Deadly Bet (1992)

Deadly Bet merely confirms what I’ve long thought about addictions and the way the various experts preach to address them – that it’s all micromanaged bunk! The various fill-in-the-blank Anonymous cults over complicate things with all their “steps”, meetings, talking, sponsors, prayers and sign in sheets. Fudge, I need a drink and a tub of ice cream just to take the edge off the stress thinking about all those requirements! I had less trouble getting into law school than that!

Jeff Wincott‘s down on his luck martial arts expert Angelo though knows the real score on how to lick all those demons that have kept him in Las Vegas, cost him the love of his life, and put him into debt with a ruthless loan shark! Training montage!

In a film filled with highlights (ok – to be honest, it actually only really had a scene of Angelo’s girlfriend getting her hair highlighted), the training montage is expertly handled by all involved. Wincott dramatically pours a bottle of booze down the drain after staring at himself in the mirror for awhile thus kickstarting a series of getting clean and sober moments for the ages. He’s dumping raw eggs into his blender, he’s shaving, he’s hitting the gym and pumping buttloads of iron, he’s doing push ups while in a handstand position against a tree (is he trying out for Cirque du Soleil?), and he’s even scrubbing his kitchen counters! Trading binge drinking for OCD germaphobia? Up-freaking grade!

But what about all that pesky gambling? This is a full service montage dude! He’s totally got this and shows it when he walks by a casino, finds a chip on the ground and thinks about using it at the casino! But instead he gives it to the guy outside the casino singing the cheesy song that is the backing track for the montage! Face to face with Sin City’s seedy seductions and the one armed bandits blink first!

The film unfolds mimicking the ups and downs of a professional gambler. The audience is on a high as the opening credits reveal that this is a PM Entertainment movie, visions of the Las Vegas strip littered with exploding cars and shattered glass now filling every action addicted brain at home watching. This of course is followed up by the crushing lows when the gamble doesn’t pay off and we are instead left with a string of depressing scenes of Angelo engaging in increasingly stupid bets that culminates in him being embarrassed by local martial arts promoter Rico in the ring and losing his girlfriend to him since he put her up for collateral.

Just as you might think that you were somehow tricked into watching a lame attempt at recreating turgid 1970s character studies like The Gambler, we see Angelo’s girlfriend Isabella responding to being treated like a stack of betting chips and the anguish that Angelo thought so little of their relationship that he did that to her just like we hope she would. Bikini hottub party! I felt like someone should let Angelo know so he wouldn’t go to all the trouble in his training montage. I mean, she just traded a poor loser martial arts guy with a dirty kitchen for a rich one with a kick ass Jacuzzi!  She ain’t coming back, bruh!

Angelo can’t worry about whether Rico is busying causing Isabella’s privates to prune up from all that jetted luxury though because he just got a new job as his loan shark’s enforcer’s sidekick! Angelo owes $5000 to the Greek, but since the Greek likes him, he lets him work it off instead of killing him!

So it is that we see Angelo and the Greek’s muscle (a gloriously stereotypical cigar chomping fatso mobster) play mismatched partners as they crisscross the city collecting debts, beating up guys and shooting people. I felt like I was watching a pilot episode of a failed sitcom called Angelo and the Greek!

Just when it seems likes the movie has no idea where it’s going with its “Angelo as leg breaker” and “Isabella as not-too-upset at being a kept woman” storylines, Deadly Bet suddenly remembers it’s a PM Entertainment movie starring Jeff Wincott and the Greek announces out of nowhere that Rico is having martial arts contest with a half million dollar prize!

It’s the perfect opportunity for Angelo to pay off the Greek, win Isabella back, take revenge on Rico and get enough money to buy that cabin in Colorado he and Isabella have always wanted. It also fills up the last third of the film which is what everyone else wanted. Film school grads refer to this development as a “deus ex martial arts tournament”.

Deadly Bet‘s crazy concoction of cliches that span both the gambling/Las Vegas and kickboxing angles are an odd enough combination that this is a more entertaining movie that most of Jeff Wincott’s standard kick shows. There is plenty of fighting going on, plenty of Wincott confusing making weird faces with acting (to be fair, many bigger names get by doing the same thing – just try to watch any Tom Cruise movie and not be distracted when he’s overreaching to express some sort of reaction to something) and plenty of PM Entertainment oddness (the cameo by boxer Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, the early appearance and disappearance of fellow action star Gary Daniels as a kickboxer named Fletch) to maintain at least a passing interest in what goofy thing will happen next. Wincott even looked like he went through a real life training montage during filming as he is noticeably more jacked up in the final act than he was in the beginning of the film!

Could a movie like this end any other way than with Isabella holding a gun on Angelo because he was gambling outside their Colorado cabin, but then both share a hearty laugh when it turns out he was just gambling for matchsticks? Somebody call my Low Budget C List Martial Arts Star Movie Anonymous sponsor! I’m about to relapse and watch this again!

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