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.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Capital Punishment (1991)

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I got this on accident, not that I wasn't going to review it eventually, I just wasn't expecting to have it as soon as I did. It was near the top of my Netflix queue, but not in first place, and the films above it weren't available like they were listed as being, and the next thing I knew I had an e-mail in my inbox telling me to expect Capital Punishment on Monday. Well, here it is.

Capital Punishment has DTVC Hall of Famer Gary Daniels as an underground kickboxer who draws the attention of the DEA when his old sensei starts dealing Kick, some Taiwanese designer drug that is very addictive, and causes birth defects. The DEA is being controlled by another HOFer, agent David Carradine, who is in cahoots with the sensei to distribute the drugs in the country. As things unravel, Daniels finds himself increasingly tangled in a web of intrigue and deceit. Can he roundhouse his way out of it?

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I have a feeling I'm going to take a hit on this one, but I liked Capital Punishment. I don't know, it just had this surreal quality, like one of those dreams that seems real, until elements occur here or there that don't fit. The scenes were put together in this way that made them almost like non sequiturs. There were no bumpers, no transitions, things just seemed to happen. One moment Daniels is being interrogated, the next he's in a hallway fighting thugs, then he's shot with a tranquilizer dart, and wakes up in his bed. People use words like "immune" as verbs, middle-aged businessmen know martial arts, Daniels kills some people and leaves some alive with no rhyme or reason, and some of the stuntmen wear clothes or recite lines that make absolutely no sense whatsoever-- like this one dude in a bright purple polo and red pajama pants among a gang of thugs that are all wearing black. The best way to describe it is, if Andy Kaufman made a 1990s bad action film, this is what it would look like. And I don't know, I loved it. It was tons of fun. Maybe I'm just getting soft in my old age.

I don't know though, because if you go to my last however many Daniels posts, I haven't been too nice to them. At the very least here, they used him for his martial arts prowess, and didn't inundate us with bad dramatic sequences where Daniels' fighting was foregone for the sake of some misguided plot exposition. This was great because, even though the scenes seemed like maybe they didn't go together or came out of nowhere, he was getting into fights quite regularly, and his fights were tons of fun. In one he empties out a pay phone, puts the quarters in a sock, beats a dude with it, then spills the quarters out of the sock onto the dude, telling him "keep the change". Later, that guy comes back and throws some quarters at him, saying "I think you dropped these". Daniels thanks him by shoving a pool cue through his throat. This might not be Rage or Bloodmoon, but for my money it's pretty close, and for fans of old Daniels, you can't do much worse.

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As for our other Hall of Famer in the film, David Carradine looks like he was in another movie, because he has two scenes with one of the other actors, Daniels' helper Linda Lightfoot, and the rest are of him by himself either on the phone, or behind the wheel of a truck. If you go back to the Martial Law II post, in the comments section Mr. Kenner from Movies in the Attic and I had a conversation about Billy Drago being grafted in like John Saxon in a bad Italian movie. I disagreed with him on that case, but in the case of Capital Punishment, I think we have a better example. If not for those two scenes with Linda Lightfoot, you'd say it was like Bela Lugosi in Plan Nine from Outer Space. I have to admit again, I actually liked that though. It just added to that fascinating surreal quality for me.

Daniels' sensei was played by Tadashi Yamashita. He's not quite the ninja star Sho Kosugi is, but he does all right. You may have remembered him as the Black Star Ninja in American Ninja. In Capital Punishment he was great. His scenes made almost no sense, not because his English was bad-- his English was the most coherent element!-- but because of what happened in them. He'd be in a business meeting with two prospective drug dealer/investors, and the thing would devolve into a fight with guys coming at him with martial arts moves, and him taking them down and breaking their necks. Part of me wonders what he thought of shooting on this movie. I mean, it must've helped that he didn't speak English that well, so as not to be too confused by what he was supposed to be doing.

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I was trying to think of what to do for the seventh paragraph, and I decided on a second one devoted to Gary Daniels. This will be his 21st tag, which puts him in fourth all-time among actors, behind Dolph Lundgren, Lorenzo Lamas, and Michael Dudikoff. That number isn't as important as the number 50+ (okay, not really number, but you get the idea), because that's what Daniels could ultimately end up with when all is said and done. We like to call Dolph the Babe Ruth of DTV, well, that would make Daniels the Hank Aaron or Ken Griffey Jr. Right now he has six films in production, plus some others that will be out soon, like Tekken and Game of Death (which stars Wesley Snipes), so it's not like he's going to stop anytime soon either. The one argument one could make against him is that a lot of his tags come from really small roles, as opposed to Dolph, who is almost always the star of his films; but a tag is a tag, and Daniels is on pace to have the most.

I'm not sure if I can recommend this one. I loved it, yes, but in some sense it was from a weird fascination. I don't know, it felt like a Crispin Glover movie, the way things went together. But it was an action film, and a lot of fun. I guess you gotta ask yourself, what kind of action movie do I like? If you like them so bad they're good-- so weird they're fun-- this is your kind of movie.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0101541/

10 comments:

  1. I don't know what to say. I think my problem with Capital Punishment is that it was really low budget and made by rank amateurs. Laser Mission was a low budget movie but the fight sequences while low budget had a mise-en-scene that suggested that people knew how to do it. The fight sequences here show you that the fighters have martial arts skill, but the director just can't seem to milk it for dramatic worth. Indeed it's an awful movie, and it's not really funny. In fact the "Keep the change" comment was embarrassing and the return of the coins later was even worse. That said I really wanted to like this, I like seeing Tadashi Yamashita, David Carradine and Gary Daniels but it just didn't make sense. It's been awhile but wasn't there a subplot about some type of serum that makes it so Daniels' kid or something die at birth or makes Daniels impotent. I forget, it's been awhile. The fight sequences though were what disappointed me most.

    Capital Punishment is one of those movies you give a one star rating and Yet aren't upset at the filmmakers because the truth is that there is no other way the film could've turned out. This is a movie that feels like a 1968 TV cop show and that's because the director has no idea how to fuse anything with intensity.

    I understand the whole surreal part, because this is really bad filmmaking, the plot elements jump around, the dramatic element only makes sense in bizarro world.

    Also Carradine's death scene is horribly tacked on.

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  2. I guess I would say two things here: first, I get that this movie was all over the place, that shit seemed to happen out of nowhere, but a lot of it was great. I mean, turning on the gas then blowing up the house with a Zippo, or Daniels meditating without a shirt on with a Chinese herbalist, or David Carradine driving a car that gets blown up by Daniels' two grenades. I'd rather a film be all over the place so they can cram as much action in as possible, rather than cram a bad plot into an actionless movie just to make it make more sense. And the martial arts scenes weren't that bad. Can't they be fun instead of awesome sometimes?

    Second, I think maybe you need to lighten up a bit. There is absolutely nothing to find fault in in the sock full of quarters scene. Just relax, and let it be silly. I mean, did you see the guy in his Fame tanktop who Daniels shares that quarter scene with? I'm not saying this is The Expendables-- in fact, it's pretty God awful-- but we've seen a lot worse God awfuls that aren't anywhere near as fun as this one could be if you let it.

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  3. Neat, I've never heard of this one.

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  4. Been awhile since I saw it so maybe it plays better. That line though was on par with Tango And Cash which had good action but really bad comic lines "Rambo is a pussy" or "It's Conan The Barbarian" The tank top part sounds funny. Though i'm mostly intrigued by Final Reprisal which has Daniels as a Vietnam vet.

    I'm almost certain we will be back in agreement over Lady Dragon 2.

    Maybe it's been awhile but I remember the mullet count on this one being as low as well.

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  5. Mullets aplenty, actually. I'm not saying this is great by any stretch, I'm saying it's fun in a R.O.T.O.R. kind of way. The thing is, you just gotta let it be fun. There were myriad moments when I literally laughed out loud, and I was watching the film by myself. But I can see too how it might not be your bag, I'm just saying, don't get on it for things like the sock of quarters scene, because you're missing out on some funniness there.

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  6. I think I'll enjoy this one by the sounds of it. Speaking of Game of Death, here's the press release for the disc due in February. Also stars Zoe Bell, the awesome kiwi stunt girl from Death Proof!

    http://bluray.highdefdigest.com/4435/game_death.html

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  7. Enjoyed your review! Saw this one a long time ago. Thought it was ridiculous early Daniels fun like American Streetfighter or Fatal Blade. Definitely needs to be re-watched for the site!

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  8. Thanks for the link Sutekh, I'm excited for some new Snipes, especially with Gary Daniels in it. He was shooting that film when he was asked by Stone Cold to do Hunt to Kill.

    This film is a must for your site Ty. Whether you like it or not, you can't go wrong for a review.

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  9. I liked this one quite a bit too. From an objective, I guess "proper", standpoint, all of those early Daniels films are pretty terrible (i.e.: American Streetfighter), but I always find something redeemable and enteraining about them. I'm pretty hard on Gary's films too (I absolutely trashed 'Full Impact'), but even with the worst of them, there's always something hilarious: like Gary doing a kata in the park or train tracks, or here, with the sockful of quarters. Thia one wasn't as strange as something like 'Samurai Cop,' but it came close at times.

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  10. It hits you with it early on, too. Like that first underground fight Daniels is in, with the applause track in the background after every successful attack. I felt like I was watching a bad NBC sitcom.

    Early Daniels is tons of fun, as I keep learning.

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