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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Thursday, June 16, 2011

For Hire aka Lethal Ninja (1991)

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I'm trying to figure out when this first came across my radar. I want to say I looked it up erroneously while searching for another Lethal Ninja which Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic sent me a YouTube clip for. Also, Karl at Fist of the B-List did a great review of this, in which he, among other things, gives a blow-by-blow of one of its worst moments, the weirdest funeral service you'll ever see.

For Hire has D-movie mainstay David Heavener as a ninja for hire who offers his services at $1 million a pop to the mayor of LA, in order to clean up a crime problem in Chinatown before the next election. One ninja against all of them? Oh yeah, plus he has a vendetta against their leader, a dude named Sonny who studied martial arts with him growing up.

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This is pretty hard core. I mean, we're talking boom mikes all over the place, a story where events don't happen in sequence, not Tarentino style, but more like editor dropped the ball style, and acting and dialog that is disturbingly bad. Problem with that: the disturbingly bad acting and dialog makes up much more of the film than the poorly choreographed-- though occasionally pretty sweet-- fight scenes. And then, for the coup de grace, they throw in a meddling kid. Few if any good movies can survive the pain of the annoying meddling kid, but bad movies might as well forget it, and once the annoying kid came into this one, I knew we were done. Game over.

Here we are, roughly 700 posts and five years in, and this is our first David Heavener flick-- and now I remember why! Ouch. This guy is like a Poor Man's Miles O'Keeffe, with some semi-decent fight moves but less acting ability. His role here was kind of creepy too, because he had some kind of thing going on with the Mayor's adopted teenage daughter. Man, talk about your D-grade. Reb Brown he's not.

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If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, the annoying, meddling kid has no place in an action film. In fact, for the most part kids of any kind have no part in an action movie. It's this whole thing where they never listen, they always get in the way, and they always think they're helping. Ugh! Why would anyone ever think adding an element like that is ever a good idea? Sauteed in wrong sauce is what it is.

The ninja aspect of this was kind of interesting. While on the one hand, we had the classic "one ninja can take out a gang of twenty kids" paradigm; on the other hand, other than a sword, Heavener didn't really have any sweet ninja weapons. No throwing stars, so smoke bombs, no Batman style cables to hang from, just his fists and his feet. He did, at least, have a ninja suit, which we know isn't always a given in a ninja film for whatever reason. It is one of the funny aspects of the ninja though, the idea that he can take out 10 or 20 men, and it's an aspect that we're just supposed to take on face value, that the only person who can take out a ninja is another ninja.

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This movie features one of the oddest funeral scenes I've ever seen. First, the sermon is creepy and awkward, with the priest condemning the mourners for having contributed to her death. Then he's all like "do you think you knew her? You don't know anybody. You'll never know anybody as long as you live." So that's weird, and then one of the baddie's hatchetmen shows up dressed in drag, as if he's fooling anyone-- which I guess he is, other than Heavener, because his ninja abilities let him know what's up. That leads to a brief shootout where the annoying kid gets in the way again and tells Heavener how he can't do anything with his (the boy's) help. I wanted Heavener to snap his neck like a twig right there. No such luck.

This is available on DVD from Netflix, and used or new on DVD or used on VHS from Amazon. If you're even considering it, I'd go either Netflix or another low risk method, because it's pretty rough, and I don't want you to spend too much on it. Could've been a good "so bad it's good movie", but it was more interested in boring us than showing us some sweet martial arts.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0472461/

17 comments:

  1. Heavener is always hilarious, but that annoying meddling kid scares me off.

    Hitman's Run and American Ninja 5 also had super irritating children. They ruined all the action scenes.

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  2. Yeah, it's horrible. Who thinks this stuff is a good idea? I would think annoying the audience would be the last a film maker would want, but that's just me.

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  3. I definitely agree with you! There should be no annoying kids in action movies.

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  4. While I agree that kids don't really fit into these types of films, I can honestly say it dosen't bother me all that much, so I won't let that discourge me from checking this one out.

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  5. Had this on the shelf for ages.. got it under the For Hire title on Aussie disc. Not convinced yet to put it in, lol.

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  6. Just buckle up when you do! If you have other stuff in line to review, I'd hit that first, definitely.

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  7. Oh there's PLENTY in the queue before this one haha. Incidentally I've put a couple new reviews up recently including the new Cuba Gooding Jr. flick, take a look!

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  8. Haha, Thanks!

    Also almost forgot to mention this because of my hatred of annoying children in action flicks:

    We are doing David Heavener week, starting next Monday! Three ridiculous Heavener flicks.

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  9. Yeah I just don't like David Heavener. Reminds me of the poor man's Hasselhoff. I saw Twisted Justice and another flick he just stinks. No surprise the movie does too.

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  10. Heavener's best film was Fugitive X, its a pretty fun Most Dangerous Game ripoff.

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  11. Mr. Kenner, we haven't heard from you for months, and here you are twice in one week. That's fantastic, and I understand your feelings about Heavener, because mine are the roughly the same, but if anyone can turn lemons into lemonade, it's our guy Ty at Comeuppance Reviews; see AIP April.

    And Sutekh, I have to apologize for not making it over to Explosive Action this week. It's been pretty hectic, what with the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup and whatnot. Hopefully tonight though I'll make it happen.

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  12. Rule #1 was established: All love scenes in action films (with the exception of lesbian scenes) should be replaced by gratuitous nudity in shower scenes, strip clubs etc...

    Rule #2 shall be: No kids in action films. The only exception is, if the kid dies within the first 5-10 minutes and they actually show it!

    Heavener is a fun guy. Apparently a devoted Christian (makes those gospel songs etc.), but his films are filled with violence and nudity (sometimes combined, Angel Blade was cut in the UK due to sexual violence). And I seem to recall that he had this weird white whole-body underwear (I don't know the term for it, but the kind of thing babies use) in Twisted Justice. Not sure about that, but wouldn't surprise me...

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  13. Actually, I've been doing this rules thing since I started the DTVC back in '07, and Rule #1 is don't let the plot get in the way of the action. Rule #2 is be careful when getting political. I should probably write these all out in a special page so we can refer to them, because no kids is definitely up there at like 4 or 5.

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  14. Man, this had some good moments of unintentional humor, but the rest of the movie was the drizzling shits. Good on you for sticking with it through the runtime because I was fighting slumber through most of it.

    Heavener exhibits all the key characteristics of the type of martial arts actor I love: mullet, fondness for Zubaz, and completely douchey line delivery. Why do I despise him so?

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  15. There's something about him that doesn't quite work, right? He doesn't quite have the skills, his movies aren't quite as entertaining-- it's all just a little off.

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