Back in the Vietnam War, these five G.I.s were the best around at what they did, sent on many a perilous mission to raid the enemy territory. They were great friends on top of it all, and always laughed heartily at the japes of Ray (Gerrit Graham) or gladly followed the orders of Sergeant Nace (Sid Conrad), Ray's favourite trick being the one where he set off a booby trap to spear his water bottle balanced on top of his head. What fun they had as they slaughtered the Viet Cong, but one day the laughter stopped when Bill (Christopher Stone) was injured in combat...
So poor old Bill ended up in a wheelchair, and ten years later we catch up with him in a rough neighbourhood of Atlanta, where a criminal gang is running rampant and he is pondering what he can do to foil such ne'erdowells, though his fellow shopkeepers and good citizens are cowed by the violence threatened to them should they decide to stand up to the menace. It was the old Death Wish scenario, or rather it was the old Death Wish 3 scenario, because The Annihilators bore a notable resemblance to that sequel, yet never came close to toppling its crown as one of the most ridiculous of the eighties action genre.
Nevertheless, there are those who have found plenty to entertain them in this, mostly because they found it unintentionally funny, and it was true enough that as time passed efforts such as The Annihilators took on a quality of accidental self-parody. What tended to bring down the humour was the intent on teaching the audience something about civic duty, so not only was there plenty of mass murder in the name of doing the right thing, but you had to walk away from this with a sense of what to do to improve your community, especially if you lived in a crime-infested inner city. The answer to urban decay would appear to be violence and plenty of it, whether hand to hand combat or with a machine gun.
Now, you may quibble that increasing the degree of bloodshed on the streets was not exactly a helpful way to rehabilitate a troubled area, but this movie was here to disagree with that. The tipping point was the murder of Bill and a lady customer who happened to be in his shop who for some reason gets her clothes ripped off before she dies, suggesting the public morality message hadn't quite gotten through to the filmmakers if they were relying on gratuitous nudity to sell their movie. It was this disparity between the dogoodery it was the cheerleader for and the manner they went about it, basically trying to hit as many exploitation marks as possible, that generated the chuckles.
Such glaring hypocrisy might provide some entertainment, but the proceedings were so relentlessly straightfaced that they did sap the fun out of it, no matter Gerrit Graham's manful endeavours to lighten the mood by playing the joker in the pack. Bill's old buddies arrive shortly after he expires to clean up the town, as if they were the cut rate A-Team (with van), and soon they are gracing us with a montage of the upright citizens taught their self defence moves, but perhaps we should look to the gang leader for true absurdity. Sporting a fright wig of a barnet, Paul Koslo played one Roy Boy Jagger whose facial expressions run the gamut of screwed up to sneering, and it's his overacting which offered a reason to stick with this even as it grew so holier than thou that it made your teeth itch. Of course it's only a matter of time before he has his hands on a flamethrower, and any attempt to reason with him falls on deaf ears: basically if your community is overrun with bad guys, mowing them down with firearms is your best bet, because that worked in the Vietnam War. Um. Music by Bob Summers.