Friday, 7 January 2011

DEATH GAME (2001) Joe Lara

Sat up in the clouds (at DVD Heaven) I was trying to think of a good review (until i woke up and remembered I'm a lousy reviewer anyhow) So i thought I'd delve through my (extensive) back-catalogue of (rightfully) obscure DVD releases. And after much musing, i came across this bizarre hybrid of various genres, which i like to call 'HE GOT DEATH WISH GAME' more commonly known as DEATH GAME.

(Slightly different name......Same shit!)

DEATH GAME is credited as being a 2001 production (though it looks like it was made circa 1987) Only a few (lame) hip-hop beats, and 'Michael Jordan' posters prove otherwise. It's also part of a new (new) CANNON MOVIES spin off, known as NEW CANNON INC (which makes it sound more like a computer printer, than a studio on a comeback) Plus it's a 'Menahem Golan joint' (so depending on your tastes, you can stop reading now....or at least take pleasure from my many spelling mistakes, throughout this review)

The pic opens up with a basketball game (at a high school) between 'The Tigers' and 'The Supremes'. The cheesy synth/rock soundtrack also highlight the catchy self-titled 'Ditty' which plays over this (rather) un-energetic game. The Tigers star player Jackie Stewart is heading for the NBA, and his coach, Mickey Haiden (Joe Lara) is determined to keep his star pupil on the straight and narrow. However, when two Russian hoods enter the game at half time and try to lure Jackie with a sports car (a $7,000 Hyundai Sonata) and a bag of 'Devils Dandruff, the Coach finds the drugs in the locker-room, he goes ape-shit and will risk (seemingly) everything, to help his star pupil.

(Sadly Bokeem Woodbine was unavailable....and worse still, Joe Lara WAS!)

After a coked-up Jackie under performs in the second half, Haiden confronts the two hoods, you laugh at him. And he also follows Jackie home...and gets (rather uncomfortably) friendly with Jackie's mother (who keeps asking the Coach to call her mother, and declares "My house is your house")

(Jackie's Mom talls the neighbours that "No-one steals from the 'House Of Dolemite')

Actually, the movie is littered with misplaced parental responsibilities like this. Jackie's mom seems more maternal towards the coach, than her own son...and the coach (literally) sacrifices his families safety, over Jackie's career. I'd like to think there was pre-written undercurrent of 'dynamic repression' built into the plot...but it's probably just bad writing (and believe me, the movie is littered with such)

(Coach Haiden, with his overlooked family, and unlikely mother)

Coach follows Jackie to a nightclub (called 'The Reactor') and sees his star player, getting all friendly with the Russian Goons (plus a few ditzy sluts) and asks Jackieto leave, but is bluntly told to "Fuck Off!" Haiden confronts the two hoods, and covers them in the leftover 'cocaine'...which promptly leads to them kicking the shit out of him (Lara's no big action star in this one folks, so get used to it)

("Who ordered coke?")

Jackie, the hoods and whores all head to a (not-so) luxurious mansion, in which the would-be Michael Jordan, indulges in some 'water sports' in the Jacuzzi with the two bimbos. Meanwhile, the two hoods report to their boss, the sinister Mr Big, who wants to lure Jackie over to the darkside. With a house/henchmen/sluts of this calibre at his disposal, you'd expect the bad guy to be some suave, handsome, musclebound villain...............well, instead of that, we get Billy-Fucking-Drago (probably the reason i bought this dvd in the first place) playing crimelord, extraordinaire, Shakes Montrose (great name BTW) replete with crazy hand gestures, Sam Seed wig, and monologues that would make Anders Hove wince.

(One for the ladies)

Montrose doesn't want the Coach meddling in his business, and sends his goons round to give the 'Haiden Family' a scare. Haiden (still beat up from the nightclub fiasco) is at hospital with his wife, leaving his young son, home alone (with Guard dog Bubbles, as protection) The hoods taunt the boy and kill his dog. When Coach returns home, he finds his traumatised son in the bath-tub, holding a (obviously, fake) dead dog (which resembles a white fur coat) covered in ketchup. With a warning smeared in blood across the walls that states:

"#1 DOG"
"#2 ?"

The police arrive at the Haiden household, and an old friend, sympathetic police Chief Canton (the legend that is Richard Lynch) assures Haiden that he'll receive police protection 24/7 until the culprits are found. However (and let's face it, you didn't expect Richard Lynch to be a fucking choir-boy now, did you?) it turns out that the Chief is on the 'payroll' of the (ever-so-good-looking) Montrose.

(And another for the ladies)

Meanwhile Jackie convinces Montrose to make peace with the coach. And they all go out for a meal (witness Jackies mom look aghast at the prospect of $1000 food, which looks like plain old soup to you and I!) When Montrose pulls Haiden to one side, to cut a shifty deal over Jackie's future...the coach refuses. Montrose (slightly pissed off) later sends his goons round Haidens home (which isn't particularly well police protected) to make good on their earlier blood-smeared threat. Once inside, they procede to rape the shit out of the Coaches wife (in a genuinely uncomfortable scene, that sits uneasy with the surrounding cheese) But i suppose CANNON would never shy away from the odd rape scene in their movies, so I guess we're stuck with it (or maybe they should have retitled it 'FORCED-LOVE AND BASKETBALL'...ho-ho!)

(Oh the 'symmetry' of those fortress gates)

With his wife raped, hospitalised and in a coma, and his young son (further) traumatised.....The coach seems (oddly) still concerned about the whereabouts of Jackie, and heads over to Montroses (ahem) mini-mansion...not so much to have it out, but to rescue his star player (and hopefully win the finals?) Chief Canton is already at Montose's laying down what little law is left in him, which leads to the following (classic) threat/riddle/limerick/tongue-twister:

"You know that I know you know"
"And I know, you know I know"

(Billy realised exactly were this motion picture would be heading)

Baffling Dialogue aside, the chiefs campfire is well and truly pissed on, when montrose shows a Video-Cassette of the many 'pay-off's' Canton has taken. Montrose decides to hold a (quote) "hunting party" with the police chief (possible 'karma' for OPEN SEASON, 1974?) and thankfully (and at long last) a shitstorm of action, bullets and crashing wobbly gates enliven the tedium (and most likely, ugobbles up the movies entire $4, 000 budget in one badly-filmed swoop) During the Gunplay, Coach Haiden turns up and starts bringing the 'ruckus to all the motherfuckaz' but is too late to save Canton, who is shot by montrose in a (4ft high, yet made to look much deeper) backyard canyon. The police soon arrive (as usual) 1 minute after the carnage ends. Montrose claims that Coach shot Canton, and the police totally buy it. Basic forensics (and the most retarded common sense) would say otherwise, but none-the-less the Coach is detained (and still seems more upset about missing the play-offs) than his wife, child and predicament.

("I love you to death....I love you to death...I love you to death...Oooh Baby!")

However, one cop Detective Stone (a 'Village Person', if I've ever seen one) sees through the bullshit, and lets Haiden free (partly because there's no genuine fucking evidence, and also because he wants to see the 'Tigers' win the final) So after a brief visit to see his dying wife (who is completely awake, dressed and recovered, after being in a coma for a day) the coach heads to the basketball guide his team to the top, and Jackie to the NBA (and trust me, it seems the ONLY real priority in his life)

(A post rape/coma Mrs Haiden, clearly affected by such atrocities)

The game starts off, and the Tigers aren't doing so well. Jackie doesn't seem focused (no shit, he's been loosely involved in and around 7-10 murders in the last 24 hours) and things don't get any better, when Montrose and his two goons turn up at the game, and try to dish out the cocaine again. Coach catches Jackie with the powder, but confesses that he'd never touch the 'stuff again.....and (a quick pep talk later) Jackie goes out for the second half feeling better. The coach (who waits in the locker-room mmmm?) is suddenly attacked by the two Russian hoods (one of whom, he shoots dead) The second goon is about to blab all to the Coach, but is shot by non other than Montrose (who fires off another long-winded speech)

(Accion Mutante always targetted the 'Beautiful ones')

The police arrive (on fucking time for a change) and arrest Montrose, and despite having just murdered someone in cold blood, Detective Stone (who quite clearly has a 'thing' for Coach) allows the coach to carry on the second half of the game. Needless to say, Jackie improves, the Tigers win (and hell, even Haidens traumatised son calls Jackie's mom "Grandma")

(Fuck yeah!)

DEATH GAME is (on the surface) a flat out bad movie. Basketballs clearly change colour, during dunks, the games are lethargic, badly coreographed snooze-fests, and the lady playing Jackie's mom is the worst actress since Lady Reed. It doesn't contain a great deal of action, which wouldn't be too bad, except that no-one wants to see Joe Lara play 'Hamlet' (i know i fucking don't!) Were it not for the star quality of Billy Drago and Richard Lynch, this movie would not have bee made. Yet for it's many faults, it's still a goofy movie (minus THAT nasty rape sequence) that will appeal to bad movie lovers, everywhee. Not much of a glowing recommendation...but it's cheesy, contains just enough sleazy exploitation and (like the 'cheep cider' I guzzle) eventually gets you there!

(Just one more, for the horny ladies out there)


  1. Great Review. For some reason, wanted to watch this one for Drago, Lynch and Lara. Will keep an eye out for it, even though it looks awful.

    Also you're right: Shakes Montrose is a bad-ass name!

  2. The picture quality on the dvd i have, looks like they developed the negative through the stomach lining of a lard-eating tramp...Yet the trailer on the same disc, is pristine.
    It's worth a watch, but as long as you don't pay too much dor it. A lot of these sort of titles (plus most of the PM, NU IMAGE releases, are really cheap as chips in the UK) They retail new on DVD (sometimes in 4 movie packs) for £1 (new) and i can pick them up for as little as 20p in second hand shops. So if there's any titles, you need locating, let me know and i *might* be able to track them down (or possibly have them anyhow)


    (P.S, Shakes Montrose is probably the best name since Forrest Taft or Marshall Lawson, in my opinion)

  3. Wow £1? What a deal! Also thanks. I will look at my list of movies to see and definitely get back to you!