Mission Kill (1987)

Just when you didn’t think David Winters Winter could get any better, things heat up with this mid-80s action spectacular with an all-star cast!

Welcome back to B-Movie Enema and the third week of this theme month celebrating the man, the myth, and the legend, David Winters! This week, I’m looking at 1987’s Mission Kill. Hoo boy do I have lots to talk about with the cast of this movie. However, I guess we should talk a little bit about the date of release for this movie.

I have put 1987 as the year of this movie and referred to it as 1987’s Mission Kill. If we want to get a little pedantic about this, I guess I could say it’s 1985’s Mission Kill. That’s what IMDb has it listed for. That’s what will show up in everyone’s filmography, but it really kind of is 1985 when this movie was originally released. It played in France at the Cannes Film Festival in May of 1985. It then went to West Germany 13 months later. Another 13 months later, it was in Japan. It wasn’t until December of 1987 before it got released on video in the United States. Is it possible it played here in either 1985 or 1986 in theaters? Maybe. But we’re going with that 1987 date, okay? Okay.

But it’s the cast of this movie that draws me to it more than anything else. Cameron Mitchell is in this movie. Is there anything more I could possibly say than Cameron fuckin’ Mitchell? How could I not be drawn to that on that name in the cast alone?

However, our main stair is one Robert Ginty. Ginty is kind of a peculiar actor. He’s not exactly well known for his charisma. He’s sometimes even kind of mush-mouthed when it comes to his line delivery. He’s just generally has this sleepy way about him. That said, his credits go back to 1974. In the 70s, he spent a lot of time on TV. His maybe biggest breakout role was as Thomas Anderson in 22 episodes of the first season of The Paper Chase. It was about John Houseman being a jerk professor that really held his law students to the fire to make them, I dunno, probably better at being law people? Anyway, after that, Ginty was in quite a few movies in the 80s – most notably The Exterminator and The Exterminator 2, White Fire, and Warrior of the Lost World. The last one got lampooned on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The others got lampooned on RedLetterMedia’s Best of the Worst show.

Interesting fact is that Ginty also did some directing, mostly in television. He directed the 1995 TV movie Here Come the Munsters. His Marilyn Munster was Christine Taylor who would be most famous for being the 90s Marcia Brady and also for being in Night of the Demons 2. She probably did other things too.

We have a couple babes in this movie. First up is Olivia d’Abo who is probably best known to people my age as Kevin Arnold’s cute but hippie dippy sister Karen on The Wonder Years. She played the nerdy girlfriend of Garth in Wayne’s World 2. She also appeared as Amanda Rogers in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “True Q” as a super smart student who just happens to have some Q powers. She probably did some other things. Our other babe is Merete Van Kamp who was born in Denmark. She didn’t do too much but she was in Poison Ivy: The New Seduction and that is awesome.

Another recognizable lady in this is Brooke Bundy. Most of her credits were on TV, but she did have a recognizable role in two movies – A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. In those, she played the mother of Kristen Parker. Kristen was played by Patricia Arquette in the third movie and Tuesday Knight in the fourth. Bundy also appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But to find her, you gotta go way back to the second episode, “The Naked Now”. In that, she was the lady in engineering who got frustrated when a drunk guy pulled all the chips out of the engineering computer. It was fun times. We had fun times in those really bad early episodes of TNG, didn’t we?

Anyway, let’s get into Mission Kill where Ginty plays an ex-Green Beret who probably has to bash heads while a buddy of his tries smuggling arms into a South American country that one of our ex-presidents would likely call a shithole.

Man… Things start off fast with Ginty’s name and the title appearing within 10 seconds of this copy I have. That is followed up immediately with us knowing this is a David Winters film. I… I mean, we knew that because this article is happening during David Winters Winter, but I’m just saying… So, 78 seconds into this film, we get the below quote from William Faulkner when he won the Nobel Prize in 1950. What does it mean? Who knows. Will it mean anything in the long run for this movie? I couldn’t tell ya. I can say it sure sounds smart so… Yeah, I guess that’s something.

After the quote, a reporter is working on a story talking about about how the current president of this South American country is delaying the democratic elections. The guy is citing continued unrest and guerilla activities for the delay. As the shot pans out of the reporter’s room, we see chaos on the street. These armed guerillas are smashing the windows of a bus on the street. They have people drug out of their cars and getting beat up. They’re stringing people up by the necks in trees. It’s nuts.

Then, we go to America. Here, we see someone carefully placing explosives into drilled holes in brick, mortar, and concrete. Then, we see a building getting demolished. The demolisher? Fuckin’ Robert Ginty. He talks about how it’s kind of amazing that he gets paid more to tear down buildings than the guys who designed and built them. He also says in his voiceover (kind of the last guy who should have a V.O. in a script) that he’d do it for free.

Here’s the thing about Ginty. I think he’s kind of looked at as a slightly cleaner cut version of a Sylvester Stallone. You know what I mean? He’s kind of mush-mouthed. He’s kind of a not great emoter. He’s got a little bit of a reputation of playing a tough guy. He’s just lacking the more natural charisma of a Stallone.

Anyway, Ginty’s character, J.F. Cooper, goes to have dinner with Harry. Harry is dishin’ out drinks. Of course that can only mean one thing… Harry is played by Cameron Mitchell.

Harry gets a phone call and reacts oddly to it. He tells his kid to stay put and not get the phone. HE will get it. He even tells his wife, Katie (Brooke Bundy), to stay put. J.F. explains to Harry’s kid, Glenn, that he and Harry served in Vietnam. Harry was his demolitions instructor. After Glenn leaves the room, J.F. asks Katie what’s the deal with Harry. She tells him that Harry must be in something of a bad way. It’s like he needs money or something. It’s possible he’s doing something illegal or dangerous.

As soon as Katie goes to bed, J.F. asks what Harry’s up to. Harry is smuggling guns. That seems… particularly bad. But goddammit! Harry wants to go out and have a good time with his war buddy. Where does Harry take J.F. to have fun? Well, if you’ve seen enough of the movies that Cameron Mitchell makes, it should not surprise you one bit that his character takes his pal to a place called the Little Nashville Club where they have a Confederate flag hanging up and there’s a hay bale ring where girls wrestle in mud or oil or something. Of course, that’s where we’ll find Ginty and Mitchell going to celebrate.

Naturally, Cameron Mitchell has ringside seats.

Now starting to sound a little soused, Harry tells J.F. that there’s nothing wrong with this gun-running. He says he’s helping the guerillas with weapons because the guy running that South American country is the one who causes all the chaos on the streets. If he thinks you’re one of the rebels, you’re fucked. He’ll string you up from the lamp posts and the trees. J.F. says that Katie is really worried because she thinks this will get him killed. He says that he wants to make that money because Katie is much younger than he is (no shit), and he worries she ain’t gonna stick around in the middle of nowhere with an old man and his kid that isn’t even hers.

Having enough of that talkin’ shit, and I kid you not, Cameron Mitchell decides to jump into the oil wrestling ring with the ladies and rolls around with them while all the rednecks in the bar whoop and holler and waive their cowboy hats in the air.

The next morning, J.F. tells Katie that he couldn’t do anything more. Harry is dead-set on doing the smuggling business. She asks why he’s doing it, and he tells her it’s for her, but doesn’t give all those extra details that she could probably be doing better than an old, kind of out of shape Cameron Mitchell. So Harry and J.F. ship off for ten days to get guns to South America.

We go back to Santa Maria, the country that Harry sends guns to. We get more commentary from our reporter, Bingo Thomas. He reports that the rebels are doing pretty well. Out in the countryside, the rebels are in control. However, President Ariban is killing everyone immediately who might be suspected of helping the rebels. Bingo says that anyone who might be visiting there from the United States should do so at their own risk. When they get to the border, they are searched and when the border people see the guns they are hauling, they make a call to a guy who is making a deal for weapons. Seeing how he’s in a tracksuit, I’m not sure this guy is a good guy.

The border dudes let Harry and J.F. pass through, but not before putting what appears to be a tracking device on the trailer they are hauling. They continue on the road and heavily armed dudes block their path and basically hijack the trailer. In the ensuing skirmish, Harry appears to be shot and they knock the cab off a cliff with both Harry and J.F. inside.

No one should survive that tumble, but somehow they both do. Well, Harry is in real bad shape. He’s asking J.F. to promise him to look after his son. Harry dies in J.F.’s arms later that night and Cameron Mitchell is no longer our big hero of the movie.

Later that night, J.F. decides to one-man killing force this whole place. He breaks the necks of two guards real fast. I guess this Australian or British fella who hijacked them must be a mercenary on the payroll of the president of Santa Maria? I guess? Whatever, we don’t really find out too much because J.F. pours a bunch of gasoline into the guy’s little shack and blows him up. I like the idea that we have a little bit of a revenge plot here in this first act. After murdering a bunch of people in pretty awful ways, he snags the guy’s British passport and puts his picture into it.

Okay, so… The guy who was in the tracksuit making deals is Senior Borghini. He hired the guy that J.F. just murdered, Kennedy, to hijack those guns. He is now aware that both the weapons and Kennedy are missing. The one thing I don’t really know is who Borghini is. Is he on the president’s side, or the rebels, or is he just an interested third party? I guess that’s why they movies that are longer than 30 minutes so we can find out answers to questions.

While on the road, Ginty discovers a woman whose car is out of gas about 15 miles short of the gas station. Now, this lady is pretty good looking. Here Ginty is in a foreign country, driving a truckload of guns to smuggle to rebels, yes? He sees a pretty blonde on the side of the road who happens to speak pretty good English and knows exactly where the gas station is. What’s he do? Picks her up. Is it a bit on the nose that her bag says “Jackpot” on it?

She introduces herself as Sydney. He introduces himself as Ian Kennedy – the guy who took all of Harry’s guns earlier. He takes her to the gas station. This looks inviting as there is an upside down, smoking car. She says, “Yeah, I don’t think I want to stay here. Let’s keep moving.” So they do. I guess they found a place to camp for the night and also to fuck. The rebels wake them up and say they will check over the guns and let them go. Because of the tracker on the trailer, Ariban’s army swoops in and arrests everyone that isn’t killed.

We learn from Bingo that the UK knows nothing about Ian Kennedy. We also learn that executions for everyone captured is set for later that week. Now… Call me stupid or too much of an over-thinker, but wouldn’t you want to execute these people as soon as possible? I mean movie heroes often have a knack of escaping before they’re executed. But what do I know?

Bingo goes to visit J.F. in prison and asks him for his story. If he will cooperate with him, Bingo can get J.F. out of prison. J.F. is told that Ariban is telling everyone that “Ian Kennedy” is part of a foreign plot to take over Santa Maria. Bingo spins this yarn about how he can make J.F. a hero that will get a lot of people back in the States on his side. As it turns out, J.F. doesn’t really need Bingo’s help. The rebels are already there to bust open the prison walls to get him out with the rest of the captured freedom fighters. Interestingly, one captive does not escape with them.

Hmmm… Curious.

Borghini goes to see Ariban. He says that he’s increased all sorts of guard and defensive measures. Borghini is that kind of guy who blows a lot of smoke up the president’s ass. He says that the president is safe. He’s done this and that and the other. He also says the rebels are obviously growing weaker. Ariban is pissed and doesn’t believe any of this. Sure, maybe the rebels didn’t get their last shipment, but they aren’t as kept to the countryside as Borghini claimed. They are also seemingly stronger than what the public knows.

Senior Borghini doesn’t seem to quite have the same stomach for the harsh rule that Ariban has. Ariban has decided to increase executions of suspected rebels and sympathizers. Borghini asks, probably correctly, how increasing executions will prevent people from siding with the rebels even more than they might already. Ariban is just wanting to hold onto power by any means necessary. There is somebody else here at this execution that we just saw with J.F. and she thinks that while Borghini is a pragmatist, el Presidente is a patriot.

I’m gonna be real honest here. I feel like this movie has a pretty paper-thin plot while also having too much shit going on without much explanation. Okay, I get it that there is some sort of rebellion going on in a country that I thought was a South American country but also maybe it’s a Central American country? I mean Cameron Mitchell and Robert Ginty drove from wherever in the United States to Santa Maria. Do you have any idea how long it would take to drive from anywhere in the United States to South America? I’ll give you a hint… A real long fuckin’ time. But I digress. I understand the rebellion and dictatorial shit going on. That’s easy-peasy.

But where things get a little goofy is why would Ginty immediately take on this job with Mitchell? Arguably, gun-running is maybe one of THE most dangerous jobs in the world. Especially if you are doing this into an active civil war. He just decided over a beer and some oil wrestling that he was on board? Then, when we first met Senior Borghini, he seemed to be kind of a dangerous dude. Now, he seems the far wimpier of the government people. Then Sydney? Oh, yeah, her last name is Borghini too. What’s her deal? Why did she end up in the truck with Ginty? How did she know he was going to be there when Senior Borghini didn’t know where the truck was? Was she using the tracker? Then why couldn’t the elder Borghini? I dunno. I also don’t know what her relationship to anything is. Is she trying to get into the Presidential suite that is the president’s pants? Is she already in his pants? Did she fuck Ginty? They looked like they probably slept together. I don’t have much hope of getting answers to any of these things.

I do know one thing – Olivia d’Abo looks good as a brunette.

The rebels debate what to do with J.F. They want him to leave first thing in the morning and leave the country. He doesn’t want to. He has personal business to take care of. Now, instead of saying he wants to find the guys who got his buddy killed, he just says he has personal reasons to stay. I hate shit like that. Anyway, the rebels don’t want anything to do with J.F. regardless of what he says his business is.

Anyway, the guys they were supposed to meet to help get J.F. out of their hair gets gunned down. The rebels get trapped by Ariban’s men. They gun down the rebel leader and the little girl next to him trying to protect him. I don’t know if you realize it yet, but Ariban’s guys are bad dudes. I thought the execution of political enemies was one thing, but killing a little girl in cold blood? That’s some pretty bad shit.

Ginty springs into action and wipes out Ariban’s men single-handedly and sees the dead girl and leader of the rebels and clinches his fist in anger and disgust. Man, I guess this rebellion is exceptionally easy to lead. Just shoot up a bunch of guys and pick up a dead girl and ask Olivia d’Abo which side of the revolution the dead girl was on, and you’re leading real change in Santa Maria!

While I do feel as though the whole hero building thing around J.F. is kind of a subplot that is a little bit much for this movie and it detracts a lot from the primary thing that is going on, there is some interesting commentary around war reporting. Bingo comes to the camp now that J.F. is the leader of the rebellion. He shows him a story he sent along the wire and was picked up by something like 120 papers across the United States. But most of it is bullshit. Not all of it, but there is a lot of embellishment that makes J.F. this kind of larger than life John Wayne type. However, he’s selling something terrible like war to people who are reading or watching along as if it’s a movie or harmless entertainment. It’s making Bingo money and a lot of notoriety for himself too. He’s basically using J.F. Cooper as his ticket to wherever he can ride it. It’s a little slimy and it can certainly paint a picture that hides a lot of truth from outsiders. I like the concept. I like that part of the movie. I just don’t know if it belongs in THIS movie. This is relatively cheap and direct-to-video kind of entertainment. I’m expecting way more shooting and blow-em-ups and what have you. I don’t think the heavy-handed stuff is as much of a perfect fit as we might want it to be in this action exploitation stuff.

We finally learn a little more about hard ass Inez, the character Olivia d’Abo plays. Now, if I understand all this right, I think d’Abo was a teenager when she made this movie. She looks and acts beyond her age. If we were going by that 1985 date on IMDb, she would only have been maybe 15 or 16 when she made this movie. She’s not too bad here. She does seem like a desperate rebel trying to lash out at a cruel system. I’m for it. But when she was younger, she was taken to Ariban as one of the young girls procured for the president to have his way with (yuck). That’s kind of his thing. Also, that’s one of the big things Senior Borghini does for the president – he finds the girls to send to the gross president. Because of all that, she would love to be the one to get close enough to Ariban to kill him. J.F. tries to soften her anger by saying it’s worth dying for someone she loves, but it’s really not worth it to die for someone she hates.

There may be some trouble on the horizon because after he gives her that sage advice, he kisses her softly on the forehead and then hugs her very sweetly. While I think we are supposed to think that maybe they were in an romantic embrace, I don’t think it was. However, one of the rebels, Carlos, is watching and looks pretty upset about that embrace. Anyway, the rebels are continuing to score victory after victory. J.F. is asked why he’s helping like he is, especially being an outsider and all, he says that there’s an important guy here in this country that is responsible for the death of someone he cares about and he will get to that person and kill him no matter what he has to do.

So, because this is the 80s, it’s montage time. Seeing that Ginty’s character is a demolition expert, he’s putting that to good use as the rebels are blowing shit up all over the place. Elsewhere, Ariban is pissed off about the reports about this “Robin Hood Kennedy” character. Seeing an opportunity, especially because he thinks this is Ian Kennedy, Borghini requests a chance to win this hero over to their side. That will help unify people under Ariban’s rule. But Borghini sees the picture of this hero and realizes this is NOT the Ian Kennedy he knows.

Borghini has Bingo picked up to be questioned about how to get in touch with Kennedy. He claims the man is a fiction. However, Sydney has seen this supposed Ian Kennedy and talked to him. She’s running the interrogation so she knows Bingo’s full of shit. The government begins offering money for credible information about Kennedy. Carlos agrees to meet with Borghini to give up some info to get rid of Kennedy.

Alright, all roads lead to this final plan to finally do away with Ariban and this fascist government. There is this big celebration going on for the president. There’s a bridge that needs to be taken out and one of the people who is supposed to be helping J.F. on this bridge demolition is Carlos, but he’s not shown up. That’s probably not great. Elsewhere, Inez is trying to sneak into the president’s bedroom to get close to him to do the killing thing. She begins seducing him, but Borghini comes into the room and sees that she’s holding a dagger and shoots her before she stabs him. The rebels look on and saddened by the loss of one of their best soldiers.

But, hey! Not all is lost! As Borghini and Ariban embrace, Borghini shoots the president. The rebels spring into action, but two problems happen… The bridge does not get blown and the army is ready for them. Turns out Carlos apparently sold them all the way up the river.

So, here we go with a Cannon Films-style big battle climax. Bad guys are shooting at good guys. Good guys are barely able to shoot back while under superior fire power. It’s looking pretty bad. Also, the guy who was supposed to blow the bridge was killed by Carlos. Carlos says he decided to turn on his friends because Ginty stole his friends, his family, and his revolution. Apparently, Carlos is just a little bitch.

Ready for a bummer? The president’s men fucking killed almost all the rebels and those who weren’t killed were taken hostage. The rebellion is totally squashed. Even Robin Hood Kennedy was reported killed by the army, but his body wasn’t recovered. Borghini is president now and his wife, Sydney, is the sexiest vice president ever. Apparently, Borghini plans to just keep the status quo set up by President Ariban. So… I guess nothing changes.

Well, except for the chopper pilot taking Borghini to his inauguration.

Ginty has figured out the plans of the new president’s inauguration. So he shows up as the chopper pilot and kills Borghini’s bodyguard. Borghini offers J.F. money. J.F. asks what he offered Harry. He has no idea who Harry is. J.F. asks if he lands Borghini in the middle of the plaza, that means he’ll get the money, right? Borghini agrees.

So J.F. lands him in the middle of the plaza.

That’s pretty great. You knew right away that was going to happen, but who cares. I love a guy being tossed from a helicopter. What’s even better is that Sydney leans over to someone and asks if that means she’s now president. It does, so she is now the sexiest president in the world. Good for her.

Mission Kill isn’t that great of a movie, but it’s not bad for what it is. There are interesting elements to the movie, but there also seems to be a little too much going on. I wish the main through line was the whole concept of the media making a hero out of a man who seems to fit a decent narrative and kind of stands for the heroic stuff that sells papers. That was only one piece of this movie. It almost feels like multiple movie ideas were kind of condensed into one movie. The gun-running idea was one main plot. The second main plot is the hero-maker stuff. The third main plot was the stuff with the more generic guerilla warfare rebellion. Generally, it wasn’t bad. It was mostly engaging even if I didn’t fully understand all the plans and motivations of all the characters.

What I do understand is the place our grand finale of David Winters Winter has in the larger pop culture landscape. When we come back next time, it’s time to finally put Space Mutiny onto this website. Yup. I’m gonna watch the classic 1988 sci-fi/action classic and write about it. Sure, it might be easy to constantly refer to our lead actor, Reb Brown, in the various monikers given to him throughout one of the all-time fan favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, but I’ll have to hold back. Space Mutiny should be a good time and should show exactly what happens when you’ve got something you can easily sell to cable TV and video stores but are incredibly limited on resources and money. Be back here next Friday to go out of this world into that classic!

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