We’ve encountered Bruno Mattei on this page before, but for those unfamiliar with possibly Italian cinema’s most blatant rip off artist, here’s a quick run down. Throughout his career, but most noticably during the 80’s and 90’s, Mattei (usually hiding behind his regular alias of Vincent Dawn) unleashed a string of movies onto an unsuspecting public that a more charitable soul might label “derivative” of other movies Hollywood was releasing at the time, however I’m not feeling so charitable so I’ll just call it out as blatant fucking thievery. Whether shamelessly stealing from such diverse filmmakers as Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, George A Romero, John McTiernan and many others or even nicking the odd idea from his own countrymen (he even took over the ridiculous Zombi 3 from an ill Lucio Fulci), his films are idiotic to the point of unintentional comedy and thus explains the love/hate, self loathing relationship I seem to have with both his output and that of Italian trash cinema in general.
This brings us to Stike Commando 2, an audacious attempt for the sticky fingered auteur to directly sequelize – aka. steal from – his own work without pissing anyone else off.
Well, except maybe his audience…
After the events of Strike Commando, one-man-army Michael Ransom has decided that he needs a change in his life – quite a sizable one too by the look of it, because he’s now played by a completely different actor and is now a brunette. Anyway, things are going fine except for the odd ‘Nam flashback, until he gets word that his old army buddy, Major Vic Jenkins, is being held by the CIA somewhere in the Philippines, so he tools up and sets off to rescue the man who once saved his life.
However, while Ransom may be an artist when it comes to slaughtering enemy soldiers, he’s utter shithouse at spotting an evil plot and straight from the get-go, every bit of information he’s been fed is weapons-grade bullcrap of the highest order – Ransom inadvertently led actual kidnappers to a CIA safe house who will only return Jenkins if a sizable payment of diamonds is made; but in Mike’s defence, even this is merely a ploy to gain capital so Jenkins can continue co-running his gargantuan heroin operation with a virginity-obsessed drug lord.
Blissfully unaware of this, Ransom succeeds in freeing his pal only for his sputtering synapses to finally clue him in on the truth when it’s far too late. Still, never let it be said that Mike Ransom doesn’t clean up his own mess; so he sets out on a revenge mission to reclaim the diamonds meant for Jenkins’ “ransom” and kill literally every single person he sees with a mixture of unyielding machine gun fire and fight scenes cribbed from better films. Joining him on his mission is legitimately terrifying, snarling, sex-bomb-slash-tavern owner Rosanna Boom and the two set out to get the loot and gut the bad guys with sharp knives and blunt wise cracks.
If the original Strike Commando was an entertaining, if idiotic trawl through the cheapjack (and apparently trademark-less) world of Italian action dumpster fires, then the sequel somehow wanders in and makes it seem like Oliver Stone’s Platoon in comparison. Positively crammed with countless behind-the-scenes facts, ludicrous directorial choices and a complete disregard to anything that even remotely resembles competent filmmaking, Strike Commando 2 is an utter blast for all the wrong reasons.
First up, the character of Michael Ransom has been recast from the screaming slab of muscle known as Reb Brown, to the thespian free talents of Brent Huff, who delivers all of his lines as if he’s suffering from heat stroke and doesn’t even share the hair colour of his predecessor. Secondly I had no idea that Richard fucking Harris was in this film until his name popped up in the opening credits and while I assume the future headmaster of Hogwarts only took the role for some much needed booze money (quite the hellraiser was our Harris), the panicked look of a man who knows he’s appearing in a genuine piece of shit is unmistakable as the haunted look in his eyes is there for all to see while he turns in the only usable performance in the movie.
Everything else is an utter crapshoot, and miles better for it. The dialogue sounds like it was written (and delivered) by children for a school play; female lead Mary (House, Octopussy) Stävin looks like she getting waaaay too into things as she utters guttural shrieks masquerading as words with a legitimately deranged look in her eyes and the overwhelming lack of logic is dizzying. Why does the drug lord have a team of ninjas in his employ, when is this movie actually supposed to be set, why do the triumphant heroes limp off at the end when the still functioning helicopter they arrived in is literally right there?
However, this wouldn’t be a Mattei flick if the movie didn’t feature a complete lack of anything approaching an original idea and so a drinking game is born where, if you were to take a swig of booze everytime Strike Commando 2 seemed suspiciously familiar you’d be paralytic two thirds of the way through. For example, not only does the movie have the audacity to copy that bit from First Blood Part 2 where a hidden bad guy chokes the hero while the boat they’re on careens (very slowly) toward disaster, but Mattei had already copied it earlier in Strike Commando 1. Elsewhere, Boom shows that she enlisted in the Marion Crane school of drinking games as her introduction shamelessly pilfers from Raiders Of The Lost Ark – it’s even broken up by a creepy, bespectacled henchman called Kramet, which is ironic considering that “cram it” is exactly what this film can go and do. And so it goes on: look, there’s the “turn around” bit from Predator when an untrustworthy character saves another by skewering the lethal bug that’s creeping on their back and, in possibly Mattei’s most blatant act of grand theft cinema, he has the audacity to recreate the truck chase from Raiders Of The Lost Ark almost shot for shot – but with weird circus music playing on the soundtrack instead. Still at least the climactic fight is descent, I mean, it fucking should be, it’s a direct copy of the one that closes Lethal Weapon.
Inbetween dialogue so awful it could officially give you whiplash (“So now you’re gonna rape me right?”, “I hate women.” “Yeah, I have a lot of gay friends too.” is one such head spinning exchange) and behind the scenes details so random it could implode the multiverse (it was shot simultaneously with equally incompetent zombie flick After Death because they both needed to use the same camera and in Germany the film was bewilderingly retitled “Heroin Force”), you have a movie that generates more inadvertent laughs than it has exploding bamboo huts – and in case of this unabashed Rambo clone, that’s a lot.