. It’s a True Story, sort of…

The real Frank Dux with Jean Claude Van Damme.

Or, not at all really, depending on who you believe. As it turn out, the behind the scenes story of the real Frank Dux is nearly as interesting and arguably twice as strange as the actual movie. A controversial figure, Dux’s increasingly outrageous claims about his past life has left him a polarizing figure within the martial arts community with many going out of their way to try and debunk him.

Despite this, he still has his supporters (as well as followers of his Dux Ryu Ninjitsu system) and was once considered credible enough to appear in a now iconic 1980 Black Belt Magazine article which detailed his appearances in the Kumite and in a way, planted the seeds for Bloodsport. Away from his martial arts career, Dux has also spoken extensively about his life as a covert military operative, which apparently took him all over the world, requiring him to use his martial arts skills in variety of situations that would make even James Bond flinch.

To this day, Dux continues to assert that his claims are complete fact despite others stating otherwise (perhaps most famously in a 1988 L.A. Times expose) and while it is easy to dismiss what he says as the rantings of a madman, there are just enough seeds of fact there to make you think twice. For a start there’s the infamous receipt that the 1988 story is based around.

Allegedly the proof that Dux bought and commissioned the Kumite trophy himself the receipt contains numerous factual errors ranging from the misspelling of Dux’s name to a completely different description of the trophy in question, it was later dismissed as inadmissible evidence in court. Then there’s a certain U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Alexander Martin who listed Frank Dux as one of a number of covert military agents while under oath, something which Dux used in yet another court case, this time against Soldier of Fortune Magazine.

Then finally we have the aforementioned Senzo Tanaka, the mysterious elderly Japanese man who apparently taught Dux all he knows. Long since dismissed as a figment of Dux’s fruitful imagination (and perhaps inspired by Senzo ‘Tiger’ Tanaka in the Ian Fleming novel You Only Lived Twice) due to the apparent fact that no Senzo Tanaka lived in California at the time, modern internet family history records have revealed that there was in fact indeed a Senzo Tanaka living precisely where Dux claims and who died in 1975 at the age of 87. Coincidence?

Possibly, but like a lot of the claims around Dux’s life, these things are just as impossible to verify as they are to refute. Whichever side of the fence you land on, the fact remains that Frank Dux is an accomplished martial artist who at the very least is a great story teller and who without, Bloodsport wouldn’t be the cult classic it is today.

1. The Muscles from Brussels

Well, who else could really have topped the list? This might have been Jean-Claude’s first leading role but it’s virtually impossible to think of anyone who could have played Frank Dux better. To many, it would have seemed like Van Damme became a star overnight, but after a successful martial arts career back in his home country he had actually been in the United States since the early eighties with friend (and Bloodsport co-star) Michel Qissi doing part time jobs while they tried to gain the attention of Hollywood.

His quest for stardom had seen him make a few appearances as an extra in various movies (most famously alongside Qissi in Breakin‘) as well as a stint as a Soviet villain in Corey Yuen’s No Retreat, No Surrender. His big break looked to have come when he was cast as The Predator opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, however production issues and costume changes ultimately saw him replaced by the giant Kevin Peter Hall after just a few weeks in the jungle.

He was soon back on the job hunt and the story goes that Van Damme met Cannon head-honcho Menahem Golan in the street and impressed the Israeli mogul by doing some of his trademark kicks right there in front of him, thus landing the role of Dux. The slightly more mundane reality is probably closer to the fact that producer Mark Di Salle wanted an action star with sex appeal (see gratuitous slow pulling up of underwear) but that could also kick ass, Van Damme simply fit the bill.

He and Qissi would soon be signed to deals with Cannon and Bloodsport would be the first in a series of movies for the legendary schlock merchants. Unbelievably, Bloodpsort was actually shelved for some time which in the meantime saw Van Damme take the role of another Soviet villain, this time in Black Eagle before Bloodsport was eventually given the greenlight (after being re-edited by Van Damme himself) and in turn gave Cannon their newest action star.

The movie would eventually gross over $65m worldwide and would propel Van Damme into the A-List of action stars for most of the nineties, becoming one of the most profitable martial arts stars ever in the process. However, as successful as he became, very few of his films produced the instant charm and sheer entertainment value that Bloodsport contained and that is why, 30 years later it is still the Magnum Opus in the career of the Muscles from Brussels. Kumite, Kumite, Kumite!

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!