The Black Angel

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“Promising start to gangster revenge, but goes off rails badly.”

The first half of this is quite excellent. A young girl, Ikko, daughter of a Yakuza boss, sees her parents murdered on the orders of her step-sister but is rescued by the Black Angel (Takashima), a female assassin, and escapes to America. 14 years later, she returns (Hazuki), calling herself the Black Angel and starts wreaking revenge on those responsible – who retaliate by calling in the real Black Angel. The potential here is huge, not least because the original is now an alcoholic junkie, at one harrowing point reduced to licking drugs from broken glass.

Then it all goes horribly wrong for the viewer. The dividing line is the eight-minute, one-take shot of Ikko wandering around a building trying to escape while being taunted by thugs. It is incredibly pointless, overlong, and sucks the energy out of the movie like a vampire. After that, it just collapses in on itself like a balloon, and has very little more of interest to offer – both Chris and I dozed off at various points. There’s much pointing of guns at each other, and one final twist, but it was nothing you won’t see coming, and of absolutely no significance by that stage, since we had long ceased to care. A spectacular crash.

Dir: Takashi Ishii
Star: Riona Hazuki, Reiko Takashima, Kippei Shiina, Yoshinori Yamaguchi

Day of the Warrior

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Andy was back on the helm for this one, but appears to have opted to go beyond subtle self-referential digs into full-blown camp, and I tend to think this takes away from the overall experience. The intent is clear when we are brought into the office of Willow Black, the head of L.E.T.H.A.L. (The Legion to Ensure Total Harmony and Law), and find her exercising on a treadmill in an outfit more suited for an exotic dancer. Which makes sense, because if you’re a female agent of LETHAL, you can bet you’ll be going undercover as a stripper or a porn actress – not quite the empowering government job one might expect. It also appears that breast enlargement surgery is required for all such operatives.

The target this time is the Warrior (Bagwell, who was a fixture in WCW at the time), a former agent turned professional wrestler(!) turned liberator of ancient artefacts and runner of a range of dubious business enterprises, ranging from bootleg films to diamond smuggling. LETHAL have several agents undercover, but someone hacks into their computers (which seem strangely retro from this viewing point). So the spies have to be brought in from the cold by Tiger (Sidaris newcomer Marks) before their cover is blow, including Cobra (Smith), the aforementioned undercover stripper – though there’s not much of her under cover. There is also, for no readily apparent reason, a Chinese Elvis impersonator (Gerald Okamura), though I have to say, he is kinda engaging.

The problem is, when it’s obvious the makers aren’t taking this seriously – and that’s clear from the handicap wrestling match which is the climax, between Willow and Elvis Fu on one side, and the Warrior on the other – why should the audience bother? And though the tone is clearly intended to be light-hearted, it’s not actually very funny: the comic hamming of the Warrior’s surfer-dude sidekicks is particularly dreadful. There also seems to be a lot of padding, such as stock-footage shots of Las Vegas, which go way beyond anything necessary or interesting, and you get far more uses of “I need to get something off my chest,” than are in any way amusing.

And if ever I become an evil overlord, I will instruct all my minions on the perils of hiding out in a shack with “Fuel Supply” spray-painted on the side, especially when the opposition has access to an explosive-tipped crossbow… It can never end well for those seeking cover.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Shae Marks, Julie K. Smith, Marcus Bagwell, Kevin Light

Enemy Gold

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While containing many of the same elements as usual e.g. boobs and bombs, this does at least throw in a new angle, in the shape of some Confederate gold buried in the woods since the Civil War – I can only presume Sidaris must have befriended a Civil War re-enactment battalion. Out enjoying a bit of off-road action, amusingly-named federal agent Becky Midnite (Simpson) and her two co-workers stumble across a diary written by one of the soldiers transporting the gold. However, their plans to search for the treasure are disrupted by efforts to kill them, courtesy of mob boss Santiago. He is upset after they shut down his operation that involved shipping drugs in hollowed-out watermelons. Fed up with the ineptness of his minions, he hires even more amusingly-named assassin Jewel Panther (Strain) to carry out what they have failed to do.

There’s a loopy insanity to elements of this that are kinda endearing, such as with Strain’s bizarre topless sword routine, which comes out of absolutely nowhere, or her costume when she meets a couple of park rangers, which is not your usual hiker’s attire, shall we say. No-one but Strain could probably pull that off, and she’s fun to watch as usual. However, after a prelude which explains the gold, the first half abandons it entirely, and goes off in a totally different (and not very interesting) direction, involving the raid which get Midnite and her squad suspended, amid political shenanigans and an agent who’s secretly working for Santiago. The final showdown between the various parties concerned is, quite possibly, the worst ever committed to celluloid, even allowing for the fact that Santiago is apparently a “hands on” criminal overlord, who believes that if you want a job done well, you should do it yourself.

The action around the forest is well-staged, with a decent vehicle chase whose danger is enhanced by the lack of helmets worn by the participants, and you’ve got to love the crossbow whose bolts explode three seconds after embedding in the target. The sole purpose of this delay seems to be in order for the target to get a “Wile E. Coyote” moment of horrified realization before exploding. Hey, I laughed…

Dir: Drew Sidaris
Star: Suzi Simpson, Bruce Penhall, Tai Collins, Julie Strain

Fit To Kill

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Hang on, two movies ago, criminal mastermind Kane was Japanese – now, he’s the son of a Nazi officer who went on the run after the war with a diamond stolen from the Russians? I know I’m watching these all of our order, but still… They even refer to a pendant with a tracking device in it, given to the Japanese version of Kane, even though Moore now appears to be channeling Julian Sands, not Pat Morita. I’m so confused. Still, logic, continuity and coherence are not really the point here, are they?

This centres on said diamond, which a Chinese businessman plans to return to the Russians. When the jewel is stolen during a ceremonial party, Kane’s presence makes him the obvious suspect, not least because he has hired infamous assassin Blu Steele (Strain), turning her to his side after her attempt to kill him is foiled by a bulletproof vest. However, is everything what it seems? It’s up to Donna and Nicole (Speir + Vasquez), and their friends, to solve the puzzle, while dodging remote-controlled attempts to kill them (including a particularly-dumb pair of assassins known as Evel and Knievel), pausing only for changes of costumes, hot-tubs and the occasional spot of soft-core love-making. In other words, business as usual for a Sidaris film.

There’s a cheerful innocence to much of the nudity here, which harkens back to the 60’s, e.g. the radio station receptionist who has a hot tub as her desk, in which she sits topless. I actually prefer this approach to the more “intimate” scenes, and the relatively intricate plot also helps make this aspect a cut above [Kane and Donna end up having to work together after both are captured, which marks the first time I’ve genuinely been surprised by a Sidaris storyline development]. However, it does flag in the middle, and the obsession with remote-controlled models is not one I personally share, though overall, this still remains one of the better productions, with Strain fitting in perfectly as a villainess.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Dona Speir, Roberta Vasquez, R.J. Moore, Julie Strain

Do Or Die

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In a filmography not exactly noted for thought-out plots, this maybe counts as one of the thinnest. Donna (Speir) and Nicole (Vasquez) are targeted by death for Kane (Morita) for their interference in his illegal business ventures. But rather than simply bumping them off, as any sane criminal mastermind would do, he informs them of his intentions to send six separate pairs of assassins after them, beginning the next morning. Our pair of federal lovelies head out of Hawaii, little knowing that a tracker has been placed on them, allowing Kane’s to follow them, while their master sits in his apartment and follows the progress of his “game” on a computer display resembling a bad TRS-80 game [younger readers can Google “TRS-80” if they need specifics], as they proceed from Las Vegas to Louisiana, with a motley crew of associated agents in tow, including infamous Meyer model, Pandora Peaks. No prizes for guessing her role.

There seems to be an awful lot more sex than violence here; the action sequences are not exactly thrilling, and the assassins are, almost without exception, entirely incompetent, so pose little or no threat. Even the boss level ninjas that represent the final obstacle are easily fooled into hanging around inside a hut long enough to be blown-up. The structure is obvious: the ladies are attacked, fend off their assassins with some semi-nifty piece of technology, then there’s the required love-making scene, showcasing generally artificial attributes. Rinse. Repeat. Six times. It’s kinda amusing to see Morita playing a bad guy, not least because his massaging Oriental sidekickess is a good four inches taller than him, as well as about forty years younger.

Brimhall gets to do another musical number, which is startlingly inappropriate in just about every way, though I confess I did find myself humming along when it was replayed over the end credits. However, I also found myself seriously dozing off during the early stages, and little of what transpired subsequently proved sufficient to retain my interest.

Dir: Andy Sidaris
Star: Donna Speir, Roberta Vasquez, Pat Morita, Erik Estrada