Ripped from the headlines of 1985 which your local newspaper surely never covered! But that didn’t mean it never happened! Just that no one gave a crap about it! But if you weren’t so wrapped up watching The Goonies and rocking out to “Sussidio” then you might have realized that half a world away, events were transpiring that demanded the armed intervention of none other than Richard Harrison! Of course I’m talking about the Pope’s trip to Cameroon!
Zero (Romano Kristoff) leads a gang of terrorists who murder a Cameroonese family and steal plans related to the Pope’s visit to Cameroon! Cameroon’s top bad ass cop Michael Baiko is on the case and is the only one who understands that Zero means to target the Pontiff during his trip.
His commanding officer scoffs and insists on having a captured terrorist brought to him for questioning. When he tells Baiko to give the terrorist a cigarette, Baiko reassures all of use that despite the weirdness of watching a rogue cop thwarting an international terror attack in Cameroon, cops play by their own rules the same the world over when he responds, “he can have a cigarette up his ass!”
Nothing is gleaned from the questioning though because when Baiko’s captain rejects his tough interrogation technique and orders the guy’s handcuffs removed, the terroist runs and jumps out the window to his death! Somehow though Baiko travels to Rome to first plead his case at the Vatican (he’s politely rebuffed, the Vatican official sensibly telling him to have faith) and then to follow up on a lead that takes him to a local gym where he hooks up with a retired boxer named Killer.
Never having been to Rome or Cameroon, and more importantly never having seen an action movie set in Cameroon, I obviously had no idea what was happening by this point. What connection did any of these people have to Zero? And how did Baiko know that there was a connection? No time to ponder the mysteries of western African policework because Baiko must be on to something good! How do we know that? Because he gets tied up and almost has his arms chainsawed off before Matthews (Richard Harrison) appears to save the day by pulling the plug on the electric chainsaw! (This is why you always use a gas powered chainsaw!)
Matthews is a American secret agent (this was obvious from the hat and black trenchcoat he wore which is the CIA equivalent of those law enforcement jackets with “POLICE” emblazoned in yellow on the back) and he’s the only one taking the threat against the Pope seriously. But we all know Zero is going to strike again before the Pope hit. Why? I don’t know, maybe because they have a couple of days filming in Rome left and director Harrison somehow cajoled fellow sword and sandal muscleman legend Gordon Mitchell (The Giant of Metropolis) into appearing in a totally pointless cameo as the head of a world peace organization.
With the combined investigative powers of Matthews and Baiko, it doesn’t take long for them to unravel who Zero will make his next assassination attempt on – Gordon Mitchell! How did they figure that out? They stood around reading newspapers until they came across something that sounded like Zero might target. And they did this even with Matthews getting into a dispute with a kid and his father over a soccer ball!
Zero successfully pulls off the hit, but gets much of his team killed or captured in the process, including having his girlfriend Olga wounded and placed under police guard at the hospital. Zero ties up that loose end with a totally absurd Mission Impossible-style mask and it’s back to Cameroon to handle the hit on the Pope with Matthews and Baiko in hot pursuit!
With Zero pulling nonstop hit jobs, constantly on the run and losing members of his team hand over fist, it’s understandable that he goes into episodes where it appears like he’s having a stroke and only a dose of his medicine can alleviate the symptoms. That’s a lot of stress, even for a professional terrorist!
And he still has time for the completely pointless detour of kidnapping Baiko’s daughter and strapping a bomb to her! Dude, aren’t you running up against a deadline on this assassination? Do you really have time to run Baiko all over town and keep calling different phone booths to harass him?
Harrison obviously wanted this to be a globetrotting action movie with its sequences in both Italy and Cameroon, but the script by him and Kristoff is totally lacking in convincingly portraying why all these characters are traveling back and forth. Even worse (especially since both stars wrote it) is that while’s there’s no explanation as to what Zero’s point is in killing these various people, there is a lengthy monologue toward the last part of the film where Zero rambles on and on about what a rotten life he had and how the world sucks while forcing Baiko’s captured daughter to listen and no doubt start trying to push the trigger on the bomb herself.
Harrison also doesn’t seem to be much better behind the camera than someone like Teddy Page who directed him in films like Blood Debts and Fireback. His Terror Force Commando features badly framed shots, crappy action scenes and strange stylistic choices like when Zero’s crew breaks into a house and murders a family, Harrison repeatedly shows how scared the family cat is. And while I loved how he pushed Zero off the tallest building in Cameroon, I was less in love with watching a limp dummy sail through the air. Long, loving looks at stunt mannequins falling is never appropriate.
Still the Pope’s trip went off without a hitch, so it’s safe to say the film has the Church’s blessing and is acceptable to watch in lieu of attending one Sunday service.
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