80's Action Attack: American Ninja III: Blood Hunt (1989)

A Worthy Entry in the American Ninja Franchise Where Steve James is Given his Glorious Moment to Shine

by robotGEEK

While it's true that American Ninja II is easily the best and most entertaining of the entire series, that doesn't mean that the preceding sequels don't have anything to offer. I went in to this one a bit skeptical, because I mean, come on, how can you top Part 2? You can't, especially when it's written by the same guy who wrote Pray for Death, arguably one of the best ninja films ever made. And knowing that Dudikoff didn't return to this one, instead handing the reigns over to David Bradley, probably didn't help tempt me either, so I always just put it on the back burner. That is until Hulu Plus added it to their lineup this month, so I had no excuse. Let's dig in.

By the time it was all said and done, AN3 was a cheesy blast of absurdity, mixed with some genuine awesome ninja cinema and I enjoyed it immensely. It was sort of a bumpy ride getting there though, because not having Dudikoff as the lead was a bit jarring, and the film played it pretty stale and safe in the first half, but all my issues were completely turned around by the second half because it became more and more bizarre, absurd, silly and campy. In other words, it got a whole lot more awesome.

The legendary Steve James (clearly having a blast here) returns as Jackson, who along with newcomer David Bradley (in his first role) as Sean, team up to stop a terrorist who goes by the name of "The Cobra", who's created a deadly virus that can kill you, or also turns you into a zombie ninja. It's never explained why it's either/or, so you just have to go with it. As I stated before, the film takes it's time setting things up early on, but boy does it get pretty silly later, and honestly, that's a blessing because if it weren't for how absurd it is, it could easily be pretty forgettable. But because it's so unintentionally campy, you just can't help but have a good time with it.

Steve James seemed to have a bigger part here, which is a shame that he didn't get top billing like he should have, because he more than carries the entire film on his shoulders. And that's always bothered me about James. He clearly had the goods to lead his own films and franchise, but he just never got the chance he deserved. He was so damn charming and charismatic, yet he always played second fiddle to whatever lead he shared the screen with. Here, when Dudikoff didn't want to return, Cannon had the perfect opportunity to let him take the charge, but instead they bring in a newcomer. It just doesn't make any sense, and I think only now people are finally realizing that Steve James deserved to be a bigger star. That's not to say David Bradley is bad, because he does quite well considering it's his first film. He just doesn't have the charisma needed that both Dudikoff and James had. At least not in his first time out.

I've read some reviews online from those who just don't like this one, and while I can certainly understand why they didn't like it, I'm also surprised that it doesn't get more love. I mean, it's a Cannon film for starters, and the entire franchise is cheesy, especially part 2, so what do you expect? To me, this entry plays perfectly in line with where the franchise was and where it was headed and I personally had a great time with it. Steve James is a massive badass in here, and by the time you get to the third act, you realize why you love these types of films in the first place. There's nothing spectacular or special about this one, but it is cheesy campy fun, and sometimes that's all we want.

*Fun Fact: You'll most certainly notice George S. Clinton's pretty spectacular score for Avenging Force in here, as they simply recycled it pretty heavily. It definitely adds to the overall vibe of the film, and makes it feel bigger and more badass than it already was.


Maximum Overdrive: Stephen King's 80's Trash Masterpiece

by robotGEEK

There's always been something about this film that I could never connect with. While I grew up on a healthy dose of 80's horror, I never could quite get into this one, no matter how many times I've tried. I'd always felt that it was dull, and never could quite match it's incredible opening. Still, I keep coming back to it every few years hoping I'll like it this time around. Well, that time finally arrived, so let's dig in.

While it's true that the rest of the film just doesn't quite reach the level of awesome as the first half, I still found it an incredibly satisfying film, despite it's lackluster and quite abrupt ending. Maximum Overdrive feels like pure 80's Horror Trash, and it's just a helluva good time. Quite absurd, never taking the time to take itself seriously....at all, and made surprisingly well by a man who admits being coked up on cocaine the entire time, thus using that as an excuse as to why he hasn't directed a film since. But guess what? A film directed by Stephen King high on cocaine is actually a lot better than most of his adaptations, both theatrical and Made-for-TV, made by other directors. After enjoying this one immensely, I wish he had directed more, instead of making this his one and only directing gig.

Maximum Overdrive suffers from a whole lot of problems, some of which really just don't make any sense if you analyze the shit out of it. So don't, or you'll drive yourself crazy. What you need to know is that anything mechanical or electronic begins to turn on by themselves, causing major havoc and chaos. An explanation is given, but it's a pretty silly one. As you can imagine, that also includes a lot of deaths, some of them quite spectacularly brutal in true 80's fashion, which really make the film as great as it is. The fact that AC/DC does the score and soundtrack, providing catchy rock tracks to these sequences is just icing on the cake.

Is it perfect? No, not by a long shot. The second half loses a whole lot of steam, never quite reaching the level of awesome that the first half gives us, and I found any single scene with Yeardley Smith (Lisa on The Simpsons) to be utterly unbearable. Seriously, she may very well be the most annoying character on any film I've ever seen in my entire life. I probably would have killed her myself, or let the machines do it instead of helping keep her alive. Thankfully the rest of the cast is quite good, led by Emilio Estevez, as an ex-con turned cook at a local diner/gas station who leads the charge in trying to outsmart and outlive these giant 18-wheeler's who've taken residence at this pit stop.

I think for me personally, the biggest surprise was how well King did handling the directing duties, in that he gave the film a really clean, solid looks aesthetically. He knows how to frame a shot, surprisingly, and it reminded me of the type of horror that was pretty prevailant in the 80's, where directors took the time to set up their shots and make the film look good. You can't say that anymore for the most part, but despite all the things stacked against him, King managed to deliver a visually pleasing film as well as a fun one. Of special note is that King's cinematographer was Armando Nannuzzi (Silver Bullet), who successfully sued King after an on-set accident resulted in Nannuzzi losing one of his eyes. It didn't stop Nannuzzi from working though, as he continued to work all the way up to 1998.

Ultimately, Maximum Overdrive, Stephen King's one and only directorial effort has enough things going for it that you can overlook the negatives. Just shut off your brain, don't over-analyze it, and you'll have a great time. It's a shame it didn't do well upon it's initial release, further personified by King's personal drug issues at the time, but at least we can look back on it today and appreciate it for what it is and nothing more, and that is as an excellent slice of 80's Horror Trash.


90's Action Attack!: Demolition High (1996)

This Die Hard in a School Delivers the Goods

by robotGEEK

Released the same year as his infamous Vampirella adaptation, this Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall, The Return of Swamp Thing) directed actioner was quite the pleasant surprise for me. While Wynorski's style and quality is all over the place from film to film, I'm happy to say that this little seen or heard of low-budget "Die Hard in a high school" action flick is easily one of the ever-prolific director's better films. Quite a feat when you consider he knocks out anywhere from 2-5 films every single year for the last 34 years!

With a roster of notable character actors and cult screen icons such as Gerrit Graham (Terror Vision, Phantom of the Paradise, Child's Play 2), the always badass Jeff Kober (The First Power, Out of Bounds) as the lead villain, the sexy as hell Rocky DeMarco aka Melissa Brasselle, Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough, The Love Boat), Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), and of course, Corey Haim - who needs no introduction - Demolition High surprised me on a number of different levels. The cast, which at first seems so random, is actually pretty damn great if you ask me. Jeff Kober is always a reliable villain, and he does not disappoint. The sexy as hell DeMarco, here as his right hand girl and easily the toughest character in the entire film, plays a total badass here, dressed head to toe in tight black leather, sporting a hand cannon that's easily too big for her hands, and does it like a boss. You just can't take your eyes off her, not for a second, and I'm sure the cast probably felt the same way. Then there's Corey Haim, 10 years after his breakout role in Lucas (followed by The Lost Boys the following year), and handling the material well, in fact much better than I expected as the hero lead, who must use his street smarts to outwit and take down this group of terrorists who've taken his school hostage. But I think the real surprise for me was Alan Thicke, who plays his father and is also the new police chief. Hearing him curse (gasp Mr. Seaver!), act tough and lead his patrol was pretty badass and such a change of pace from what I had grown up seeing him as.

The film isn't without it's issue, but really, for this kind of film and production, they're minor and can easily be overlooked, because in the end, Demolition High delivers what it sets out to do, and that's deliver a Die Hard-style action film on a limited budget. Thankfully, Jim Wynorski is up to the challenge and delivers the goods in spades, giving the film a professional touch for the most part, looking a lot better than you'd expect considering it's budget, with some solid action sequences and a visual aesthetic that I've come to admire from the director when he was on fire early in his career. Most of all, it's a really fun film.

Demolition High is a pretty tough one to find, as it's only ever received a VHS release as far as I'm aware. No DVD or even a Laserdisc that I've seen, but I could be wrong. But I have good news! It's currently streaming on Amazon Prime, along with it's sequel Demolition University, for your viewing pleasure. It may also be on YouTube, so I'd check their too. I'm fairly new to Prime, so I don't know if films stay on there indefinitely or if they're taken off after a certain amount of time, but last I checked, it's there.


Status Update...

Recently I've become more and more busy, getting attached to new things that take a lot of my free time away from this. Because of that, I was contemplating shutting this site down altogether because I'm just not in the right head space right now to keep it going. The drive just isn't there right now, instead being pulled into other directions. And truthfully, I don't even know if there's anyone out there who even reads these anymore.

But I continue to watch a ton of flicks, I just don't seem to have the time to write about them anymore. Instead of shutting this site down completely, I'm thinking of doing short, quick mini-reviews from now on, because I do love talking about films. I don't really know yet.
~ robotGEEK


City Heat: Reynolds Shines in an Otherwise Mediocre Affair

by robotGEEK

The one thing I think anybody walking away from this would naturally think is that City Heat should have been a sure-fire hit. No question. Just with the casting alone, 2 legends at their prime, begs the question "why was it just okay?".

Surrounded by a pretty killer ensemble supporting cast that includes Robert Davi, Madeline Kahn, Rip Torn, Richard Roundtree, Irene Cara and William Sanderson, Eastwood and Reynolds are in top form here. And while Eastwood is given top billing, it's clearly Reynolds show all the way. His character, a gumshoe by the name of Mike Murphy, is actually the character that thrusts the story forward, with Eastwood's Lt. Speer only popping in from time to time until the final act. And it's a really good role for Reynolds, here proving that he really was very good at what he did. I often forget that he was funny once upon a time, because let's face it, the last several decades have shown him to be a grumpy old man. In fact, with the exception of his hit show Evening Shade and the highly underrated comedy Switching Channels, this might have been the last time we got to see a genuinely funny Burt in front of the camera as most films preceding this were action, thrillers or drama's.

While the film has an interesting enough story, surprisingly great supporting cast and impressive set design, I think the films biggest weakest link has to be actor-turned-director Richard Benjamin (The Money Pit, Little Nikita). He's just much too bland a director to handle this particular material. I feel that had the film been much more visually stylish, especially considering it's time-period setting, it would have played over a lot better. It just mostly comes across as something Made-for-TV, and that's all because of the uninspired camera work. Still, it's not a bad film in the slightest, and Reynolds alone makes this worth the time, as Eastwood just randomly shows up playing the same character he's played for decades.

I can't help but wonder what Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood thought of this film or how it turned out afterwards, knowing that both of these actors are also very fine directors in their own right, both having delivered some of their best work as directors roughly around this time with Eastwood's Sudden Impact (1983) and Reynolds Stick (1985). I strongly feel that had this film been more visually stimulating, even with either of them behind the camera, it would have been a whole lot better.

Interestingly enough, comedy legend Blake Edwards was originally hired to write and direct. Once production was under way, he was either fired or quit (not sure which, as reports differ), and replaced by Richard Benjamin. Edwards kept his co-writing credit as a pseudonym, but being as he's turned out some pretty great comedy classics in his career, I wonder how different City Heat would have turned out had he stayed on as director. Rumor has it that he and Eastwood (in one of his last comedy roles), didn't see eye to eye, thus resulting in his departure.

If you're a fan of Burt Reynolds, I would urge you to check this out. It's probably one of his better performances and he's just so damn likable here, something you don't get to say too often. It's his show all the way and it's a pity his career took a sharp decline following this. I remember reading in the papers waaaay back in '84 about his health, and it's all tied to this movie. While shooting a fight scene, he was hit with a chair and suffered a broken jaw. Restricted to a liquid diet because of this, he dropped about 30 pounds, leading to massive rumors about his health. I remember he once had to come out on a talk show (I don't remember which one), and say that he was not in fact dying of AIDS (which was the kiss of death in the 80's) like the tabloids had kept saying repeatedly, but had suffered a broken jaw and dropped the weight due to the liquid diet. His next film was Stick, which he both starred and directed, and the news about his health followed him all over that production. In fact, it later came out that he had become addicted to pain killers because of the broken jaw, which set off a whole new list of problems.

City Heat should have been great, but as it stands, it's just good. It's mostly good because of Burt Reynolds, and it's excellent cast, so you'll have a good time with it. It just won't knock your socks off like it should have.


Blu-Ray Review: The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (Arrow Films)

Released in 1988, this is a film that I can remember always seeing on shelves of my local video stores back in the day. The name always struck me as sounding cool, but the cover art, a black and white silhouette photo if I recall, didn't tell me anything about the film in general so I just avoided it. Having finally sat down to watch it for the very first time, I can say that I regret that decision because I'm sure it would have been a personal favorite of mine growing up, had I seen it as a teenager. Because the truth is that The Navigator is a beautiful film all around. Truly unique in it's own very special way, full of gorgeous cinematography, strong performances and a story that took a direction that I had not expected. And that's a good thing. 

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead
Written and directed by New Zealand filmmaker Vincent Ward (What Dreams May Come), who's far too infrequent with his films, this medieval fantasy was such a refreshing breath of fresh air. The whole time travel angle completely caught me by surprise, and while the film spends equal amounts of time in the dark ages as well as the present day circa 1988, it's all handled with such care and precision that it's almost seamless. While not necessarily a big fan of medieval films, there's so much more to the film that it didn't bother me one bit. It helps that the film is a constant stream of stunning images courtesy of Vincent Ward and cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (Shine), who capture it all through black and white and color in a uniquely satisfying way. 

From what I understand, this cult classic never got a really good release here in the states that I know of. Which is a shame because it's hands-down one of the most visually stunning films I've ever seen, with every frame of film being damn near jaw-droppingly gorgeous. So to have to see this in such a bad state (meaning the old days of VHS), and worse yet, full-frame, is a travesty to all the work that went into this film. Thankfully Arrow Films is here to save the day, and let me tell you, they did a wonderful job. 

Presented in a stunningly impressive new HD transfer, The Navigator has never looked so good. Clean, crisp with a faint graininess that I just adore, you will never find a better looking presentation of this landmark film anywhere. It's also presented in it's original Mono Audio, along with English subtitles. While the technical aspects of this release are pretty great, it's not as comprehensive as some of their previous releases wherein you get a vintage made-for-tv documentary about Vincent Ward's life and career that was made in New Zealand, a trailer and a new "appreciation" interview by film critic Nick Roddick, who offers some insight into the films production and release. And that's pretty much it in the Special Features department. 


- High Definition Blu Ray Presentation

- Original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)

- Optional English subtitles

- Brand-new "appreciation" interview by film critic Nick Roddick

- Kaleidoscope: Vincent Ward - Film Maker, a 1989 documentary profile of the director made for New Zealand television

- Theatrical Trailer

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey is set to release on Blu-Ray this Tuesday, July 23rd worldwide and can be purchased directly from Arrow's website HERE, or from any of your favorite online retailers. 


Exit Wounds: Seagal's Last Hurrah

by robotGEEK

Having only ever seen this maybe once before, I was excited to go back to it because I remember it actually being pretty good, which isn't all that surprising if it weren't for the fact that he had 2 duds with Fire Down Below and The Patriot, preceding this release, even taking a 3 year break before coming back to this one. When you consider the fact that he typically releases anywhere from 2-6 films a year, this 3 year hiatus was a big deal. Anyway, moving on.

Produced by legendary action maestro Joel Silver, who made Seagal lose weight for the role, and directed by cinematographer (Speed, Falling Down) turned director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Doom), Exit Wounds comes to us courtesy of his On Deadly Ground screenwriter Ed Horowitz as co-writer, along with Richard D'Ovidio (Thir13en Ghosts). And guess what? It's a surprisingly badass actioner that showcases many of the qualities we grew to love about early Seagal flicks in the first place.

Having slimmed down for the role, and having cut his trademark ponytail, Seagal swaggers his way into an eclectic cast that includes DMX, Isaiah Washington, Bill Duke, Michael Jai White, Anthony Anderson, Tom Arnold, Bruce McGill, and Jill Hennessy. He seems a bit less cocky this time around (perhaps the 2 previous misfires humbled him a bit), and with the help of some fancy wire work, we get to see him actually perform "some" of his own fighting, which is kind of a big deal considering his legacy will go down as having used laughably inaccurate stunt-doubles for even the most mundane fighting. Don't worry though. There are still plenty of noticeable stunt-doubles for him in here; they're just not as hilarious as they've since become. But moving on. Seagal carries himself extremely well in here, surrounded by an insanely talented supporting cast in a story that moves along briskly, full of big-budget action set pieces filled with impressive stuntwork, a whole lot of fighting, and a fun vibe that permeates throughout it's short 101 minute running time. To put it frankly, Exit Wounds is one of Seagal's better films from his entire filmography, and might even be his last really great action flick.

In fact, aside from it being far better than I expected, there were quite a number of things that surprised me with this. Seeing Seagal actually do some fighting for one, or that the director had previously worked on some big budget films as a cinematographer, or that Seagal himself looked halfway decent. Sure he wasn't as thin as he was in Under Siege 2, but he looks a helluva lot better than he did in some of his films following this. Even his ridiculous toupee is barely noticeable here, where he keeps his hair a natural color instead of that fake gawd-awful jet black he uses now. But the biggest surprise for me was how good DMX was in this. For a guy who can't seem to stay out of trouble, he's a surprisingly good and confident actor, even when it comes down to not saying a word, but conveying emotion effectively through a facial expression. Hell, he even gets to throw down a few times with Seagal and holds his own. It's a shame he couldn't get his shit together, because he could very well have turned out to be one of the better rapper-turned-actor's out there.

Director Andrzej Bartkowiak handles the action well enough, but oftentimes turns to crazy Dutch-angle handheld camerawork a bit too often for my personal taste during the fights. Still, it's in the other moments of the film where he keeps a steady hand and gives the film a sleek polished look, which really helps the film a lot overall in looking like a classic big budget Joel Silver action film.

Ultimately, when you consider that most of his films that followed (and we're going on almost 20 years now) are crap, Exit Wounds begins to look more and more like Seagal's last hurrah in big budget quality action films that actually hit theaters. While Half Past Dead is technically his last theatrical release, that film was pretty awful from what I can remember. Exit Wounds is different. It's actually good, fun and delivers the action goods on a remarkable breakneck pace. It's a shame Seagal didn't stick with Joel Silver. It seems like he is exactly the force/influence he needed to keep him in check.


Blu-Ray Review: Lionheart (MVD Rewind Collection)

MVD's Impressive 2-Disc Special Edition Release is a Must-Buy for any JCVD Fan

by robotGEEK

There's no denying that Lionheart is one of Van Damme's best and most loved films. Made and released in 1990, Van Damme was just breaking into superstardom. Having already made a name for himself with classics such as Bloodsport, Cyborg and Kickboxer, Lionheart would see him break out into the mainstream in a film that showcased his knack for working behind the camera (he already proved his editing skills were on point on both Cyborg and Bloodsport) as effectively as he has in front, by co-writing this film, designing the fight sequences and coming up with the story. And there really is a lot of Van Damme in this film. Whereas most would probably dismiss it as another typical underground fighting film, you can't help but feel how personal this one is to him.

Yet, despite it's reputation, it's never gotten a full-on upgrade until now. We've only had bare-bones releases on DVD in the U.S., and it was included in a 5-Movie Action Pack on blu that came with a hefty price tag. I know the German distributor Platinum Cult Edition, released an Uncut and Remastered HD Blu Ray a few years back, but that also came with a hefty price tag. So this would be our first official Blu-Ray release in the U.S., and the best part is that it comes packed full of extra's. Let's dig in.

Though I grew up on an insane dose of Van Damme and Seagal, it had been a long time since I'd seen it. So this was just the reason I needed to revisit it and I have to say, it hasn't lost it's ability to entertain. Not in the slightest. It was just as fun as it was all those years ago, 28 to be exact, and a pleasant reminder of a time when these types of films were big business, and crafted with care and precision. You can't say that about these films anymore. In fact, they don't even go to theaters anymore, instead going straight to streaming and home video.

While Lionheart is admittedly a simple premise, it's handled with professional care (surprising considering this was director Sheldon Lettich's first feature film) and offers a helluva lot of kickass fighting, intermixed with some family drama. Yet it's the fights that make the film and there is plenty to love in Lionheart, as each fight is distinctly different, culminating into a massive throw-down between Lyon (Van Damme) and Attila (Abdel Qissi). Overall it's a completely satisfying and highly entertaining film from Van Damme's Golden Era, full of heart, spirit, and a whole lot of awesome.

Just The Disc:
MVD pulled out all the stops on this one. Not only do we get a much-needed HD upgrade, but we get 2 different cuts of the film; the Theatrical Cut, and the Extended Cut. The Extended Cut is pretty cool, but you can tell what new scenes are included because they're not in HD like the rest of the film. And really, it's only a few seconds of extra footage at a time and really doesn't bring much to the experience. Cool to see for sure, but it doesn't make the film any better. In fact, after having finally seen this mythical cut, I know I'll probably just stick to the Theatrical from now on.

Bonus Materials

  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations of the main feature
  • Original 2.0 Stereo Audio (Uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray) and Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Audio commentary by Sheldon Lettich & Harrison Page
  • NEW - 'The Story of ‘Lionheart’' (HD) (All new documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew including JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME)
  • NEW - 'Inside 'Lionheart' with the Filmmakers and Cast' (HD) (Featuring interviews with cast and crew including JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME)
  • NEW - ''Lionheart': Behind the Fights' (HD) (Featuring interviews with cast and crew including JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME)
  • 'Making of' featurette (8:53) (SD)
  • Interview with Sheldon Lettich (25:52) (SD)
  • Interview with Harrison Page (13:05) (SD)
  • 'Behind the Scenes of the Audio Commentary' featurette (5:40) (SD)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (SD)
  • Collectible Mini Poster

Aside from the Extended Cut being here, one of the highlights has to be seeing and hearing Jean-Claude do a new interview for this, something he rarely (almost never) ever does for his older films, which is really cool. He talks about how this film is somewhat autobiographical, which is why it was so easy for him to write. He also discusses how it pretty much catapulted his career and he was able to have some creative control and freedom in a few future projects, most notably Double Impact, where he re-teams with co-writer/director Sheldon Lettich the following year. You also get some great insight from the rest of the cast, as well as Lettich in all aspects of this production.

I think one of the most amusing aspects of revisiting this is getting to see some faces that I had completely forgotten about, or never noticed before. Like a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene with Jeff Speakman (The Perfect Weapon), Billy Blanks (Back in Action), and also Lawrence Bender, Quentin Tarantino's famous producing partner, here as an antagonistic bystander during one of Lyon's early fights.

While the film is pretty great all around, it's really the plethora of extra's that make this worth the purchase. I spent an entire weekend digging through everything and had a blast doing so. You also get a sweet mini poster to add to your collection too. So what are you waiting for?!

Lionheart is available now in a 2-Disc Special Edition directly from MVD HERE, or from any of your favorite online retailers for a suggested retail price of $27.99.


80's Thriller Throwback: The Dead Pool

The Dead Pool, Dirty Harry's Weak Link

by robotGEEK

Every 5 years or so, I dig through the Dirty Harry franchise because let's face it, it's an excellent series of films and I always walk away having different feelings and favorite's than with my previous viewing. This time I was all about Sudden Impact, now my current personal favorite in the franchise, and the only one directed by Clint Eastwood himself. And of all the films, I rarely ever bother with The Dead Pool, because no matter how many times I watch it, I just don't like it. But, I always hope for that one moment where I'll actually enjoy it, that somehow I'll connect with it in a way I hadn't before. Let's dig in.

Unanimously regarded as the weakest Dirty Harry film, The Dead Pool made it's way into theaters in 1988, 5 years after the previous entry, Sudden Impact. After 5 films and 17 years, with each film being progressively better than the previous (in my humble opinion), the series ended with a thud rather than a bang, easily making The Dead Pool the worst in the series. At times it looks and feels like a Made-for-TV movie, and at others like a low-rent Dirty Harry, the film can't seem to make anything seem interesting as it trudges along in such a slow and sour pace that you can't help but wonder just what the hell happened to such a beloved franchise. I think for starters a lot of the blame falls on the shoulders of director Buddy Van Horn, Eastwood's stunt double and stunt coordinator for most of his films spanning nearly 50 years, who sat in the directors chair only 3 times, all Clint Eastwood films, including this one. Van Horn possesses no natural talent behind the camera, giving the film a cheap looking quality that comes across as something being made for television, or something sent direct-to-video. When you consider that every Dirty Harry film before had a different director, and was each distinctly visually impressive, this last entry really lets you down.

Aside from it's obvious issues, The Dead Pool manages to walk away with at least one saving grace, and that's the surprising bit of casting which includes a very young Jim Carrey, (before he was famous), who plays a drug-addicted rock singer, Liam Neeson, here as a sleazy low-budget film director, and a slew of other notable faces that have since gone on to bigger and better things. The real standout here though has to be Harry's new partner, Evan C. Kim, who's so damn likable, and in one scene, impressively takes down a suspect with his martial arts skills. How or why they didn't give this guy more screen-time just baffles me. While primarily a television actor, Kim more than carried the role as well as Eastwood and I would have loved to have seen more of his character. Hell, an off-shoot film built around his character alone would have been awesome.

17 years and 5 films is a pretty impressive tally. Sudden Impact (1983), the previous entry, was the most successful in the franchise, while this one was the least successful, only raking in 37 million on a 31 million budget. That's not a flop, but it's not a hit either, and Warner Brothers had high hopes for this one. It's a shame this ended the series on a low-note, rather than a high one. Eastwood did a phenomenal job on The Rookie, where he was both star and director, and I can't help but wonder what he could have done had he directed this one himself. Sadly I doubt it would have helped all that much because the script is a bit tedious, and the film just doesn't flow well. I'm glad it was the shortest entry, clocking in at an hour and a half, because by the halfway point, I was already ready to throw in the towel.

Ultimately it's a pretty big letdown for such an excellent franchise. While not terrible per say, it's surprisingly dull and doesn't hold a candle to any of the previous entries. The impressive casting helps a little, as does getting to see Harry one last time, but overall it's a shockingly tame film compared to any of the others. I'd like to think that Eastwood's excellent The Rookie (1990) is the final Dirty Harry film. That would have been a proper sendoff to a much beloved character.