What Not To Watch: The Killing Zone (1991)
To McBee or Not To McBee, that is the question.
Casting Deron McBee as an action star is a classic example of an idea that probably looked really good on paper. McBee had some notoriety and tough guy credibility after he competed as one of the Gladiators on the first season of the popular American Gladiators TV series. It did not hurt that McBee had an impressive physique like the two biggest action stars of them all, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But after watching Deron McBee’s first attempt at being an action star in The Killing Zone it became painfully obvious he was not the right man for the job. Maybe it was McBee’s trademark big hair or his male stripper fashion choices, but I had a real difficult time taking him seriously as the hero of the movie. Had they had gone the route The Barbarian Brothers took and made this a goofy, over the top, tongue in cheek, action comedy it could have worked. But playing it straight did McBee and his supporting cast no favors at all. The whole thing came across as a bunch of amateurs playing “action movie” for a few weeks in Southern California…
- Cliffhanger: Our movie wastes no time getting into some action as our hero Garrett Bodine (Deron McBee) finds himself in a no win situation. Two nasty drug dealing brothers have literally hung Garrett’s uncle and DEA agent Sam Bodine (Armando Silvestre) out to dry off the edge of a cliff. Garrett manages to save his uncle, but Sam is nearly crippled in the process. Meanwhile the bastards who put the Bodines in the situation, Carmen and Pablo Vasquez, escape back to Mexico. This scene was the match that lit the fuse but unfortunately was also the high point of the movie… it was all down hill from there.
- Fast Forward: After the opening credits, some time has passed since the cliffhanger and we learn that while Garrett was seeking vengeance, he managed to get into a bar fight that resulted in Garrett nearly killing a man and getting five years hard labor on a prison chain gang… Uncle Sam had to retire from the DEA and now runs a bar with his lady love Jenny… Things aren’t all cocaine and lollipops for the Vasquez brothers. Pablo has been imprisoned but he’s not in prison for long thanks to the shanking that kills him. Now Carmen Vasquez is furious and vows to kill those responsible for his brother’s demise and targets his old rivals the Bodines even though they literally had NOTHING to do with it.
- Ham It Up: If Deron McBee was considered a poor choice to play the hero in The Killing Zone, then Charles Sullivan as big shot DEA agent Jack Slade has to be considered a horrible choice. Sullivan in his one and only acting gig (no surprise) hams it up with his interpretation of what “acting” is supposed to be… Slade is the main character in what I believe was the worst scene of the movie. Slade briefs the LAPD on the Vasquez situation. He informs the detectives and police officers in attendance that Pablo Vasquez was murdered in his prison cell, the room applauds this news like this was an employee of the month ceremony. But Slade is quick to rain on their clapping parade when he informs them Carmen Vasquez and a world of trouble is heading their way… the room then moans and groans with one of the black detectives giving the token black response of “SHIT!”. If Not Another Teen Movie taught me anything it is that “SHIT!” follows “DAMN!” and proceeds “THAT IS WHACK!” in the token black response handbook.
- Family Feud: Slade quickly realizes the cops aren’t going to be able to get the job done where Carmen Vasquez is concerned. So Slade manages to cut a deal for the release of Garrett Bodine… with one major provision. If Garrett can help bring down Vasquez, he will be a free man, if not he is back on the chain gang. Did I mention that this scene takes a place about 30 minutes into the film? We see our hero Garrett in the first few minutes, then it becomes the Jack Slade show until we finally get back to the star of the show. The total run time on this was 83 minutes and the star of the film was not present for 25 consecutive minutes. Could you imagine a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie where he is the star and 25 minutes passes without seeing him!?!? This could be another reason I didn’t buy McBee as an action star, because at times it felt like the movie didn’t buy McBee as an action star either.
So to answer the question To McBee or Not To McBee… the answer is most definitely Not to McBee!
When I look at Deron McBee, I see a guy who could have been a great Donald Gibb like sidekick for an action movie hero or the muscle for an action movie villain (something McBee actually did as his acting career continued), but I don’t see McBee as an action hero. The Killing Zone did him no favors with a lackluster supporting cast and a script that left a lot to be desired. But even with a quality script and some talented veteran actors to help him out, I am not sure McBee had what it takes to carry an action movie.
One thing I am sure of is that The Killing Zone is one movie you won’t want to watch, but that these Bonus Bullet Points are ones you will want to read…
- One Question: The Killing Zone would like you to believe that the car above is the government issued vehicle that our DEA agents were driving around in. In the history of cinema, have you ever seen an FBI or DEA agent drive around in a two door car with a hatchback?
- Confusing Quote: “You never had a mother Vasquez!” – Slade
- Two Positives: It is rare for a bad movie to be completely bad… for instance I can think of two good things I saw when Garrett’s girlfriend Tracy (Melissa Moore) took a shower.
- Abuse of Power: The finale of the movie features some human hunting. Vasquez gives Garrett and Sam Bodine a 15 minute head start before he and his men will hunt them down in the desert. BUT before the hunt, Vasquez treats the Bodine family to a machete fighting exhibition. This seemed totally unnecessary and it wasn’t until the end credits when I realized why the scene was included. The guy that Vasquez had the machete fight with was played by Addison Randall of Deadly Breed fame. Randall was also the director of the film.
- Fun Fact: I have it on good authority that Deron McBee conducted invitation only acting classes at one point. Based on his performance in The Killing Zone, I would say McBee has about as much business teaching people how to act as Stevie Wonder has teaching people how to drive.