Bullet Points: Talons of the Eagle
When you think of great teams from the early 1990’s, you probably think of back-to-back champions like the Dallas Cowboys, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Houston Rockets or the Toronto Blue Jays.
But one team you may be overlooking is the martial arts combination of Billy Blanks and Jalal Merhi. This dangerous duo appeared in several films together in the 1990’s and in this edition of Bullet Points I’ll be looking at their first collaboration, 1992’s Talons of the Eagle.
- The Premise: Billy Blanks plays DEA Agent Tyler Wilson, the DEA sends him on a special assignment to Toronto where he’ll be working with Toronto Vice cop Michael Reed (played by Jalal Mehri). Their mission is to take down the evil drug kingpin, Mr. Lee. And it is that goal that unites them, even though Michael is a fan of Beethoven and Mozart while Tyler prefers the Michael Jackson and M.C. Hammer.
- The Plan: In order to infiltrate Mr. Lee’s operation, Michael and Tyler need to be invited to the martial arts tournament that Mr. Lee hosts. In order to be good enough to compete against the level of competition that Mr. Lee’s tournament attracts, Michael and Tyler train with Master Pan (Qingfu Pan). Master Pan tests and humbles his new students before deeming them worthy of learning The Eagle Claw method that he has perfected. Two montages later and our heroes are headed to Mr. Lee’s tournament. During the tournament, Michael and Tyler thwart an assassination attempt on Mr. Lee’s life. This gets them in good with the crime boss, and they are immediately offered security jobs in Mr. Lee’s illegal casino/brothel. Things could not have worked out more perfectly for our heroes… as long as their true intentions are not discovered by Lee and his goons before they can obtain the evidence needed to put Mr. Lee in prison for a long time.
- The Villains: Mr. Lee is played by the great James Hong. Hong really turns on his sinister side for the role of Mr. Lee. Joining Mr. Lee on the side of evil is one of the best action villains of the 90’s, Matthias Hues! Hues plays Lee’s muscle and tournament champion Khan a role he was practically born to play. Khan isn’t just some dumb jock either, he is a pretty cunning adversary, suspecting something was up with Michael and Tyler from jump street. Martial artist/stuntman Eric Lee plays one of Mr. Lee’s nameless bodyguards. Eric has been in several films that we’ve covered on the site, including Sworn to Justice, Bloodsport II and Fists of Iron. And last but certainly least, is Mr. Lee’s main squeeze, the vivacious Cassandra (played by Priscilla Barnes). Cassandra was actually the first DEA agent that was sent in to infiltrate Mr. Lee’s illegal operations, but her superiors lost contact and fear she has flipped to the other side. On a side note… who knew Barnes had such a diverse action movie résumé. Not only was Barnes in Talons of the Eagle, she was also in the action comedy Traxx and the James Bond flick Licence to Kill.
I believe Aristotle said it best when he said “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Had this been a Billy Blanks solo project or a Jalal Merhi solo project, Talons of the Eagle would have likely been lost in the shuffle. But combining the talents of Blanks and Merhi, proved to be a winning formula and gave both men one of the more memorable movies in their respective filmographies.
It did not hurt that Blanks and Merhi were surrounded by a quality supporting cast in Talons of the Eagle and it never hurts for one of these reviews to have some bonus Bullet Points…
- Disturbing Quote: “You’re right. I do have steel balls.” – Tyler Wilson
- If You Ever: …wanted to see Matthias Hues attempt to run down Billy Blanks with a car, then this is the movie for you.
- It’s the Longest Countdown: After Mr. Lee activates the self-destruct sequence on his base of operations we are treated to one of the longest countdowns in cinematic history. I believe the entire city of Toronto could have been evacuated in the time it took for the building to blow up.
- Talons Reunion: Following their team up in Talons of the Eagle, Jalal Merhi and Billy Blanks would work together again in the 1993 film TC 2000 and then again in 1995’s Expect No Mercy.