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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

American Tigers (1996)

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In a quest to get more Cynthia Rothrock on the DTVC, we find ourselves here with American Tigers. If you go to her imdb page, this is actually listed under the "Self" section, because she plays herself in it. How bad could it be though? It stars Sam Jones, Donald Gibb, and Joe Estevez-- okay, let me rephrase that, how bad can this be?

American Tigers has Sam Jones as a Major Sergeant that's been railroaded into a desk job by an unscrupulous colonel he served under in Desert Storm (the unfathomably uncredited, awesomely bemulleted Todd Curtis). Turns out that colonel is running a really bad right-wing militia, and the government, i.e. Joe Estevez, wants Jones to round up a troop of soldiers on death row and train them to take out Curtis, his mullet, and his gang. Can they do it?

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This had some potential, but ultimately too much of the movie was a bunch of boring crap involving training the recruits. I get that they wanted some kind of redemptive message, but it was boring as all hell, and pretty paint-by-numbers. We have training montages for two reasons: one, to insert some too sweet music into the film; and two, to keep things moving. Had this been kept moving, we would've had more action, and based on the end scene, which was good but not that good, it could've used a lot more. This, unfortunately, is as bad as a movie that's "starring" Sam Jones, Donald Gibb, and Joe Estevez as you'd expect.

If Rothrock wasn't front and center on the cover, I'd have been okay with her small part as herself-- but she is all over the cover, meaning we have ourselves a good ol' fashioned Rothrock bait-and-switch. In American Tigers, as herself, she's friends with the fictional Sam Jones character, and does him a favor by training the recruits. We get some good fights where she beats up the guys, but nothing beyond that. I wonder if she was doing someone a favor by this appearance. Who knows, she's cool, unfortunately just not in the movie enough.

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This is our first movie at the DTVC with Sam Jones as the star-- in fact, I believe this is the first Sam Jones movie with him in more than just a couple scenes as a hatchetman--, so this is a change of pace. I won't use this film to judge him, because it really didn't give him a full opportunity to be likable. He makes an excellent drill sergeant, and an excellent commando; estranged husband with a drinking problem, notsomuch. Ultimately, he's at his best with a flat top and leather jacket throwing the lead hero around, eventually getting felled by a chance fall into an electrified fence or something, so he was a little outside his element here.

This movie used one of the most agonizing and tedious devices, the old "key member of the team locked in a shed or closet by the other team and will he or won't he get out in time", which is only a step less annoying than scratching a chalkboard. When Jones's team fought a NavySEALs team to determine who got to take out Curtis and his men, Jones is jumped by a couple of dudes on the SEALs crew and stuffed in a work shed ("workshed!"). We're then treated to a bunch of scenes cut into the fights of Jones pretending to stagger to his feet, breakdown the door, then hack at it with an ax. Why not just get in my face and say "does this bug you? I'm not touching you!", because that was the cinematic equivalent.

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So we had a few other names, all underutilized, but all pretty cool. Donald Gibb played a former partner of Jones who now works at a strip club with Jones's estranged wife (she's a waitress, not a dancer). He's Donald Gibb playing Donald Gibb, so you get what you paid for there. Joe Estevez plays a general, and he pops in here and there to tell Jones he's doing a good job or that the Pentagon is riding his ass or something. He's a short mustache away from being Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. Then there's Todd Curtis, he of the amazing mullet, whom you may remember as the baddie in Chain of Command with Michael Dudikoff. Man is he an awesome baddie. The mullet, the cigar, the five o'clock shadow, and in this case, the racist right wing lines. I have no idea why he wasn't credited-- maybe he requested that.

You can get this used on DVD or VHS, but the former is much rarer and more expensive. In either case this isn't worth it unless you can get it for free. If you're a Rothrock completist, this should come at the very end of your journey.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0127417/

10 comments:

  1. For the Aussie readers, it's available on the Flashback label RRP $2 but it's also hard to find. Good review Matt, it's convinced me to watch other Rothrock stuff first. Martial Law turned up in the post yesterday and China Obrien 2 on VHS the day before so they'll happen first.

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  2. Thanks for the info, and yes, definitely, Martial Law and China O'Brien 2 before this.

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  3. Awesome! Thank you for drawing my attention to this. My girlfriend and I are big Rothrock fans and we haven't seen this one yet. Interestingly I just spotted her in the "Death Wish for Lifetime Channel" flick Eye for an Eye where she plays herself. That might be one for your list.

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  4. Oh yeah, she's the trainer in that one too, only she's training Sally Field. One thing I forgot to mention about American Tigers for UFC fans is Rorion Gracie is one of the convicts. He has a pretty good but very brief sparring scene with Rothrock that wasn't bad, but wasn't much either.

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  5. Whatever happened to Cynthia. She was awesome. She was my favorite martial arts vixen at the $0.99 VHS rental shop in the 80's.

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  6. Been a while since I've seen Chain of Command, but Todd Curtis... He was the guy who pretended to be drunk walking down a hotel hallway at one point, right? I seem to recall an amazing mullet there. I have the original US DVD of this, pre-ordered it because of Rothrock and Jones, and the minute I saw the cover picture (especially the guy with the moustache), I knew it was a mistake. Back then I owned a Roland synthesizer and the main theme of this is actually one of the pre-set samples there, so it's literally one guy pressing one key down and recording it. It's always nice when they go the extra mile... By the way, the guy with the moustache is Rorion Gracie of the legendary Gracie-family of martial artsists, which probably explains Rothrock's participation. But nothing can explain, how David Worth can direct something like this, and follow it with the tremendously fun Commando-clone True Vengeance, one of Daniel Bernhardt's best (in my opinion, THE best) films. And, naturally, this "Rothrock" is on DVD, but Lady Dragon 2? China O'Brien 2? Nowhere to be seen...

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  7. Good review! That is unfortunate that they waste Rothrock so much. She should have played a character instead of herself.

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  8. I think Rothrock just decided to focus on raising her kids and running her dojo in California, but I agree, it would be nice to see her back, in whatever capacity.

    Todd Curtis was the main baddie. He tied Dudikoff's leading lady to a pool table and threatened to cut her nipple with a knife, before Dudikoff showed up and saved her.

    I agree Ty, it would've been better for her to be an actual character-- and get more screentime too!

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  9. Wow, this just looks sooooooooooo bad. Epic.

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  10. It looks epic, but doesn't exactly come through.

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