Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Out for Blood (1992)

Behold the acting range of Don "The Dragon" Wilson!

The world of Direct-to-Video action films is getting pretty crowded these days, what with JCVD, Dolph Lundgren and, of course, Steven Seagal all throwing their hats into the ring. However, back in the late 80s and early 90s, there was one name that was synonymous with Direct-to-Video action: Don "The Dragon" Wilson. I don't who gave him the nickname "The Dragon", but that shit has stuck with him like herpes and now I believe you have to pay his lawyers ten cents every time you refer to him without it. "The Dragon" put his considerable kickboxing talent (and less considerable acting talent) to use in dozens of dodgy action films. He appeared in Albert-Pyun-esque low budget sci-fi flicks like Cybertracker and Futurekick and eight out of the nine Bloodfist films. In 1995 he made a whopping seven films! Truly, this was the age of "The Dragon".

In the very Seagalian-titled Out for Blood, Wilson plays John Decker, a criminal lawyer/martial artist whose life is destroyed when his family is murdered by drug dealers. The culprits are roaming free thanks to an incompetent police force and Decker's selective amnesia about the night in question. The police are skeptical about Decker's condition, but he is being treated by a psychiatrist named Dr McConnell (Ron Steelman). The two of them hang out a lot socially, which is weird and probably unethical, and McConnell takes a personal interest in restoring Decker's memory.

One night Decker is out jogging, haunted by memories of his family, when he is confronted by some stereotypical scumbag drug dealers (many uses of "holmes", "ese" etc). Simmering with rage, he beats them to a pulp and after realising that one of the men was there on the night his wife was murdered he tosses him off a rooftop. A homeless woman witnesses his act of vigilante justice and soon the media have branded him with the hilarious nickname "Karate Man". It's only later at the hospital, when he helps subdue a enormous, drug-fueled madman, that his synapses begin to fire and he gets a little piece of his memory back. He realises that his amnesia can only be cured by beating up as many drug-dealing scumbags as he can find. This is probably the best set-up for a martial arts vigilante film ever.

So by day Decker is a smartly dressed criminal lawyer and by night he stalks the streets of LA in his Adidas jogging suit looking for drug dealers to kick in the head. He doesn't have to look very far either; he can't even enjoy a quiet meal a noodle bar without being interrupted by an armed gunman. At one point he visits some drug dealers in an old train yard and even though there's just one dealer selling coke to a couple of dorky white guys there are at least a dozen guys armed with uzis. Seems excessive, but Decker manages to punch, kick and shoot his way through them anyway, getting those two buyers caught in the crossfire. Don't do drugs, kids, or you too could end up in a Don "The Dragon" Wilson film.

Decker also tries to conceal his vigilante alter-ego from his would-be girlfriend, a gallery owner named Joanna Montague (Sheri Shattuck doing her best Katherine Hepburn impression), but she manages to piece it together when she sees a report about "Karate Man" on the TV. This film probably sets a record for conveniently placed local news reports; everybody seems to have their TVs on and set to the local news 24 hours a day. Joanna is kind of annoying but she does introduce him to a Japanese artist named Hiroshi (Aki Aleong) who acts in the critical role of "wise master", inspiring him with folk wisdom and haikus.

Gradually Decker works his way up the food chain of the local drug distribution network, which is lead by a cowboy named Rick (Todd Curtis). His organisation seems to be a pretty varied lot, from bikers to hillbillies to surfer dudes, but they all seem to be united by their love of bandanas and long flowing hair. Unfortunately his gang cannot lay claim to having the best hair of all, that title belongs to a mafia bodyguard played by Deron McBee (aka Malibu from American Gladiators).

Naturally Rick kidnaps Joanna and Decker is forced compete in unarmed combat with a knife expert named Blade. There's a pretty funny moment when it focuses on Blade's fruity scorpion earring, and there's a musical sting that sounds like a rattlesnake. Eventually it turns out that the mastermind of the drug organisation (and the murder of Decker's family) is Dr McConnell. I'd put in a spoiler warning, but if that revelation comes as a surprise to you then... jeez. I don't know what to say. Maybe you should give up on narrative fiction altogether and take up scrap-booking. Turns out that McConnell spared his life for some reason and kept him under control using a combination of hypnosis and drugs.

This is probably one of the better Don "The Dragon" Wilson films. There's a lot of action and while the fights aren't fantastically choreographed or edited, they are extremely violent. There are several broken limbs, an eye gouging and a several stabbings. If a fight film isn't technically brilliant I'll take some tastelessly brutal violence as an acceptable trade-off. A less acceptable trade-off is compensating for a complete lack of boobs by having the portly Dr. McConnell lounging around in a skin-tight, nipple-accentuating sweater. I'll take no boobs over man-boobs.

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