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Sunday, 15 April 2018

Retro Review: Steele Justice (1987)

Steele Justice
Cast: Martin Kove, Sela Ward, Ronny Cox, Bernie Casey, Shannon Tweed, Soon-Tek Oh
Genre: Action
U.S Box Office Gross: over $1.3 million 

Plot: Steele is an ex-cop and Vietnam vet who is determined to bring down Kwan, former South Vietnamese general and now rich and powerful drug lord

'Justice Steele Of America'

The mid-1980s take on Rambo and Commando with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steele Justice is a B-movie actioner that stars Martin Kove of The Karate Kid and Rambo II fame and is another in the long line of macho tough guy & one-man army protagonists taking out a horde of bad guys with his arsenal of weapons. Steele Justice gifted Kove one opportunity to show he can cut it as the good guy leading man for a change, and in some ways it's okay, but also it's not exactly top-tier stuff, either. 

When Vietnam soldier John Steele is betrayed by General Kwan, Kwan makes off with millions of dollars worth of gold supplied by the CIA to fund the war. Steele and his compatriot, Lee are both shot by Kwan and his cronies. Fast forward 10 years or so later, Steele is now a cop, who just lost his job and is estranged from his wife, Tracy. Kwan is alive and he and his son become drug traffickers. Lee's ties with a criminal organisation going by the name of the Black Tigers, bring out carnage and tragedy for Lee's family and they slaughter and kill Lee. When Steele finds out, he transforms into a John Rambo/John Matrix type, with his own brand of justice and thus, he goes leaps and bounds to get his vengeance on Kwan, as well as clear Lee of any wrongdoing.

Steele Justice pretty much borrows many elements and tropes from Rambo, Commando and other '80s action films to carve out a movie of its own. As nice as it is, it also pales in comparison to Commando & Rambo II and other similar films. 

Kove's performance and turn as Steele is modest and committed he puts in a lot of effort, and whilst I can picture him as an action hero type, he hasn't had more opportunities to play this type of role to be able to stamp his mark. He's mostly known for being the villain and antagonist or sidekick and as much as he tries, the nature of the script doesn't allow him to develop. With more effort put into the script and a director who could helm something that is fully watchable, Steele Justice would be worth talking about & Steele would be a far better character than he is, as well portrayed as he is by Martin Kove. The other performances are okay with a few roles played by some actors, Al Leong to name but two, who was in Big Trouble In Little China, and as subdued as Ronny Cox is, it was nice to see him play a good guy. There is also the odd cameo of Shannon Tweed in a swimsuit playing the girlfriend of the bad guy, Kwan. 

The one major blight I had with this film is a corny dance scene, which was too embarrassing for me, together with an even cornier pop soundtrack that made my ears bleed almost. There are also 1 or 2 car chases, a Karate Kid -style training montage & Steele treating a dart wound with only a knife and a buffet pan. 

It's a B-movie that is a little cheesy and has no time for logic, details and it just gets stuck into delivering the action, but with expectations lowered to a tee, it manages to do its job. 

Final Verdict

Far from competent and the story isn't great and plus, it isn't half as fun and entertaining as Commando, which did it way better, thanks to big Arnie, amongst others. Watching this, it's fair to say I can see why it was overlooked: it's too formulaic, there are no ''so-bad-it's-good moments'', no thrills, no characters who are as charismatic, unintentionally amusing and appealing as Bennett and John Matrix of Commando and with the iconic status of Stallone's John Rambo

But as a lower-tier, B-action movie, it's just a-okay. 


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