Bullet Points: L.A. Vice
The Canadian born Richard Pepin and Syrian born Joseph Merhi really embraced the concept of the United States of America being a land of opportunity. Perhaps that is why their company, PM Entertainment, gave so many actors and actresses the opportunity to partake in the golden era of direct to video action movies. Action stars like Lorenzo Lamas, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Jeff Wincott, Michael Worth, Gary Daniels, Cynthia Rothrock and Sam J. Jones made several movies for PM Entertainment during the company’s hey day.
But PM Entertainment did not just go after martial artists turned actors or actors with previous action movie experience, they would get a guy like Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and put him front and center in one of their actioners. Lawrence is probably best known for his time as Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington, one of the four Sweathogs on the hit 70’s sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter. Lawrence was also the star of 1989’s L.A. Vice.
- Take A Chance: Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs plays Detective Jon Chance in L.A. Vice. Chance would be best described as a maverick cop who plays by his own rules. Those rules often include killing the scumbags of L.A. instead of wasting time with things like due process. Like other maverick cops before him, Chance is not a fan of being partnered with somebody he doesn’t like and he is even less of a fan of the feds stepping in on his turf. So you can imagine how he feels about having to work with the FBI in a joint effort to save the daughter of a wealthy newspaper magnate who has been kidnapped by some mobsters and being held for ransom. The FBI wants to send one of their agents in with Chance, but Chance is having none of it. He wants to select his partner for this operation and he calls upon his old captain, Joe Wilkes. Wilkes was played by the legendary William Smith (Eye of the Tiger). Chance goes up to Wilkes’ ranch up in the mountains and convinces him to come out of retirement for this high profile assignment.
- Chances Are: If the Rocky movies taught us anything, it is that when a person comes out of retirement for one last hurrah things can either turn out really well for them (Rocky Balboa) or the worst case scenario can happen (Rocky IV). Unfortunately for Joe Wilkes he went the Apollo Creed route and ends up meeting his demise when he pushes his friend Jon Chance out of harm’s way taking the proverbial bullet for his friend. I was shocked by this development. Smith was prominently featured on the DVD cover, but I’m not sure he even had 10 minutes of screen time. If losing his friend wasn’t bad enough, the FBI blames Jon Chance for the failed operation. Fed up with the feds, Chance quits on the spot.
- Chance of a Lifetime: Chance is not unemployed for long. The wealthy newspaper magnate Mr. Johnson still wants his daughter rescued and believes Chance is the man who can get the job done. But now Chance can do what he wants, play by his rules and not have to deal with the FBI and his superiors at the LAPD giving him grief. After accepting Mr. Johnson’s generous job offer, one of the first things Chance does is recruits a mutual friend of his and the late Joe Wilkes to be his partner. The friend in question is Bear. Bear is of Native American descent and has spent most of his life in the mountains, but Bear is looking forward to life in the city. Bear believes the only difference between the mountains and city is instead of dirt there is cement. Not sure I buy that piece of Native American wisdom, but I did enjoy when Bear brings his bow and arrow to a gun fight. Not as much as I enjoyed Chance’s extreme interrogation method of strapping dynamite to one mobster in order to get his mobster buddy to spill the beans. The mobsters call Chance’s bluff and next thing you know one mobster is blown to smithereens and the other is singing like a canary. This was easily the most spectacular scene of the movie and one I had to instantly rewind after witnessing it the first time. The scene was not only awesome it also set the tone for the rest of the movie. At that point you know Jon Chance is not afraid to go up against the mob and he is not going to stop until he gets Mr. Johnson’s daughter back safely.
L.A. Vice is a great example of the type of movies PM Entertainment was churning out on a regular basis during their urn. I would not say it was their best effort, the movie could have used a stronger villain in my opinion, but a solid piece of action business none the less.
L.A. Vice is an even greater example of PM Entertainment taking a chance (pun intended) on a guy most would not have considered for an action hero role and giving them the opportunity to sink or swim. PM Entertainment obviously had a lot of faith in Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, because L.A. Vice was actually the third of four Jon Chance movies they produced between 1989 and 1990, something I did not know until after seeing the movie.
One thing long time readers will know after reading one of my reviews is that this is where I throw it to the always popular Bonus Bullet Points..
- Sexual Chocolate: L.A. Vice features one of the lamest (but possibly most realistic) love making scenes in action movie history between Chance and his lady. The two are celebrating Chance’s employment free lifestyle and after a few drinks, the action moves to the bedroom. We see Chance’s lady Drew (Sue Nelson in her one and only acting role) mount our hero, takes her robe off to reveal her bare breasts, rides him for about 60 seconds and it is all over. Wonder if it was good for her?
- Confusing Quote: “Fuck what my mouth is fucking saying!”
- Sweathog Action: After seeing Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs in an action movie, I began to wonder if the other Sweathogs ever dabbled in the world of action entertainment over the course of their careers. Obviously I already knew that John Travolta, who played Vinne Barbarino on Welcome Back, Kotter, had numerous films in the action genre including Broken Arrow, Face/Off and The Punisher. But what about the other two Sweathogs? Well, Robert Hegyes who played Juan Epstein on Kotter was in the 1990 David Heavener flick Kill Crazy and had guest shots on the Black Scorpion and L.A. Heat television series… Ron Palillo who played Arnold Horshack on Kotter had a guest spot on The A-Team and starred along side Lorenzo Lamas in Snake Eater and Snake Eater II: The Drug Buster.
- If You Ever: …wanted to see a Native American check out some porno mags at a convenience store, then this is the movie for you.
- Hey How Are You?: Speaking of the Native American character Bear, Bear was played by Jastereo Coviare. Coviare was multi-talented and provided a lot of music for PM Entertainment productions including L.A. Heat, Midnight Warrior and East L.A. Warriors.