Final Reprisal a.k.a. Warriors Without Return (1988): Breakdown by Kain424
A former North Vietnamese Minister of Defense enacts revenge on an American Special Operations leader for the killing of his daughter during the war.
[THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THEIR BADASSITUDE]
Gary Daniels is David Callahan
“He’s gonna be a lifer. He’s cut out for this shit.”
Despite the budget restraints and occasional line flub, the movie still allows the former Karate champ to show his moves. And damn, Daniels has some serious skills. Speed, power and flexibility are major strengths for the young star, and he uses all three to kick all kinds of ass. Armed with only a sword, he still manages to take down the main villain. Now, if only he could work on delivering his lines little better…
Protacio Dee is Tran Van Phu
Looking a bit like Dennis Chan, Dee provides a worthy enough nemesis, but nothing too special. Plus, I’m not really sure just how “evil” he really is. Sure, he orders the hit on Callahan’s family, but Callahan ordered his men to take Van Phu’s daughter captive in the first place, and action that directly resulted in her death.
Think about it. Van Phu is the North Vietnamese Minister of Defense, a patriot. But he doesn’t want his only child to be injured in the war, so he puts her in a fortress miles away from the front lines. She is shot and killed by foreign invaders, and because he seeks an eye for an eye he’s somehow the villain? Bad-ass? No, not really. But justified? Somewhat.
[THE SEX AND VIOLENCE]
DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO:
James Gaines plays the gay buddy, “Charlie”, to Gary Daniels’s David Callahan. Aside from non-stop hugging and touching action between these two, there a nice little moment where Gary Daniels is in the barracks with the other marines training. He stops long enough to gaze longingly into the past for a flashback (or more accurately, a flashback within a flashback) to a time when he and Charlie stood inside open shower stalls next to one another and soaped themselves up.
So very, very gay.
EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY:
As a rule, these Philippino action flicks don’t usually bother with pointless shit like love stories and whatnot. At most, they sometimes have hookers or strippers featured somewhere in the background. This film is no exception. While we see that David Callahan has a wife and kid, we are barely introduced (seriously, I can’t even remember their names) before they are killed off and Callahan forgets about them all together.
MURDER BY NUMBERS: [ 111 ]
Also typical for the action movies from the P.I., we are treated to a massive bodycount. I’ll bet they get discounts from wherever Col. Trautman shops from for Rambo’s killing sprees. Almost all the deaths occur from the many, many bullets let loose during the action sequences, though there are also stabbings, neck crushings, and deaths from the hundreds of explosions this film wreaks upon its poor stuntmen. It should be noted, however, that several of the deaths inflicted are of women and children. No punches are pulled.
Daniels himself wastes over 30 people in his vengeance-fueled film debut, making it one of the deadliest ever. In fact, he wouldn’t really match the scale of death of his P.I. output until years later in his American movies. Good show, sir.
[THE BEST OF THE REST]
The soldiers guarding him dead, his friend executed right in front of him, Callahan grabs an M16 and a samurai sword and marches into the fortress of his enemy, blasting everyone he comes into contact with. The shitty synth score only adds to its dumb awesomeness. This is why I enjoy these movies.
Forced to fight to the death against the best friend who betrayed him, David Callahan refuses to strike a killing blow. He throws down his sword and declares his stubborn defiance verbally:
Callahan: Never will I stain my hand with the blood of my friend!
The story of how Final Reprisal even came into being is almost more interesting than the film itself. Star Gary Daniels had gone to the Philippines with his girlfriend of the time as she was attempting to break into the film business. Through this girl, Daniels met with a director of another film, who assumed the British-born Daniels was a wealthy American who might be coaxed into financing one of his projects. Once his true origins were discovered, contact between the two was severed. Not to be discouraged, and making the most of his situation as a buff white guy with martial arts skills in the then-current C-movie Mecca, Daniels made contacts with various film production entities until landing a two-year contract with Solar Films. Final Reprisal was the first of only two movies made under this contract.
As a Philippine Island action flick, the movie is rather typical in that it deals somewhat with the Vietnam War, torture, and uses what tiny plot it has as an excuse to hop from one violent action scene to another. So not bad. As a debut film for martial arts star Gary Daniels, it’s a bit less impressive, but it does manage to allow him to show off his fighting skills and the fact that he looks good shirtless and carrying a machine-gun.
The story involves a Special Forces operation in Vietnam going wrong due to faulty intelligence. The Special Ops Squad, led by David Callahan, heads in behind enemy lines to assassinate the attendees of a military meeting at the fortress of the Minister of Defense. After discovering they’ve infiltrated base a full day early, the team fights its way out, using the Minister’s young daughter as a human shield. During the escape, the group is largely wiped out, with Callahan surviving and his high school pal being captured and tortured after the Minister’s daughter is discovered to have been shot.
From here the movie skips forward several years and we learn Callahan has a family and is still living out in Southeast Asia (but why?). His family is attacked and killed shortly after the reappearance of his captured friend. From there we go from one action scene to another, the plot barely keeping up, but winding up back at the same fortress they’d escaped years before.
While not written with consideration for awards or critical acclaim, I don’t think Final Reprisal‘s script is in all that bad of shape for an action film. Sure, the dialog is delivered in clunky fashion, but these guys aren’t really actors and most of them probably aren’t all that fluent in English in the first place. Still, for a fun drinking game, try taking a shot of something hard every time Gary Daniels says the word “bastards” or some variation.
Where the movie actually works is in its adherence to violence as a solution to every problem. Trapped in a possibly politically damaging situation for your government? Use your enemy’s children as hostages and shoot everyone. Your girlfriend being hassled by some bullies? Kick the shit out of them. Your family murdered? Kill anyone you think might have something to do with it. It makes for some nice action sequences, to be sure, but it also makes everything seem a bit vapid and far more grim when one starts to question the logic of our supposed “hero”. And that’s not the only bit of silliness found herein.
There’s a sequence where our hero has just beat the flying hell out of a bunch of goons disguised as soldiers. Having realized the goons were out to assassinate him, our protagonist leaps through a window and plunges some twenty feet or so to the hard ground below. He wasn’t surrounded, seemed to be handling the situation quite well on his own actually, and probably could have at least opened the window instead of diving through the glass shirtless. Yeah, it looked cool, but… ah, fuck it. It all depends on the level of low-budget stupidity you’re able to enjoy in an action film.
Of course, the goofy actions of the characters seem to only add to the small-budget charm of the picture. In what may be my favorite scene, one man blasts 15 rounds from his M16 into a villain. Another person goes and checks the corpse’s pulse, then grimly proclaims, “He’s dead.” Nirvana.
While the movie may attempt something of a mystery plot at times, there’s no surprises to be found in any of the “twists.” It’s pretty much a straight actioner, and a somewhat worthy debut for perpetual B-lister Gary Daniels. You can find this one in the back rooms at bootleg shops and unofficial distributors on the web, so check it out if action movies filmed in the P.I. are your thing. But be warned, this is what C-list movies are all about. Don’t expect much of a plot or even much for one-liners here. You’ll only be disappointed. But if you came for sword fights, martial arts matches, massive gun battles and explosions galore, this one’s for you.
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
Kill the innocents, you’d better watch out, because karma is a motherfucker. Oh, and Gary Daniels is a bad-ass. And apparently the U.S. was still in Vietnam in the early 80s.
[THE AOBG ACTION CHECKLIST]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[ ] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[ ] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[ ] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[X] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[ ] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[X] Torture Sequence(s)
[ ] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[ ] Vigilante Justice
[TOTAL: 18 outta 25]