The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

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--Matt

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Shooter aka Deadly Shooter (1997)

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After the disappointing The Silencer, I needed to get the Dudikoff train back on the tracks, and I felt nothing could be better than a western. I found this on Netflix's Watch Instantly feature. It didn't look great, and the poor quality made me feel like I'd found it on VHS in a bargain bin somewhere. Part of me thinks that's cool, and part of me thinks that's a little ghetto. Let's get your shit together Netflix.

Deadly Shooter has Dudikoff as a traveling gunman who happens on a hooker being whipped by some dude and his three buddies. Duds doesn't like that, so he shoots all four of them dead. Turns out the guy whipping the hooker was William Smith's son, and that's always trouble. Smith and his gang have been holding the nearby town of Kingston hostage for years. The town recruits Dudikoff to help, but there's other shit going on, including country singer Randy Travis, who seems to want to help Dudikoff, but his motives are unclear. Will it all be too much for Dudikoff? Is it ever?

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This was pretty cool. I would've liked more Dudkioff kicking ass, and less him getting his ass kicked by William Smith and his goons. Compared to the two other western's I've done recently, this is way better than Sorbo's Prairie Fever, but not as good as Gruner's Savate. I think this tried too hard to incorporate the Yojimbo aspect of the two sides and the hero needing to be nursed back to health, which works when Kurosawa's directing it, but when it's a DTV action film, I want my hero kicking asses and taking names. I don't remember Gary Cooper in High Noon spending twenty minutes getting his ass kicked by the baddies, and I think movies like this should follow that example more than Kurosawa's.

Dudikoff was solid as the Western hero. He really incorporated the best elements of greats like Cooper, Clint Eastwood, and John Wayne. The problem was the filmmakers for one reason or another couldn't make the best of that. He had a presence that made us as the viewer feel like he had control of every scene he was in. That made it so disconcerting when he was captured by the baddies on two occasions. I think story writers are trapped by this Greek dramatic idea of a hero needing to be knocked down a peg before he can finally triumph. The problem is in a film like this Dudikoff is built up as so strong, and when he's defeated by tactics that he dealt with so easily a few scenes before, it's more frustrating than good storytelling.

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Randy Travis was pretty sweet here as his character. I saw him on American Idol not long ago, and let's just say he looks much younger in this film. It was kind of weird actually. I guess I probably looked much younger when this came out too, twelve years ago. Deadly Shooter came out right before Black Dog, and I think he was actually better in this than he was in that, as if the people making Black Dog were afraid to give him a character with too much nuance.

I had a conversation with a friend about William Smith recently. I was pretty sure he was the character in our favorite Rockford Files episode, the pilot, who gets decked by Rockford in this great scene. My buddy was under the impression that the guy in that scene was in that one scene only for his whole career. Turns out William Smith was that guy. Of his 270-plus credits, that Rockford Files one was probably his best. As far as the DTVC goes, this is his fifth film, and it probably won't be the last. He just turned 76 last March, which is insane to think about. William Smith almost 80?

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The guy from the Night Eyes series is in this as a writer. I can't believe I haven't reviewed a Night Eyes movie yet, because my friends and I used to watch them all the time on USA. Anyway, the Night Eyes guy's character in this reminded me of an obscure SNL sketch with Mike Myers called Johnny Letter. The character lived in the Old West, and was the only literate person in town. That made him the most powerful, because he could write letters about people and get them in trouble. No one I know remembers this.

This is a pretty good deal. Don't spend a lot on it, and that should make you happy. As westerns go, it's okay; but as a Dudikoff film it's better. The addition of Randy Travis really puts it over the top (Stallone style). Everyone involved should have a lot of fun.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120121/

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