Thursday, May 5, 2016

Eye of the Tiger (1986)

One of my big inspirations in coming back to this was Jocelyn over at The Church of Splatter-Day Saints.  Talking with her about cult/weird/exploitation film was the final spark I needed to resume writing about movies.  And her recent review of 1985's SAVAGE DAWN made up my mind what my come-back review would be.  I didn't have a copy of SAVAGE DAWN handy, but it reminded me of a movie I knew I did have: 1986's EYE OF THE TIGER, starring Gary Busey and Yaphet Kotto, from director Richard Serafian, best known as the director of VANISHING POINT.

Gary Busey (SILVER BULLET, PREDATOR 2) stars as Buck Matthews, a Vietnam Vet just released from prison following a murder charge.  Upon returning home to his wife (Denise Galik, of HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP) and daughter (Judith Barsi, who was, holy shit, murdered two years later by her father), he immediately finds himself in trouble with the Sheriff (Seymour Cassel, of COOGAN'S BLUFF and CONVOY), who doesn't like him and wants him out of town.  The only person on his side besides his wife and kid is J.B. (Yaphet Kotto, ALIEN, TRUCK TURNER), the deputy sheriff and fellow veteran of Vietnam.  

Buck just wants to get back to living his life, however, but that plan gets shot to shit when he stops a couple members of a biker gang from raping a young nurse.  The leader of the bikers, Blade (William Smith, of a number of biker films, as well as playing Conan's dad in CONAN THE BARBARIAN) takes it personally and responds by beating Buck up, killing his wife and putting his daughter in a coma.

Now Buck's mad.  And what happens when you make Gary Busey mad?

You get your shit pushed in on a Biblical scale.

Sheriff pencil-dick here has a lot coming to him.
Buck calls in a favor from Jamie (Jorge Gil, COCOON), a Miami drug kingpin he rescued during a prison riot, gaining an armored truck and a few other surprises for his one-man war against the bikers.  He starts small - razor wire strung across a street at night takes the heads off a couple bikers.  Things escalate from there - including a fucking improvised airstrike with bombs dropped by hand from a crop-duster - until it's just Buck and Blade, facing off in the desert.  

Here's the trailer:

Fuck me running, this movie is amazing.  Once the action starts up it doesn't let go for anything.  Busey hasn't achieved full Busey-insanity (or as I call it, Busanity) yet at this point, but he's crazy enough to be believable as Buck, a man pushed to his breaking point.  Like I said, severing heads is just where his quest for vengeance begins.  Ever see a man torture another man for information by shoving a stick of dynamite up his ass and lighting the fuse? Buck does it to one of the bikers! I literally said "no fucking way" out loud when I saw that, and I almost never speak when watching a film.  This is the low-budget love child of COMMANDO and FIRST BLOOD that I never knew I needed this badly.  If I ever need to rain down Hell on someone, I'm calling Busey.  

Films like this are why I love character actors so much.  I could give a shit about the latest greatest
actor up on the block.  Give me "those guys" who work for decades - and EYE OF THE TIGER is full of them; William Smith, Seymour Cassel, even Yaphet Kotto I think falls into this category despite some starring roles under his belt.  Another one that I didn't mention before was Bert Remsen, who I know best as Grandpa in the film TERRORVISION, who appears here as a Catholic priest who's done taking shit from the Sheriff.

There's not a ton of gore on display here, mostly just some fire engine red blood on the pavement following the decapitations, and some of the hand to hand fighting isn't really well coordinated, or at least not shot from optimum angles; there's at least once where you can see that Buck's fist doesn't quite make contact with a face.

To top it all off, the film begins and ends with the song "Eye of the Tiger."  Kickass.

Shout! Factory put out a beautiful print of this film on DVD in a four-pack with CYCLONE, ALIENATOR and EXTERMINATOR 2.  I was actually surprised at how clean the film looked here.

Closing Thoughts: I really dug this movie.  I went into it with high hopes of Busey being crazy and shit getting blow'd up real good, and I was not disappointed on either of those points.  I thought that a lot of the violence was really creative and came to characters that deserved it, though there was one plot point I would have brought up earlier if I were making this movie - that Buck was framed for murder.  Overall though, a really enjoyable film that I will give an unreserved recommendation.  See it!


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