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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Steele Justice (1987)

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This is it, this is Martin Kove's Hall of Fame induction post. Like many Hall of Famers before him, he has a lot of movies where he only played a small part, but as we'll see in a film like this, he's plenty capable of carrying the lead too, which is the mark of a true DTVC Hall of Fame actor. So without further ado... by the way, this has been covered before by Kenner at Movies in the Attic and Ty at Comeuppance Reviews-- and it's from Ty's that I hotlinked the cover image, so as always, just wanted to let you know.

Steele Justice has Kove as a Vietnam vet who's almost killed by the villainous General Kwan (Soon-Tek Oh) in the waning days of the war. He gets the last laugh, shoots a dart or something into the guy's chest, and heads home. In modern (1987) SoCal, Kove is a disgraced former cop whose former Vietnam and police partner is killed by Vietnamese gangsters-- and it smells like Kwan's work. His old chief, Ronny Cox, suspects that this could be a tough nut to crack, so he unleashes Kove unofficially on Kwan, with only his old buddy Bernie Casey to help out. Will he crack the case, or is he just too far gone to pull it off?

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This one starts off slowly, but once it kicks in, it's pure 80s bad action, the kind of car flipping, stuntmen shimmying, monster rock montage-ing, shirtless male big gun shooting good time you came for. Let's take this one quote from Ronny Cox after Bernie Casey asks him if Kove has his old job back: "He isn't being recruited, he's being unleashed!" And after about thirty minutes of a drunken Kove in bad suits getting the crap kicked out of him, this film finally unleashes him on us, and it's oh so sweet. I embedded a YouTube clip of the too sweet montage clip on the image page-- it's only 1:30 minutes, with 30 seconds to start of a scene with he and Sela Ward dubbed in Spanish, just bear with that--, and I'll be posting some of the others on the DTVC Tumblr. This is just a fun time, plain and simple.

Martin Kove really can do it all, can't he? Lead star, lead baddie, cameo, baddie's hatchetman-- though if the head baddie isn't cool enough, having him as the hatchetman can backfire. This might be his best DTV flick-- er sorry, Steele Justice made a little over $1 million in the box office (sometimes people get nervous if I call a film that had a limited theatrical release DTV)-- definitely one of his best outside of the Karate Kid movies, which he's best known for. He's inducted into the Hall of Fame with this as his 13th movie, but with over 167 imdb credits, he has the potential for plenty more, maybe making a run at the overall tagging record. Martin Kove, DTVC Hall of Famer.

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I had a lot of places to go for this paragraph with all the people in Steele Justice, but I decided to look at Renaissance Man Bernie Casey, who we've seen before in the Fred Williamson film On the Edge. He's great here as the Danny Glover-ish "I'm too old for this shit" detective who's close to early retirement, wants to get there in one piece, but knows that probably won't happen the longer he stays with Kove. Have you looked at his bio? You probably know about the pro football career, but he also has a BA and MA from Bowling Green, is an accomplished painter, and has published poetry books. The question you gotta ask yourself is, why the hell is he in this?, and I think the answer to that is he same he gave for why he played football: it pays the bills so he can pursue his art. Here's to you Bernie Casey, we're not worthy.

Now to look at everyone else. There was the always attractive Sela Ward as Kove's estranged wife. She mixed it up some in the action scenes, and played off Kove really well. DTVC favorite Ronny Cox was sweet as the dick police chief, but when is he not sweet? Not quite One Man Force good, but close enough. A personal fave for me was Joseph Campanella as Kove's old commanding officer. You may remember him best as the dad in No Retreat, No Surrender 3. The guy is 84 and still working. Shannon Tweed had a small cameo as I don't know who, maybe Campanella's daughter, but she was doing business with Soon-Tek Oh, who was also great as the main baddie. It seems like when you get these 80s actioners, the cast takes them more seriously than they would in a 2011 one, and though I get that the material might not be that serious, the fact that they all acquit themselves professionally adds to our level of enjoyment.

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I inherited my complexion from my mom's Irish side of the family, meaning I don't tan that well, but if I did, you can bet shirtless with a pink sweatshirt tied around my shoulders is how I'd go during the summer months. It kind of makes me want to go to a tanning booth or get a sprayed on tan just to be able to do it-- no, I'm not shredded like Kove is, but I wouldn't be doing it for the ladies, I'd be doing it for me.

Um, so yeah, let's finish this one up. Though it starts slow, once it decides to finally "unleash" Kove upon us, it's a film worthy of his induction post. No DVD here in the States, so either used VHS, or for right now you can get it on Netflix Watch Instantly. This is definitely worth a look.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094034/

14 comments:

  1. I recently picked this up at the Thrift Store and it's only a matter of time before I cover it. After reading yours, Ty's, and Kenner's take on it, I can't wait to discover this one for myself. I'm a huge Kove fan, and he doesn't get enough leading man type roles.

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  2. If you're a huge Kove fan, then this will work for you, though the slow beginning will be annoying-- you'll probably be wondering what all the fuss was about. Give it a half hour, and you'll be rewarded.

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  3. I can't wait for the review Mitch! I really can't wait.

    My only problem was the 80s musicv which is just so damn random it's surreal. Other that this is awesome cheese.

    I don't want to spoil it for Mitch, but there is a really great Rambo esque part that as far as i'm concerned made the movie. Also the band-aid on the nose is sweet and you just gotta love it.

    Total guilty pleasure.

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  4. The 80s music made it for me, but you're right, it had a "what the hell?" quality to it.

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  5. Yeah this was a great time, it's a shame Kove wasn't in more theatrical films, god knows i'd rather see him headlining a film then the likes of Johnny Depp or Orlando Bloom.

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  6. Yeah, this wasn't too bad. I think I just expected a bit more given the awesome front cover and the awesome tag line. Like you say it's fairly dull up until the halfway mark when it finally starts kicking in.

    One bit I do love is that they actually made Ronny Cox say the tagline - "You don't recruit John Steele, you unleash him!" - within the movie. It's obvious they stuck it in there so they could put it in the trailer.

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  7. I love Martin Kove. There, I've said it. And this films look like a wet dream for me.

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  8. And pleased to see that you've inducted him into your Hall of Fame. An honour that Mr Kove is more than worthy of.

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  9. Great review of a classic! Martin Kove was at his best.

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  10. Thanks Kenner, it's going to be part of a "Justice" Double Feature with Mission of Justice because my site doesn't have nearly enough Jeff Wincott reviews.

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  11. Yeah, this was definitely solid, and though I agree more with Ty, I agree with Jack that the beginning was a little rough, which hurt it; but the rest of it was sweet. It's what you're looking for if you're a Kove fan Exploding Helicopter.

    And I'm looking forward to that review too, with my itchy retweeting finger.

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  12. Good times! That pink sweater pic is priceless.

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  13. Oh, isn't it fantastic? I just had to make mention of it.

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  14. Amazing cover art - worth the rental for that alone.

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