Friday, June 25, 2010

Film Review: Armed Response: Directed by Fred Olen Ray


I love Comcast On Demand, especially the "Impact" channel. Impact mines the vaults for all kinds of difference action movies, the majority of which are from the 80's.....the golden age of cheesy action films. While browsing through the movie selections, "Armed Response" caught my eye because it sounded hard. Actually, it kind of sounds like the name of a hardcore band.. I knew this one was going to be good in the first 30 seconds of watching it. Opening scene features a ritual Yakuza finger-chopping. This one dude fucked up and got a much sought after jade statue stolen from him. A Mr. Tanaka (The big boss man) admonishes him for it in the standard japanese cliche style way. "You have brought dishoner to your family and the Tanaka Clan, you have betrayed me and your race." Dude says," I'd like to offer a token of apology.", takes a knife, and cuts off his pinky (through the bone and everything). Tanaka deadpans....."Apology Accepted". We now notice that the mongoloid guy from "The Hills Have Eyes", is one of Tanaka's henchmen, which was an interesting casting choice for a yakuza foot soldier because he doesn't look Asian at all, just retarded. On the way out, "Mongo Man" (That's what I'm going to call him in this review) flips the guy a fortune cookie, which I guess is his trademark because he does it to several people throughout the film. I wonder if he has some kind of satchel he carries all the cookies in, because I'm thinking they'd get all crunched up in his pocket.....and it wouldn't be as cool of a calling card if you flipped a little bag of crumbs at someone with a fortune floating around in it somewhere. Anyways, the guy gets into the car with his girlfriend, all the while talking about how easy he got off. He looks at his fortune which says,"You have a bright future ahead of you". I'm not going to tell you what happened to him, it was bright for sure, but not the kind of future he had in mind.

The credits now begin to roll. exhibiting the funny 80's action movie cliche of shots of a rainy, scummy, chinatown with fog all over the place. This juxtaposed against a backdrop of neon lights and Asian architecture. Next up is a bar scene where we meet our main characters. Clay Roth (a private investigator), his brother Tommy, his father Burt (played by Lee Van Cleef), and tending bar is his other brother Jim (David Carradine). We see a display of rough and readiness when some big galoot enters the bar and disrecpects the establishment. he ends up with his ass kicked and a shotgun stuck in his face. Even his hoes get beat up! Nowadays, when I see any of Carradine's old movies....always in the back of my mind is the creepy way he died (jerkin' it with a belt around his asphyxiation). Funny and sad at the same time. That would be kind of a crappy legacy to leave, but he had a very memorable film career which offsets the bizarre way he ended up offing himself (accidently or otherwise, maybe it wasn't an accident?) Now we meet Cory Thornton, who works with Clay as a private investigator. They both go to a meeting with Mr. Tanaka, who hires them out to get back the jade statue he needs in order to avoid a war with the Chinese Tong (The Chinese Mafia). We find out that Cory is a shady little rat and has other plans for the situation. Clay ends up getting badly shot up, but retains the statue, while Cory ends up with the money they were carrying which was supposed to be exchanged for the statue.

Clay makes it back to his father Burt (Who's also an ex-cop) hands his dad the statue and collapses before he can say anything else or give leads. Burt and brother Jim are both distraught but figure whoever did this will come looking for the statue. A common theme in Action movies, the family refuses to tell the police anything in order to exact their own brand of revenge on the culprits later on. We find out the Jim (Carradine's character) is a Vietnam vet who continues to have post-traumatic flashbacks. Tommy was a war vet too, and ends up getting kidnapped and tortured by Tanaka who thinks he knows where the statue is. He goes through an excruciating experiance that I wouldn't wish on anyone, of course it's an ancient chinese torture method....but Tommy holds his mud and doesn't give in. Once Jim finds out he starts proactively going after the people who are fucking with his family. Along the way Tanaka kidnaps his wife and child which further complicates the situation. During the rest of the movie we see Jim becoming increasingly badass, and lots of huge guns being shot off (big magnum pistols, assault rifles, etc.) In one cool scene some guy gets double-killed by getting shotgunned into an electrical fence. What a shitty way to go! I won't spoil the ending, but predictably there's a showdown in the rainy, foggy, neon-lit backdrop of Chinatown.

If you are a fan of sleazy 80's action movies, then you'll love this one. I was consistently entertained throughout the whole film, which is good because some of these films can put you to sleep if the action scenes/characters are subpar. You can have a double-header and watch this and Black Rain with Michael Douglas back to back. Either way, this is a solid, entertaining flick, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5.

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