Matty is a big fan of this vicious, PM-backed Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson vehicle.
Of all the VHS-era action heroes, Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson boasts the illustrious distinction of being the only one contracted to both Roger Corman and PM Entertainment at the same time. Following the completion of Ring of Fire (1991) and its 1992 sequel, Wilson rounded out his original three picture PM deal by reteaming with his RoF director, Richard W. Munchkin, on OUT FOR BLOOD. While Munchkin confesses to “not remembering much” about it, the film is notable for its status as a passion project for Wilson and his manager (“He co-wrote the script,” says Munchkin, “And he was VERY precious about it!”), and for its robust Steven Seagal flavour. As well as adopting a title in keeping with the catchy, three-word appellations endemic of Seagal’s golden run — Above the Law (1988), Hard to Kill (1990), Marked For Death (1990) and Out For Justice (1991) — Out For Blood cherry-picks bits-and-bobs from each of the pony-tailed bruiser’s early classics, with Hard to Kill the most prominently plundered. To wit: martial arts-practicing attorney John Decker (Wilson) seeks vengeance against the drug cartel that killed his wife (Melinda Clarke) and young son, and left him in a coma.
Delivering all the bone-breaking such an enjoyably basic framework promises, Out For Blood’s lures are its stranger flourishes; the scenes where this gritty and wickedly violent mini-epic tips into full Burton/Batman (1989) territory thanks to the poetic slivers of comic book gloom that spike the visuals of producer/cinematographer Pepin, and the dizzying moments of inner and outer conflict juxtaposed — and intensified — by the film’s Cammell-esque editing. Tackled with his usual arresting sense of pace, Munchkin infuses Out For Blood with a seductively sombre tone encapsulated by Louis Febré’s evocative sax n’ synth n’ whistle score. Though it’s a little awkward — and more than a little funny — when the helmer’s serious-minded aspirations clash with some very goofy script choices (Wilson’s avenger adopts the nickname ‘Karate-Man’ for God’s sake), for the most part they work a treat — even in the face of some truly hoary dialogue.
At the film’s centre is a compelling, multi-layered performance from Wilson. Despite a relatively nonchalant public façade, Decker is a haunted and broken creature whose fighting skills are as much an extension of his masculine insecurity as they are a means to harness his grief and rage. Naturally, said skills are incredible when the champion kickboxer lets the ‘The Karate-Man’ side of Decker cut loose, and the generally rather wholesome Wilson seems to relish the chance to play a darker character (or, at least, a darker character than he’d previously portrayed at this point in his career). There’s a brilliantly brutal and nihilistic edge to Decker that Wilson inhabits to the hilt. His entire demeanour suggests a psyche scarred beyond even the expected standards of your average avenging angel, as evidenced in a stunningly cruel sequence when, after already beating the snot out of him, Decker force feeds a fat rent-a-goon a massive packet of cocaine so the rotund schlub ODs to death.
Elsewhere, Wilson and Munchkin’s Ring of Fire II collaborator Shari Shattuck submits a mannered turn as Decker’s new, plummy-voiced love interest (i.e. the Kelly Le Brock part), and The Young and The Restless’ Todd Curtis does a fine job as Out For Blood’s Stetson-sporting antagonist — well, one of them anyway…
USA ● 1992 ● Action, Thriller ● 85mins
Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson, Sharri Shattuck, Ron Steelman, Todd Curtis ● Dir. Richard W. Munchkin ● Wri. Robert Easter (as ‘David S. Green’), story by Robert Easter (as ‘David S Green’), Paul Maslak and Neva Friedenn, based upon a concept by Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson