Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Crappy + Action Movie = Craption! Body Armor

Welcome to Craption!  My loving look at "crappy" action movies from the golden era of direct to video goodness, the 90's.  A magical time when stunt guys, Playboy models, professional wrestlers and martial artists could have their names above the movie's title.  Years ago I packed a VCR in my luggage to Los Angeles along with stacks of VHS tapes as many titles from this bygone era never made it to DVD or only received one printing from a long kaput distributer.  One of those tapes is our first case study:  1998's Body Armor.  Well it's Body Armor on the box but The Protector on the actual movie credits and on IMDB, so go figure...I picked up this bad boy for .50 at a closing Hollywood Video in Orange County in 2006 or so.  It's now on Netflix so I streamed it while working out last week.

The story of former Special Forces soldier turned legendary bodyguard and smooth operator Ken Conway, Body Armor follows our action figure handsome hero as he gets caught up in a missing persons case brought to him by his estranged former fiancé who left him at the altar.  Conway comes up against nefarious yet brilliant Dr. Ramsey Krago, a scientist who specializes in deadly viruses and their vaccines.  Turns out Krago has created some new super virus and is going to unleash it on the general population then blackmail the government to provide a cure.  Or something like that.  Tombstone references, karate, protein shakes, awkward non-nude sex scenes, doctor impersonation, cleavage, station wagon chases, guy on fire fighting, 90's high waisted panties, stunt man acting, clumsy explosions, gratuitous titty shot within the first 8 minutes, craptastic electronic music, private island invasion and dark tunnel/catwalk mayhem ensues.

Directed by career stunt man, second unit director and stunt coordinator Jack Gill, Body Armor seems like a flick culled from favors and personal experience.  This must have been a labor of love as Gill never directed before or after and his credit is underlined!  The 95 minute runtime is an ode to his own demo reel as the action is nearly non stop and includes high falls, face first rappelling, fisticuffs, shoot outs, car chases and of course, tons of explosions.  You can tell this was not an expensive film so Gill's decades of experience and friends in the stunt community are well on display.  Seriously, if you're a student of action films, you'll notice lots of familiar faces, starting with Charles Picerni, who appears in the opening minutes as a bodyguard Conway takes out.  Picerni is an old pro who was the stunt coordinator on the Lethal Weapon and Die Hard franchises as well as no less than 3 Jean-Claude Van Damme movies.  There's a couple Epper's in here from the legendary stunt family that has seen at least 15 of it's members in films since the 1930's. 

Stunt performer turned leading man Matt McColm plays Conway with rogue charm while flexing his muscles and martial arts prowess.  Ruggedly handsome, McColm doesn't take things too seriously and is a likeable enough hero.  McColm had a fun run in the 90's, popping up as the lead in other enjoyable low budget action flicks Red Scorpion II and Subterfuge as well as Nightman on the 1997 syndicated television show.  2003 saw him as Agent Thompson in The Matrix Reloaded but since then he's mostly gone back to stunt work.  Along for the ride are Ron Perlman (of every other movie ever made including Alien: Resurrection, Drive and Pacific Rim), model turned actress Carol Alt, director Ron Howard's brother Clint and in one scene, John Rhys Davis (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings) as Conway's douche bag employer.

In the end, we can all agree that Body Armor and movies of it's ilk are not "good" movies.  Heck, they're probably not even that highly regarded in the action film community.  But you know what?  I love it, maybe it's the overall generic feel from the use of hotels for rooms, hallways and ballrooms to the fancy house and cars to the final showdown in a dark laboratory full of catwalks, grated metal floors and pipes running along the walls to the really bland music score.  But Body Armor makes good use of it's resources, has some fun in the process and doesn't try to be something it's not.  While seemingly not a complicated movie on paper, the flick boasts FOUR writers.  One of them being Stuart Beattie who would go on to work on the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and directing the upcoming I, Frankenstein with Aaron Eckhart.

Distributed by A-Pix, the folks who gave us sexy/exciting/scary movies starring the likes of Tane McClure, Shannon Tweed, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Michael Pare, Body Armor is enjoyable, quasi exploitative action fun that runs circles around current low budget action movies shot in 18 days for $1 million starring the likes of Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin or anybody else who was in an Expendables movie.

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