Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Armed Response (3½ Stars)

Burt Roth (Lee Van Cleef) is a retired police officer. His three sons served in Vietnam. After returning home from the war Jim (David Carradine) opens a bar, while Tommy (Brent Huff) becomes a private investigator and Clay (David Goss) carries out shady deals that he won't disclose to the rest of his family.

A valuable statue is stolen from Tanaka, the head of a Los Angeles gang. Tanaka agrees to buy it back from the thieves for one million dollars. Clay and his partner Cory Thornton (Ross Hagen) are hired to carry out the exchange. Cory double crosses everyone when the exchange takes place. He kills the thieves to keep the money for himself. He attempts to kill Clay, but Clay escapes with the statue heavily wounded and gives it to his father before dying. His father has no idea what the statue is or how much it's worth. Cory tells Tanaka that Clay is the one who stole the money and the statue. Tanaka believes this and decides to wage war on the Roth family.

This is a mildly entertaining film with some good acting. It was one of Lee Van Cleef's last films and one of Brent Huff's first films, both of whom are outstanding actors. Lee spent his early career typecast as a bad guy in American westerns, but from the mid 1960's onwards he specialised in spaghetti westerns in which he usually played the good guy. I've seen him in a few films, but this is the first time I've seen him in a film which isn't a western.

Brent Huff is a different case altogether. He's someone that Hollywood passed by. In his very first films he showed that he had the talent to make it all the way to the top, but somehow he was never noticed. That's tragic.

Ross Hagen is a cool character in every film he appears in. He's just so likeable. It was difficult for me to take him seriously as the bad guy in "Armed Response". He's too pleasant to be bad.

The film's weak link, as far as the acting goes, is David Carradine. I never liked him much as an actor. He had a very rigid style that might have been appropriate in "Kill Bill", but it's certainly inappropriate in "Armed Response".

As is typical for low budget direct-to-video films, the film relies on plot twists rather than big production values. Although Cory is the film's bad guy almost all the film deals with the battle between the Roth family and the Tanaka clan. I can't help feeling that when they made the film they either ran out of time or money. The end is unsatisfying. Cory is never challenged, his death is accidental. In the final scene Burt Roth says that he wonders what has happened to Cory. That isn't the way to end a film. I would have rated it higher if not for this disappointment.

I should also mention that Michelle Bauer appears in a non-speaking role as a nightclub dancer. We only see her for 20 seconds, but she always lights up any scene that she appears in.

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