Body Count (1995)

We’re in the home stretch of our Prior-thon, dear reader. The mission I set myself, the one I’ve long since forgotten why, was to watch all the movies of David A Prior, who made “Deadly Prey” and numerous other wonders of trash cinema. Around 1992 or so, his budgets and casts took a sudden and dramatic upturn, until he stopped making them in 1999, only returning 8 years later for…I have no idea, but the story probably isn’t a happy one.

But we’re up to 1995 now, with only three movies left before the hiatus. I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and maybe even found a movie or two to watch yourselves. Anyway, as you can tell by my lack of desire to get to the point, this wasn’t really one of the fun ones. But onwards!

After a classic “cool guy walking away from explosion” scene, we lumber into the plot, which is, to put it mildly, confusing. The great Sonny Chiba is in it though! After last seeing him as a party-loving cop in “Immortal Combat”, he’s Makato, an assassin, here, who’s been paid $100,000 to kill a couple of mafioso, the Gianelli brothers. This he does with special bullets that look like ice and are completely undetectable, but after asking for and receiving an extra $100,000 from the middle-man who arranged it all, he’s double-crossed by persons unknown, arrested and sent down for life.

Now, if I was a hitman, I’d take arrest as something of an occupational hazard. Like, I kill people for a living, right? But Makato is furious and has all sorts of revenge on his mind – luckily, when he’s on a chain gang digging a ditch, Brigitte Nielsen pitches up, kills all the guards and rescues him.

It might have been interesting if Makato had been sort of a good guy, like so many movie assassins who kill only evil people. But when he murders one of the guards in cold blood, you get the inkling he’s not, and you’ll also know that the people who betrayed him are some of the good guys who are supposed to be tracking him down (given we don’t get introduced to any other characters, and it has to be someone we’ve already met). It’s just unnecessarily complicated, and kind of boring, at the same time.

The good guys are two cops, Cook and Rizzo (Robert Davi and Steven Bauer) and they gave decent on-screen chemistry, although the only thing I’m comparing them to is other Prior movies – I’ve watched basically nothing else for months. They’re joined by an FBI agent who takes over the investigation for basically no reason, Special Agent Janet Hood (Cindy Ambuehl, mostly known as a TV actor). To say her behaviour is inappropriate is putting it mildly; she strolls around her two new underlings in lingerie or a towel and exposes her ass to Cook while they’re, for some reason, sharing a sauna.

I’m just recapping the movie, badly, so I’ll move on. Makato kills everyone remotely related to his old case, trying to find whoever set him up, but you get the impression he’s no nearer to finding out who did it at the end than he is at the beginning. He kills a surprisingly sober-looking Jan Michael Vincent, who’s one of the other cops, but gets nothing from him, and it’s really more a process of elimination than it is anything else. It’s not that he’s particularly good, the cops are just incompetent. There’s a subplot about Rizzo’s daughter being abducted in the past, then returned to her family, but she never talks again and barely moves from her deckchair – this takes on a much darker tone later, but it’s weird tonally.

Much like all the later AIP movies, it’s shot well and all the actors are fine. Money has been spent! There’s a few car-based stunt scenes too, which is standard for these things. People scouring the shelves of their local Blockbuster would not have been terribly disappointed, I imagine. I mean, if you’re in the mood to pick something you’ve never heard of with Robert Davi on the cover, your standards should be pitched appropriately low.

It’s a puzzler, dear reader. None of the characters behave sensibly, and when you find out what’s really going on, you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about. It’s another Idiot Plot – if a couple of characters had behaved sensibly at the beginning, all this could have been resolved in no time at all.

Perhaps we went too deep. This just gives a “story by” credit to our man Prior, with the script credited to a guy called Henry Madden (who I presume is not the same guy who also directed many Dora The Explorer episodes?); the director is Talun Hsu, who we met before directing “Witchcraft 5”. Man, the Witchcraft movies were terrible and we’ve got three new ones to watch soon!

Rating: thumbs down

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Xtro 2: The Second Encounter (1990)

At least the box is honest

At least the box is honest

The thing about sequels is, even if the story doesn’t follow from one to the other, it’s nice to have some sort of continuity. Whether it’s a lead actor (“Bloodfist”, “Project: Shadowchaser”), a villain (“Predator”) or just an activity (“No Retreat , No Surrender”, “Bring It On”), almost all sequels will have some thread connecting them. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed by the way I’ve constructed this paragraph, “Xtro 2” is not any old sequel.

Trying to figure out just why the not exactly beloved “Xtro” got a part 2 is one of the very few entertaining things to do while watching this – and let’s just get it out of the way. It’s such an enormous rip-off of “Aliens” that I’m genuinely amazed James Cameron and his people didn’t sue director Harry Bromley Davenport – an additional problem being that the first movie is more similar in tone to a low-budget “Hellraiser”, meaning the two have literally nothing in common but a name. Researching, it seems Davenport only made “Xtro 2” because he retained the rights to that name, but not the story, and needed the money.

XTRO

Someone else who probably needed the money was star Jan Michael Vincent, formerly of “Airwolf” – we first see him in a cabin in the woods after retiring from his high-powered Government job, just in case you didn’t make the connection yourself. Now, Vincent has been an alcoholic and junkie since at least the early 80s, and is such a total mess he’s not acted for fifteen years; and it’s fairly safe to say this was filmed during a rough time for him. He looks awful and according to Davenport, refused to learn his lines and seemed not to care about acting at all (he had to feed Vincent most of his lines from just off camera). I’d normally try and be more sympathetic to Mr. Vincent but he seems to have had a habit of getting drunk and driving his car, and he’s extremely fortunate to have not killed anyone else.

I still haven’t mentioned this damn movie, have I? Scientists have figured out a way to beam people into alternate dimensions. Vincent is the only person to have done it and come back, and when they lose a team of three scientists, he’s brought out of retirement to assist with the rescue preparation. Evil Dr Summerfield doesn’t like Vincent, though, so he brings in a four-person “strike force” to go to the other dimension and bust some alien ass; before they get the chance to set off, one of the scientists is discovered in the other dimension and beamed back, but wouldn’t you just know it, he’s carrying something back in his chest cavity!

xtro2_4

That’s all the recap you’re getting, Go watch “Alien” and “Aliens” if you want to see the same plot done several thousand times better. The beats are the same, the ideas are the same, some of the props appear to be the same, but “Aliens” didn’t have a drunk asshole who couldn’t be bothered to learn his lines in the lead role. I’ve been trying to think of something nice to say about it, but there’s really nothing. Sorry! Well, there’s a bunch of perfectly serviceable supporting roles, but that’s almost the definition of damning with faint praise.

Perhaps the only thing of any worth to be gained from this was finding the 17 minute “Xtro Xposed”, an interview with Davenport, which is one of the most honest interviews with someone in the movie business I’ve ever seen. On the first movie: “there’s nothing to it at all. It’s rubbish”. “Everything about this film is dreadful”. And referring to this one: “it truly is a piece of garbage”. He’s kind to people who deserve it – Robert Shaye of New Line, Maryam D’Abo and Bernice Stegers from the first movie; but brutally honest about everyone else, including himself. I wish more people would do interviews like this – because you know he’s not on his own in his opinion of the movie business.

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Seriously, why are you still reading this? Nothing good can come of watching “Xtro 2”. Avoid at all costs.

Rating: thumbs down