Coming surprisingly late in the Kung Fu derby – Bruce Lee’s genre defining flicks had been appearing in drive-ins for ten years by the time this was released — Kill Squad showcases all the charms of a cheapo early entry. In a genre whose films — at least those made before the current Hong Kong explosion — are excessively generic even for exploitation fare, few examples are all that much funnier than the rest. Beating the odds, Kill Squad stands out. Silly plot. Bad acting. Repetitive and poorly choreographed action. An ill-used B-Movie ‘name’ actor. Especially amusing, however, is its conceit that pretty much everyone in the country knows martial arts.
You know you’re in good hands when a picture opens with solarized (i.e., over-exposed) footage from the film. This was an inexplicably popular motif for bad ‘80s flicks. Mega Force begins this way, as does Bimini Code. Ditto the prints of Pod People and Cave Dwellers as shown on MST3K, although those solarized shots came from other movies, such as Galaxy Invader. Here said imagery is, inevitably, accompanied by synthesizer music so low-grade that it would embarrass a porn film. The credits themselves offer some further amusement. Patrick G. Donahue is proud enough of the film to take a possessory credit. One of the *ahem* actors is ‘Jeff Risk,’ which I suspect may not be his birth name. Meanwhile, our Hired-for-One-Day ‘name’ actor here is, big surprise, Cameron Mitchell – welcome back yet again, sir – as “Dutch.”
We awkwardly establish our location via a stock shot of a big house. A couple in maybe their mid-thirties is lounging on a rec room sofa, wearing their bedclothes. The husband, Joseph, is talking about how well their electronics firm is doing. Wife Joann seems bored by this topic and concentrates on her highball. Immediately noticeable is that the sound levels are off, indicating that this one of those pictures where the dialog was looped in during post-production. When this is done especially poorly, as it is here, the soundtrack will continue to sound vaguely off throughout the entire picture. Because of this, I was unsurprised to learn that Joseph’s lines were dubbed in by a different actor than the one playing him on screen. However, I was nonplussed to learn that the vocal readings were supposedly supplied by Russell Johnson, aka the Professor from Gilligan’s Island (!!). (Of course, Russell was also a co-star of Roger Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters.)
We learn that the company Joseph is discussing is, in fact, Joann’s, left to her by her father. Interrupting his spiel, she asks him to get her another drink. He continues to prattle, and as soon as he says, “Things are looking so good for us,” you know that tragedy is soon to strike. It’s like someone saying “I love you,” in a Friday the 13th movie.
We are thus less than amazed when we cut outside to a car pulling up at the curb. A bunch of guys disembark, including someone in cowboy attire. I mean, why not? When the lighting momentarily improves so that we can actually see them, their leader proves to be none other than Mitchell. Consternated to find the front door to Joseph’s house locked (!), they decide to try in back. Meanwhile, Cowboy Guy and a fellow who looks somewhat like Tony Orlando trying to dress all ‘street’ peer in a window at Joann’s bosom. Or at least they do to the extent that the poor editing allows, and despite the fact that window they’re looking into is blocked by a curtain.
Inside, Joseph and Joann begin to bicker about the firm. Hearing a noise – Dutch’s henchmen prove a bit inept – hubby is sent to investigate. He steps into the back by the pool and, finding nothing, returns to the lounge. In doing so he plays a joke on the agitated Joann, who seems to be a bit of a cold fish. Needless to say, she fails to appreciate his japery. Still, the couple are just about to go to bed – wink, wink – when Dutch and the boys enter through the other outside door, one that was apparently open the whole time. (?)
Joseph starts busting some less-than-spectacular kung fu moves, accompanied by the sort of sound effects you’d get if the Three Stooges made martial art pictures. He manages to kick the asses of the four or five henchmen in a rather desultory fashion, but is defeated when Dutch cheats and uses Gun Fu. Joann, meanwhile, meets a Fate Worse than Death at the hands – and other appendages – of Dutch’s men. Thanks, guys, nothing spells entertainment like the suggestion of gang rape, especially when it’s used as an excuse to provide a breast shot.
Cut to a tool and die shop. Because anytime you can show sparks flying off metal in your movie you should. Two people, a man and a woman, are standing by a table and pretending they work here. Because, I suppose, they are Actors. Larry, a mustachioed black dude with a large Afro and wearing a sharply tailored suit – think Harris from the old Barney Miller show – walks into shot. Er, I mean, enters the shop. He immediately stares into the woman’s exposed cleavage – the camera helpfully provides us with a POV shot here – and a pan up reveals in some detail that she sports frizzy, early-80s Penny Marshall hair. She then smiles at him, since women are invariably charmed by guys staring at their breasts.
Larry rejects a job order from the firm because it wasn’t to spec. This results in a brief argument. Hey, we’ve got over an hour and a half to fill here, you know? Johnny the Owner, who sort of resembles a much shorter Dennis Miller, is quite upset with this turn of events. Larry, however, holds firm. He’ll pay up if they rework the tools, not before. Here Johnny provides some handy exposition. Larry works for Joseph’s firm, Joseph’s still in the hospital and is now crippled, and Joann was killed after being, er, manhandled.
At some secret signal (hint: It was In The script), Johnny’s workers turn from their machines. That’s right, if Larry ain’t gonna pay up, they’re going get all medieval on his ass. Which seems sort of an odd way to resolve a billing dispute, but what do I know? Unfortunately for them, Larry proves as capable a martial artist as his boss was – for what that’s worth – and he spends a couple of minutes mopping up the place. Since this involves Johnny getting kicked in the groin numerous times, and since he looks a bit like Dennis Miller, this proves rather enjoyable.
Otherwise, it’s a typical bad Kung Fu fight. There’s really lame music, one guy falls onto a balsa wood table, everyone takes about three dozen blows but keeps coming back for more. I especially like how Johnny jumps back up after Larry knocks him to the floor and grinds his foot into the guy’s testicles. Now that’s tough. Finally, in what I have to admit is an authentically funny bit, the once again prone-on-the-floor Johnny grabs a gun and tries to shoot the dodging Larry. Unfortunately, Johnny’s upraised foot gets in the way and he blows off some of his own toes. (!) Larry chuckles, takes the gun, and tells Johnny he still wants the tools reworked. Oh, Larry, you so coool.
Cut to Larry escorting Joseph, now ensconced in a wheelchair, from the hospital. It’s been months since the incident, we learn, and despite the fact that Joseph should be able to identify all of his attackers, no one has been arrested. Larry drives him back home, and they peruse Joseph’s beloved rose garden. Feeling that the police will do nothing about the attack, Joseph tells a pleased Larry to “assemble the squad.” Hmm, I wonder if that will be the ‘kill’ squad indicated in the title?
This cues a flashback to, get ready for it, Vietnam. Joseph, we learn, was leader of an army squad that included Larry. We see that a group of Vietcong has captured Our Heroes and are brutally escorting them to some location. It turns out that they intend to run the bound GIs through a minefield so that they can clear it the old fashioned way. They pull Joseph from the line and shoot down one of his men in cold blood as motivation. Then Joseph is lead over to the minefield. Larry speaks up, resulting in him receiving a kung fu kick (!) from one of their captors.
As Joseph enters the minefield, the most gigantically muscled squad member breaks his bounds. Amazingly, none of the guards notice this. Following this, Muscle Guy silently impales a guard with a blunt length of bamboo (!), again with no one noticing, and manages to hold the guy up on his feet via the pole sticking through his torso. Which seems pretty unlikely, I don’t care how strong you are. Meanwhile, Joseph calls out that they should follow, as he doesn’t think there are any mines here after all. Whereupon he is proven wrong in the most direct fashion possible.
The squad jumps their guards, who are distracted by the detonating mine. Making short work of them, they apparently retrieve their injured leader and…back to the Rose Garden. Joseph again orders Larry to reassemble the men. (Conveniently, the squad members all prove to live in the same city, which seems a tad unlikely when you think of it.)
Cut to the dapper Larry walking down a funky inner-city street. Suddenly five panicked guys emerge from a nearby gym and jump into their car. Chasing them is Alan, the gigantic body builder from Joseph’s flashback. He tears the hood off their car (!) and then ‘disables’ their engine by pretending to tear something out of it. Next he punches his way through one of the car windows, whereupon one of the cowering occupants grabs his arm and runs it along the jagged shards of glass. This makes Alan mad, although it should make him armless. He rips the car door off (!) and gets into a sadly unfunny comical fight with the guys, all of whom – sorta – know kung fu. In the comic department, one guy pulls loose a parking meter (?), but in swinging it around mostly pegs his own assocaties. Ho ho. Meanwhile, I was mostly noticing that the present camera angle shows that the car they were using for this scene doesn’t in fact have an engine. Whatever.
Larry, The Dapper One, approaches Alan after the fight and tells him Joseph needs him. Alan, needless to say, is the group’s Really Strong Guy. He says “let’s go,” and reveals that he know where K.C. is. (In a movie like this, there’s always a guy named K.C.) Then we get the punch line to the scene, which is that Alan beat up these guys and ruined their amazing engineless car because they owed him a dollar. I’ll give you a minute for your sides to stop aching.
Cut to a guy in a big white cowboy hat, driving a car. We can’t see the man’s face yet, but given the big hat and the funky music, I think I’m safe in assuming that he’ll be black and a pimp. Sure enough, he is, and he pulls up in front of some working girls, who call him K.C. Hey, maybe he’s the same K.C. that Larry and Alan were talking about. That would tie right in!
From the outside, K.C.’s car proves to be a big old Lincoln (surprise) and he calls the girls, one black and one white, Salt ‘n Pepper. Ah, that street lingo. He yells at them for being in the wrong spot. They reply that they were chased off their proper location by Louis, another pimp. Hmm. I think I see where this is going.
Ordering his employees into the car, they head for their designated corner to confront Louis the Interloping Pimp. Louis, we soon see, wears a leather cap and a white tuxedo jacket. Meanwhile, two of Louis’ associates jump out of yet another big Lincoln – maybe the filmmakers got a package rental deal – and by now I’m really pretty sure where we’re heading. Anyhoo, Louis makes the mistake of calling K.C. ‘Roy,’ which is apparently a big insult, and, well, let the lame kung fu-ing begin. A couple of quick kicks to the crotches and the competition is down for the count. If only all the fight scenes here ended so quickly.
Larry, The Dapper One, and Alan, The Really Strong One, now appear, muttering the film’s trademark line, “Joseph needs you.” Of course, K.C., The Jive Talkin’ One, falls right in line. Proving a surprisingly laid back pimp, he hands his ladies a wad of cash and gives them a couple of days off while he takes care of business. Then it’s off to find the next member of the squad, Tommy.
Tommy is the Asian member of the typically multiracial squad. When we cut to him he’s doing some landscaping work. Finishing up, he hunts down the house’s owner, who’s hosting a party in the backyard. The guy ignores Tommy, who wants to get paid. (Are you starting to see a pattern developing here?) The owner tries to put him off, but Tommy insists, with predictable results. That’s right, Tommy is soon kung fu fighting with all the party guests, including the women (!!). Anyway, he eventually gets his check. Then the others show up, and Larry, The Dapper One, says “Joseph needs you,” and yada yada. Tommy, The Asian One Who’s Thus the Best at Martial Arts and the others are soon on their way.
We cut to a construction site, where two workers nonchalantly push a third off the roof of a four-story building (!). “We don’t need new stewards around here who are going to rat on us and get us in trouble,” they expository. Apparently this sort of thing is pretty common in the construction field, especially since none of the other construction guys stop what they’re doing after one of their fellows tumbles from a roof and smashes into a parked car.
The two miscreants head down to view the guy’s body, but when they get there it’s missing. Pete, the fellow in question, pops up behind them and cheerfully challenges the two. Boy, he’s pretty tough, I’d say. (Three guesses where this is heading.) It turns out that the guys threw him off the roof because they work by the hour, whereas Pete works by the job. He’s working so fast while doing a quality job that the other guys won’t get to milk the assignment as they planned. Being a tad touchy about being pushed off a building for such a vulgar reason, Pete begins a kung fu fight. Inevitably, his two assailants quickly gain the aid of some of their co-workers. Amazingly, this is perhaps the most poorly choreographed fight in the movie, with blows sometimes ‘landing’ a good three inches away from their targets.
After Pete wins (oh, sorry), the others show up right on cue. Larry, the Dapper One, says “Larry needs you,” and Pete, The Funny One – or so I’m assuming, since every team has a Funny One and Pete looks a little like Gabe Kaplan – and the rest head off to look for Arthur, the last member of their team. Thank goodness.
We cut to meet Arthur, who I’d say is The Slick Con Man Guy. Heading for his car, he’s confronted by two guys asking about their investments. (Three guesses where this is heading.) He manages to talk his way out of trouble, although his ‘slick’ qualities definitely fall into Informed Attribute territory. As, in fact, do most of the squad’s fighting skills and primary personality traits. However, Arthur’s aggrieved secretary then appears complaining that they’ve been locked out of their office, and he’s back in hot water again.
At this, a bunch of guys jump out of Investment Guy’s car and begin circling Arthur. This leads to another kung fu fight – was that one of your three guesses? – that again resembles the blocking sessions for a kung fu fight rather than the actual version meant for filming. Here the other guys show up, of course, while I tried to calculate how many people these fellows assault in the course of a year. Assuming they live in a mid-population city, like, say, Detroit, I’d estimate that statistically each citizen receives a beating from one of them, on average, every three and a half years.
So the guys assemble in Joseph’s garden. (Not the easiest place for a man in a wheelchair to maneuver, you’d think, but anyway). Having seen other martial arts films, they line up in army fatigues and takes turns presenting their moves to Joseph. Despite already knowing each other and having worked together, but whatever. The whole scene is rather ludicrous, but hey, it’s eats up another five minutes or so.
Tommy does some moves with a couple of nightsticks. These seem pretty basic, but they do generate some loud ‘whooshing’ Foley effects. Larry purses his lips and nods in approval, so that we ‘get’ that Tommy is good at this sort of thing, at least in this universe. Next is Alan, who bulges his muscles, of course, and does a few seconds of nun chuck stuff. Then K.C. shows his prowess with, what else, a switchblade knife. Because, you know, he’s a ghetto pimp.
Then Con Man Arthur, who, oops, is identified as the “Squad Clown” (dammit, then what’s Pete’s Personality Trait? Falling Off of Buildings with No Ill Effect?) pulls open his shirt to reveal a Bruce Lee T-Shirt. This gets a big laugh from Joseph, who apparently is relatively easy to please in the comedy department. Arthur’s weapon of choice is a short samurai sword (hey, you knew it was coming). Then Pete struts his stuff, also with nun chucks. I get the idea they really didn’t know what to do with this guy.
Larry jumps in by tossing a ninja star, one that we soon see has neatly severed a rose stem. I would perhaps be more impressed if it weren’t for the fact that anyone throwing an edged weapon whilst standing in the midst of a rose garden would probably accomplish the same thing. I don’t know, maybe Larry’s ‘special ability’ involves the generation of cartoon sound effects like the one that accompanied his ninja star toss.
Joseph thanks them for these awesome displays of martial prowess. He then explains that the attack that crippled him was the result of him and Joann refusing to sell their electronics firm. His theory is that “one of the larger electronics corporations is behind this.” No one company in particular, I guess, any big firm will do. The only clue they have is that the leader of the miscreants was called ‘Dutch.’ Well, OK, they have one other lead, as Larry explains: “His name is Virgil, and he lives on an abandoned ranch with about eight or ten cowboy types.” He admits that it’s not much to go on. Actually, I was wondering the opposite: Where the heck did they hear of this Virgil guy, anyway? How do they know where he lives? How do they know who he lives with? (And if he and ten others guys are living on a ranch, is it, technically speaking, ‘abandoned’?) I don’t know, this all seems kind of convenient to me.
We cut to a couple in the midst of, uh, expressing their love in a barn. Since we might not ‘get’ this from the shadowy, overly dark footage, they helpfully foley in some too-loud moaning sounds. This is accompanied by a couple of lines that I’m assuming were adlibbed, since I find it difficult to believe that anyone would bother to ‘script’ lines like “Oh, yeah, that’s fantastic!” Outside, meanwhile, some “cowboy types” are chasing a few horses around a corral, apparently under the theory that this is the sort of activity that cowboy types would be engaging in. This only serves to substantiate my earlier question about the ranch being described as abandoned. I mean, not only are almost a dozen guys living there, but they’re actually using the place to raise horses. Perhaps the term ‘abandoned’ has a different connotation in cowboy circles than the ones I’m familiar with.
These horse-chasing antics are being observed by a number of other Cowboy Types, as well as some Cowgirl Types. That they are all heartily cheering and laughing at these desultory proceedings indicates that we are indeed lucky to live in the era of cable TV and home video. Eventually Larry, now dressed in natty combat fatigues, makes an appearance. He asks Jake, a cowboy who’s seated at the time, where he can find Virgil. The fact that Larry gives Jake lip while doing so sort of diminishes his credentials as a diplomat. This does, however, set up the inevitable bit where Jake stands up and turns out to be a Really Big Dude.
Larry calls everyone there a ‘bastard’ (again, a seemingly odd technique for somebody seeking information), Jake replies by unlimbering the “N” word. Here we see that the rest of the Squad, similarly clad in fatigues, have come along to provide back-up. A rather amateurishly blocked melee breaks out, complete with the now standard goofy sound effects. You know the kind. Every thrown punch loudly goes ‘whoosh,’ every blow that connects – even the ones that clearly don’t — goes “bam!”
Eventually Virgil, who’s the guy in the barn making hay, figures out that his fellows aren’t watching a slapstick comedy marathon with the sound turned up real high. So he grabs a convenient shotgun and revolver – nice to know he brings ‘protection’ when having sex – and rushes outside to see what’s up. He tosses the shotgun to Jake and draws the sidearm. Larry kicks the shotgun barrel, however, and Virgil takes the blast. This, needless to say, constitutes felony murder, so it’s lucky for Our Purported Heroes that the police do not really seem to exist in this universe. At least they never make an appearance anytime during the movie, no matter how many corpses get strewn about.
Angela, Virgil’s now-former squeeze, runs out to weep over her man. At this point, and for no apparently reason other than IITS, the fight suddenly seems to have been completed. This allows Larry to roughly grab the grieving woman and harangue her for information. For our presumed benefit, Angela’s torso is only covered by an unbuttoned vest, allowing us an occasional glimpse of her ya-yas. Since the only other time we’ve seen any breasts in this film was during the scene where Joann was being raped, well, you don’t exactly have to be Andrea Dworkin to find the proceedings a tad misogynistic.
Angela doesn’t know anything about Dutch, but, since this is the way the script is written, she vaguely knows two names. (Which is a bit convenient for Our Heroes, since otherwise their abrupt killing of Virgil would have left them up a creek.) Anyhoo, one guy is Jesse, who works for a cement company, and the other is Georgie, who works at a steel yard.
Back to the rose garden. All of Joseph’s scenes after the attack take place here, by the way, presumably because they no longer had access to his and Joann’s ‘house’ to film further stuff in. Meanwhile, it’s pretty obvious that the garden is not, in fact, part of the same backyard we saw earlier, the one with the swimming pool.
Joseph orders them to split up into two teams and hunt down Jesse and Georgie. We cut to a cement factory, where Larry, Pete and K.C. soon arrive. They ask after Jesse, whose last name proves to be “James.” (Oh, bru-ther!!) Told he doesn’t work there, they move on to the city’s only other cement works. I guess the characters in this film have a magical ability to tell when they’re being lied to, as every other time they’re told a guy isn’t known thereabouts they start beating people for information.
Here Jake, the Really Big Dude from the ranch, reenters the picture. We catch up with him as he stops at a pay phone to call Dutch. He tells Dutch about the Squad looking for him, and how Virgil bit the dust. Dutch offers to make it worth their while to take care of Our Heroes. Considering that Jake’s gang already got their asses handed to them once, I’m not sure why they’re so confident they can handle them now. I’m also wouldn’t be that impressed by a gang who offers to whack some dudes because some guy vaguely promises that he’ll “take real good care” of them.
This also raises another point. What exactly is Dutch’s status here? I mean, supposedly he’s some kind of crime boss, or something, but the crew he used to take out Joseph consisted of manual workers from, variously, a horse ranch, a cement company, a steel yard and other such locales. (!!) Then, when he learns that a group of guys are after him, he hires on some men he never met before, over the phone, yet, whose only credentials are that they knew one of his part-timers.
On to the Steel Yard. Alan, Tommy and Art arrive and immediately find Georgie. Georgie proves an easy-going, even friendly sort. Or he is until he learns of their interest in Dutch, whereupon he tries to runs off. To little avail, however, as he quickly finds himself surrounded. Our Heroes start working him over (!) and some of Georgie’s crewmates, spotting three weirdoes in army fatigues beating on a co-worker, run over and try to help him out. This leads to the inevitable – inevitable here, anyway – low-grade kung fu and Secret Squirrel sound effects. Hilariously, in what will be one of the film’s goofy trademarks, the majority of their opponents will evidence some martial arts expertise (of a sort) of their own. Just in case you ever wondered how many kung fu guys work at a steel yard.
After Our Heroes assault maybe a dozen guys who I must assume are entirely innocent of anything, we end up with Alan trapping Georgie in a bear hug. Under threat of having his spine snapped, Georgie directs them to a guy named Phil, who works at a wrecking yard. (Are you starting to see a pattern here yet?) However, way up on a water tower — which probably isn’t anywhere near them, but it’s cut that way –, we see a Mysterious Masked Sniper. He fires, and the bullet enters Alan’s back. In his death throes, he breaks Georgie’s back, killing him. Art and Tommy, who seem at best mildly perturbed by this eventuality, remove Alan’s dog tags and leave the two corpses behind.
Next we cut to the cement works as Larry, K.C. and Pete arrive. They ask for Jesse James, who happens to be working under a truck. Jesse tells them he’ll be up in a moment, but realizing something weird is going on he runs out the other side of the truck. Since Our Heroes are completely caught off guard by this rather elementary ploy, they end up looking somewhat less than bright. Then it’s back to pattern. They chase Jesse, they catch Jesse, his workmates arrive to help, a haphazardly choreographed brawl begins, Our Heroes prevail, Jesse coughs up yet another name, and the Mysterious Sniper from a distance kills K.C. and Jesse. Also per routine, Larry and Pete seem less than choked up, or even just surprised, at this turn of events. Instead, like their comrades, they take K.C.’s dog tags and head off.
Oh, one other thing. During the mÃlÃˆe — such as it is — Pete grabs one of Jesse’s coworkers and quite clearly snaps his neck!! Nor do either of his comrades seem to have a problem with this. Now, at least Virgil, Jesse and Georgie were actually in on the raid at Joseph’s house. (Although, frankly, there was no real way that the Squad guys would know that.) Meanwhile, Pete just flat out murdered a guy who I’m assuming was only trying to help out a fellow worker. I mean, what are we to make of such a thing? Are we to assume that any working stiff who works at an industrial site is fair game for the Squad’s purportedly heroic mayhem?
Oh, I forgot one. Jesse was the guy who raped Joann. Our Heroes figure this out because he’s got scratches on his face. Which is weird, because we were earlier told that Joseph had been in the hospital for three months after the attack. Now, I want to be clear on this: I have no professional medical training. Even so, I don’t think ‘scratches’ last three months. Anyway, after more or less coming to the conclusion that Jesse raped Joann, they get a name out of him – Ritchie, for those who care – and let him go. (!!) This after Pete just completely whacked what was apparently an utterly innocent guy. I mean, wouldn’t they kill this guy just on general principles? Or bring him to Joseph for identification, at the very least? In any case Jesse falls to the Mysterious Sniper. But still.
Back in the garden the Squad presents Alan and Pete’s dog tags to their commander. Joseph is mildly upset at this (or he’s perhaps suffering from acid indigestion). Still, he looks more concerned than his team, anyway. Still, Larry assures his that “they died for a cause they believed in.” It was hereabouts that I started wondering where the cops were. I mean, even if the assaults themselves didn’t get reported, there are still at least three corpses littering the places where Our ‘Heroes’ have been. And it’s not like there was a paucity of witnesses to these events, either. In any case, things are now all the more personal for the remnants of the Squad.
With, conveniently, two names to chase down, and no apparent impulse to rethink their general strategy, the guys re-split again into two teams. Larry and K.C. we soon see at an auto wreckers. Do I really have to set this up? They ask for Phil. Phil, freaked by their questions about Dutch, takes off running. His coworkers come to his defense. Etc. Bad Kung Fu. Exaggerated sound effects. Probably the big stylistic addition here in a classic Unnecessary Zoom Shot of Larry, one that’s right out of a Spaghetti Western. Oh, and since they’re at an automobile graveyard, they get to smash a car window or two. (And shop for an engineless car for the earlier scene where Alan chases those guys out of the gym.) Eventually Phil pulls a gun but Larry twists his wrist and Phil takes the bullet.
Since we’re running out of Squad members to send to industrial sites, Phil is allowed to croak without uttering yet another name for them to chase down. I think we already knew what was about to go down next. Our suspicions are confirmed when K.C. turns to walk away and we see a rather noticeable bulge under his shirt. Sure enough, the Mysterious Sniper appears and plugs ol’ K.C. right in the blood bag. Boy, you hate to see a guy get it that way. As he watches the Sniper run off, Larry vows revenge.
Wow. Still twenty-five minutes left to go, eh? All right, then, let’s cut to Art and Tommy as they arrive at, and I’m not kidding, a corner used car lot. (!!) They are greeted by a guy who looks like he makes ten bucks a throw as a barely adequate Robert Duvall celebrity impersonator. Our Heroes ask for their latest quarry, and yada yada yada. Now, it must be said that the guys playing Tommy and Art are the closest thing the film boasts to competent martial artists, so we’re not surprised that they got saved for the last (we hope) big fight. And, I have to say, watching a bunch of guys in bad salesmen blazers running out to engage in a kung fu fight remains one of those sights I’ll remember to the day I die.
In at least an attempt to add something different into the mix — about time! — they now toss in a car chase. It says sometime about the sheer repetitiveness of this movie that they thought a cornball element like a car chase would freshen things up, but there you go. Anyway, lots of hidden ramps are employed, resulting in cars flying insanely through the air. Lots of civilian cars are wrecked and pedestrians run over. resulting in, you’d have to assume, some fatalities. Oh, well, collateral damages and all that. Things end with a crash and a big explosion, one whose size indicates that the car lot tanks up their autos with Atomic Gasoline.
After his car is disabled their latest target runs off on foot. Art and Tommy are soon on his heels. Utilizing some handy Offscreen Teleportation, Tommy gets ahead of him and blocks his escape. Their opponent, who’s Black — and a car salesman, but the “Black” part is the important bit — pulls out, that’s right, a switchblade knife and briefly tries to defend himself before being beaten down. However, before he can talk, we see (who’d thought?) the Mysterious Sniper up on a building. Soon both their witness and Tommy have been shot down. Collect dog tags and so on.
Joseph, back in the rose garden, starts rethinking things after being presented with the latest casualty reports. I don’t know, I still think they should have done this after the first two guys were shot. I mean, it’s not like they stopped to consider what they’d do differently if the sniper showed up again. Anyway, their distraught leader decides to call the mission off, now that he has only two friggin’ guys left. Arthur gives a little speech about how he can’t do that. These few lines constitute strong evidence that the actor playing him was hired for his kicking skills rather than his thespian abilities.
As both Phil and Ritchie died without spilling any further beans, Larry decides that he and Art will head back to the ranch (!) and further question Angela. I don’t know, this whole operation seems kind of aimless, considering the whole ‘crack squad of commandos’ thing. The guys are soon cornering the ever-braless Angela. In a rather funny bit, considering what’s occurred prior to this, Our Heroes evince shock and concern over the fact that she’s been beaten. (Apparently it’s distressing when people other then themselves pummel and/or kill folks.) It turns out that Jake smacked her around for talking to Our Heroes earlier. As a result, Angela unsurprisingly prefers to keep further conversations with them as short as possible. So she warns them that Jake and the boys are out looking to whack them, per their nebulous contract with Dutch.
The guys end up (through magic, as far as I can tell) in front of the Gold Rush Country-Western bar. Man, now that’s some fabulous product placement. There they see Jake and two of his guys (convenient that Jake’s crew has radically diminished in concert with Our Heroes’ numbers), who just happen to be lounging in their pickup out in the parking lot. Driving past, Art throws them the bird, instigating *sigh* another low-budget car chase. They must have blown their production wad on the earlier one, though. Here the cars are quickly abandoned and, to the strains of some generic country music, the chase progresses on foot.
The chase takes them up on the roof of a parking garage. After further grievous violations of Ken’s Rule of Guns, Art and Larry (duh) end up on top. Jake is soon begging for mercy. Learning that they want to know where Dutch is, he tosses them his address book. Whereupon — and I hope you’re sitting down, because I wouldn’t want you to fall over or anything — the Mysterious Sniper shows up. Jake gets plugged, so does his number one henchman (or so I assume, although the way the action is cut it looks more like the guy just spontaneously leapt off the building) and so does Art.
Larry grabs the address book and takes off after the Sniper, who’s currently assuming a gloating posture on top of a nearby building. Larry takes the garage stairs while the Sniper rappels down the side of the six or seven story building he was on. They hit the street about the same time and another foot chase develops. Now in most movies it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to run unarmed after a marksman who’s still toting his rifle, but there you go. The chase takes them over fences and through backyards and such.
Eventually Larry catches up with the guy and manages to disarm him by tossing a ninja star at him. Then the inevitable kung fu-ing begins. Since this is a ‘big’ fight the sound effects here are louder than ever. Larry manages to unmask the guy, but is knocked unconscious before he — or we — can see who it is. Since Larry is our last remaining Hero (such as we are presented with here), the Sniper runs off without killing him.
Waking up, Larry decides to take care of the Dutch thing. He heads over to Dutch’s house, where a backyard barbeque is going on. The only question here is which of the filmmakers volunteered their home for this sequence. Dutch proves to be a coward and is helpless after Larry beats off his cadre of bodyguards, or barbeque guests, or whatever these people are meant to be. (Again, for a supposed crime lord he doesn’t have much in the way of security.) Probably the oddest thing here is that whenever Larry knocks someone into Dutch’s swimming pool, which happens a lot, they just stay in the water and continue to watch the activities, like it a rule or something. “Hey, once you’re in the pool you’re ‘out’!”
Squealing like a pig, Dutch reveals that it wasn’t an electronics company that hired him, it was…whereupon an actual armed henchman shows up. Unsurprisingly, this fellow does what every other armed guy in the movie’s done. In other words, he runs right up next to Larry, who deflects the weapon, which fires and pumps a bullet into Dutch. Dutch, of course, dies before he came name who’s really behind it all.
Back to the Rose Garden. (By the way, is an outdoor garden the best place for a guy in a wheelchair to hold meetings? I mean, sod doesn’t seem like the most conducive surface for wheelchair travel.) Larry is breaking the bad news to Joseph, that they may never know who was behind the attack. The scene is rather melancholy, needless to say, what with the five guys in their squad who have been killed for little real purpose. (And all the other dead people, although there’s little sign that they care much about them.)
Joseph asks Larry to go get his notes. He intends to look them over and then give them to the police. Oh, yeah, that’s what I’d be doing right now, telling the police that I was involved with the piles of corpses and numerous cases of assault all over the city. As Larry returns, though, he’s confronted by *gasp* the Masked Sniper. This heralds the start of another battle banal, accentuated with bad wakka-chika music and Benny Hill sound effects. Sniper gets the upper hand, when suddenly Art appears – he was standing off-camera, so they couldn’t see him — and lends a hand. He is, we now see, sporting a bulletproof vest, albeit one that looks highly inadequate for stopping high-velocity rifle rounds. With Larry again unconscious, Art takes up the fight. Faced with another opponent, Sniper cheats and resorts to a samurai sword he’d kept nearby. Boo!! Hiss!!
Art is soon pretty well sliced up, and Sniper prepares for the final blow. However (surprise) Larry rouses, and looking up notices Joseph’s empty wheelchair in the nearby bushes. Larry resumes the fight, managing to knock the Sniper down while grabbing his mask. As the Sniper rolls around, we see that *gasp* he’s Joseph. Since pretty much every other character in the movie is dead by this point, this comes as less than a complete shock.
Oddly, Joseph is the only person — other than Angela, marginally — who shows any effects of being beaten. As he rolls up we see that thick applications of mascara have provided him with raccoon eyes. Even better, and this is a classic, all-time bit, they apparently wanted to imply that his lip had been ripped off, or something, and so they blackened it and drew some ‘exposed’ teeth on it. (In other words, this is along the lines of the makeup job used to give Glenn Manning a partial skull-face in War of the Colossal Beast.)
Making this really prime is that the guy playing Joseph is of the of the Kirk Douglas teeth-clenching school of acting. Therefore he tends to pull back his lips when delivering his lines. Obviously this is a problem right about now, since when he draws back the lip that’s not supposed to be there we end up clearly seeing the fake drawn-on teeth as well as the actor’s real, immaculate choppers. And not for a second for two, but at some significant length. This is really marvelous stuff.
This is apparently supposed to be Larry’s big Oscar Clip Moment, what with him confronting their betrayer. The motivation behind his treachery is because, we now learn, Joseph lost a leg in that minefield incident, if you can remember back that far. (An insert shot of his prosthetic limb is helpfully provided.) Larry more or less just accepts all this, but I still have a question or two.
First, and most obviously, why the heck Joseph would blame the guys in his squad for his injuries? It was the Vietcong who forced him into the minefield, not his men. They did absolutely nothing to betray him, so what the hell? Here’s the best they can come: “I almost died in my uniform,” Joseph spittles. “I wanted to see them die in theirs!!” Yep, that’s some keen plumbing of the human psyche, by golly.
A more pertinent question is why he even cares about the leg. In the course of this film we’ve seen Joseph kung fu five guys at once. As the Sniper, he defeated both Larry and Art in hand-to-hand combat, despite their supposed status as topnotch martial artists. We also saw him atop of numerous high structures, a water tower being one obvious example, which would require him to climb not just many flights of stairs but similarly high ladders to reach his firing position. Plus we’ve seen him rappel down the wall of a six story building and in the next moment almost outrun Larry in a foot chase, all whilst leaping fences and stuff. Frankly, the prosthetic leg doesn’t really seem to be slowing him down that much.
Joann, by the way, was killed because she was going to divorce him. She owned everything, and he’d have been screwed. So he hired Dutch to kill her and then wound him (oh, yeah, I like a plan that involves hiring someone to shoot me with a .357 caliber revolver) to allay suspicions. It was then that he thought of killing two birds with one stone by setting his old Squad mates up against Dutch and his men.
Planning that it would come down to a final hand-to-hand confrontation between him and Larry – which is why he didn’t shoot Larry during all the opportunities he had — Joseph reveals that “I trained…and I trained…forcing myself back into shape.” OK, even is that’s true, hello, the guy just spent three months in the hospital after being shot by Dutch! How much even surreptitious training could he have gotten in without his doctors noticing his continued sustained muscle mass and stuff? (In fact, if he was getting back into his prime, his muscle mass would actually have been increasing.)
I mean, OK, he fools his doctors that he’s lost the use of his legs, right? So he has to pretend, while under hospital care for three months, that he can’t move them. Now, I don’t care how fit he was before being shot, he’d have to train all over again once he recovered. But even if he could do this in secret, without the hospital staff catching on, wouldn’t somebody notice that the muscles in his legs were not only not degrading but actually firming up?
Larry, now fueled with righteous anger (duh) easily trounces Joseph in their final battle. And when Larry embeds a double-sided axe head into a fence while swinging at Larry, well, you don’t exactly have to be Jean Dixon to predict that a blow will accidentally cause Our Villain to fly backwards into the exposed blade. Admittedly, I wouldn’t have thought you could accidentally decapitate yourself this way, but apparently Joseph kept the cutting edges of his axe really, really sharply honed. (Actually, if you watch closely – slow-mo will help with this — you’ll see that Joseph never even puts the axe into contact with the wall, much less sinking the blade deeply into it.)
Larry goes to have a final conversation with the (still) dying Art. Art had this wacky scheme to sell bugs as pets, and he talks about how much money they could have made as partners in this. Larry agrees, hoping to make his friend’s last moments as pleasant as he can. It turns out, though, that Art is only faking his death (!!). Having now gotten Larry to agree that the idea was good — Art was the Con Man guy, remember — he plans to hold Larry to his word. (You’d think Art would also express some…I don’t know, something over Joseph’s betrayal of them and their dead comrades, but I guess not.) And so the laughing duo walk off into the sunset, waiting for the inevitable call for “The Return of Kill Squad.” And who knows, maybe someday, Jabootu willing, the call will come.
One thing you may have noticed, a factor that supplies much of the film’s unintended humor, is the extremely repetitive nature of the script. First we have the scenes where the Squad is brought back together. (Convenient how all these guys live in the same town, isn’t it?) In a way it’s a comical analog to the reuniting-the-band sequences in The Blues Brothers. Especially in that things just keep getting more farcical. We see a guy. He gets in a fight with a number of opponents. He kicks their asses. Whereupon Larry and whoever was earlier showcased make their appearance. The new guy reveals that he knows the location of the next guy and so on and so on.
Soon – well, not soon, more like after an eternity – the team is at full strength, whereupon it’s time to start winnowing it back down again. So, after the fight at the ranch, we again go into dÃˆjâ€¡ vu territory. Part of the team goes to some locale, a fight breaks out, the guys win, get a name, and have one of their number assassinated by the Mysterious Sniper. Then we go to the other half of the team, and watch the same thing. Then back to the first team, now shorter a guy, and same thing. Then back to the second team…. I mean, I don’t know, you’d think after two or three assassinations they’d change their strategy. In any case, this all proves a rather audience-wearying way of eating up the necessary running time.
Another problem I had with this film is that I had to watch it like four times before catching the names of some of the squad members. Alan and Pete were the worse, as I believe they were referred to only once, and Pete only as a group member. In other words, I figured out his name only because I knew he wasn’t Larry or K.C. Anyway, it’s a pretty common problem with poorly written movies that you have to strain to figure out what the various characters are called. Although this is probably more of a problem for us with these review websites, since we often have to assign lame pseudonyms, or go back and reedit all the references to a character once we finally figure out what they were called. (Often you only get the names from watching the end credits, which means you might have to fix up an entire review.)
This is also one of those movies where, by necessity, almost no one packs heat. Despite beating up about fifty or sixty guys here, Squad members only rarely face opponents who have guns. Rather luckily, all three of the their armed opponents grossly violate Ken’s Rule of Guns. This not only removes them as threats, but all three times allows Our Heroes to fatally misdirect the bad guys’ fire back into their own ranks. (Although, obviously, only because this is a movie.) However, the ease with which Joseph the Sniper mows down the guys shows why firearms remain a real problem for martial art moviemakers.
Also, am I the only one who senses that the script was written around whatever locales they could obtain permission to shoot at? I mean, by the time you get to having one of the thugs work at a car dealership, what’s left? A martial arts battle at a kosher deli? A brawl at a mini-golf course? A petting zoo? Actually, that first suggestion isn’t far off, since lone survivors Larry and Art at one point stop to pick up sandwiches from Gunther’s Deli (Product Placement Alert!), whose sign remains prominently in shot for some time. And yes, it’s a real place, since the filmmakers ‘thank’ the establishment in the closing credits.
By the way, another thing that’s bugging me. When Larry tossed a ninja star at the Sniper, who was, of course, Joseph, it lodged in his arm. Joseph then brushed it off without further display of injury. Was this supposed to be because he had a prosthetic arm they didn’t bother to talk about, or was it just further dumbness on the part of the filmmakers? Because he would have been leaking blood like crazy, otherwise.
The key to understanding Kill Squad, and I had to watch the film a number of times before figuring this out, is that the movie takes place in an alternate universe where average citizens engage in brawls at the drop of a hat. Look at when the Squad members are introduced to us, one at a time. Each is found by the others to be in the middle of a fight with a number of opponents. Between the six of them, they must personally have beaten up around seven percent of the local population per annum. Pretty much anywhere Our Heroes go, including a gym or a used car lot, ready-made groups of badly trained martial artists pop up at the drop of a hat. This is probably why the cops are nowhere to be seen: Violence and mayhem are so common in this dimension that they don’t even bother to investigate them.
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Greywizard of The Unknown Movie Page offered the following observation:
“I saw this movie years ago, and I remember that during the rape sequence, there is a shot where you can clearly see that the female actress has some sort of flesh-colored pad over her lower region.
Such pads are used all the time when filming sex sequences – though they are not actually intended to be seen by the audience.”