Running Red (1999)

RunningRedCoverGregori and Sergei were just a couple of brothers in the Soviet special forces on a mission to take down a Spanish nerve gas factory! Aside from the fact that Soviet special forces guys go on some strange missions, they run into the same sorts of problems our own movie special forces guys sometimes run into.

The mission goes horribly wrong, a commanding officer demands that Gregori kill a child and when he refuses, does so himself! Sergei meanwhile gets all shot up by the Spanish bad guys and dies with Gregori at his side. Gregori then retires from the Soviet Army to a life in suburban California, desperately trying to forget the past! It’s like this guy is everything we love about Doctor Zhivago, Ivan Drago, and Yakov Smirnoff (he says “Do svidaniya!” to a guy right before he shoots him) all rolled into one!

Gregori morphs into a paunchy guy named Greg with a sensible mullet and not so sensible beard, a daughter, and a supermodel wife! He gets the morning paper wearing his Kenpo t-shirt, banters with the sitcom-style neighbor lady who’s man crazy and cooks hotdogs on the grill. He even has one of those vague white collar jobs where he talks about having to go to Detroit to work some account or other.

Once it Detroit though, it wasn’t Greg the advertising guy or whatever placating an important customer, it was Gregori killing guys and crashing buses through fountains, parking meters, and cars all over the mean streets of the Motor City in pursuit of one of the guys from the Spanish nerve gas mission 11 years ago!

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Yeah, you better believe it, Americanski – this movie knows that you can put a killing machine into a suit and tie, have him pick up his brat at school, and compliment his wife on how she still can fit into her high school cheerleader outfit for the reunion, but the first phone call from a guy with a Russian accent and that killing machine is putting on his janitor disguise and camping out atop a skyscraper in a sniper’s nest with his old Soviet Army pal. That’s just how some of us warriors are hardwired. It’s not that we don’t want a normal life, it’s just that when our government trained us, they forgot the off switch!

Greg hasn’t bothered to tell his old lady about the fact that he’s pretty much some kind of Russian Terminator, though in his defense he did admit that he was in the army. Sure, he never specifically said it was the Russian Army and he also sort of led his wife to believe that he was a cook in the army, but did she ever ask if he was a Russian assassin?

In any case, Greg has to do some quick explaining when his wife sees TV footage of him single-handedly destroying a couple of carjackers that had stolen his SUV with his daughter inside. Using all his expertise in tactics and deception, he tells her that even as a cook he had to have some training on how to defend himself.

Good thing she didn’t see everything that led up to it! And even better that we did! Greg is in a convenience store picking up some soda for his kid, when his car gets ripped off. Greg immediately commandeers a pesticide van and we have our first big car chase of the movie!

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This is a PM Entertainment movie and those who have seen some of their films such as Rage and Dark Breed will know what that means. Lots and lots of cars getting wrecked and flying through the air!

And once Greg catches up with these guys, he unleashes his special blend of rapid fire martial arts slaps and kicks that could come from only one man. A man that as you watch him take care of business you think, “crud, this guy is pretty much The Perfect Weapon!”

And he is! Jeff Speakman is back! In his most Russian role ever! Yes, he’s a little heavier than he was in the past, but some sources attribute this to a medical issue so instead of criticizing him for it, we’re giving him credit for playing through the pain!

This isn’t some Steven Seagal instance of an action star whose appetite is exceeded only by his ego. Besides, Jeff is out there running around, fighting, jumping, and rolling off stuff. There’s none of the poorly edited fight scenes, dialogue dubbed by other guys, or extreme close ups designed to hide the star’s immobility that you get with Seagal’s recent fare.

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The plot isn’t anything memorable as it involves Speakman’s old Russian Army commander blackmailing him into killing a couple of the guys from the nerve gas mission, including the guy who killed Speakman’s brother. Such a story would be a sufficient framework for the sort of death and destruction you need from a movie like this, but a Speakman movie is always going to go that extra mile whether it be the fight aboard a space station with Italian film legend Brent Huff in Scorpio One or James Brolin’s scenery-chewing warden in The Expert.

This time, it’s the revelation that all this assassinating Speakman has been doing is only the set up for him to be blackmailed into killing a city councilman because he opposes the construction of a new stadium that Speakman’s commanding officer wants for the pro football team he owns!

Yes, you would be laughing, if you weren’t cheering when Speakman steals a motorcycle to go after his old buddy who kidnapped his daughter! (Has there ever been a more kidnapped kid in cinema history?)

This is really entertaining late-era Speakman that eschews some of the silly one-liners and goofy action of movies like Deadly Outbreak, but still allows Speakman to beat up an old man and shoot a guy with a harpoon!

© 2014 MonsterHunter

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