APRIL MOVIE THON 2: Street Corner Justice (1996)

April 12: 412 Day — A movie about Pittsburgh (if you’re not from here that’s our area code). Or maybe one made here. Heck, just write about Striking Distance if you want.

Mike Justus — yes, that’s his real name — is played by Marc Singer and he’s a Pittsburgh undercover cop hanging out at the old Metro Pizza up on Shiloh Street when he beats a rapist (Clint Howard, no name for his character, just rapist) nearly to death after catching him in a dumpster. As he loses his badge, he drowns his sorrows in a Yinzer bar — I mean, not only is everyone drinking Iron City and IC Lite, someone literally says, “Jeet jet?” to him — and tells his friends that he’s leaving for Los Angeles. An incredulous bartender speaks to Mike — and not because his last name is Justus, let me bring that up again — when she learns that he’s going to take over his dead aunt’s house on the West Coast and says, “You mean you’re moving to California? Hollywood? Where thet make movies?” She seems so incredulous that this could happen, but this is very realistic, because she’s from Pittsburgh and how dare you move out to where those lunatics live when you could just move to somewhere nice like Ben Avon or Fox Chapel.

At this point, as the movie goes to Eagle Rock, California — where I’ve been told the doughnut shop still remains — and I thought I would check out, but things get practically insane. Like, Paul Kersey insane without the custom handguns.

Speaking of that doughnut shop, its owner Kwong Chuck Lee (Soon-Tek Oh, Steele Justice) is just trying to make the doughnuts when a Latino street gang — if you think this movie isn’t going to be super racist, you weren’t renting low tier action movies in 1996 — attacks him. He beats up one of them, then they break his window and literally take a whizz all over his pastries.

On his very first day in the neighborhood, Mike Justus remembers he’s a cop busted for brutality and wipes the concrete with them, a fact that doesn’t win him many fans with the real cops, led by Sergeant Ryan Freeborn (Steve Railsback). You know, I don’t trust many cops, but I never trust a movie cop who once played Charles Manson.

To make matters worse, the city itself sues Kwong Chuck Lee — the names in this movie never stop — because he hasn’t bought security or surveillance equipment. Mike’s already getting close to another business owner named Jenny Connor and he’s smart, not only because it’s Kim Lankford (Malibu Beach, Ginger Ward on Knots Landing) but because she runs a video store. He gathers all the business owners and a priest played by Bryan Cranston with the worst Irish accent ever and the name — the names here, again, the names — of Father Brophy. There’s also a Jewish jeweler named Lou Wisceman (Harvey Jason) and an Asian grocer named Li Chen (Raymond Ma) to round out the stereotypes in this beset mini-mall. Anyways, Mike Justus literally says, “There’s no justice, there’s just us.” Or maybe he says “Justus,” as he’s the only one who can really fight after an entire movie where he refuses to help their group, Take Norwood Back, and remembers who he really is: an ex-cop busted for brutality.

Do you know what you have to do to get busted for police brutality in Pittsburgh? And the guy he was fighting wasn’t just a rapist, it was Clint Howard playing not just a rapist but a Satanic rapist.

It takes Jenny getting knocked out with a big weapon to get him to fight, so he looks up an old friend he once arrested named Angel (Tiny Lister!) and a local sex worker named Willie Gee (Beverly Leech, who looks kind of like a hot sitcom best friend yet dressed in spandex and hose and often kicks dudes right in the dick, so guess who my favorite character in this movie was) to dress up as their own gang and rob and attack the guys messing with the mini-mall.

We meet Willie when she’s repeatedly kicking a muscular man in the balls — over and over — in a no-tell motel that has a black man wearing lingerie in the lobby. And oh yeah — Angel has found God, so Mike tells him the gang hates Jesus.

Also: Mike Justus gets kicked in the scrote in this as well.

What I don’t understand is that this is a movie where the hero leads a man who has found God into killing someone and going against his code, going back to jail and realizing that he has forsaken the Lord, while the sex worker is the only one who realizes this and gets drunk just in time to hear an answering machine message that puts it all together. Plus, Kim Lankford sings two songs, “Every Now and Then” and “Points,” which I assume she did not get on this movie.

The video store Vidiots, which closed in Santa Monica in 2017, opened the Eagle Theatre in 2022 as a combination 250-seat movie theater and video store in Eagle Rock, finally finding a home for Vidiots’ collection of more than 50,000 titles on DVD, blu ray and VHS. They’re literally on the same street as the video store in this movie. Here’s hoping they don’t need to join Take Norwood Back or at the very least, Mike Justus is still hanging around.

Street Corner Justice was directed by Pittsburgh’s Chuck Bail, who also made Black SamsonCleopatra Jones and the Casino of GoldThe Gumball Rally and four episodes of Baywatch Nights. He also did stunts in Hells Angels On WheelsThe Devil’s 8Werewolves on WheelsThe Last Movie and was thee double for Max Baer Jr. on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Speaking of stunts, this was written by Gary Kent, who had an entire documentary about his life, Danger God, and who was one of the inspirations for Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood. He did stunts in everything from Satan’s Sadists to Freebie and the Bean and Bubba Ho-Tep. He also shows up in tons of Al Adamson movies. He worked on the script with Bail and Stan Berkowitz, who sure, wrote tons of episodes of the outstanding Batman the Animated SeriesSuperman the Animated Series and T.J. Hooker, but is also the husband of Teagan Clive, who is the much beloved BimboCop from Vice Academy 2 and The Alienator in The Alienator. Oh man! She’s also in the Cannon Sinbad and one of my favorite giallo, Obsession: A Taste for Fear. Way to go Stan!

I found this movie on a Roku channel called Popstar and let me tell you, there’s a wealth of movies soon to be on the site from this channel. I feel like I discovered a bodega that’s fallen into disrepair that still rents out VHS in 2023.

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