Sunday, 19 July 2009

Death Raiders (1984)

Some of Karamat's men demonstrate their highly ineffective
"standing out in the open and waiting to get shot" strategy

When you are the leader of rebel militia with aims to take over the country, you really need to consider your sartorial choices. Take Karamat in this film, for instance, who wears a bright red Gilligan-style cloth hat. Good news for me, because the DVD was apparently sourced from a fifth generation VHS dub that somebody accidentally put through the washing machine and his hat made for really handy visual landmark. Bad news for him, because nobody is going to take a guy in a hat like that seriously. I mean, could you imagine Barack Obama showing up for a press conference in a Gilligan hat? He'd be laughed out of the Oval Office.

It may be because of this that he and his rebel soldiers kidnap the provincial Governor of... wherever this is supposed to be, and his two hot daughters. They hope to use the hostages to overthrow the government somehow. The army agrees that it is too dangerous to allow an air or artillery strike. Their only option is to re-form the Death Raiders, a group of highly-trained commandos that are so skilled they can kill a dozen enemies with a single burst of machine gun fire, even when they aren't aiming anywhere near them.

With only a few days until the mission, it's time for the Seven Samurai style scene where the leader of the Death Raiders gathers up all of his former comrades. The first guy is busy macking on some tough guy's girl at the disco. The tough guy invites him onto the dance floor and when he reluctantly accepts the two men engage in an awesome disco dancing contest that sees our hero Bump n' Hustle his way to victory! Nah, I'm just kidding, actually he kicks the tough guy's ass and mops the floor with all of his goons. When they find the second guy he is busy defusing a delicate hostage situation with a largely superfluous slow-motion John Woo leap. Boom! Headshot!

The third guy is far more difficult to recruit. He's turned to the bottle and frequently bursts into impromptu drunken boxing fight scenes in the street. In a normal war film his heavy drinking would be an admirable trait or at worst a lovable quirk, but here his fighting brothers are quite concerned with his alcohol abuse and stage an intervention. It's kind of weird. He reveals that his girlfriend has been forced into working at a nearby whorehouse, so his brothers put into action a rescue which spirals out into an entertaining bar room brawl.

While all of this is going on we are subjected to the far less entertaining antics of Karamat and his family. You see, Karamat's son doesn't agree with his father's methods and defies him at every turn. This is fine, the problem lies in the fact that he is a whiny bitch. All he ever does is make proud, defiant speeches to his father and get his ass whupped. Or make proud, defiant speeches while getting his ass whupped. The most proactive he ever gets is sneaking the prisoners some food and helping them to escape, but even then the prisoners are recovered the next morning and he gets slapped silly by his father in front of a crowd of onlookers. He's so useless that his mother has to curry favour with one of Karamat's men just so Karamat doesn't beat him to death.

Once the Death Raiders are assembled they are air-dropped into the jungle and conduct a stealthy assault on the rebel village. Lots of throat slitting and fist fights, you know the drill. While they are working their way to the cave where the prisoners are being held, Karamat's wife and son are staging a rescue mission of their own. Eventually the two rescue teams all meet up and make their way back to the rendevous point. Karamat's men are in hot pursuit and a violent gun battle ensues. Luckily for them, Karamat's men's strategy consists primarily of lying prone out in the open, making then easy targets. Eventually Karamat catches a stray bullet and the film ends abruptly. I guess they forgot to film the epilogue.

This being a Filipino war film there's a lot of attempted rape and there's a weird scene where a dozen of Karamat's men wade into the water and get into a fight over who is going to rape the Governor's daughter. I guess it's being played for laughs? Far more successful at drawing laughs are the atrocious dubbing, terrible dialogue and the cartoony, Jackie Chan style physical comedy that peppers the fight scenes. At a brisk 80 minutes, this is a lean and reasonably efficient delivery vehicle for explosions and fighting, but I was disappointed with the lack of nudity and gratuitous profanity that similar Italian productions have left me accustomed to.

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