Wednesday, July 20, 2016

VHS WEDNESDAY: Sibling Rivalry and Spin Kicks in MARTIAL OUTLAW (1993) starring Jeff Wincott

A week ago a fellow thrifter sent me photos of a local store packed to the brim with men's action novels featuring The Executioner, The Death Merchant, The Destroyer, Able Team, Phoenix Force and more. When I got there the next day I scooped up a few dozen titles but not before almost passing out at the sheer volume of low-budget VHS action that had also been dropped on the shelves. After breaking out in a cold sweat and initially filling my cart with about 30 tapes I collected myself and whittled the pile down to a half-dozen. Surviving the cut was this week's VHS Wednesday outing, the Kung-Fu Kane and Abel tale MARTIAL OUTLAW from director Kurt Anderson. Oh, by the way, that Troegs Nimble Giant pictured at right with the counter card that came with the VHS tape is awesome.

"We're not ever gonna be even!"

Do you have a brother? Does he bust your chops about your job? Your clothes? The gifts you buy his wife? Do you ever feel like sucker punching him in the nuts and/or doing a spinning kick that lands on his stupid face?

Then 1993's MARTIAL OUTLAW is the movie for you!

Jeff Wincott (the superb DEADLY BET, WHEN THE BULLET HITS THE BONE) stars as DEA agent Kevin White, an ass-kicking, by-the-book Fed who is set to crack a drug ring run by Rachenko (Vladimir Skomarovsky), a former KGB agent hiding his operations behind an import/export business. White plants an informant on the inside by offering him his own grocery store (!) and follows the trail down to Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, his trek to the City of Angels brings about an awkward family reunion with his older brother Jack (Gary Hudson), his alcoholic father (Richard Jaeckel), and Jack's wife Lori (Krista Errickson) who may or may not be harboring a flame for her brother-in-law.

Complicating matters is Jack's preponderance for operating on both sides of the law and it isn't long before he sees a payday from the Russians as his ticket out of town. (Yes, Jack is a complete dick who can't wait to leave his boozy pop and perky wife behind, screwing up his brother's big case in the process.)

It might come as a bit of a surprise that it required five writers to come up with MARTIAL OUTLAW'S story, especially since the last half of the flick can basically be summarized as "battling brothers kick Russian mob ass". Wincott is perfectly serviceable as the spin-kicking good guy while Hudson's smarmy bad boy demeanor (also on display in the great ROAD HOUSE) makes you simultaneously root for him and against him.

Most of the fights (courtesy of choreographer Jeff Pruitt) are nothing you haven't seen before, though the "Russian Circle" segment in which Kevin beats the shit out of about 30 guys using barbells, free weights, sticks and more is certainly the flick's action highlight.

Bonus points for Al (Endo) Leong, giant cell phones, a beefy Russian henchman who looks like Martin Kove, car wash subterfuge, Kevin's ugly shooting range sweater and lines like "Who am I? I'm the guy that's gonna nail your ass!" delivered with stone-faced sincerity.

The Republic video VHS includes trailers for INFESTED (aka TICKS) with Seth Green and Clint Howard and the jaw-dropping TERMINATOR rip-off APEX which immediately went on my radar. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and has a healthy relationship with his two older brothers. He last wrote about the excruciating NUMBER ONE WITH A BULLET for Throwback Thursday.

MARTIAL OUTLAW is available at Amazon and finer thrift stores everywhere.

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