Friday, July 28, 2017

Past Misdeeds: Born to Fight (1989)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

TV reporter Maryline Kane (Mary Stavin) walks into a bar in Vietnam to hire war hero Sam Wood (Brent Huff) to relive his escape from a Vietnamese prison camp for the camera. At first, Brent isn't too happy with the idea, but once Maryline has offered him enough money, he decides to take her up on her offer. After a nice little boat trip, Maryline, her two-men camera crew and Sam just happen to witness the execution of an American prisoner escaping from a camp full of prisoners of war. Turns out Maryline knows all about the war prisoner problem in the area, and actually wants Sam's help in rescuing her father, General Weber (John Van Dreelen), from the prison camp, but thought that whole interview business and going to the place unarmed would make Sam more willing to help. Or dead. Or something.

Anyway, given Sam's unarmed and unwilling status, the couple (and you know they'll be one in this sort of movie, because they never agree about anything and hate each other's guts) has to flee first. There's also some stuff about Romano Puppo playing another guy who is supposed to buy the general's way to freedom, but would prefer Kurt (Werner Pochath), the boss of the prison camp who will also turn out to be Sam's arch enemy, to kill the general so they can share the money. Which makes as much sense as Maryline hiring Sam to free her father without telling Sam about it, I guess. Plus, further complications because Sam doesn't like Weber. Let's just say that shooting and exploding huts - many of the latter without a good reason to explode - will result.

After half an hour or so, I just gave up on trying to make sense of the random stuff that makes up Born to Fight's supposed plot. After all, it is a Bruno Mattei film written by Claudio Fragasso, and where these two walk, no sense ever follows. As expected, the movie becomes a much nicer piece of entertainment once one decides to just giggle about its lack of coherence and fling poo at the screen.

Of course, if you're like me and adore the special charms Mattei and Fragasso so often brought to their films, you will be delighted to hear that Born to Fight is an eminently worthy entry into the gentlemen's respective filmographies, full of the desperate idiocy we have come to love. This is, after all, a film whose hero (and I use that term loosely) is first encountered showing off his ability to smoke a cigarillo and snore at the same time, likes to spice his drink with cobra venom and has a catchphrase that fluctuates between "It CAN be done. It can be done." and "It CAN be done. Can do.", or various combinations thereof, even when nobody ever questions the possibility of things being done. I should also add that Wood's catchphrase is - improbably - still better than his other one-liners. But as Werner Pochath's character explains, Sam was "BORN TO FIGHT", to which I might very well add "and not to talk".

This - and my inability to make sense of the plot - should make quite clear that Fragasso was in top form in the twenty minutes it took him to write the script; seldom has a scriptwriter's complete divorce from reality been more adorable.

It looks like Bruno Mattei didn't want to be left out when his friend and partner was having so much fun showing off his talents (or "talents"), and so decided that what Fragasso's script really needed to shine was the extensive application of slow motion to each and every scene. People not familiar with Mattei's genius might think the heavy use of slow motion in an action movie like this to be nothing special, or even stylistically justified and possibly cool. Well, some uses of slow motion are; Mattei however always knows how to use a perfectly normal part of the filmic language like it and twist and turn and overuse it in the most improbable ways until it becomes quite hilarious and grotesque.

The high point of Mattei's very special use of slow motion is surely the film's "emotional" finale, when Sam kills Kurt, who was responsible for the death of all of his prison camp buddies years ago. It begins with some hot slow-motion reloading action. Pochath blubbers (in slow motion, oh yes) "Nooooo!". Sam shoots in slow motion, once. Pochath overacts being shot in slow motion and does some excellent slow-motion whimpering. Then - because what could be more heart-wrenching? - Sam shouts the name of one of his dead friends, still in slow motion, sounding like an elk during rutting season (or so I imagine them to sound). Sam shoots again - still shaking muscles and gun in slow motion, then shouts the next name in elk. This is repeated a few more times - yes yes, in slow motion, still - while Sam walks to the still slow-motion-groaning Pochath, until finally, even Mattei must have thought enough is enough, Sam shouts "Aaaaaaaandddddd aaaaalllll thhhhhheeee ooootthhheeeeerrrssss!", and Werner Pochath is finally allowed to overact dying (die overacting?). I have heard rumours of people rupturing one or the other of their inner organs from laughter while watching this scene, and for once, I do believe a rumour.

The great thing about Born to Fight is that this single (and quite singular) scene is only one of many scenes nearly equal in their power of unbelievable stupidity, all coming to the delighted audience live from the brains of two of greatest purveyors of intensely entertaining crap ever to have come out of Italy. It's enough to make one tear up out of pure joy, really.

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