Mediocre: Back in Action

Back in Action (1994)
Directed by Steve DiMarco, Paul Ziller
Written by Karl Schiffman
Produced by George Flak, Rae Crombie, Allan Levine
Starring Roddy Piper, Billy Blanks, Bobbie Phillips, Kai Soremekun, Matt Birman, Nigel Bennett, Damon D’Oliveira, Rob Stefaniuk, Sam Malkin
Supererogative emphasis on that titular action forms and fills to its brim the paltry plot of this desipiently diverting B-grade actioner pairing its strapping pro wrestler and expert exerciser turned action stars. Cliches compel and conjoin in vengeance a police detective (Piper) whose partner was messily slain and a veteran of the Special Forces (Blanks) violently striving to locate his presumably kidnapped, senselessly injudicious sister (Soremekun), who choke, clout, kick, flip, slam, stab, stomp, throw, shoot and defenestrate a horde of henchmen resembling barmen, bikers, janitors, electricians, street magicians, Michael Bolton, G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band, and the Super Mario Brothers to confront the Final Boss, a natty, minaciously eccentric drug lord (Bennett) and his greasily merciless coadjutor (Birman) bedizened with nocturnal sunglasses and a medallion. They hardly duplicate that macho magic nailed by Piper and Keith David when memorably brutalizing each other, brooding together and slaughtering extraterrestrial cops and yuppies in They Live, but the lovably lunky Canadian grappler is nicely complemented by beefy Blanks, who ably performs most of his flying stunts and…recites his lines clearly. The entire cast amuse deliberately and otherwise, especially toothily toothsome Soremekun, whose mobster’s moll could scarcely be more absent in her vestural frivolity to her impending peril. As intentionally funny as not, this caboose of the ’80s’ explosive glut is, subject entirely to one’s palate, delightful or discomfiting, perhaps both. As vital viewing for fans of either lead, it hasn’t a dull or sensible second.

Recommended for a double feature paired with They Live or Hell Comes to Frogtown.

Mediocre: Lies He Told

Lies He Told (1997)
Directed by Larry Elikann
Written by Jacqueline Feather, David Seidler, Ronald Parker
Produced by Clara George, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein, Yvonne E. Chotzen
Starring Gary Cole, Karen Sillas, Teddi Siddall, Linda Goranson, Ron Lea, Nigel Bennett, George R. Robertson, Linda Sorensen

“He that resolves to deal with none but honest Men must leave off dealing.”

–Thomas Fuller

If the twin cumbrances of alimony and child support were less oppressive, or the secure lure of insurance fraud not so tantalizing, an expert, energetic lieutenant (Cole) assigned to train personnel of the USAF’s Combat Control Team might not stage his death and forsake his CCT, nuclear family and ideal surburban lifestyle when taken with an overripe cut of office veal (Sillas) at a Halloween party. Neither might he reave banks to support his budding household when a slump in the housing market dents a cash flow generated by his successive, successfully profitable renovations, nor furtively launder his plunder by gambling, but c’est la vie! That illuded, captious, curious second wife shrewdly investigates her hubby’s past, so to confront him with the truth and insure that neither of them could possibly live happily ever after. As in his every dramatic role, Cole’s as blandly palatable as Elikann’s perfectly pedestrian direction, while Sillas (whose genial greatness rivals that of Bruce Campbell) is too abrasive, mannish and common to be believed as the objet de désir and devoted spouse of a dynamo whose endeavors for their sake might be conservatively characterized as extraordinary. Feather’s, Seidler’s and Parker’s fictionalization of an actual deserter’s exploits is cleverly plotted, but slips during its third act into emotive inanity of a fashion distinctive to Lifetime’s offerings. Ultimately, the moral to be gleaned from this story endorses neither disclosure nor fidelity, but for men childed, prosperous and otherwise it’s writ large on the canvas of feminine folly: in a dysfunctional society to which your survival may contribute, never marry.