David Carradine in the Future Force/ Future Zone Double Feature

 

FF and FZ

  I was a big fan of David Carradine from when I first saw him on the “Kung Fu” television show. By 9 or ten or so, I was struck on just how damn cool he was- kickin’ major ass while roaming the land. As I got older I would catch him in genre flicks that would trickle down to Central Florida; great stuff like Cannonball! (an underrated Roger Corman- produced car crash flick with the very yummy Veronica Hamel and the funny Gerrit Graham); Thunder and Lightning (more car hijinx- this one co-starring my favorite “Charlie’s Angel” Kate Jackson), and his most famous- the giant cult flick Deathrace 2000 (with FOUR smokin’ gals in this one: the pretty genre favorite (but barely in this) Roberta Collins (who had more screen time in things like Caged Heat & Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, and who died just last year from an OD); Louisa Moritz (who’s been in a million things like Chained Heat; Lunch Wagon and New Year’s Evil– a busty blonde with a squeaky voice who you’d recognize the second you saw her); the tall-and-sexy Mary Woronov (again, in a bunch of things from Andy Warhol underground stuff to Ms. Togar in Rock and Roll High School and the waiting-to-be-discovered lost film Get Crazy) and, my favorite of the bunch (sorry, Mary) the should-have-moved-on-to-much-better-things Simone Griffeth, who later appeared in more obscure drive-in stuff like The Patriot and Hot Target. She was a stunning woman who could really act (if not necessarily shown off in Deathrace), and apparently is still acting in local theater (in between her Real Estate day job)…

 

 

   I wanted to get in some reviews of some budget Carradine titles in honor of his passing on June 3rd and remembered that I had been sitting on a two-disc set of Future Force (1989) & the sequel Future Zone (1990); a combo set that can be found for $5 at places like FYE (courtesy of the budget DVD company Echo Bridge Home Entertainment). I didn’t know much about either title other than these were made during a low (one of several) in big Dave’s career (it would be a few years before he’d appear in the big studio flick Bird on a Wire, and 15 years before getting the title role in the Kill Bill movies), and that it was directed by David Prior- a director of low budget schlock who has a list of this type of thing as long as your arm (and he’s still at it). The box art has some Lawnmower Man- type computer graphics, suggesting something very Sci-Fi. Of course, cover art has lied in the past, but surely something with the Seal of Approval of “Caine” (Carradine and his 3rd wife Gail Jensen are credited as Associate Producers) wouldn’t DECEIVE, would it? Read on, fellow travelers…

 

 

   David stars as John Tucker, an officer of the “C.O.P.S.- Civilian Operated Police Systems” (as some helpful narration at the beginning of the movie informs, because of how bad crime has gotten by the so-in-the-future 1991 (!) the government has sold police forces the privatized corporation and now most crime has been obliterated) who ends up having to guardian angel a news reporter who’s fingered a mob boss in town (an overacting ham of a human being named William Zipp). Showing the low budget nature of the movie right off the bat- do the cops wear cool armor? Well- no. Actually, the uni consists of dark Wrangler jeans, a sky blue t-shirt under a denim cutoff vest. He does have a cool steel riot glove (ala The Glove– see my earlier blog post about that Rosey Grier/John Saxon vehicle) that gives him the strength to lift things like cars, smash meal and shoot lasers. But, being a David Prior movie, it’s carried out in his consistent, cheesy way, That is, a low budget version of a basic cable TV movie (and I know- I’ve sat through some of his other offerings, like Raw Justice (ever wondered what a movie starring Pam Anderson and the guy from Airplane would be like? Wonder no further- this is it); and Raw Nerve (with Glenn Ford reaching his absolute nadir, acting with an apparently drunk Jan-Michael Vincent and a way too sober and clothed Traci Lords) …  

 

   Carradine looks bloated and a bit tired in this- simply going through the motions. And if the flick had the least bit of fun to it, it might be easier to take. Unfortunately, it takes itself DEADLY serious, and sucks the air right out of any pace or drama it tries to set up. Tucker throws out grumpy lines to convey that he’s a bad ass: “You have committed a crime and have been found guilty. You have the right to die. If you relinquish that right, you will be placed under arrest…”. Wow- harsh stuff, huh? The only other name on display here is Robert Tessier, a big, Mr. Clean- looking guy who’s been in a bunch of Burt Reynolds films (like Hooper and The Longest Yard) as well as the Bad-Guy-who-turns-into-the-Good-Guy-and-dies-for-his-efforts personal favorite cheese-fest Starcrash, as the Boss’ right arm. Just like everyone else in here (except for the above-mentioned Zipp and Dawn Wildsmith- the ex- Mrs. Fred Olen Ray as the fellow cop with a heart and slashed throat), he seems to be acting in some kind of catatonic state…

 

 

   So OK; the acting’s kinda flat and the Art Direction is uninspired- at least there’s some nifty Sci-fi effects, right? Uh, no… sorry. Lame in that department as well. The whole movie is shot with the dingy, uninspired poor man’s karate movie look, with not a hint of fantastic elements. And the library music used (lots of bass keyboard thumping) and amped-up sound effects do not help matters; instead of helping the excitement level it’s just that much more distracting. The movie is unrated, and except for a few swear words and some after-killing blood there’s nothing too rough in this (which would have probably spiced up the very long-seeming 80 minute running time). The “Flying-Glove-of-Death” is pretty funny though; you have to wait to the 68 minute mark for that, though)…

 

 

   I’m glad that he was able to regain some level of credibility before dying (but with all the speculation on HOW he died, seems to have undone that); it’s a shame that he had to survive on low-level product like this. As I was barely unable to get through the first one, the sequel Future Zone is going to have to wait for another day for me to review it- I’m still having trouble keeping food down…

 

 

Future Force- 1 out of 5*

 

Richard Grieco hits the acting skids in “Final Payback” (2001)

 

final_payback_07

 

 

   Johnny Depp is known to be pretty much the coolest guy in movies. Not only is he probably the most entertaining guy out there with his varied roles, he seems to be just a good guy (things like recording personal messages for a young coma patient; sending pieces of his wardrobe to fans; or appearing with his former teenage bandmates for a 20-year reunion just to play music). He got his start on “21 Jump Street”; a pretty successful series for the Fox Network that was suppose to launch the career to superstardom of another actor on the series- Richard Grieco, but things didn’t turn out as planned. While Johnny hooked his star to directors like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam and Robert Rodriguez, Richard ended up with straight-to-video “mavens” like Chuck DuBus (Fish Don’t Blink); Christian Viel (Evil Breed: The Legend of Sam Hain); and David Wu (Webs). This time he picked Art Camacho, a Stunt Coordinator and sometime Director (his biggest flick to date is the recent Half-Past Dead 2), and together they unleashed Final Payback, a DTV of a slow and talky man-on-the-run versus a corrupt-police-force-out-to-get-him flick…

 

  When Grieco goes dippin’ his ink in the company well- well, no good can ever come from that apparently, and he wakes up to his girlfriend (Priscilla Barnes, in probably the most thankless role of her life) dead in her shower. Oh, and it’s a Police Chief’s (John Saxon– SURPRISE! As another cop!) wife; the same Police Chief who had ol’ Rich bounced off the force a few years earlier. He hears cops, hops on his Honda, then scoots away, causing the lone cop car following him to flip and burst into flames…

 

   Well, after THAT, you get scenes of drug dealers and users being brought in by (drum roll, please) Martin Kove, chewing scenery from here to L.A. He grits his teeth, rolls his eyes, and sucks up major to the Mayor (Corbin Bernsen, who’s few minutes of screen time must have either been as a favor to the makers of this or commanded pocket money for a weekend in Sausalito). Kove is easily the best thing in this (maybe not BEST- let’s say “most entertaining”)- Grieco could have made this his, but with his sulking, overacting and facial ticks, it’s hard to like him. His greasy hair and earring, his oily and pudgy face, his stupid leather jacket all made me hope that they’d turn the tables and off the good guy (I don’t want to give it away, but no luck). It’s kinda fun- there are some flourishes that make this not as static as typical fare (the junkie hitmen- one played by Manuel Sanchez that is a low-rent version of the great Danny Trejo; a buddy-turned-informer trippin’ out in an alley), but in the end, it’s just a fairly-good time-waster…

 

   The flick itself is shot flat and pretty static, though nicely framed in widescreen 1:85. The most surprising thing is the lack of real stunts, but the fight scenes that are here are well-staged. This DVD is released by Digiview and can be had for a buck at pretty much every WalMart on earth. No extras, but that’s OK- I can’t picture really wanting a “Making Of” or a “Director’s Commentary” for this; nothing all that exceptional here. One last thing- for some reason most of the cursing is bleeped out (“Son of a ____”); however they left an “F-word” in.

 

 

 

Final Payback– 2-1/2 out of 5*