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  Steele Justice Martin Gets Startin'
Year: 1987
Director: Robert Boris
Stars: Martin Kove, Sela Ward, Ronny Cox, Bernie Casey, Joseph Campanella, Soon-Tek Oh, Jan Gan Boyd, David Froman, Sarah Douglas, Kimiko Hiroshige, Sheila Gale Kandlbinder, Robert Kim, Peter Kwong, Eric Lee, Al Leong, Shannon Tweed, Irene Tsu
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Back in the nineteen-seventies in Vietnam, during the last days of the war there, John Steele (Martin Kove) was part of a mission that went terribly wrong. Once he and his men, including best friend Lee (Robert Kim), were deep in the Asian jungle, they entered a set of tunnels in order to flush out the enemy, but suddenly they were faced by a suicide bomber rat advancing on them and had to make good their escape lest they be blown to smithereens. Then it turned out the General in charge of the excursion, Kwan (Soon-Tek Oh), was actually working for the other side and attempted to execute them both so he could claim CIA gold - but you can't keep a man like John Steele down.

Looking back on the action movies of the eighties, while some can still appear perfectly reasonable, there are a fair few, possibly the majority, that come across as absolutely ridiculous. Yes, there are the ones that were plain boring in contrast to the higher quality material, but the seasoned fan was not going to be content with the greats when there were so many of the outright egregious, especially when a large amount of fun could be had at these efforts' expense. Which brought us to Steele Justice, one of the more typical, and therefore more ludicrous, examples of this decade's action flick clich├ęs all rolled up into one easy to digest package. Kove (and his pet snake) was our hero, in a rare lead.

He had been making a name for himself as a supporting player in television series Cagney and Lacey and as the baddie guru in The Karate Kid movies, but his musclebound appearance rendered him a natural for this style of thickear, and so it was he was given an opportunity to behave like, well, not Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone, more like Chuck Norris on a good day (though this was not a Cannon movie, no matter how it seemed dead set on emulating the formula that company had been adhering to). That was to say, we did not stay in 'Nam for the duration, we swiftly jumped to present day 1987 and caught up with now-ex-cop Steele who has been causing trouble for his corrupt boss in his horse-helping trucker job (so he's a cowboy, too).

He does not stay there for long, as once he finds out that General Kwan has moved to the United States and is a respectable businessman now, his blood begins to boil, for it will come as no surprise to learn Kwan is anything but respectable, he is actually a drug runner flooding California with cocaine! So it was his fault! What can Steele do? How about spend an inordinate amount of time getting beaten up? Well, he could do that, and indeed he does, but peril comes a-knocking for poor Lee as Kwan's gang, the Black Tigers, show up at his suburban address and kills the cop and his family with machine guns. Except for daughter Jan Gan Boyd, who is too irrepressible to die apparently, and Steele with his estranged wife Sela Ward must take her under his wing for Kwan wants her dead, being the only witness.

You got the message early on: this was a combination of those jungle action yarns where Americans got to re-fight the Vietnam War and win this time (thanks, Rambo), and those urban action tales where East Asians (usually Japanese, it had to be said) were dominating the business and corporate world and had to be put in their places by the Yanks. The result? Two dubious tastes that tasted dubious together! Steele has an association with the cops, specifically detective Bernie Casey who takes long-suffering facial expressions to their logical conclusion, though stupid chief Ronny Cox continually tells him that there's nothing can be done about the gangsters, because there's just not enough evidence to convict, apart from all that evidence they have (is Steele not a valid witness? Hmm, maybe they had a point). Kove dresses as Rambo, all shirtless and ammo belts and big guns, despite him not being in the jungle anymore, and with brief pauses for an aerobics-tastic music video and a montage, you needed a strong propensity for eighties nonsense here. Music (wailing guitars and synth stings) by Misha Segal.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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