Monday 11 January 2021

Day of the Warrior (Andy Sidaris, 1996) Review

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“Bring him in from the cold? That's real spy talk – I love it when you do that.” Having sat out the previous two entries in the 'L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies' franchise (handing the reigns over to his son), writer/director Andy Sidaris returns to wreak merry havoc across America as the buff dudes and buxom gals of 'The Agency' take on a mastermind smuggler, who just so happens to be a full-blown championship wrestler...

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“The only way we know how to make a killing is by making a killing.” Boom! Scene one. Interior. Strip club. The audience has barely got their popcorn situated and already they've been dunked head first into a sweaty sequence in which Cobra (Julie K. Smith, The Dallas Connection) struts about on stage in a hell of a leather outfit with handy … er … portholes for ventilation on a hot summer's day. Meanwhile (go on, say it in that announcer voice we all know), at the L.E.T.H.A.L. Computer Section, Tiger (Playboy Playmate Shae Marks, Black Scorpion) discovers that the Agency computer has been hacked by a super computer in Washington – and that means all their undercover agents are at risk of being exposed (and not in the usual way that they like)!

“Well get it together, sweetheart, you're going out again.” Scurrying to Chief of Operations Willow Black (Julie Strain, Enemy Gold) – who is, of course, holding a meeting while exercising on a thigh master while dressed in a leopard print swimsuit (as you do!) – Tiger is sent to team-up with Tyler (Cristian Letelier, Return to Savage Beach) to get to the bottom of their violated security code. Who is responsible? Their best guess is none other than Warrior (Marcus Bagwell), a former undercover CIA agent/championship wrestler (yep) who has taken to smuggling fine art, diamonds, and precious artefacts … and the escort business … and VHS piracy. Ooh! What an evil bastard! He must be stopped!

“Hey, they're smart, they're rich, and they're easy – we have something in common.” With Cobra undercover as an exotic dancer in Beverly Hills, Doc Austin (Kevin Light, Baywatch) deeper undercover in Mexico with Warrior's smugglers-in-the-field Manuel (Rodrigo Obregón, Savage Beach) and Kym (Raye Hollitt, Hot Shots! Part Deux), and with agents Shark and Scorpion (Darren Wise and Tammy Parks) ensconsed in the Vegas smut movie business, will the Agents survive to steam up the sheets another day? Will the viewer be able to follow what's happening? Will the strictures of the space-time continuum be upheld or bend to Andy Sidaris' screenwriting will?

“Everything I touch has a way of exploding.” Christian Drew Sidaris held the fort for 1993's Enemy Gold and 1994's The Dallas Connection, but both films lacked the sheer insanity and charming silliness of the previous eight films in the franchise, which were all written and directed by his father Andy Sidaris. Well, with Day of the Warrior (the penultimate entry in the franchise), Andy Sidaris returned and clearly the break away had re-energised him, even if there's a whiff of copy/paste about the screenplay. Finally learning what 'L.E.T.H.A.L.' stands for ('Legion to Ensure Total Harmony And Law', in case you were skidding towards the edge of your seat), Sidaris starts as he means to go on – which is, simply, to throw copious amounts of bulging boobs, rock hard abs, and searing explosions at the viewer. Do the characters constantly feel the need to change clothes? Yes. Do they have an aversion to bras? Yup. Do they stress that time is of the essence to save their friends before finding plenty of time for a soft-focus bonk? You bet they do! Does combat clothing translate as skimpy dresses and torso-baring flannel shirts? Hey, clearly they're quite effective at deflecting bullets. Suffice it to say, Sidaris takes the dial labelled “nonsense” and cranks it up to 11 – and what it lacks in R.C. toy action sequences, it makes up for with an incessantly hooting 'owl' getting blasted to smithereens!

“So what's your GPA?” / “38-24-34.” / “Ooh.” / “Aah.” Speaking of nonsense, the two bungling assassins return: J.P. (Richard Cansino, Fit To Kill) – previously seen as Tito, Hebert, Coyote, and Kenevil – and Chaz (Cassidy Phillips, last seen as Platter Puss in the previous movie). These two Harvard drop outs have taken to playing the stock market, unsuccessfully of course, but kill jobs are their bread and butter, but God only knows how they earn enough to pay for their Malibu mansion, as once again they're utterly useless. Chewing through the scenery with a Loony Tunes sense of glee, about the only thing sillier in the movie is the moment when Willow Black turns suddenly and clobbers her right hand man Fu (Gerald Okamura, Big Trouble In Little China) to the floor with her lingerie-clad boob. “You call that Fuplay?”, gasps Fu, splayed out on the floor at the feet of his towering boss. You just don't get this kind of artistry gracing the Oscars, do you? Frankly, it's a crime and the Academy should be ashamed of the omission!

“I'm not so sure you're not the jerkoff who fingered us.” When it comes to slingin' lead the film is no slouch. Expect plenty of gun fights and juicy, orange explosions whooshing up into the air. It's all a little bit like The A-Team, but with lots of boobs and oiled-up muscles, although a quick and dirty style of film-making often rears its head. Case in point: Doc Austin's introduction as he rescues someone from a woodland torture shack – made from the flimsiest, floppiest wood you've ever seen. It's old school American bravado – kick down the door, kill the bad guy, and blow everything up (even though an aggressive fart would knock the whole structure down) – but these movies are one part action, one part softcore smut, and one part comedy. For that last part, look no further than Fu's cover job as an Elvis impersonator, or the bikini-clad Stock Analysts from Stanford University, or the recurring “There's something I need to get off my chest” gag.

“Your body is like a temple, you must have used it to extract an enormous amount of information from Mr Jordon.” / “I didn't get jack from him. All we did was hump our brains out.” / “You have a way with words, little flower.” Big action and big fun is where it's at for Andy Sidaris – fun being the mission statement for the entire franchise – and Day of the Warrior even skirts near to L.E.T.H.A.L.'s high watermark: Hard Ticket To Hawaii. It's still a ways off, but penultimate entries in a franchise as long as this rarely possess this much spark and energy, even though there are quite a few recycled gags from previous entries. Still though, the movie does manage to find new absurdities to throw into the mix. Climaxing with a wrestling match between a greased-up Warrior and Willow Black in a skimpy American flag outfit, it's all big poses and bigger expressions as the duo spar (with poor old Fu thrown into the mix) and take turns screaming their heads off. How could you improve upon this barmy crescendo? With an old Sidaris classic, of course – a walking cane rocket launcher! Now, sure, the L.E.T.H.A.L. Ladies series was never quite the same after Dona Speir moved on to other things after Fit To Kill, but it's good to see that there was still some life and enjoyment to be had out of the tried and true Sidaris formula. Perhaps there might have been more adventures beyond 1998's Return To Savage Beach for Willow Black and Cobra et al, but the times they were a-changing and besides, a dozen flicks makes for a solid collection.

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