A Movie A Day #183: No Code of Conduct (1998, directed by David Lee…sorry, Bret Michaels)

From the strange period of time in which Charlie Sheen wanted people to call him Charles, comes this generic action movie.

Detective Jake Peterson (Charles Sheen) is a loser.  Even though his father (Martin Sheen) is the chief of police, Jake is so bad at his job that he has been assigned to work in the evidence locker.  His wife (Meredith Salenger) is always yelling at him for being a neglectful father.  The only person who likes Jake is his partner (Mark Dascasos, who is wasted) and partner’s never live for long in cop movies.  When Jake discovers that evil businessman Julian Disanto (Ron Masak) is plotting to smuggle Mexican heroin into Arizona, he has a chance for redemption but it will not be easy because Disanto is not only working with a corrupt DEA agent (Paul Gleason, of course) but he also has a band of psychotic henchmen.

This predictable and not very exciting action film is interesting for two reasons.  First of all, it was directed by the poor man’s David Lee Roth, Bret Michaels.  At the time, the future star of Rock of Love and Celebrity Apprentice winner was best known for being the lead singer of the most boring hair metal band of the 80s, Poison.  It is always interesting when someone who found fame as something other than a filmmaker tries his hand at directing.  Sometimes, the results can be surprisingly good and sometimes, the result is No Code For Conduct.  Michaels and Sheen (who co-wrote the script) may have been trying to pull off an homage to the action films of their youth but No Code For Conduct has more in common with the work of Uwe Boll than the work of William Friedkin.

The other interesting thing about No Code for Conduct is that, even though “Charles” and Martin are top-billed, it is actually a four Sheen/Estevez movie.  Renee Estevez briefly appears as a cop while Martin’s brother, Joe Estevez, is in charge of the police motor pool.  If No Code For Conduct is an act-off between the members of the Sheen/Estevez clan, Joe emerges as the clear winner.  Charlie does his wide-eyed intense thing.  Martin goes through the movie with a “the shit I do for my son” air of resignation.  Renee is not around long enough to make an impression.  But Joe?

Joe Estevez is the man!

Joe Estevez, the only Estevez that matters

Insomnia File No. 18: Only The Strong (dir by Sheldon Lettich)

What’s an Insomnia File? You know how some times you just can’t get any sleep and, at about three in the morning, you’ll find yourself watching whatever you can find on cable? This feature is all about those insomnia-inspired discoveries!

Last night, if you were suffering from insomnia at one in the morning and you turned over to one of the Cinemax stations, you could have watched the 1993 film, Only The Strong.

Only The Strong is an example of a film genre that is a personal favorite of mine.  This is one of those films where a dedicated but unorthodox teacher returns to his old high school and saves a bunch of troubled teenagers by teaching them how to beat the crap out of each other.  (For another example, check out The Principal.)  It’s hard for me to explain why I always enjoy these films.  I’m always tempted to say it’s because there’s a part of me that would love to be a teacher but, honestly, that answer is way too easy.  Add to that, if I was a teacher, I doubt I’d be one of the “I’m going to teach you how to beat the crap out of each other” teachers that tend to show up in these films.  It seems like that would be a lot of effort.

In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever met a “I’m going to teach you how to beat the crap out of each other” type of teacher.  I get the feeling that these teachers might not actually exist.  Maybe that’s why I like these films. For someone, like me, who went to a very nice but somewhat boring high school in the suburbs, a film like Only The Strong is the ultimate fantasy of what high school was like.

Anyway, in Only The Strong, Mark Dacascos plays Louis Stevens.  Louis was a troubled teenager but, luckily, he took a sociology class taught by Mr. Kerrigan (Geoffrey Lewis).  Kerrigan taught Louis that there was something more to life than just selling drugs and getting into fights.  After he graduated, Louis joined the Green Berets and spent four years living in the jungles Brazil.  In Brazil, he learned capoeira, a type of martial art that combines dance, acrobatics, and kick boxing.  In fact, Louis got so good at capoeira that, when he is recalled to the states, a village wiseman gives him a special instrument, a musical bow called a berimbau.

Louis returns to his old high school and visits Mr. Kerrigan.  He discovers that Kerrigan has been beaten down by life and is no longer the inspiring teacher that he once was.  He also discovers that his ex-girlfriend, Dianna (Stacey Travis), is now a teacher and she’s dating another teacher, Hector Cervantes (John Fionte).  Hector assumes that Louis worked for the CIA in Brazil and accuses him of organizing death squads.

Annoyed by what has happened to his old high school, Louis starts to leave.  However, before walking out, he uses capoeira to beat up a Jamaican drug dealer.  Everyone is so impressed that Louis is soon working for the high school, teaching 12 of the school’s worst students both capoeira and self-discipline…

(To be honest, as I watched the movie last night, none of the 12 students really seemed to be that dangerous to me.  It was difficult to imagine the majority of them ever committing a felony, though I could visualize more than a few of them waiting in line at Starbucks.  Then I remembered that this movie was made in 1993 and perhaps it was easier to scare audiences back then.)

It doesn’t take long for Louis to start to make a difference.  In fact, it only takes a four-minute training montage.  Soon, those 12 students are being respectful and thinking about the future.  Donavon (Ryan Bollman) is even remixing capoeira music and acting so worshipful towards Louis that you just know that he’s going to end up getting killed towards the end of the film, in order to provide Louis with the proper motivation to go out and kick some ass.  Unfortunately, the local Brazilian drug lord is not happy about Louis’s influence (especially after Louis encourages the drug lord’s cousin to spend his weekend camping instead of stripping cars).  Needless to say, it all leads to a violent showdown.  It also all leads to one of those inspiring graduation ceremonies that always tend to pop up in movies like this.

Anyway, Only The Strong is one of those films that currently has a 0% rating at the Rotten Tomatoes but I thought it was kind of fun in its own stupid way. (It probably helps to be half-asleep when you watch it.)  Even if you don’t buy into the film’s argument that it could be used to save an inner city high school, capoeira is a lot of fun to watch and Mark Dacascos has an appealing smile, which serves to set him apart from a lot of the other actors that starred in actions films in the 1990s.  Only The Strong is silly but fun, making it a good film to watch at one in the morning.


Previous Insomnia Files:

  1. Story of Mankind
  2. Stag
  3. Love Is A Gun
  4. Nina Takes A Lover
  5. Black Ice
  6. Frogs For Snakes
  7. Fair Game
  8. From The Hip
  9. Born Killers
  10. Eye For An Eye
  11. Summer Catch
  12. Beyond the Law
  13. Spring Broke
  14. Promise
  15. George Wallace
  16. Kill The Messenger
  17. The Suburbans

Film Review: Instinct to Kill (Dir by Gustavo Graef Marino)

Hi there and welcome to another edition of Lisa Marie Watches An Obscure Film Via On Demand And Then Reviews It.

Last week, I watched and reviewed a 2001 guilty pleasure called Tart.

This week, I watched another film from 2001, Instinct to Kill.

Instinct to Kill begins with homicide detective Jim Beckett (Tim Abell) sitting outside a suburban house and secretly filming Tess (Missy Crider) as she dresses.  As Jim watches, Tess joins her parents for dinner.  Tess’s father strikes her mother.  In case we needed anymore reason to hate him, Jim chuckles.

A day later, Tess is at cheerleader practice and again, she is being watched.  Sitting in the bleachers, Jim films her until he finally approaches her and strikes up a conversation.  Jim may be creepy but he’s also charming. Agck!

The film jumps forward 3 months.  Tess and Jim are getting married.  Jim and his partner Lance (Kadeem Hardison) spend the reception filming the bridesmaids and leering over  all the cleavage.  Bad Jim, bad!

And again, the film moves forward by 3 months.  As all too often happens, the daughter of an abusive father has ended up with an abusive husband.  As Jim attempts to murder Tess, Lance rushes into the house with his gun drawn.  Jim is arrested and sent to prison.

3 months later, Jim escapes from prison and, after retrieving a disguise kit from his own abusive father, Jim starts to stalk his ex-wife, her family, and her friends.  As Lance attempts to track down his former friend, Tess gets a bodyguard and a self-defense instructor in the form of J.T. (Mark Dacascos).

According to the imdb, Instinct to Kill was rated R for featuring “brutal violence and strong sexual content” and yes, it certainly had both of those.  However, to be honest, if you toned down the violence and edited out all of the boob shots, Instinct to Kill would be an almost prototypical Lifetime movie. After all, it has all the classic Lifetime elements: a sociopathic ex-husband, a sensitive guy who teaches self-defense, and a female protagonist who comes out of it all newly empowered and confident.  Fortunately, I happen to love Lifetime movies and maybe that’s why, somewhat to my surprise, I actually found Instinct to Kill to be an effective B-movie.

Some of that may also be due to the fact that Instinct To Kill’s executive producer was Mark L. Lester, who has directed some of the best B-movies of all time.  (He also directed The Ex, which has become a bit of a staple on the Lifetime Movie Network.)  I don’t know how involved Lester actually was with the production of this film but it feels much like a Lester film — the villain is flamboyant, the action moves quickly, and the end result packs much more of an emotional punch than you would expect.

Instinct to Kill may have a generic title but it’s definitely not a generic film.  Tim Abell makes for a genuinely scary villain and Mark Dacascos is the epitome of strength and sensitivity.  That said, the film’s best performance comes from Missy Crider, who believably transforms from being a helpless victim to an empowered warrior over the course of the film and, as a result, elevates the entire film.

Missy Crider in Instinct to Kill