Whenever it’s time to assemble yet another team to bring back more of our boys from Vietnam (watching these POW movies can leave one with the impression there are more Americans left in Vietnam than Vietnamese), special attention must be made to signing up the right combination of talents. For instance, you need an explosives or a demolitions expert, but you’re probably wasting a team slot if you take one of each since both are likely proficient at blowing up bamboo huts. (There’s nothing wrong with lots of exploding huts of course, but you don’t want it coming at the expense of guys having their throats slit by the knife expert.)
Rescue Team seems to instinctively know this and makes sure we are overloaded with experts by having our grubby mercs be multi-talented! So we have one guy who is both a hand-to hand combat expert and a helicopter pilot. (Pointing out that the movie is so low budget our guys never get anywhere near a helicopter is just being a party-pooper.)
But who cares if Rogers never got to karate chop Charlie as he was trying to get his bird off the ground while yelling about how hot the LZ was when the movie assigned even more awesome skills to other team members. (Helpfully, the movie merely has writing on the screen as the team arrives by plane to explain who these guys are and what they can do, probably as a favor to the audience so that precious screentime isn’t wasted on actually introducing the characters.)
So what’s more epic than Kung Fu Grip Chopper Pilot? How about an “electronic wizard” who is also a forest ranger! Sure they had no electronic gear and were fighting in a jungle, but if they somehow took a wrong turn in Nam and ended up in the Pacific Northwest, Greene could set up a wifi hotspot to let HQ know!
But the film didn’t just fill in all the usual blanks with it’s half a dirty dozen! The best part of any team oriented film is the guy with the truly exotic talent that you can’t wait to see put into action like an ex-trapeze artist or a dude who has an affinity for communicating with animals. Here we have a guy who is a former editor of something called a “combat-adventure” magazine! Can you imagine the tension when he yells “get me rewrite!” while pinned down in a firefight or when he has to spend the night before the big raid at the campfire going trough submissions and drafting rejection letters? No way is a man ever the same after that!
But our team isn’t all just deadly serious men with the know how to harass tourists who litter national parks and handle angry calls from subscribers whose annual Combat-Adventure BDU Swimsuit Edition is late! There are also the guys with more humorous skills!
For instance, there’s booby trap expert Mancini played by low budget Filipino action movie stalwart Romano Kristoff. Once in the jungle he quickly determines it’s full of booby traps. So they take an enemy prisoner and make him go first so he can navigate around the traps, but then they get impatient and kick him to hurry him up and kick him right into a booby trap!
Even better is that later Mancini is waxing poetic about how he isn’t afraid of dying but he is afraid of being killed by a booby trap. And then later on he is killed by a booby trap! With his last gasping breath he says “now you know why I don’t like booby traps.” Thank goodness he told us that before he died because I would have been haunted by that mystery for years!
Richard Harrison is the leader of the group and his main skill seems to be his drinking problem. During the mission he announces this is the longest he’s gone without a drink in over a year. They had been gone for about a day and a half.
He also apologized to his female contact in the jungle whom he screwed right before they left (while repeatedly telling her how good she tasted) by saying he thinks he drank too much. Dude, you were at a freaking bowling alley with your team that night and you only had a beer or twelve so stop beating yourself up! Besides, just think what she would’ve tasted like without your blood alcohol content being three times the legal limit!
Rescue Team is a typically primitive Filipino action movie, heavy on routine jungle action and light on everything else that goes into making a film. It all feels as hastily put together as the mission to free the POW and goes off the rails just as quickly, too. From introducing us to the the team at a bowling alley without actually introducing them (two of them are good bowlers!) to the pre-mission briefing being sidetracked by a team member bragging about raping a passed out girl amid the piggish laughter of the rest of the team to the unintentionally funny dying declaration made by Mancini, the film excels at never achieving the right tone at the right time and insisting on these strange scenes that don’t really advance the story at all.
None of the actors are given anything memorable to do (Kristoff in particular seems wasted in such a bland role) and even a vet like Harrison evokes unintentional laughs in the closing scene when he’s pretending to be out of it while dealing with a double crossing government agent. Rescue Team is a sporadically entertaining trainwreck, but it’s still run of the mill too often to really achieve the memorably terrible greatness a movie like this has to depend on to be worth seeking out.
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