|VHS cover scan courtesy of Ryan Gelatin as submitted to SerialKillerCalender.com|
Directed by: Fred Olen Ray
Sometimes you come across a film that perfectly delivers exactly what the cover art promises, and what you are hoping for; nothing more, nothing less. This is that film. If you're looking for a solid little low-budget action flick that delivers just the right amount of awesome, action, and 80's vibe, then this is the film for you.
This tale of revenge and double-crosses centered around the Yakuza clan, the Chinese Tong, and father and son war veterans came at a time when I was struggling to find anything good after a string of terrible or mediocre action films. You'd think it would be easy to make these, but apparently it's not, because I kept throwing on dud after dud until finally getting around to this one and being pleasantly surprised....finally.
I think one of the biggest surprises for me was that this was directed by Fred Olen Ray, a filmmaker with questionable ability for most of his career. Honestly, without sounding too much like a dick, this is probably the only film of his that I've seen that I genuinely like. I admit that I haven't seen a lot of his vast filmography, but one thing I've noticed is that the quality of his work is never consistent. A lot of it is just terrible, with most of it being dismissive. But somehow, in some way, all the stars aligned for this one effort and while it's not a great piece of work, it's one helluva fun B-Movie in the action genre.
Aside from the fact that Ray actually turned out a solid film, the casting of this thing is just fantastic. First and foremost, you have the legends Lee Van Cleef and David Carradine. But it's really the little bit parts filled to the brim with genre icons that really stand out like Micheal Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Brent Huff (Strike Commando 2, Born to Fight), Mako (Conan the Destroyer, The Perfect Weapon), Dick Miller (!!!), Laurene Landon (Maniac Cop 1 & 2), and David Goss (Hollywood Cop). Man, what a fantastic cast all around for such a small film.
I'm not going to lie to you and say that this is one of the best low-budget action movies I've ever seen, because it's not. But it sure is one helluva good time in this little niche department. It's got a great cast, a fun vibe, and shockingly, it's made competently well. Too bad Ray couldn't keep up with this type of quality of work. If anything, Armed Response shows that the guy has the goods. In some ways you can compare him to Jim Wynorski. Both filmmakers have tackled pretty much every genre imaginable, but really hit their mark in the horror genre, before settling into softcore porn for the majority of their later career, only to strangely segway into family friendly comedies now and then. They both really left their mark though with a low-budget horror flick; Wynorski with Chopping Mall (1986), and Ray with Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988). It's a shame that even though they both deliver multiple films a year - and still continue to, they have never been able to capture the magic of these early offerings in their careers.
Armed Response was awesome, plain and simple. Give it a shot, should the mood for this type of film strikes you. You won't be disappointed.