Wednesday, 3 March 2010

The Executioner, Part 2 (1984)

The Executioner demonstrates proper gun safety

There's an amusing part in the 1980 vigilante film The Exterminator where Christopher George flubs his line during a phone call, almost calling the titular Vietnam-vet-turned-crime-fighting-vigilante "the Executioner" before quickly correcting himself. The producers of this film must have been paying attention to that scene, because they decided to release this rip-off as The Executioner, Part 2 in the hopes of tricking people into thinking it's a sequel (don't bother looking for The Executioner, Part 1, there isn't one).

Like The Exterminator, the film begins in the middle of a Vietman flashback. Two men, Mike (Antoine John Mottet) and Roger (Christopher "Look at me, dad! I'm an actor just like you!" Mitchum) are injured by friendly fire and have to crawl through a suspiciously deciduous "jungle" to the extraction point. Due to the severely limited budget, explosion effects are achieved by firing a flamethrower at the camera from just outside of the frame. Indeed this counts as the special-effects highlight of the film, after this scene whenever they need pyrotechnics they just cut away to the same grainy stock footage of an explosion again and again. The Executioner was a pretty cheap film, but this one makes it look like Avatar.

Many years later in New York, a vigilante dubbed "The Executioner" is on the loose murdering junkies, pimps, killers etc. Consequently the crime rate is dropping, the cops are embarrassed and the public are cheering on his campaign of justice. You don't have to do too much reading-between-the-lines to pick this stuff up, since an anonymous radio announcer chimes now and again in with a quick cliff's notes of the plot and themes. Something to keep in mind if you're planning to write an essay about this film. He also lets us know that the vigilante murders his victims by slitting their throats with broken bottles or stuffing live grenades into their pants. Quite entertaining in theory, but since this film lacks the budget for both explosions and blood effects, it's not that great in practice.

Mike and Roger are still the best of friends and have found employment as a car mechanic and a police lieutenant respectively. Although the film tries to build a bit of mystery around the identity of the vigilante, it's clear that Mike is the culprit, working off his post-Vietnam mental health issues on the local hoodlums. The Exterminator may have had a few screws loose, but he has nothing on the Executioner, whose Vietnam flashbacks are scored with trippy psychadelic music and see him waving a rifle around while shouting "Charlie must die!" When he's fighting criminals he seems quite lucid though, so I guess there's something to be said for his particular brand of PTSD therapy.

The gang members that suffer the brunt of his rampage are of the typical The Warriors inspired variety; tight jeans, midriff-baring t-shirts and bandanas, bandanas, bandanas. The leader of this gang has the most questionable outfit of all, looking like a gay Han Solo with his white shirt knotted at the waist, dark vest and red scarf. The same half-a-dozen scumbags appear again and again, whether it's raping a woman on a rooftop, stripping down cars or pouring dairy products over helpless convenience store clerks. Surprisingly they don't ever break out into spontaneous rap-dancin' (this ain't a Golan-Globus joint) and instead their scenes are always scored with cheesy disco music.

Meanwhile, the crooked police commissioner (played by Aldo Ray, who obviously didn't stick around on set long as he he's only in a couple of scenes and is never shown in the same shot as anybody else) has ordered Roger track down the Executioner, dead or alive. In a bid to find out more information he teams up with thickly-accented German-American TV reporter Celia Amhearst (Renee Harmon), a woman whose frequent on-air endorsements of the Executioner quickly attract the ire of a local crime boss known as the Tattoo Man.

Unbeknownst to Roger, his daughter Laura is hooked on drugs and being pressured into prostitution. Her best friend Kitty, a giggly blonde with an extremely annoying laugh, extolls the virtues of the sex trade while the two of them are high on weed. Cocaine is Kitty's drug of choice, though; "Oh how I wish this were coke!" she explains as she puffs on a joint, adding "Oh, heavenly coke!" Naturally Laura refuses to go on the game at first, only acquiescing after Kitty wears her down with her nihilistic views on drug addiction. "Once you're on drugs that's all there is and screw everything else." Yeah, she's probably the worst friend ever.

She convinces him to visit Pete "the Pusherman" Vance, a slimy associate of the Tattoo Man, whose taste in music, fashion and decor are so odd (even for a pimp) that I'm convinced it was some sort of inside joke. Intending to soften her up for the Tattoo Man, he dopes Laura up and turns her over to his two favourite hoes, but they turn on him when they decide that she's too young and pin him down so Laura can escape. The hookers call Pete a jerk as he shouts "You're letting my virgin get away!" I mean, that's not something you see in your everyday vigilante movie. Despite her somewhat ordinary looks the Tattoo Man is determined to have her, sending out his goons to kidnap her and Celia.

Roger does a little forensic detective work and proves the should-have-been-obvious fact that Mike is The Executioner, which is confirmed when Mike gives him a crazy, Rambo-esque speech about "crime running the streets" and sticks a gun in his mouth. He talks Mike back from the brink of suicide and tells him "You've got three hours", convinced that his suicidal mental breakdown and severe case of the Vietnam crazies will give the edge he needs to rescue Celia and his daughter. The final battle is pretty ordinary (culminating in yet another stock footage explosion), but there is an amusing scene where Celia pins a goon to a couch by impaling him with a samurai sword, only to have him crawl to his feet and walk towards her with the couch still stuck to his back!

The Exterminator was blessed with a genuine sequel the same year, which is pretty big step down from the first but still better than this lazy rehash. This one would be on par with an Exterminator 7 or so. The Exterminator was that magical combination of cheap and sleazy that makes for high entertainment, like your mother. This one doesn't get the balance right: too much cheap, not enough sleaze.

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