Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Steele Justice

  If you know me, even a little bit, you know I'm crazy about 80's action movies. The crazier the better. Guns that shoot knives are definitely a plus. Within ten minutes, Steele Justice was already deep in my good graces. It's a by-the-numbers 80's one-man-army flick that's pretty darn cool. It's full of memorable lines, albeit ridiculous ones- and intense action sequences. So who cares that it's just one big cliche? Not me, that's for damn sure. I should also point out, I watched this movie on VHS. The sleeve is faded, washed out, and adorned with age old rental stickers telling potential renters that this is, indeed, an "ACTION" movie. My VHS copy of Delta Force 3 has two "ACTION" stickers. Does that mean it has twice the action? I hope so.

  This genre bears its aging wear and tear proudly, just like this relic of a VHS sleeve. It's a reminder of a simpler time, when action heroes didn't need to be overly complex characters worthy of a thesis paper deconstruction. They just needed to be right. That, and... of course they needed a badass name. Like "John Steele"! Perfect. Steele Justice is brimming with trademark genre trappings. The hero has an ex-wife who still actually loves him, and will inevitably end up with him at the end. That's not a spoiler, (as if you care) that's just a given. The hero also has to make no fewer than four dramatic entrances, and leave behind his best guns instead of reloading them. Because why not? He has tons more. Oh, and the plot almost always needs to be about revenge.

  You killed his brother, sister, friend, friend's brother, sister, mother, dad, dog- who cares. Someone innocent and friendly died, now the bad guys must die because the idiot cops can't do shit about it. This is the plot of 90% of 80's action movies. Someone has got to pay! And, who better to make them pay than the trained killer/vietnam vet who hasn't quite adjusted to everyday life- who also happens to be named... John Steele. This time, the unfortunate victim of the plot, is John's old war buddy, Lee. Something something something happens, and Lee, who is also a police officer, gets executed by the Vietnamese mafia... in California. So, John swears to protect Lee's now-orphaned daughter and avenge his death... the only way he knows how.

  Surprisingly, there's a bit more talking and exposition in this one than I expected, but that doesn't mean it drags or it's boring at all. The whole first part is set during the Vietnam war, and then when we catch up to John in the modern day, there ends up being plenty of action. A car chase, a prison fight, a shootout at a mall, and lots of other neat action scenes leading up to the epic climax which reminded me of the severely underrated Exterminator 2. There's all kinds of guns and explosions going off at that point. Steele shows up with the penultimate dramatic entrance, and unleashes hell on the bad guys in an abandoned warehouse... because where the hell else would the climax of an 80's action movie take place?

  There's only ever a few interchangeable locations. At an abandoned factory/warehouse, on the roof of a skyscraper, or at the docks. Very few exceptions to this.  At the end of the day, a movie called "Steele Justice" is only as good as its guns are big and its action frequent. I can safely say, that not only are its guns big, its action frequent and plenty, but its soundtrack is killer and there's awesome catchphrases by the truckload. See, because, you don't recruit John Steele... you unleash him. Which also applies to this movie, you don't just watch it... you experience it. It's just a dated, mindless, 80's action movie with enough cheesy humor, and exciting action scenes to make it well worth a watch.

  Genre fans will love the hell out of it, but your average viewer might not see it as anything more than midnight TV garbage. I love finding ridiculous old action movies that probably should've stayed in the past- but not only does John Steele show up to the final showdown strapped with enough guns and ammo to make Rambo blush- he's also toting two katanas like Leonardo the friggin' Ninja Turtle. How is that not awesome? Believe it or not, there's people out there who don't care. Those people are also probably not that fun to watch movies with. I for one loved Steele Justice. It's a forgotten little gem from my favorite era of action movies. I recommend it... for fans of the genre.

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