The Plot: Jake “Tiger” Sharp (Michael Sopkiw) is a former police officer who has been released after seven years of incarceration. He was guilty of murder in his former life, after killing the man responsible for his wife’s death. After his release he turns to killing for a living, being hired on as an assassin, but he finds that he simply doesn’t have the stomach for violence any longer. He does however hang on to the weapon that his would-be employer passes on to him. A SPAS shotgun which can fire grenades as well as a number of varying projectile weapons. Tiger decides to run away from his worries and head back to his small Georgian home town. Things aren’t so simple for Tiger though, as he finds his old home town has been inundated with hunters looking to get rich off of a foreign investment group which is paying high dollar for deer pelts. Tiger, seeing the truckloads of dead animals and seeing the forests being ravaged by dumb rednecks – he can’t take any more. Along with Connie, his long lost daughter who stumbles into his life with very little reason or established motivation, he will put an end to this crusade of butchery! Although, he may have to fight off a seemingly ENDLESS number of hunters in the area.
Lamberto Bava is one of my favorite directors from the laundry list of Italian exploitation filmmakers that never made it huge over here in the United States. Even though his father is easily one of the most recognizable filmmakers in the history of Italian film, that popularity hasn’t really been passed on to his son. The reason for this fact is pretty easy and as much as it pains me to say it… Lamberto has had a relatively spotty career. Aside from a hand full of relatively great genre pictures, the majority of his output can be pretty contrived. Despite this fact, even the worst of these titles for me holds at least some interest or entertainment value. Blastfighter, made in the mid-eighties, is Bava trying his hand at the action genre. Not just any particular kind of action title either, this is a hillbilly action caper! Made by Italians! If at this point you’re thinking that this sounds like it’ll end up being a hot mess, you would be correct! Now, there are two vantage points that you can look from when approaching a film such as this one. You can either look at it as you would any other movie, approaching with analytical reason and attention to detail, or you can simply admit that this is going to be a bad movie so why not try and enjoy yourself? I generally do not favor the “check your brain at the door” type of review, even though I am excessively guilty of it, but a film such as Blastfighter deserves at least some sympathy from its audience as well as myself as a “critic”.
If you’ve heard my voice on the VCinema Podcast, then you probably already know that I’m a proud southerner. Although you may think this means I’ll be particularly hard on Blastfighter due to its brazen inaccuracies in southern culture and the disregard for any kind of actual authenticity, you would be wrong. Let’s be honest here, southerners being shown as rednecks sharing an IQ with the same amount of digits that they can find on their left hand, isn’t exactly new. We’re all fully aware of the stereotypes and this is a film made by those fed on a strict diet of Hollywood archetypes. So when I see a group of guys walk up to a singular man in the forest and tell him “ya’ll get your ass off this hill”, I don’t let it bug me. In fact, I tend to love stuff like that because it becomes something of an injoke for me. How anyone could think the word ya’ll could be used in a singular form is outside of my realm of understanding, but it produces a chuckle every time I hear it in a cheap low budget exploitation movie. The cultural carelessness is certainly a factor in why I tend to enjoy the movie myself, but for the rest of the world what little entertainment is going to be derived from a film like Blasfighter is going to likely be based off of the ridiculous action set pieces.
For a movie that was likely shot on a shoestring budget to say the least, I have to commend Lamberto for plugging as many vehicular explosions into this film as could logically be tolerated. Although the movie is slow to start, once the first truck initially goes up in flames; all of its brothers are just around the bend. Where most low budget titles from this time and era were lucky to get one vehicle to blow up in their movie, Blastfighter must have at least nine or ten. Each one going off in different scenes, one after the other. For a movie of this caliber, I have to admit it’s very effective in the action department. However, that doesn’t excuse it enough nor offer enough salvation for me to tell you the audience that this is a good movie. Truthfully, it’s not a great bad movie either. Starting off as a Deliverance style “normal man at odds with the psychotic hillbilly locals” genre picture, it morphs into a First Blood Rambo knockoff with a strange focus on conservationism. The last thirty minutes really does morph into First Blood, down to the sequence with Rambo stealth-killing all of the police officers. One reason the two sequences are too different to work is that in one film you have the police and the national guard all willing to risk their lives to hunt down one man, because that is their job. In Blastfighter, you have an endless number of hunters running head first into the forest looking to commit murder for apparently no reason in particular. The ultimate problem with Blastfighter comes from the fact that it’s too dumb to be taken serious and it’s not broad or dumb enough to be lumped in there with low budget action classics like Lady Terminator or The Stabilizer.
Unfortunately Blastfighter is an overall bland mix that reaches certain levels of greatness, but then drops the ball just as things are getting interesting. Such is the case in almost all facets of the feature. For example, look at the electronic synth score that starts the movie off: it’s absolutely great. It brings up memories of delirious eighties cheese and gets your fist pumping. Then in short order the film dumps a cover of the Kenny Rogers tune “Evening Star” over our head, which is belted out by some wannabe starlet. Then it is repeated, over and over again! Our leading man, Jake “Tiger” Sharp (GREAT name) has some really interesting heroic qualities to him such as being an ex-cop who was placed in jail for seeking revenge. That’s a great backstory for a tough guy, and then we find out he is now a hitman as well? You can’t go wrong with this guy! Wait, no, I take that back, yes you can. Tiger might be the girliest tough guy to ever grace the screen. He fights back against hunters… because they kill dear. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic to ecological friendly people or those who have a great love for animals; but eighties action heroes usually fight for loftier goals in my book. They fight against nuclear devastation, life or death situations and not in order to save deers. It doesn’t stop there however, when his daughter first shows up on the scene he stumbles upon her after she breaks into his cabin. Tiger questions the girl and is quickly shouted down by the young woman who refuses to explain who she actually is. So what does Tiger do? Slap her? Kick her out? CALL THE POLICE? No, he takes his pillow and blanket so he can sleep on his own porch. Puzzling that this tough guy wouldn’t even be curious who this woman is that is kicking him our of his own home, much less take some kind of action in order to stop the situation. Then there’s the much ballyhooed SPAS shotgun that we get, which Tiger (what a great name for a leading man, did I mention that?) is given for an assassination job, which unfortunately gets about as much use as the script supervisor likely did on the picture.
It’s a film where the sum of its parts are actually greater than it on a whole. There are moments of sheer over the top bliss, but it’s not enough to take away from the utterly bland moments that tie everything together. Not even George Eastman can save this picture, entertainment wise. I give the film a two out of five, which is possibly lower than it might seem to deserve but keep in mind that for every really great bit the movie throws at you – there’s something equally as bad right around the corner. I would save this one for fans of Lamberto Bava and Italian cult film enthusiasts only.