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  Fifty/Fifty Rebel Rebel
Year: 1992
Director: Charles Martin Smith
Stars: Peter Weller, Robert Hays, Charles Martin Smith, Ramona Rahman, Kay Tong Lim, Dom Magwili, Azmil Mustapha, Dharma Harun Al-Rashid, Os, Rohmat Juraimi, Ursula Martin, Sharudeen Tamby, M. Rasuli, Kenji Sevai, Ismail Bin Raimli, Neelawthura Wijewardene
Genre: Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Sam French (Robert Hays) is on his boat in the Pacific off the shore of a small island nation which he has been hired to take an army of guerillas to. They plan to make their way to the palace of the leader there and overthrow him and his government through assassination, but all Sam cares about is getting paid in gold coins, which the Colonel with him hands over, then decides he's not accompanying his troops to land when there are snakes on the beach. Bemused, Sam leads the soldiers himself, but when they reach the shore he is horrified to see they have a welcoming committee armed to the teeth with machine guns who mow them all down except him; he tries to paddle away on one of the boats but only winds up sinking into shark infested waters...

This is where the other star appears, RoboCop himself Peter Weller in a film whose script was originally envisaged as a vehicle for Chuck Norris and Michael Dudikoff - and why was that? It's because this was a Cannon movie and those were two of their biggest stars, so pairing them was an obvious way of doubling the profits rather than having them appear in two separate movies, and by this stage Cannon really needed to make a profit. Indeed, by 1991 when this was completed they were on their way out, not having generated much revenue of any great worth for a while; soon the company was closed down and fans of a particular strain of eighties action flick shed a tear.

So with Fifty/Fifty (not to be confused with the cancer comedy of two decades later) this represented the death knell for Cannon, who never took off in the manner their leaders always wanted, those leaders being Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two notorious entrepreneurs whose names appeared nowhere in the credits here. That's right, they had been ousted by this point, and the producers were listed as veteran industry players Maurice Singer and Raymond Wagner who had a lot of experience in this field, but even their combined powers were not enough to rescue a studio that was swiftly going belly up. So desolate was the reputation by that time that this fairly bog standard buddy action yarn more escaped into cinemas than was released.

Home video was its most obvious destination, where its wry yet not exactly hilarious humour mixed with stuff blowing up real good, but even so its distribution was not wide, which is how its minor cult following arose. Weller and Hays made for a likeable double act, with the former the sensible one and the latter the goofy one, though judging by their performances there were degrees of both personas they were able to shade the characters with, and they were at least as good as Sylvester Stallone and Eddie Murphy would have been when they were eyeing Dennis Shyrack and Michael Butler's script as a vehicle for the oft-anticipated but never realised team up they planned for a while. Hays especially demonstrated a hero's charisma that showed more range than his most famous role in Airplane! indicated.

As for the plot, once they unite and get off that island they are forced by C.I.A. representative Charles Martin Smith (who happened to be the director too - of the movie, not the Agency) to take a job training rebels against a third world dictator, something they have no enthusiasm for until they get to know the locals, including token woman Ramona Rahman for frosty love interest. After what seems like over half an hour of training montages and humorous asides, suddenly our heroes' consciences are raised after an ambush puts paid to the revolution, or so it seems, but which does manage to include the requisite exploding helicopters and an exploding bus into the bargain. Some see this film as a spoof, mostly thanks to the buddy banter between Weller and Hays, but there's not much evidence that we were intended to take it anything other than seriously, a few jokes do not a laff riot make after all, and there were too many scenes of the leads making with the sad faces to convince as a comedy. Also of note as a rare Hollywood movie shot in Malaysia (not the Philippines). Music by Peter Bernstein.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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