Top critical review
The Good, The Bad & the Fugly
on 10 September 2017
One time producer of such mega budget fare as 'Die Hard', 'Lethal Weapon' and 'Predator' Joel Silver turns his attention to the low budget arena - teaming up with the very excellent helmer John Hyams (he of those crazy 3rd and 4th 'Universal Soldier' sequels) to create a rather rousing, if slight martial arts melodrama that blends the bone crunching reflection of the directors’ other movies with an early '80s urban action thriller...
St. Jude Square is a grungy, long forgotten neighbourhood living under the terrorising rule of duelling gangs - presided over by a corrupt police chief by the name of Mr. V (a very good Peter Weller). When ex-con Ryan Hong (Cung Le) arrives to discover he may not be able to live under their reign, he begins to play one against the other (Akira Kurosawa style) by using the only thing he has at his disposal: The power of ass-kickery! Calling on the time his mentor, Tiano (Van Dammage on cameo duty) guided him in the way of smashing one’s head in - he teaches these gangland fellas a thing or two about manners, by a roundhouse kick to the noggin or a cleverly placed boot in the family jewels… however, just as things are starting to look habitable, Hong is confronted by Mr. V who at first seems impressed by his particular brand of punch-ology, but soon sees the canny martial artist as a threat thus plunging the two into a headlong battle with the fate of St Jude’s residence hanging in the balance…
Although low budget and boasting a numbskull script by Tim Tori (try saying that fast three times, whilst drunk), director Hyams is a master of the muscular. His precise direction captures both that early ‘80s trash urban thriller subgenre (think your ‘Exterminator 2’, ‘Enemy Territory’ and ‘Tenement’s’ of this world) and a late ‘70s Hong Kong martial arts actioner, giving the audience a lone hero who doesn’t seem to quite understand the concept of ‘live and let live’. Lead Cung Le is a great mover, but it seems not quite ready for a lead at this point and between his disconnected looks and little boy lost routine it all hinges on his mastery of punching bad folk, which thankfully he excels. Luckily, he’s supported by a parade of veteran talent from the aforementioned Weller who eats the scenery like a boss to the brief but highly entertaining cameo from one Sir Van of Damage - Jean Claude himself! Sure, he’s in a blink and you will miss him role but still manage to light the movie up and you’ll be glad he was around. The movie itself is a slight, seen-it-all actioner but thanks to the strange sideways swipes of the director, who has continually given his movies a strange, otherworldly feel combined with a sterling lead villain performance from Weller ensures this adds up to a fine beer and dips night in with your buddies.
G2 Pictures UK Blu-Ray sports a very fine transfer bolstered by excellent audio. Sure, the movie is cheapo action fodder but the imagery is nicely rendered and thanks to the expert direction from Hyams - the movie looks as pretty as a dirty picture. The extra features are minimal but for the price Amazon are asking, one can hardly complain… All in all, an okay effort and worthy of 90 minutes of any action move junkie’s time who has made it his mission to see every movie that Van Dammage has ever made (…erm… er…). Well, except that ‘Derailed’ bunkum. Not even someone as stupid as I could make it to the end of that one.