American Rampage (1989)

American Rampage (1989)

American Rampage is a deeply 80’s tale of a lady cop determined to bring down a violent drug cartel in Los Angeles whilst a slew of her partners are blown away and she struggles to deal with it. That second part of the plot sounds waaaaay more dramatic than it really is, but the plot sounded far too thin with just the one detail… but that’s really  all there is.

The film is riddled with problems from an incomplete narrative, to a mix up in its priorities. I won’t stoop to the level of saying that it’s terrible as that would not be fair. As a low budget actioner it manages quite a bit with its lack of money and amateur cast. However, it loses its way failing to tell its story efficiently enough to make sense, preferring to spend more than enough on the tanning habits of its eye candy.

American Rampage features three things. Gun toting action sequences, leering footage of topless women and long meandering dialogue scenes. There are a number of fun action sequences throughout the film and whilst they are mostly silly, improbable and over the top they really help break up the monotony of the other two.

The leering action is, thankfully, contained to the first half of the film. The length of these scenes surpasses what constitutes a cheap thrill and quickly becomes too much of the good thing. There is a prolonged stay in a strip club that becomes tiresome, a little passion between Sam and her first partner is painfully awkward and really misses the passion. Linnea Quigley pops up for five minutes and adds to the film’s smut scenes, the filmmakers really did not make the most of having her, preferring to focus almost entirely on her having a shower and then rubbing in some oil afterwards.

An example of how poorly orchestrated the production is in the events leading to the finale. When her partner is kidnapped by the villain’s goons, the film skips all the legwork the lead character of Sam puts in to locate him, preferring to cut to Sam charging at the remote hideout armed to the teeth. Yet before this we spend almost 10 minutes watching a cop in a chunky jumper follow a villain from a shop robbery at the start of the film who drives a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from Knight Rider. Chunky Jumper observes Shite Rider swapping packages with a number of people across the city, perhaps the filmmaker was taking a leaf out of Melville’s La Samorai (1967), however, it’s far from as exciting and becomes boring and ultimately pointless when it concludes.

I feel in an attempt to salvage the film’s unclear story a lengthy narration with ta police briefing feel has been installed at the after the opening car chase to introduce the characters you are about to meet. This is quite heavy going and worth going back to after the film is over as there is a lot of information here that might be missed if not paying 100% attention. I would suggest that the narrator does a great job and the addition would have been a terrific addition to the film, it just drags on.

The film is not without merit, which is the most annoying part. Action sequences, whilst lacking in variety and logic are pretty entertaining. Bullets feel like they connect with the victims and the use of slow motion during the shootouts is not overused helping to ramp up the excitement. There is also a car chase early on that works quite well. The otherside of the feel sees Sam dealing with the continuing losses in the partner department, and a quick trip the a psychologist gets her back in the swing of things and ready for a new partner.

Kary Jane makes for an interesting lead who can kick a decent amount of ass when required. She did not appear in another film. Similarly a career for Thomas Hayes, who plays Sam first partner Ryan did not blossom. The only names that might be recognised amongst the cast by more mainstream audiences are The Godfather Part II’s Troy Donaghue as the Police Captain and horror royalty Linnea Quigley. Perhaps the experience here was off putting for the majority of the cast. 

Director and writer (there are two writers credited on this… which is a hoot) David DeCoteau has had an incredible career pumping out genre flicks and obscure franchises left, right and centre. Today he seems to specialise in TV movies with a house flipper horror vibe. However, over the years he has made some classics like Murder Weapon, Beach Babes from Beyond and the awesome Nightmare Sisters

The production feels like it is inspired by the works of Andy Sidaris and succeeds in a few areas where the likes of Malibu Express fails, but not that often and results with being considerably less enjoyable. American Rampage feels more like a collection of “You know what would be cool?” scenes rather than a clear narrative leading to a resolution. Either that or DeCoteau was not able to finish what he started for one reason or another and cobbled something together from what he got. It’s not devoid of merits, but they are few and far between. Much like Sam in the movie, a lot of bullets are fired and very, very few hit, but when they do they make a pretty big impact.

There isn’t much when it comes to artwork for American Rampage. The hand drawn poster is gorgeous and iconic.

Here in the UK the Region 1 DVD can be found on Amazon here and it can come and go. Ebay is your best bet.

Massacre Video dropped a Region 0 Blu Ray some time ago with a commentary from DeCoteau. However, it comes as a set with Danger USA (or Mind Trap as it’s sometimes known) and it seems to be out of print.


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