Tuesday, June 7, 1994BACK IN ACTION. Written by Karl Schiffman. Music by Varouje Hagopian. Directed by Steve DiMarco. Running time: 92 minutes. Restricted entertainment with the B.C. Classifier’s warning: "frequent violence.”
COME ON DOWN!
The Discount Plot Merchant is Back in Action, with the sale of the century on storyline elements and body-count boosters. He's blowing out stock shocks, unmotivated mayhem and things that blow up good, so you can take advantage of the rock-bottom prices.
Got a tight deadline and limited budget? Just look at what Canadian screenwriter Karl Schiffman was able to pick up in just one visit:
● A basic one-size-fits-all Cops-Versus-the-Mob kit: Perfect for use with nondescript discount-dollar locations like Toronto, it turns your town into a nameless hive of scum and villainy that breeds rogue cops and vigilante veterans.
● The Matching-Lovers-Endangerment package: Included are a cop hero, Detective Frank Rossi ("Rowdy" Roddy Piper) and his girlfriend Helen (Bobbie Phillips), the ambitious television news reporter. They're paired with a lovelorn gangster, Gantry (Damon D'Oliveira) and his loyal moll Tara (Kai Soremekun).
● The Violent Vet attachment: The U.S. army trained him to kill, and Billy (Billy Blanks) uses his deadly skills on the mob to free his kid sister from her infatuation with her bad-guy boyfriend. "One man, one unstoppable man, against a crime syndicate," quips the newswoman.
● A (non-explicit) Disembowelment Outrage: To identify the really bad guy, Chakka (Matt Birman) as really bad and prompt our cop hero to seek revenge, the story opens with a drug sting gone wrong. When the hero's partner is wounded, the really bad guy finishes him off with a Bowie knife. Quips the newswoman, after a firefight with the SWAT squad, "Cops, 6; hoods, 1."
● An Acupuncture-Needle-Torture incident: A suave sadist, the really bad guy's boss, Kasajian (Nigel Bennett), decides to murder the annoyingly entertaining newswoman in a slow, painfully disfiguring manner.
To complete the picture, the Discount Plot Merchant included a free Grudging Buddies power pack: You know that when the cop and the vet join forces, the fate of the evildoers is sealed in blood.
"There's been some heavy traffic down at the morgue ever since you got involved in this thing," the cop says to the freelance crime-fighter. Add in your own wrestler-turned-actor (Piper) and a martial-arts champ (Blanks), together with a television cop-show director (Steve DiMarco), and the results are predictable.
You have to act fast, though. These prices can't last. Guaranteed gratuitous, these senselessly violent items will be hard to come by if media reformers have their way.
The above is a restored version of a Province review by Michael Walsh originally published in 1994. For additional information on this archived material, please visit my FAQ.
Afterword: In early 2012, I read social commentator Chris Hedges’s provocative Empire of Illusion, a book subtitled The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. He began his analysis with a critical look at the narratives promoted by World Wrestling Entertainment, the organization in which Roddy Piper became a legend. Later, I could only marvel at Hedges’s prescience, when a WWE Hall of Famer named Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.
It turns out that Piper also understood politics. In 1988, he starred in two low-budget science-fiction features, the forgettable post-apocalyptic adventure Hell Comes to Frogtown, and director John Carpenter’s enduring cult classic They Live. Of Carpenter’s dystopic drama, Piper later said “when we did it, it was about Reaganomics, but it was also a political statement about where our society is headed. Right now, what they're trying to do in society is get rid of all cash money, so you just have a chip and everything is on your chip. Well, that's full control.”
Despite some 50 feature film roles, Piper remains best known for playing a "heel" — the opponent cast as the bad guy — in the wrestling ring. Unlike his Tag Team TV movie co-star Jesse Ventura (who served a term as governor of Minnesota), he stayed out of partisan politics, apparently content to pursue a career in entertainment. Piper died in 2015, at the age of 61.