Sunday, July 19, 2015

Eye of the Tiger (1986)

You know, I've been quite angry lately. I have a lot of people on my list. I need to have my pent-up aggression assuaged with a good, solid revenge flick. That will help me feel better. A short trip down the action aisle, and this catches my eye:

"Nam was hell. Prison was murder. Now he's home...fighting for his life." Gary Busey, a little girl, a rifle, a gang of bikers, an imposing giant head giving the slant eye on the proceedings. I think we have a winner here. Let's rent it and get out of here before my aggression makes me rent a breakdance movie.


Eye of the Tiger was released in 1986 by Scotti Bros. Productions and distributed by MGM. It was directed by Richard C. Sarafian, who prior to this film, was renowned as director of several episodes of TV series such as Gunsmoke. His breakthrough in film came with Vanishing Point in 1971. He also directed a couple episodes of Batman, so I'm holding out hope for an over-choreographed, campy fight scene or two.

The film stars Gary Busey, and if I have to introduce Gary Busey to you, please stop reading and go read some inane drivel about Bradley Cooper or Channing Tatum. Busey plays "Buck Matthews", ex-Vietnam veteran and recently released from prison for what he claims was self-defense. He is released at the same time as Jamie, played by Jorge Gil. Gil has been seen in such notorious roles as "Chucky's hood" in Stick and "Chas the Chair" in Out for Justice. I like how he plays smaller parts while waiting for that big break. Apparently, Buck saved Jamie's life while in prison, and Jamie feels he owes him big time. Buck passes on the offer but does accept a ride back into town from the man. 

Buck returns home to his wife, Christie, as played by soap opera star Denise Galik. Her approach in this film can best be described as sleepwalking yet hopeful for a paycheck. She has been seen in such films as Don't Answer the Phone! and Get Crazy. Buck and Christie have a young daughter named Jennifer, and Buck starts to try and get his life back.

Buck's friend is J.B. as played by Yaphet Kotto. You may remember Kotto as "Parker" from Alien and as "Laughlin" from The Running Man. He was killed in both of those movies, and as the best friend of the main character in this film, and only a few days away from leaving town, the writing is on the wall for him here also. J.B. is a deputy for the corrupt sheriff played by Seymour Cassel. Cassel is an OSCAR NOMINATED actor! What a distraction!

So Buck returns to his home town, where the sheriff suggests that he move, mainly because the sheriff doesn't like him. Buck opts to stay and returns to his old job. His first night back, he hears a woman screaming, and he and his pickup truck barrel onto the scene and save the woman from an attempted rape at the hands of members of the biker gang that have put fear into the residents of this small town. The leader of the gang is Blade, played by William Smith. Not Will Smith, WILLIAM Smith. He has appeared in such hit films as Hell Comes to Frogtown and Maniac Cop, which I should probably review soon since it's so topical right now. Blade vows revenge on Buck for being a stand up citizen. So one night Blade and his gang stampede their bikes THROUGH Buck's house, murder his wife and turn his daughter into a trauma patient. At the hospital, Buck has a conversation with a priest, where the priest asks him what he is praying for. Buck responds with "I'm praying for vengeance". THAT'S WHAT WE ALL WANT TO HEAR, BUCK!

Buck makes a phone call to his prison buddy, Jamie, to return the favor. Jamie provides him with a truck that is tricked out with machine guns and rocket launchers. This is also the perfect vehicle to have in traffic. Soon, Buck is running wire across darkly lit streets in order to decapitate bikers, propping up a dummy in his old pickup to draw bikers closer so he can blow them up, and being an all around pain in the ass to the sheriff, who is on the take. The bikers are actually manufacturing drugs in their desert camp. Eventually, Buck gets help from J.B. and his biplane to take on an entire camp of drug-running bikers. This all leads up to the BIG SHOWDOWN between Buck and Blade.

I liked the movie. I have read other reviews that stated the movie was a little slow in parts, but I didn't feel that. A movie where a man's family gets decimated requires time for the main character to reflect and ponder and plot. This film was a breezy ninety minutes for me. Typical revenge plot, nothing too fancy here. Man gets out of prison, goes home, finds things have changed, steps on the toes of the bad guy, bad guy kills his wife, man seeks vengeance with a little help from some friends. The villainy of William Smith as Blade was adequate, He didn't have very many speaking parts, but has the glare down pat. Also, he orchestrates an interruption at Christie's funeral, which is pretty damn cold. Not only do you kill her, but you and your gang drive your bikes through her funeral. At one point, they also dug up her casket and dragged it back to Buck's house. Damn, that's some cold ass villainy! Good stuff from Smith here. 

One more thing to note. The soundtrack has just two songs: "Gravity" by James Brown is one. The other.....I'll let you figure that one out. 

Rating: ***

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