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.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heatseeker (1995)

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I'm always conflicted at the DTVC on whether I'd rather write the blog from the stand point of a regularly occurring phenomenon, or as an archive of film reviews that someone can go to and look at each one independent of the others. For instance, when I found my buddy's VHS of Heatseeker, I thought it would be great to review on the same week I planned on reviewing The One-Armed Swordsman and Master of the Flying Guillotine, because it was so similar to those two. On the other hand, if someone just clicks on the Albert Pyun or Gary Daniels tags, or a link in a future blog to them or anyone else associated with this movie, that provenance of the original post won't mean as much. I guess what I try to do is write for both types of reader, the everyday and the future visitor.

Heatseeker takes place in 2019-20, and is about corporations who specialize in cybernetic implants that enhance people's lives. Norbert Weisser is the evil CEO and head designer of one corporation, and he has completely outfitted Gary Daniels with state of the art equipment, and wants to show him off by having him fight against every other cybernetic implant corporation's best fighter. He also wants Keith Cooke, the world's best un-enhanced martial artist to compete, and when he refuses, Weisser kidnaps his woman and makes him. Can Cooke use the one quality humans have over machines, his heart, to prevail over the Tin Man Gary Daniels?

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Some of the reviews of this film were pretty harsh, and though I wasn't a huge fan of it either, I think I see what Pyun was going for, and I was a fan of that. It looked like he wanted to take the Hong Kong cinema element of the handicapped fighter, the Zen concept of using a detriment to one's benefit, and put it in a futuristic setting. Instead of a one-armed boxer, Pyun's hero's one handicap is that he's a human fighting cyborgs, and the way he can use that handicap to his advantage is to be as human as possible. Again, I love the idea, it was the execution that was sautéed in wrong sauce. By having Cooke's character be forced into fighting, as opposed to fighting on his own to prove a point, we're forced to suffer through Cooke being knocked around for the first chunk of the film, so when he prevails at the end, it's much less believable. Imagine this: Cooke's lady forbids him to go, but he goes anyway, leaving her waiting at a hotel, just like the One-Armed Swordsman. Why not have him willingly fight, and no one else believe he has a chance because he's a human?

As you see I went with Gary Daniels' Max Headroom look. I've never understood the idea of making the lead actor's eyes a weird color. Remember when Terminal Justice did the same thing with Lorenzo Lamas. Anyway, Daniels was the baddie, but his martial arts were still pretty sweet. I would say, as far as DTVC Hall of Famers go, this was clearly Pyun's film, and Daniels was just along for the ride, as Keith Cooke was the hero, and it was more of a Pyun and Cooke film than a Pyun and Daniels film. Firepower will probably be our next Daniels film, whenever we get to it.

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This film is a rarity in that it employs Keith Cooke, not as a part of the supporting cast, but as the main hero. Unfortunately, because he gets his ass kicked for a good chunk of the movie, he wasn't as good as he could've been, but I don't put that on him. Ever wonder what Mr. Cooke has been up to? Check this video out on YouTube.

One of the worst plot devices in movies is the play-by-play guy. Few things sound worse than an actor reading from a script, trying to mimic the spontaneity of real play-by-play accompanying a real sporting event. I see what Pyun was going for with it. The tournament was very Master of the Flying Guillotine and Enter the Dragon (Mr. Weisser, I think I'd like to leave your island), and the play-by-play, along with the TV screens and cyber martial artists, were supposed to follow that Cyber-Punk-fused-with-Hong-Kong-cinema paradigm. Again, cool idea, but just didn't translate well on the screen-- at least for me.

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If you play the Albert Pyun drinking game, you know the key is looking for how many of his ubiquitous mainstays pop up in his various films. This time we had the aforementioned Weisser (who has the distinction of being his number one mainstay), Tim Thomerson, and Thom Mathews. Vincent Klyn must've been busy. The shot above, featuring two mainstays, would mean you'd have to drink double. One interesting thing to point out while we're on the subject of Norbert Weisser, and with last week's post on Hard Boiled, is that Weisser starred in Schindler's List, which just happens to be my number one film of the 90s.

I can't recommend a film based on effort or a cool idea that didn't quite come off. If you're looking for Hong Kong cinema fused with Cyber Punk, Albert Pyun actually has some great ones, like Cyborg and Nemesis; and then there's Omega Doom, which was a great Kurosawa fused with Cyber Punk flick. If what we're saying is one out of four didn't work, I'd say that isn't a bad ratio; and there were a lot of aspects of Heatseeker that did work, it was just the ones that didn't were enough to overshadow the ones that did. Also, this movie is only available on VHS. Figured I'd throw that out there.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113278/

7 comments:

  1. Yeah I'm sure you'll enjoy Firepower alot more then this one as it's pretty much one fight scene after another with not much plot to get in the way, and Daniels has some of the best fights, even Chad McQueen is better then usual, definitely can't wait ot see you review that one.

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  2. I think the problem I had with Heatseeker (I need to find such notes) was the way it sort of felt like a rip off of Rocky IV with robots. I don't mean to say the plot followed Rocky IV's formula (Honestly I'm not really a fan of Rocky IV despite liking Sly, Dolph and Carl)but the almost mechanical (turned mechanical) villain as well as the way Lundgren played Ivan Drago were kept in tact. Indeed they hust added a kidnapping subplot and added the whole forced to fight subplot to make a Bloodsport,Rocky IV and Robot Jox,Max Headroom,Blade Runner and even some Robocop to no avail. Daniels clearly modeled his performance after Dolph from Rocky IV. Dolph has so much more screen presence and acting talent though and Dolph is no DeNiro.

    Another flaw was that the fight sequences were lame. This surprised me. Pyun despite what the naysayers say, Cyborg, Kickboxer 2, Kickboxer 4,Bloodmatch, Nemesis and Mean Guns had a very good action element.

    I also recommend Bloodmatch...even though the ending really sucks. It has really good action though and Thom Mathews played a great anti-hero but then Pyun just turned it into a hodge podge of that answers few questions what is weird though is had he just stuck with the vbengeance angle it would've been good. I hope Pyun answers questions on that.

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  3. Maybe it's because I'm on such a Hong Kong movie kick, but I didn't see the Rocky IV as much as I saw Enter the Dragon and a lot of the one-armed swordsman/one-armed boxer films. The bad fight scenes I did notice, but I felt the bad play-by-play on top of them was even worse. Still, I should've mentioned the lackluster fights, considering, as you say, Pyun usually has a good track record on that.

    I wonder how much of Daniels being like Dolph was his doing, and how much of it was people in the industry wanting him to be like Dolph. In the world of DTV, anything that sells goes. Going back to the Hong Kong thing, I'm surpised they didn't make him change his name so it would sound more like Dolph's too.

    I think the next Pyun film I'll do will be Invasion, because he shot that in one night, but Bloodmatch is one to consider.

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  4. Well to be fair, the movies you speak of pretty much opened up the whole tournament film. One Armed Swordsman, Master Of The Flying Guillotine, King Boxer (Five Fingers Of Death), Enter The Dragon and so on inspired the general idea. Actually so did Rocky. Bloodsport is another biggie in the genre.

    Heatseeker giving credit (which is why I would give it a *1/2) does have an interesting premise even if it is a mishmash, it is ambitious to cross Bloodsport, Rocky IV, Robot Jox, Max Headroom and Blade Runner. If the fight sequences had been choreographed properly it would've been fun. Indeed all the more disappointment is that Keith Cooke was awesome in his one fight sequence in King Of The Kickboxers, Thom Mathews can fight on screen pretty well and so on. It's ultimately almost heartbreaking that this was such a failure.

    Norbert Weisser was great, in fact he stole the movie and would've been better suited for a better movie.

    Indeed Heatseeker tried hard, but it was still a failure. Indeed the fight sequences being lame basically killed the movie.

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  5. Interesting sounding movie but it sounds like it's not worth my time. Not when I have yet to watch Nemesis and Omega Doom yet.

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  6. Guess i'll be avoiding this film, Also wondering-do you have any plans to review the Nemesis sequels?

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  7. Firepower is indeed an incredible Daniels film, as Venom pointed out. Probably my second or third fav of all Daniels' work.

    I'd also like to see the Nemesis sequels eventually reviewed. Part 2 is probably the best- a Predator rip-off with a muscle lady being followed by a guy in a bad rubber space suit. 3 has a kind of naive charm, and I suspect Pyun was going for a Tarantino-esque play with the narration and storytelling. Part 4 is absolute skin flick garbage, but the easiest one of all the films to obtain.

    As for Heatseeker, I didn't care for this too much; Pyun did a really good melding of cyberpunk with HK cinema in 'Knights. It's a personal fav, and I think that along with Cyborg and Nemesis, it's probably his best attempt at such a melding, although, yes, Omega Doom deserves honorable mention.

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