Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Confessions Of A B-Movie Addict #2

Like a lot of people, I grew up on a steady diet of '80s action movies. I know I'm not the only one who whiled away the hours watching the Beverly Hills Cop and Lethal Weapon franchises on HBO after getting home from school. Direct descendents of John Wayne, wise-cracking anti-heroes like Axel Foley and Martin Riggs drove sports cars, carried 9mm pistols, and blew away drug dealers, terrorists, and assorted sundry scumbags with finesse and instantly-quotable one-liners. A lot of really bad action movies made it to the screen in the '80s too, bereft of the hot-shot screenwriters, blockbuster budgets, and state-of-the-art special effects that made those classic films tick. Let me introduce you to perhaps the most unassuming action hero of all time: Leo Fong.

Leo Fong seems like the last guy you'd expect to take down an international conspiracy. In fact, by appearances I wouldn't even trust him to be a night-shift security guard at a local gas station. In 1986's Low Blow, he's a paunchy, balding, 50-something private detective with a mountain of unpaid bills, a run-down office (inexplicably run by a smoking-hot secretary), and a beater of a car that requires a few good whacks with a crowbar to start. But behind that vacant stare and tres-chic Member's Only jacket, there lurks the heart of a lion, I tell ya! Don't underestimate him, especially since he's the producer and screenwriter. This is HIS show, and these are HIS RULES!

Right after the opening credits, Fong as "Joe Wong" spies a ruckus going down at the diner across the street. He tucks his gun into his waistband, walks over, and calmly guns down a trio of shotgun-wielding masked goons trying to rob the joint. He tells the owner, "Hey, forget about the sandwich!" and walks across town to a Chinese restaurant instead, digging into a bowl of chicken feet soup to the disgust of the caucasian clientele. Of course, he sees an old lady getting mugged across the way, drops his chopsticks, and goes running after the purse-snatchers, delivering a solid beating. At this point you're probably wondering, "What the eff does a guy gotta do to get a nice, peaceful meal around here?!"

Don't be fooled, this guy will MESS YOU UP!

While performing these random acts of heroism, Wong catches the eye of John Templeton, an industrial big wig that owns (obviously) Templeton International, who just happened to be tooling around town in his limousine at the time. Templeton is played by none other than '60s teen heartthrob Troy Donohue, who is seemingly channeling his inner J. Peterman, emoting in a dry monotone and shuffling around in a natty suit that seems at least a size too large. His beloved daughter Karen and her even more beloved trust fund have fallen under the command of Yarakunda, a creepy blind cult leader portrayed by longtime B-movie stalwart Cameron Mitchell, sporting a $10 Tijuana facelift and enough stage makeup to kill an army of lab rats. This has to be one of the easiest paychecks Mitchell ever received, as he spends most of the movie sitting in an easy chair, wearing Stevie Wonder glasses and a Halloween store monk robe. While he offers up his best Jim Jones impression, his evil ex-con "child bride" Karma is really calling the shots. As you've probably already figured out, Karma is all about the money, not spiritual enlightenment. She keeps the congregation in line with a malevolent smirk and a crew of armed guards in sleeveless t-shirts and Reeboks.

Templeton wants his daughter and dough back, and Joe Wong is the right man for the job. First, our unlikely hero tries the direct approach: driving up to the cult's compound, pretending to be a journalist, and getting pistol-whipped and thrown into a cell for his troubles. He escapes with a glassy-eyed fed-up cult member, infuriating Karma, who utters the immortal line "You were right about that Chinaman. He IS strong, and he means trouble."

The devious masterminds. Or something...

This sets off one of the most ludicrous action sequences ever committed to film. Three of the cult's guards, toting automatic weapons and shotguns, sneak up on our hero's house out in the middle of nowhere and proceed to straight-up get their asses handed to them. Using as much ninja stealth as a 56 year old man can muster, Wong calmly disarms them all and sends them scurrying back to their car. Now, this is where Low Blow attains pure "WTF?!" glory. He yanks, uh, some REALLY IMPORTANT wire (the logic and common sense wire?) from under the hood of the car, then knocks out all the windows with a hefty wooden bat. You're probably wondering why the hell the morons just don't throw the doors open and run away. Who knows? It's not until after Leo Freakin' Fong whips out a chainsaw and turns the car into a convertible that they get the hint and take off. It's a scene that leaves the viewer positively BREATHLESS!

See what I mean? FONG SMASH!

Even though Low Blow has spent about 40 minutes establishing Joe Wong as the ultimate fighting machine, he has the urge to round up an Enter The Dragon-style posse to help take down the army of four guards protecting the compound (one of them is none other than Tae Bo master Billy Blanks, but still!). What better way than to put a random classified ad in the paper for a $25,000 Toughman contest? Pure genius! From this epic (well, not really) competition, there emerges a fearsome fivesome including Fuzzy, a ginormous mullet-headed pro wrestler, Chico, a bandanna-clad switchblade-packin' Mexican greaser, Corky, a grizzled bad-ass boxer, Sticks, a wanna-be ninja, and Cody, a frightening big-chinned roided-up female bodybuilder, and no, i'm not making any of those names up! It's a far cry from Jim Kelly and John Saxon, that's for sure. Meanwhile, Karma snarls and pouts, while Yarakunda spends a lot of time lying around in the grass, sweating and grimacing and babbling about the meek inheriting the Earth, loving thy neighbor, and all that. It's SHOWDOWN TIME!

Holy chin!

After a pontoon boat ride through a conveniently-placed creek, Wong heads straight for Billy Blanks, who stupidly throws down his gun, screaming "I'm gonna kill you with my bare hands, Chinaman!" A few cartwheels and jump-kicks later, and he's on the ground thanks to a simple blow to the neck. OK, then. One of the would-be assassins from earlier takes him from behind (wait, that doesn't sound right) in a chokehold, and continues the ethnic slurs with "Gotcha now, Chinaman. I think you owe me a car!" This sets up the greatest scene in the whole damn movie, as our hero shoulder throws the poor sap to the ground and literally STOMPS HIS FUCKING FACE IN! After 70+ of chaste action comedy, this blast of gratuitous gore is positively orgasmic. Don't believe me? Just watch this, over and over again.

Don't worry, there is a happy ending, and Joe Wong rides off into the sunset like the classic Western heroes, perhaps to a nursing home or bowling alley bar where the drinks are cheap, the talk is easy, and the women don't ask questions. In fact, the smiling resolution makes Low Blow a lot more fun and uplifting than the sleek, coked-up cynicism of the classic '80s action movie franchises. Or, I could just be getting ahead of my self. Probably! This film is 85 minutes of pure, brainless entertainment, and you should check it out as soon as possible. Everyone needs a little Fong in their life!


1 comment:

  1. The guys just wants to eat in peace. Poor thing. I know how he feels.