The 1993 action film, Private Wars, tells the story of a neighborhood, a big evil businessman, and one drunk private investigator who likes to shoot things.
The big evil businessman is Alexander Winters (played by Stuart Whitman). Winters is so evil that he probably spends at least three hours every night practicing his smirk. He’s the type who will plot someone’s death and then laugh about it just to make sure that it’s understood that he’s totally evil. Winters wants to build a new business complex but there’s a neighborhood sitting on the land that he wants to use and no one’s willing to move.
However, Winters has a plan to bring about change. If the people in the neighborhood won’t move voluntarily, he’ll just make them flee for their lives. Winters pays off some local gangs to create trouble in the neighborhood. Soon, stores are exploding and windows are getting broken and obscene graffiti is showing up on walls. Everyone in the neighborhood keeps going to the community center and debating what to do. You have to wonder why the gangs are wasting their time vandalizing storefronts when they could have just blown up the community center and taken out every who was in their way.
Eventually, the community decides to hire someone to teach them how to defend themselves. After auditioning a series of ninjas and other wannabe soldiers of fortune, the community hires Jack Manning (Steve Railsback). Why do they hire Jack Manning? Well, he’s a friend of one of the community leaders. He’s also an alcoholic who shoots his car whenever the engine starts giving him trouble. How exactly anyone could look at Jack — who is not only almost always drunk but also a bit on the short and scrawny side — and think that he could protect the neighborhood is an interesting question that the film doesn’t really explore.
Anyway, the community is soon fighting back, which turns out to be a lot easier than anyone imagined. Eventually, Jack ends up in jail as a result of Winters’s corruption but fortunately, it’s while in jail that Jack meets a few guys who all have mullets and who all come back to the neighborhood to help Jack out when a bunch of ninjas try to take over the streets. Winters may have ninjas but Jack has a bunch of petty criminals who look they’re all heading to a hockey game in Toronto. It’s a fair fight.
To be honest, the main thing that I will always remember about Private Wars was just how unnecessary Jack eventually turned out to be. For all the money that he was apparently being paid, he really doesn’t do much. I guess he does teach people in the neighborhood the techniques of self-defense but the film is so haphazardly edited that it’s hard to be sure of that. It’s entirely possible that everyone already knew how to fight but they were just hoping Jack would do it for them. Watching the film, it’s easy to get the feeling that the folks in the community center took one look at Jack and said, “Well, shit …. I guess we gotta do this ourselves.” Even the final confrontation between Jack and Winters is resolved by a third character. Imagine Roadhouse if Patrick Swayze spent the whole movie sitting at the bar and you have an idea what Private Wars is like.
Private Wars is really silly but, possibly for that very reason, it’s also occasionally fun in its own stupid way. If nothing else, Stuart Whitman and Steve Railsback appeared to be enjoying themselves. The movie’s on YouTube. I watched it last Monday as a part of the #MondayActionMovie live tweet and I enjoyed myself.