We’re drawing to the end of our Ron Marchini review series, everyone. I’m sad too! It looks like a couple of his movies were never released on home video – “Dragon’s Quest” (1983) and “Arctic Warriors”(1989) – and his first two movies are apparently available but are proving difficult to track down – “Murder In The Orient” (1974) and “Death Machines” (1976). But we’ll keep trying, partly because we love Marchini, partly because we don’t understand that reviewing movies it’s basically impossible to get hold of won’t drive too much traffic to our site.
Marchini’s IMDB page had something extra on it until quite recently – a potential gem called “Jungle Wolf 3” from 1993. That is, until someone checked and realised it was the same as this, just under an alternate title. We’re pleased they removed that name, because it’s got nothing to do with the other “Jungle Wolf” movies, even if it does have a lot more dense foliage-based action than “Return Fire: Jungle Wolf 2”. It also represents the first Hollywood work for one Joe Carnahan, who’d go on to write and direct “Smokin’ Aces”, “The Grey” and “The A-Team”. And it’s got one lovely bit of stunt casting, but more on that in a moment.
Narration in low-budget movies is almost always a sign that something got messed up in production and they realised that it made no sense; but in this one, I’ve really got no idea why it’s included, because it’s not like there’s a ton of plot to explain. Ron talks about people wanting to lose themselves or find themselves, and he’s not sure which sort he is. Anyone? Anyway, he’s Jake Turner, a former soldier who’s decided to retire and spend his days fishing, and occasionally taking part in kumite-style matches for some quick cash (he beats one monstrous fellow after just strolling in off the street, still wearing his normal shirt and trousers).
At the same time we’re meeting Jake, we also get to see Pike, an eyepatch-wearing criminal who’s busted out of a hospital by his old gang. The guy on the inside at the hospital who tips off the criminals? Burt Ward! Yes, it’s safe to assume that Marchini loved Batman in his younger day, because he’s had both Ward and Adam West in his movies. Anyway, Pike quickly retakes his old territory and then kidnaps the DEA agent who’s trying to investigate him.
Unfortunately for him, that DEA agent is Jennifer (Shelly Gaunt, only acting role) the beautiful daughter of Jake’s old Commanding Officer, and all it takes is a visit from Jake’s army buddy Bill Digger (Joe Estevez! Not quite as stunt-y as Burt Ward, I suppose) to persuade him to do one final job. Talking of which, is “one final job” the all-time most overused plot device in B-movies? It’s a toss-up between that and variations on “The Most Dangerous Game”, I suppose. That this was literally Marchini’s “one last job” is sad. Both I and the Filipino extras you gave such gainful employment to wish you hadn’t retired.
Jake is off into the jungle to do some rescuing! There’s not, it must be said, an awful lot to distinguish this from a million other “Commando” ripoffs. His Indiana Jones hat, which remains jammed on his head throughout, isn’t helping in the originality stakes; nor is that thing where a guy shoots an entire row of people, and the last guy in the row, who’s had four or five seconds to draw his weapon and return fire, just stands there like a dumbass and gets shot too. There’s “cool guys walking away from an explosions”, which is so famous and well-used a trope that Saturday Night Live did a song about it!
There are a couple of fun moments, which is about all you can expect at times. A punch hits at the exact moment a bomb goes off in the background, which must have been a one-take-only thing for a movie this cheap; and Jake’s “I’m better than everyone at fighting and I know it” attitude during moments where you might expect tension raised a smile from even this jaded cinephile. There’s the cheap-ass tracksuit that Pike wears throughout the movie too – perhaps the actor insisted, because it made him look bad-ass? We may never know. But in case you needed proof that Marchini maybe shouldn’t have directed himself, there are a couple of gems. Jake and Jennifer need to get into a lift, and we see every second of that journey, from pressing the button to closing the door at the other end; and even leaving technical stuff aside, the rescue is almost pathetically easy. It’s not much more than he just strolls in the front gate, shoots a few goons and releases Jennifer – while this was fun to watch once, I’m not sure it did its job of keeping me riveted.
Marchini remains a negative presence on screen, even if he’s slightly less wooden here than he was in the “Omega Cop” series; no-one else is much better, apart from Estevez and Ward (both of whom were presumably hired for a day, as they pop up for one scene and then disappear). It’s totally watchable, much the same as most of his output, but don’t watch it expecting it to be particularly good. Stick with “Ninja Warriors” or “Jungle Wolf” for proper bonkers entertainment.
Rating: thumbs in the middle