Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hangfire

The Action Mutant…
waits for Hangfire 2: Hangnail!


Hangfire


review by Joe Burrows


Perspective:
This past Christmas was a fairly uneventful one for TAM. I didn’t receive any new review fodder like last year, which produced the Lethal Weapon trilogy for my collection. However, I’m sure the post-holiday residuals will produce some great material that will be summarily broken down into hackneyed musings written for my enjoyment & no one else’s. That said, the start of TAM’s year brings him back to the public domain sector via Fancast.com, which offers a stellar selection of free films & TV episodes to watch (and no, this is not a cost cutting measure resembling those you have heard on the news as of late). And my first reviewed flick of the year…comes from the production team that brought the world the Barbarian Brothers vehicle Double Trouble! God Bless Us…Everyone!

The Plot, as it was:
Brad Davis (Midnight Express) plays Ike Slayton, the newly married Sheriff of a small New Mexico town. Before any honeymoon can commence, Ike’s prosecutor wife Maria (Kim Delaney) is taken hostage along with other townspeople by escaped killer/rapist Kuttner (Lee de Broux) & a posse of escaped felons. Caught in between a standoff with the convicts & a glut of National Guard soldiers led by the quite tweaked Col. Johnson (Jan-Michael Vincent), Ike teams with best bud Billy (Ken Foree) and attempts to diffuse the situation his way (which is hopefully not the “Max Power” way).

Don’t shoot me…I’m only the reviewer!:
A strange thing happened while I was watching Hangfire…I kept expecting it to suck. I mean wholeheartedly suck. Suck to the point that I would have to go order Taco Bell immediately afterwards so I wouldn’t feel as dirty as I had after watching it. Seriously, the cast consists of Jan-Michael Vincent, James Tolkan (Principal Strickland in the Back to the Future films…slacker!), George Kennedy, Yaphet Kotto, Lou Ferrigno and Lyle Fucking Alzado!...tell me this doesn’t sound like a Cannonball Run flick to you? And yet, Hangfire is much like the Krevoy/Stabler production I mentioned in the opening paragraph, as it’s quick, somewhat breezy Action fare that doesn’t overstay its welcome. It takes the whole “convicts busting out & raising hell” premise (done with a far bigger budget in Con Air) and does modestly well with low funding, squeezing a good amount of shootouts from it. The menagerie of former award winners & B flick luminaries actually fare well for the most part, though Kennedy & Kotto’s roles are fairly glorified cameos that take up about seven minutes of screen time combined. Davis & Foree have good buddy chemistry for the most part, even if Davis tends to be a bit dull in the lead. The solution to that quandary is to have a great villain to pick up the slack and de Broux plays the part in all of its slimy, over the top glory. You can tell he’s having fun with the role & he gets some great support from Tolkan as his confidant-in-arms. And who can’t appreciate JMV cracking tough guy lines in a slightly bent fashion (“I think we should march right in there and kick ‘em in the balls!”)? Things start to sputter around the end though, as the final confrontation in a helicopter comes off looking awkward (lots of long shots) & ends rather anticlimactically. In turn, the end’s a little too neat but it ends up fitting in with the already light tone of the movie. If you don’t mind your Action films being very digestible & compact for a rainy day afternoon, Hangfire will work for a decent 90 minute fix and may offer a surprise or two along the way.

Character/Supporting Actor Sighting!:
- Fred Schneider (lead singer of The B-52s) is Attorney Allen. There goes a narwhal! (err…narwhal noise).

Body Count/Violence: 28. Hangfire starts things off with a moderately gory shower stabbing & continues to bring the blood on an intermittent basis. Most of it comes about by shooting, with at least one character getting it point blank in the head. The film also sports a nice car crash, some strangling, explosions, fighting, etc. It’s nothing to get crazy over but it’s enough to satiate as well.

Sexuality/Nudity: None. Who would have thought Delaney would flaunt her body more on TV & not in B movies such as this?

Language/Dialogue: Some occasional F bomb usage, as well as Kuttner calling Maria “bitch” while trying to “seduce” her. Ok, so those scenes kind of reminded me of the local gym teacher trying to come on to a hot MILF. And not in the slightly uncomfortable, yet still funny Coach McGurik on Home Movies type of way.

How bad was it?:
Being a not-so-widely-seen feature, there aren’t many reviews or feedback on Hangfire. What’s there is pretty mixed, with exactly one decent review and one bad fan feedback message.

Did it make the studio’s day?:
Filmed on the cheap in Santa Clarita, California, Motion Picture Corporation of America released Hangfire on video (through the Columbia/TriStar label) on 8/7/91. No box office/budget figures are public & it is only available on VHS (for as low as $1.49 on Amazon…or for FREE!).

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

Copyright 2009 The Action Mutant.

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