We come here, not to bury Philippine Namsplotation films, but to praise Richard Norton. That’s right, kids: it’s another B&S About Movies film-geek fandom joint.
Aussie actor Richard Norton got his start in Chuck Norris’s The Octagon (1980) and Forced Vengeance (1982), contributing to multiple episodes of CBS-TV’s Walker, Texas Ranger, starring in Robert Clouse’s Force: Five (1981) and Gymkata (1985), and with Michael Dudikoff in American Ninja (1985). And do we really have to remind you that Richard Norton starred as Slade in the great Cirio H. Santiago’s Philippine post-apoc’er Equalizer 2000 (1987)? Well, now you know: Richard Norton is right up there with Mark Gregory, Michael Sopkiw, and Daniel Greene on the B&S About Movies A-Team.
While we haven’t seen all of Richard’s almost 70-and-climbing credits, we’ve seen most of them. And some are great — like the films we’ve mentioned — while others are not so great. There’s not another actor that’s more hard working, who was stuck in some questionable projects over the years, who started out as a bodyguard to the Rolling Stones and personal trainer to Mick Jagger. We reviewed his most recent effort, if you’re interested: the 2021 Australian crime-thriller, Rage.
See. The fanboy section of the review has ended. That didn’t hurt. Back to the movie . . . and to hell.
Also known as Return of the Kickfighter, the plot concerns, you guessed it: more corrupt American soldiers on a war-profiteering tear, democratic freedom on the Indonesia mainlands, be damned.
So, to the chagrin of their Vietnamese guide (Asian Martial Arts mainstay and Brucesploitation star Bruce Le), a U.S. marine unit raids a Vietnam village — for a gold stash — and they kill the villagers.
Yes. Of course, we “flash forward” ten years. Haven’t you been paying attention at all this week? That “flashback” set up is how all of that old ’70s war footage is clipped into the film, so as to up the production values.
Well, eh, actually . . . this time, it’s 15 years. And someone is murdering the members of the unit — one by one. And the chicken shit leader of that raid, now a high-ranking officer with a cushy government desk job with the Pentagon, needs to clean up the mess. So, with a little lie there and half-truth there, he sends in the only man for the job (again?): Pentagon black-ops agent Major Brad Cooper, aka the man we came to see, Richard Norton. But Cooper gets wise pretty quick and figures his Pentagon boss, Col. Ryan, committed the atrocity all those years ago. So Cooper is sidelined from the mission. But Cooper goes rogue. And his “mission” objective changes.
He meets Quan Niehn, the Vietnamese guide from 15 years ago. Turns out, Quan and his brother nursed an injured Ninja Master hurt in that raid back to health and, in payment, the Master taught the brothers the ways of the Ninja. Then the brothers went “Cain and Able,” with Quan to the good Vietnamese side and his brother to the evil Viet Cong side. And the plot twist is that we think Quan is killing the members of the unit, but it’s really his evil brother — the leader of a secret, Mountain stronghold terrorist boot camp. So, once Quan and Cooper make nice, Coop calls in his old Queen’s Cobras unit to kick the evil brother’s ass. The firefights and explosions and bodies plowed down by more bullets than John Rambo and John Matrix can handle, ensues.
What makes this work is the martial arts, something Sly and Arnie couldn’t bring to the table. The Return of the Kickfigther handle is clearly the more effectively, descriptive title, with Bruce Le (1978’s Return of the Red Tiger and Enter the Game of Death) and Hong Kong action star Dick Wei (1978’s Five Deadly Venoms and 1980’s Claws of the Eagle) mixing it up with Richard Norton — who keeps his Australian accent on-camera (a HUGE difference in quality for this film against most we’ve reviewed this week), which is explained away as being an “All American” since he was trained by the American military.
Ugh. The full movie was uploaded when we made the schedule — now it’s gone. Well, you can at least watch this “Kill Count” montage and eight minute fight scene (embedded above) between Richard Norton and Bruce Le on You Tube. Director Anthony Maharaj, here in his debut, got his start as a screenwriter with the Philippine war flick Final Mission (reviewed this week; look for it) and the post-apoc’er Future Hunters for Cirio H. Santiago. Maharaj and Norton worked on a second Indonesian war flick, Not Another Mistake (1989) — no, we didn’t review that one, this week. You can’t do ’em all.