Saturday, August 1
110 Minutes / Toshiba (Japan) / 1.66:1ish Widescreen
Craig Alan stars as Roger Craig (a.k.a. "Commander"), a rogue American commando fighting to free innocent prisoners from militant Russian and Vietnamese forces in-and-around Cambodia years after the war. After successfully storming a Russian tanker to retrieve dangerous surveillance equipment for U.S. forces with the promise of safe passage back to America; he returns to find the small village that took him in bombed and its inhabitants slain. Worst yet, his Cambodian bride-to-be is missing, so he commandeers the spy equipment back to use as barter to get her back.
Of course, it's not that simple as the trade plan fails when those slimy Russians double-cross Craig and kill his girl. Though the boxes with the devices are empty with only Craig knowing their true location. The opposing forces take our boy prisoner and interrogate him with vicious methods like plastic bag waterboarding. Craig ultimately fakes his death with herbal pills, awakens on a shoreline amongst bloated dead, and retrieves his secret stash of arms. Dozens of faceless Vietnamese soldiers and a few select Russian military elite are about to be fucked--Reagan era style.
Oh boy, shaky beginnings in this over-the-top Italian macho 'Nam vet actioner with a good forty initial minutes of going through the motions of plot construction. Plentiful action exists in these early sequences, but the story is so obvious it writes itself. Once past the set-up, the film takes its time and although never once escaping the cheese trappings, it all gets progressively better in a palpable sense.
Craig Alan isn't much of a badass, existing somewhere between the chiseled cool of Miles O'Keefe and the goofy of Reb Brown, but certainly superior to the musical stylings of David Heavener. Still, the droopy-eyed Alan has the emoting power of a brick in the rain, his mulleted hair waves like grease slicked spaghetti noodles, and his facial hair at times looks like smeared shit. Somehow though, he gets more likable in the same way as the film as the minutes pass. Dolce also aids the character's revenge motivation by having him find his dead girlfriend dumped on the shore and then cremating her body in a huge bonfire intercut with scenes of suiting up for the final strike.
The action, especially during the great climatic enemy compound battle, is well executed. Many of the shootings are accompanied with multiple squib explosions and the straw hunt eradications are some of the intense I've seen in '80s action. I wouldn't be surprised to hear the Philippine rainforest locations that were used for the action sequences still haven't fully recovered from the carnage. Unexpectedly solid and satisfying.
VHS Picture: 6/10
VHS Sound: 7/10