Bargain bin finds: Tough and Deadly

In every DVD shop, there's a bin or shelf of stuff no-one wants. Carl watches them, so you don't have to

Tough and Deadly

When you hear the words “Bargain Bin DVD” you can picture it in your head. It has actors you’ve never heard of in starring roles and a front cover that barely represents the movie inside. But in every bargain bin, you can strike gold – and for a very cheap price too. Unfortunately, you may have to buy 20 DVDs before you reach the glorious item you’re questing for. That is the reason for this column: I’m here to save you the search.

There are two types of movies in this world: good and bad. This changes from person to person, but there is a third, and usually ignored, sub-type, which can come under both headers. It’s a movie so bad, that it’s actually brilliant. Tough And Deadly is a perfect example.

Billy Blanks (yes, the man who invented Tai Bo) is taken hostage by some janitors with blowpipes right at the opening of the movie. Quickly, 36 hours pass, and we are introduced to Roddy Piper’s character, Private Investigator Elmo Freech, who is busy taking down small fries with his well-trained wrestling moves. After injuring them with a pile drive, he heads to the hospital to fill out some paperwork. Meanwhile, Billy Blanks escapes his captors by kicking them through a car window and being saved by a bus driver. He just happens to be taken to the same hospital, and for no reason, Elmo gets involved. He sits with the man while his secretary tries to dig up some information about him. When the John Doe wakes up not knowing who he is, Elmo takes him under his wing and they work together to find out about his past. It’s good that he does, as the newly named John Portland is almost assassinated – until Elmo kicks the would-be assassin out of a window.

This jumbled up bunch of scenes sets up a wonderfully pointless 85 minutes of guns, kicks, and terrible editing. The script is obviously terrible, as it always is in these kinds of straight-to-video action movies. The direction is nothing special and the aforementioned editing is so bad, it becomes a running joke in itself. If I were to describe this as a comedy I would be lying, but if I had told you that it was anything but terrible I would also be lying. So this leaves me in a tough bind, as this movie is both hilarious and brilliant entertainment. I can already hear the comments of “illogical” and “buy a dictionary!” so just trust me when I say that this movie is brilliant.

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Not only does the editing cut out in the middle of fight scenes, but it also introduces something only seen when the budget has reached critical level: stock footage. Famously, stock footage was used in the original theatrical cut of Blade Runner, showing a completely different and stupidly unpopulated world at the end, but at least it had a car scene in both original and stock footage to mix the two together. This, however, uses stock footage of a green helicopter landing in a field, whereas the original footage is of a red helicopter landing on concrete while firing at people on the ground. As top of that, a sturdy warehouse in an industrial area suddenly becomes a flimsy barn in a field. It is these kinds of mistakes that help the movie to become the comedy genius that it never intended to be.

Here is the biggest mistake, and probably the funniest one of all: Roddy Piper’s disappearing facial hair. I know it may sound innocuous but it is another cut and dried budgetary issue. The makers must have been trying to find the funding to film a few scenes towards the end of the movie, and in that time, he shaved his meticulously groomed beard. Add this to the fact that these sections are the only bits with swearing in them, and it is clear that these have been filmed later, after an 18 rating was slapped on it. Still, it’s brilliant to see one man’s facial hair retract and grow from minute to minute with no thought spared for continuity. It is a true defining feature of straight-to-video action movies.

Something I always look for in these kinds of movies are faces; people I’ve seen in big movies or TV shows. The only one, aside from the aforementioned wrestler and Tai Bo guys, is Phil Morris, who has recently had a returning role on Smallville as John Jones, an alien and ally to the superteen. His other credits include a small recurring role on Seinfeld and voice acting on Justice League and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, not to mention the fact that his first ever acting gig (at the tender age of 7) was on Star Trek! This, and a mile-long list of other IMDB credits, proves that Tough and Deadly was not a complete killer of careers, though it is pretty close.

If you’ve read all this and you’re still wondering if it is good or not, you’re in the same boat as me – welcome aboard! Although this movie is obviously terrible from a functional standpoint (did I mention the box has no pictures from this movie, though it does have a still from Back In Action, and a plot explanation so wrong it’s hilarious?), it definitely serves as a golden example of a Bargain Bin goldmine, as its unintentionally humorous world collapses around it. This is a perfect movie to spend the night in with, wondering why anyone would ever have bought it for more than a quid.

Take this movie seriously and you’re kidding yourself. Let it be stupid, and it is incredible. As a movie, I’d give this 1 star, but as a bargain bin goldmine full of entertainment and hilariously stupid mistakes, faults and continuity errors, I give this 4 bins.

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