Crackerjack

Charm, gumption and a Yippee-ki-yay motherf*cker vaulted Die Hard into everyone’s favorite Christmas classics list. Crackerjack, by contrast, will do the opposite.

Die Hard on a mountain, this Canadian cheapie also has German baddies, and Christopher Plummer subbing Zs for Th’s as a Teutonic villain who favors starch collars and ugly racial politics as he takes a bunch of partiers hostage.

Luckily, a besotted Chicago cop (Thomas Ian Griffith of Karate Kid III fame) on vacation with his sister and bro-in-law is there to intercede, but not without a few J&B whiskey product placements and sound stage sullen set pieces along the way.

Crackerjack is bloody hilarious.

Its McClane is wound so tightly he punches out the organizer of his surprise party, and because this is knuckle-head action territory, he’s also been suspended from the force because he doesn’t see eye to bloodshot eye with the chief. And despite being able to knock back enough spirits to best Charles Bukowski, he’s still savvy and tough-as-nails enough to go toe-to-toe with his ruthless adversaries.

Genre fans will get a kick out of the Serpico nods, a Fredo-lite lifted right out of The Godfather and mise en scènes adorned with art depicting non-existent Chicago bluesmen, ’cause, you know…This is one Chicago cop who’s got the blues.

Crackerjack 3, the film’s equally hilarious (though unrelated) sequel, was a Koreatown DVD pick up by the authors of this site. In that one, Cold War spies reunite to take out a baddie threatening to lay waste to a German UN building. And its denouement reveals some subterfuge involving garden gnomes (!).

This one is a worthy series entry, with cable cars descending when they should be ascending, bizarre geographical blunders of bikinis and beach babes not normally present at such altitudes, and Nastassja Kinski as a deer-in-headlights love interest.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our Crackerjack discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

Mystery of Chessboxing

Forget Scream’s Ghost Face Killer. This is the movie that actually originated Ghostie, one of the all-time legendary kung fu antagonists (Mystery of Chessboxing also inspired Wu rapper’s Ghost Face Killah  moniker).

The plot couldn’t be any simpler: revenge. That’s the lighter fluid that fuels a thousand of these films.

Old, ruthless Ghost Face has killed Ah Pao’s father. And Ah Pao needs to go find the geezer with the monster eyebrows and the long wig that’s always threatening to come off his noggin. Problem is, Ah Pao doesn’t know kung fu and Ghost Face isn’t ready to be put out to retirement home pasture, as he’s kicked the ass of everyone else in this film. What to do? Find a kung fu school, of course!

Why? To pad running time with lengthy exercises, montages, and bits of feel the Qi jibber-jabber and everyone should be glad they did. At the first school, teachers and pupils alike torment poor AP, who is as low in the pecking order as you get without a janitor outfit and a mop. He has to bring them all bowls of rice, eventually, become such a proficient server that he’s the flare bartender of doling out rice, flipping plates over his head and behind his back and displaying such incredible dexterity that he’s…a star pupil shown everything the sensei knows?

Hardly.

Ah Pao is booted from the school, and ends up under the tutelage of a chess master, hence the film’s title. It’s there that he finally gets instruction necessary to beat the holy living tar out of the Ghost Faced Killer.

Their ultimate showdown is one for the ages, a throw-down of epic proportions.

Genre fans will get a kick out of (no pun intended) Siu Tin Yuen as a humble cook. He’s best known, of course, for his turns in Drunken Master and Story of Drunken Master.

[check out a full discussion of Mystery of Chessboxing on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]