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  Black Eagle Maltese Mayhem
Year: 1988
Director: Eric Karson
Stars: Shô Kosugi, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Doran Clark, Bruce French, Vladimir Skomarovsky, William Bassett, Kane Kosugi, Shane Kosugi, Dorota Puzio, Jan Tríska, Gene Davis, Alfred Mallia, Joe Quattromani, Victor Bartolo, George Portelli, Eric Karson
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: A United States Air Force fighter plane has ditched in the Mediterranean Sea, carrying with it a top secret laser guidance system that has now become hot property. The Soviets are dead keen to get their hands on it and have sent some of their agents on a ship to track it down, but Intelligence chief Dean Rickert (William Bassett) is equally determined that they don't get anywhere near it, so manipulates events so that one of their top men, Ken Tani (Shô Kosugi), has to head for Malta and do his bidding because he has sent his two young sons there as a bargaining chip, knowing how relcutant Tani will be to get involved...

Of course, another reason to send his sons to Malta is that star Kosugi can have the opportunity to put his two actual sons in the movies alongside their dear old dad again, but Black Eagle was, as things worked out, not really a film that anyone would be best recalled for as their finest work. Perhaps Kosugi should have played a top secret ninja instead, but there were few who considered this worthwhile and those who did were more enamoured of his co-star, a certain Jean-Claude Van Damme just about to enjoy his big break, but here relegated to stock villian role, present because he was the sole cast member who could stand up to Kosugi in unarmed combat.

Fans of eighties action and indeed nineties action may well be salivating at the prospect of these two titans in their field butting heads for ninety minutes, and the fights we do see both of them engage in do exhibit some killer moves. Alas, there are only two martial arts displays in the whole movie, and they barely last a minute each, which should leave ninety-nine percent of those expressing an interest feeling cheated. The rest of the movie is spent with Kosugi living out his James Bond fantasies, which would be fair enough if the budget was there to back him up, but frankly it isn't, so he would have been best advised to forget trying to compete with blockbusters and stick to what he was good at.

Besides, James Bond didn't bring his kids along with him for his adventures, and the way they are crowbarred in here makes Black Eagle look that bit too much like a home movie. The plot has them kidnapped by the Soviet baddies, which presumably we're meant to see as somehow different to the way the Americans spirited the boys away in the care of agent Patricia Parker (Doran Clark), who operates as some kind of nanny without really making it plain why she is around either. She gets kidnapped too, incidentally. This means Tani has to rush around after everybody else as far as the story goes, which weakens his position in the film as a tough guy who has everything under control.

If anything, Kosugi is less keen to emphasise his hard man image than bring out his fatherly side, as throughout he comes across as nothing but affable, except for the scenes where he is breaking necks and high-kicking his foes to the ground. There is some novelty to seeing the normally upstanding Van Damme as the bad guy, and he gets a bit of business to deal with when he seduces one of his fellow operatives - a lady, if you're interested - but mostly is required to scowl and look as if he is about to open a sixpack of whupass or whatever on Kosugi. And he does appear to be the better fighter, oddly, as Tani runs away from both their tussles, a strange way to put across the supposed heroics of the lead character. So aside from pleasant Maltese locations, there's not much else to give this any essential quality, though it may appeal to the completists. Music by Terry Plumeri.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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