Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Ghoul Versus The Andy Sidaris Collection: Guns

Hope was terrific. She was good on the screen, but she was difficult. She thought she should be doing bigger and better, and we said please go do bigger and better. She was not a team player as much as we would have liked, but she delivered for us. She was always late, and very difficult, and she knows it. But we're happy she did our pictures, and she certainly had great sex appeal, but she just wasn't quite with the program. She's a nice enough person, she just wasn't right for the program. She finally had her breasts made just right, and when we were getting ready to make Guns, she said 'I don't want to expose my breasts.' We said 'Hope, bless you, child, we think the world of you, God Bless you, but we'll see you later.' Who the hell are we kidding?” - Andy Sidaris on Hope Marie Carlton

Previously on Savage Beach...

I'm still not really sure. A Filipino revolutionary named Martinez was playing all sides to steal a bunch of gold, half the cast was masquerading as someone else, and we got some clunky back story about Taryn's grandfather getting murdered by Crazy Katana Man. It was a very rough movie to sit through.

The 1980s are dead, long live the 1990s! The ULTRA creatively titled Guns is kicking off the new decade, although it's still very much a 1980s style movie. 1990s style action wouldn't truly begin until the following year when James Cameron and Terminator 2 redefined the genre forever, but that's another review for another time. Guns is most memorable for bringing the legendary Erik Estrada into the Sidarisverse, one of the most engaging actors to ever grace the silver screen. While his career has mostly consisted of TERRIBLE B and C-grade level movies, you can't once tell me he wasn't the shining highlight of any of them. Let's see what kind of magic he can work with this one, as it's now time for A Ghoul Versus Guns!

We open in Las Vegas with our old friend Edy, looking absolutely stunning I might add, singing a song called “Guns” in a club. The chorus goes “don't play with guns, they ain't no fun”, which I CERTAINLY hope isn't a harbinger of things to come. She's actually singing the song, and isn't half bad. What can't Cynthia Brimhall do? We cut to elsewhere in the club where ERIK MOTHERFUCKING ESTRADA shows up to grace us with his awesomeness as well as his glorious smile. He's actually just leaving though, getting into a limo with his right hand man Tong (played by future B-movie Action God, Danny Trejo) to meet with two other men which are quickly revealed to be assassins he is hiring for a job in Honolulu but we're not told who the target is.

The men fly to Hawaii, which is where we catch up with Donna and Tar- waitaminute, when the hell did Taryn change into Roberta Vasquez?! Yep, Savage Beach was the last we'll ever see of our beloved Hope Marie Carlton in the Sidarisverse, as Sidaris decided she wasn't worth the trouble she caused and cut her. She's been replaced with Vasquez, last seen as the duplicitous Pantera in Picasso Trigger, and now playing a DEA agent named Nicole Justin. I am instantly saddened by this, Taryn was the definitely the half of our Dynamic Duo that was interesting and funny. You know, like a character. What better way to get introduced to Nicole than by having her accompany Donna to a clothing store to buy a dress and try it on in the fitting ro- WHA?!? The camera DOES NOT follow Nicole to the fitting room so we can see her get naked, instead it shifts to Donna having a conversation with Rocky about... something. This is BY FAR the biggest plot twist to go down in these movies yet!

Estrada's character, Juan Degas (the “S” is silent as he's all too happy to point out) JUST HAPPENS to be walking by the store and glimpses Nicole looking resplendent in her green dress.  He goes outside where his assassins, Cubby and Tito, are waiting for him. Cubby is played by Chu Chu Malave, a professional boxer turned actor whom actually beat out Estrada for a role in the 1970s TV show Barney Miller. Tito is played by Richard Cansino, who would go on to become a VERY accomplished voice actor with feature roles in dozens upon dozens of anime series and video games including Rurouni Kenshin, Ghost in the Shell, and Assassin's Creed. I'm sure his deep pool of experience here in this film earned him his job in that last entry.
Juan tells them a woman in a green dress is their target, giving them a Jack of Diamonds playing card to place on her body when they've done the deed. As they've been established already as having an INTENSE fondness for explosives, the two start coming up with a way to explodinate her Juan wants it kept simple. When they look at him with blank expressions on their faces, he summarizes “shoot her in the head!”. HA, it's Estrada's World and we're just lucky enough to live on it.  Returning to the shop, we see ANOTHER patron has bought a green dress as well and you don't need to be a genius like Erik Estrada to tell where this is going. The woman goes into Rocky's restaurant or resort or whatever the hell it's supposed to be while the assassins go into the women's bathroom to... you guessed it, dress up like women!
FINALLY cross-dressing is back in the Sidarisverse, its presence was sorely missed the last two films. Although they sure don't have the convincing professionalism that was Michael Andrews, who was an absolute BOSS at “femulating”. They march right into the restaurant and shoot the poor woman point blank in the head, and once again I'm happy to be asking questions about WHY characters in a Sidaris film had to cross-dress in the first place.

Rocky rushes out to stop them and gets SHOT IN THE CHEST for her trouble. HOLY SHIT! I was not expecting that. This movie is really upping the ante on everything! Still, not everything has changed as we go to Juan for some of that patented rapid-fire Sidaris exposition. Juan, who is a South American crime lord, meets with a gun smuggler to confuse the living hell out of us. The crux is in four days a plane carrying a fuckton of Chinese guns will arrive in Honolulu, and that Juan set up Nicole's hit to distract the DEA. It's really very straightforward, but you sure wouldn't know it from the twisting dialogue.

The assassins escape into the bathroom to change back to their regular clothes, bumping into Donna and Nicole (who are unaware of the carnage at Rocky's) on the way out. Nicole notices a dagger tattoo on Tito's hand, looking very shocked at it but then the men move on. Screams from the restaurant alert our heroes, who run inside to find Rocky dead. Donna looks at the woman in the green dress, finding the playing card the assassins placed on her body. The words “FOR DONNA” are written on it, as well as markings on the back indicating it came from the Rio casino in Vegas. Nicole, who is definitely quicker on the uptake than Taryn ever was, quickly figures out the men walking out of the bathroom were behind the shooting. She grabs Donna and they jump in their jeep, hightailing it to the airport where the assassins are attempting to leave via helicopter.

The film even attempts to covers its bases of how the hell Nicole knew where they were going by having her run the plates on the car the assassins drove to discover they just checked it into the airport, but misses by failing to tell us how she got their license plates. It's okay though, it's the EFFORT that matters. Donna and Nicole board their plane and take off in pursuit of the chopper, and I hope that in the name of all that is awesome we get a midair shootout as a result. Sadly we do not, instead we get... Shane Abilene. Joy of joys. Yeah, his acting has not improved in the SLIGHTEST. Nicole radios him for ideas of where the chopper could be heading, so he suggests a place called Turtle Bay. He turns out to be right, as that's where the men have a getaway car waiting for them. They drive away to freedom, the agents heading to Shane's to figure out their next course of action.

Shane calls in Bruce and we get a scene of talking heads. Donna decides they should all go to Vegas to follow up the playing card, despite Bruce wisely pointing out they're walking into a trap. This scene is also notable for Bruce kissing Nicole, showing how quickly he must have gotten over Taryn. Is the DEA the swingingest, anything goes place to work in the world, or what? The fly to Vegas, Shane calling an agent named Lucas to help them get the ball rolling. Lucas is played by William Bumiller, probably best known for the 1989 cult classic Death Spa, which featured a ghost killing people in a health club. Yes, that's every bit as spectacular as it sounds.

The Rio is, naturally, the same place Edy works and we see she's also dating Lucas because that's how the DEA rolls. You're not an official agent until you've banged at least three of your fellow coworkers within the first ninety days. This scene is notable as Edy gives us the first bit of nudity in the film as she gets changed while Lucas updates her on the Hawaii situation, which at nearly half an hour in is a MAJOR development in a Sidaris movie. Sidaris has been so busy telling a cohesive and entertaining story that he forgot why most of his audience was here, and I am not complaining ONE BIT. This has been a very fun movie so far.

Okay, maybe he didn't TOTALLY forget, as the next scene is two women oil wrestling in their underwear. One we've met before, agent Kym, whereas the other is Hugs, played by Donna Spangler. Spangler was a professional wrestler in the now defunct POWW federation, but has gone on to have a long lasting career of minor roles in movies. After their bout they take a shower, which is logical since Sidaris has a LOT of boobage to make up after that opening act. Back to Hawaii where Juan is currently chewing out the assassins for screwing up and shooting the wrong woman. To be totally fair though, they just did EXACTLY what he told them to do, but somehow I don't think he's about to take the blame for this fuck up.

Juan's girlfriend and resident femme fatale Cash assures him that if SHE were put on the job she'd get results, but he assures her there's a time and a place for her talents. Cash is played by Playboy's Miss June 1985 Devin DeVasquez, whom is probably best remembered for her starring role in the FUCKING INSANE horror film Society, a movie that arguably out Cronenbergs David Cronenberg in the realm of body horror. And speaking of bodies, Cash's is the next we get to see as she strips off her clothes to have sex with Juan. The next day the agents land in Vegas, Tong secretly watching them arrive. This is the first thing Trejo has done the entire movie, so hopefully he has a huge scene of badassery on the way.

Or not. Tong hands an assault rifle to two goons standing next to him and tells them to take out Bruce and Nicole, who are leaving on a motorcycle. Bruce Penhall on a bike, what are the odds?! The goons attack from a plane, but they're no match for Donna's bazooka. Ahhh, a Sidaris film with a bazooka... all is right in the world. Shane searches the plane's wreckage to find the gun they were using, Bruce identifying it as an ultra rare Chinese weapon. The team meets up with Lucas for some more talking head stuff and bloody hell there's a lot of people here. Lucas, Donna, Nicole, Bruce, Shane, Edy, Kym, and a man and a woman I don't recognize at all.

The meeting doesn't accomplish much besides Lucas telling Donna the attorney general wants to meet with her, so that's our next scene. Surprise surprise, the attorney general is a beautiful blonde woman named Kathryn! Kathryn is played by the late Phyllis Davis, who was a popular television star for the better part of two decades with roles in shows like Love, American Style and Vega$. She is worried about Donna's potential actions in Vegas, as it turns out her judgment may be clouded since Juan killed her father a decade ago. They butt heads until we get a REAL surprise: Kathryn is Donna's MOTHER. This ought to get interesting...

The man from the DEA meeting, Abe, goes to interrogate two criminals about what's going on. I guess we did see him in the movie for a second, as he also works at the Rio with Edy where he does a magic act. And that's exactly how he conducts his interrogation, by using magic tricks. Things get even stranger where we have a flashback of the two agents getting killed at the beginning of Picasso Trigger, Abe revealing one of them was his brother. He gets no answers from the smart assed men, so he... pulls out a shotgun and kills them?! That was INCREDIBLY pointless. So is the next scene of Nicole and Bruce having sex on top of his bike in the middle of the desert, but that's probably just Sidaris remembering his hasn't shown us Vasquez naked yet.

Kym's contribution to getting to the bottom of the mystery is going to Margie's Lounge, a popular hangout for cross-dressers in Vegas to try to dig up anything on the assassins. The owner of the business, Large Marge, is Rodrigo Obregon IN DRAG. This movie is amazing! I wonder if Obregon dies in this one too, or will his nappy ass wig spare him? Marge points out Cubby and Tito, who, sure enough, are back in their drag outfits. Kym tries to arrest them but they run out the back door and get away in a van. Marge complains about how hard it is to run in high heels and I now wish he was the agent who replaced Taryn instead of Nicole. We return to the Rio where Edy, once again looking exquisitely gorgeous, entertains a crowd that includes Juan and his crew as well as most of the agents.
After her song Abe takes the stage for his act, aided by the other woman from the meeting who is named Ace. Ace is played by Liv Lindeland, one of the most famous Playmates in Playboy's history as she was the first one to ever show her pubic hair in a pictorial. She was Miss January 1971 and then was later chosen as 1972's Playmate of the Year, going on to a largely low key acting career. This is actually her second appearance in the Sidarisverse, her first being Picasso Trigger where she was the love interest of the professor that built the inexplicable techno-crutch/homing missile launcher. Tong confirms Abe is the man who killed the two thugs, who were actually in employ of Juan. Cash is assigned to take him out.

Shane leaves the casino to go work out with Donna, because the DEA is always about those priorities. This leads to Donna going into the changing room to undress, like you had any doubt in your mind whatsoever. Things pick up when two NINJAS run into the gym and start kicking the living shit out of Shane until Brown, another DEA agent, shows up to turn the tide. Brown, played by John Brown, is in his third and final Sidarisverse film, having previous brief roles in Malibu Express and Picasso Trigger. Brown was a professional bodybuilder, winning Mr. Universe on back to back occasions in 1981 and 1982, the only contestant to ever do so. And in case you aren't aware of who he is, there's a John Brown poster on display for a good portion of the scene in a nice bit of fourth wall breaking. As an interesting side note, his son Equanimeous St. Brown, who was one of the top rated wide receivers in the country, just signed a letter of intent with Notre Dame University and certainly could be NFL-bound in several years.

Juan is pissed about this latest failure, so has Cubby and Tito kidnap Kathryn. Yeah, let's REALLY piss off Donna now. I'm not sure Juan has thought this all the way through. We get another taste of the ALWAYS ON TASK department that is the DEA as we see Abe at a lake fishing, while Cash sneaks around plotting something no doubt nefarious. Also, I'm pretty sure she's wearing the exact same outfit Anjelica was at the end of Savage Beach. Cash effortlessly kills both Abe and Ace, one with a grenade and the other with a bullet through the back of the head. DAMN! I know it's wrong to root for the bad guys, but I really don't mind the death of characters that was had zero percent build up. Keep culling the dead weight Cash!

The Agency assembles once again, Donna and Nicole somehow figuring out Juan's plan to get them out of Hawaii while he transported his guns. They also learn about Kathryn's kidnapping, Donna sending Nicole and Bruce to deal with the guns while she goes to rescue her mother. Edy ditches the party early to confront Cash, somehow knowing exactly where she lives. Maybe she has the same place she did we they were dancers? It doesn't really matter, just get ready for a whole lot of conveniences to start happening with the ending in sight. Edy shoots her dead, unfortunately she can't think of anything witty to say after pulling the trigger.

On their way to the airport, Nicole and Bruce stop at a diner to get some sandwiches because why not? It's not like there's anything important they should be rushing off to do! The assassins attack them but get double doses of lead poisoning to end their puzzling involvement in the movie. Bruce tries his attempt at a one liner “so THIS is what goes on in the ladies room!”, but fails miserably. Everyone else heads to the Rio, where Juan is bringing Kathryn for some reason. It's all pretty standard fare from here on out: all the bad guys die, highlighted by Donna blowing up Juan with her bazooka. Yawn.  We don't even get an ending where the world's biggest klepto admits to stealing a bunch of guns to sell for herself!

Cue the credits.

Positives: this wasn't just a good Andy Sidaris film, it was a good film period. It's a very nice and simple 1980s style action B-movie, filled with all the tropes of the era. Yes, the ending is pretty lame and really needed some over the top action sequences, but the journey getting there more than made up for it. This is extraordinary considering the total snoozefest that was the last film in the series. Erik Estrada was his usual magnificent self, like he's capable of doing any less. What I love about him is no matter how lowly his role is, he'll put in maximum effort every single time and transform his character into someone special and memorable. Cynthia Brimhall didn't really do a lot, but wow was she ever breathtaking when she was on screen.

Negatives: the loss of Taryn. Donna Hamilton is one of the most lifeless and flat characters that I've ever seen, she ONLY works as a straight woman when paired with a goofy and wacky partner. Nicole embodies NONE of that, as she's basically Donna 2.0. This makes for a team of heroes that don't exactly endear that pesky “giving a fuck” that is kind of crucial to movies like these. You even had all the pieces here to make us care, Donna seeking revenge for her father's murder AND saving her mother, but her blandness put all of that to a screeching halt. Hopefully Sidaris will address this, considering there's three more movies of the Donna and Nicole pairing ahead of us, but somehow I highly doubt it. Oh, and Michael Shane's acting is NOT getting any better.

Still, the positives more than outweigh the good in this case. It's possible I'm being so favourable to this movie after how bad Savage Beach was, but any B-movie that keeps me entertained from the opening to the closing credits has to have SOME merit so I give this one a very high recommendation.