Film Review: The Dallas Connection (dir by Christian Drew Sidaris)

My first thought when I came across 1994’s The Dallas Connection:

Oh my God, it’s a movie about my hometown!

And, just judging from the film’s poster, it appears that Dallas is blowing up!  Look at all of those flames behind Reunion Tower!

(Whenever a film is set in Dallas, you know you’re going to see Reunion Tower in the background.  Depending on when the film was made, you’ll probably also see Bank of America Plaza.  That’s the green building.)

Of course, film posters are often inaccurate and it’s not really a spoiler for me to tell you that, at no point, does Reunion Tower blow up in this movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  A lot of stuff does blow up in The Dallas Connection.  It’s a Sidaris film, produced by Andy Sidaris and directed by his son, Christian Drew Sidaris.  The Sidaris name is pretty much synonymous with stuff blowing up.

That said, a good deal of The Dallas Connection does take place in Dallas and, unlike a lot of other films, it was actually filmed in Dallas.  This wasn’t a case of something like Dallas Buyers Club or Killer Joe, where New Orleans was used as a Dallas stand-in.  Nor was it like that terrible “Babylon” episode of The X-Files, where a bunch of Canadians in denim were awkwardly cast as Texans.  It’s always fun to see building that you recognize when you watch a movie.

That said, The Dallas Connection opens in Paris.  We know it’s supposed to be Paris because of all the French stock footage.  Inside a Parisian mansion (which looks suspiciously like a house one would expect to find in the suburbs of Dallas), an assassin named Black Widow (Julie Strain) is murdering a scientist.  Black Widow’s trademark is that she has rough sex with her targets before murdering them.

Meanwhile, Black Widow’s associates — Cobra (Julie K. Smith) and Scorpion (Wendy Hamilton) — are killing scientists in South Africa and Hong Kong.  The South African scenes feature a lot of grainy stock footage that was probably lifted from a nature documentary.  Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, death comes via an exploding golf ball.

Why are all the scientists being killed?  Well, it turns out that they’re all due to attend a scientific conference in Dallas.  (Woo hoo!  Way to go, Dallas!)  Apparently, they’ve developed some sort of missile defense system or something.  The last remaining scientist, Morales (Rodrigo Obregon), needs to be protected from Black Widow and her assassins so it’s time to call in Chris Cannon (Bruce Penhall) and his team of incompetent government agents.

In typical Sidaris fashion, the plot is pretty much impossible to follow.  That’s not because the story is especially complex or clever.  This isn’t one of those films where you need to rewatch it to pick up on all the details or the clues or anything like that.  Instead, The Dallas Connection’s incoherence feels as if it’s a result of everyone just making it all up as they went along.  It’s a Sidaris film so you know that, inevitably, everyone’s going to end up in the bayous, blowing stuff up.

And yes, yet another remote control boat shows up and explodes.  Of all of the Sidaris trademarks, the exploding remote controlled boats is perhaps the strangest.  At the same time, it’s also the most amusing.  Seriously, whenever anyone is standing near any body of water, you just know a tiny speedboat’s going to come along and blow him up.

In the end, The Dallas Connection is a typically incoherent Sidaris film but at least it features a lot of scenes shot in my hometown.

Film Review: Enemy Gold (dir by Christian Drew Sidaris)

The 1993 film, Enemy Gold, actually gets off to a promising start, with a series of scenes that take place during the Civil War.  Men in gray uniforms wander through the woods, looking for a place to hide their gold.

Now, you’ll notice that I said that it was a promising start.  I didn’t necessarily say it was a good start.  To be honest, when I first saw the soldiers, I thought they were supposed to be Civil War reenactors.  The haircuts, the facial hair, even the relatively cleanliness of the uniforms; nothing that we see really suggests that we’ve been transported back to the 1860s.

That said, I’m a history nerd and I’ve always been fascinated with the Civil War.  Even if it’s a totally unconvincing recreation, I’m always interested in seeing a movie about the period.  I was even more interested when I discovered that the film’s Confederates were supposed to be members of Quantrill’s Raiders.  William Quantrill was one of the more infamous sociopaths to come out of the Civil War and many of the famous outlaws of the Old West served with Quantrill.  There’s always been rumors that, before he was killed by Union forces, Quantrill hid his gold in Texas.  That rumors rests at the heart of Enemy Gold.

Of course, it takes a while to get around the gold.  After the Civil War-set prologue, Enemy Gold jumps to the 1990s.  A group of secret agents are preparing to attack a bunch of drug smugglers.  One of the agents is played by an actor named Bruce Penhall, who previously played special agent Bruce Christian in the last few Andy Sidaris films.  Despite the fact that Enemy Gold was directed by Sidaris’s son, Christian Drew Sidaris, it’s quickly established that Bruce Penhall is not playing Bruce Christian in this film.  Instead, he’s playing Chris Cannon, a character who is exactly the same as Bruce Christian except that Cannon’s jokes are even worse than Christian’s.  His two colleagues are named Mark Austin (Mark Barriere) and Suzi Midnite (Suzi Simpson).

(I was once tempted to change my name to Lisa Marie Midnite.  I might still do it if I ever have to flee the country.)

Anyway, Chris, Mark, and Suzi manage to take down the drug smugglers.  Great job, right?  Wrong.  It turns out that their boss, Dickson (Alan Abew), doesn’t appreciate them or their extreme methods.  Dickson tells them that they’re suspended!

The three agents aren’t that upset about being suspended, though.  It just means more time to hang out and maybe even go into the woods and search for Quantrill’s gold!

However, it turns out that they’re not the only ones who want the gold.  An evil drug dealer, Santiago (Rodrigo Obregon), wants the gold and he’s hired a deadly assassin named Jewel Panther (Julie Strain) to help him get it.  In case you were wondering why Dickson is such a jerk, it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s secretly working for Santiago!

Soon, everyone is in the woods, getting naked, and blowing stuff up.  It’s a typical Sidaris film, right down to the reoccurring cast members and the terrible jokes.  Actually, I take that back.  The jokes in Enemy Gold are even worse than the typical Sidaris jokes.

A typical exchange from Enemy Gold:

“What’s up?”

“I am.”

I probably would have enjoyed Enemy Gold is the action had remained in the 19th century.  The Civil War scenes may not have been convincing but at least they were dealing with an interesting period of time.  Instead, the action jumped to the early 90s and the film got bogged down with drug smugglers and stuff like that.

Along with just being a generally dumb movie, Enemy Gold lacks the self-awareness that made films like Hard Ticket To Hawaii and Malibu Express somewhat enjoyable.  The two best things about the film are Rodrigo Obregon and Julie Strain, who go totally overboard as the villains and provide the type of performances that a film like this needs.  (At times, Obregon reminded me of Tommy Wiseau.)  By contrast, our three heroes are remarkably dull.

If you’re a fan of stuff blowing up and Civil War trivia, Enemy Gold might occasionally hold your interest. Roberto Obregon,  Otherwise, this is a film that you won’t regret missing.


Film Review: Fit To Kill (dir by Andy Sidaris)

1993’s Fit To Kill opens with the most incompetent secret agents in the world on a training exercise in the desert.  All of the Andy Sidaris regulars are present.  There’s Donna (Dona Speir).  There’s Nicole (Roberta Vasquez).  Bruce (Bruce Penhall) and Shane (Michael Shane) are still with the organization, despite the fact that, over the course of four films, neither one of them has really added much to the mix.  For some reason, these agents still don’t know better than to hide whenever they see a remote control helicopter.  Seeing as how every Andy Sidaris film features someone being blown up by either a remote control helicopter or remote control boat, you would think that these experienced government agents would no longer be shocked when it happened.

Anyway, we quickly go through all of the usual Sidaris stuff.  There’s a meeting in a hot tub.  The team’s boss, Lucas (Tony Peck), shows up and acts like a prick.  Coded messages are still being sent out via the Hawaiian radio station.  Shane Abilene still can’t shoot a gun to save his life.  Eventually, the film gets around to revealing the latest mission.

Chang (Aki Aleong) is the owner of a valuable Russian diamond.  As he explains in a flashback that’s full of stock footage, the diamond was originally stolen by a Nazi general.  On his deathbed, the general gave the diamond to Chang.  And really, in defense of Sidaris, it must be said that the flashbacks are actually handled fairly well.  Maybe the flashbacks were Sidaris’s attempt to show that he actually could be a good director when he felt like it.  Anyway, Chang is planning on returning the diamond to the Russian ambassador (Rodrigo Oberon) during an official ceremony.  The problem is that the diamond is extremely valuable and, as a result, certain international criminals want to steal it.

Criminals like Martin Kane!

That’s right.  Martin Kane is back and he’s again played by RJ Moore.  Just as in Hard Hunted, RJ Moore is handsome, stylish, and charismatic.  RJ was the son of Roger Moore and, when he shows up wearing a tuxedo, it’s hard not to regret that RJ never got a chance to play James Bond.  Kane is determined to steal the diamond but it turns out that he’s motivated by more than just pure greed.  What’s this!?  A complex character in an Andy Sidaris film?  Believe it or not, it’s true.  And Moore gives a good performance in the film, perhaps the best performance to ever show up in a Sidaris film.

If Moore gives the best performance in the film, he’s closely followed by Julie Strain, who plays Blu Steele.  Blu Steele is the mercenary/assassin who is hired by Kane to steal the diamond.  However, Blu Steele has schemes of her own.  Strain, to her credit, appears to understand the exact type of movie that she’s been cast in and she responds with a totally over-the-top performance.  Both she and Moore are so memorably berserk that Donna, Roberta, Bruce, and Shane are even more forgettable than usual.

Fit To Kill is stupid but entertaining.  The plot makes no sense and the dialogue is full of the usual bad puns and regrettable jokes.  Still, it’s entertainingly stupid, thanks to Moore and Strain.  Plus, there’s a scene in which two hitmen get into a passionate debate about whether Homer Simpson’s a better actor than Fred Flintstone.

Of course, it all ends with a hot tub party.  The Fast and the Furious franchise has Vin Diesel saying grace before everyone eats.  Andy Sidaris films have hot tub parties.

Film Review: Hard Hunted (dir by Andy Sidaris)


Uh-oh!  A master criminal is trying to sell a nuclear device to terrorists and it’s up to the most secret law enforcement agency in the world to stop him!  How secret is this agency?  It’s so secret that it’s based in Dallas but most of its agents live in Hawaii.  It’s so secret that there’s an entire Hawaiian radio station that exists for the sole purpose of broadcasting heavily coded messages.  It’s the type of agency that continues to employ an agent who can’t shoot a gun and where the completion of successful mission is celebrated with a hot tub party.

As you probably guessed, 1992’s Hard Hunted is an Andy Sidaris film.

Hard Hunted picks up where Do Or Die left off.  Master criminal Kane is still at large and planning to do various evil things.  It’s up to Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) to catch him but their search for him mostly seems to mostly amount to spending a lot of time sunbathing in Arizona.  Fortunately, there are two other agents, currently working undercover as members of Kane’s operation.  Considering how dangerous and evil Kane apparently is, you have to wonder why the agency never just takes out Kane.  I guess that wouldn’t be ethical or something.

In Do Or Die, Kane was an elderly Japanese man who made a big deal about fair play and his code of honor.  In Hard Hunted, Kane is suddenly a young and handsome British man.  He’s played by RJ Moore, who was the son of Roger Moore.  Kane is now charming and sexy and that’s good.  If you’re the type who continually threatens to destroy the world, you should definitely be hot because otherwise, people are going to get sick of you.

Anyway, Kane has a nuclear trigger device that he wants to sell to terrorists.  He keeps the device hidden in a jade Buddha.  One of the undercover agents manages to run off with the trigger so Kane sends his number one henchman, Raven (Al Leong), to retrieve it before it gets into the hands of Donna and Nicole.

There are two things to notice about Raven.

First off, as you can tell from the picture above, Raven wears a jacket with a lion’s hand emblem on it.  Kane is apparently big into branding because all of his henchmen wear clothing with the lion’s head emblem.  It would seem to me that, when you’re a global supper villain, it might be a mistake to advertise yourself but Kane apparently feels differently.

The other good thing about Raven is that he’s played by Al Leong.  Leong, who got his start as a stuntman, is a character actor who has been playing evil henchman since the 1980s.  Leong always brings a lot style to these roles and he does so again in Hard Hunted.  In fact, he’s the second best thing about this largely misbegotten movie, right behind his helicopter.

Anyway, as for the film itself, it’s stupid even by the standards of Andy Sidaris.  This time, most of the action takes place in Arizona.  The biggest plot development is that Donna strikes her head on a rock and spend the latter half of the film suffering from amnesia and being held hostage by Pico (Roberto Obregon).  While Donna’s out-of-commission, it’s up to Bruce (Bruce Penhall), Shane (Michael Shane), and Nicole to step up and take care of the situation.  It’s all typical Sidaris mayhem, with stuff blowing up and final justice being meted out with yet another rocket launcher.

It may not make any sense, but at least it has Al Leong and a helicopter!

Film Review: Do or Die (dir by Andy Sidaris)

So, imagine this.

You and your BFF are at a luau in Hawaii.  Fires are being spun.  People are dancing.  Drums are being beaten.  It’s almost time to eat the pig and suddenly, you discover that a mysterious old man wants to speak to you.  The man is surrounded by armed guards but you’re used to that.  Both you and your BFF work for the government.  You blow things up and save the world for a living!

Anyway, the old man informs you that he is a master criminal named Kane.  He’s one of those “I’m going to take over the world” types but apparently, you keep thwarting his plans.  He’s a little bit upset about that and why not?  It’s hard enough trying to conquer the world without having somebody continually blowing up all of your friends.  He says that he’s going to have you killed.


But fear not!  Kane isn’t going to kill you right there and then.  It turns out that Kane has a code of honor that he lives by.  He may be evil but he believes in fair play.  So, Kane says that he’s going to kill you later.  Apparently, he’s hired six different teams of assassins.  Over the next couple of days, they’re going to try to kill you.  Fortunately, the team’s aren’t going to work together or anything intelligent like that.  That wouldn’t be fair.  Instead, they’re going to come at you one at a time.  Once one teams fails to kill you, they’re out of the hunt.

How would you react?  What would be the first thing that you and your BFF would do?

Would you make sure your guns were loaded, lock the doors, and then wait for the first team to make their move?

Would you try to make the first move, maybe trying to take out Kane right then and there?

Or maybe you would leave the country and try to start a whole new life under a new identity?

I’d probably go with the third option but that’s not what Donna (Dona Speir) and Nicole (Roberta Vasquez) do when Kane (Pat Morita) tells them that they’ve been targeted.  Instead, they get topless and relax in the hut tub while discussing how much it sucks that someone wants to kill them.

Honestly, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.  The 1991 film, Do or Die, was directed by Andy Sidaris.  In a Sidaris film, a topless hot tub party plays much the same role as the family get togethers that often end the Fast and the Furious movies.  Still, it’s hard not to be a little bit disappointed by their sudden passivity.  After all, Donna is the same agent who previously used a rocket launcher to blow up Erik Estrada at the end of Guns.

Speaking of Erik Estrada, he’s back.  However, he’s playing a different character than he played in Guns.  Now, he’s a heroic agent named Rico.  When Donna and Nicole finally get around to letting their boss, Lucas (William Bumiller), know what’s going on, Lucas recruits Rico to help protect them.  Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) and Shane Abilene (Michael Shane) are also brought in as well.  Shane still has terrible aim.  I know that’s a running joke in all of the Sidaris films but you really do have to wonder why the government continues to employ someone who sucks at a huge part of his job.

Anyway, Donna and Nicole eventually head for the mainland but that doesn’t do much good because Kane put a tracking device on her watch and Donna apparently lost several IQ points between the end of Guns and the start of this movie.  At first, they go to Vegas but eventually, they end up in Louisiana.  This leads to the usual remote-controlled boats and helicopters, the same ones that appear in nearly every Sidaris film.  Needless to say, a lot of stuff gets blown up.

And it’s all pretty boring, to be honest.  It sounds like it should be fun, what with all the different assassins showing up and Kane getting more and more frustrated as Donna and Nicole continue to survive.  But, unfortunately, none of the assassins are that interesting.  Most of the film takes place in Caddo Parish.  My family lived in Shreveport for a year and a half.  I like Caddo Parish.  But it really can’t compare to Hawaii as far as photogenic locations are concerned.

Do or Die had potential but it got lost in the hot tub.

Film Review: Guns (dir by Andy Sidaris)

As you can probably tell by looking at the poster at the top of this review, the 1990 film Guns was Andy Sidaris’s attempt to make a Bond film.  Not only does the poster feature a man in a tuxedo and two gun-wielding women but the tag line even reads, “James Never Had This Kind of Help!”

(Of course, that’s not really true, as anyone who has seen Dr. No, Goldfinger, The Spy Who Loved Me, or For Your Eyes Only can tell you.)

Much like a Bond film, Guns features a secret agent fighting to defeat an international conspiracy.  The agent’s efforts lead her and her allies to several different cities in several different … well, really only one country.  Being a Sidaris film, it’s doubtful the Guns really had the budget to film anyplace other than the United States but still, the action does move from Lake Huvasa, Arizona to Hawaii to Las Vegas.  That’s about as close as a Sidaris film ever gets to featuring exotic locations.

(If Lake Havusa sounds familiar, that’s because Jimmy Kimmel gave away at trip to Lake Havusa during the Oscars.)

And like any good Bond film, Guns has a flamboyant and almost comically evil villain.  Juan “Jack of Diamonds” Degas (telenovela star and future reality tv mainstay Erik Estrada) is an international gun dealer and an all-around sociopath.  He’s the type who shoots someone and then smirks about it.  He’s so evil that he’s even got Danny Tejo working as his main henchman!  That’s really evil!  Estrada gives a surprisingly good performance in the role.  Especially when compared to the forgettable villains who appeared in Sidaris’s previous films, Juan Degas feels like a worthy opponent.  It’s not just that he’s evil.  It’s that he’s so damn smug about it.  You can’t wait to see him get taken down.

Degas is planning on smuggling a bunch of Chinese weapons into America through a base on Hawaii.  The only problem is that Donna (Dona Speir) and her new partner, Nicole Justin (Roberta Vasquez), are based in Hawaii!  Degas knows that he has to get rid of them if he’s going to have any hope of succeeding.  (For whatever reason, it never occurs to Degas to smuggle the weapons through Guam or American Samoa. I mean, there are other islands out there.)  When Degas sends two cross-dressing assassins to kill Nicole, they end up not only shooting the wrong woman but also killing a friend of Dona’s as well.

Now, it’s personal!

Except, it was already personal.  In a typical example of Sidaris’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along style of  plotting, it turns out that Degas previously killed Donna’s father.  And now, it appears that it might get even more personal because Degas has kidnapped the Attorney General of Nevada, who happens to be Donna’s mother!

Obviously, this means that it’s time to gather together another group of misfit agents and take down the bad guys.  That means that Savage Beach‘s Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane) and Bruce Christian (Bruce Penhall) both show up again.  It also means that a lovable magician named Abe (Chuck McCann) gets to help out as well.  Unfortunately, one member of the team is eventually blown up by a remote control boat.

That’s right!  A remote control boat!  For some reason, remote control vehicles were a Sidaris obsession and it’s not a Sidaris film without someone getting blown by either a remote control boat or helicopter.

Anyway, there’s a lot of explosions to be found in Guns but the good thing is that it’s women blowing stuff up and it’s women who are in charge of the entire operation.  That’s the thing with a Sidaris film like this one.  For all of the nudity and the double entendre-filled dialogue, Guns was an action films where women got to shoot the guns, beat up the bad guys, and ultimately save the world from a smirking misogynist.  When Donna picked up that rocket launcher, it was both ludicrous and empowering at the same time.

Guns is one of Sidaris’s better films.  For once, despite all of the usual Sidaris red herrings, the plot can actually be followed and Estrada is an appropriately hissable villain.  While the film may not be able to compete with the best of the Bond films, it’s still more fun that SPECTRE.

Film Review: Savage Beach (dir by Andy Sidaris)

1989’s Savage Beach is yet another Andy Sidaris film that doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.

This time, Donna (Dona Speir) and Taryn (Hope Marie Carlton) have been hired to perform a very important mission.  You may remember that Donna works for a super secret government agency while, at one point, Taryn was in the witness protection program.  As a part of their cover, they fly a plane in Hawaii, making deliveries and giving tours.

(To be honest, you would think that, after everything that happened in Hard Ticket To Hawaii and Picasso Trigger, their cover would have blown but apparently not.)

Anyway, this time, they’ve been hired to fly a very important vaccine to a nearby island.  They manage to deliver the vaccine but a huge storm has come up.  As soon as they get back in their plane and start back towards Hawaii, Donna says, “Shouldn’t we get out of these wet clothes?”  While usually I roll my eyes at all of the nudity in Sidaris’s films, I have to admit that line made me laugh out loud.  Maybe it was just the sincerity with which Dona Speir delivered it.  Or maybe it’s just the fact that Andy Sidaris actually sat down, thought up that line, wrote it down, and then directed someone saying it.  One thing that can definitely be said for Andy Sidaris: as a filmmaker, he was totally without shame.

Anyway, the storm gets really bad and Donna and Taryn end up crashing on what they think is a deserted island.  Neither of them appear to be too upset about being stranded on that island, perhaps because Savage Beach was filmed nearly two decade before Lost.  Make no doubt about it, Donna and Taryn are optimists!

It turns out that they’re not alone.  Apparently, there’s treasure buried on the island and, as a result, all sorts of people are showing up.  Most of them are villainous.  Some of them are heroic.  There’s even another Abilene cousin, Shane Abilene (Michael J. Shane).  Everyone wants that treasure.  Everyone except for … THE WARRIOR!

Who is the Warrior (Michael Mikasa)?  He was a soldier in the Japanese army during World War II.  Left behind on the island, he’s still fighting the war.  Or something.  Actually, it’s not always easy to understand what the Warrior or anyone else is doing on the island.  The Warrior does decide to protect Donna and Taryn and both of them try to keep his existence a secret from the rest of the people on the island but that doesn’t really work out.

Honestly, Savage Beach should not have been as complicated as it was.  It should have been a simple story where Donna and Taryn outwitted a bunch of pirates on a desert island.  Instead, more and more people just keep showing up on that beach.  Good luck trying to keep them all straight.

It’s probably unnecessary to say that Savage Beach was a mess.  I think “mess” is probably one of the words most commonly used in any review of an Andy Sidaris film.  However, like most Sidaris films, the whole thing is too good-natured to really dislike.  In fact, the plot is so incoherent that it actually becomes strangely fascinating.

Add to that, as a result of watching Savage Beach, I now know that you can safely undress and fly a plane at the same time.  If I ever get my pilot’s license, I’ll be sure to remember that!