The Last Match (1991)

LastMatchCoverAs I watched it unfold, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it about a hundred times before. It seems so obvious in retrospect. A loved one gets framed up in some nameless banana republic on drug charges. A father can’t get any help from the impotent American embassy. His daughter is facing years behind bars in such a tough prison that the warden has the father beaten during visiting hours! There’s no one left to turn to for help! Except the teammates on his professional football team! Admit it, you just got goosebumps!

But you’re thinking, “sure – that sounds like an uber-awesome idea, but it all just turns into another commando rescue mission movie once the assault on the fortress-like prison begins, right?” Of course it does – if it was made by anyone other than the Italians!

Do you think the writers of Murder Rock, The New York Ripper, and Miami Golem aren’t going to add a little Neapolitan seasoning to things? And you surely can’t believe that director Fabrizio De Angelis managed to make six Karate Warrior movies, three Thunder movies, two Killer Crocodile movies and something called Karate Rock without knowing how to deliver the goods!

Knowing this film’s pedigree, you may be able to better comprehend what I am about to tell you regarding the rescue mission itself. You see, when the football team attacks the prison, they do so in their football uniforms! We’re talking cleats, shoulder pads, even helmets! When Coach gives the word over his headset to the guys in the trucks to check in that they’re ready and they all put their helmets on, you know it’s just about kickoff time!

Did I say that Coach was in charge of this operation? Well, who else is going to lead the football team in, as Coach so eloquently puts it, “the most important game of our lives?” And when your head coach is Oscar-winner Ernest Borgnine, you can bet there’ll be a good game plan. (In this case it happens to be a blueprint of the prison.)

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Swiss superstar Oliver Tobias plays the quarterback for the nameless team with white jerseys, yellow pants, and plain black helmets. If that seems a bit on the low-rent, rec league side of things, their opponents are likewise outfitted from the same local used sporting goods store.

And just who exactly is this Oliver Tobias that he thinks he can play the intense father who is such a stud that he can get a professional sports team to invade a small country to save his skank daughter? It turns out that Oliver is actually THE Stud, as he played the title role in the Joan Collins classic film called unsurprisingly enough, The Stud. If Oliver can hold his own with Joan, then he shouldn’t have any problems with the evil prison warden played by Henry Silva.

Henry Silva? Sometimes even though I watched the movie, I feel like I’m just making up my dream movie when I’m writing about it afterwards. How else to explain the inspired casting of character-acting legend Charles Napier (Rambo: First Blood Part II, Mean Tricks) as the useless embassy official or a very sweaty Martin Balsam (Psycho) as a useless local attorney?

And there probably isn’t any way to explain the casting of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly as one of the football players. Though I haven’t seen any official acknowledgement that this is actually the NFL Hall of Famer, it sure looked like his atrocious haircut and goofy face staring stupidly during team meetings where Coach Borgnine was going over how they couldn’t afford to be offsides during the big prison break.

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There may be some of you out there (probably soccer fans who don’t understand real football) that are not entirely sold on a professional football team taking a few days off in the middle of a season to mount a Delta Force-level search and rescue mission in hostile territory.

As Coach Borgnine explained to Oliver during the planning stages, “you served in Vietnam, the rest of the guys have seen service, and I served in a couple of wars!” They didn’t call it McHale’s Navy for nothing!

Once the operation gets underway, Borgnine demonstrates the best combination of Vince Lombardi and General Douglas MacArthur. Assuming his position as the “eye in the sky” aboard a helicopter piloted by a player (in full uniform and helmet of course), Borgnine radios in the plays to his team, directing when and where to blow stuff up.

He also is able to use his binoculars to see in the darkness via infrared which shows you what a great leader Borgnine was since the binoculars looked liked ones that cost about 20 bucks at K-Mart.

It’s with these magic binoculars that Borgnine gets off the second best moment of the movie. He spies Silva slapping around Oliver’s daughter shortly before the rescue and Borgnine snarls “that bastard!” I don’t care who gets the writing credit on this movie, that was pure Borgnine!

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Believe it or not, the best moment is not when the team is storming the prison and yelling “hut, hut” or when Borgnine is running through a hail of enemy gunfire on a runway en route to the getaway plane or when Borgnine experiences his last fourth down in a touching death scene aboard the plane where he just seemed too exhausted to participate in the movie anymore.

No, the moment that no one but Fabrizio De Angelis would have the guts to put in his football-players-invade-foreign-country movie was when the punter opened a duffel bag, took out a football that had been split open, dumped a grenade inside of it and then proceeded to punt the ball into a helicopter causing it to explode!

The Last Match was so entertainment-packed that we even got to see Oliver and his team play another game after they got back to the United States! Borgnine coached via flashbacks kind of like Obi-Wan, but with a clipboard. Fans of all of this may also want to check out Cobra Mission which was the first time that Oliver, Fabrizio and the writers teamed up, though that movie features a distinct lack of exploding footballs and Borgnine.

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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