Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Albert Pyun Fest

Radioactive Dreams (1986) * *

Cast:John Stockwell, Michael Dudikoff, George Kennedy, Lisa Blount

Directed By Albert Pyun

Stockwell and Dudikoff star as two brothers who spend all their childhood reading Detective novels and upon rearing their heads in the Mad Max-like wasteland discover that the world is a mean spirited place, they also get their hands on a keys to a nuclear bomb hence throwing them into war with various gangs that want to rule the world.

Inside Radioactive Dreams there is a good movie in there trying to get out but unfortunately Pyun can’t tie his plot threads together well enough. To make matters worse Dudikoff’s Jerry Lewis impersonation while accurate quickly exaggerates and it’s only in the finale when Dudikoff drops such and goes for a film noir mood that the movie starts to work. Radioactive Dreams is competently made but the big problem here is that the film needs more action and less comedy because the comic value is not only non-existent, but horrific in its ineptitude. Radioactive Dreams then gets a passable rating for trying to do what has never been done although the question remains whether such should’ve been attempted in the first place.

Captain America (1991) *

Cast:Matt Salinger, Ronny Cox, Scott Paulin, Ned Beatty, Darren McGavin

Directed by Albert Pyun

By far the one of the worst comic book adaptations ever made, Captain America fails because the film just doesn’t have the budget to make anything decent out of such. The story about this horrendous film is pretty interesting (more interesting than the film) as it seems Pyun had a script and an idea but no financial backers, or as Pyun put it “Captain America wasn’t made with little money, it was made with no money” Indeed given the utterly banal nature of the fight sequences and the lack of Red Skull make up, one doesn’t doubt this. Captain America then couldn’t possibly live up to the comic book. The only problem with all of this is that the film is just unrelenting in its dullness. This isn’t then Captain America so much as Captain Boring. Indeed the fight sequences are extremely shoddy and very unexciting. Which is why I grant Pyun this point, because I saw Pyun’s other films and you can see that his fight sequences often at the very least provide visceral punch. Not so here. Another problem as well is that you can tell the cast involved know that they are involved in a bomb. Indeed this probably was one of those movies that looked like a great idea on paper but you need more than good intentions to make a decent movie out of this nature. Another observation is that people complained about the vastly superior (And underrated) Punisher film as feeling too much 80s Action flick and not true enough to the comic. What is sad is that Captain America doesn’t even feel like too much of something else so much as it feels like just a big worthless chunk of nothing.

Bloodmatch (1991) * * *

Cast: Thom Mathews, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Hope Marie Carlton, Dale Jacoby, Thunderwolf, Michel Qissi, Vincent Klyn

Directed by Albert Pyun

Thom stars as Brick Bardo, a mad as hell kickboxer who abducts the champion fighters (Urquidez, Carlton, Thunder Wolf and Jacoby) that set up his brother for the slaughter and along the way not everything is as it seems. Bloodmatch is an utterly baffling and insane martial arts action flick, not unlike Cyborg in the way it just works in a way that defies all logic and forces us to accept it on its own ridiculous standards. The fact that this film bills itself as a kickboxing mystery should basically let you in on the sheer nuttiness of this film. What is most surprising is how much we find ourselves ignoring the absurdity of it all and embracing the action sequences which are very well choreographed. The acting is of course atrocious (excepting Mathews) where the actors sprawl out some of the most hilariously stilted lines outside of a Ed Wood movie (“Matches of guilt and innocence (…) Connie you’re getting into that ring one last time to fight again, because after that you won’t fight again, you’ll be dead” being among one of my favorites) Indeed it’s hard to review such a movie because Bloodmatch is very entertaining and it does deliver the action goods (and very well) the hard part is determining whether Bloodmatch is a legit good movie and I can’t honestly tell you that such is an unseen gem of martial arts movie classics. However what I can say is that gibberish plot aside (There is an utterly unexplained twist that hints at whether Mathews is a robot made from the brother, the brother that was “killed” or indeed the kickboxing brother who was at the wrong place wrong time) this is simply put a guilty pleasure for yours truly and giving credit where credit is due, Pyun is the best used in the martial arts genre. It’s no secret then that Pyun is maligned by the B.movie community but there is no doubt that this is one of Pyun’s better efforts.

Nemesis (1992) * * *

Cast: Olivier Gruner, Tim Thomerson, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Thom Mathews, Deborah Shelton, Brion James, Nicolas Guest, Merle Kennedy, Marjean Holden, Thomas Jane

Directed by Albert Pyun

Albert Pyun returns to his Cyborg roots for this similar but superior cyber cop on run scenario as LAPD Cyborg Oli has a bomb planted in his heart to blow up his lover (now a computer chip) and prevent the humans from uprising. Once again Nemesis works simply because Pyun films some incredible action sequences. Olivier Gruner’s utterly wooden acting is for once appropriate and basically Nemesis moves so fast and often has so many good ideas that it emerges as one of Pyun’s most enjoyable efforts. There are some flaws of course, for one the acting is terrible (Excepting Thomerson, Tagawa and Shelton) even from the usually reliable Brion James and Thom Mathews. Indeed Brion James has an utterly absurd German accent almost as ridiculous as Ernest Borgnine’s from Laser Mission. Also Pyun doesn’t always succeed in tying his many (Admittedly intriguing) plot threads in the most coherent manner but he does keep the pace fast and the thrilling action sequences make this worth seeing for the genre fan. Another plus that Nemesis has in its favor is the look and atmosphere. This is a very visually enjoyable film and captures the whole Mad Max/Max Headroom feel effortlessly. Indeed this is Gruner’s best film to date and overall well worth tracking down.

Knights (1993) * *

Cast:Kris Kristofferson, Lance Henriksen, Kathy Long, Scott Paulin, Gary Daniels, Vincent Klyn

Directed by Albert Pyun

Pyun returns again this time combining a lot of the elements of Nemesis and Cyborg together in a film that is funnier than most comedies though one isn’t sure I should praise it as such. The ridiculous plot involves kickboxer Long who joins forces with cyborg warrior (Kristofferson, who is unintentionally hilarious in a part that Dolph Lundgren would be right at home with.) to fight a gang of vampire cyborgs (Led by Henriksen with a hook-hand) who oppress humankind and who have met their match in our heroes. Pyun rips off Cyborg’s savage gang of mutant villain element and plugs in a Nemesis styled cyborg takeover in a film that fails on all levels except for the unintentional comedy part. Indeed where as Cyborg was sublimely bad entertainment, it got the action sequences part right, as well as the atmosphere and did have a weird energy that made it work in spite of itself. Nemesis was actually good so that takes such out of the equation. What is ultimately surprising about Knights is that the action sequences are flat and uninspired. Indeed there is no zip to the confrontations and such becomes hilarious because seeing Kris Kristofferson kickboxing against Gary Daniels and a slew of martial artists is just insane in its utter absurdity. The climax is even campier because Kathy Long fights the bad guys with Kristofferson’s cybernetic torso in her backpack (!) All of this is of course utterly silly and blatantly laughable. However the fact that the film aside from the production values fails to do anything right and yet is still so entertaining is what makes it hard to review. So in that in the end I say to tread carefully. Though if you like to laugh at really awful movies, this should just about fill the bill.

Nemesis 2 (1994) *

Cast: Sue Price, Tina Cote

Directed by Albert Pyun

Where as Nemesis 1 is one of Pyun’s best efforts, this inert dud of a sequel is easily one of Pyun’s worst movies. Apparently truer to Pyun’s original vision (which was supposed to have Megan Ward instead of Olivier Gruner) this terrible film actually doesn’t have much to do with the first one (at least from what I could tell) Indeed there involves a time machine and a cyborg warwith the humans that have since lost since the first movie but otherwise it’s basically charisma-less Price running around the desert fighting the bad guys in one-sided fight sequences leaving one to doubt how the cyborgs could indeed enslave man (let alone beat Olivier Gruner) when they are so brittle. The production values are decent but this movie just doesn’t have an interesting story or any interesting action, therefore making it a complete bore.

Nemesis 3 (1995) *

Cast: Sue Price, Tim Thomerson

Directed by Albert Pyun
Even worse than # 2.

Heatseeker (1995) *1/2

Cast: Keith Cooke, Thom Mathews, Norbert Weisser, Gary Daniels Tina Cooke

Directed by Albert Pyun

Don “The Dragon” Wilson look-a-like Keith Cooke stars as the last human kickboxer who battles a tournament where cyborg fighters compete for some world tournament and also aboard is Thom Mathews as a fighter who is looking for redemption for his father and Weisser who clearly has a sinister agenda involved, one that involves not letting Cooke win at any cost and he’s willing to pay hardball (Kidnap Cooke’s girlfriend trainer Cote) Heatseeker is Pyun’s first martial arts movie that isn’t even remotely entertaining. (It’s not Kickboxer 4 that’s for sure) The thing that is most odd about Heatseeker is that it is so badly shot in the fight arena. The camera seems to capture the action at almost always the wrong angle. It was sort of irritating in Pyun’s enjoyable films when he would sometimes shoot the audience reaction as opposed to the action but this is often from a detached view that it’s very tough to even enjoy the action as it is so processed and distanced. The movie outside of that is even worse, mainly because the movie has too many filler sequences of Keith Cooke running around town naked, or would be training montage between Cote and Daniels. Meanwhile Pyun rips off Rocky IV in Gary Daniels’ character as not only does Daniels bare a resemblance to Dolph Lundgren, he doesn’t even get as many lines. Another problem is that Cooke is completely dull as the hero (Losing his charisma from King Of The Kickboxers) All in all Heatseeker is a disappointment on many levels. Indeed only Thom Mathews and Norbert Weisser show some charisma in their parts. Indeed Weisser is by far the only thing that keeps you watching this dud. Indeed throughout the film I kept wondering how much better the movie would’ve been had Weisser had a better script set to his villainous talents. Mathews meanwhile clearly shows up the blank Cooke and it’s sort of odd that they didn’t just cast Mathews in the lead. What Pyun really needed was to goose up the fight sequences, cause the feeble action sequences, fail to distract the audience from the fact that they’ve seen it all before… and from Pyun.

Mean Guns (1997) * * *

Cast: Christopher Lambert, Ice-T, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Michael Halsey, Thom Mathews, Yuji Okumoto, Tina Cote, Kimberly Warren

Directed by Albert Pyun

Mean Guns surprisingly predates the (vastly superior) Battle Royale but the premise is the same as prisons have become corporate run and to take care of this, the worst criminals are gathered up and forced to fight to the death where only three will walk away alive, the warden running it (Ice-T) is also being set up for the slaughter by the corporations that run such prison system, while wiry killer Lambert joins forces with hitman Halsey, Innocent by stander Van Valkenburgh and femme fatale Warren in a fight to the finish. Fight sequences that involve bats, guns and even garrots are used all set to mambo (?) music. Mean Guns moves at a very quick pace and has lots of well choreographed action that often adds a surreal touch to proceedings, as things grow so hectic and bizarre it becomes surreal. Indeed the main inspiration for Mean Guns is no doubt John Woo. For Pyun even tries to tie this movie with a heroic bloodshed angle that, all things considered, offers effective moments (though the ending is overkill). What works the best are Lambert and Ice-T, two actors that have more range than they often show in throwaway B.movies like this. Lambert in particular has his best role in ages as a wiry psychopath that volunteers for such and who has vague qualities that don’t necessarily make him the clear cut bad guy. Ice-T meanwhile uses his New Jack City presence and makes good on creating a menacing yet humorous bad guy. Another plus is the chemistry between Thom Mathews and Yuji Okumoto, as two prisoners who work effectively as a team but let a fetching blonde come between them. All of this in the end is silly and the ending in particular doesn’t work with the overall tone of such, but even Pyun detractors will find something to enjoy here. It’s not great but this is a fun B.movie.

Crazy Six (1998) 1/2*

Cast:Rob Lowe, Ice-T, Mario Van Peebles, Burt Reynolds, Thom Mathews

Directed by Albert Pyun

Crazy Six stars Lowe as a burned out con man junkie who finds himself in big trouble when he rips off Ice-T and finds himself hunted in some dilapidated European wasteland. One of the problems with Crazy Six is determining what exactly is going on. The plot follows a fairly similar theme of double crosses and such but the movie is so murky and ugly that the film fails to work as even camp. To make matters worse the character of Crazy Six is boring, unlikable and wimpy. Indeed Lowe pretty much is bailed out by Mathews and Reynolds and pretty much the movie tries to be Tarantino like in mood, unfortunately Pyun just can’t muster any enthusiasm among his talented cast. Rob Lowe in particular is miscast as an action hero, but what makes the casting worse is that Lowe clearly knows how far his star has faded and he brings that sense of “doing it for the paycheck” to his role that ultimately makes it sort of sad. Indeed all actors involved have seen better days and it’s not a secret given the aggressive contempt they speak their lines with. Indeed this movie most likely has a more interesting story behind the scenes, in which a far more enjoyable movie would be mainly asking the actors what it’s like to be in a film ungainly to the eyes and how boring it is to play such roles and the stories involved with why they took the role in the first place. Crazy Six is a really terrible effort all around. I usually defend Pyun as creatively misunderstood, but this was rough going for me. Indeed one doubts if Pyun even enjoyed making this film, given the workmanlike camera angles and indeed lack ofreal ambition in committing this turkey to celluloid. In fact one wonders if this wasn’t done without the threat of violence to the cast and their loved ones. Crazy Six is so extremely tedious that it’s not a film that is watched so much as endured. You stand warned.


  1. Nice reviews! I'd love to see you review Pyun's terrible trio of The Wrecking Crew, Corrupt, and Urban Menace, evne if those films turning out as bad they did wasn't Pyun's fault, they were still unintentionally hilarious on alot of ways and at least weren't dull like Crazy Six, also i'd be interestd to see your take on "Blast", can't think of any other Die-Hard rip-off that has as many negative reviews as that one.

  2. Blast I assure will get a one star cause I hove notes with me writing over how boring and unexciting that one is. As for Urban Menace,Corrupt and The Wrecking Crew the question is about finding them when I look for stuff to review. The lack of video rental stores is a big damper on why my site has so much time go by between updates.

  3. Yeah I can understand that, I heard a few months back that Hollywood Video will be closing down for good, which really sucks because that was where I found alot of great DTV titles, and that's where I got both Corrupt and Urban Meance, Wrekcing Crew I actually got from Gamestop back when they sold used DVDs. Also would be nice to hear your thoughts on Adrenalin:Fear The Rush, Hong Kong 97, Max Havoc, Spitfire, Nemesis 4, Dollman, Raven Hawk and Postmortem.

  4. I think you covered enough movies here, so the last thing I'll do is bring up any others or ask you to review more, because this is pretty thorough. You've come back with a bang here.

    My biggest disagreement is on Radioactive Dreams, which I really dug, but I can see where you came to your conclusion on it. I could probably fill up the screen discussing all of the others too, but other than Knights and the Nemesis sequels, anyone can read my opinions on them on my site.

    I think the biggest thing I take from your reviews, is that, even when they're critcal, they're critical because you've liked his good films so much, that that's what they're compared to, which is the right approach. They're not critical out of disdain, but rather out of respect, and Pyun has earned that respect, not only by making great films, but by commenting and letting us know that he respects our opinions and apprecioates our viewership.

  5. Well it's like this, back when it was just Stomp Tokyo, Unknown Movies (Greywizard) and Cold Fusion. Everyone hated Pyun. Greywizard in particular added some valid reasons as to why he didn't think much of Pyun. However when I sent copies of Bloodmatch and Kickboxer 4 too. He actually gave K4 a mixed review on IMDb and Bloodmatch the same type of reaction. So I think that says a lot when Pyun Detractors say that Bloodmatch, Kickboxer 4 and Nemesis have their merits.

    As for Radioactive Dreams, I see it (and I should've probably mentioned this) as Albert Pyun as not quite perfecting his style. It wasn't boring and it had some good ideas but the biggest problem is Pyun's attempt at comedy. Pyun even at his best is a humorless director. It's not Dudikoff's fault either because he was hilarious in Bachelor Party and i'm not sure if this was made before American Ninja became a hit (I think it was and released after...Believe it or not that's why to capitalize on such) so the action level was okay but could've used more punch. Another thing was that the acting wasn't all that bad either, Dudikoff actually was accurate to Jerry Lewis, the problem was is that it wasn't needed. Thankfully Pyun cut out the comedy with Cyborg. Even if it's campy, it's often better when Pyun just does it fast. I mean not all directors can do comedy. I mean even Don Siegel (Dirty Harry director) made some of the best action flicks and yet he ventured into comedy with that Bette Midler bomb. Ugh. I think action directors are at disadvantage because comedy is about timing and subtleness. Although Pyun films one hilarious scene where Stockwell is being interrogated and he hears Dudikoff screaming, thinking that his brother is being tortured only for it to be revealed Dudikoff is losing his virginity. See that was the only laugh I had. But a lot of times like the mobster kids,Dudikoff constantly calling himself a dick and so on is just unfunny to the extreme.

    As for Pyun and my appreciation, I have Sword and The Sorcerer, Cyborg, Bloodmatch (VHS), Kickboxer 2, Nemesis, Kickboxer 4, Mean Guns and Ticker (which I hate but such came with Beyond The Law and Fall Time) So he has quite a few movies in my thousand or so DVDs that i've collected over the years.

    Pyun actually studied under Kurosawa. Not many people know that.