90's Action Attack!: Martial Law (1990)


A Tepid Entry In The 90's Action/Martial Arts Home Video Market Explosion

by robotGEEK

On the surface, this should be a homerun. You have a pretty killer cast of standout 90's character actors, some solid martial arts (none of that slow-mo stuff), and a premise that works for the most part. Yet, despite it's strong opening, the film really fails to deliver on it's potential. 

I think my biggest issue is that there is very little action in here. Sure there are plenty of fights, but they're a mixed bag of quality. Some kick ass, and some are surprisingly lazy and/or flat. And while the fights kind of make up for the lack of action in general, the story could have used some serious tweaking. The film tends to meander aimlessly from the family turmoil at the heart of the story, to a subplot involving stolen cars.  I mean, that's fine and all, but so many of the scenes felt abrupt and look like last-minute filler.

Chad McQueen is fine as the lead and surprisingly capable of carrying the film, but Rothrock, who is easily the standout here, is shockingly underused and undervalued as a badass. It's no surprise that she took the lead in the sequel the following year, which I still need to get to. David Carradine does a fine job as the lead villain, but you're more than likely to be more impressed with the who's who of 90's martial arts character actors who pop in and out of the film such as Professor Tanaka, Philip Tan, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez and James Lew. 

Director Steve Cohen handles everything well enough, and I liked that he chose to shoot the martial arts fast and furious instead of slow-motion. I'm sure there were plenty of moments where he even sped the film up to make the fights look faster. There just really should have been more action overall. A car chase, explosion, shootout.....something. For this reason alone, Martial Law really fails to deliver when it really could have been a standout. It makes me wonder how much better it would have turned out had it been in a studio like PM Entertainments hands. 

I also discovered something that floored me while watching this. Chad McQueen is actually that asshole kid Dutch (with the terribly bleached blonde hair and eyebrows) from The Karate Kid. All these years, I had no idea. 

Martial Law 1 & 2 are available, restored, on Amazon Prime HERE. Both of these films have been recently released on Blu Ray via Vinegar Syndrome, newly restored in 4K and with tons of extra goodies ONLY available through their website and a few indie retailers, and nowhere else. You can grab them HERE while you still can. Limited quantities available. 


Bad Movie Night: Cruel Jaws (1995)


Bruno Mattei's Infamous Jaws Ripoff Lives Up To Every Bit Of It's Legend

by robotGEEK

Somehow, despite my appreciation for Bruno Mattei films, I never actually got around to this one until now. And it's only because it was streaming on Amazon Prime that I finally got the chance to because I never really felt the urge to try and get myself a copy. But boy was I missing out, because Cruel Jaws was just as unintentionally hilarious as we were hoping for. 

This legendary Jaws ripoff is almost a blueprint for how to take a well-known property, steal from it shamelessly, and deliver some of the most hilariously amateurish productions I've ever seen, despite the fact that Mattei had decades of film experience under his belt. Atrocious acting, hilarious dialogue, bizarre camerawork (what the fuck is up with all those weird zooms???), rampant use of shark stock footage, and repeated use of the same footage over and over again makes this Bad Movie Night GOLD. Not to mention there are really crazy looking actors who resemble other actors, like the poor man's Hulk Hogan and someone who looks shockingly like a young Billy Zane. 

It's crazy to me to think that Bruno Mattei (Strike Commando, Robowar) made this in the mid 90's, when it clearly looks like the person behind the camera has never made a movie before in their life! But that's the beauty of this oddity in a lot of ways. There are moments where they blatantly steal the Superman theme song for a few scenes, and if you look closely, they literally steal shots from Jaws! Endlessly entertaining, shockingly inept and unintentionally hilarious, Cruel Jaws was a blast from start to finish. 

In a time when it feels like we've probably seen all of the "so bad, they're good" movies, it's refreshing to stumble upon one that we actually hadn't seen, and was in fact so bad, it's good. 

Cruel Jaws was released on DVD and Blu Ray via Severin Films back in September of 2020, and can be picked up via your favorite online retailer like Amazon HERE. It's also currently streaming on Amazon Prime in HD.


The Cult Corner: Fletch (1985)


Crime Film? Or Comedy? You Must Decide

by robotGEEK

For some reason, I never got around to this one until now. And seeing it for the first time, I was surprised that it wasn't nearly as funny as I was expecting. While it's no dud, it actually plays out better as a crime film than a comedy. While there is certainly attempts at comedy, they rarely ever generate a laugh. At least for me. I hear the books are rather hilarious though. And I will admit that Chase is on fire here and really, had it been anyone else in the role, Fletch would have been completely forgettable. Here you can see him doing a lot of improv, and while they're still not all that funny, they do make the scenes a lot better overall. 

The crime/investigation aspects of the film are what draw you in for the most part, where Chase plays an investigative reporter on the trail of a hot story involving police corruption and drugs. I was genuinely surprised that the film succeeded more in this area than in the comedy, but I think that just goes to show you that Fletch, for all of it's issues, does surprise you. Whether it's a good surprise is up to your mood or taste. As it stands, Fletch was only marginally funny, and the film as a whole only works because of Chevy Chase. 

I hear a reboot is in the works with Jon Hamm? While that idea is interesting, they really need to figure out what genre they're attempting first, because this version certainly wasn't a comedy, even though it's marketed as one. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed it. It was just a different type of film than I was expecting. Killer theme song by the great Harold Faltermeyer by the way. I mean, it's really great and probably one of the most memorable things about the film. 


90's Action Attack!: Point Blank (1998)

Die Hard in a Mall 90's Style

by robotGEEK

This is a film that has been recommended to me many times by several different people over the years. I never made the time though. There are just too many movies and not enough time to watch them all. Though, if they had mentioned that this was basically "Die Hard in a mall", then I can guarantee you I would have made much more of an effort to see it sooner. But here we are. I finally watched it, out of the blue, on my own accord, and boy let me tell ya. I wish I had listened to all those people and seen it sooner because this was badass. 

A group of prison inmates, during a prison transfer, break free by killing the guards and take an entire mall hostage. When ex-cop Rudy Ray (Mickey Rourke) learns his brother Joe Ray (Kevin Gage) is one of inmates involved, he secretly infiltrates the mall and attempts to save his brother, while also taking out the other inmates one by one.

Released in 1998, this actually stars 2 alumni's of Michael Mann's Heat from 3 years earlier; Kevin Gage (who played Waingro in Heat) and Danny Trejo (who played Trejo). Gage is actually one of the main leads here, which really surprised me. While Mickey Rourke is top-billed, he really isn't in here anymore than Gage is. And speaking of Rourke, he puts in a really understated performance here. He actually barely speaks, and is just huge, like a linebacker, and ridiculously tanned. Rourke plays the John McLane character, taking out the bad guys one by one in the shadows, like a ninja, and extremely proficient, while also playing Rudy like the strong, silent type. The only time he ever emits an emotion is during 2 different scenes where he cries. Other than that, he's basically a robot here. 

Rourke was fine in his understated way, and Gage was surprisingly effective, but the real standout here is Danny Trejo. Jesus Christ he's a mean motherfucker in this. I mean, he's always been a great bad guy, even though in real life his one of the nicest people you'll ever meet, and uses his fame for good. But man, he is so good at being evil. There's even a standout sequence involving Trejo and easily the weirdest pole dancing scene I've ever seen in my life. It's wild. 

Speaking of Trejo. There are several key moments where he and Rourke battle it out and boy I gotta tell you, those are without a doubt the highlights of the film as these two big buff and tanned guys kick the living shit out of each other.

The film is filled with a surprising amount of well-known character actors (too many to even name to be honest), but with that being said, there is a weak link, and that has to be Paul Ben-Victor, who plays sort of the ringleader of the entire hostage operation. His attempt at playing a flamboyant gay crime boss is odd and so over-the-top that it's completely unrealistic, and not even in a fun way. It just leaves you scratching your head most of the time. 

Point Blank is a true hidden gem from the 90's action era. It's a shame that the title and cover art offers nothing in the way of telling you what kind of film to expect going in, which is probably why I stayed away from it all this time. But I'm here to tell you that it's damn good, and certainly quenched my low-budget action thirst. The action set pieces are incredibly well-done and tight, the acting across the board is good, and it never slows down. I mean, there is a ton of action and it's a blast. 

How to see it:

Last I checked, it was streaming on Amazon Prime, YouTube and TubiTV.