Left For Dead

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I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!

Coming out of the micro-budget scene in New Mexico, this is a straightforward tale of vengeful “hell kittens”, to quote the official synopsis. Bella Meurta (Kate) is a hooker, who kills one of her clients after he gets rough with her. In revenge, her little sister is savagely beaten and left dead [note: not left for dead…] in the street. Bella gathers together her posse to take out the mobsters responsible: stripper Fageeda Cunt (Blackery), dominatrix Silky Gun (Coi), and jailbird turned home healthcare professional Harley Hellcat (Rebelle). [Look, I’m just reporting these character names, I didn’t create them. Particularly Fageeda’s] But as the saying goes, “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” Or perhaps more, in this case.

The aim is clear here, with West looking to create (yet another) throwback to the days of grindhouse and straight-to-rental action flicks. Which explains the faux artifacts like film scratches, I guess – though since it’s clearly shot on video, you kinda wonder why they bothered. Unfortunately, the execution falls a bit short as well. Cheap, I can easily forgive; it’s the occasional sloppiness here that’s annoying. For instance, when we see little sis lying dead in the road, her corpse is in pristine condition. Then, when Bella shows up in the next shot, the body is suddenly blood-spattered and badly bruised. Having a low-budget is no excuse for glaring continuity gaffes such as that.

Even at barely an hour long, there feels like there are significant chunks of padding, such as scenes of Fageeda and Silky at “work”, which bring plot development grinding to a complete halt. Particularly in the second half, the plot seems herky-jerky, with scenes in utterly different locations next to each other, lacking any explanation of how or why the characters went from Point A to Point B. There’s also a weird, almost complete lack of anyone over the age of about 30, which makes this seems like a revenge-based remake of Logan’s Run. And it appears most of the lead actresses are local burlesque dancers. The Venn diagram of the skills needed for those professions is not two superimposed circles, shall we say.

Yet I can’t say I hated this. We’ve been involved with enough low-budget film-making to be able to appreciate what’s involved, and much of the same vibe is present here. There are enough moments of quirky eccentricity, such as the Russian mobster confused by an ignition interlock device, which kept me adequately entertained through the film’s slacker moments. The fight scenes – something we always found a nightmare to try and make look even half way to good – didn’t entirely suck. You certainly will need a high degree of tolerance for ultra-cheap independent cinema to get through this, and I wouldn’t recommend it for beginners in that genre. Yet, I’ve seen worse [much worse, trust me on that], and despite the flaws, have to acknowledge the obvious effort involved.

Dir: Mikel-Jon West
Star: Intoxi Kate, Joy Coy, General Blackery, Holly Rebelle

Last Girl Standing

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“In the beginning was the end.”

The horror genre has a tangential connection to the action heroine one, most directly through the concept of the “final girl” – when the last person left alive is a woman who confronts and defeats the threat. From Halloween to Alien, this has been a staple of the genre, but whether it qualifies a film for inclusion here, depends largely on what has gone before. For example, 10 minutes of frantic action at the end can’t counterbalance the first 80, if the focus there was not on a female lead.

Here, we instead jump right to the “final girl” section, with Camryn (A. Villalobos) pursued by a masked psycho known as “The Hunter” (Vines), who has already killed everyone else. She survives, and he is apparently the victim of one of his own traps. Fast forward five years, and understandably, Camryn is still damaged by the events. Shunning the media circus which followed, she now works in a dry-cleaners, all but avoiding human contact and unable to find closure. New colleague, Nick (B. Villalobos) tries to bring Camryn out of her shell, with the help of Danielle (Ploeger), who understands what trauma feels like. But a series of unsettling incidents leave Camryn increasingly convinced she is being stalked again. Is the Hunter really dead, and if not, can she save her friends from him this time?

The key factor here is largely whether what Camryn – and only Camryn – sees can be trusted, or if her sanity has finally cracked. Unlike some, the film does firmly and definitively answer that, and the final 15 minutes have a nicely cyclical nature, with Camryn’s new friends doing a great deal of running and screaming. While I can’t say much more there without spoilerage, until then, the script does a decent job of keeping the two alternate possibilities plausible, helped by the supporting characters. Most amusing there is likely Maelyn, who is firmly convinced Camryn is a loonie – and, to be honest, given a fondness for acts such as smashing bottles on people’s heads, you can see Maelyn’s point.

This does make the growing relationship between Brian and Camryn fairly  implausible, since the latter’s instability seems like a huge red flag – especially without, say, raging hotness which could cause us men to overlook it [Been there, done that, deeply regretted it!] However, it’s an interesting touch to have a husband and wife playing the two leads, perhaps giving things here a needed dash of authenticity. But this is most fun at the blood-soaked end, when Camryn is in full-on “final girl” mode, and the film gets to wallow in some gorey – and non-CGI, I’m pleased to report – mayhem. An earlier commitment to this direction might have been preferred, rather than the over-familiar “is she or isn’t she?” uncertainty. The lead performance was good enough to keep me interested though, and the structure offers some fresh takes, in a genre not exactly noted for them.

Dir: Benjamin R. Moody
Star: Akasha Villalobos, Brian Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Jason Vines

The Last Girl, by Joe Hart

Literary rating: starstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2action2action2

There are elements here which reminded me of Children of Men, though this is set further down the road, when civilization has decayed a good deal further. The issue here is slightly different: specifically, a lack of female children, which has triggered a rapid collapse into anarchy for the United States. 25 years later, the National Obstetric Alliance (NOA) seek far and wide for young girls, who are brought to their compound in the Pacific Northwest, to be held until the age of 21 when… Well, their fate gets a bit murky. Approaching that point is Zoey, who has known almost no other life. But after she’s subjected to a harrowing bout of psychological torture in a sensory-deprivation chamber called “the box”, her whole attitude changes, and she’s prepared to go to any lengths to escape, and take the other women with her.

It’s clear the exact moment and paragraph at which Zoey changes: “A searing desire for vengeance sweeps through her, turning her blood molten hot within her veins and with it the will to exact revenge on those responsible, to destroy what should be obliterated. To reap justice.” Before that, she has been somewhat cowed. A little rebellious, but in small ways, such as reading forbidden literature (The Count of Monte Cristo, perhaps a little too obvious a choice!). Afterward? She becomes a single-minded zealot, intent on the destruction of NOA and those who run it – and all the more interesting for it. But that’s a mission which will open up not only NOA’s darkest secrets, it will also expose how far Zoey is prepared to go in her mission.

As well as Children, there are definitely echoes of A Handmaid’s Tale, with one gender largely reduced to breeding chattel in a theocratic dictatorship [the concept of women as property, is hinted at briefly here with the “Fae Trade”, and appears to be explored further in later volumes]. I’m always down for a good dystopia, and despite the pieces being somewhat familiar, Hart has put them together in an interesting and effective manner, particularly in the second half when Zoey discovers the outside world, and realizes not everyone is like the NOA. My qualms are mostly with the plotting of the first half: if these young women really were the last hope of mankind, wouldn’t they be treated rather better? As in, propped up on couches and fed grapes, rather than kept in conditions resembling a Japanese women-in-prison film.

Still, I can understand why Hart opted for another approach. It would have made for a more ambivalent story-line, rather than NOA and its operatives being the obvious villains of the piece they need to be, and might have robbed Zoey of her moral drive to action. The interesting question – albeit one left unaddressed here – would be whether her lying and putting others in danger, never mind the actual killing, are justified; does the noble end justify her means? Though you could perhaps argue, jeopardizing the future of humanity for your own freedom, is selfish in the extreme. Zoey’s transition certainly makes for one of the more dramatic arcs I’ve read, although her easy adeptness with weapons is somewhat implausible.

Despite these weaknesses, which may seem quite significant, it must be said they didn’t stop me from enjoying the tale as it was told, and there’s still a decent amount to commend this. It’s a nicely self-contained story, yet leaves the door open enough to leave me genuinely interested in reading more. The romantic angles are kept secondary, and there’s a plausibility about the way in which society has fallen apart, that makes this border on disturbing. When the world ends, it may not be with a bang, so much as the sound of us tearing each other apart.

Author: Joe Hart
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer, available through Amazon in both printed and e-book versions.

Lipstick

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“Model behaviour”

There are times when a film doesn’t deliver anything close to what the sleeve promises. This would be one of those times. However, in this case, while disappointed, I can’t claim it was an entire waste of my time. Or, at least, it wasn’t a waste of very much of my time, coming in at a brisk 70 minutes. Yokoyama plays Arina, a fashion model who has a burgeoning online profile. However, this is not without its dangers, in some questionably creepy admirers. When one of them shows up at a fashion shoot, she and her sister, Keiko, are rescued by a conveniently passing cop, Gotoda – much to their relief. As a token of gratitude, Arina gives him a tube of lipstick, but it soon turns out that the policeman is a far bigger threat than any fan.

It takes quite some time to get to anything even remotely resembling what’s shown on the cover. And by remotely, I mean: no machete, and the costume worn by the heroine is nowhere near as luridly exploitational, when she finally gets to have a roof-top confrontation with Gotoda. Nor does she have the word “BITCH” written in lipstick on her thigh, though her predator’s use of lipstick is hardly any less unpleasant. Until then, it’s more of a study in psychological torture: after she’s attacked and raped, Arina finds her own sister unwilling to believe it. And even after she has got past that, the film’s most chilling scene has the model agency’s (female) lawyer explaining to her in cold, logical terms, exactly why pursuing any kind of case against Gotoda is going to cause more problems than it would solve.

It’s this, along with the realization that this is not going to be a one-off incident, because the cop has longer-term plans, which finally pushes Arina to take matters into her own hands. I’d certainly prefer to have seen this aspect expanded upon at greater length, instead of the five minutes it seems to get here. It certainly doesn’t seem adequate payback for the hell through which she has gone over the previous hour. There’s a particular resonance if you’re aware of Yokoyama’s “regular job” as an adult video star, as one imagines most Japanese viewers would be. The shift to playing a “fashion model” here is slight, but significant: she more or less gets to be herself, just with (slightly) more clothes. And I’m fairly sure she has also dealt with her share of creepy fans at some point.

It’s certainly a cheap topic and approach, and the script doesn’t bring much that’s innovative or memorable. But given the obvious limitations of budget and scope, this is effective enough – providing you are definitely NOT expecting mayhem on any significant scale. Yokoyama’s performance is good enough for the job, and it manages to strike a decent balance between drama and exploitation.

Dir: Ainosuke Shibata
Star: Miyuki Yokoyama, Hiroaki Kawatsure, Mitsuki Koga

Lady Bloodfight

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“Now available for Playstation and Xbox”

This rattled around in pre-production for a while, originally being called Lady Bloodsport, and with the names linked to it being significantly higher in profile: Maggie Q, Shu Qi and Zhiyi Zhang. The end result here is obviously smaller and cheaper – the fights at its core all take place in the bastion of martial arts, a warehouse – and you can’t help but think, “What if…?” However, it’s still thoroughly enjoyable, despite – or, perhaps because of – feeling like a throwback to straightforward movies such as the original Bloodsport, which helped launch the career of Jean-Claude Van Damme in 1988.

The basic approach seems entirely deliberate, and the simplicity works to the film’s benefit. You don’t watch a film with this title for intricate plot or subtle character study; you watch it to see asses being kicked, and there’s enough of that, you’d be hard-pushed to feel cheated. The excuse is the well-worn trope of a martial-arts tournament for women, the kumite, being held in Hong Kong. The last time it happened, it ended in a tie between deadly rivals, Shu (Hofmann) and Wai (K. Wu). They’re now both looking for someone who can fight on their behalf. Shu selects Jane Jones (Johnston), in Hong Kong seeking a father who vanished under murky circumstances years earlier. Wai chooses and trains Ling (J. Wu), a cocky, streetwise fighter. But there are 14 other entrants, hailing from all over the world, including Russia, Australia and Brazil, who must be defeated before the inevitable Jones vs. Ling showdown.

Yes, it’s utterly contrived, not least in not one, but two, master-student threads. If you can’t think of better ways to achieve the same end, you need to watch more movies. Fortunately, it’s salvaged by a quarter of decent performances from the lead women, who take the clichés they’re given by the script, and round them out into at least an approximation of real characters, good enough for the movie’s purposes. Bonus points due, for not inflicting any sappy romance (although Jones’s interactions with the spirit of her father are occasionally on perilously thin ice instead) and also largely avoiding potentially sleazy cheesecake, save for one locker-room pan.

As the tag-line above suggests, this feels very much like an adaptation of a non-existent video-game. As such, it would have helped if they’d mixed up the environments for the fights a bit, in the name of variety. This is a minor quibble, however, and what you get are some well-crafted slabs of action, showcasing various styles and approaches. Outside of Jones and Ling, the character which stuck in our mind most was likely Mayling Ng’s monstrous Svietta, freed from a Russian prison for the kumite. All tattoos and snarls, she might have made a better “final boss” for the heroine than Ling, who is perhaps a little too sympathetic. Despite any flaws, it’s a brisk tale, energetically told, and with plenty to commend its no-nonsense approach.

Dir: Chris Nahon
Star: Amy Johnston, Muriel Hofmann, Jenny Wu, Kathy Wu

Luana, the Girl Tarzan

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“Not the promised thrill adventure of a lifetime.”

luanaDespite a broad range of impressively kick-ass posters, in which renowned artists Frank Frazetta and Russ Manning had a hand, the heroine of the title (Chen) is much more of a supporting role than the star, and that’s a disappointment. While competently made, compared to others of the genre, its failure to deliver what the advertising promises, and indeed much jungle-girling at all, earns it a significant downgrade. The backstory is more or less the usual: a plane crash in darkest Africa leaves one survivor, the three-year-old daughter of a scientist and an Asian princess(!), who somehow survives in the rain-forest. She grows up to wander round her domain with a chimpanzee sidekick, wearing nothing but a loin-cloth and hair that magically affixes itself over her breasts, this being a firmly PG-13 rated jungle romp.

However, the real stars are the scientist’s other daughter, Isabel Donovan (Marandi), who is seeking answers to her father’s disappearance, and jungle guide George Barrett (Saxson). He knows of Luana, having been rescued by her after being attacked by savages on a previous trek into the jungle. Also along on the trip is her father’s partner, the somewhat creepy Norman (Tordi), who appears to have a more than guardian-like interest in Isabel. It soon becomes clear that “someone” – and let’s be honest, you deserve no prizes for guessing who, 30 seconds after they show up – doesn’t want the truth about the crash to be established. Meanwhile, Luana is lurking on the edge, saving her sister from a spider, stealing her clothes when Isabel takes a dip, etc.

It’s a definite shame there wasn’t more Luana, as her character possesses a sweet innocence which is quite endearing, and certainly more fun than watching the bland Isabel and George traipse through another section of faux-jungle or react to the usual stock footage [though this is integrated somewhat better than usual]. For example, witness the scene where Luana tries to figure out how to use a bra; it’s naively charming, and I’d have loved to have seen more of this angle. Indeed, the script itself is solid enough, with a number of sequences which clearly have potential. For example, there’s George arm-wrestling a tribesman, with scorpions set up on either side to greet the loser with their sting. The film also has a carnivorous plant. How can you go wrong with a carnivorous plant?

The answer appears to be director Infascelli, operating under a pseudonym, as he manages to suck the excitement out of every sequence, courtesy of pedestrian execution. But one final anecdote will sum up the overall ineptness here. When the film got US distribution, Ballantine Books commissioned Alan Dean Foster to write a novelization However, the only available copy of the script was in Italian, so Foster wrote a new novel based on the Frazetta poster. I can’t help thinking any film based on that would likely be rather better than the actual movie.

Dir: “Bob Raymond” (Roberto Infascelli)
Star: Glenn Saxson, Evi Marandi, Mei Chen, Pietro Tordi

Let There Be Zombies

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“Fight off the Living Dead”

Let-There-Be-ZombiesIt’s curious to look back at the history of zombie movies, which as we know them, began with a low-budget horror film called Night of the Living Dead, in 1968. Almost fifty years later, zombies have gone utterly mainstream, giving us films such as World War Z and the most popular show on basic cable, The Walking Dead. But it has also re-spawned its own slew of low-budget genre entries, many of which prove the truth of the statement, “Just because you can make a zombie movie. doesn’t mean you should make a zombie movie.” Even as a horror fan, I will happily admit many of these should have been strangled at birth, rehashing over-familiar story-lines with poverty-row production values and inexperienced talent on both sides of the camera.

This is not quite in the same category of being irredeemable. Certainly, there’s nothing much new in the story of a handful of survivors struggling to cope in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse, and the effects are workmanlike at best. However, it managed to sustain my interest somewhat better than many of its undead siblings. The heroine is Drew (Daly), a rookie teacher painfully unable to handle disruptive pupils her class – as she’s told, “Control the situation, don’t let the situation control you.” Before she can do that though, the apocalypse strikes and in trying to flee, her car runs out of gas in the middle of the countryside. She meets another lost soul, computer programmer Jeff (Lowe) and they try to find safety, eventually ending up on the farm run by Red (Monsante) – but it’s only a brief respite before the hordes track them down there, and Drew is going to need to transform from her milquetoast personality, if she’s to have any hope of surviving.

It’s this character arc which qualifies it for inclusion here, though it’s less of an arc than the flicking-on of a psychological switch. One second, she’s afraid of her own shadow; the next, having found a gun, she’s blasting away at the undead like they were a fairground attraction. This could be sloppy writing, or it could be a deliberate statement on the immediate empowerment obtained by possession of a firearm. Certainly, she’s a good deal more interesting once she’s in bad-ass mode, and by the time of the film’s coda, she has more or less turned into Alice from Resident Evil – albeit, without any of the cool moves. The script, however, is extremely hit-or-miss: if there were a couple of moments, where I’ll confess I did laugh, there are just as many where poor delivery killed any potential. Patterson and the rest of his cast and crew clearly have a deep love for the genre. That can only take a film so far, and unless you have a similar affection, there’s only so much entertainment to be found in watching the walking dead get prodded with bits of wood.

Dir: Andrew Patterson
Star: Sydney Daly, Manuel Monsante, Doug Lowe, Enrique Arellano

The Leopard’s Prey, by Suzanne Arruda

Literary rating: starstarstarstarstar
Kick-butt quotient: action2

leopardsThis fourth installment of the Jade del Cameron series has much the same strengths and general style of the previous books. We find Jade back in British East Africa, a few months after the events of the third book, The Serpent’s Daughter, and again encounter our old friends from the first two books. She’s supplementing her writing income by using her lariat and photography skills to help Perkins and Daley, the two partners in a small company that secures African animals for U.S. zoos. But we sense early on that her sleuthing skills may also be called on again, with the discovery of the dead body of a merchant from Nairobi (1920 population, ca. 11,000 –white population, ca. 3,000). Is his death, as the authorities initially suppose, suicide –or murder? And where is his unhappy wife? And did she or didn’t she have a recent unreported, unattended childbirth? Inquiring minds want to know; and Jade has an inquiring mind, soon made more so by the fact that the lead investigator seems to consider her beau, Sam Featherstone, a prime suspect.

The mystery (or mysteries) here was more challenging than in the previous books; I was able to figure out the basic solution about the same time that Jade did, but not before. Jade will face life-threatening jeopardies, and get to display her action-heroine credentials before the book is over; she’s also learning to fly Sam’s biplane, to add to her accomplishments (and yes, she’ll get to fly solo here). Arruda isn’t simply marking time with this installment; there are significant developments in store for some of the secondary characters, and one for Jade herself.

In a couple of areas, Arruda touches on serious issues in this book, issues from a 1920 context, but which have continuing relevance. By 1920, wildlife in parts of Africa was already coming under pressure from the great influx of European settlement and urbanization, as well as the spread of European-style agriculture. This brought habitat destruction, and the killing of predators to protect livestock –the old Africa already at war with the new. For Jade, taking individual animals to safety in a zoo is a way to help protect their species from extinction. But she’s also painfully aware that from the standpoint of the animal, life in a zoo isn’t the same thing as freedom; something important is lost. This is a quandary the morality of which is still being debated, nearly a century later. And much more so than in the previous books, we’re brought face to face with the ugly injustices of British treatment of native Africans: subjected to arbitrary taxation without representation, payable only in British money, and solely designed to force the males over 13 into oppressive labor contracts with white employers; subjected as well to travel restrictions (in their own country), that leave them virtual wards of the British and bind the males to their jobs.

This has always been, and continues to be, a seriously researched series, in which the results of the author’s research are blended seamlessly into the narrative, creating a strong sense of place. Here, we have a close look at traditional Masai culture –not as immersive and detailed a literary experience as the exploration of Amazigh (Berber) culture in the previous book, but still fascinating to me. Arruda’s treatment of non-European cultures is realistic but respectful. As always, her concluding Author’s Note here is mainly an annotated description of the source material she used in writing the novel, which would be valuable to readers who want to learn more about Africa (and post-World War I Africa in particular).

Author: Suzanne Arruda
Publisher: New American Library, available through Amazon, both for Kindle and as a printed book.

A version of this review previously appeared on Goodreads.

Lady Ninja Kaede 2

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“Secret technique, reverse dildo return!”

ladyninja2I am uncertain whether this is related to the other Lady Ninja series, or if it’s an entirely separate series. I’m leaning towards it being independent, as there appear to be magical overtones here, that weren’t present elsewhere. But just to confuse matters further,while this is on Netflix at the time of writing, there’s no sign of part one. Perhaps, if I’d seen that, this would suddenly become entertaining? Nah. Pretty sure it wouldn’t make a difference. This is slightly elevated over its predecessor by not being a po-faced ninja story with soft-porn sex scenes. It is, in fact, a barking mad ninja story with soft-porn sex scenes. What? You want specifics?

The heroine, Kaede (Akatsuki), is basically a member of the sex police, punishing those who are too lustful. There’s a religious sex cult who have combined the penises of three men into one supercharged dildo, leaving them with an apparent gaping void at the crotch. After fulfilling her first task, or retrieving the hyper-dildo, it’s up to Kaede to fix things, by finding the three donors and having sex with them, which restores their genitals. She is accompanied on her quest by a gay samurai.

Not included in this film. Any significant ninja-ing by Kaede; what action there is, is more carried out by the samurai. And, contrary to the sleeve, nor is she tied up at any point, so any bondage fans will be particularly disappointed. There is, of course, plenty of aardvarking, as Joe-Bob Briggs used to put it, and actually, I can’t say I minded the performances too much. The division of the population into those for whom sex is positive and those for whom it’s negative, reminded me (bizarrely!) of a Japanese medieval take on Cafe Flesh, Kaeda supposedly being on the anti-sex side, but in reality being the most active of anyone.

There are moments of twisted creativity that made this not unwatchable, and there’s a mad aesthetic here that could be appealing if you’re in an undiscerning mood. But if you’re looking for any kind of action beside the horizontal variety, you are going to be extremely disappointed. Finally, I did have to snort derisively at subtitles during the magic ceremony which referred to “Casper Howser”, who is presumably Doogie’s occult-inclined brother. I imagine that should instead have been “Kaspar Hauser”, a 19th-century German figure with mystical significance, about whom Werner Herzog once made a movie. Bit of a toss-up whether distributors Tokyo Shock did not know, or just did not care.

Dir: Takayuki Kagawa
Star: Luna Akatsuki, Kazu Itsuki, Yuka Sakagami

L.A. Bounty

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“Deeds, not words.”

labountyI’ve been doing this site for 13 years, and it’s amazing that this is the first “real” Sybil Danning movie I’ve covered (save her appearances in Malibu Express and Grindhouse), For she was one of the first action heroines I ever noticed, back in the golden era of VHS which was the eighties, when I was at college. Battle Beyond the Stars, Phantom Empire, Reform School Girls…. While I’d be hard pushed to call many of them cinematic classics – or even good, by normal standards – Danning, whose picture can be found in the dictionary beside the word “statuesque”, made an impact in them all. She seemed to be on the verge of a breakthrough, when an accident during rehearsal effectively ended her action career, leaving her with severely herniated discs in her back, and LA Bounty as her swansong.

She plays bounty hunter of few words, Ruger, an ex-cop who has been holding a grudge against those who killed her partner and got away with it. In particular,. that’s Cavanaugh (Hauser), an import-export businessman who has a number of other, shadier sidelines. His latest involves kidnapping a candidate for mayor of LA, only for Ruger to interrupt the process. As a result, the victim’s wife could identify the perps, so must be disposed of, only for Ruger to come to the rescue once again, intent on being the heavily-armed fly in the ointment, as she works her way up the chain of lowlife scum, towards Cavanaugh.

It is a bog-standard actioner from the period, with eighties hair, eighties fashion, an eighties soundtrack, and lots of bloodless gunplay. But two things salvage it from absolutely forgettability. And, no, that isn’t a set-up for a reference to Sybil’s breasts [impressive though they are; as a teenager, I must have worn out my copy of The Howling II…], for I mean Danning and Hauser, who are nicely constructed as polar opposites. Ruger is a women of very few words; the IMDb says it’s a a total of 31 during the entire film, but that doesn’t diminish much from the badassery of her character. At the other extreme, Cavanaugh runs his mouth at hypersonic velocity, and you get the sense he is capable of going from playful puppiness to psychotic rage in the blink of an eye. The contrast is well-conceived and nicely-executed, building to an extended finale around the villain’s warehouse where Ruger has to fend off everything from clockwork explosive birds to a giant, stuffed polar-bear.

As mentioned, while you’d be hard pushed to argue this was unjustly overlooked at the Oscars or whatever, it’s workmanlike enough. If the material has seen better days and the budget seems to be missing a zero, it’s improved enough by the two leads to leave you wondering where Danning’s career might have gone, if fate hadn’t dealt her such a crappy hand.

Dir: Worth Keeter
Star: Sybil Danning, Wings Hauser, Blackie Dammett, Henry Darrow