I have been wanting to see BODY COUNT for years. Not Ice-T’s band (I saw them on the Lollapalooza tour in 1991) or Ice-T’s 1997 film (which I reviewed last Christmas) but the 1995 movie starring Brigitte Nielsen. Or so I thought based on the cover. And when I realized Sonny Chiba was also in it I finally pulled the trigger. R.I.P. to the legend.
This is an American movie, of course, and obviously not up to par with the movies that made us love Chiba. It’s one of those B- movies where everything is cheap and trashy, the music (credited to Don Peake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES and Knight Rider fame) alternates between repetitive synth bullshit and inappropriate bombast, and the main cop characters are dreadfully boring but every once in a while there’s a car flip or a high fall stunt, and each of the male leads does at least one gratuitous somersault and hangs off of a moving vehicle. Also Chiba’s character causes a school bus to flip and then two other vehicles crash into it and blow up. So I didn’t feel my time was entirely wasted.
In truth the main character is Robert Davi (also in CYBER VENGEANCE, THE DANGEROUS, THE ZONE, SHOWGIRLS, DELTA OF VENUS and NO CONTEST that year) as Eddie Cook, a New Orleans police officer who specializes in smoking, drinking and hanging his jacket over his shoulder real cool. He and his partner Vinnie Rizzo (a beefy Steven Bauer, who otherwise only had TERMINAL VOYAGE and WILD SIDE that year) had spent almost 8 years trying to bust these gangsters the Gianelli brothers (Mario Opinato [DOUBLE TEAM] and Jim Chimento [UNDER SIEGE]) and then they both got assassinated in one night so they gotta figure out who did it.
But we know who did it: Sonny Chiba as Makato, a high-priced assassin. During the opening credits (with one of those sudden cuts to black with a logo that tells us the title was changed for video – originally it was called CODENAME: THE SILENCER) we watched him wearing a cool headband and carefully molding two bullets by hand before flawlessly sniping one brother at an outdoor party and the other in a nearby window making out with two topless babes.
Eddie and friends spot Makato collecting his payment in a strip club restroom. They look awfully at home there and I’m honestly not sure if it was a stake out or they just stopped there for drinks. Makato jumps over the bar, takes a hostage, does a somersault, makes a run for it, has a pretty well shot gun fight in a men’s clothing store, kicks Rizzo’s ass on a rooftop in the rain, somewhere in there there’s a really awkward ADR bit that sounds nothing like him but seems like it’s supposed to be him yelling?
But Eddie shoots him and he goes to prison where he receives a letter from a woman named Sybil, who will be played by Nielsen (also in COMPELLING EVIDENCE and GALAXIS that year), but it’s read in voiceover by someone who is definitely not her. I’d like to think the Seagal movie OUT OF REACH was paying homage to this when they had a fake Seagal voiceover for a letter to his young pen pal.
Sybil breaks Makato out by driving near his chain gang and pretending to have engine trouble with her vintage pickup truck while wearing Daisy Dukes, a low cut shirt and white high heels, and taking out the guards who try to help her. So she seems pretty cool.
Unfortunately despite her being the central figure and name on the cover – they were definitely selling this as a Brigitte Nielsen vehicle – she has less screen time than the others shown. She does get to have a couple good scenes and drive Makato around and stuff, but she’s just kinda the sidekick to the anti-hero antagonist.
At least Chiba’s in it quite a bit, and though his English in the movie is poor, he does get to wear some flashy outfits and commit a variety of violent acts. According to IMDb he had four TV projects in 1990, three movies in ’91, five in ’92, but none in ’93, only IMMORTAL COMBAT in ’94 and only this in ’95. And then one project in ’96, one in ’97, one in ’98 and none in ’99 before picking up the pace again in the early 2000s. So this represents a slow period in his career when hey, why not go do some shitty low budget American movie where at least he got to kick more ass and be less of a stereotype than he was in the otherwise superior ACES: IRON EAGLE III? I don’t blame him.
He uses this stylish white trenchcoat to hide a sword. Like a Highlander!
There’s one shot – only one, I’m pretty sure – where for some reason he’s wearing some kind of bedazzled or rhinestone covered cap. And then he ambushes a guy he’s been following in an alley and the guy says “I’m a cop!” and he says “I know” and lights up a welding torch.
My favorite scene is when he calls Rizzo to threaten him, says that he’s “Very close” and then walks into the room holding a brick phone.
He throws darts into Rizzo’s hand and foot, stomps on the foot one, and then kicks him through the window, at which point we see this incredible stunt with a guy flipping while strapped to an office chair:
And then the next shot is an ambulance driving, and he’s inside, alive, with Eddie at his side. Hilarious shit straight out of PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE.
Although Nielsen really deserves more to do, Sybil is definitely cool in her scenes, towering over men and sporting her own catalog of stylish looks (which does not include the badass leather dress/white sunglasses combo on the cover). Here she is about to kill a stoner in a Residents t-shirt without worrying about getting blood on her:
And she escapes through a flooded sewer wearing an outfit that is the opposite of camouflage. I can’t decide if this looks more like a MADONNA: TRUTH OR DARE outfit or a pirate wench.
Unfortunately, Eddie is the main character and it always drags when it focuses on him. Yes, I’m in favor of the movies where the character actor or villain guy gets to play the hero, it can be really interesting, but here they don’t really give him any personality quirks – he’s pretty much exactly the same as he is in any bad guy or side character role, except he gets to fall in love with the pretty female agent Janet Hood (Cindy Ambuehl, PHANTASM III) he initially rejected (even when she showed him the FBI logo tattooed on her ass in a sauna) and when there’s not much more than 15 minutes left in the movie he suddenly stops to roll around on the floor, literally kiss her ass and suck on her toes.
I’m sorry for putting that in your head, but it was the only way to make sure you know I’m not lying. The scene – though not the toes, specifically – turns out to be important to the plot because she says “Ow, what’s that?” when her butt gets poked by a hidden compartment where they find stolen money they’ve been looking for.
Oh, also Jan-Michael Vincent shows up for a while as another cop. His other 1995 movies were RUSSIAN ROULETTE – MOSCOW 95, RED LINE, ICE CREAM MAN and ABDUCTED II: THE REUNION.
For the finale Makato hijacks a street car (and appears to be steering it?) and Eddie fights him and they climb around on it, while Sybil looks badass jumping across other street cars parked at the station and shooting at Agent Hood. It’s well done for this type of movie but feels like a real miscarriage of justice when both cops implausibly defeat their much more skilled, menacing and likable opponents whose sin is avenging criminals and corrupt cops – much worse bad guys than them. Even if you were some asshole who hates karate it would be hard to root for Eddie’s line, “Learn to box, asshole” after unconvincingly punching out Makato. (But it is funny that a street car, on tracks, somehow collides with a fuel truck and explodes at the exact right moment.)
This one is a co-production between American b-movie producers and the Japanese studio Toei. Director Talun Hsu had worked in the camera department for MUNCHIE and FULL CONTACT and had directed WITCHCRAFT V: DANCE WITH THE DEVIL. He later directed the Gary Daniels vs. Yakuza movie FATAL BLADE (2000) and a 2017 comedy called RICE ON WHITE. A story credit is given to David A. Prior (KILLER WORKOUT, DEADLY PREY) but the screenplay is credited to Henry Madden, who otherwise is known for directing episodes of Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go. I haven’t seen those – are they similar?