Black Eagle (1988)

Black EagleAn important piece of work in the history of the cinema, Black Eagle sees the passing of the torch from one of our greatest second-rate action heroes of the early to mid 1980s to one of our greatest second-rate action heroes of the early to mid 1990s as Sho Kosugi squares off with Jean-Claude Van Damme in a muddled cold war flick marked chiefly by both stars’ inability to speak English intelligibly.

Sho of course made his name in such fare as Pray For Death and Revenge Of The Ninja, before becoming irrelevant by starring in movies like Rage Of Honor where the ninja stuff was played down for more generic action.

JCVD was just getting his start at this time and though we should have guessed that he peaked with Bloodsport in 1988 once we got a look at the next year’s Cyborg, he continued to trick moviegoers off and on for the next ten years or so (mainly by being in movies where he played twins).

As would be expected, the final earth-rending confrontation between these two titans of movies where guys kick and grunt a lot, ends with JCVD screaming like a girl as he gets sucked up into some propeller blades while Sho is off doing something else.

Black Eagle succeeds with ease in being terrible on all fronts, from the unrecognizable actors spitting out lame spy talk that I could barely understand because if Sho or JCVD weren’t struggling to wrap their tongues around third grade English, you had guys with Russian accents sounding like refugees from Rocky IV, to the underpowered action scenes (they blow up a couple of crappy looking boats and at least one of them appeared to be a model) to the distinct lack of appeal any of the major players exhibited. (JCVD with greased back hair and big sunglasses? Ugly woman who hangs around Sho babysitting his kids wearing a perpetually stupefied look on her face? Sho in a Speedo?)

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From what I was able to gather in the opening few minutes where director Eric Karson inexplicably has fighter plane chatter dubbed over ponderous shots of planes landing at an airport and taxiing to and fro, a fighter jet with an advanced guidance system crashed in the sea off the coast of Malta. Our government is now in a race against time to beat the Russians to the crash site to recover it because if it fell into the wrongs we might suffer something unimaginable like a Black Eagle 2.

Did this kind of stuff really happen during the Cold War? Why wouldn’t the United States tell Malta that we’re sending in our boys to retrieve our plane (if it wasn’t in international waters), send out the embassy staff in some boats to secure the scene (or ask for Malta’s assistance) until the Navy could arrive and that’s that. The crash couldn’t be that big of a secret if both the Soviets and the U.S. are already sending secret agents and trawlers loaded with Belgian kickboxers to the scene.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I’m not a picky jerk and that the U.S. has a good reason for keeping this wreck on the down low as a way to save face with the rest of the world or to keep some secret technology under wraps. (Well, secret in the sense that only the U.S. and its arch nemesis know of it.)

Let’s say that this is a completely legitimate set up for all the cloak and dagger stuff that has Sho running around on rooftops eluding pursuers, hang gliding, and doing spin kicks in his hotel room. Even if you can pretend that this is a credible set up much like we’re having to pretend that Sho is a credible action hero, what follows is so awful that you won’t even bother to worry about the set up anymore.

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Sho dove down to the wreck on two separate occasions and came away with some junk, yet this wasn’t the end of the movie. I think he mumbled something about some other piece not being there and this necessitates him conducting a nighttime raid on a big Russian ship.

It also sees him adopt his secret spy identity, Black Eagle. This involved him lathering himself up in black finger paint and tying some dorky little medallion to his forehead. More importantly for our purposes it involved a crossbow and him sliding across cables and killing Rooskie sailors.

Before he turned from Hawaii oceanographer Ken Tani into CIA deathdealer Black Eagle though, I spent most of the movie trying to figure out why everyone was doing what they were doing.

Why did the Russians kidnap Black Eagle’s two kids and their CIA babysitter? What were they hoping to accomplish by doing that? Luring Black Eagle into a trap? But they don’t let him know where the kids are. Keep him from getting whatever dingus everyone is after? But they apparently already have it.

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To set up a battle between him and JCVD? Perhaps. But it isn’t very impressive and it’s utterly pointless because once Black Eagle gets bored fighting him and has a bloody nose, he dives back into the water and swims away. That whole sequence made as much sense as the sequence in the casino where Black Eagle and some Russian scumbag traded thinly veiled remarks in the worst James Bond tradition.

There is nothing to recommend in this film beyond the guilty pleasure of watching how a total lack of screen presence was passed down from Sho to both his children Kane and Shane as they clumsily attempted to deliver whiny lines about how their dad only cared about his job and not them or their two week vacation.

And why in the world would Black Eagle allow his kids to be hanging out with him while he’s in the middle of some treacherous spy assignment? And was it really possible that both Sho and Kane (or was it Shane?) actually became worse actors than when they appeared in Revenge Of The Ninja?

A welcome last hurrah for Sho Kosugi that unfortunately was merely the harbinger of a score of equally inept JCVD vehicles.

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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