By: John M Jerva
It’s time to Action Rewind and wipe the dust off of another forgotten action gem and this one is really forgotten as it never had a proper release here in the states. Action star and martial arts phenom Gary Daniels was a staple in the DTV action craze of the 90’s but we all had to get our start somewhere and Daniels was no exception. With that I welcome you to the so bad it’s awesome installment of the Action Rewind.
Before the British Kicking Machine dazzled genre fans with such iconic 90’s action slugfests like Riot, Fist of the Northstar and White Tiger, he made one of his first feature films in the Philippines which was a military style actioner with martial arts infused into it. That movie was called Final Reprisal and it has the look, feel and bombastic action reminiscent of something viewers would see from a Cirio H. Santiago pic.
I’ve always admitted that I’m one of the biggest Gary Daniels fans out there and during the 90’s when I was heavy into my martial arts training, he was a huge inspiration to me. The man’s kicks were just flat out unbelievable and every time a new movie came out, it was like a holiday for me. Unfortunately with Final Reprisal, it was like trying to find an elusive white whale as it never was released in North America and up until a few weeks ago, it was one of two of his films I’ve never seen. The other one is even more rare but that’s a story for another time.
I have remedied that problem with Final Reprisal post haste and I can attest that even though it was one of Daniels first films, it still brings it in the action department and it’s really kick ass to see Daniels doing the super soldier thing. I’m not even going to talk about the acting and production value as it’s easy to rip that apart but for the type of film it is, Final Reprisal is a true bullet riddled, fisticuffs punctuated guilty pleasure.
Let’s talk plot which, of course, isn’t terribly hard to follow but it serves its purpose for all the Gary Daniels ass kicking mayhem that fills the movie’s run time. Here Daniels stars as Sergeant David Callahan who leads an elite unit of US Marines on a secret mission behind enemy lines to hit a high level conference and exterminate everyone with extreme prejudice. The mission goes horribly awry however as the conference has been moved to the next day and now Callahan and his men are left out in the wind and must escape and along the way, the daughter of high level Vietnamese baddie Tran Van Phu is murdered by one of the three surviving members of Callahan’s unit. Who killed the girl and why turns this little gem of an action movie into a real whudunnit. Was it Callahan, or his longtime comrade Charlie Murphy (James Gaines) or fellow soldier Douglas Hunter (David Light). We just don’t know…or do we? I smell a betrayal coming.
Fast forward to five years later and Callahan is stationed in Thailand serving as a secret advisor to Thai special forces and he now has a family but in true B movie fashion, his past comes back to haunt him as Tran Van Phu is back and he wants some serious vengeance on Callahan and this puts his wife and child in harms way with tragic results. What transpires is Callahan sinking into depression, righting himself through some awesome 80’s action film training montages followed by the inevitable marathon of insane stunt filled firefights and throw downs as Callahan must fight for his life and use as much ammunition along the way as he can to take out Phu and his army.
Like I mentioned before, this flick bares an uncanny resemblance to any jungle war film that the late, great action maestro Cirio H. Santiago helmed back in the day. Alas it was Teddy Page (Fighting Spirit with Loren Avedon), who was credited as Tedd Hemingway for some reason here, that was in the director’s chair for this one and he does Santiago proud with countless sequences of exploding huts, buildings and more with Daniels dispensing enough firepower for two action movies. It’s easy to write this movie off as one that Daniels would probably want to forget but besides the suspect acting and other usual issues with the film, it still delivers the goods and above all showed the world for the first time what Daniels was capable of with on screen action.
Even though there is a little more heavy weaponry then empty handed fight action, Daniels still gets the opportunity to showcase his particular set of skills in a variety of altercations leading up to the eventual confrontation we all saw coming. The fight choreography might not be as polished like some of Daniels’ later efforts but he is such a talent that he elevates each scene with bravado and fortitude and after all, he was just getting started here.
Final Reprisal might be extremely rough around the edges with some unintentional laugh out loud moments and cringe worthy acting but this film has more action than a lot of bigger budgeted films and it rises above the shoddy finished product. The price tag might not have been high but it sure was used wisely with it going to the action set pieces. Gary Daniels puts on a display the the skills and star power that he would eventually be known for and if you’re a fan then you’ll be able to look past the shortcomings and enjoy the maximum mayhem on display.
There’s no Oscar to be won here but it delivers explosions, shootouts, martial arts battles, sword fights oh my and Gary Daniels doing what he does best early in his career. What more could you ask for? I thought not. If you’re a Gary Daniels completist like me then search out Final Reprisal for a good old Saturday night viewing.
Take a peek at the original trailer below and soak up the C grade action movie greatness of it all.