A lot of guys who kicked ass over in Nam got a dose of that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that good old sneaky Charlie was lacing their tunnels with. The severity of the PTSD varies, but it can be so bad that you turn to self-medicating yourself like Steel did in this movie, causing him to get liquored up and beat down the cowards in the bars who didn’t have the balls to go to Nam! That’s some pretty cool PTSD! Or at least it would be if we actually got to see it instead of just having Steel’s whiny wife recount it for us and Steel when she’s picking him up outside the police station.
The other problem I had with it was that Steel’s wife was talking about his PTSD like it was some kind of bad thing. “The war’s been over for 10 years! What about your family? What about your job? What about our son?” was all she could say.
If this selfish pig would have taken ten minutes to watch the movie’s prologue, she would have seen that Steel is carrying some pretty heavy baggage. I mean, when you’re all fudged up by Charley and being choppered out of a hostile LZ and the best friend you had in that steaming hell on Earth is wounded on the ground and you’re yelling “Danny! Danny!” and reaching for him and the other guys in the chopper won’t let you get him, well heck, you’ve probably got a medal that gives you permission to hit the hooch and the long-hairs who pussed out on going to war with you!
Brothers in Blood is Italian-style awesome in its severely under-budgeted chronicling of one man’s journey to redemption from the jungles of Nam to the wilds of the Dominican Republic (which look remarkably similar) all the way to the old abandoned sugar cane plant where terrorists have inexplicably taken his old buddy Danny hostage!
As soon as Steel hears on the news that Danny is being held hostage, he hits the road looking to round up his old platoon for the rescue mission that’s in every movie Nam vet. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating since a lot of you weren’t over there. There was a code in-country: if your brothers need busting out of POW camps in Nam or Cambodia years after the war, you do it. And if your brothers are ever in trouble in a foreign country and need to be busted out there, you do it. This also applies if you’re a pro football team and your quarterback’s daughter is in a foreign prison. (See The Last Match.)
Steel runs down three of his former army pals and they all reluctantly agree to go with him to get Danny back. One guy had a wife and a terminally ill son and he and his old lady were having an intense discussion about not going and then he comes out of the other room and tells Steel he’s in. So long, son! Hope you hang on until Daddy gets back! Another guy was running a casino and was being threatened by mobsters and apparently decided Steel was the lesser of two evils and joined up.
When we met the fourth guy, he was at a disco in the Dominican Republic reading slam poetry. In drag. He explains that he was caught smuggling drugs and a general took his passport away and that the general is now blackmailing him! Really, can you imagine what it might do to his career as a tranny street poet if it came out he was a drug mule? Steel is nonplussed though and immediately seizes on this as a positive, using G.I. Sissy to get into the general’s base and steal a bunch of weapons!
Up until this point, Brothers in Blood was only a borderline recommendation. Frankly, the guy in drag and a few explosions in the opening minutes were the only things keeping this in the marginally positive category. But then Steel finds the hostages and Danny! And Danny kills a hostage and it turns out he’s the head of the terrorists! And it’s all because Steel left him behind! And now he hates capitalist imperialism! No! Danny! No! Don’t turn your back on the American Dream! Is there anything that can be done to save Danny from his own deranged political outlook?
How about a little PTSD? Finally, a movie that dares to show the glorious benefits of PTSD! Just when all seemed lost, Danny gets caught in an explosion and when he comes to, he thinks he’s back in Nam! And he’s back to being a Grade A Johnny Yank!
Danny starts blasting bad guys and pitching in before buying the farm! And even in death, Danny is helping Steel and his pals because they use Danny’s still warm corpse to lure the evil general played by Martin Balsam into their trap. They take him hostage, take proof of life photos, and then the movie suddenly ends with a narrator telling us the fates of Steel and his men!
Brothers in Blood delivers a double-barreled cinematic Tet Offensive with its combination of perfectly choppy script (entire scenes appear to be missing in the 75 minute VHS version titled Savage Attack I watched) and delectable melding of Nam war movie cliches (evil general trying to kill his ex-soldiers!) with typical over-the-top Italian excess (Steel is strung up and has needles in his face!).
That you have director Tonino Valerii (My Dear Killer) supervising the likes of Bo Svenson (Deadly Impact, The Inglorious Bastards) scowling his way through the role of Steel and being dubbed by THE guy who dubs all these Italian movies along with Peter Hooten (Night Killer, Wartime), Werner Pochath (Striker, Days Of Hell), plus the adopted son of Nat King Cole ensures that you have the experience to sell this timeless tale of how the war never ends for the warrior. And that sometimes you even end up fighting it in a wig, dress, and heels 15 years later!
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