Wednesday, April 30, 2008

BLASTFIGHTER... Where Have You Been All My Life?

DT's Adventures in Undiscovered Trash continue with BLASTFIGHTER, an unbelievably entertaining Italiano actioner that I'm shocked I'd never seen. Until today.

Directed by Lamberto Bava with lets-blow-shit-up gusto that would make James Glickenhaus and Sam Firstenberg proud, BLASTFIGHTER had always confounded me both with its sci-fi-sounding title and box cover art that made it look like a post-apoc flick. Not surprisingly, I learned while reading TOUGH TO KILL – David Zuzelo and Paul Cooke's infectiously enthusiastic look at 80s Italian action cinema whose cover is graced by BLASTFIGHTER box art – that the flick was pre-sold with that title while a last-minute rewrite spun its story in an entirely non-sci-fi direction. (By the way, I'll be writing more about Zuzelo & Cooke's TTK in the near future.)

Tiger Sharp (Michael Sopkiw of AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK and Bava's DEVIL FISH) is released from prison after serving eight years for killing a worthless scumbag who shot Tiger's partner and murdered his wife. Though inexplicably protected by a smooth lawyer who planned to alibi him, the scumbag hood finds himself on the wrong end of Tiger's revolver and the cop goes away for his crime.

Shit like that's gotta make a man want revenge, but Tiger suppresses his rage at the lawyer-turned-politician who helped put him away and passes up a shot to kill him real good with a gun provided by his cop buddy. And not just any gun... it's a gun worthy of the name "Blastfigher". Big, bad and capable of blowing you to kingdom-come, even Tiger realizes the awesome potential of The Blastfighter and hides it under the floorboards of his backwoods Georgia cabin. Presumably to be used later.

Despite being a "sonuvabitch who just wants to be left alone" Tiger must deal with a posse of redneck idiots (led by a guy in Ambervision shades) that are depleting the local animal population in the name of Chinese herbal remedies. After several ever-escalating confrontations with the gang, Tiger learns that his old pal Tom (George Eastman aka Luigi Montefiori) is now BMAH (Big Man Around the Holler) and views the animal slaughter as a way to keep his brother (Mr. Ambervision) and his goons employed and relatively out of trouble.

Neither this, the slaughtered animal in his car, nor the half-assed attempts on his life sit well with Tiger and all hell eventually breaks loose, turning BLASTFIGHTER into an action-packed backwoods chase flick. Initially it's Tiger that is hunted, but once the tables turn and The Blastfighter is put into action, the blasters become the blasted. Along for the blood-splattered ride are Valentine Forte as the mysterious woman from Tiger's past and various sacrificial lambs like future director of THE CHURCH and frequent Spaghetti splatter victim Michele Soavi.

While Bava is far better known for horror efforts like DEMONS, the giallo A BLADE IN THE DARK, and even the monster shark flick DEVIL FISH (aka MONSTER SHARK) I was pleasantly surprised at his ability to keep the pace lively throughout BLASTFIGHTER's tight running time. The small cast turns in credible performances, though Forte's character is frequently handcuffed by the cheesiest of dialogue. Sopkiw and Eastman are the real standouts, though, with the former jumping, diving and blasting his way into my heart while Eastman delivers what may be my favorite of his numerous performances, this time as the old-pal-in-the-wrong who may want to rethink that whole "blood is thicker than water" thing.

Considering my love for Bava's DEMONS, a serious hard-on for Italian action, and a seemingly endless supply of weekend nights during the 90s spent downing beers and junk cinema with equally reckless abandon, the gaping hole in my trashification represented by BLASTFIGHTER is even more of a head-scratcher.

No comments: