The Gratuitous B-Movie Column 12.17.12 Issue #237: Avenging Force (1986)
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #237: Avenging Force (1986)
Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that really didn’t want to take a week off, but, hey, people need to sleep, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number two hundred and thirty-seven, I take a look at the classic 1986 action flick that, as of this writing, still isn’t on DVD in North America, Avenging Force, starring Michael Dudikoff and Steve James.
This review is the first in what I hope to be an ongoing, occasional series of reviews for movies I find on youtube. And by “movies I find on youtube,” I mean movies that are both hard to find anywhere else (like Avenging Force) and incredibly obscure (like the low budget Italian action flick Blastfighter). I’m not going to review something as part of this series that I can easily find on DVD or on TV. That’s the plan at the moment, anyway.
Avenging Force (1986)
Avenging Force, directed by Sam Firstenberg, stars Cannon Films icon Michael Dudikoff as Matt Hunter, a badass retired Secret Service intelligence agent who just wants to raise his kid sister Sarah (Allison Gereighty) in peace. But when the family of Hunter’s best friend, U.S. Senate hopeful Larry Richards (James) becomes the target of an ultra right wing group of radicals called the Pentangle, Hunter decides to get back in the butt kicking game and help Richards take down the bad guys. Of course, taking down the Pentangle is easier said than done. Led by the uber evil Professor Elliott Glastenbury (the great John P. Ryan), the Pentangle has its claws in major business and political circles. And when they’re not attempting to recruit new, right wing rich people to their racist, paranoid cause, the main members of the Pentangle (Heisman trophy winner Wade Delaney, played by Bill Wallace; Commander Jeb Wallace, as played by Karl Johnson, and Charlie Lavall, played by Marc Alaimo) are hunting men in the swamps of New Orleans. If you’re mega rich, out of your freaking mind, and able to hunt down men in the swamp without feeling a tinge of remorse, you’re going to be tough to take down.
The first part of the movie is top notch stuff. Dudikoff is great as the reluctant hero Hunter, and James is his usual awesome self as the devoted family man and political aspirant. The way they take down a group of heavily armed Pentangle mercenaries at a Mardi Gras parade is one of the more exciting action scenes from the middle 1980’s. And the speech Glastenbury gives at a Pentangle fundraiser is absolutely chilling. If you didn’t despise Glastenbury and his group at the very start of the movie you will after he explains the full on Pentangle manifesto. But once Hunter takes Richards and his family out to his horse farm for protection the movie takes a bit of a dive story wise. The violence is amped up a bit, but the overall effect of the second half of the movie isn’t as powerful as the first half. The story gets muddled, and in a movie like this, once you start adding new elements to the story, like a conspiracy as to who the fifth member of the Pentangle is, the movie’s forward momentum slows down. The movie shouldn’t slow down. Ever.
The movie also, for whatever reason, becomes less “slick” as it goes on. That isn’t to say that the first part of the movie is a lean and mean action flick. It isn’t. The opening action scene, set in a swamp, starts out kind of clunky and then slowly improves. The scenes on Hunter’s horse farm, where we meet Sarah and her grandfather Grandpa Jimmy (Richard Boyle), are painful, mostly because Gereighty isn’t much of an actor (this movie is her only credit on imdb) and Boyle is trying way too hard to play Grandpa Jimmy as a full on hick. It’s annoying. But the Mardi Gras parade attack and the Glastenbury speech make up for any deficiencies. I just wish that second half was as good as the first.
Now, the way the story plays itself out makes perfect action movie sense. It’s always good to “up the ante” on your hero and make his quest for revenge more significant. But the way the cast is thinned out and the Pentangle gains the upper hand is just depressing (I’ll explain). It’s great how director Firstenberg has absolutely no qualms with killing kids to advance his plot (you just don’t see that kind of thing is movies all that often), and when you see Richards’ one son shot dead and then another, later on, fall off a roof, it’s obvious that anything can happen. That’s always good stuff. But when you see a family massacred and a young girl kidnapped you should feel righteous anger. When it happens in Avenging Force, it isn’t as significant as it should be. It’s comes off as something that has to happen because it has to happen. None of it seems to matter.
And then there’s the big conspiracy. It would have been nice to see a shadowy “fifth member” of Pentangle at some point in the movie. I mean, if Professor Glastenbury isn’t the real head of the organization, the movie probably should have made that clear during the big speech scene. And if he isn’t the head of the group why is he able to make all kinds of big decisions, like taking out Richards and then Hunter? It just doesn’t make any sense. Of course, had the ending been more of an ending instead of an attempt to create a franchise, maybe I wouldn’t be so dang annoyed.
Now, despite what you may read on various websites concerning this movie, Avenging Force is not a sequel to the Cannon-Chuck Norris classic Invasion U.S.A. (check out my review of that flick here). Dudikoff may be playing a character named Matt Hunter, the same name as Norris’ character in U.S.A., but it isn’t the same character. Dudikoff’s Hunter is a completely different character. You may find old Cannon announcements featuring Norris as Matt Hunter in something called Night Hunter, but as far as I can tell Night Hunter is either the original title/idea for Avenging Force before Firstenberg and Dudikoff got involved, or it’s some other Cannon movie that never got made.
As for why Avenging Force hasn’t been released on DVD in North America, damned if I know. I’m going to assume that the movie is owned by someone else besides MGM, the company that released a bunch of Cannon movies on DVD in the early 2000’s. That’s the only thing I can think of. If anyone out there knows anything specific, please drop me a line and tell me. I’d love to know why this movie is unavailable. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Avenging Force, despite its flaws, is a good action flick. It isn’t anything special, but it’s worth checking out at least once. In the end, I liked it. I just wish it was better. It had the potential to be something special,
See Avenging Force. Don’t go out of your way to see it, but, hey, if you have the time, you could watch a lot worse.
So what do we have here?
Dead bodies: 10+
Explosions: One big one, and maybe a few small ones.
Doobage: A man hunt in a swamp, a weird beard ninja guy wearing a white mask, hiding, a brutal fist fight, 2 x 4 to the back, two headed spear through the gut, pipe smoking, strangulation, horse training, a nice parade float, multiple high school marching bands, baby carriages filled with deadly weapons, shooting a bike cop in slow motion, some serious ass kicking, head smashed into a big ass tractor tire, a rooftop chase, a street cafe, pay phone hooey, a rich man’s karate demonstration, ultra right wing paranoid hooey, a sort of Nazi salute, racist graffiti, a safe house, the Superdome, an ambush, fence smashing, a car crash, a bridge ramp jump, multiple instances of shoulder rolling, gymnastics, kicking a guy off a roof in slow motion, nifty little hand gestures among friends, a man is thrown into water in slow motion, a belt weapon, bullet to the arm, horse riding, poor target range shooting, a man is shot in the gut and left to die, more strangulation, hot soup, crossbow arrow through the neck, grenade through the window, exploding card game with massive fireball, a nifty “man on fire” gag, crossbow arrow to the back, a deadly fall, off screen kid killing, bondage, crossbow arrow through the knee, hysterical introspection, a Cajun hoedown, a dip shit kid eating watermelon, a transvestite brothel owner, attempted pedophilia, a mud water slide, a sword vs. tree branch fight, tree stump up through the chest, attempted drowning, a vicious back breaker, boot to the throat, testicle kicking, crossbow arrow to the chest, shotgun hooey, grenade attack, gut stabbing, a wallet photo, attempted strangulation, a ridiculous dinner party, a trophy room weapons brawl, spear throwing, a funny ball grabbing moment, glass table smashing, a swordfight, stair falling, an obvious stunt double, stone spear through the chest, and a lame ending.
Kim Richards?: Big time.
Gratuitous:B.J. Davis, a ninja walking through the swamp wearing a white mask, John P. Ryan, Michael Dudikoff, Michael Dudikoff running a horse farm, New Orleans, Steve James, Mardi Gras, a Mardi Gras parade shootout, Kane Hodder (maybe), baby carriages filled with weapons, a dead kid, a terrifying racist speech, Steve James wanting revenge, the Superdome, face smashing, multiple instances where bad guys are taken out in slow motion, horse riding, a man is shot in the gut and left to die, strangulation, multiple crossbow attacks, multiple people machine gunned to death off screen, hysterical introspection, a Cajun hoedown, a woman jamming on a triangle, a transvestite brothel owner, potential pedophilia, multiple fights in the swamp, a ridiculous dinner party, Hitler admiration, a trophy room weapons brawl, spear throwing, glass table smashing, an obvious stunt double, and a lame ending.
Best lines: “Eww, look at you, you’re filthy,” “She’s growing up to be a real cute girl,” “Come on, chatterbox, let’s have some coffee,” “Now, are we ready to go to the Mardi Gras?,” “No breathing. No pulse,” “Mr. Richards, I’ve given her a sedative,” “Cooper, you working?,” “Hunter is here,” “Looks like a pro to me,” “Let’s go,” “Jesus Christ Steve! Where are they?,” “How does it feel, buddy?,” “Hey Bubba! We’ll be back for you and your nigro friend, too!,” “Your fight is my fight, remember that,” “You’re a disgrace to the movement, Parker,” “I’ll bet you fifty grand we lose’em,” “What a goddamn mess!,” “Gentlemen, the great hunt is about to begin,” “Leaving? What do you mean leaving?,” “Matt, is Grandpa Jimmy dead?,” “Sonofabitch! Where’s my sister?,” “Sorry about that, cuz,” “Well, you can tell the committee to stick it where the sun don’t shine,” “I know the goddamn liberals scream fascist but Hitler was right,” and “I will return.”
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: The Facebook Page!
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Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 1
– Ted: The funniest comedy of 2012 hits DVD just in time for Christmas, and, really, what better way to spend the holidays than with a movie featuring a foul mouthed, drunk, dope smoking teddy bear? I can’t wait to see this again. Seth MacFarlane is a genius.
– Resident Evil: Retribution: Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth movie in the Resident Evil franchise, had its moments but wasn’t that great. The fifth movie, Retribution, is a million times better. The action is better, the performances are better, and the special effects are better. And the ending? All I’ll say is, how the hell is writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson going to move forward after that? Yet another movie I can’t wait to check out again.
– Premium Rush: This nifty action thriller is a bunch of fun. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hoot, Michael Shannon is a great villain, and the bike action scenes are brilliantly executed. I loved the bit where Gordon-Levitt’s Wilee would, in a split second, see multiple possible outcomes while deciding which street to take or which “hole” in traffic to go through. Awesome stuff.
– Miami Connection: I really don’t know much about this “lost” movie, but it did get a minor theatrical release this year (it played in a few major cities) and it’s supposed to be pretty decent. The trailer is pretty cool, too, so it has that going for it, too.
– Killer Joe: This movie didn’t play anywhere near me this past summer so I missed out on it. Directed by the legendary William Friedkin, Killer Joe is supposed to be a badass, disturbing, weird beard thriller. If it’s half as weird as Friedkin’s Bug Killer Joe will definitely be worth checking out. Anyone out there see this?
– Forced to Fight: The great Gary Daniels stars in this action flick. That fact alone is reason enough to check it out. Expect a full on review of this at some point in 2013.
TV Quick Hits
– Sons of Anarchy season 5 finale thoughts: Am I the only person who thought that the season 5 finale to Sons of Anarchy was, at best, underwhelming? From Tara’s arrest to Clay’s arrest to Pope’s death, I know I’m supposed to be in awe of what happened, especially the thing with Tara. But I’m not. The finale didn’t even feel like a finale. It felt like just another episode.
Now, the thing with Otto biting his own tongue off was pretty cool, but that was about it for the good stuff. Everything else was just kind of blah.
So who threw Tara under the bus? Was it Gemma, who promised to make Tara’s life a living hell if she ever decided to move away from Charming? Was Donal Logue’s Lee Toric involved? I’m kind of hoping that it’s Toric’s doing, the start of his assault on the SAMCRO gang. Having it be Gemma would be far too easy. And it would be cool to see Jax’s ex-wife Wendy involved in this somehow.
I was hoping that Pope would get his full revenge on that scumbag Trager. I kind of knew something bad was going to happen to him, especially after Jax asked him for advice on how to get revenge on someone. Will Pope’s lead henchman and new gang leader August Marks get revenge? Will he figure out that it wasn’t Clay that killed Pope but Jax? Of course, killing Clay won’t be a big deal (Clay is a piece of shit), but, if Marks is going to do Clay, he needs to have a shot at Jax at some point, too. It’s only fair.
So now, I guess, it’s going to be up to Toric to shake things up and kick some SAMCRO ass in season 6. Because that’s what I want to see. I want to see Toric wipe out half the gang before he’s killed or sent to jail or whatever. It’s what the show needs, and it’s what needs to happen to the gang. Bobby keeps telling Jax that what he’s doing isn’t right and that he should have been different than Clay. Maybe Jax should have listened.
And how is jail going to change Tara? Will she end up rebelling more against the gang, or will she go full Gemma and become a full on devoted “old lady?” Will she have to, since I’d imagine it’d be difficult to get a good hospital job with a murder charge lodged against her?
We’ll know how it all shakes out in September.
Do you think Clay will come out even stronger after his next stint in jail?
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Theme of the Week
And now, the weekly Fearnet update
Fearnet, the only free all horror/thriller On Demand TV network features uncut, uncensored horror flicks from the past and present 24 hours a day, seven days a week, pretty much any time you freaking want them (as long as you still have power, that is). The channel also has behind-the-scenes stuff, trailers, and other cool hooey for you to check out. Check your local cable listings for availability (According to the Fearnetwebsite more and more Time Warner and Cox Cable areas are getting the channel. Be sure to go here to see if Fearnet is coming to your area).
Fearnet also exists as a regular old TV channel. This Fearnet airs horror movies roughly twenty one hours a day (there is a block of infomercials in the morning, usually from 6-9am est). The movies shown do have “commercial breaks” in them, similar to the breaks that currently appear on IFC, but the movies are uncut (blood and boobs and cursing are all intact).
Fearnet’s website, fearnet.com, offers free movies, interviews, news, and other behind-the-scenes horror movie nerd stuff, too. The classic Wishmaster was on the site last week. Is it still there? Check and see).
The website also features Post Mortem with Mick Garris, a nifty interview show where big, fat Stephen King’s favorite director talks with genre legends like John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Roger Corman, and others. It’s definitely worth your time.
If you’re a Facebook nerd (and, really, today, who isn’t?) you can check out the Fearnet fans Facebook page, which can be seen here. There are plenty of people out there interested in Fearnet. Join them. And, as always, thanks to both Mark Lindsey and Mathew Hirsch for info regarding the Fearnet fan movement.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column B-Movie Babe of the Week:
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 2
– Pitch Perfect: I had planned on seeing this when it came out but, for whatever reason, I missed it. The trailer is a blast, and I’m always in the mood for a movie featuring the uber hot Brittany Snow. Am I the only one, though, that thinks this movie is hitting DVD a tad too soon? I mean, wasn’t this movie just in theatres?
– Total Recall: This remake didn’t get great reviews, but I still wanted to see it. I missed out on it, though, which is a damn shame because I wanted to be able to say that I saw the remake of Total Recall in the same theatre I saw the original Total Recall in. Now I’ll have to settle for “watching the remake of Total Recall on the same DVD player I watched the original Total Recall on.” It just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Phooey.
– Android Insurrection: This mega low budget sci-fi action flick looks kind of weird. The special effects look cheesy as hell. So, yeah, I’m going to have to check this out at some point. How could I not?
– Quebec Magnetic: This is some sort of DVD of a concert Metallica played in Quebec at some point during its world tour for its last album (that would be Death Magnetic, not that thing they did with Lou Reed). I guess this will have to hold us over until the next new Metallica album which is going to hit in, what, 2014? Is that the latest date?
– Osombie: A movie about a zombie Osama Bin Laden creating an army of zombie terrorists? Why isn’t this playing on a double bill with Zero Dark Thirty?
– Gangsters Guns & Zombies: The flick’s title says it all. It doesn’t really matter if it’s any good or not. Why wouldn’t you want to at least rent it? It’s called Gangsters, Guns, & Zombies for the love of Drake.
The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week
This week, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Douchebag of the Week goes to the state government of Michigan, for recently passing a “right to work” law intended to destroy the state’s unions. I know that the Republican governor Rick Snyder on down claim the new law is “actually pro worker,” but that’s just bullshit. If it becomes harder to join a union, form a union, and if your overall standard of living goes down, how exactly do workers benefit from any of that? How? And that’s exactly what’s going to happen if the law stays (and it probably will, despite the efforts of various unions and Democrats to repeal the law). Hopefully, the state’s voters come to their senses during the next election and vote out every sack of shit “actually pro worker” douchebag that voted for the law.
Why do the Democrats, the party of the people and labor and whatnot, allow this shit to happen? And why the fuck do they join in? Why?
Up next is anyone advancing the following argument in response to the Connecticut school massacre: “Hey, if you ban guns are you going to ban steak knives and cars next? You can kill people with those things, too, you know.”
True, you can kill people with steak knives and cars. However, can you slice a tomato with a Glock? Can I jump into a shotgun and go to the grocery store? No, you can’t do either of those things. Because steak knives and cars have multiple uses. Guns are, pure and simple, weapons. They are meant to be used to kill and maim. Nothing else. Once we all recognize that and accept that that’s what those “tools” do, maybe then we can figure out what we need to do next. Some kind of assault weapons ban? Greater restrictions on certain kinds of guns? Better enforcement of gun laws, or maybe new gun laws that actually work, as opposed to the “laws already on the books” that no one seems to be able to enforce at the moment?
Why is this so hard to figure out? Why?
And finally there’s Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, and MGM, for getting a judge to block the release of The Asylum’s low budget fantasy flick Age of the Hobbits because the movie was engaged in “free riding” on the worldwide advertising campaign for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy.
Yeah, because no low budget movie of any kind has ever done that. “Free riding” on the success and/or notoriety of a particular big budget movie is what both low and big budget movies have done for decades. How is this particular case any different? And I seriously doubt that anyone would confuse Age of the Hobbits for Jackson’s movie.
This whole thing is ludicrous. Just goddamn ludicrous.
Indycar and NASCAR thoughts
Not much going on in either Indycar or NASCAR at the moment.
Rubens Barrichello announced that he won’t be back in Indycar for 2013 and will instead race in the Brazilian Stock Car Series. The Speed Channel website claims there’s a chance that Barrichello may get a ride for the Indycar race in Brazil, but that’ll probably be it (he won’t be racing in the Indy 500 because the BSCS schedule will prevent it). And it sounds like Connor Daly, the son of racing legend Derek Daly, will attempt to run a limited Indycar schedule with a focus on road and street courses for A.J. Foyt (it sounds like Foyt may try to run three cars at the Indy 500, with Takuma Sato in the main car, Daly in the 41, and Chase Austin in another car). I’m kind of surprised that Daly wants to race an Indycar at this point in his career. I thought he was trying to score an F-1 ride. His money to race in Europe must have run out.
Over in NASCAR, the big story is the new 2013 car. NASCAR claims the car is different from the 2012 car, but at the moment, based on the photos I’ve seen, it looks like the front splitter thing is gone. Is that a good thing? A bad thing? Will it matter?
Two months to go before Daytona. Man, it’s going to be a long two months.
Things to Watch Out For This Week: Part 3
– The Toxic Avenger: Japanese Cut: I have no idea what this version of the movie puts in or takes out. I’m going to assume that it’s nastier than the original American version. I mean, what else could it be?
– Night Claws: The great David A. Prior directed this low budget horror flick, and Frank Stallone, the Reb Brown, and Ted Prior are in it. It’s good to see Brown working again. The man is a badass.
– Mr. Bricks: “A Heavy Metal Murder Musical?” What a great idea. And with the fine folks at Troma releasing it, you know it’s going to be, at least, watchable. I mean, the trailer is freaking insane. Is the movie just as insane?
– Creep Van: I’m guessing that this is meant to be a kind of loose parody of John Carpenter’s Stephen King adaptation Christine? That’s the vibe I get from both the trailer and the imdb.com description. I’m shocked that it’s taken someone so long to do one.
– In Search Of… The Complete Series: I used to watch this show in reruns on A&E. It’s a “documentary” show from the late 1970’s that looked into weird phenomena and other assorted bullshit and narrated by the Leonard Nimoy. Even the terrible episodes were worth watching. Awesome, ridiculous nonsense. A definite must see.
Well, I think that’ll be about it for this issue. B-movies rule, always remember that.
If there’s anything you want to see reviewed here in this column, feel free to offer a comment below or send me an e-mail. I’m always on the lookout for new stuff to watch.
Michael Dudikoff– Matt Hunter
Steve James– Larry Richards
James Booth– Admiral Brown
John P. Ryan– Professor Elliott Glastenbury
Bill Wallace– Wade Delaney
Karl Johnson Jeb Wallace
Marc Alaimo– Charlie Lavall
Allison Gereighty– Sarah Hunter
Loren Farmer– Andrew Parker
Richard Boyle– Grandpa Jimmy
Robert Cronin– T.C. Cooper
Directed by Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay by James Booth
Distributed by Cannon Films
Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 99 minutes
Watch it here