Confused Views: is Back In Action the greatest movie ever made?
It stars international movie icons Billy Blanks and Rowdy Roddy Piper, so how bad can Back In Action be? Matt finds out...
“An action film starring Rowdy Roddy Piper as a cop, teaming up with a martial arts expert vigilante to take on the mob is obviously going to be the best film ever.”
That was the thought process that led to me ordering the DVD of Back In Action. If we consider my take on logic to be Tokyo, Back In Action is Godzilla, because it destroyed it, leaving behind only fiery chaos.
I realised that I had flubbed immediately after turning the DVD on. The disc menu offers three choices: Play Film, Scene Selection and Play Trailer. Play Trailer is a bluff. Having now seen the film I would say that’s understandable – how do you distil the essence of Back In Action into 90 seconds without showing explicit footage of a drunk man fucking a tree stump?
Sometimes DVD making programs can be really complicated, guys.
The film starts with a mob funeral that turns into a shootout. We’re about four seconds in before we’re faced with our first serious problem, which is that the villains are rubbish. The mob gathered at the funeral look less intimidating than a group of underweight, barely employable actors dressed up in cheap suits. Or equally as intimidating as.
The scene immediately after the funeral shoot out is a Tarantino homage, in the same way that violent diarrhoea is a tribute to delicious food. You know the saying about how enough monkeys at typewriters would be able to recreate the works of Shakespeare? Well, this is what happens when a single monkey attempts to transcribe a scene from Reservoir Dogs.
In a later scene, henchmen battle like they learned about violence by sexually fantasizing about rainbows. When they attack a small female reporter, they send in two guys. First, they arm the little one with a knife and send him after her, then, when that doesn’t pan out, they send in the big guy with the gun. As far as allocating your resources is concerned, that’s like attempting to build a sex dungeon in your front garden, then moving it to your soundproof basement after the neighbours complain.
If a villain in Back In Action can’t find time in their schedule to be terrible, it’s because they’re busy being insane. Instead of researching villains, the writer of Back In Action huffed paint fumes until he passed out and woke up next to a NES console that was on fire and suffering from combat shock. That’s the only explanation for the Super Mario Brothers appearance as two assassins that attack vigilante troublemaker Billy. They’re dressed in matching zebra print trousers and this sentence doesn’t need a second point. This leads me quite nicely onto my next point, which is, fucking what?
Before the Internet, this is what we used to think Japanese sex fetishes looked like.
Thank God for Billy, then. As one of the film’s two heroes, Billy brings a level of bullshit to the film that makes such inept villains seem like a worthy challenge. It was a role that was probably intended for Wesley Snipes, who was no doubt unavailable due his being busy laughing at the script. The role eventually went to Billy Blanks, a man whose hairline could be considered a plothole in the film.
The character is desperate to protect his sister, who has run away with a member of the mob – much to the annoyance of mob bosses, who think she set them up. The erotic tension between Billy and his sister is so thick that my living smelt like musty sex for three days after watching the film. If you were to watch Back In Action with the sound muted, you would refuse to believe that the two weren’t lovers. Better yet, if you also blank the image, you don’t have to watch the film at all.
Even the dumbest action films can usually avoid presenting their central plot with a subtext of incest. Given that Back In Action struggles to handle the emotional complexities of fire clouds, we should probably just be grateful that the film isn’t accidentally pro ‘violence against house pets’ propaganda.
Much of Billy’s screen time is spent fighting buffoons, which is lucky, because on the few occasions that he’s troubled with dialogue he barks his lines like he’s angry with the English language, or whoever the bastard was that invented the second syllable. Unfortunately, he’s not much better at scrapping. Billy fights like a ballerina, twirling around like he’s trying to goad dizziness because he thinks it’s a coward. He only knows one move, the spin kick, and he throws like he’s planning to sue a supermarket for having a slippery floor. At times it seem as though we’re watching 90 minutes of a mentally unbalanced pansy repeatedly throwing spin kicks in slow motion, and that’s because we are.
One particular spin kick impressed the editor so much he felt the need to show it three times in a row. By this point in the film it’s tough to muster any ‘give a shit’ for them, leaving little to do but sit back and laugh at how clear it is that Billy’s foot is a good six inches from his spin kick-ee’s face.
The character Billy brings such incompetence to the film’s violence that during one of the fight scenes a villain brings a knife to a gun fight and leaves with his life. If action movies have taught me anything, then fuck you, Back In Action.
The film’s other hero, Rowdy Roddy Piper, has a face like an angel’s scrotum. You’d think that the villains would need faces like the devil’s ball bag.
Typically, though, they look more like this.
Thank God, then, for Rossi, who is played by a former WWF wrestler and the star of the They Live hyper-scrap. Rowdy Roddy Piper fights like a man with two dicks. Big ones. During the production of Back In Action, Piper accidentally killed eight crew members. Not stunt people, either. Most of them were just trying to serve him food. Piper is so manly that he’s able to carry off the line “Get out of my sight!”, even though the guy he’s saying it to is behind him.
In the build up to the final battle (which we’ll come to later), Rossi and Billy are faced with storming the villain’s headquarters. Rossi seems disgruntled, saying, “I’m not gonna shoot my way in and shoot my way out!”, but it’s more likely an acknowledgement that he won’t need to. Billy will spin kick a path in and out for both you. He loves to spin kick.
Of course, with Rossi being the best thing in the film, it was important that he be saddled with a lot of clumsy exposition and bullshit scenes investigating Billy’s rampages. When he’s not doing that, he’s usually milling about with a female reporter and begging her for favours, none of which are sex, like he has feelings or respects her or something. Really though, any moment with Piper on screen where he’s not committing an atrocity on someone’s face is a crime against testosterone.
You might think it’s dumb that Piper thinks dicks are for setting fire to, but when you consider how long his hasn’t worked for, it’d be dumber for him to think they were for anything else.
The supporting characters are all brilliantly written, nuanced and three dimensional. Except not. Piper’s female reporter friend is apparently involved in the story, but I couldn’t tell you anything about how because I was too distracted by the shorts she’s wearing. I’m not someone who is generally offended by shorts, but these ones are a more malicious attack on feminism than Danny Dyer’s existence.
Another supporting character, Billy’s sister is arguably the real villain of the film. Billy is faced with a mess of utter chaos entirely because she insisted on going to a mob funeral with her boyfriend. More than 30 deaths in 24 hours later, and she’s complaining about her brother’s continued efforts to make sure she’s not assassinated.
The situation is even more baffling when you see the state of her gangster lover. It’s not just that he acts like a spineless coward, but he looks like a drawn-out drug addict, despite it not being part of the story. He’s always damp, partly because he’s sweating because of the tense situation, but mostly because that’s what happens to vagina when it becomes sexually aroused.
Firing Billy Blanks
The final showdown takes place on a boat. Although it’s docked, this movie is so stupid I still expected it to be sunk by an iceberg. Typical me with my high expectations, though, because all it delivered was ten minutes of Roddy Piper torturing someone with a hunting knife while Billy continues his spin kick tour across America.
My favourite part of the final battle sees Piper shooting bad guys through a door with pin point accuracy, because by this point in the film you’ve either stopped watching or have been reduced to a state of idiocy which allows you to forget the relationship light has with wood. There’s also a great part where Billy is ordered to “drop the gun and come out with your hands up.” Wrong move. Should’ve made him drop the spin kick and come out with his feet up.
So, Back In Action is not a film I would recommend seeing. It’s the only film I’ve heard of that was granted an 18 certificate to protect DVD retailers from child abuse charges.