Strike Commando 2 / Trappola diabolica (1988)

1.0 out of 5

Bruno Mattei's enjoyably inept Manilla Macaroni, Strike Commando, had shit for brains for sure, but at least it had a bit of fire in the old belly. Its sequel, a lazy "Braddock" clone penned, surprise surprise by Claudio Fragrasso, underlines the reductive tendencies of Flora Films' Filipino productions and the depressingly dystrophic state of Italian genre film come the end of the 80s.

Gone are the steroidal inflections of Reb Brown, replaced by cardboard cutout stand-in, Brent Huff. Here is truly a man incapable of acting, even if his flimsy career depended upon it. Instead, the production's payroll budget appears to have been thrown wholeheartedly at Richard Harris who manages to stay sober for just about long enough to solemnly do, well, nothing in particular actually.

The ubiquitous explosions inherent to Mattei's other and far superior Vietnam actioners are sadly nothing more here than damp squib-farts interrupted only by the awkward exchanges of dialogue better executed in the very worst excesses of a bargain basement Teddy Page effort. A ridiculous belching competition early on in the film says it all - Strike Commando 2 is a fizzy burp of movie.

Salvo (2013)

4.0 out of 5

Squealing tires and bursts of automatic fire introduce Salvo, a Mafia warrior who saves his boss from ambush and hunts down the failed assassin at home. Ear-witness to the revenge killing is the victim’s blind sister, who Salvo roughly steals away and locks up at a secret location. But despite this violent opener, Salvo is a story told in mood, not action. The setting is no postcard Sicily but rather a chiaroscuro of dark interiors and sun-blasted wastelands.

Saleh Bakri’s title character is silent, brutal and fearsome enough to keep his groveling landlord aquiver. Few words pass between Salvo and his sightless captive Rita, played by Sara Serraiocco with a nuanced blend of helplessness and aggression Both lead cloistered lives, making these opposites two of a kind. Like all gangster films, a template of violent acts is enforced, but these are practically relegated to subplot as the relationship of Salvo and Rita evolves in unexpected ways. The larger dilemma is whether either of these impaired loners will ultimately see the light.

Women's Prison Massacre / Blade Violent - I violenti (1983)

2.5 out of 5

While this house invasion style film occasionally goes under the name of Emanuelle in Prison, director Bruno Mattei and writer Claudio Fragasso seem to show little interest in making something that fits easily within the whole Black Emanuelle franchise. Despite Laura Gemser's high profile billing, it seems as though the Snuff Trap and Strike Commando director was more interested in the potential for action scenes than for the presence of Emanuelle herself. So, instead of the usual hose-downs, hair pulling and extended shower scenes, there's a Zombie Creeping Flesh style S.W.A.T siege, a blistering car chase and more gun-play than would be typically found within the genre.

Among a fairly generous helping of gore is an I Spit On Your Grave style razor castration and Iris from Beyond the Darkness, Franca Stoppi, gets her throat chomped. Carlo De Mejo, who had briefly become a fixture in Lucio Fulci splatter movies, gets shot.

Lorraine De Selle from Cannibal Ferox plays the warden. She gets to strip down to her standard, prison issue, stockings and suspenders. However it is all pretty tame compared to where Joe D'amato would take the series.

Kidnap Syndicate / La città sconvolta: caccia spietata ai rapitori (1975)

3.0 out of 5

Director Fernando Di Leo takes a surprising turn for the melodramatic in Kidnap Syndicate without skimping on the action that built his reputation. Luc Merenda plays Colella, a blue-collar widower raising his son Fabrizio on coffee and love. When kidnappers nab Fabrizio’s rich school chum Antonio, he tries to fight them off but gets abducted as well.

Because we don’t get acquainted with the kidnappers until 38 minutes into the film, the emotional crux is how rich dad and poor dad each handles the crisis. Antonio’s mega-developer father, a typecast role for James Mason, clearly relishes the art of the deal in securing the boys’ release. Although interest bogs down during the lengthy haggling over their freedom, we anticipate that Colella—seething at the low value placed on Fabrizio—will spring into action.

Sure enough, when the kidnappers turn up the heat, Colella goes full-on sadistic Billy Jack and all hell breaks loose. Car chases end as smash-up derbies to the funky fluttering of Luis Bacalov’s flute. But with most of the thrills pushed to the third act, action seekers may wonder if it was worth the wait.

Maurizio Merli header graphic courtesy of Paddy O'Neill of Foxyfide Graphics