Reviews

Andy Sidaris

USA, 1996

Credits

Review by David Carter

Posted on 16 July 2009

Source Brentwood Home Video DVD

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Categories Favorites: The Action Movie

American action auteur Andy Sidaris created a cycle of twelve films he jokingly referred to as “Triple B movies.” The Bs are bullets, bombs, and babes, respectively. While these elements may sound like a template for any clichéd action film from the eighties or nineties, Sidaris used them to create films that were postmodern, subversive, and thoroughly entertaining.


Fit to Kill, the direct sequel to Hard Hunted, saw federal agents Donna Hamilton and Nicole Justin facing their nemesis Kane for what would be the last time. Andy Sidaris went into semi-retirement after Fit to Kill, ending a period of enormous productivity where he had released seven films in as many years. The “Triple B” series continued, however, under the direction of his son Christian for two films, Enemy Gold and The Dallas Connection. The films marked a shift away from many of Sidaris’ trademarks – most notably his Hawaiian setting and stock cast of actors – but retained his main theme of using females in traditionally male roles. Using concepts that arose in Fit to Kill as a guide, the new breed of “Triple B” films were sexier, more violent, and keenly self-aware. Sidaris’ earlier films were now considered a genre of their own, “girls with guns,” and his return to the director’s chair for Day of the Warrior sees him working within and subverting the confines of his own creation.

Day of the Warrior begins with the forces of LETHAL – Legion to Ensure Total Harmony And Law – already deeply undercover within an international criminal organization headed by the Warrior, a former CIA agent and professional wrestler. Doc Austin is monitoring the Warrior’s art-smuggling on the Texas border, Shark and Scorpion are posing as porn actors to infiltrate his Las Vegas video-pirating operation, and finally the beautiful Cobra is monitoring diamond smuggling while undercover as an exotic dancer. They are coming close to having all the evidence they need when the team’s computer expert, Tiger, discovers that their database has been remotely accessed, blowing their cover and putting all of their lives in danger. LETHAL’s commander Willow Black fears that contacting the agents will only endanger them more, so she and Tiger scramble to warn them in person.

The Warrior is one step ahead of them, however, and has already given his men the order to eliminate the agents. The LETHAL team proves to be too much for his hired thugs and they manage to regroup, shaken but alive. The Warrior’s botched assassination attempts shed light on his organization and also alert LETHAL that someone in their midst is a traitor. Warrior uses their confusion to make his boldest move yet, kidnapping Willow Black and her fellow agent Fu. As Cobra, Austin, and Tiger begin shutting down Warrior’s operations, Willow and Fu must contend with the villain’s unique style of execution: facing him in a wrestling match.

Sidaris’ films have always contained elements of comedy, yet most often this was limited to two inept hit men that served as the de facto comic relief. The inept hit men return in Day of the Warrior – “Smith” and “Barney” this time out – but they have competition from the rest of the cast, all of whom engage in blatantly comedic activity throughout the film. Both heroes and villains make jokes and puns; a sharp contrast to the seriousness present in films like Savage Beach and Guns. Day of the Warrior sees comedy come to the forefront and is an overt satire of action cinema of the eighties and nineties. More importantly, however, it is a satire of the “girls with guns” genre itself and its’ focus on replacing male action heroes with attractive women.

The prime example of Sidaris’ self-parody is Shae Marks as Tiger. Marks, a prototypical Playboy Playmate with Russ Meyerian proportions, is purposefully cast against type as an agent who is simultaneously a killing machine and a computer genius. Her ironic casting is a calculated move on Sidaris’ part. Having successfully subverted the gender barrier in his previous films, he essentially spoofs himself by turning Marks into the unlikely brains of the LETHAL team. Her casting also reveals a tacit acceptance on Sidaris’ part that his films are primarily viewed as sexploitation. By this point in his career, Sidaris had become a minor cult figure and had been interviewed and featured on several episodes of Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater on the Showtime cable network. Sidaris viewed himself as an entertainer first, filmmaker second, so when it became evident that the girls’ bodies were what audiences were looking for, his reaction was to provide them with more in every sense of the word.

The combination of more humor and more sex gives the impression that Day of the Warrior lacks the air of sophistication, or at least the attempt at one, present in Sidaris’ earlier films. Rather than being indicative of a decline in artistic ability, this is more a calculated move towards the absurd on Sidaris’ part. Similar to the way that Russ Meyer’s final three films are purposefully cartoonish, the later entries in Sidaris’ oeuvre reflect a former maverick dealing with mainstream acceptance through self-reflexivity and parody. The breasts are bigger, the guns are bigger, and the plot devices are more outlandish. The James Bond influence is no longer apparent; Andy Sidaris’ biggest influence at this point in his career was himself.

The seeming illogic of the film actually strengthens his body of work because it represents a full break from reality. Films like Guns, Do or Die, and Hard Hunted were notable because their female-centric action narratives were at odds with genre conventions. Day of the Warrior is no longer at odds with action cinema but instead firmly in line with the conventions of Sidaris’ “girls with guns” genre. By this, the eleventh film in the series, Sidaris’ films had created an alternate reality where the things like life-or-death wrestling matches and bikini-clad federal agents somehow make sense.

Sidaris’ next film, Return to Savage Beach, saw him delve further in self-reflexivity by continuing the plot of his Savage Beach from almost a decade earlier. Between 2001 and 2006, his popularity saw a resurgence with the release of his films on DVD and a companion book Bullets, Bombs, and Babes, featuring a brief autobiography by Sidaris and the announcement of BattleZone Hawaii, a thirteenth film that looked to continue the trend of linking his new work to his old. Sidaris passed away March 2007 at age 76 without making the film and perhaps never receiving the recognition he deserved.

More Favorites: The Action Movie

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