Friday 10 January 2020

Do Or Die (Andy Sidaris, 1991) Review

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“I have entrusted the power of death to others. I hope it wasn't a mistake.” The sixth entry in the twelve-strong 'L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies' series finds two of The Agency's top women hunted in a deadly game of revenge and honour as a villainous crime lord seeks to settle the score and notch up a win for the bad guys. But can he compete against brawn, beauty, brains, and a walking stick rocket launcher?...

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“If Kane revealed himself to you he intends to see you dead – you're in a do or die situation.” Dragged into a game of cat & mouse by Kane (Pat Morita, The Karate Kid), beautiful but deadly agents Donna (Dona Speir, Hard Ticket To Hawaii) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez, Guns) retire to the hot tub for a skinny dip – it's where they do their best thinking, after all – and come up with a plan. First step: smuggle themselves out of Hawaii and get to Vegas, but the first of six teams of assassins have arrived early – so much for fair play! Is it all over too soon? For the assassins, it is, as Nicole whips out a walking stick rocket launcher and blows the baddies out of the sky. Considering the amount of pantomime that Nicole puts in to sell the idea of a walking stick – really committing to the bit with an improv'd ankle injury during their first meeting with Kane – this flick is off to a weird, but entertaining start.

“This baby's gonna even the score. I'm gonna blow their tits off.” / “That should make Kane very happy.” Teaming up with Rico (Erik Estrada, CHiPs) and Bruce (Bruce Penhall, Savage Beach) in Vegas – after another attempt on their life in the Nevada desert – the group re-route to Louisiana where they meet up with fellow agents Edy (Cynthia Brimhall), Atlanta (banker-turned-stripper Pandora Peaks, Striptease), Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane), and Lucas (William Bumiller) … but these guys and gals can't even enjoy a spot of lunch without an attempted hit going down. With assassin-after-assassin following them every step of the way, they retreat to the Texas woods to figure things out once and for all (with some saucy extracurricular activities thrown in for good measure).

“There is no way we're gonna explain this.” With a litany of exploding vehicles, car chases, and gun fights, the action quotient is solid in Do Or Die, as is the amount of WTF moments. As Sidaris' slew of assassins slip loose this mortal coil and are transferred to the 'Death Zone' on Silk's computer, the filmmaker's obsession with remote control model aircraft gets a serious stroking at a quarter-scale air show, before Donna and Nicole take a pointless ultralite flight to a backwoods diner – their cohorts take a truck and get there at exactly the same time! Well, to be fair, they do get some use out of it by dropping a grenade with pinpoint precision into a densely wooded area.

“It says here there are two hundred bones in the human body … make that two hundred and one.” But it certainly doesn't stop there. From Rico's trouser pockets stuffed with exploding baseballs to some ever-so conspicuous assassins roaring up on dirt bikes to a fishing spot just a stone's throw from a hot tub filled with Agency agents, the name of the game here – like with all Sidaris movies – is fun … and callbacks. Oh, Sidaris does love a callback to familiar gags in his 'Sidaris-verse' – best represented in Do Or Die by the hilarious moment when Shane Abilene finally shoots something (the Abilene's have notoriously poor aim).

“Good luck Corporal.” / “That's Colonel.” / “Not when I get through with you.” Shot-through with bared flesh, it seems that the heightened scenarios the agents find themselves in have the side effect of turning them all into a bunch of horned-up teenagers. Never mind the 'Death Zone', welcome to the Bone Zone! You're on guard duty? Better whip out the tequila for a nocturnal bunk-up on the front lawn. You're sneaking through the woods in search of assassins intent on punching your ticket? Better find a waterfall, tear off each others clothes, and have a good old slippery wet bonk. Even a relaxing dip in the pool, to ease those near-death tensions, turns into a nookie sesh with arty softcore cinematography.

“If you were this bad in bed half the girls in Texas would still be virgins!” With the stakes this high no wonder the undercover agents of, er, 'The Agency', need to blow off some steam – but it's not just the goodies, but also the baddies that are seemingly in a constant state of arousal. From sultry shiatsu sessions with Silk (Carolyn Liu, Fit To Kill) to Ava's ever-so-slow dress-up montage (dig those leather trousers and cocked gun), plus much more, it's no wonder – in the days before broadband Internet – that these movies were so popular.

“In the game of death the risk tolerance is human life. In the game of romance the risk tolerance is you.” But it's not all T&A (although, sure enough, there's a lot of that going on), as there's some solid action tossed into the mix. A chase between a speedboat and two jet skis turns into a gun fight, while a rough and ready motorbike chase through the woods carries with it an impressive sense of speed. With all their travelling hither and thither (tut tut, think of their carbon footprint!) and the endless succession of Agency drops of munitions, there are seemingly few corners of North America's southern states that are left untouched by high explosives and flying lead.

“I have a clear picture of the effects of your touch. It arouses all of my senses.” After a strong showing throughout the movie's breezy run time, ticking all manner of exploitation movie boxes, the flick kind of limps to a sudden conclusion that leaves the viewer feeling a bit disoriented, something which isn't helped by an oddly deployed sub-plot involving an apparent mole in the final minutes of the movie. However, despite an uneven climax, Do Or Die delivers the expected Sidaris formula with confidence, and it even boasts some impressive visuals. The red and brown tones of autumnal woodland make for a striking change of pace from the lush blues and greens of the Hawaiian islands, while the saucy scenes are charged with steam, splashing water, and glitzy lighting. There's even a few choice locations, such as a surprisingly effective and moody long shot of two jet skis beneath the recurring arches of a gigantic bridge. Supported by an established formula, Do Or Die shows that there was still room for Sidaris to try out a few new things, amplify the kinetic action scenes, and experiment with some cinematic flair.

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