Stephen reviews: Fist of the North Star (1995)

Starring Gary Daniels, Malcolm McDowell, Costas Mandylor, Downtown Julie Brown, Dante Basco, Nalona Herron, Melvin Van Peebles, Clint Howard, Chris Penn, Andre Rosey Brown, Isako Washio, Paulo Tocha

Directed by Tony Randel


Now what on Earth am I doing reviewing a live-action American film, you might ask. Well, if your memory reaches back a few weeks, you might remember my review of the anime Fist of the North Star, and this is the live-action adaptation of the series, though not specifically of that 1986 film. It claims to be the first Hollywood adaptation of an anime, and in the absence of any contrary evidence, I’m not going to argue.

The use of the word “Hollywood” implies an impressive big-budget production, but that really isn’t the case. Kill Bill this ain’t. You’re also probably questioning if a live-action American film could possibly capture the spirit of an anime, especially one as absurd as Fist of the North Star. Obviously you can’t expect to see a 20-foot-tall giant turn his skin into steel and trample an entire army. And since shit like that is the main draw of the anime title, you have to go into this version with some vastly different expectations.

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Stealth Fighter (1999)

Stealth Fighter (1999)
AKA Mercenaires, Nighthawk

Starring Ice T, Costas Mandylor, Erika Eleniak, Sarah Dampf, William Sadler, Ernie Hudson, Andrew Divoff, William G. Schilling, John Enos III, Alex Meneses, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, Steve J. Hennessy

Directed by Jim Wynorski (as Jay Andrews)

Expectations: Super high. I’m more pumped about this one than any other Ice Fest movie.

On the general scale:

On the B-Movie scale:


In the first of her two scenes in Stealth Fighter, Erika Eleniak asks her husband, “You want some ice tea?” Her husband and I both responded to the affirmative, but unfortunately Stealth Fighter is a lot lighter on Ice T content than I would have liked. This saddened me, but the footage that remains is absolute gold, and the rest of the movie when Ice T isn’t around is filled with all kinds of explosions and craziness that only legendary B-Movie director Jim Wynorski could pull together so well. Sure, the majority of the action footage is taken from much larger budget films such as Diamonds are Forever and Flight of the Intruder, but the resulting bouillabaisse lends Stealth Fighter an air of being much more than it actually is. There’s just nothing like giant explosions on-screen, even if they are re-used.

Stealth Fighter opens in the best way possible: a slow-motion shot of sweaty hands coming together for an arm wrestling match. The hands belong to Ice T and Costas Mandylor, a couple of hotshot, rival fighter pilots. Before long they get the call to action, but while in flight Ice T goes rogue, kills his co-pilot and downs the plane. The military and all of his squad mates label Ice as K.I.A. and continue on with their lives, but like a spider waiting to strike, Ice steals the F-117 stealth fighter over 10 years after his supposed death. He’s working for a Latin American terrorist who plans to use it to threaten the US President (played by Ernie Hudson!) into releasing his political prisoner friends. The plot is overly convoluted, but it keeps one cardinal rule close to its heart throughout: awesome explosions always equal shit-eating grins.

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