Friday, June 4, 2010

Deathfight (1992)

1992 – Deathfight (Grove Park Int/Pacwood Films/21st Century Film Corporation)

[Released on German VHS as “Rage”, distributed in 1994]

Director Anthony Maharaj [listed in the credits as “Anthony G. Maharaj”] Screenplay Tom Huckabee Producers Michael Sellers, Anthony Maharaj Associate Producers Sreedhar Sreekakula, Rico Mari Ilarde, George Jatico, Nick Nicholson Cinematography “John Araujo”/Johnny Araojo Music Odette Quesada, Bodjie Dasig Editor Rudy O. Montecajon [listed in the closing credits as “Rudolfo O. Montecajon”] Production Designer Florendo Castillo Casting Kathy Smith, Dan Bernstein First Assistant Director Bill Baldridge Second Assistant Director Cleofe Go Paglinawan Script Supervisor Irene Abulencia Production Supervisor Pet G. Abulencia Production Manager Ulysses Formanez Assistant Production Supervisor Joy Antoinette Jimenez Assistant Production Manager Eusebio Garcia Location Manager Orlando Abulencia Stunt Coordinator Reynaldo Castro Fight Choreographers Richard Norton, Ron Vreeken Art Director Wilfredo Pleras Head Set Dresser Salvador Araujo Jr Set Dressers Rex Masigla, Jun Sullano Property Master Nestor Mendiola Property Assistants Romualdo Igharas, Libereato Dagucon Wardrobe Master Luigi Santos Wardrobe Assistants Sean Arajuo, Rod Villanueva Picture Vehicles Virgilio Dagucon Construction Supervisor Mario Castillo Scenic Artists Celso Rafallo, Danilo Hernandez, Benjamin Rebeche, Ron Castillo Carpenters Rolando Alfonso, Joseph Espinar, Oscar Hermoso, Roy Visleno, Mario Villalobos Makeup Artist Ely Baguio Makeup Assistant Baby Regino Special Effects Nestor Yadao Armorer Roman Tizon Camera Operators Romero Araojo, Pio Interno, Narcing Magcalas Assistant Cameramen Ben Villaverde, Delfin Tiope, Constan Medez, Fortunato Reyes Gaffer Jesus de Samparo Best Boy Electrician Daniel Mirador Film Loader Jose Botecario Clapper Pepito Mirador Grips Zaldy Botecario, Chito Almazen, Godofredo Amaro, Carmelito Bongon, Carlo Medez, Baby Garcia, Jimmy Decena, Gilbert Oblena Stillman William Ruelo Field Soundman Silvio de Santos Transportation Captain Sesinado Abanto Catering Lorna Ragos, Raquel Rodriguez, Lorna Benson, Gigi Landayan Craft/Utility Isidro Ragos, Benny Rebeche, Jojo Bersabe, Renato Oliveros, Domingo Ragos Production Nurse Barbara Dougan Production Accountants SylviaSoriano, Chit Espiritu Production Secretary Rhoda Olaviaga Field Cashiers Vic Escannilas, Rodelo Aviles Sanitation in Charge Mars Galang Thai Adviser Worapoj Raktham Assistant Editors Danny Collado, Ciriaco Item, Greg Gonzales Negative Cutters Ciriaco Item, Dolly Santos, Judith Abloa Sound Supervisor Jaime Godinez Sound Effects Mixer Bert de Santos Sound Editor Silvio de Santos Jr Foley/ADR Artists Albert Godinez, Franklin Oria, Jun Reyes

Cast Richard Norton (Jack Dameron), Karen Moncrieff (Sarah Dameron), Chuck Jeffreys (Iron), Ron Vreeken (Manson), Franco Guerrero (Chiang), Jose Mari Avellana (Papa Fung), Tetchie Agbayani (Noi), Mike Monty (Jack’s Father), Barbara Beldock (Jack’s Mother), Miguel Toledo (Young Jack), Mauro Noriega III (Young Chiang), Henry “Strjakowski”/Strzalkowski (Wiley), Adriana Agcaoili (Mai), John Steele (Koler), Lora Luna (Tsu), Michael Sellers (Jurgen), Fred Ondra (Iron’s Opponent), Kris Aguilar (Shootboxer), Marian Melo (Maid 1), Mars Duque (Maid 2), Ressie Manuel (Clerk), Warapoj Raktham (Jail Guard), Nestor Yadao (Policeman 1), Rico Ilarde (Policeman 2), Boyet Pilapil (Waiter), Iloy Espinosa (Waiter), [uncredited] Nick Nicholson (Bartender)

Stunt Players Allan Medina, Rommel Orzoha, Villamor Abian, Ed Morales, Bhem Frayna, Emel Morales, Romeo Magat, Fred Palacio, Isagani Gamara, Leo Abordo, Blandino Gigantuca, Jerry Corpuz, Jun Buman, Al Nanca, Boy Garcia, Will Furton, Eusebio Vargos, Celso Balte, Ariston Gaston, Angelo Aranto, Napoean Ching, Abong Garcia, Bong Belen, Boy Juani, Ompog Babano, Lito Chavez, Marlene Aguanto, Edna de la Cruz, Mike Villareal, Rico Orbeta, Ronald Brosque, Lolita Vernal

Review from the MonsterHunter website:

They killed his favorite prostitute! They framed him for her murder! Sent to prison where he must learn to survive using only the skills that have made him the single best kickboxer in all of southeast Asia, Jack Dammeron’s life is about to get much worse! His attorney, the very best legal beagle in all of southeast Asia is none other than his wife! Can she put aside her irritation with Jack for screwing hookers on business trips while he’s too self-centered to agree to have children with her to get an acquittal? But her life is about to get much worse! She turns out to be pregnant! And the only way out of this serpentine mess is through the most dreaded of all competitions! Deathfight!

Those of you fearing that Deathfight is that most dreaded of all film genres, the erotic legal thriller, can rest easy! The dead hookers, pregnancies, irate wives, and hostile business takeovers are only the set-up for Jack to kick he was through a variety of karate experts on the road to his showdown with his evil step-brother Chang! Despite Jack’s wife being a great lawyer, he’s not about to let his fate hinge on arguments about circumstantial evidence, time of death, and alibis! Once Jack’s super rich step-father bails him out of the pokey, he and his new prison buddy Wiley begin an intensive (read: violent) search for the real killers!

The story of Jack and Chang goes back to when they were just kids practicing kung fu on each other. Their fathers were business partners, but when Jack’s parents were gunned down before his eyes, Chang’s father adopted him and raised him as his own. After Jack’s father’s death, Chang’s father continued to build up the company and they all became very wealthy as a result. But wealth can’t change what’s inside of you! Chang is a criminal mastermind who is into drugs, selling arms, and prostitution while Jack is a good guy who has a penchant for cheating on his wife with nasty hookers!

Jack and Chang are put on a collision course when Jack is awarded the chairmanship of the company. Apparently the board of directors felt that a guy who patronizes prostitutes would better represent the company than a guy who pimps them out. Being the kingpin of crime though is not enough for Chang and he feels slighted by being passed over for the chairmanship and thus arranges for Jack to discover the dead hooker. He also blackmails his old man into giving him control of the company with some information about the deaths of Jack’s parents which kind of makes the whole dead hooker scheme pointless, but could we really expect Jack to get as revved up about a little blackmail as being wrongfully accused of murder? Really, how many Deathfights are going to result from Chang’s little spiral bound report he uses against his dad?

Deathfight is great chiefly because of star Richard Norton. Rich has appeared in a ton of films with titles like Raiders of the Sun, Strategic Command, and Equalizer 2000. He’s a bit on the tall, goofy-looking side, but he’s pretty jacked up and displays an intensity and quickness in his fight scenes that are showcased really well in this movie. This isn’t some 500 pound Steven Seagal standing around and waving his arms a couple of times like he’s trying to get a waiter’s attention to refill the all-you-can-eat buffet. This is kicking, punching, choking, kneeing, jumping, rolling, and elbowing like there’s no tomorrow! This is Deathfight!

What’s awesome about Rich in Deathfight is that he doesn’t have to be in a given location more than five minutes before he’s stripping his shirt off and kicking the crap out of some guy with information that will lead him to the identity of the guy that set him up. Me? I probably would’ve been thinking evil step-brother the whole time, but that’s what so great about Rich’s character – he’s willing to be kind of thickheaded so that he can have several Deathfights before the ultimate showdown with Chang.

There’s been a lot of talk about Deathfights and some of you wimps who haven’t already stopped reading to go and get your own copy of Deathfight (are you retarded or something?) are probably wanting to know just what a Deathfight is. That’s understandable since you might not be able to figure out that a Deathfight is a competition where guys fight to the death! Chang likes to hold Deathfights for his evil friends to bet money on, but this doesn’t figure into the plot at all. Jack is too busy beating the piss out of everyone he sees to actually get into an officially sanctioned Deathfight and Chang is too busy being mean toward Jack and his wife to attend any Deathfights after the early part of the film.

It’s a smart move on the movie’s part since I’m here to see Richard Norton dispense bone crunching vengeance! And there is no shortage of that! He beats up every convict in his jail while tearing apart the prison cafeteria and making friends with Wiley. But only after he finishes his lunch! Then he and Wiley beat up every patron at the Body Machine strip club while tearing it apart! Jack also fights a couple of guys connected with Chang including a dreadlocked guy name I-Ron who lives in some sort of really cool fighting temple that has lots of candles, statues, and a variety of weapons. Norton displays all sorts of skills as he fights a knife-wielding I-Ron with just his shirt! Almost as awesome is when I-Ron starts going after Norton with something that looks like a Klingon Bat’leth while Norton starts twirling around a spear with great authority!

Fans of explosions and the like are rewarded for their patience since Wiley is in charge of providing a diversion while Jack storms Chang’s hideout. Being an ex-marine means Wiley has a ready supply of assault weapons, grenades, rocket launcher, and truck packed with explosives! Obviously tremendous on every important level (violence, cussing, dead hookers), if this is your first Richard Norton film, it will not be your last!

An illicit liason with predatory office whore Noi (Tetchi Agbayani) has tragic consequences

Wiley (Henry Strzalkowski) about to get a faceful of prison food

Nick Nicholson as The Body Shop's grizzled barkeep

Aryan Brando-alike Manson (Ron Vreeken)

Wiley (Henry Strzalkowki) swaps an M-16 for a grenade launcher - because he can!



  1. Andrew, this is a blast from the past! You should mention that Karen Moncrieff is now a Sundance award-winning director. Richard Norton was a great guy and bona-fide martial arts master, man (specializing in Japanese weapons then). Turns out, I learned from him that he played the Darth Vader-like baddie in a mask in Chuck's The Octagon. Great fight scenes in that one. If you don't blink, I play one of the Thai cops that cuffs Richard at the end of Rage. How's that for B-movie cred, he, he. Read that Norton just got his BJJ blackbelt in his mature years. Now that's dedication! Cheers, RICO

  2. Hi Rico, great to hear from you! I had to chuckle when I saw your cameo at the end - you even get two lines of dialogue... Thanks for the heads up on Karen, she was great, as was the rest of the cast - Norton, Henry (a choice role for him) and Nick as the crusty bartender! Expect a detailed review of mine in a few days, and hope to see you in August for drinks in Makati...

  3. Thanks, Andrew. Completely forgot I had lines! Henry's a pro's pro. Always wanted to use him in my own stuff, BUT with finicky local producers, the white dude character is the first to go in the script "development"(!). Nick is the best Tagalog-speaking, chopper-gunner, Vietnam Vet, actor in these parts with a profanity-spewing mouth to match, enough to shame even the most seasoned Pinoy seaman! Ha, ha! Cool guys, good times. Peace, RICO