Friday, 21 November 2014

Terminator Woman

Sgt. Jay Handlin (Jerry Trimble) and Sgt. Julie Parish (Karen Sheperd) are cops with an ongoing rivalry about who is the better martial artist. But could there be sparks flying in the romantic department as well?

While trying to figure this out, the pair travel to Africa of all places bring down crime lord Alex Gatelee (Michel Qissi). Naturally, it’s no straightforward task to nab their man. Julie is kidnapped and Jay has to fight off countless goons and the sexual advances of Gatelee’s randy henchwoman Myra Bolo (Ashley Hayden). After enlisting the help of some locals, our heroes martial arts abilities are put to the ultimate test when they face Gatelee in the final showdown. Will Jay be Handlin business? Find out today...?

Unlike many of Jerry Trimble’s films, Terminator Woman (1993) is professionally-shot and competently made. Which may be no coincidence given that, unlike many of Jerry Trimble’s films, it’s not made by Roger Corman. That being said, the pacing is off making the story rather dull at times. If they’d lopped about 10 minutes off, this whole outing might have had a bit more verve.

The leads, though, are all top-notch. You’ve got fan-favorite Trimble, who - and we mean this as a compliment - resembles a more meat-heady Emilio Estevez. Alongside, you’ve got fellow fan-favourite Sheperd - an enjoyable screen presence whose excellent martial arts skills are wonderfully captured here. And finally, there’s Qissi (who also directed the movie) as a very convincing baddie. So those are the movie’s strengths and weaknesses for you, and they fight it out - like everyone else on screen - throughout the running time.

Generally speaking, we don’t really care for ‘Africa slogs’, as we call them, but this one is tolerable, thanks mainly to the aforementioned leads. The Trimble/Sheperd team-up was an inspired choice, reminiscent of similar kick-ass pairings such as Richard Norton and Cynthia Rothrock in the Rage and Honor diptych, or Steven Vincent Leigh and Sophia Crawford in Sword of Honor (1996). If nothing else, Terminator Woman plays to the strengths of the leads, with plenty of fights and good-natured stupidity.

Judging by the large “TW” logo on the US VHS box art, perhaps the filmmakers were attempting to establish a brand to be used in subsequent films. Maybe they hoped in the future people would stand around at the water cooler asking, “Have you seen the latest TW movie? It’s awesome.”

While this movie prediction may not have come to pass, anyone who foresaw a fiery demise for the film’s helicopter will not come away disappointed. You’ll have to bear with us as this one’s a little tricky to explain.

At the film’s climax, Hayden tries to make her getaway on speedboat. Shepherd and one of the friendly locals, pursue in a helicopter they’ve commandeered. After catching-up, Shepherd leaps from the chopper into the motorboat for a chop-socky showdown with Hayden.

After biffing away at each other for a bit, Hayden decides to play dirty, grabs the boat’s flare gun and tries to shoot Shepherd. The shot misses, but the flare arcs high into the sky and falls lands – with ridiculous improbability – back on the boat on top of a box of explosives. (I know, what where the odds?)

Shepherd yells to her friend to jump from the chopper, before diving over the side of the boat. The flare detonates the TNT causing such a huge explosion that it wipes out the helicopter as well.

Artistic merit 

We really enjoyed this chopper fireball. Its destruction is quite convoluted, but that just serves to make it more fun. The sequence plays with our expectations as initially you think that the flare will directly blow-up the helicopter. It’s a cool touch to use the explosion of the speedboat to destroy it. 

Exploding helicopter innovation

First known use of an exploding speedboat to destroy a helicopter.

Do passengers survive?

Yes. Shepherd and her friend both survive having jumped off the chopper at different points. The unfortunate pilot though is never seen again.

Positives

The whole film is very ‘nineties’. What do we mean by that? Well, in the midst of all the action, Trimble finds time to perform a ‘spontaneous’ shirtless martial arts workout alone in his hotel room. Anyone who’s seen a similarly underdressed Jeff Speakman prance about to Snap’s The Power in A Perfect Weapon or William Sadler as Colonel Stuart in Die Hard 2 will know the form.

Negatives

Maybe it’s an African thing or maybe it’s a nineties or action movie thing, but there’s a club in the film called Backlash. It’s hard to imagine why you would call a dance club “Backlash”. It’s a bit too angry for us.

Interesting fact 

Karen Sheperd is the Terminator Woman, Steve Railsback is the Termination Man, and George Segal is the Terminal Man. Quite where all this leaves Mr Schwarzenegger is anyone’s guess.

This review is a guest post by our friends Brett and Ty from the great website Comeuppance Reviews. They're dedicated to celebrating action movies from the eighties VHS era. Check out their website and discover some forgotten gems. 

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