This is one of those covers I remember seeing often on the video store shelf, but never really gave it a second thought. I mean, just based on that cover it comes across as another mismatched duo comedy that I really don't care for. And to a certain extent, that's exactly what it is, a mismatched buddy action/comedy. But it's also so much more than that and quite the pleasant surprise once you get past the first half. Let's dig in.
Two mismatched mercenaries are hired by the CIA to overthrow a South East Asian dictator by helping the local band of rebels train in combat. At first just another job, they soon learn that it's become more of a purpose.
Directed with gusto by Charles Martin Smith, yes that Charles Martin Smith, the actor in such classics such as Starman and The Untouchables who's also a fine director who started off his directing career with the cult horror classic Trick or Treat, Fifty/Fifty is probably one of the most underrated and easily forgotten/dismissed action films to come out of the early 90's. What's more, this is a Cannon production, something I wasn't even aware of until I popped this in. But it's not a lazy Cannon production either, unlike a lot of their films at the tail end of their reign. Because of Smith's slick direction, this film looks bigger than it has any right to, and boasts some impressive camerawork, visuals and action set pieces. Honestly, if there's anything I took away from this, it was how great the film looked overall, and I kept thinking how Charles Martin Smith is so undervalued as a director. I can't say that I've seen all of his films, because after his one-two punch of Trick or Treat and Fifty/Fifty, he went straight into family films and television work, but I can only imagine what solid films he could have delivered had he been given the opportunity to direct more action and horror films because as it stands, his work on Trick or Treat and Fifty/Fifty is quite excellent.
By no means a game-changer, Fifty/Fifty succeeds as well as it does because of Charles Martin Smith's excellent direction and Peter Weller and Robert Hayes strong performances, who's ability to play off each other so well reminded me of the type of on-screen pair-ups you rarely see anymore. It's an overall better-than-you'd-expect experience that surpassed my expectations at every turn, delivering a pretty great action flick all around. Think Tango & Cash, only set in the jungles of South East Asia. Fun Fact: Stallone and Russell were originally set to star in this flick before they decided to do Tango & Cash instead, leaving the doors open for Weller and Hayes to take over.
|Director and co-star Charles Martin Smith
How to see it:
Currently you can find it on a variety of formats, but not on Blu-Ray yet, and none of the previous releases offer it in widescreen sadly, but the dreaded full-frame. I would love to see this in widescreen someday because it's a great looking movie where Smith does a fantastic job giving the film a lot of scope for such a small budget, making full use of it's exotic locations. Currently it's VHS, DVD and Laserdisc releases are fairly affordable and easy to get, and I'd highly recommend grabbing one.