Monday, April 13, 2015

Scorpion (1986)

SCORPION is Crown International’s attempt to capitalize on the success of Cannon’s Chuck Norris vehicles. It stars another international karate champion, Tonny Tulleners, who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Norris, though not as much charisma (which is hard to believe, I know).

Oddly, Tulleners is unbilled in his film debut as American agent Steve Woods—codename: Scorpion—who is assigned by big-shot attorney Gifford Leese (Don Murray) to bodyguard a Middle Eastern terrorist who’s turning state’s evidence against his partners. After Steve’s fellow agent and childhood pal is murdered, as well as the terrorist he’s supposed to be protecting, Scorpion kicks and thumps his way across Los Angeles in an attempt to find the man responsible. His plan includes hiding the dead terrorist’s body in a ripoff of BULLITT, which will anger you as much as it does the mercurial Leese.

Although director/writer/producer William Riead seems to have been an interesting individual—he was formerly a news anchor and documentary filmmaker who made behind-the-scenes featurettes about films such as THE TERMINATOR, LONE WOLF MCQUADE (which starred Norris) and FIRST BLOOD—he isn’t much of a dramatic storyteller, staging some very lethargic action scenes within a fractured, confusing narrative.

Riead gets little help from his lackluster leading man, who didn’t follow up SCORPION with other films. Tulleners is a dreadful screen presence, but you can’t blame him for the movie’s failure to show off his karate skills. It seems weird to hire a karate champion for your movie and not let him do any good action scenes. Perhaps to pick up Tulleners’ slack, Riead surrounded the star with a steady cast, including top-billed Murray (BUS STOP), Robert Logan, Allen Williams (LOU GRANT), John Anderson, Robert Colbert (THE TIME TUNNEL), Ross Elliott, Bart Braverman, and John LaZar.

Believe it or not, SCORPION did receive a theatrical release, although it may have been the last for Crown International. Although the budget couldn’t have been much, Riead did go to Hawaii, Spain, and the Netherlands to shoot footage.

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