Deadly Impact (1984)

Deadly Impact

If you have the opportunity to witness Deadly Impact I would implore you to do so. Deadly Impact takes cues from Dirty Harry and 48 Hours, throws together a plot that works as an excuse to have Bo Svenson argue with his Captain, take the law into his own hands and dish out justice with his buddy, Fred Williamson. The film also pops up as Impatto Mortale, Dirty Killer or even Giant Killer!

Previously I have looked at Blazing Magnums, a Dirty Harry knock off that is worth celebrating. Deadly Impact is about as close as you could get to a spoof of the genre without any legitimate laughs. The plot sees a tough cop, played remarkably well by Bo Svenson, investigating the murder of a computer genius who worked out how to beat the slot machines in the colourful casinos of Phoenix. I said Bo plays the character remarkably well because he keeps a straight face throughout. Fred is his helicopter pilot buddy who helps crack the case and get Bo into the thick of the action.

As an action film Deadly Impact is in the capable hands on Fabrizio De Angelis, responsible for the Bronx Warriors series, Thunder Warrior series and the Karate Warrior movies. He also did some movies without Warrior in the title. In saying that, his whole filmography is the most amazing collection of genre classics… banger after banger! The action sequences are front and centre filling the movie with memorable moments. Every plot development causes some form of action sequence, be it a fist fight, rooftop chase or car chase. Bo works his way through a number of cars during the film’s runtime and you can see damage on the car well before the action sequence that results in the car getting destroyed.

Dialogue predates Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction rambling, however, I think this might be due to the lack of script and actors needing to adlib. Bo has a beautiful moment when talking to a character in a burger joint and is asked if he would like a burger, Bo mulls over the question alongside the ever developing storyline and lays out his decision… the audience is beside themselves with anticipation. Bo romances a lady revealing a vulnerable side followed by an instantaneous postcoital reform that sees him ditch her for her car, embark on a car chase and destroy it.  

Deadly Impact has its finger on the progressive barriers that present themselves and is inclusive and sympathetic with the struggles seen in contemporary society. Bo arrives at a bar looking for a girl, unfortunately this is a place only men who refer to each other as “girls” frequent and things turn sour as Bo is threatened by an army of mean looking dudes allowing for a slight quip from Bo whilst making a quick exit. The scene has the Blue Oyster Bar vibe from Police Academy the following year.

Bo and Fred attempt to trade witty and cutting insults much like Nolte and Murphy in 48 Hours. Nolte and Murphy have a bit of a knack for the playful bonding, Bo and Fred (whom I believe were likely great mates off screen given their shared credits) struggle to get anything going beyond Fred declaring he is a great pilot and Bo retorting “I hear you, but I don’t see you doing anything!”

Deadly Impact has some terrific action from car chases, to helicopter chases, to outright bonkers stunt work with Bo showing some real bravery with some of the action. The stunt work really has to be marvelled at with Bo leaping from the helicopter onto the highway and chasing a car on foot in one take. You have to admire his dedication. The helicopter shenanigans do become a little tiresome in the last 20 minutes of the film as De Angelis seems intent on putting every frame of captured helicopter footage into the film with disregard of the audience’s awareness of the chase. The constant helicopter noise becomes monotonous and distracting from the dizzying action on the film. There is a little gun play as the occupants of the choppers shoot at each other and at one stage Bo clambers out onto the landing skid, quite why is a mystery, but it looks good for the moments we see him there.

On a recent rewatch I noticed that one scene in particular has been resorted from a workprint. Perhaps on the dirty VHS I had back in the 90’s it was not that obvious, however, my DVD copy has a scene in which the late Giovanni Lombardo Radice enters a house to eliminate the occupants and the original negative must have been lost when the film was being edited. 

The one thing that destroys any potential of this film becoming a classic is the score. It needs to be heard to be believed and how the main track was associated with the film is beyond me. Much like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, Deadly Impact had an ongoing theme tune that plays throughout the action to emphasise the heroics. The problem is that the track is so far removed from the genre of the film that it would be better suited on a contemporary family Chicken Shack TV commercial. The producers must have walked into a stock music emporium, said “something catchy” and not listened to what was handed over. Imagine Dirty Harry tearing down the street in a convertible Plymouth blasting his magnum with the Inspector Gadget theme tune over the top.

I know most will run this movie down for being awful, and I had every intention of calling this movie utterly rubbish, but the film has so much heart it’s impossible not to feel the love all who are involved have for it. The action movie heart beats louder than the story and everyone is having a blast. This is the third time I have seen this movie and each time I have sat knowing full well that they were not looking to hit as big as Bullit, instead they were eking out a living making an action movie because they love making action movies… and I love watching them and watching this!

Original artwork for Deadly Impact was an instant pick up for me as a kid. Big guns, car chases and one tough bastard were the focal points of what I wanted from my movies. The VHS art below is jam packed with nostalgia for me as I studied it closely many times over the years.

Deadly Impact is easy to find. You can rent or purchase it on steaming from Amazon (currently) and it’s included in Amazon Prime at the time of writing.

There is no shortage of DVD releases, however, there is a shortage of good value DVD releases. Prices have gone a bit crazy as stock dwindles, upward of £25 for a cheap looking copy. Reviews also cause concern with VHS quality mentioned frequently.

Recent DVD artwork seems to favour Fred Williamson in place of the epic 80’s art that is almost as cool as Fred generally is.


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