VHS/Holland/fullscreen/English dub/Dutch subs
Review by FRED ADELMAN
FIREBACK (1983) - More Filipino action insanity from director Teddy Page, producer K.Y. Lim (for his Silver Star Company production outfit) and star Richard Harrison. During the Vietnam War, Captain Jack Kaplan (Harrison; Page's BLOOD DEBTS - 1983) is demonstrating the military's newest prototype weapon, a multi-caliber gun code-named Omega (It's part automatic rifle, 30 caliber machine gun, grenade launcher, bazooka and mini-missile launcher that also has a built-in communications radio!). As Kaplan is showing a group of soldiers how to use the Omega, they come under attack by rebel forces and Kaplan and the Omega are taken prisoner. The film flashes forward several years, where the dastardly Duffy Collins (Bruce Baron; Page's HUNTER'S CROSSING - 1983, also starring Harrison) keeps hitting on Kaplan's wife Diane (Ann Milhench, here billed as "Ann Milhen"), but she spurns his advances and expensive gifts, still wishing instead that her husband will return to her. Duffy wants Diane by any means possible, so he hires someone to sneak into her house and abduct her. Meanwhile, a group of U.S. commandos raid an enemy P.O.W. camp and rescue Jack Kaplan. The only thing he wants is to be back in the loving arms of his wife, but when her returns home to find her missing and the house ransacked, he will revert to violence of every type to get her back. A bartender at a local gin joint informs Kaplan that "a man with a golden hand" (Ruel Vernal) may know something about his missing wife, so Kaplan hooks-up with old friend (and junkie) Digger (James Gaines; Page's JUNGLE RATS - 1987), who tells him the golden-handed dude's name is Dennis and gives Kaplan his address. When Kaplan gets his hands on Dennis and sticks a gun in his face after a short fight, he tells Kaplan that a stripper named Eve (Gwendolyn Hung; NINJA'S FORCE - 1984) hired him to abduct Diane. Kaplan confronts Eve and she gives him the name of another person involved, but she then calls Duffy after he leaves. Duffy orders Dennis to kill everyone who knows about Diane's kidnapping, beginning with Digger (Dennis thrusts his golden hand into Digger's stomach). Of course, Kaplan gets blamed for Digger's death, so the police chief (a blond-haired Mike Monty) assigns his best detective (Ronnie Patterson) to apprehend Kaplan (The Chief says to the detective, "Be careful. He can turn an ordinary drinking straw into a deadly weapon!"). Eve follows Kaplan around and reports back to Duffy, who sends an assassin (played by Sebastian Harrison, Richard's son) to Kaplan's motel room dressed as a plumber (He knocks on the door and when Kaplan asks him to identify himself, he says, "I'm a repairman. I was told there was a leak in the toilet!"). Kaplan watches him like a hawk, so the assassin is unable to plant a bomb in the bathroom and is forced to leave unsuccessful in his task. After several more attempts on Kaplan's life (by a guy wearing an eye patch; another guy wearing a French beret; and yet another man wielding a spike-tipped cane), Eve takes pity on him and discloses the location where Diane is being held. Eve pays for her betrayal with her life at the hands of Dennis and Kaplan kills Dennis in retribution. Alas, Kaplan is too late to save his wife, as Duffy has killed her for spurning his advances one too many times. Kaplan turns Rambo in the final third of the film, killing those responsible for Diane's death and then trying to avoid the police and a group of paid hunters out to kill him. As with most action films directed by the late Teddy Page (PHANTOM SOLDIERS - 1987; MOVIE IN ACTION - 1987; FIST OF STEEL - 1991), the action comes at a fast and furious clip, but the storyline (screenplay written by Timothy Jorge, which some say is a pseudonym for Richard Harrison, a claim I find dubious at best) is a complete jumbled mess with hilarious dialogue to match (Eve: "You don't kill women, do you?" Kaplan: "Not yet!"). I'm still at a loss as to why Bruce Baron's face is obscured throughout most of the film (either hidden by objects in the forefront or just out of the frame) and then shown freely at other times. The only logical reason I could come up with is that he wasn't available for the entire shoot and a stand-in had to take his place several times. The film's real capper comes when Diane is killed just as Kaplan comes to rescue her, which turns the film into a completely different bird (I really shouldn't be surprised by these sudden turn of events in Filipino action flicks, because you should always expect the unexpected). Jack suddenly turns into a combination Rambo/MacGuyver, fashioning weapons and deadly contraptions out of junkyard scraps and then takes on Duffy, his men and the entire police force (where he has to kill innocent cops to survive). The final twenty minutes or so is a direct steal of FIRST BLOOD (1982), where an injured Kaplan hides out in the jungle and uses booby traps, as well as his military training, to thin-out the mass of people hunting him (Kaplan even cauterizes a wound using a red-hot piece of metal, mimicking Stallone's gunpowder procedure in BLOOD). The sudden appearance of a black-clad ninja (Tony Aaron), who fights Kaplan in a cave in the film finale, is just another piece of unexpected icing on the cake. Those expecting a reappearance of the Omega weapon during the finale are going to be majorly disappointed, which leads me to believe that the film's opening minutes were cribbed from an entirely different film. No matter, because FIREBACK is still a violent, bloody film that delivers the insane goods. Be sure to read about Kaplan's fate during the on-screen scrawl that appears just before the final credits and try not to laugh too hard. Also starring David Anderson, Steve Mark, Pete Mancini and Ron David. Originally available on VHS from U.S.A. Home Video as part of their "Sybil Danning's Adventure Video" series. Not available on DVD. Not Rated.
[first posted on Fred Adelman's site Critical Condition]
VHS/Argentina/fullscreen/English dub/Spanish subs
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