Film Review: Return to Savage Beach (dir by Andy Sidaris)


“I was born for water sports!”

— J. Tyler Ward (Christian Letelier) in Return to Savage Beach (1998)

Never let it be said that I’m not a completist!

About a month ago, I decided that it would be fun to write up a review of Hard Ticket To Hawaii that I could schedule to publish while I was on vacation.  At the time, I really should have realized that this would probably lead to me also watching and reviewing all of the sequels (and the one prequel) to that film.  And that’s exactly what happened!

1998’s Return to Savage Beach is the final chapter of the story of the world’s most inept intelligence agency, L.E.T.H.A.L.  (That stands for Legion to Ensure Total Harmony and Law, which is almost as Orwellian a name as Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council.)  Once again, security at L.E.T.H.A.L’s Dallas office has been breached.  This time, it done by a woman named Sofia (Carrie Westcott), who randomly showed up and passed out slices of drugged pizza.  Of course, everyone ate the pizza.  After all, why would a bunch of national security professionals be suspicious of a total stranger handing out food?  After everyone’s unconscious, Sofia steals the file on Savage Beach.

Don’t remember Savage BeachSavage Beach was a previous Andy Sidaris film, in which two other undercover agents ended up on a desert island and discovered a hidden treasure of World War II gold.  If you still don’t remember the film, don’t worry.  Return to Savage Beach contains several minutes of flashbacks from Savage Beach.

Return to Savage Beach also features a handful of flashbacks to the previous Sidaris film, Day of the Warrior.  That’s because The Warrior (Marcus Bagwell), who was previously established as being a homicidal maniac, is now suddenly one of the good guys.  Apparently, one of the people that he murdered in the previous film was actually a serial killer and, as a result, he was only given three months in prison.  Now, he’s out and he’s the newest L.E.T.H.A.L. agent.  He’s an expert on lost treasures and that’s a good thing because it turns out that there’s even more treasure on Savage Beach than anyone realized.

L.E.T.H.A.L. is determined to get that treasure, which means that Willow Black (Julie Strain) has to assign her best agents to the mission.  (Of course, the best L.E.T.H.A.L. agent is the equivalent of a bigamist who tells his second wife that he’s working for the CIA as a cover whenever he has to go on vacation with his other family.)  And so, Tyler (Christian Letelier), Cobra (Julie K. Smith), Tiger (Shae Marks), and Doc Austin (Paul Logan) are sent to explore Savage Beach.

However, L.E.T.H.A.L. is not the only organization returning to Savage Beach.  The evil Morales (Rodrigo Obegron) is determined to get the treasure as well.  Morales wears a Phantom Of The Opera-style mask because he claims that he was horribly scarred when he was blown up during his last trip to Savage Beach.  (Cue more flashbacks.)  Morales not only has Sofia working for him but he also employs three ninjas who wear kabuki makeup.

Maybe you’re getting the feeling that Return to Savage Beach is not a serious film and it most definitely is not.  Like most Sidaris films, Return to Savage Beach is cheerfully aware of its own absurdity.  Towards the end of the film, after about a dozen or so outlandish twists, one of the L.E.T.H.A.L. agents even exclaims, “How many endings can this story have!?”  The song that plays over the end credits asks the exact same question.

All in all, Return to Savage Beach is a pretty dumb movie.  I compared the acting in Day of the Warrior to Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly playing Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell in Boogie Nights and that’s even more true when it comes to Return to Savage Beach.  At times, the stupidity of it all is amusing and, at other times, you just find yourself checking the time.

Return to Savage Beach was Andy Sidaris’s final film.  All in all, Sidaris directed thirteen films (12 dramatic features and one documentary).  Some of them were really bad.  Some of them were amusingly over-the-top.  One of them, Hard Ticket To Hawaii, has become something of a mainstay on TCM Underground.  Good or bad, Sidaris definitely had his own style.  In the end, no one would ever mistake any of his films as having been directed by anyone other than Andy Sidaris.

Film Review: Day of the Warrior (dir by Andy Sidaris)


 

“Bring him in from the cold?  That’s real spy talk.  I love it when you do that.”

— J. Tyler Ward (Christian Letelier) in The Day Of The Warrior (1996)

Here’s two good things about the 1996 Andy Sidaris film, The Day of the Warrior:

First, a good deal of the film takes place in Dallas.  As I’ve said before, I’m always happy to see my hometown in a movie, regardless of whether the movie is good or terrible.  The Day of the Warrior not only reveals that a division of the Legion To Ensure Total Harmony And Law (a.k.a. L.E.T.H.A.L.) operates out of Dallas but also that it’s apparently headquartered on the top floor of the Bank America Plaza.  Willow Black (Julie Strain, who had previously played a villain in three separate Sidaris films) is the new head of the Dallas branch.  Apparently, her job largely consists of working out on the treadmill in her office.

The other good thing about The Day of the Warrior is that one L.E.T.H.A.L’s top agents is named Doc Austin (Kevin Light).  Unlike the Abilene cousins that appeared in Sidaris’s previous films, Doc appears to actually be good at his job.  For one thing, he can actually shoot a gun and his dialogue isn’t exclusively made up of painful double entendres.  But my reason for liking Doc Austin is because he shares his first name with my cat and his last name with one of my favorite cities.

Anyway, the film itself is pretty stupid but you probably already guessed that as soon as I mentioned that it’s an Andy Sidaris film.  The latest international super villain is a guy named the Warrior (Marcus Bagwell).  The Warrior used to be an agent with the CIA but, when the Cold War ended, he discovered that he was out of a job.  Because The Warrior’s mother was half-Native American, he decided to start wearing war paint and launched a career as a professional wrestler.  However, The Warrior’s wrestling career was really just a cover so that he could safely travel the world and set up his own black market operation.  He deals drugs.  He sells weapons.  He dabbles in human trafficking.  “The SOB is even into pirating porno flicks,” Willow says.  The Warrior takes the whole professional wrestling thing pretty seriously.  At one point, he gives orders to his henchmen while standing in the middle of a wrestling ring.

(It’s also established that The Warrior lives in “north Dallas.”  You probably actually have to be from Dallas to get the joke but, as far as Sidaris humor goes, it’s a good one.)

LETHAL has several agents working undercover in The Warrior’s organization.  Apparently, they’re so deep undercover that not even Willow Black knows how to get in contact with them.  (To be honest, that would seem to be kind of counterproductive but I’m not an international super spy so what do I know?)  However, The Warrior has employed a computer hacker known as Hard Drive.  (The Warrior calls him “Mr. Drive.”)  When The Warrior manages to compromise LETHAL’s computer systems, Willow and her agents not only have to track down the people undercover but they also have to stop whatever it is that The Warrior is planning to do.

(The Warrior’s ultimate scheme was never easy to figure out.  He seemed to spend most of his time flexing his muscles.)

As for the undercover agents, Doc Austin is investigating drug dealers in South Texas.  Scorpion (Tammy Parks) and Shark (Darren Wise) are trying to infiltrate The Warrior’s Vegas-based porn operation.  Fu (Gerald Okamura) is working as an Elvis impersonator.  Cobra (Julie K. Smith) is working as an exotic dancer in Beverly Hills because of … reasons, I guess?  Another agent, Tiger (Shae Marks) teams up with a pilot named J. Tyler Ward (Christian Letelier) because it’s not a Sidaris film without someone flying a plane over the bayous.  To be honest, it seems like most of these people are just hanging out.  I wouldn’t necessarily trust any of them with any national security secrets.

Anyway, this is pretty much a typical Sidaris film: stuff blows up, everyone gets naked, and there’s a lot of bad jokes.  Even by the standards of a Sidaris film, the acting is incredibly bad.  Remember those scenes in Boogie Nights where Mark Wahlberg and John C. Reilly played Brock Landers and Chest Rockwell?  That’s about the level of talent that we’re talking about here.  To illustrate, here’s a typical scene from Day of the Warrior:

In short, it’s no Hard Ticket to Hawaii but at least Dallas looks good.

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.