Sunday, March 23, 2008


The Action Mutant…
McBain! No, Armstrong!


review by Joe Burrows

As I sit here on an Easter Sunday, I have to reflect on good ol’ Uncle Menachem. Golan, that is. You know the Jews were freed so men like him could grace us with exploitation fare and always have someone get shot up or get their ass kicked. There were always goodies in Uncle Menachem’s Easter basket: Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson, low rent He-Man and Superman and an occasional prestige pic. His output is not what it used to be and his old headquarters are not in existence anymore. However, we can all pray for the day that Bronson rises from the dead and graces us with one more Death Wish feature and smites the punks that still infest our fair cities.

The Plot, as it was:
Frank Zagarino (Project: Shadowchaser) stars as Rod Armstrong (heh, Rod), a former Navy Seal that is now providing protection for Gen. Zukov (the indomitable Richard Lynch) in Moscow. While there, he runs into old superior Robert Zorkin (Charles Napier) but they are both ambushed by some mobsters and Zorkin is murdered. They were searching for a tape in Zorkin’s possession that proves Russian higher ups have been smuggling nuclear missiles in for sale. It’s up to Armstrong and Zorkin’s comely widow Susan (Kimberly Kates) to keep the tape out of the wrong hands and stop the plot.

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
Aside from some plentiful skin (see below) and a nice chase sequence, there isn’t much going on in Armstrong, which has nothing to do with the astronaut or the stretchy toy with the same last name. I could see Zagarino play a live action version of Stretch…or being Jack Bauer’s stand in (ironically, Armstrong’s hotel number in the film is 24). However, Zags doesn’t possess any of that trademark Bauer intensity here, which makes for a pretty bland hero. As I said, the chase sequence at the film’s midway point is fairly well done for a low budget actioner and is really the only time the film comes alive. After that, it’s all assembly line stuff, with everything from the usual stock scenes (the overdone “assassination attempt at the opera” one) to the all too predictable end. The production also shows its worth in its budget and credibility (my, Rod’s apartment took that grenade very well…not a scratch in it!). Napier and Lynch (who looks to be suffering from a case of permanent psoriasis) are there for the check and Kates is great to look at but that’s about it. Joe Lara (as the mobster dubbed Ponytail) chews the scenery and seems to be the only one to show any energy in the proceedings (though that may have to do with the heat in this one….this must have been the sweatiest movie since JCVD in Kickboxer). All in all, Armstrong is reminiscent of an old Golan production (it should; he co directed and co wrote this) but its not 1985 and we’ve seen the old “commies are out to destroy the world” formula before…and done loads better.

Body Count/Violence: 35. However, a third of them are the dreaded “after the fact corpses”, so things aren’t as satisfying as the number shows. There’s still a good deal of bloody shooting, a fight or two, explosions, people crashing through glass, broken necks, car crashes and some throwing knives being used.

Sexuality/Nudity: Would good ol’ Uncle Menachem skimp out on the gratuitous nudity for you? Of course not! The nudity is in the form of Kates, who is full frontal and sopping wet coming out of the shower. She spends the rest of the ensuing chase sequence in a wet blouse with her pouting nipples primarily on display (though it’s obvious she’s wearing pantyhose during the chase sequence). There are also two women with their breasts popping out of their tops during a party scene.

Language/Dialogue: Occasionally strong but not too bad.

How bad was it?:
I only read viewer feedback (no reviews available) and it was mostly negative, saying that it was bad even for its low standards.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Filmed in Bulgaria in the summer of 1997, Armstrong was distributed by Nu Image Films and released on video in the U.S. on 7/28/98. As you’d guess, there are no money figures of any kind in the public, though this fairly low budget pic probably made a profit.

Film: *1/2/*****
Entertainment value: **1/2/*****

Copyright 2008 The Action Mutant.

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