Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Gweilo Dojo: BLOOD HANDS (1990)

If you were going to pick the top two filmmakers in Filipino exploitation, you would naturally come up with Eddie Romero and Cirio H. Santiago. If you were going to pick three, you would have to add the venerable Teddy Page. Definitely not as prolific, nor as influential on the industry as a whole, but when it comes to completely insane, break-neck action flicks, Page delivers fun by the truckload. Better still, he does it with a cast of beloved b-movie stars such as Richard Harrison, Bruce Baron, Mike Monty, Jim Gaines, Nick Nicholson or in this case... stuntman and actor Sean P. Donahue!

Four amigos are getting hammered on cans of Budwater in a living room. We quickly learn that they are all kickboxers and one of them has just won a championship medal, which is the cause for the celebration, such as it is (these guys could take pointers from Amir Shervan on how to party). The guys head out for a beer run and strangely enough, things go wrong pretty fast. Sure it's all fun and games, slapping women on their asses, chugging beers straight off the display and shoving people around, but things turn serious when the manger, looking like Jim Carrey with a comb-over, confronts them in this dialogue exchange:
Manager: "I suggest you leave now before I show you something you wont find so damn humorous."
Walter: "Gonna show your little willy?"
Manager: "I got a black belt here that says I can knock all four ya on your asses!" (manager indicates this by drawing attention to his black dress belt that is holding up his slacks!)
Of course this leads to a supermarket brawl in which kung fu Carrey smacks his head on a counter dropping to the floor, dead. One of the guys realizes something is wrong and shouts "he ain't moving man!" to which the response is "oh my god, kick him!" Unfortunately an extra boot to the ribs doesn't bring the manager back to life.

Meanwhile a couple is getting things ready for their son Steve's (Donahue) birthday. In a totally unpredictable series of events, the four amigos have a (vehicular) break down right by their house and decide to pay them a visit. Naturally things get ugly right away as the champion kickboxer James (the ever reliable Ned Hourani) used to date the mom who is described as a "hot dish" (she is not). As soon as Video Wasteland's Ken Kish, err, I mean, Steve's dad Edward (Nick Nicholson) arrives home, it's on! A massive brawl through the house ends up with Kish and the Dish both dead. Jeeze, these guys aren't having a good day. All they wanted was more beer and then people have to go and die on them through no fault of theirs! Yep, James is the voice of reason in this motley brew. He keeps things under control by telling the boys "alright, so we're not having a good time" and that nobody can pin the afternoon's accidental deaths on them because there were no witnesses. Unfortunately for them, Edward managed to grab the kickboxing medal before he is fatally thrown through a glass door. Or rather, his stunt "double" is. And this is all in the first 25 minutes of the film!

If there's one thing Page is known for it's minimal budgets, if there's two things, it's minimal budgets and wall-to-wall action. While nothing compares to the literally non-stop string of action scenes that is the Max Thayer vehicle DEADRINGER (1985), this sucker hauls ass through so much delirious kick-boxing mayhem that it makes BLOODSPORT (1988) seem like ON GOLDEN POND (1981).

Steve, seemingly living at his girlfriend's father's gym, refuses to hand over the medal to the cops, and with good reason. Upon discovering that it was gone, the guys run back over to the house, discover a homicide detective there and... wait for it... accidentally kill him! Hey, these guys don't go looking for trouble, but - oh wait, yes they do. In his attempt to find out who the owner of the medal is, he adopts a clever disguise as a kickboxing journalist (who has no idea who the leading kickboxing champs are). In spite of his sleuthing, opportunity seems to simply fall in his lap. For instance, when walking to the gym from the gym (yeah, I don't get it either), a group of tweens playing what appears to be dodgeball suddenly decide to pick a fight with him. Wouldn't you know it, one of the kids, Bruce, is the son of George (Jim Moss), one of our kickboxing killers!

David Byrne called

Loaded with enthusiastic fights from top to bottom, we also get a variety of locations as well, it may not sound like much, but locations such as an active rail line, a ship-yard, and a two-on-one fight in a subway car, do a lot to make the film feel as if it has more production values than it really does. Plus, we get some really amazing sequences that really make no sense and add substantially to the entertainment value. In one scene the boys go to the gym in the dead of night to try to recover the medal. When they get there, they find the owner reading a book (to cover for this oddness, later in the film his daughter has a line about how her dad was an insomniac), James tells George to kill the old man, George picks up a steel pole and starts jabbing him in the stomach! Surely there has got to be an easier way to kill a man if you are a kickboxer.

In what seems like an attempt to add even more emotional depth to the frantic proceedings, Page has several completely non-sequitur sequences of heavy drama, but don't worry, it's some of the most amusing heavy drama you are likely to see. In one scene Bruce goes to see his father George at his mechanics shop and tearfully tells him "Dad, I don't want to be a kickboxer, I just want to be me! I want to be Bruce!" to which Dad replies "You are Bruce!" I'm not sure what relevance this has to the film at all, since this is the last we see of Bruce. No turning face to help out Steve in his quest for vengeance, nope, he just disappears from the film. Also, there is the touching sequence where Steve must recover from a savage beating in some stables, while his girlfriend helps him get his ass-whuppin' mojo back.

Sean P. Donahue, son of Patrick G. Donahue (the man responsible for the 1982 all-time classic KILL SQUAD), properly started his stunt-slash-acting career with two movies in 1990. One was Paul Kyriazi's post-nuke kickboxing opus OMEGA COP starring Ron Marchini, the other is BLOOD HANDS. One year, two classics! Damn, I'm going to have to break out a Venn diagram here in a minute. The degrees of separation are starting to make me dizzy. Never lacking enthusiasm and bringing fast, physical acting to his roles, Donahue is the perfect leading man for Page and that is why Will picked this movie as one of his top movies viewed of 2012 and I should have.

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