As much as I’ve enjoyed the movies of Andy Sidaris so far, there’s always a vague sense that things could go off the rails in terms of the sexual politics and rather strange plots. It’s with “Do Or Die” that this happens, which is both loads of fun and really quite annoying.
One for the “fun” column is this movie gets going immediately. There’s literally zero preamble, as no-one’s starting on the Sidaris train with his 8th movie and you’re expected to know who super-sexy special agents Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) are. They’re approached by some beefy hombres and taken outside to meet villain Kane. Pat Morita! The genial star of “The Karate Kid” and a few seasons of “Happy Days” is in full-on villain mode here, and he really wants revenge on the ladies for the events of the previous movie. I think. He says of the two “your skills are legendary” which is being a little generous – I mean, they keep stumbling onto drug-running operations staffed by absolute incompetents and killing them, if that’s what you mean. Anyway, his plan is, he’s going to send 6 groups of assassins after them, make a bit of a game out of it.
And that’s really all the plot. Donna and Nicole go to the hot tub first, because of course, then call the head of their still-unnamed federal agency, Bruce (Bruce Penhall), and he assembles the troops. Most of them are the same actors and characters from “Guns” – lounge / country singer Edy (Cynthia Brimhall), terrible shot Shane Abilene (Michael Shane), and that blond guy whose name I never write down and who’s difficult to spot from the IMDB page. Add in a woman who definitely wasn’t just hired because of her monstrous chest, Pandora Peaks as Atlanta Lee, and you’ve got a team.
The best thing in this movie, by a million miles, is the computer game that Kane has created to track the progress of his six assassin teams. It consists of a list of the assassin teams and a small box called the “Death Zone” where the names are moved to when they fail and die. Helpfully, Kane’s programmer added a little animation, like a mini-firework display, to show that people are dead. It’s used regularly, as well, because the vast majority of this film is – team moves around; local assassination team is dispatched; team beats them extremely easily; two team members have sex while they really should be on guard duty; sad Kane and his sad assistant look at another team name move into the Death Zone. Repeated six times.
There’s also a classic low-budget movie trick on display, which Sidaris has used before, christened by the guys at Red Letter Media as “shoot the carnival”. Basically, if you want to make your budget look bigger, find some small town with a large public event and ask if you can film it. Have your cast wandering about in the background and it looks like you paid for all this stuff! This movie’s event is a quarter-sized remote control vehicle display event (to be fair, it does look quite good fun), and he even uses a device from it for his finale, showing a fine and inventive mind.
I guess I ought to get onto the sexism. I’ve been pretty kind to Sidaris up to now, as even in movies starring Playboy models with rampant female nudity, there’s been a sense that the women are in control and are having just as good a time as the men. Here, however, there’s none of that. The federal agency they work for keeps hiring more men, and Sidaris keeps giving them more of the plot, which culminates in a fairly appalling scene where good guy Erik Estrada (he played a bad guy in “Guns”) picks Donna off a bike and gets on it himself, because women! She replies with her list of kills and Presidential commendations, and all Erik does is make a condescending quip and drive off, while blond guy laughs at the idea of women being in any way equal to men. Of course, Erik ends up with Donna, because women just need putting in their place.
Okay, the fight at the end features just Donna and Nicole fighting the last two assassins, but all they do is nearly beat them and then run off, a routine which is repeated three or four times, the final kill being left to the device that Erik made up. Although I will never get tired of people so delighted that they’ve just killed two people that they high-five.
Sidaris likes his broad, Dukes Of Hazzard style humour (the fake redneck assassins are a particular highlight), and there’s plenty of it on display here. It’s loose and fun, although there’s less of it than before, while there’s a lot more sex scenes, indicating our director was steering more towards the erotic thriller market than he was the redneck action comedies of before (okay, the differences are pretty slight, but noticeable the more you watch). I want to like his movies, they’re loose and easy on the eye and everyone looks like they’re having a good time, but not so much here, none of the women even look like they’re enjoying themselves. Less of the neanderthal sexual politics next time please, Andy.
Rating: thumbs in the middle