Sunday, 29 May 2011

Double Target

Strike Commando would not be the first (and certainly not the last) time Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso would rip-off Rambo: First Blood Part II; Double Target is slightly outgunned by the more famous Strike Commando, but is a more tightly put-together movie, with just enough plagiarism. With Strike Commando and similar Rambo-styled movies much loved around these parts, how does Double Target hold up?

Taking up the helm as the bulletproof force of American strength this time around is Miles O’Keeffe; O’Keeffe plays Robert Ross (less impressively known as “Bob Ross” throughout the film, though he's an artist with the bazooka here), a Vietnam veteran (what else?) who had a short relationship with a Vietnamese woman before her death and now wants to bring his son back to the States, but is unable to due to official circumstances. His attempt to persuade a councilor to get his son back invariably leads to an encounter with one Russian colonel Galckin (Bo Svenson) before being rescued by American forces. Ross is dropped in front of Senator Blaster (Donald Pleasance) and is given the mission of going into Vietnam to confirm their suspicions of Russian activity, Ross takes this opportunity to also get his son back, but Blaster has given him the limit of getting the mission done in a number of days counted on one hand, and of course, is a complete dick about things. There is an opening scene concerning suicide squads attacking various British and American military personnel, but it really does have no bearing on the story.

It’s a Rambo copy through and through, any scenes Strike Commando did not rip off get their treatment here but with slightly more dignified executions, as far as can be for an unoriginal reproduction (the movie models itself more after Rambo, rather than outright repeat what that film did). The stoic action is interspersed with plenty of cheap acting (watch out for the many instances of extras throwing themselves before a bomb blast actually happens) and oddly-inserted comedic moments that seem to welcome themselves on in. Junkies for things that explode will get their money’s worth; action scenes are delectably filled with screen-filling fireballs the way only Mattei could do them. Keep an eye out for how Robert Ross destroys an entire warehouse with a infinite grenade launcher alone, as well as how the rescue operation of a village involves the destruction of every last hut; Claudio Fragasso, your logic is boundless! Not to mention, the helicopter climax from Rambo resulting in a fistfight between O’Keeffe and Svenson aboard a chopper. Feeling higher-budgeted than most of Mattei’s other flicks, the film has actual helicopters instead of stock footage with the model of chopper constantly changing, as well as some well-masked miniature setpieces. In fact, so lacking in stock footage it is (aside from some footage that may or may not be from Strike Commando, it’s actually difficult to tell as both of these were seemingly made the same year), the only instance of actual recycled film is absolutely gratuitous; it’s a mix of shark documentary footage as well as model shark footage taken from The Last Shark, to make a laughable scene of Robert Ross blowing up one of the predators. It really brings home the film’s B-Movie quality, almost needlessly too, but it seems they had to have something to put a spin on the departure scene from Rambo.

Music, possibly recycled from a few sources, is of higher quality than Strike Commando’s synth medley and lends itself to some well-shot scenes with decent success, rendering some instances in the film quite beautiful (shocking for a film of this calibre, right? Let’s not doubt Mattei’s cinematic eye too much), while the end credits song, a love piece, inappropriately fits itself in but is welcomed thanks to all the other B-grade antics before it. While Miles O’Keeffe is lacking the transcendent exuberance of Reb Brown’s Mike Ransom, he has enough charm to carry the film on his husky-toned sharpness, making up for his wooden style fairly well. Donald Pleasance, no alien to B-Movies despite his major actor status, only ever appears in one set in the entire film, giving the impression all his scenes were shot first so he could get out early, and given O’Keeffe’s performance’s similarity to Snake Plisken (not to mention, not looking a hell of a lot different), he probably felt he was still on the set for Escape from New York. Bo Svenson lazily gets by with an evil grin throughout and an accent that can’t quite decide whether it’s fake Russian or not, he has quite the cold look at least. Other actors include stalwarts and extras of Italian exploitation, such as Mike Monty reprising the exact same role as he did in Strike Commando as the Col. Trautman rip-off, Massimo Vanni rocks his Chuck Norris look as a Russian battling his friend Ottaviano Dell’Acqua, who appears in this as a Belgian aid to Ross. Let’s not forget the pseudonymous Edison Navarro as Ross’ son, acting just as awfully as he did in Strike Commando too. There are plenty of ineptly shot scenes that punch up the questionably unintentional comic factor (the amount of opportunities Ross should be easily gunned down, such as Galckin having his gun right next to his head during a bizarre escape scene), balanced out with some impressive aesthetics, with Miles O’Keeffe smugging his way through the action. It’s an instant recommendation for fans of B-grade cheese and 80s action, Double Target hits everything right.

-James, 22 July 2010 (original date)
  • Explosions: 4/5
  • "FUCK YEAH": 5/5
  • Gratuitous shark: 3/5
Review source: Japanese VHS
Screenshot source: Japanese VHS

Title information
  • Production company: Flora Films
  • Year of release: 1987/88
Alternative titles:
  • Los Heroes Jamas Se Rinden <The Heroes Never Surrender> (Argentinia)  
  • Double Target - Cibles à abattre <Double Target - Targets to Kill> (France)
  • Der Kampfgigant <The Giant Fight> (West Germany)
  • ダブル・ターゲット, "Dabaru taageto" <Double Target> (Japan)

1 comment:

  1. Great write-up! Looks like a blast! Will have to track down a copy.