Movies From the Black Lagoon: Jungleground

Movies From the Black Lagoon
Jungleground - 1995, Rated R

Direct to video action movies don't get much better than this "Escape from New York" type tale of an honest cop tangling with a colorfully dressed street gang.
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper stars here as detective Jake Cornell. Despite the character's generic tough guy name Piper plays him as a thoughtful dude who takes no pleasure in beating copious amounts of snot out of whoever stands in his way. Cornell's a product of the streets, having been orphaned in the titular ghetto, and he's called in to help an F.B.I. Agent who wants to smash a drug ring. Cornell reluctantly agrees to allow the agent to accompany his team as they pose as drug dealers to entrap the top gang in Jungleground, the Ragnarockers.
The gang is right out of Walter Hill's "The Warriors" with each member sporting a cool handle (Thor, Dragon, Odin, etc.) and rocking enough leather to make cows an endangered species. Turns out that these tough guys are actually against drugs and don't want their community poisoned which puts the kibosh on the sting operation. The deal gets soured further when the agent turns out to have an itchy trigger finger which results in a bullet festival that sees all of the cops dead except for Cornell. He briefly escapes but can't get far in gang territory and is soon trussed up and brought to the gang's leader, Odin, for sentencing.
Cornell receives an old school punishment, which amounts to being tarred, and feathers (here it's slimed and then adorned with tin cans) and then he's allowed to try and head for home whilst being tracked by seven members of the gang.
What follows are several high octane chases, gun fights, and narrow escapes as Cornell must high tail back to his part of the city before two gang goons kill his girl friend come dawn. It turns out to be a long night for everyone involved and Cornell's street smarts come in handy but his best asset turns out to be a young hooker who opts to help him out if he'll steer her towards a better life.
It all works thanks to excellent night time photography and a strong sense that Cornell is a decent dude who has the strength of will to see any challenge through. The urban landscape is also well rendered and you can't ask for better villains than a gang of toughs who are trying to emulate Norse gods. The film's biggest asset is Piper who proves that he has some acting chops on top of his athletic ability, which was honed during a career of professional wrestling. Die-hard Piper fans will, no doubt, miss his acid tongue but this character isn't the mean spirited type that Piper played to perfection in the wrestling world.
Here's hoping that Roddy gets back on the stick and pops up in more action fare before too long.
Best Line: "I'm sure they'll be a force to reckon with when they hit puberty."

Tom Doty occasionally emerges from the Lagoon to check his e-mail. If you'd like to get a message to him, write to: dotyfox@pennswoods.net.