Killing American Style (1988)

We’ve covered Amir Shervan before, he directed the super-entertaining “Hollywood Cop” and “Samurai Cop”, the latter of which became a cause celebre among the bad movie elite a few years ago, leading to a (terrible) sequel. Shervan directed tons of movies in his native Iran before the revolution there, when he moved to the USA – it took him a few years to get the money together, but he then continued his directing career, giving us a handful of delightful bad movies before finally hanging up his hat after “Samurai Cop” in 1991.

The poster / VHS case for “Killing American Style”, his second US movie, is amazing and misleading. Long-haired “star” Harold Diamond, last seen by us in a handful of Andy Sidaris movies, doesn’t really do anything that action-packed, and the great Jim Brown, seen with his giant head in the background like some benevolent but slightly puzzled god, is barely in it. The group of guys doing like a heroic army pose at the bottom are a gang of psychopathic killers and rapists, and Hottie McBoobs is barely in it long enough to have her picture taken.

But, we’ve got a smorgasbord of oddity and bizarre choices to enjoy, so let’s strap in and do a little recapping. We open on an audition at a strip club, I think – the extremely sleazy Lynch (John Lynch) is auditioning a group of women at a strip club. Given he doesn’t appear to work there, and the woman he ends up having sex with in the dressing room is being openly mocked by the other dancers, I’ve really got no idea what the point of it was. Lynch doesn’t exactly look like the sort of man who’d find female strippers attractive, if you catch my drift, although he gives it his all in what was apparently his only movie performance. But he’s interrupted by the rest of his gang – leader Tony Stone (the late, great Robert Z’Dar, one of Shervan’s regulars); Uncle Loony, every bit as bad as his name would have you believe (Jimmy Williams, who was also in “Samurai Cop” and has had quite the career, also appearing in Andy Milligan and Fred Olen Ray movies); and Tony’s brother Jessie (Bret Johnston, whose IMDB bio describes him as an “actor and legal representative” – I hope he’s had more work as the latter, as this appears to be his sole film performance). So, before we move any further, I’d like to welcome John Lynch and Bret Johnston to…

THE ISCFC ONE-TIMERS CLUB

One of the most exclusive clubs in Hollywood. Anyway, a dedicated Shervan-a-holic like myself will notice some trends which start in this scene. It appears the great director had certain phrases and ideas that were very important to him, much like the aforementioned Sidaris, and they stick out here because he was never all that bothered about making himself understood in English. Matthew Karedas, star of “Samurai Cop”, tells a story about working with Shervan, and he once asked him if he could rewrite his own dialogue so it sounded more natural coming from the mouth of an American. Shervan said no, it was to be read out exactly as it was written down – and here we are. Lynch tells his paramour to “keep it warm, baby”, the exact line that Karedas uses on Melissa Moore in “Samurai Cop”; in terms of other similarities, the ice-cream truck storage yard is used in both movies – here, it’s the location of the robbery that Stone and his gang pull off; there’s a restaurant which is used for exactly the same purpose in both – the gang are sat down enjoying themselves, the cops come in to hassle them; there are many other location similarities, so thanks to the people who owned those places for being generous to ol’ Amir. There’s also the theme of good guys accidentally profiting from robberies, but that’s sort of incidental.

They do a robbery and pretty much immediately get arrested, but not before they stashed the cash. The scene where they’re being taken to prison and are busted out of the truck by the rest of their gang allows me to talk about one of my favourite b-movie tropes – the dirt track. The gang were arrested in LA, so at what point between an LA holding cell and a nearby prison would the transport truck need to drive down a dirt track? Are roads really that poor in the USA? Yes, this is the sort of thing that wanders through my mind.

So most of the villains escape, with just Jessie getting shot in the gut. They need to wait for the cash to turn up, and because they’re a bunch of violent psychopaths, hiding in plain sight is right out. So, they find a ranch (making its first of many Shervan movie appearances) and decide a home invasion / hostage taking is the way to go.

Harold Diamond, who I guess is the star, only shows up at this point as the splendidly generically named John Morgan. He has a wife and a kid and his wife has a sister, I think. He’s just some guy, not a cop or anything like that, but he is a badass fighter, which we learn when he takes his son to a contest and has to fight one of the asshole dads.

Up to now, the movie has been typically wonderful Amir Shervan. Stuff happens for the flimsiest of reasons, the acting is bizarre, the dialogue choices even more so, the camerawork is slipshod…a good time is being had by all. But then they get to the mansion and suddenly Shervan’s editor decided to take a few days off. John is forced by the crims to go and sort the money out (being held by a female friend of the Stone brothers) but, rather than go and tell the cops what’s going on and get some help, he just does exactly as he’s told. His wife is raped by one of the villains (another Shervan “favourite” and nothing really comes of it. Lots of padding happens, and until the big shootout / fight at the end, which is just the same as every other Shervan ending fight, you could comfortably tune out a solid half-hour without missing anything.

I’ve not even mentioned Jim Brown. He’s been in more great / cheesy b-movies than I care to remember, but here it felt like Shervan was three-quarters of the way through filming and met Brown in a bar, and got him to drunkenly sign a contract. He’s a cop and does absolutely nothing – this point is hammered home at the end when John tells him “thanks for everything you’ve done” and amazingly manages to keep a straight face throughout. There’s only the tiniest bit of interaction with the rest of the cast, too! Shervan favourite Joselito Rescober (the super camp barman from “Samurai Cop”) here plays a relatively low-key doctor; that he was also the producer of this one is just another layer of weirdness to this onion.

It’s almost great. If it had been a tight 80 minutes, it’d have been talked about the same way as the other greats from the great man; as it is, it’s that one which people chuckle about because of the poster but no-one’s ever really seen.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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One thought on “Killing American Style (1988)

  1. Pingback: Young Rebels (1989) |

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