By: John M Jerva
It’s time to Action Rewind and this time we’re turning back the clock to 1994 which was the height of the DTV action craze. Every week, numerous action filled titles filled video store shelves featuring some of the best and most lethal action stars the time had to offer. One of the best was Jerry Trimble who was a champion kickboxer in the 80’s. Having the in-ring name of “Golden Boy,” Trimble easily parlayed a succesful career inside the ring to feature films in the 90’s after he retired that more than utelized his talents. Trimble has the fastest and most lethal kicking combos of anyone doing films at that time and I for one would have loved to see him go a few rounds with Donnie Yen on screen.
During his career as an action star, Trimble teamed up with Filipino action maestro Cirio H. Santiago for a few action goodies with one of them being 1994’s Stranglehold. Santiago was the master of low budget action and most notably military style action and even though his films didn’t have blockbuster money, he certainly still knew how to fill his movies with epic action set pieces that included countless exploding huts, helicopters and hordes of faceless bad guys getting mowed down by automatic machine gun fire.
Stranglehold was one of three titles that Trimble did with the late, great Filipino filmmaker with the other two being Live By The Fist and One Man Army. We’ll talk about those later, no worries. All these titles were short and sweet and were locked and loaded with action from start to finish. There’s no filler here folks as every frame almost explodes off the TV screen.
Stranglehold was Santiago’s Die Hard style actioner which featured Trimble as political aid Ryan Cooper who is tasked with traveling with congresswoman Helen Filmore (played by Jillian McWhirter who starred in a host of these movies) to a chemical plant that is really a front for a chemical weapons facility for a photo and news opportunity. Things go horribly awry when Cooper, Filmore and others are taken hosage by a band of ruthless terrorists led by the one and only Vernon Wells of Commando fame. Wells plays the leader of the group named Gerald Richter and he is at his villainous best as he chews up the scenery every time he’s on camera. The only drawback to the movie in my eyes is that Trimble never gets the opportunity to yell “see you at the party Richter!” That right there would have been pure DTV action gold. There was probably a copyright issue with that so oh well.
Now it’s a good thing for the hostages that Cooper isn’t your ordinary clerk as he is also former secret service and special forces so you know what that means. Countless mercenaries are going to get seriously F’d up at the hands of Cooper who is an expert with all sorts of weaponry as well as his hands and feet. After all, when the tag line for the movie is Bare Hands. Fast Feet. Short Temper. Ryan Cooper needs no weapon, then it’s not a mystery that he has a particular set of skills. Talk about right place, right time.
Stranglehold has an awesome running time of 73 minutes so no time is wasted as the action literaly kicks in within the first five minutes. The first half an hour alone features Trimble doing what he does best as he charges through a gauntlet of bad guys in a bravado display of firepower and martial arts precision. Once again, Santiago makes the most out of what budget he has as the action sequences are non-stop and fans are treated to numerous altercations as Cooper surgically strikes without prejudice. It’s important to note that there is more firefights then fisticuffs here but no worries as Trimble gets ample opportunity to demonstrate his patented martial arts prowess throughout the film’s brief running time. The man is just plain fast with his kicks and it was sheer joy to see him move on screen.
Now while I mentioned that this film was in the vein of Die Hard, it’s important to note that the action switches it up for the finale and things get moved to a ship where Cooper makes his final stand and proceeds to take out even more baddies before eventually having a mano a mano match with Richter’s right hand man Smitty played by a stoic Joe Sabatino. This altercation when all is said and done, serves it’s purpose as we get to see Trimble throwdown more. Plus Sabatino actually gives him a run for his money until Cooper cranks it into overdrive.
The 90’s were a great time for action fans (can’t say that enough) and even more so as the credits for these films included the names of the action stars as well as what kickboxing league they were a champion of. In Trimble’s case, it was the PKC and when you saw the words “Starring Jerry “Golden Boy” Trimble-PKC World Kickboxing Champion,” you knew you were in for an action drenched good time. The company Concord-New Horizons which was headed by indie film guru Roger Corman filled the shelves at the local video stores with these types of movies and I could never get enough of them. Corman produced counless movies with many of them being like Stranglehold. He knew what the audience wanted and he gave it to them in spades.
All in all, you knew what you were getting with these types of movies and Stranglehold doesn’t disappoint in the action department. Most of the acting outside the main cast is forgettable but it’s the bullets, fists and feet that we all came to see and here it’s on display from beginning to end. Jerry Trimble is without a doubt one member of the 90’s DTV action boom that needs more love and dammit I’m going to make sure that happens. Stranglehold is a lean, mean 73 minute barrage of high octane thrills and of all things that made that decade great.
Be sure to keep an eye out as I’ll be chatting up more Jerry Trimble action pics in the future here at Action Rewind!