action stars

Cage

Cage_1989_poster

One of the great joys of quick-dry cement-headed action flicks like Cage is reveling in a piece of art which couldn’t be made today, especially given how folks are offended by just about everything it seems.

Featuring the Twin Towers Reb Brown and Lou Ferrigno, who’ll kick your teeth in even as you cower in your safe space, Cage is another one of those human cockfighting ring action flicks similar to Bloodsport. However it’s a wagon-load more racist. But have no fear. Nobody comes off well in this.

Reb (Scott) and Lou (Billy) play army buddies fighting over in Vietnam. Billy is seriously injured and airlifted back home, recuperating in a Veterans hospital. Scott helps him recover from his injuries and eventually, both of them are working honest-to-goodness blue collar jobs tending to the waterhole they opened, “Incoming.”

It’s frequented by two buffoonish stereotype Italians, Mario and Tony, bottom feeder mobsters, who just happen to be there when some equally buffoonish Mexican stereotypes rob the place. Impressed by how Scott and Billy (especially Billy) handle themselves, the indebted mob duo decides to kidnap the mentally challenged Billy and force him to fight in the underground Los Angeles cage fighting circuit.

The fighting ring, which isn’t unlike the earliest savage incarnation of the rule-free UFC, is governed by perhaps the ethnic group that comes off the least well in this production, the Chinese. Their champ is bankrolled by a Triad mobster and is king of the hill, top of the heap…

REB_BROWN_FERIGNOOf course, Scott has to track down his brother, and enlists the help of a reporter trying to break the story for the LA Times. Meanwhile, poor Billy has to fight for his very survival.

Cage is laughable, yet remains highly watchable. Reb Brown exudes effortless charm. He may possess an acting range from here til the end of your arm, but there’s something indescribably awesome about the man, without whom we wouldn’t have our podcast*.

Notable as well for featuring the uncredited ex-prison boxing champ Danny Trejo in a rather thankless role as hired muscle.

*** (out of 5)

[*CHECK OUT OUR PODCAST OF CAGE!]

Above the Law

AbovethelawIn Above the Law, Steven Seagal had yet to really grow into his pony tail, understandable as this was his debut.

And speaking of growth, he stars here as Nico, the world’s tallest Sicilian. He’s a Chicago cop from Palermo whom we’re introduced to by way of the war in Vietnam, and what else a but martial arts montage of epically 80s proportions where we get to hear him speak Japanese.

Flash forward to a 1988 christening and Seagal’s breaking language barriers again by showcasing his Italian in a big church and venturing over to a mandolin-infused party straight out of The Godfather.

More importantly, in Above the Law, we get our first glimpse of Seagal in the profession we’ve come to love him in in countless subsequent roles: an ex CIA man. If you were to put Seagal in King Lear, he’d be a monarch father to three daughters (and an ex CIA man).

On the Chicago PD, Nico is on the trail of a Salvadoran drug dealer. After he’s busted, they find more than they bargained for – explosives. And in an odd turn of events, the guy’s linked to a corrupt Vietnam military official Nico served with, who’s also CIA.

Nico’s partner on the force is the formidable Pam Grier as “Jacks” Jackson, and their banter here is a delight (“What is it about this place you don’t like? The element!”). It’s easy to forget that before the 2000s, Seagal was actually quick with his tongue before he began drawling ersatz Cajun* as authentic as Popeyes Louisiana Chicken.

above-the-law_SeagalMore importantly though, he’s quick with his moves.

Above the Law features a lean, very mean Steve S. in a monumental bar fight, not as good as the one in Out for Justice (“Are you da boxa?”), but pretty darn exceptional, where he whips the butt of every guinea unibrow in the Windy City.

Later, he dispenses with a bunch of Chicano stereotypes in inimitable fashion.

A fellow cop derides his “martial arts hero, chop suey crap,” but this is the man at his finest.

Eagle-eyed viewers will spot Ron Dean as a Chicago detective. He’s known as the tough-as-nails dad to Emilio Estevez in The Breakfast Club.

Top-drawer Seagal.

***3/4 (out of 5)

[*Check out our latter day Steven Seagal movies discussion on the Really Awful Movies Podcast!]