Sunland Heat

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“Only really one thing badly missing: a logical storyline.”

This Brazillian-shot entry has a lot of good ideas, and some excellent moments, but comes up short with a script that borders on the incomprehensible. For example, in the middle of the film, the hero and heroine are both shot with tranquilizer darts – but no subsequent mention or explanation of this ever appears. This kind of sloppy plotting plagues the movie; it’s almost half-way through before the basic story becomes clear.

To save you the effort, here’s the main thread: Jennifer Howard (Van Hagen) is a top-class martial artist, coaxed into brutal matches by rich husband Daniel (Richardson). After killing an opponent, Jennifer has had enough; but will her ex-spouse, who has his own problems, with someone syphoning money off from his business, let her find sanctuary in Brazil? ‘Course not. Luckily, she meets a friendly photographer (Perry) – who just happens to be a top-notch martial artist too, naturally – and he’s there to assist her, when Daniel kidnaps her daughter.

There’s lots to appreciate, not least the actors. As opposed to many films, Hagen here actually looks like she could kick your ass, and the flashback fight sequence is excellent – I’d like to have seen more of that, and all the battles are well staged and shot. While Perry is somewhat bland, he’s effective in action; Richardson is a B-movie veteran for almost two decades (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Attack of the 60-foot Centrefold, etc.), and has a nice, world-weary air here. But Putney (left) is perhaps the best find as Daniel’s gun-toting sidekick, Jackie; the final scene between her and her boss is fabulously intense. And there are other cool little aspects, in things like Daniel’s henchmen.

However, in an interview, the director says, “I had to cut almost 50 pages of the script.” A suggestion for next time: don’t just yank them out at random – as appears to have been the case here – and you might find the end product is rather more coherent.

Dir: Halder Gomes
Star: Alex Van Hagen, JJ Perry, Jay Richardson, Laura Putney

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