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Article Archive >> Entertainment

Movies From the Black Lagoon: Light Blast

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Light Blast - 1987, Rated R
By Tom Doty
Weekly Contributing Writer

A maverick cop goes way outside the rules of conduct to bring down a terrorist that is threatening the city of San Francisco in this late 80's action-fest from Italian genre kingpin Enzo Castellari (Inglorious Bastards).
The film starts a wee bit slowly with opening credits playing over establishing shots of a rail yard. They establish the heck out of the location by the time two teens show up to make out in an empty rail car. While the teens behave like they were camping out in a horror movie an ominous van pulls up and a crew of dudes (rocking Harry Reams' style moustaches) set up a laser cannon. The device proves quite effective at melting humans and rail into an inextinguishable pudding.
Turns out these cats are planning to extort five million dollars from the city of San Francisco. Dr. Suboda leads them. He's a mad scientist who bucks the stereotype (he can shoot like an expert marksman and manages to put two rounds into the face of the driver whose car is bearing down on him on the down slope of a San Franciscan street). They send the mayor a note and promise one more demonstration of their power.
Meanwhile, we get to meet our hero when a bank robbery turns into a hostage situation. The thieves order the cops to send in some food. They cleverly decide to add that the officer assigned to bring the food in wear nothing but a Speedo. Detective Ron Warren (admittedly not the coolest action hero name) gets the assignment and waltzes up to the bank in nothing but a pair of slingshot briefs. He has chosen a roast turkey over French fries for lunch. That may sound odd but you don't have to think to hard about where he stashed his gun. Turns out the southern end of a gobbler also makes for an effective silencer.
Warren is assigned the case no duh. The demonstration, unfortunately, goes off as planned and toasts the spectators at a stock car race. Now they have mad Warren a little irked and he turns up the heat. It doesn't take him long to get under the terrorists skin. The bad guys retaliate by making the biggest mistake a villain can make when going up against a cop who plays by his own rules - kill his wife and make it personal.
While these results aren't so good for Warren they work out well for the audience. Now you're treated to several car chase sequences in a city that was made for them. Follow this with some graphic gun fights and finish it all up with the villain getting pushed in front of his own weapon chaser and you have a by-the-number action flick that doesn't skip a beat.
The downside is that they have a limited budget but they compensate by delivering the action goods. They don't give you the best villain (he's obviously dubbed) but the hero is definitely action movie worthy. They wisely go with a television star who made his bones playing a cop on TV and is ready for an unrestrained version of that familiar archetype - the tough guy cop - for this role they wisely chose - Erik Estrada. The "CHIPS" star is perfectly cast and quite believable. Unfortunately, this formula for an action film wouldn't gain popularity until Bruce Willis did it a year later (while moonlighting on a detective series) in "Die Hard". Too bad Estrada's film didn't take off since Willis was too image-conscious to try anything like the turkey stunt that introduces the Ronn Warren character. Sequels to this film would have been a lot of fun as the influences include those psychedelic spy films that Italy did so well in the 60s. Give me a villain with a laser cannon any day over a heist film that amounts a to a body count flick. Still in all the super cop vs. terrorists formula owes a lot to Erik Estrada, that's right I went there.
Best line: "I have overestimated the intelligence of the city officials at the police department."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail and to read to children every Wednesday at 10:30am at Borders in Hagerstown. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@myactv.net.

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