Monday, August 23, 2010

Fight from the Philippines: HUNTER'S CROSSING (1983)

I can’t believe we are four months into the blogosphere and we haven’t mentioned Richard Harrison. Everyone has a favorite actor and you’ll often hear folks saying, “I’ll watch anything Al Pacino (or Robert DeNiro or Russell Crowe) is in.” Poppycock! Those guys play it safe in their little Hollywood wonderland with multi-million dollar budgets and ever flowing buffets. Give me a real actor, someone who truly suffers for their art. I’m talking about nomadic cinema warriors, who feared no borders when it came to collecting a paycheck. Guys like John Saxon, Chris Mitchum and Richard Harrison. Harrison has braved poor shooting conditions in Italy, Turkey, China, the Caribbean, and the Philippines just to name a few in order to add to his resume of over 100 films. Call me when Pacino, DeNiro or Crowe do that without the luxury of first class. Yeah, I’ll watch anything with Richard Harrison…and that might just be my undoing. See, because of Harrison's "pay me now" nature, his filmography is truly the good, the bad and the ugly.

HUNTER’S CROSSING opens with a group of tourists being captured by some pirates led by a white guy named Jameel. Among the group is rich dude Burns, Sr. and his daughter Lois. The pirates contact Burns, Jr. (Richard Harrison) and demand $5 million dollars for their release. Anyway, Burns, Jr. is apparently either cheap or vindictive as he hires Harris (Phillip Gamboa) to assemble a mercenary team to rescue the captives. The team includes Al Hunter (Bruce Baron), Tom (Jim Gaines) and Mac (Don Gordon Bell). I’m particularly impressed with how he recruits Mac, who is drunk and getting his ass kicked in a bar at the time. Just the kind of guy you want on your team, right? Anyway, the group trains for a bit (with some guy yelling at them) before their mission. Oh, I forgot, pre-mission we get the most random subplots thrown in that scream “we need more running time!” Mac promises his son he will buy a boat and take him fishing when he gets back (it ain’t happening kid); Al gets wrapped up with a gang that he used to be a getaway driver for, killing them with his rocket launcher car; and Tom kills his wife when he finds her in bed with a scrawny white dude (understandable). An odd but welcome detour before we get the main mission where lots of guys get blow’d up.

If you were hoping for some trademark Harrison craziness, this isn’t the film for you. While he and CROSSING director Teddy Page made FIREBACK (1983) around the same time, this is strictly talking head stuff. ‘Tis the price we pay for being Harrisonites. He is essentially deskbound for his 10 minutes of screen time. Perhaps he was getting thrown a bone for the rigors of FIREBACK and BLOOD DEBTS (1984)? You do have to marvel at the fact that the perpetually old Harrison plays someone’s son though. Awesome. This is essentially Gamboa and Baron’s show. This is the first time I’ve seen Gamboa and he is pretty good, looking like a young Tony Ferrer. Baron is a staple in these flicks and is good as always. And by good I mean entertainingly over-the-top. Watch for the bit where he shoots a guy five times and then kicks him for good measure. He had previously been in Tsui Hark’s DON’T PLAY WITH FIRE (1980) and co-starred with Bruce Li in the highly entertaining DRAGON FORCE (1982). I have to marvel at his outfit in the film’s final siege. It consists of boots, khaki shorts, a gun on each hip, and a skimpy top. Hey, wait a sec…that is Lara Croft’s outfit!

Sadly, HUNTER’S CROSSING isn’t going to set your world on fire. In the pantheon of crazy Filipino cinema, it is a level below some of the other Silver Star/Teddy Page classics. The end breakout is pretty standard for the genre with the requisite shootouts and mandatory exploding huts. One thing that made me laugh is the end relying on the group being picked up by a boat at a rendezvous point (naturally, it is late). Why is this funny? Because Harris and Al drove there in their A-Team gimmicked bike and car! Hell, they even get in them during the final chase but then get out of them to run to the pier. Why not, you know, drive that car back to where you brought it from? There is another really funny bit involving Gamboa running out of bullets and offing two guys coming towards him with machine guns by using knives. Yes, these pirates are truly not a bright lot if they can’t figure out to open fire on a guy five feet in front of them as he throws down his gun and pulls out some blades. I will give the filmmaker’s credit for some funny drama (like Harris revealing Lois is his former wife and Burns, Sr. hates him; might make that rescue kind of awkward) and having the gall to off three out of the four team members. It is an okay time killer, but not the best. If, however, you want prime Filipino Harrison, definitely check out FIREBACK (which co-stars Baron as a lovesick villain named Duffy) and BLOOD DEBTS. Both films have him in the lead and brandishing big guns that make people explode. Take that Al Pacino!

2 Reactions:

  1. You probably already know this, but It cracks me up how that Ghanan? Ghanese? poster cribs most of its artwork from the poster for FINAL MISSION.

  2. Haha, I didn't know that and it makes it even more awesome. Thanks for pointing that out.


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