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.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kill Zone (1993)

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We're reviewing Kill Zone because I wanted a film that featured both of the 2010 DTVC Hall of Fame inductees, David Carradine and Cirio H. Santiago. I usually don't go in for the low-budget, Philippines or Thailand filmed, Vietnam war movie, but I made the exception for this occasion.

Kill Zone takes place during the Vietnam War, and has David Carradine as a colonel who does things on his own terms. That includes sending a special forces team into Cambodia without authorization. That team is led by a low-rent version of the dude from Burn Notice, and Dallas Cowboys great Tony Dorsett. Once there, they find a local tribe isn't stoked that the Viet Cong is running operations in their country, nor that their own government isn't too concerned, so they take matters into their own hands, which is great for the US troops there, because they have an ally. Now the question is, will they succeed before the bureaucratic net closes in on Carradine?

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This was a very interesting movie. Yes, it had all the hallmarks: Filipinos passed off as Vietnamese or Cambodian, plenty of explosions and gunfire, and valiant soldiers overly dramatically making the ultimate sacrifice for their guys. What surprised me was how most of the film, cheesy and poorly acted as it was, was totally black and white, only to have buckets of gray splashed on it at the end. I wonder if it was Cirio H. Santiago making his own statement about the toll American military intervention has had in that part of the world, both in Vietnam and Cambodia, but also well before that in the Philippines. It was a sudden level of exploration I wasn't expecting, and I don't want to give it away, but there was a sense of "who should I be rooting for?" or "was that an applause scene?", and eventually it sorts itself out, but not before some serious damage is done.

Does that make it good? Man, I don't know. Not enough David Carradine for my tastes, because when he's on screen, he kills it. There's a lot of "excitement by repetition", meaning, we just go from one scene of pitched battles, explosions, shooting, and yelling to the next one; and the only reprieves we get are in the form of David Carridine interludes. After Tony Dorsett, there really isn't anyone else worth tuning in for. This film was a Reb Brown in the lead role away from being a really fun time. Yes, the message at the end was great and important, but even the 81 minutes it takes to get there feels like a lot longer.

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It goes without saying that we've seen better from both Carradine and Santiago, but to blame either of them is a little harsh. Again, a Reb Brown instead of the low-rent version of the guy from Burn Notice would've made the film entertaining. It just goes to show that at this level, when the resources aren't great, and the subject matter is rather worn, who you get is a much bigger factor than who is directing it. In the art house world, it's a more even balance between director, script, and acting, but a great director can make up for lackluster acting or story; here, in the low-budget DTV world, when directors like Santiago and Albert Pyun are expected to pump films out at a porn industry pace, it's all about who we're seeing on screen, and how often we're seeing him or her. I think that's why Santiago is only the second director to make the Hall of Fame, compared to all the actors.

As I mentioned above, this film features NFL all-time great Tony Dorsett. Quick facts on him: only player ever to win the Super Bowl, a college national championship, enshrined in the college football hall of fame, and the pro football hall of fame. He also won the Heisman Trophy, and had the record for most NCAA Div I-A rushing yards until Ricky Williams broke it in 1998. A true hall of famer, apt for this hall of fame DTVC post. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but this isn't the first NFL player to have his film reviewed here. We had Eddie George in the Seagal flick Into the Sun. Kyle Turley was in the Rutger Hauer stinkfest Dead Tone. Of course, there's DTVC Hall of Famer Fred Williamson, who played in Super Bowl I, and Jim Brown, who was in On the Edge with Williamson. I'm sure there are a few more I'm not thinking of at the moment, so if there's any I missed, feel free to mention it in a comment. By the way, Dorsett, aries, born on April 7, 1954.

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Understandably, low-budget actioners try to employ the most perfect tens for their female leads, the idea being that, unless it's someone like Cynthia Rothrock-- and probably in her case too-- guys who watch these films aren't interested in women except to look at them. And to say that Vivian Velez here isn't wearing this outfit for the same desired affect, nor that she isn't succeeding, would be a misnomer; but what was refreshing was that she had a bit of a belly, which I found more attractive than if she had washboard abs. I won't go as far as to say that men and their fixation on looks hasn't contributed to the current environment where so many women suffer from body dysmorphic disorders (this paragraph could even be an example), but what I will say is, too often, men are blamed, when really it's the media, and straight women and gay men in the fashion industry, who value stick figures that look like PEZ dispensers, when us guys actually find a whole host of women attractive, not just the kind that are so thin their elbows can cut us open.

No recommendation here, unless you're into these kinds of films. If that's the case, this is one you should put on your radar, because it offers something a little different, especially at the end. Otherwise, it's a pretty boring 81 minutes with some great interludes featuring new DTVC Hall of Famer, David Carradine.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107316/

7 comments:

  1. I didn't think much of this film either, it wasn't terrible but it's definitely one of Santiago's weakest efforts(I honestly liked Stranglehold and Dune Warriors better then this film, and if you want a better collaboration between Carradine and Santiago, then check out Field Of Fire)For prime Santiago you're better of watching Fast Gun, Equalizer 2000, Naked Vengeance, The Sisterhood, Caged Heat 2, When Eagles Strike, Silk, Final Mission, The Devastator, Stryker, Wheels Of Fire, etc

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  2. good to see you back and rocking the DTV, Matt. Hope Numan was good (how could he NOT?), I'm seeing him on Thursday actually here in CO. 15 years waiting to see this guy! Looking forward to new reviews.
    Haven't seen this one yet, and think I might steer clear now.

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  3. Dude, Numan rocks!! If it's anything like the show he put on here in Boston, you'll love it. Also, we met his nephew outside after having a cigarette. My buddy was starstruck about it, and the nephew was like "I'm not famous!"

    And where in CO are you, Denver? I was just out there in September, hiked Elbert, and saw some sights. It was nice, though the altitude hit me in some parts, like Leadville.

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  4. This was a pretty dreary movie. Not at all up to the standards of Dune Warriors which had both director and star. The whole thing with Dune Warriors while it was not a very well made movie, it was sort of enjoyable and well I actually don't know, I just like Mad Max and the various rip offs.

    This one though was pretty dreadful. I mean it was just too boring to be any fun, It tries to be Missing In Action but just ends up not even living up to even part 3. Another one I want to see is Wheels Of Fire and Equalizer 2000. The former is on VHS only and the other is 11 bucks for such a DVD which is absurd.

    I also have to say you should check out Armed Response with David Carradine, that has Lee Van Cleef, Mako and The guy from Hills Have Eyes. That one is sort of fun.

    P.O.W:The Escape I remember being alright because that had Carradine, Steve James and Mako. Like I said those two are way better. It's hard to believe of that cast, all three actors are no longer with us.

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  5. Yeah, if I had known back when I originally did Dune Warriors-- almost three years ago now, that I would induct Santiago and Carradine in the same film, I would've done that instead of this.

    I like the idea of a film featuring James, Mako, and Carradine. We'll see about that one sometime down the line.

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  6. Yeah man, I'm glad you enjoyed it too. Frickin' Gary Numan.

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