Action U.S.A. (1989)

Ah…  The good ol’ U.S.ofA.  It’s a sort of cool place, right?  I mean, we are THE country in the world that most people in other countries care more about than their own.  You don’t have to go too far into the rabbit hole of YouTube to find a Canadian guy, British guy, German guy, or a French Canadian guy to see they will release screeds and commentaries about the United States and what’s going on over here.

Then there was the 80s.  If you were around in the 80s, there were a few things that you probably knew:

  1. REAGANOMICS!
  2. COCAINE!
  3. USA! USA! USA!
  4. ACTION!
  5. Fuckin’ Commies trying to take over our country and stuff.

So what better way to celebrate all of that than to close out the decade with a movie called Action U.S.A.?

I swear, this title sounds like the name of a Nintendo game where you just walk around and shoot everyone and toss grenades to blow the dick off of bad guys (who may or may not have been, um… brown).  I mean, seriously.  Would it seem out of place to go to a KB Toys or Toys R Us or Children’s Palace and peruse the Nintendo games and see things like Rush ‘n Attack, Contra, Commando, Ikari Warriors, Streets of Rage, and then see Action U.S.A.?  NO!  It wouldn’t be.  I just love the bluntness of this title.

This was made by stuntman John Stewart before his time on The Daily Show.  He didn’t do too many movies as a director, but what he did do was direct 14 episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in 1994 as well as the Christmas Special they did that year.  That is not insignificant at all.  1994 was the height of the popularity for that first run of Power Rangers.

As for the cast, there are a few notable names.  Cameron Mitchell is here as our primary villain because that was his primary job in the 80s I think.  There’s William Smith who has been in a TON of things – mostly action and western.  There’s Ross Hagen who was a 70s exploitation superstar.  Finally, you have Gregory Scott Cummins.  He is still working today as a recurring character on the TV shows Bosch and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  I know him best as the lead in his first film, Hack-O-Lantern.  He’s got a ton of credits between 1988 and today.

As a side note, this recently got a glorious update on Blu Ray, but I had another copy of this when I was writing the article, so don’t think these screen grabs are any indication of what the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome released during their highly anticipated annual Black Friday sale.

Also, you better fuckin’ believe that Hack-O-Lantern will get attention from B-Movie Enema!

Before we dig into this movie, can we just take a moment to look at the cover?  First up, we have this, which seems to me to be a man falling out of a window.

I mean, that sure does seem to be a very action thing to do.  But what’s this?  Upping the ante?

Well, holy shit.  A man with a gun flailing around because he is on fire.  That’s definitely some action movie business there.  There’s only one thing that will make this better and feel even MORE like an action movie in the good ol’ USA…

Cars launching over other cars.  Nailed it, movie.  Put these three images together and set it against an American flag and ship it.  You’ve all earned a three-day weekend, gents.  Great job!

Our movie begins with maybe the most ridiculous car ever.  This is a suped up Chevy Corvette Stingray that the production team saw around the area where this was filmed.  In fact, according to the trivia of this film on IMDb, it is STILL owned and running around town to this day.  Now, I’m not a gearhead, nor do I like flashy cars because I have a GIANT penis, but I can still appreciate a neat looking car when I see one.  And I’m seeing one with this Stingray.

In the car, we have beer-drinkin’ cool guy and his really hot girlfriend.  Cool guy is Billy Ray and hot girl is Carmen (Barri Murphy).

Billy Ray is a jewel thief.  It’s probably how he can afford this custom job with the NOS dealy to make him go even faster.    They get home where they plan to fuck like mad bunny rabbits.  They are home barely 30 seconds before she is entirely tits out and I, for one, can say I appreciate that.

They start fuckin’ on the couch, and the whole time Billy Ray here is a little nervous.  She puts his big ass Magnum .357 on the table saying they don’t need that but he doesn’t seem so sure.  Sure enough, a couple thugs knock the door in and start messing up Billy Ray and punch Carmen right in the face.  They toss him in the trunk and head to a waiting helicopter while Carmen follows in the Corvette.

Billy Ray has stolen some mobster’s jewels.  So the thugs are there to make him talk.  To scare him into talking, they hang him out of the side of the helicopter over the city.  He keeps yelling to put him down or let him down, which I don’t think is exactly what you want to say to these guys, but, I digress.  After he tells them what they want to know, they drop him in a river.  It just so happens that Carmen is right there to pick him up.  Instead of following the Corvette with the chopper, they decide to land the helicopter, rush over to a couple driving down the road and commandeer that guy’s car by showing, “Get out of the car, ya old fart!”

Carmen tries to get info from Billy Ray.  She wants to help but he won’t tell her anything.  He just says she doesn’t want to know who his attackers are.  This movie has some pretty good stunt driving with Billy Ray’s Corvette leading the Mercedes that the other guys stole.  They go around on the roads in this little town, then into a parking garage and it all looks like legitimate high speed chases.  I love how the bad guys have the type of revolver that has infinite ammo.  The one goon is just firing and firing but he never seemingly runs out of bullets and we never see him reload.  This is also one of those movies that sets up all your stunts in advance so when you get to the actual moment for the stunt you are pretty excited about it.  Case in point, there’s a thing going on with a school bus and another vehicle and Billy Ray says he’s just gonna launch over it.

Billy Ray fucks up his purdy car, but not half as bad as the bad guys, whose car does not attempt to do the same thing.  Instead the bad guys go through a camper trailer and it EXPLODES.  Like I’m fairly sure that trailer was made entirely out of gasoline and the only thing that the guy who uses it had to do was make sure the everlasting candle on the table inside the camper never got tipped over.

Oops.

The chase ends when the goons have to hightail it after grabbing Billy Ray and Carmen.  They shoot Billy Ray to death and plan to do the same thing to Carmen but they are scared off by the arriving FBI agents Osborn (Cummins) and McKinnon.  They need to protect her because the guys who killed Billy Ray will surely be coming back for her.

Sure enough, when the goons go to find the locker where Billy Ray says the diamonds were, the only thing in the bag is a jock strap with a message to Frankie Navarro – “EAT ME”.  Osborn calls into Sheriff Pritchett to tell them what’s going on and where they are.  The Sheriff then immediately calls Navarro.

While Carmen takes a shower, Osborn and McKinnon lament about their dangerous job.  McKinnon starts going into that whole “gettin’ too old for this shit” routine which I would try to avoid because that usually ends up with that guy dead.  That said, I’m not too sure Carmen is going to make it easy for either of these agents to survive.  She is being kept in protective custody and she constantly wants to open the curtains and go out to eat in public places and decline all their advice to not, you know, die?

They get attacked at the motel they are staying at which launches right into another car chase that leads to another big ol’ explosion.

That goon is also our man on fire from the cover of the box.  It should be noted that he is still firing his gun while on fire – that’s dedication to firing bullets.  Now we see Frankie Navarro.  He’s played by Cameron Mitchell.  They bring in a guy named Drago to handle the issue.  Drago is Ross Hagen.  So we have two big time exploitation guys playing the biggest bad guys in the movie.  Drago is a real hard ass.  He is brought in to deal with this Carmen problem.

The FBI guys can’t get on the plane they had booked.  So they try to get arrangements made with their office.  Their boss, Conover, says they have a leak somewhere and they can’t fly.  They need to drive her to the Oklahoma-Texas border and then they will be met by someone who will transport Carmen to Oklahoma City.

Somehow, they manage to go right to the one restaurant to eat breakfast where Drago and Frankie’s other guys happen to be.  As they pay for their meal, Carmen just wanders away from them.  She ends up at the door where I guess she planned on going outside without the agents?  Well, that’s where Ross Hagen is.  He snatches her and tosses her in the car.  He stops to call Frankie and Carmen uses her hotness to take the other two off their game, but it doesn’t quite work.  When she tries to sweet talk Drago, he hits her.  Carmen’s been slapped, punched, roughed up many, many times in this movie.

The agents are able to snatch Carmen back.  She remembers a few things that Billy Ray told her about “snow and ice” and “Circle D Ranch”.  She remembers something else about “windmills” and they realize they are standing next to a windmill.  Up on the windmill, Osborn finds a box full of diamonds.

Just their luck, they run into Drago and the other goons who start up yet another car chase.  A much briefer one as Osborn shoots out a tire and the agents are able to get away.  They have to stop to get water for the radiator that Drago hit with a shot.  They go to The Melody Ranch and of course, Carmen wants to party.  It’s also not like McKinnon is all that welcome there being that he’s a black fella.

Sure enough, he’s getting hassled a bit and Osborn comes to the rescue which triggers a bar fight.  This also helps create enough of a hubbub to make Drago nervous as he begins stalking around the bar.  It does NOT, though, prevent Carmen from getting on stage and very publicly start singing with the band.

I think it’s possible Carmen has a death wish.  However, truthfully, I think this is part of an underlying plotline that was starting to get picked up in this scene.  McKinnon states to Osborn that he knows he and Carmen have some sparks between them.  She’s been this sort of free spirit the whole movie.  She was along for the ride with Billy Ray.  She wants to travel.  She’s not exactly taking the FBI agents very serious when it comes to making sure she is staying safe and not doing things that will endanger her.  She wants the agents to loosen up and stop being so stuffy.

While a little clumsy, I do appreciate the character dynamics here with McKinnon, Osborn, and Carmen as a trio.

Drago and the two henchmen with him grab Osborn.  McKinnon escapes with Carmen saying that Osborn will be safe as long as she comes with him.  But their car is fucked and they are stuck in the middle of nowhere.  Meanwhile, I think Cameron Mitchell is just spouting off weird shit about how he’ll look like an asshole if all he’s doing is serving drinks to the other heads of mob family… and he’s doing this while holding onto a very scared looking girl’s hair.

Carmen helps secure transportation from some immigrant workers thanks to being a sexy lady.  So her and McKinnon are back on the road.  Drago and the other goons aren’t exactly in the best of shape either.  Their car is in need of fixing.  Drago works over Osborn just for the fun of it.  The car gets fixed and they are back on the road as well.

Somehow, within moments of one another, McKinnon and Carmen stop at a gas station for a rest moments before Drago and the goons arrive.  McKinnon acts quick and punches one of the goons and guess what…  Another car chase kicks off!  This does lead to one of the most bizarre things I ever did see in a car chase.  A random car is forced off the road and it loses control into these people’s little house where it takes out a portion of the house.  The guy leans out of the window to say, “Hey!  Sorry about your house!”  He then drives off and the house explodes.  Why?  I dunno.  That house was probably made by the same shit that camper van was earlier.

Naturally, another explosion happens when another car is forced off the road, loses control and wrecks into a gas station and I think it might be one of the biggest real explosions I ever did see in a movie.

As the chase continues, Drago is tossed from his car.  McKinnon is shot and Osborn decides it is his time to make his move.  He fights with one of the goons to shoot the other and is able to get free and jump onto the back of the pickup Carmen is driving.  Carmen drives under a trailer which causes another explosion that the goons’ car runs into… and the last guy dies?  Oh whatever… ‘Splosions and car chases.  That’s why I’m here.

Carmen and Osborn get a room while McKinnon convalesces in the hospital.  When I say they get a room, I don’t mean that they fuuuuuck.  Osborn tries to distance himself from her because he’s a dummy.  The next morning, she wakes up and Drago is there in her bed to snatch her again.  This time, the chase isn’t in a car, it’s on foot.  Drago and the other goon who didn’t die in a fiery explosion work their way to a car with Carmen as Osborn follows.

Eventually the goon, Lucky, corners Osborn and he’s taken to Drago.  He finds the diamonds on Osborn and is told to shoot him, but he’s out of bullets.  So Osborn punches him out the window to his fuckin’ doom.  Now it’s a fistfight between Drago and Osborn.  They get away thanks to Carmen hitting him with board with nails sticking out of it.  Drago runs away and Carmen and Osborn head toward the meeting place where he’ll hand her over to the FBI for the last part of the trip to Oklahoma City.

When they arrive at the bridge, Osborn sees his boss, Conover, but not the people he thought was meeting him.  Conover asks to see the diamonds, but he was never told that he found them.  Apparently, Conover wanted the diamonds as a retirement plan.  He was in on it with Drago the whole time.  He was telling him where Osborn and McKinnon were going to be every step of the way.  In order to get the diamonds, Conover has taken McKinnon from the hospital and put him in a car and wired it to blow if he didn’t cooperate.

We need more explosions, so thankfully Carmen is quick on her feet.  She creates a bomb with a bottle and gasoline.  She drives the truck up to where everyone is on the bridge and blows up a car.  All hell breaks loose at this point.  Drago plays chicken with Carmen after killing one of the FBI guys.  But since he’s on a motorcycle, I’m not sure how well he thinks this will go.  It won’t matter though, because Conover uzis Drago.  Osborn shoots Conover, and Conover blows up the car that McKinnon was in, but he got out before the explosion went off.

Osborn reveals he did keep a few of the diamonds so it isn’t a total loss that they went over the side of the bridge with Conover.  Carmen and Osborn kiss while Osborn looks at his friend like, “Say, you as happy to be alive as she was?  Wanna… Like mess around?”

Kiiiiiss… Kiiiissssss!

The movie ends with outtakes and that only helps cement the fact that I fucking loved this movie.  Look, is it dumb?  Oh my god yes.  There are so many stupid things that happen in this movie, but holy goddamn balls it’s really really fun.  I immediately was invested in our trio of good guys.  Ross Hagen is a fantastic hitman.  I don’t even care that there was no resolution to the whole Cameron Mitchell portion.  You can tell this is a movie made by a stuntman because there were car chases, explosions, fist fights, falls, you name it… it had it.

This was a wonderful way to close out the shitty year that was 2020.  I mean, this was fun, exciting, clear cut in how simple the movie is.  There’s no subtext or anything to be debated about how this movie handles its themes.  I’m glad this is how I finished to year.  But what should we look at for 2021?

Oh… Wait.  Someone is trying to tell me something.

What’s this?  There’s one more Friday left this year?  It’s Christmas Day?  Really?  What do we have lying around that would be an appropriate Christmas movie to cover?  That one?  REALLY?

Um…  well.  I guess my job isn’t done for 2020.  I just got my next B-Movie Enema placed in my hand.  What movie will I be talking about?  Oh, just this little remake that seemed to make some pretty big waves in the horror community last year.  It seemed to mostly divide people and where the division was mostly seen was between sociopolitical ideologies.  That said, I saw critics from all over the spectrum in terms of political or social mindsets also find this movie to be kind of not very good at all.

That said, be here next week, on Christmas Day so we can all celebrate a very merry Black Christmas!  Merry Christmas, you assholes!

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