Junesploitation 2021: Uppercut Man (1988)

June 24: Junesploitation’s topic of the day — as suggested by F This Movie — is free space!

Sergio Martino made some truly baffling and wonderful movies in the late 80s. Perhaps even stranger, two of them — this film and American Rickshaw — were made in Miami, a place that Italian directors loved in the wake of Miami Vice (see also: Cy WarriorCop TargetThe Last MatchMean TricksFirst Action HeroPlanktonKarate Warrior 2Primal RageMoving TargetNightmare Beach, the Bud Spencer version of AladdinBrothers In BloodStrikerThe Wild TeamCut and RunMiami GolemSuper Fuzz*, Go for It* and Atlantis Interceptors*).

Also known as Qualcuno Pagherà (Someone Will Pay), Punhos de Exterminador (Terminator Fists, which is a great title), Vaincre ou Mourir 2 (Win or Die 2), Bloodfight and The Opponent, this movie is seriously everything I love about late 80s Italian bootleg cinema.

Daniel Greene was once Paco Queruak in Hands of Steel, which is why that Terminator Fists title makes sense, and now he is Bobby Mulligan, a boxer who works for Martin Duranti (Giuliano Gemma, Silver Saddle). His wife, Gilda (Mary Stavin from Strike Commando 2 and Born to Fight) ends up working our hero’s speedbag — if you know what I’m saying and I think you do — and Martin declares a vendetta against our hero.

Bobby was already in love with Anne (Keely Shaye Smith, who was in the “Stuck with You” video with Huey Lewis before marrying Pierce Brosnan), whose father Victor (Ernest Borgnine!) was once a boxer, which will come in handy later. He doesn’t trust anyone who is a fighter with his little girl, especially after he gets in a slaphappy battle with our hero in his grocery store.

Duranti, learning that he’s been cucked, wants Bobby to do the job in a fight against Eddy (James Warring, who was the World Kickboxing Association World Cruiserweight Champion), but Bobby has no idea what that means and wins the fight. So the mobbed out Duanti sends his men to break our hero’s right hand, pretty much ending his boxing career. However, Victor comes around and starts respecting our hero because he also refused to throw a fight. Guess what? His daughter comes around too.

Remember that opportunity for Victor I mentioned? That comes when the mob takes our hero’s ex-drunk coach Larry (Bill Wohrman, Porky’s), forces him to drink chemicals and drowns him in a scene that is a narrative and tonal shift, but so is the end of this movie, when our hero goes from the championship match to rescuing his woman in a junkyard and getting horrible and bloody revenge, but not before the bad girl turns good and pays for it with her life.

I really wish Martino had made more of these cover movies, because I love every single one of them. It starts with the conventions of the accepted boxing movie and just gets wild, as you hope that it will.

The montage where Borgnine teaches Daniel Greene to box with only his left hand is beyond joyous, as is the scene where our hero tries to do some road work and a car runs him down. Man, I got so excited writing about this that now I want to watch it again.

*Yes, I know, these were made years before Crockett and Tubbs got to town.

One thought on “Junesploitation 2021: Uppercut Man (1988)

  1. From the “Shite, and I Work Here” Files: Sam, you curved-balled me. I didn’t see this review coming, at all. Brotherman, I bow once again. Way the scrape the VHS barnacles: which is the whole point of being, here.

    There can NEVER be enough Sergio Martino films — or Daniel Greene flicks — at B&S. Paco!!!!! Percifal!!!!! (Love Martino’s character names!)


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