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Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Retro Review: Tough and Deadly (1995)

Tough and Deadly
Cast: Billy Blanks, Roddy Piper, Richard Norton, James Karen, Phil Morris
Genre: Buddy Cop Action

Plot: A smart alec bounty hunter teams up with a G-man to take on a drug smuggling ring

'Action Buddy Cop Movie That Entertains With An Ass-Kicking Billy Blanks'

Following on from 1993's Back In Action, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks reunited for a second helping, 2 years later for another bout of buddy cop hijinks.

One of the executive producers of this film is James Glickenhous who did 1985's The Protector with Jackie Chan and Danny Aiello, which I enjoyed in parts and 1988's Shakedown starring Robocop's Peter Weller alongside Sam Elliott, and here Glickenhous replicates the buddy cop formula with Tough and Deadly. Starring the team-up of martial arts B-movie actor and seven-time world karate champion Billy 'Tai Bo' Blanks and then WWF/WWE wrestler, Rowdy Roddy Piper, this pairing play a CIA operative named John Portland who is under the pseudonym of Quicksilver and P.I (private investigator), who team up to take on some drug dealing goons.

Elmo Finch (Piper with a terrible looking stubble, which he shaves off) is an ex-cop turned P.I who plays by his own rules and assists Quicksilver (Billy Blanks), who goes missing and is beaten to a pulp and left unconscious. Ending up what appears to be amnesia, Quicksilver awakens and ends up in the hospital, only to be rescued by Elmo. Quicksilver has no recollection of anything or whom he works for: what he does know though is he is a wanted man by some hitmen, but that doesn't stop Elmo who takes him under his wing and that he recovers & regains his memory. 

As far as action B-movies go, Tough and Deadly is definitely up there as a cult movie with a Billy Blanks performance, which is still his best showing, by far, with Roddy Piper not trailing far behind. It may be hailed as a 'bad movie' and one that critics will scoff at, yet it provides plenty of entertainment & it was very enjoyable as well that also manages to sprinkle some minor humour. Arguably, it is more akin to Lethal Weapon with Piper's Elmo who manages to go a little crazy and unleashes his rage, much like with Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs and Blanks Quicksilver as the so-called token Black character like Danny Glover's Roger Murtaugh, who is a bad ass, alongside the White guy. The other performances were serviceable at best, though, with Rage & Honor's Richard Norton, he has the role of being Billy Blanks's onscreen baddie, who doesn't last very long in the movie & it isn't much to shout about.

The action in this movie is very good to great, as routine as it is with shoot-outs, lethal martial arts kicks & punches being thrown and before Wesley Snipes arrived on the block, there was Billy Blanks: an African-American actor and star with a penchant for martial arts, who is amazing in the action stakes with his leg takedowns and impressive jump kicks and his fight with Richard Norton was really good. In one scene, he even shows his agility and strength by holding one leg high up in the air, and as the bad guy approaches, Blanks thrusts his leg down like a sword & sends it crashing down onto him. With more and better exposure, I could have seen Billy Blanks alongside the likes of other big-name action stars in Arnie, Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Jackie Chan. All of his fight scenes were just top- notch and Billy Blanks and Roddy Piper make for one great tag team duo. I liked that the good guy buddy cop pairing consisted of one who was highly proficient in martial arts and the other who could put a bad guy in a choke hold & rely on punches and a few wrestling techniques.

Both of them should have gone on to greater things on the action movie front and landed big-budget Hollywood action movies, as well as landed a sequel to Tough & Deadly, but alas, that didn't happen, which is a bit sad to see because they had the potential too. Especially Blanks.

Final Verdict:

Together with the charisma of Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks and his awesome fighting skills, Tough and Deadly gets by, thanks to the leads who offer that extra something to make it more than your average run- of- the- mill buddy cop film. Sure it is a DTV, low-budget movie all the way, but it has just that little bit of quality that elevates it to a standard that is overly decent, as well as being fun at the same time by not taking itself too seriously. It wasn't expected to win awards, but to entertain and provide fans of action movies plenty of good action, as well as the good camaraderie of the buddy cop pairing of Piper and Blanks's characters.

If you enjoyed other martial arts B and direct- to- DVD action movies such as Martial Law 1 and 2, Rage & Honor 1 & 2, The Perfect Weapon and even Jackie Chan's Police Story movies, and/or buddy cop films in Lethal Weapon, 48 Hrs to name, then you'll probably take to Tough & Deadly as much as I did. 


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