aka HELL'S ANGELS IN VIETNAM
VHS/Holland/format?/English dub/Dutch subs
VHS/Argentina/format?/English dub/Spanish subs.
[Click scans for bigger size]
by Fred Adelman
NAM ANGELS (1988) - This is Filipino director Cirio H. Santiago's remake (or rip-off, if you prefer) of Jack Starrett's THE LOSERS (1970). During the Vietnam War, Lt. Calhoun (Brad Johnson; the LEFT BEHIND series) and his squad are ambushed by the enemy in the jungle, forcing them to take cover in a cave that happens to contain a fortune in gold dust. Hopelessly outnumbered and ready to make their last stand, Lt. Calhoun and his men are suddenly saved when a flurry of arrows appear out of nowhere and kill all the enemy soldiers.
A tribe of natives (including a topless woman) brandishing bows and spears then attack Calhoun and his men and only Calhoun and double agent Trinh (Archie Adamos) are able to escape to safety (by swinging across a waterfalls on a rope). It turns out the tribe is controlled by a "Roundeye", a Colonel Kurtz wannabe called Chard (Vernon Wells; ENEMY UNSEEN - 1989), who takes two of Calhoun's men prisoner. When Calhoun gets back to base camp and explains to General Donipha (Ken Metcalfe) that he wants to return to the jungle to save his men, the General tells him that he has no men to spare, but if Calhoun (who only has two more weeks left to serve in the military) can come up with an alternate plan, he will gladly sign-off on it.
While sitting in a bar wondering what he can do, Calhoun spots four Hell's Angels getting into a bar fight (what they are doing in Vietnam with their Harleys is never explained). Calhoun gets the bright idea to recruit the Hell's Angels, led by Larger (the late Rick Dean; RAIDERS OF THE SUN - 1991), to head out into the jungle to save his men. Rather than tell them about Chard and the natives, Calhoun entices them with tales of the gold dust instead.
They bite, hook, line and sinker and, together with mechanic Hickman (Kevin Duffis), who replaces their Harleys with Yamaha dirt bikes (the Angels nearly shit bricks at the thought of riding them), they helicopter behind enemy lines, hop on the Yamahas and begin the mission. Almost immediately, they come under enemy fire, but the Angels prove to be proficient killers, with both guns and knives. The Angels suffer their first casualty when member Turko (Romy Diaz) has his arm blown off by riding his motorcycle over a landmine and he dies.
They learn to respect both Calhoun (who is the Indiana Jones of rope manipulation) and Hickman and actually begin to operate as a team. Things turn bad when Chard captures the three Angels, but Calhoun and Hickman save their asses, along with Calhoun's two captive squad members. The Angels abandon their gold quest and instead fight alongside Calhoun as they battle Chard and his bloodthirsty natives. The finale finds our unlikely heroes trying to make it across a rickety, broken wooden bridge, while Chard, the natives and even the VC (who show up with tanks!) try their damnedest to make sure they don't make it across to the other side.
If you've seen any of director Cirio H. Santiago's other Nam action flicks, such as EYE OF THE EAGLE (1987), BEHIND ENEMY LINES (1987), THE EXPENDABLES (1988), FIELD OF FIRE (1990) and FIREHAWK (1992), you know what to expect here: Lots of gunfights, explosions galore, gore (including the aforementioned arm removal, slit throats and arrows through the neck), some brief nudity and, of course, Santiago's patented "running man on fire" gag. This one also contains plenty of motorcycle stunts and some unexpected humor, such as when the remaining Angels stand over Turko's grave and Calhoun asks them to say a little something out of respect.
The best they can come up with is when member Bonelli (Mark Venturini) thanks Turko for making the surviving members shares of gold a little larger! An interesting side note is that when the real Hell's Angels heard that this film used their name without permission, they successfully sued and won a fairly large cash settlement. It didn't help that Rick Dean's character was named "Sonny Larger", which sounded too much like the name of real Hell's Angels founder Sonny Barger to be a coincidence.
NAM ANGELS is a fast-paced, if derivative (it's basically THE LOSERS with a little bit of APOCALYPSE NOW thrown in for good measure), war actioner that delivers what it promises: Motorcycles, machine guns and massacres. Also starring Jeff Griffith, Eric Hahn, Tonichi Fructuoso, Leah Navarro, Ruben Ramos and Frederick Bailey. Originally released on VHS by Media Home Entertainment and available on VHS and DVD from New Horizons Home Video as part of their AMERICAN VALOR series. Rated R.
[first published on Fred's Critical Condition site]
Big thanks to Rethor of Cinehound forum for the Argentinian scan!