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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--Matt

Monday, February 8, 2010

Avenging Force (1986)

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I grabbed this around the same time I got Radioactive Dreams, and only reviewed the latter first because I wanted to make up for the bad post I did for Urban Menace and give Albert Pyun a little redemption. It never crossed my mind that this post would coincide with a potential New Orleans Saints Super Bowl victory, which is important because Avenging Force takes place in The Big Easy. Kind of a cool tribute DTVC style.

Avenging Force has Dudikoff as a former CIA guy whose buddy, the late, great Steve James, is running for office in New Orleans. Some right bigoted wing terrorist group doesn't like this, and they ambush his float for Mardi Gras, killing his son. Dudikoff takes the assailants out, and the CIA wants him to fight these guys, but he refuses. But when they attack James again, then attack and kill James and his family at Dudikoff's ranch, at the same time kidnapping Dudikoff's sister, he realizes he can't stand by any longer. The only way he can take out these baddies though is to be the hunted in their deadly sport in the Louisiana Bayou. It's a case of who's hunting whom, though, when you're hunting the Wild Dudikoff.

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Okay, I know I'm going to upset my buddy at Movies in the Attic here, because he's been wanting me to review this one for a while because it's one of his favorites, but I had one issue with it that prevents me from completely loving it. For the first hour it was one of the best things I've ever seen. Dudikoff and Steve James were amazing, kicking ass, gunning guys down, blowing shit up. Then at the hour mark, they kill off James, leaving Dudikoff to fight it out on his own for the last forty minutes, which was good, but not as good as it could've been. I understand the way they wanted the end to play out, it worked better with just Dudikoff, but I just don't see how anyone during filming looked at the earlier scenes and didn't say "we gotta switch things up and just run with this Steve James and Michael Dudkioff thing. We can't kill him off now." A five-star gem turned three-star in one fell swoop.

Okay, that might be harsh. The last forty minutes were great too. Dudikoff taking out the four baddies hunting him was great, especially when you see what the baddies were wearing. If you took that on it's own, and didn't have the first hour of amazing-ness with James and Dudikoff to compare it to, it would be plenty good enough. I'm not sure I've ever been so torn on a film before, and I'm not even torn on whether it's good or not, because it is. I've just never seen anything before that starts out five-star, and then tacks a four-star film onto the end. It was like the Colts sitting their starters against the Jets instead of going for the perfect season.

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With or without James, this is one of the better Dudikoff films. If you want to look at one that's definitely above it though, see American Ninja 2, which fully understood what it meant to have Dudikoff and James together, and didn't wreck that chemistry mid-stream. I could spend all day talking about all the awesome things that are in Avenging Force, though, and when I think of some of the stinkers Dudikoff has done, I can't complain too much. Seeing him fight a samurai that looks like a cross between Death in The Seventh Seal and the samurai general in Onibaba was great, as was his final fight with the end baddie. If Dudikoff and Steve James is a great combo, Dudikoff and Golan-Globus is even better.

I got some great responses on the Radioactive Dreams post about Vestron Video and the memories seeing it on screen evoked, and I think seeing the old Cannon Films logo is even bigger for me in that regard. Cannon and Golan-Globus was a symbol for anything goes action films that threw everything including the kitchen sink at us and did it all without a trace of irony. Right off the bat with Avenging Force, we see two guys being chased by that Seventh Seal/Onibaba type dude I mentioned above. When Steve James' Mardi Gras float is ambushed, it's not a sniper shooting one well-aimed bullet at James, it's four guys with moustaches, mullets, sunglasses, and uzis spraying everything in sight. These are the action movies we grew up with. The 2000s saw an unfortunate step taken away from this style of action film, in favor of sleeker, less kitchen sink-like movies. Maybe that older stuff was silly, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and I can't say that about a lot of today's films that turn their noses up at the 80s and 90s.

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Growing up I was naturally a Patriots fan first, and what people have forgotten is pre-Tom Brady, they weren't a great franchise. Anyway, I always liked the Saints too, because I felt like if the Pats couldn't do it, it would be cool that the Saints, who never get there, could do it instead. Fast forward to now, and the Patriots not only don't suck anymore, but have won three Super Bowls and were the team everyone rooted against two years ago when the Giants beat them to end their perfect season; while New Orleans has gone through hell and their team was finally in the big game, a sentimental underdog. Last night's win won't build new houses or anything like that, but it does say a lot about team loyalty and being rewarded for not rooting for a frontrunner. It was as much a win for that city as it was for all the Clippers season ticket holders that haven't switched over to the Lakers; all the Cubs fans that didn't pull a John Cusack and try to get tickets to the White Sox in the World Series; and it's to all the people I knew who wore Yankess hats in the late 90s and suddenly hate them like the plague because the Red Sox win now. What made that win all the more special was seeing the two-faced owner up there talking out of both sides of his mouth about how great New Orleans is, when we all knew if he'd had his way that would've been the San Antonio Saints or Los Angeles Saints winning last night. Probably what I liked the most about that game, was it reminded me of what it was like when the Patriots won their first one, when losing one game wasn't the end of the world to Pats fans like it is now. It reminded me of what it was like when my team loyalty was finally rewarded.

Okay, huge rant there that had nothing to do with the movie. Anyway, this is a great one, and though it could've been one of the greatest of all time, it was still great, and I don't want to scare you off from watching it if you see it on a shelves somewhere. I put about six images up in addition to the three you see here, and if you click on any images it'll take you to all of them-- some of them a pretty funny. Unfortunately the movie is only available on VHS right now, which is too bad. You never know, though-- if the old Ain'ts can win the Super Bowl, anything can happen, right?

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090678/

4 comments:

  1. I absolutely love Avenging Force. My favorite of the Dudikoff Canon, for sure. Ha, I said Canon!

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  2. I like that, you could use it for a lot of actors, like Invasion USA is my favorite of the Chuck Norris Canon.

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  3. Avenging Force rules! One of Dudikoff's best!

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  4. I know, this one was sweet. Plus, great Steve James.

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