Friday, 10 June 2011

Cop Game

With the action craze in the 80s, it's as if Bruno Mattei and his contemporaries all holidayed in the Philippines to see what they could all film in the same jungle while borrowing footage off each other. It must have been one big happy film-making, idea-chucking festival at the cost of the Philippines' jungles. Sticking to the tradition of ripping off what was hot at the time, Mattei (under his "Bob Hunter" alias here) went for something he could do while in his Filipino hot spot, and that was make a cop film set in the final days of the Vietnam war. The film going through the Italian filter was Off Limits, starring William DaFoe, a film I have admittedly not seen.

Manning the star roles are Brent Huff (Strike Commando 2) and Max Laurel (Quang from Robowar), with appearances by Romano Puppo (Cory from Robowar too) who appears to have an Italian accent here, as Captain Kirk (oh you read that right, writer Rossella Drudi must have been having a funny day), Werner Pochath, who had something of an acting career, as Col. Kasler, Candice Daly as Annie, and as always, Massimo Vani making a cameo as background filler. Most surprising of all though, is Brett Halsey as General Morris. Huff plays Morgan, a typically tough-as-nails American cop with a dangly earring while Laurel plays Hawk, a Vietnamese cop with the thin underlining of being a family man, they're an unlikely pairing but they've got each other's backs.

They've been called in by Captain Kirk, reluctantly known as "Skipper" by Morgan, to investigate a recent murder carried out on an American officer called Col. Watts by the Cobra Force, an American army unit. All signs point to the murder being orchestrated by one Major Shooman, the leader of the Cobra Force. The area where the shooting took place is in the control of Col. Kasler; Kasler tells Morgan and Hawk that Shooman definitely wants him and another officer dead, but isn't really saying why for reasons of national security (to quote Kasler directly, "it's not a pretty picture"). Kasler resides with his boy-ish bodyguard called Lodge, who does a great job at body-guarding when a drug-abusing Vietnamese street urchin knocks him out and then tries to assassinate Kasler (a bullet wound to the shoulder, something Kasler considers to be just a scratch, while his acting certainly makes it to be that way). After a good five minutes or so of the cop duo chasing the amateur assassin (and Huff spewing out unintelligible swearing while out of breath), the Cobra Force appear again to kill the assassin.

After that unsuccessful tirade, Morgan makes a call to Skipper about the current situation (Hawk has seemingly disappeared for now, "one of his kids is sick", either Drudi and Mattei REALLY wanted to emphasise the fact this guy is a family man, or Max Laurel wasn't on the set). While on the phone, a blond woman called Annie writes something I really can't read on the mirror opposite of Morgan in lipstick (if I could read the Japanese subtitles, it'd help), but he follows her and she tells him the room number of one of the Cobra Force murderers; Morgan ends up killing him before he can interrogate him (the killer gets hold of a giant machinegun but completely fails to just walk up to Morgan and spray him and instead destroys the fucking bar in his room!). Morgan and Hawk then corner Kasler to get some info out of him, who tells them that he, Col. Watts and the other one in danger witnessed Major Shooman order his men to slaughter a village of innocent Vietnamese citizens, but the American military want to keep it quiet to save face. The other officer in danger is a guy called Pierce, who is spending his night in a strip club, but uh-oh! Morgan and Hawk get there too late, the other two Cobra Force killers have done away with their next victim, so Morgan and Hawk kill the Cobra Force guys out of self-defence (Hawk punches one to death because he nearly knocked out his tooth, in Hawk's defence "I thought I was hitting him lightly!"), all this after an extremely hokey car chase!
Skipper gets pissed at how the two have kinda fucked up their mission (who in the middle of all this serious business and shouting, still reaffirms that he hates being called Skipper), General Morris orders Morgan and Hawk to go to the front to meet up with Shooman and get some answers. Shooman being Shooman, more or less kidnaps them after a brief encounter with some Vietcong troops (movie stock footage of Vietcong troops), and lives up to his reputation; he snorts coke while telling his helicopters to start bombing Vietnamese villages, all the while barking "FUCKING BEAUTIFUL", this scene enables Mattei the one-two punch of ripping off the same scene from Off-Limits, as well as the re-use of footage from his own films! Shooman tells them that Col. Watts and Col. Pierce were working for him while the Cobra Force guys doing the murders must have been traitors, Morgan takes a bullet to the arm whilst gunning and Shooman tells him to get patched up while he and Hawk will go to Saigon to meet up with General Morris. However, Shooman and Hawk are killed the next day by guys who have presumably been impersonating the Cobra Force, who have also killed General Morris. It's now up to Hawk to get to the bottom of things.

The plot is confusing, and it essentially boils down to "THE COMMIES DID IT!", which is as satisfying as any conclusion can get for trash cinema like this, in which brains come last. As per usual with Mattei, stock footage is a norm, but the abundance of the material is unprecedented here. This time, not only do we get footage snatched from the public domain of the Vietnam War, we even get a helping of clips from Strike Commando 1 & 2 and Double Target! There's probably some others in there, as this is one Mattei flick that feels really under-budgeted, as if they had a total of four locations (a hotel, a marketplace outside the hotel, a nearby jungle and a fake chopper interior). Mike Monty even makes an appearance through the magic of re-using film (note how the type of helicopter constantly changes in the Shooman scenes).

That's not all though, the car chase scene has been completely pulled from another exploitation flick, Ark of the Sun God! Which used miniatures quite impressively! Too bad the most inventive piece of film work in this is the first murder scene with the gas masks being put on the camera lenses to make it look like it's from the point of view of the killers. These inclusions easily make this feel like one of Mattei’s most incomplete and lowest budgeted works. The production values are simply inept; locations feel more limited than usual with Philippines-based actionsploitation schlock, camera shots are primarily static and many lines are very hard to make out clearly, as if they didn't use boom mics for many shoots. The biggest aesthetic offender would be how the film is so murky, with one too many scenes taking place in the dark with obscured action. That's not to say this isn't worth a view at least once, the Drudi-penned script feels just like any Fragasso screenplay with the outrageous dialogue (well, she is his wife!), there's simply too many golden lines to count ("If I want any shit from you, I'll squeeze your head!", "Gook COPS?! SHIT! This war sucks more and more!"). Brent Huff cruises on through with his baritone suaveness, though there's plenty of times in which he just shouts everything, making him awful pretty easily. Also, count the times Pochath changes facial expression. This review can't be completed without mention being made of the music; Cop Game has its own theme song! It's a deliriously 80s-centric Rock piece and it sounds awesome, even though no one is exactly credited for it other than Al Festa. The incidental music is repetitive but not bad in itself, even though the obnoxious synthesizer really numbs your brain, one piece would even later end up in Robowar it seems (or vice versa), acquiring it wasn't from a previous film already. There's two other obscure 80s songs that appear in the strip club scenes that drag themselves out a bit (this being exploitation and all, and perhaps Mattei was having a nostalgic moment for his mondo movie days). Cop Game may be one of Bruno Mattei’s worst movies, which in itself makes it a very recommended watch for lovers of trash, but its dismal action set pieces mean it stands only on how bad it is; the mildly competent Double Target and even Strike Commando at least had something holstering them up. That's not to say I could ever hate this, it's good riffing material all round.
  • Action: 2.5/5
  • Music: 4/5
  • Stock footage: 7/5  
-James, 27 March 2010 (original date)

Review source: Japanese VHS
Screenshot source: Japanese VHS

Title information
  • Production company: Flora Films
  • Year of release: 1988
Alternative titles:
  • G.I. Killer (West Germany)
  • サイゴン野獣刑事, "Saigon yajou keiji" <Saigon Beast Investigator> (This title is a tricky one, but it seems to be saying that the investigator(s) featured in the film are hardasses) (Japan)

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