Sunday 15 September 2019

Savage Beach (Andy Sidaris, 1989) Review

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“A couple of sweet angels of mercy who just happen to be armed for combat.” / “Even Mother Teresa has her dark side.” In the words of writer/director Andy Sidaris “You can't not like beautiful women and explosions, if you don't, then you're a Communist” … ah, the 1980s! When he wasn't chewing on his tongue, lodged so firmly in his cheek, Sidaris was making movies in the 'Skin-emax' style, that is: guns, babes, and all sorts of shit blowing up somewhere sunny. The fourth entry in Andy Sidaris' twelve-strong 'L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies' series features the final on-screen team up for arse-kicking agents Donna and Taryn, and sees the zesty duo crash land in the middle of a hunt for missing gold on a remote Pacific island...

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“Release her right now or your church choir has a new soprano.” Opening with D.E.A. agents Donna (Dona Speir, Hard Hunted) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton, Slaughter House Rock) infiltrating a drug smuggling operation – at a pineapple factory of all places – things get off to a lead-flingin' start as their straightforward *ahem* bust turns into a fight for survival. But never fear, because Taryn's got an effective way to stop that getaway van – blow it the fuck up! Once they've admonished their captured crims (whose faces are all cartoonish with post-explosion muck), they take a nice relaxing topless jacuzzi with relocated Las Vegas agent Patticakes (Patty Duffek) and new girl Rocky (Lisa London) … hmmm, it must be the Hawaiian way of doing things.

“I want you to see the special equipment I have for you.” / “Well, we're pretty isolated here and I don't always get my share.” There's no time to cool their heels, though, as a remote island hospital needs medical assistance before a storm cuts them off and dooms their patients. Bravely venturing into the eye of the storm, Donna and Taryn make their delivery, but on the return journey they find themselves far off-course after a lightning strike. Ditching their plane on a seemingly uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific, you'd think they'd be in trouble, but these ladies most definitely have it under control. Meanwhile, at Computer Control Central (whatever that is), the hunt is on for some sunken gold. Looted from Manila, it was intended to provide arms for a military government in Japan post-WWII, but a storm put paid to that idea. Now, Navy Captain Andreas (John Aprea, Picasso Trigger) and Philippine government official Martinez (Rodrigo Obregón, Day of the Warrior) are on a mission to return that gold to its rightful owners … but it's not quite that simple.

“Don't spend it all in one piece HAHAHAHAHA!!!” In what turns out to be a plot line as complicated as following a Three Card Monty game shuffled by a street wise pro, not only does Captain Andreas have eyes on the gold for himself, but Martinez is in fact a revolutionary rebel posing as a government official, and the apparent Major from the U.S. Army is in fact another entirely separate infiltrator. Gee, that does sound complicated, doesn't it? But wait! There's more! The Japanese military officer who ordered the mission to transport the gold in the first place – Admiral Inada (Dann Seki, Hawaii Five-O) – is on his death bed and wishes for his final act on this earth to be one of restitution, to admit the dishonour and shame which he has brought upon his family. However, when his two men (who are part of the U.S. Navy's mission to retrieve the gold) are themselves taken out and replaced by yet another two infiltrators – Fu and Erik – things fly straight past complicated and end up in “You wot, mate?” territory. Yes, there's double crosses afoot, but that's too simple for an Andy Sidaris movie, isn't it? Of course, it is, that's why there's double-double crosses in store once they rock up at the same island where Donna and Taryn crash landed! Will our sunny blonde duo figure out what the hell is going on? Is anyone who they say they are? Will Taryn's notoriously sticky fingers get a share of that gold?

“Are you comfortable with a big gun?” / “They have their advantages.” / “This baby's larger than most anything around.” / “Well, I'm not as impressed with size as I am with performance.” After somewhat losing Donna and Taryn amidst the gargantuan ensemble cast of the previous entry in the series – Picasso Trigger (1988) – Savage Beach pushes the two ladies to the fore once more, rekindling some of the fun and allure of 1987's Hard TicketTo Hawaii. They're resourceful, smart, brave, witty, and beautiful to boot, and their combination of friendship and teamwork is one of the surprisingly affecting aspects of their roles in these movies. They have a healthy sense of humour, kick copious amounts of bottom, have each other's backs both physically and emotionally, maintain profitable cover business Molokai Cargo, and on top of all of that they enjoy their sexually liberated lives. So what if they're stranded on a deserted island? They've got shelter and food sorted, so it's most certainly time to have a sunset skinny dip!

“Bimbos? If you knew what was good for you you wouldn't tie us up.” Mercifully for the audience, Savage Beach gets off to a clear and focused start, unlike the disorienting whirlwind of locations and assassinations that opened Picasso Trigger's convoluted first half. Similarly, this fourth entry in Sidaris' series drops all of the extraneous sub-plots and 'favour cameos' that dragged down the previous film … it even rows back on cramming in so much gratuitous nudity (relatively speaking, of course) in order to maintain a slick sense of pace. However, while Savage Beach makes strides in screenwriting structure, it cannot match the sheer shocking craziness of the previous two films, where cancer-ridden snakes exploding out of toilets and multi-purpose weaponry hidden inside an everyday crutch were just the tip of the insanity iceberg.

The movie isn't without its moments of laugh-out-loud silliness, mind you, such as the moment when Donna and Taryn apply camouflage to just their faces before venturing into lush greens while wearing bright white tank tops, or when they simply must change out of their rain-soaked clothes mid-flight smack-bang in the midst of a raging tropical storm … surely that's an aviation no-no, up there with the celebratory threesome in an escaping helicopter as seen in Caged Women (Leandro Lucchetti, 1991)? It's also worth noting that amongst the cast is 1980s movie legend Al Leong, who appeared in a wealth of classics from Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure to Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon to Big Trouble In Little China. Bonus points awarded for that!

“I don't think that cute blonde could kill anybody.” So, a third of the way through the L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies saga of a dozen interconnected gun-toting kablammo boob festivals and Hard Ticket To Hawaii is still the one to beat, with Picasso Trigger and Savage Beach each rising and falling to different challenges by comparison. However, despite easing off the goofy throttle, the more streamlined pace (which even sees the continuing gag of the expanding Abilene family relegated to a footnote) as well as the focus on Donna and Taryn does make for an awful lot of fun.

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