Mission Terminate (1987)
a.k.a Return of The Kickfighter
Fight Choreographer- Unknown
Directed By- Anthony Maharaj
Starring- Richard Norton, Dick Wei, Franco Guerro, Huang Kin-Lung(Bruce Le), Rex Cutter, Ernie Ortega.
Plot Synopsis- A corrupt band of Marines, massacred an entire village during the Vietnam war. Just so they could steal a fortune in gold, from the native people. Fifteen years later, and members of the team are being picked off one at time. It's the work of deadly assassin played by Hong Kong action legend and former bodybuilder Dick Wei. Col Ted Ryan, former leader of the Marine unit who stole the gold. Hires elite soldier Col Bradley Cooper, to try and find the killer and stop him. Only Cooper quickly figures out the cover up, and why the killings are really taking place.
"Not that know it all Kangaroo from down under?"
"He's the best, he's got a Master's Degree in Far Eastern languages, head of the Scout team in Cambodia, and a decorated veteran"
This is the third A.I.P production, I've managed to watch within a month. Sometimes released as Return of The Kickfighter, this is no sequel to the other A.I.P movie The Kick Fighter(1989). This feature was made before that one. It does however start with an equally serious, if not more sombre opening. Both films also feature Australian Martial Arts action ace, Richard Norton. The story starts in Vietnam, around 1970. A self-serving recon unit, massacre the locals with no remorse. Only one member refuses to take part, that’s their guide Quang Nhien. None other than sharp hitting tough guy Bruce Le, in a rare M16 touting, non Bruceploitation role. Speaking of M16'S, there's more in this movie than an entire season of the A-Team.
We first see one our heroes, the muscular Col Bradley Cooper(Richard Norton). Sparring with his Kick Fighter co-star and veteran Filipino actor Franco Guerro. A good strong introduction for both characters, though it’s clear Norton is the better Martial Artist. This might be an international production but you never get the impression that either Bruce Le or Mr Guerro, are just minor sidekicks. They might not share equal screen time, but there all important player's here. During the finale Norton's character is side tracked, so they can show Le and Guerro kicking ass their own way. More on the big bullet riddle final act, later in this ramble.
"How many times have I told you?, shut that go-damn door behind you"
Just who got delegated the action directors duties?. There's a lot of back fists, neck breaks, and quick kicking. In what’s essentially a gun-ho war movie. I'm going to take a guess and say both Le and Norton handled the fight scenes?. Neither the movies credits, nor its IMDB page credit anyone with this job. If anyone out there reading this, knows the answer to this question. Please get in touch in this thread. There's some decent Martial Arts n display, but's by no means the casts greatest Martial showcase. Former bodybuilding Champion and dog rescuer, Dick Wei(Project A), steal's every scene he appeared in. He even manages to make his fights, with non-Martial Artist's look better than average.
Wei was already a veteran actor by the time he appeared here. His filmography spans over three decades and includes 131 roles. From minor bit parts, to more prominent roles and everything in between. He's also credited for choreographing three movies, and more than likely gave some in-put to the fights in Mission Terminate too. His character spend most of his time looking mean, while wearing a sleeve-less leather waist coat. He must shop from the same mail order catalogue as Crocodile Dundee?.
This guy is often singled out for his kicking skills, which are pure gold on-screen. However, he's very skilled all round in terms of his physical performances. Watch the guy move like road runner, during his escape from a communist conversion camp. His intense presence, really elevates this movie. Even if he is greatly under-used in the final few encounters. His character is simply listed as Bad Brother. With a backstory that also involves Bruce Les character. The pair where both trained by a Sensei(Ernie Ortega). Only for Bad Brother, to go, ermmmm bad. Training international terrorists in the art of Ninjitsu. You know, the normal full-time job for any bad guy worth his salt.
"I buried that part of my life"
"Well dig it up"
Which you would think would turn this movie, into yet another 80's ninja screen adventure. However, it doesn’t quite turn out like that. The Cobra are just a small army of balaclava clad bad guy's, all whom cannot hit anything with a machine gun. Even though they spend all their waking hours training. There's also the always challenging Ninja obstacle course, to help with sharpening stealthy your coordination.
Now there's never too long between each action set piece. When the runtime eventually clocks in around the 60-minute point. The bullit bathed finale literally goes into first gear. While I cannot confirm this, I think they filmed most of the ending in Hong Kong?. We see Col Cooper and Quan, team up with The Queens Viper's. A crack special forces unit led by Captain Anan(Franco Guerro). While Anan and his team create a diversion, Quan and Cooper fight their way to the secret Ninja training camp. Norton, Le and Guerro all get plenty of time take out the scum. Both Le and Guerro always put on spirited performances. There's also some solid chemistry between the three, as they rib and joke with each other. You can just see these guys got along off-screen. At least that’s the impression I got while watching this movie.
"You said he was the 36th direct descendent of the Iga Ninja, and you fished him out of the Vietnamese water's?"
"We pulled him out of the sea, as he grew stronger he taught us the Secret Code and the Martial Arts, then he was gone as quickly as he appeared"
Bruceploitation fans get to see Le go into Rambo mode, and even bust out some decent Martial Arts moves. His eventual fight with Dick Wei in an industrial setting, is bittersweet. It's a decent fast paced bust up, that leaves the viewer a little short changed in my opinion. At first, I thought they were saving the big grand showdown, for Norton and Wie. When the two titans of action cinema collide, there's not a bad move to be seen. Sadly, they yet again deliver just a short fight. Did they just run out of money and time?. The three actors are on top form, the choreography and camera work are more than adequate. Yet somehow it just misses the mark. Had they extended this last fight, it might have been one of the classics 1980's throw downs?. Hat’s off to the trio, for where clearly busting their guts to make the short screen combat look good.
Mission Terminate is good low budget fun, with some fine Z-Grade acting from the supporting player's. Rex Cutter doesn’t do a bad job, as the two face American Colonel Ted Ryan. Director Anthony Maharaj, delivers a more fun movie, than his 2nd 80's Norton collaboration, The Kick Fighter(1989). It's not essential viewing, but well worth watching for fans of the Aussie ass-kicker and co. Many of the characters are dubbed, or should I say badly dubbed. The leader of the ninja training terrorist group, has a terrible British accent. What make it even more laughable, is you can hear the reverb of the room. They recorded the additional dialogue in. Listen for the Buddhist monk, who speaks with an Hispanic ascent too. Also watch out for Norton’s future wife Judy Green, in minor role as Cooper's military girlfriend.
"So, when do I hear this Tan Mi story?"
"I can tell you a better story over Marines coffee"