Low Blow (1986)

Already the third film featured from Crown International Pictures in just the first eight B-Movie Enemas, 1986’s Low Blow delivers some action.

I can only say some action because either this is a horrible failure of an action flick or it’s the most brilliant movie ever made to never be seen.  I’ll explain during the course of this near pornographic examination of this flick.

We’ll get to the synopsis momentarily.  I have to say that Mr. Low Blow here to our left is NOT our action star.  He’s not even a supporting character.  He does have a ridiculous arm as if Rob Liefeld (where my comic nerds at, yo?) got hired to totally fuck up the proportions of the man’s head to torso to forearm to fist ratio.

Also, “The Deadliest Weapon is Still Your Fist!”?  I’d argue that is only true if the movie made sure to constantly use fists to make people dead instead of just once with all other deaths caused by guns.  Finally, this doesn’t exactly take place in a city that has the skyline of New York City or whatever it is.  Pretty much the entire poster is a lie.  Well, except the cast and crew credits and I’m sure it was available on December 10 somewhere once.  Still, this thing is a fucking liar.

Okay, let’s give you the IMDB plot summary from an anonymous user: “Leo Fong plays a private investigator who is in search of a  young girl kidnapped by a religious cult.  Destined to save her, he teams up with a Vietnam vet, a pro-boxing champ and a former cop to save her…”

Ooh!  Whenever I get a summary that includes both a form of the word “Destiny” AND an ellipses, I get excited this might be a Star Wars movie.  Unfortunately it is not that.

Couldn’t get the guy from the poster, so we’ll settle for this guy.

Our movie opens with an appropriate jam of total 80s shredded guitar over some electronic drums with that classic “dupe a doob be doop a dope a doo” sound.  We then see a burger joint or some sort of restaurant getting held up.  Across the street, we see our hero, Leo Fong, who gets irritated by the noise being made in the restaurant.  So he calmly walks in and asks if his ham sandwich is ready only to immediately be taken hostage.  Unfortunately for our crooks, this is just a ruse to get inside and he’s packin’ heat, and, in some hard ass, Charles Bronson way, utterly destroys them all by shooting the fuck out of them.  He tells the guy at the counter to forget his ham sandwich and he goes out for a walk on the streets of San Francisco to take in the disgusting sights of the city.  He gets harassed by the fuzz for killing the robbers but calmly explains he saved lives.  So, right off the bat, we get a gauge on our hero’s moral code.

Elsewhere we see our second hero, Cameron Mitchell (star of the classic Space Mutiny) as a cult leader initiating a new recruit.  We then learn the girl is a rich guy’s daughter and she’s been missing from school for a couple weeks.  At Fong’s favorite restaurant, he’s fed some sort of chicken soup that literally requires a comically cartoonish, actual buck-toothed Asian guy to slaughter the chicken right then and there.  He gets hired by the rich guy to retrieve the daughter after we see Fong get back a purse for an old lady snatched by a couple toughs.  Yes, in about 7 minutes of screen time, Fong’s murdered some bad guys in a restaurant, we saw Cameron Mitchell doing his best Emperor Palpatine look, learned about a missing rich girl, and seen Fong karate kick some purse snatchers.  We’re comin’ in hot!

We’ve also already seen the start of a trend in this movie – Leo Fong is a broken down wreck of a man.  His car sucks and doesn’t start on the first try ever, he’s a hero but kind of a slow paced lazy sack of shit, and when the rich guy comes in to hire him to get back his daughter, he’s talking to him in a white tank top, and his office has clothes strewn all over it.  You can smell the lack of deodorant on Fong.  He has the moral compass of a Charles Bronson, but the motivation of a… well, me.  He takes cavalier to a whole new level and, frankly, I’m in awe of him.  He even has a kind of sassy Girl Friday who kinda tries to take care of him or possibly try to make him more presentable, and is able to give him some shit when he’s being a dummy.

Cameron Mitchell as Cult Guy

We get a little bit of cult action to show how Yarakunda (Mitchell) has some spiritual control over his followers while his attractive assistant gal (who, just one year prior, was in The Color Purple – no shit) says his name over and over in a more and more scary tone while the followers just move their heads around in a barren filed they are supposed to farm.  So for as far as we can see, the cult is kinda dumb – living on a shitty farm and out of crappy trailers.  I should also add “spiritual control” should be taken VERY lightly.  I’m not saying there’s a mystical element to this movie, but they seem enraptured by sermons and stuff.

We need to get back to Low Blow doing his thing.  He starts interviewing people around the college campus where the missing girl went to school.  He learns about the cult and just so happened to come into a classroom where a professor was teaching a class about the cult and how it sucks balls.  He mentions multiple times that Yarakunda’s lady is the real power.  He mentions it’s a lot like a Jonestown kind of scenario out there on that shit farm, but I also can’t help but notice this seems to be a scathing indictment of Scientology.  I don’t have a great deal of evidence of that. I just wanted to use the term “scathing indictment of Scientology” to make myself seem smarter.

It’s about here that we get into the 30 minute mark that I find myself trying to figure out if this movie knows what its doing.  If you’ve seen any Death Wish or Dirty Harry flick, or, hell, even Chinatown, you have seen a lot of this.  Fong’s character is a take-no-shit kind of private dick who still does his due diligence.  He asks people about the cult.  He’s collecting a team to help him take down the cult.  He watches and studies the cult.  His interest in them creates problems while still seemingly making no bones about the fact he is coming for them.

However, there are a ton of other little details that makes me wonder if this movie is a parody of itself.  Cameron Mitchell is so over the top as a villain.  He wears this bullshit robe like a generic bad guy.  I think he’s blind.  So when he meets Low Blow for the first time, there’s this comical feeling of his face thing.  Low Blow’s murders and fights escalate to insanity quickly.  The general cavalier attitude of our main hero takes on a life of its own.  The fact that he is hired to save a kitten from a tree, let alone doing anything else, seems like it’s too much for him to really handle.  He’s kinda pudgy.  He gets grief from just about everyone.  But my does he kill some bad guys somewhat indiscriminately.

The main plot itself is just whatever, but it’s the study of the details that begins to really makes the viewing enjoyable.  I mean Fong is so uninteresting as an action star.  He’d be better suited as the guy who is trying to find his daughter as opposed to the guy who is paid to take down the whole cult.  I’m not sure I would hire a guy who lives in a condemned house on a junkyard, which is what his house does look like and look to be located, to save anything or anyone.  Another detail that just makes this something truly special is that Fong’s character drives like shit and parks even worse.  They make sure that every shot of him pulling up to a parking spot shows him go too far over those concrete stoppers, or he just flat out lurches into a concrete post in front of a business.  The best part is he just steps out of his car and goes about his business like nothing is wrong.  It’s this little stuff that starts to tip the scale to me thinking that this is more brilliant than bad.

But then we get to four particular moments that warp this movie so far past the brilliance line that there’s no possible way for it to return.  The first, is that the cult has sent some guys to take out Fong.  They suck at their job as they are taken out one by one by Fong – including one guy who gets dumped into a field where he gets covered by puppies (you read that right).  A second guy gets attacked by Fong after Fong busts through a wall to get to him.  Finally, when all three bad guys try to escape, Fong disables their car and then just beats the shit out of it with a piece of wood before cutting it up with a circular saw.  It’s a Jack Nicholson level attack on a car we’ve probably never seen before on film.

The second moment comes after Fong assembles his team to take down the cult. How you might ask?  By way of a “tough guy competition” in a pit in the middle of nowhere.  We get karate guys, bodybuilding girls, ninjas (yes, fucking ninjas are in the movie), big fat redneck types, and a black, baton wielding, kung fu guy with a fro.  The fights go on for several minutes in the middle of this movie just to throw in as many different types of guys punching each other as possible.  Shit like this reminds me of Wayne’s World when Wayne opens the door to a room full of ninjas training for the big fight at the end of the movie.

The third and fourth moments are very quick but no less marvelous.  First, we’ve already seen Cameron Mitchell wearing a hooded robe the entire movie.  What we don’t expect to see is him in bed…  WITH a hood covering his head but without the robe.  That’s some Airplane level shit there.

The fourth, and best, moment all takes place when the final battle against the cult takes place.  Fong is attacked by a guy who he ultimately throws onto the ground and punches his head into mush.  It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever seen anyone do to a head with their fists.  It’s near impossible to explain with any real justice.  It’s like his head became butter at the point of impact from Fong’s hand.  It’s freakin’ brilliant.  Here, take a look:

This shit is for real.

The end of the movie totally devolves into some sort of pseudo Chuck Norris, Delta Force, rescue type of action with guns and explosions and more fist fights.  It still has a Mexican guy who can fight, a boxer who can fight, the giant Vietnam vet, Leo Fong, and a super strong lady, but it’s just kind of a plain old 80s action finale.  Cameron Mitchell’s lady does kill him proving what the professor dude said earlier about her being the real threat – well that and the rest of the movie where she was in charge of all the bad guys anyway.  I was disappointed in the lack of consistency for Fong’s murders at this point.  Some guys he just punched out, some guys he shot, some guys he shot a bunch, and one guy he turned his head into mush.  Once you punch a guys head into complete chaos, you kinda can’t go back.  Might as well kill everyone.  Forget about punching them out at all.

Anyway, rich guy gets his daughter, Fong’s crew gets their reward money, and we’re left with Fong’s car being unable to start all the way through the credits.

How do I really classify the viewing experience of Low Blow?  As a generic 80s action flick it’s not without its charm or merits.  Though I did find it odd that Fong was constantly referred to as “Chinaman” by pretty much all the bad guys and the big black boxer dude on his team.  That’s odd for the mid-80s…  1980s (not the 1880s).  Everything else is what it is for a direct to VHS flick.

However, if you start looking through the scope of how this might just be the most amazing piece of satire about generic action flicks, then you might find a new way to enjoy this movie.  My one final note about Low Blow is that Leo Fong’s character name was Joe Wong.  His IMDB credits show he is currently filming a new movie called Hard Way Heroes where his character name is… Joe Wong.

Could there be more buttery bits of head to come from a Joe Wong punch in a Low Blow sequel?  One can only hope…

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