As the bandages were slowly unfurled from the face of the mystery man at the beginning of The Killing Machine (aka The Killing Man), I was at once fearful and transfixed. Fearful of what hideous burned up visage waited to be unveiled, yet transfixed because I just had to know what the Killing Machine looked like! Would his face look like shredded hamburger? Would his charred skull peek through chunks of sizzled flesh? Would he need a really bad toupee like Claude Raines in The Invisible Man?
But when all was revealed, I gasped in shock and began dry heaving! The sheer horror of what I was witnessing was something that could only be called an abomination against all the regular abominable things in nature like roaches, liberals, and the designated hitter! Surely, this was some sort of cosmic horror dreamed up only by someone like H.P. Lovecraft. Something like Cthulhu’s ugly brother! Then I realized, it was just Jeff Wincott!
Jeff of course is a good looking guy with good looking guy hair and always comes across as a decent sort in his movies, even when assassinating gay dudes, causing a wife to shoot her own husband, and getting his ex gal pal decapitated by his angry boss. It’s just that so much of Jeff’s cinematic output resembles the sort of movies that someone like Cthulhu might set loose in our dimension to sow madness among us. Eldritch horrors such as Open Fire, Street Law and Fatal Combat have a way of infecting the viewer’s mind with their low budget tendrils, wrapping their slithering foul appendages of satanic storytelling, evil editing and fetid fighting around a low budget marital arts movie fan’s already quite forgiving soul!
The Killing Machine can’t seem to help but be infected a bit by a lot these things as it shares many of the same producers (including Jeff himself!) as some of those other films. So you have the overuse and all around ill-advised use of slow motion during fight scenes (and once when Jeff walked down an alley into a fog that was meant pack a dramatic punch, but only produced a guffaw), the equally guffaw-inducing whiny voice over by Jeff where he pontificates about forgiveness and redemption, and way too long scenes of Jeff getting ass.
Both of the sex scenes in The Killing Machine bear special mention, not just as a heads up to the more sensitive viewers who don’t want their children’s enjoyment of Jeff getting kicked in the head repeatedly and Jeff shooting everyone who blunders into his line of sight ruined by tits and butts obscenely thrusting here and there, but because of how dimwitted both of them are in the context of the story. The first one occurs while Jeff is recuperating in the secret government facility from the lifesaving surgery following him being burned alive. A nurse is sent in to lay Jeff and as it happens, the bad guys (one of whom is effortlessly played by frequent heavy Michael Ironsides) are monitoring it to make sure he is fully functional! You know – because they’re going to use him as an assassin. Sure one of his assignments is to get busy with a nerd scientist, but couldn’t they just give Jeff a copy of Juggs and a cup?
The second such scene is with the aforementioned nerd scientist and is even dumber because she’s a scientist who is researching AIDS! And she starts screwing a guy she just met and as far as she can tell is just a cab driver who happens to always be hanging around. Now maybe along with his license to kill, Jeff also comes equipped with a government-issued rubber, but would a book worm who spends all her time working to cure an STD brought on by large measure through risky sexual behavior, really start riding the Wincott Express as soon as he dropped her off from work? (Getting a ride in your boyfriend’s cab must be more of a turn on that I ever imagined!)
The scheme that Wincott’s boss (Ironsides) has him involved with is typically moronic. Elements of the government do not want the truth about the origins of the AIDS virus to come out, so they conspire to have a group of people killed who have learned the truth. There’s a gay activist, a reporter, and the nerd girl scientist who need to be erased. While it would seem to be smarter to farm out the work to a variety of contractors so the deaths can’t be tied together, Ironsides has Jeff do it all because Jeff can make it look like something other than a typical hit. (Ultimately it all starts to come apart when a picture of Jeff at one murder scene is seen by law enforcement where the nerd girl works and Jeff has also been seen. I would say “told you so” to Ironsides, but by this time Jeff had already shot him about a million times.)
Despite Jeff not playing a terribly sympathetic character (after all, he goes ahead and starts killing people for Ironsides even after anguishing about the morality of it all), he does somehow make you root for him to save the lady scientist by the end of things and has a much better presence as the grimly determined hit man with a conscience who falls in love with his target despite his best efforts not to, than in a lot of his other movies.
The movie smartly finishes with a flurry of kickboxing battles and gunfights and doesn’t even take the easy way out regarding Jeff’s ultimate fate. Confounding all expectations, after a sputtering start, I kind of liked The Killing Machine and for the first time I really liked what I saw out of Jeff Wincott on screen. Here he finally delivers a confident and memorable performance, showing that maybe he wasn’t just another ripped kickboxing god cluttering up the bottom of video store shelves in the 1990s. Of course that all could be Cthulhu talking.
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