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Hipster Holy Grail: Deadly Heroes (1993)

The Hipster Holy Grail is a weekly experiment where I try to find and review a movie that's at least 10 years old and has less than 1,000 ratings on IMDb. I always hope to discover something amazing. Sometimes I don't.  This week, I watched....

The Short Bit for People Who Don't Like to Read Reviews

Deadly Heroes is breezy, dumb fun that almost works as a "Not Actually Bad Movie."  However, since I can't call too many of the action scenes "good," this will have to be categorized as enjoyably bad.  It's not quite on the level of Troll 2, but if you're in the mood for a bad movie, you can have a lot of fun drinking to this one.

My Rating: 4 / 5 (Novice Bad Movie)

The Plot Summary

We open in a warehouse / laboratory.  A mad scientist / inventor type has just invented a new type of gun made entirely out of plastic, and he's showing it off to a group of four terrorists.  I'm sure they all have names, but I'm going to call them:

  • Handsome Guy: He's a tall, strong-jawed guy who seems to be in charge.
  • Lady Terror: She's a lady.
  • Wacky Guy: He's got big hair and glasses, and he wears a Hawaiian shirt. Therefore, he is wacky.
  • Boring Guy: I'll be honest.  I might have made this guy up.  I'm pretty sure there's a fourth dude, and if so, he's so bland that I can't remember anything about him except that he exists.

The terrorists are all psyched about the inventor's demonstration - and why wouldn't they be?  He's gone so far as to erect a metal detector in his lab just so he can role-play how it would look if he was sneaking into somewhere secure.

Cut to an airport in Athens.  The terrorists all show up here with their new toys (which, by the way, look like and in all probability were early '90s Nerf blasters).  They sneak around and lay low as they get ready to board a flight.

Then they briefly cross paths with Paul Cartowski, a precocious kid who's playing with a soccer ball and being all innocent and stuff.  Paul inadvertently rolls the ball toward Handsome Guy, who leans over with a smile and rolls it back to him.  However, when he leans over, Handsome Guy accidentally reveals the handle of his gun, which Paul sees.

Paul goes to warn his parents, Brad (Michael Paré) and Marcy (Claudette Mink).  Now, we'll later find out that Brad is a former Navy SEAL with possibly some experience handling terrorism, so you might expect that he has a calm and rational way of treating this situation.  But what he does is walk right out in front of the open, makes eye contact with Handsome Guy, points at him while whispering indistinctly to his son, and then - still in Handsome Guy's line of view - goes to find some security guards and whisper to them while still pointing.  It's kind of like his direction here was, "Just make it really obvious."

Needless to say, Handsome Guy realizes they've been found out, so he and the other terrorists immediately whip out their guns and start shooting.  They blast down all the security guards and start taking hostages from the terminal.  When Brad tries to grab one of the guards' guns, he is shot, too - seemingly throughout his upper body.  Brad collapses, and you think, "Wow, Paré didn't last long, huh?"

Just give him a minute.  The terrorists shove all their hostages - including Marcy - onto a bus and start driving out to the tarmac.  Then Brad sits up, shakes his head like a cartoon, and starts running after the bus.

This whole sequence is pretty funny because of how little of a shit they gave about the continuity of Brad's wounds.  Sometimes the bullets have hit him in his stomach, sometimes they hit him in the chest, sometimes they've only just barely grazed his arm....

Anyway, there's a brief little Speed sequence here where Brad manages to jump onto the bus, then grapples and climbs all over it.  He climbs under, over, around, and generally gets in the way as the terrorist try to shake him off or shoot at him.  But he's tenacious - it isn't until he flops over top of the windshield and Wacky Guy shoots him in the legs that Brad loses his grip.

While he's laying in a ditch, the terrorists cram everybody onto a jet and hold them hostage.  They issue their one demand immediately: they want their boss, Jose Maria Carlos (Billy Drago) to be released from prison.

The movie now switches gears and goes into hostage thriller mode for about ten minutes.  Various US political representatives negotiate with the terrorists and consult with President Not-On-Screen about the next step.  Eventually, fearing the loss of more human life, they capitulate and release Carlos.  He shows up at the airport and joins his friends on the airplane, and they release all the women and children.  Phase 2 of their plan is to fly to Cuba, where they will release all the men.

While this is happening, Brad is hospitalized and speedily recovers from all his gunshot wounds.  It's not stated how much time passes between the initial hostage situation and the eventual resolution, but I'm going to guess.... oh, maybe 40 hours.

Now that Brad is fully recovered (and I do mean fully - he doesn't even walk with a limp), he tries to find out what happened to Marcy.  Unfortunately, she was never found - as we soon see, Carlos has taken a liking to her and has imprisoned her in his Bad Guy Mansion where he intends to make her into a bride / sex slave.  Or at least, I assume that's the plan.  All of his interactions with her have a really rapey vibe, but the movie never actually shows him doing anything too sinister.

Cut back to Brad.  He meets up with Cody Grant (Jan-Michael Vincent), another former SEAL and a current CIA operative who was responsible for Carlos's arrest the first time around.  Brad and Grant team up to recapture Carlos and rescue Marcy.  So, sit tight Paul!  You just hang around Athens or something, I guess.  I don't know.  Maybe you can stay at your cousin's house.

They go to Cuba and get a taxi ride to a hotel from a really chatty guy named Barudi, who serves as a bit of comic relief.  While checking in / hanging out at the hotel, Brad sees Wacky Guy in the lobby, and he starts to follow him.  Wacky Guy and Lady Terror hop into car, so Brad gets Barudi to chase after them.

And now the movie does a fake-out on you - you thought it was going to be a buddy flick with Brad and Grant, right?  Wrong!  It's actually a buddy flick with Brad and Barudi.  They have some banter and then get into a car chase, which takes them all over Cuba until they finally arrive at an ominous beach / port that's secured from the public by military fencing and armed guards.  Barudi explains that this is Forbidden Beach, which is the main port of entry/exit to Bad Guy Island, which is where Carlos lives.  Nobody is allowed on Forbidden Beach.

...but Barudi's having fun, so he decides to tag along and infiltrate the place with Brad, anyway.  They sneak onto the back of a supply truck to get past the military checkpoint, and then they start skulking around.  Unfortunately, they've been pegged - the terrorists catch and detain them.

Cut to a ship bound for Bad Guy Island.  The terrorists are beating and interrogating Brad and Barudi, trying to figure out who they are and what they want.  After deducing that Barudi is just some random taxi driver, they shoot him to death and dump him overboard.  Double fakeout!  Thought you were getting a buddy flick with Barudi?  Pfft.  No.  What kind of movie would introduce a taxi driver that arbitrarily joins a high stakes military mission?

Still unsure of Brad's identity, they decide the best move is to take him into Carlos's compound and interrogate him in the most secure of all secure zones.  Just in case.  Now and again while this is happening, we cut back to Grant, who has just been dicking around at the hotel.  Grant eventually decides to go snooping and basically figures out where Brad is, but he doesn't act just yet - he instead reports back to his superiors and awaits orders.

Back to Brad.  Carlos and his pals interrogate him in the Bad Guy Mansion, and then Carlos basically just says, "Hey, I know how to figure out who he is.  Let me fax some of my buddies."  So he does - and he immediately finds out all of Brad's history.  I wish I was exaggerating, but this is literally how it goes.  I've never seen somebody just fax an exposition report into the middle of a movie before.

Carlos hatches a sinister plot.  He gets a camcorder and records footage of Brad being beaten, then gets some footage of his guys torturing Marcy.  (This is another rapey scene where they get as icky and molesty as possible, but stop just short of somebody actually saying what they're doing.  It's weird.  Not that I'm all that hot about a rape scene, but why are they handling this with such kid gloves?)  After Carlos has enough footage, he writes a letter and orders Lady Terror to mail it and the video to President Not-On-Screen in order to get some of their friends released from prison in exchange for the Cartowskis' lives.

So, now the movie decides, "You know what?  We haven't seen much of Marcy lately."  It cuts back to her recovering from her beating / totally-not-rape, and she realizes, "Hey, I'm unattended.  Time to break out."  So she puts on her clothes and opens up the closet to her bedroom, which is packed from floor to ceiling with guns and bullets.  No joke.  She actually has an indecisive moment where she struggles between which gun she wants to take, until she settles on a revolver.

Now armed, Marcy sneaks out the window and starts skulking around the mansion.  She finds a surveillance room and realizes that Brad is imprisoned in a dungeon.  Then she craftily uses a stick to pluck some keys from an inobservant guard and forces him at gunpoint to take her to Brad.  (Which begs the question of why she struggled to sneakily pluck the keys if she was just going to hold somebody at gunpoint, anyway.)

She frees Brad, and together, the two of them start sneaking out of the compound.  Triple fakeout!  It's actually a buddy flick between Brad and his wife!  They actually make a pretty fun team and get pretty far with their escape.  A lot of this is because the guards are so shitty - almost all of them are completely ignorant of their surroundings.  At one point, Brad sneaks up on four of them, who are sitting in a circle, yet somehow fail to notice Brad coming up to kill them.

Brad and Marcy almost escape - they get so far as to sneak onto a boat.  But then Carlos and his henchmen show up and hold them at gunpoint.  Brad realizes they're screwed at the moment, so he says, "Good luck, Marcy," and tosses himself overboard.  The henchmen shoot at the water, trying to hit him, but Carlos holds them off for fear that they might hit Marcy.  He recaptures her, then sends Lady Terror out to the post office on the boat.  As she sails away, we realize Brad is hanging onto the boat and is making his escape.

Quadruple fakeout!  A buddy flick between a former SEAL and his surprisingly badass wife?  Pfft!  You idiot, of course that's not what this movie is!  Don't you remember Grant, that one asshole from like an hour ago?  He's the buddy!

So, yeah, finally, at like thirty minutes before the end, Brad washes back ashore on mainland Cuba to team up with Grant - for real this time.  They go to a US naval base (didn't know there was one on Cuba, but okay) and meet up with another former SEAL who has now attained the rank of Vice Admiral.  This guy has a whole speech where he reveals that the president has received Lady Terror's letter already (Jesus, she just mailed it last night) and that he had orders to dispatch some SEALs to rescue Brad, so there's a whole team of trained guys waiting to go bust into Carlos's island, but now that Brad is here, he would be violating orders if he sent them in, and blah blah blah.  It turns into a strangely heartfelt speech about loyalty to the SEALs and how the Vice Admiral shouldn't be following crappy orders if he knows he needs to do the right thing.

So, whatever, the Vice Admiral dispatches his guys.  Commence SEAL invasion!

Pentuple fakeout!  It's not a buddy flick at all - it's a whole military team!  Brad and Grant lead the invasion, but they barely even talk to each other the whole time.  Instead, they just split off into little clusters and do their own thing.  I'm not going to do it justice by breaking out this sequence bit by bit, so I'll just say that it basically amounts to all the SEALs skulking around and dispatching the guards one by one.  It's pretty fun overall.

Eventually, they kill all the terrorists and Brad, armed with a rocket launcher, comes face to face with Carlos, who is holding Marcy at knifepoint.  The SEALs shoot Carlos in the head and free Marcy, and then she asks Brad if he would have shot the rocket at Carlos if he didn't let her go - he admits that yeah, he would've.  Sorry, honey.

This should be the end of the movie, but there's about another ten minutes that kinda just don't make any sense.  Throughout the assault, we've seen the SEALs planting explosives all around the mansion.  When they get back to the beach, they find out that all their escape vehicles are gone, and they act like it's a real problem...

...except then they just take a slightly different boat and patter away.  It's like the movie wanted to have one last bit of suspense and wasn't sure how to do it.

Anyway, once they're out of range of the island, they detonate the explosives.  The mansion goes up in flames and the movie cuts to a bunch of people fist-bumping and shouting, "Fucking A!"  SEALs, technical crews, random security guards, the vice admiral... if President Not-On-Screen was ever an actual character, I'm sure he would've been in there, too.

Uh... so then the boat runs out of gas.  And they laugh.  This is a good way to end a movie, I guess.

Then the credits roll over slow motion footage of the Cartowskis having a family hug while "I LOVE AMERICA" music plays.

What I Liked / Didn't Like

Oh, there's so much to like this week.

Deadly Heroes is chock full of idiotic moments of glee.  I was smirking and chuckling the whole way through it.  It's one of those great bad movies that sometimes feels like parody because it's so perfectly stupid.

Most if it stems from the film's glowing love of all things America.  It's the kind of uber-patriotic nonsense that is oft-attempted by ironic film junkies, but rarely replicated.  When people try to make jokes about over-enthusiastic patriotism, they forget that there is a huge group of folks out there who actually do love America this unabashedly.  They're called "immigrants."

You pretty much have to have emigrated to this country to see it with such a childishly optimistic, no-excuses-necessary sheen of hope and awe.  It's not just the chorus of "Fucking A" at the end and it's not just the wailing guitars and flapping flags - no, those are easy.  Any idiot with a pair of truck nuts can whip those out.

No, no, no, this is a movie so in love with America that it thinks Navy SEALs are indestructible beacons of hope and justice whose code of honor will save the world.  Brad isn't just a guy on a mission; he's a noble hero with a strict adherence to his code (enough that he's willing to sacrifice his wife to save the day) who can recover from multiple gunshot wounds in a matter of hours because his training was just that good.

Even when the film is critical of politics - like when the vice admiral isn't sure about his orders or when the White House gives in to the terrorists' demands - it's never angry about it.  There are no straw man characters who act like simpering pawns so the movie can laugh at useless bureaucrats.  Instead, it's like the movie is just disappointed that things worked out the way they did.  Hell, Brad's wife is kidnapped and he doesn't even get angry - he just seems annoyed that he has to go to Cuba.

I love how casually the movie switches gears as it plods along.  Every ten minutes, it decides it wants to be a different type of action movie.  It's like a premise sampler.  "What if some terrorists held a plane hostage... actually, no, what if two former Navy SEALs went to Cuba... actually, no, what if a Navy SEAL and his wife had to escape a dungeon... actually, no, wait...."

Deadly Heroes goes a step further.  It has that extra little oomph that you want out of a bad movie where there's random, memorable shit that you just don't see coming.  I only mentioned a few of those things in my plot summary, but those are the moments that bad movie fans live for.  Here's my two favorites, both of which happen during the final attack on Carlos's mansion:

1) There's a couple of guards standing on a pier who see bubbles come up from the sea.  One of them says, "Oh, it's just fish," and the other says, "No, I used to be a fisherman... these bubbles are definitely coming from men."  So they decide to blow up some sea mines just in case there's any Navy SEALs down there. The SEALs get away... but then a couple minutes later, we arbitrarily cut back to these two assholes so they can do the exact same thing.  It's great.  I love it when random idiots steal a movie for a minute or two.

2) When Grant is skulking around the compound, he keeps using a trick where he throws a coin to distract somebody, then he sneaks up on them and snaps their neck.  He does this at least three times in the movie, and when you see him try it the fourth time, you start thinking, "Wow, this is his whole shtick?"  Ah, but he's out of money, so he can't throw a coin!  What does he do?

He puts his boots under a curtain to make it look like he's very obviously hiding.  Then, when a henchman goes to the curtain to check it out, Grant sneaks up from behind and slits the guy's throat.  Then - and this is the "finish your drink" moment of the movie for me - he uses the poor bastard's corpse as a chair so he can sit down and put his boots back on.

That's the kind of stuff I can't possibly think up.  Why would you interrupt your emotional climax for that?  Because it's awesome, that's why.

I really liked this movie.  The action scenes aren't quite amazing, but there's plenty of other stuff to win you over.  Definitely check it out if you need a good drinking movie.

How Much Hipster Cred Is It Worth?

It's got a hell of a pedigree; Deadly Heroes is one of the directorial works of beloved hipster auteur Menahem Golan, he of Cannon Films fame.  This is one of the ones he made after he left Cannon and went to 21st Century Film.  It also stars Michael Paré and Billy Drago.  Those credentials alone give it 25 cred.  It gets another 10 cred for extensive use of Navy SEALs, plus an obscurity bonus of another 20 for having just over 300 IMDb ratings.

All of that adds up to 55 cred, which is respectable.  But I'm going to give it another 30 cred as a recommendation bonus, because this one definitely falls into the category of bad movies you'd love to share with friends.  Deadly Heroes is worth a total of 85 hipster cred out of a possible 100.

Where You Can Watch

If you go before it gets pulled for copyright violation, you can watch it on Youtube for free.