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The not-so-great career of Leo Fong

One of the safe rules of movie reviewing is that if a movie stars Cameron Mitchell, it’s probably going to be no good.  This was a rule I understood going into this weekend, having seen him in such clunkers as Memorial Valley Massacre and Knives of the Avenger (though to be fair, he’s been in at least one good film, Blood and Black Lace).  Mitchell died in the 1990s, having lived a long, successful life, but we can be assured that there are no more bad movies with Mitchell forthcoming.

Unfortunately, Mitchell’s co-star in the movies I watched this weekend is still around and capable of making more awful films.  That actor is Leo Fong, an Asian import who is something like Jackie Chan without the charm or physical grace.  The two Mitchell/Fong movies I watched were Killpoint and Low Blow.

Leave it to Crown International Pictures to come up with schlock like these two films.  Crown specialized in cheapie films, first with mild, sex-oriented grindhouse flicks, then with material that I believe were straight-to-video.  Some of these films are at least entertaining, but this pair isn’t.  Instead, we have two ’80s action flicks with all the bad clichés that were common to films of that era.

Let’s start with Killpoint.  (As always, there will be spoilers.)  This movie opens with a heist at a military armory.  It’s not a very difficult bit of thievery, as the whole armory seems to be guarded by one inept (and soon dead) man.  A heap of weapons are stolen by the henchman for Mitchell, who plays a psychopathic crime lord. Besides arming gangs, Mitchell likes to strangle women as a hobby. 

Enter Leo Fong, playing Lt. Long, a cop recovering from having his wife raped and murdered.  You’d think this heinous crime would play a part in the movie, but other than one brief flashback, nothing happens with it.  Were the crooks caught?  Are they tied to Mitchell?  Who knows? 

When the stolen guns are used by gang members to massacre whole restaurants and grocery stores of people, Long is called in.  He is paired up with Richard Roundtree (Shaft himself) and you think that we may have a low-rent precursor to Rush Hour.  Actually, the two hardly spend any time together and Roundtree is dead by the middle of the movie (at least, I think he’s dead.  He’s shot and never mentioned again).

Eventually, Long will organize an undercover mission to get to Mitchell’s weapons, which of course culminates in a big shootout.  Since Fong’s main talent seems to be a mild knack for martial arts, there is plenty of hand-to-hand combat too.  All the bad guys get theirs and the world is safe again.

The problem with this movie is that it is a by-the-numbers 1980s-style action movie, complete with a generic soundtrack that often drowns out the dialogue itself.  Of course, these sorts of movies are focused on an action star, and in this case it is Leo Fong.  There’s a reason you haven’t heard about him.  At this point in his career, he is apparently still just learning English and it shows with his slow, monotonous delivery (by Low Blow, a couple years later, he has noticeably improved in this respect).  The fight scenes are only moderately interesting; compared with other Asian action stars (which I think is a fair comparison, since he is filling a similar role) like Chan or Jet Li, the fight choreography pales.  Quality: 3/10.  Fun 3/10.

Low Blow isn’t much better, as it suffers from the same problems.  On the plus side, it does have a sense of humor.  On the minus side, you’ve heard all the jokes before.  This one opens Dirty Harry style (it even takes place in San Francisco, though the location hardly has an impact on this flick).  Fong is an ex-cop private eye who intervenes in a coffee shop robbery, killing the three perpetrators. 

The bad guys in this film are an evil cult with a benevolent messiah played by Mitchell who is blindly (quite literally) being led by a con artist named Karma who is his lover and also has a thing for marshmallow candies.  The cult members appear to be brain-damaged, which is the only way you can believe they’d fall for the clap-trap that Mitchell says.  Somewhere, there seems to be a money-making scam, but I can’t tell exactly what it is.  When the daughter of a rich guy (played by Troy Donahue) joins the cult, Fong (here called Joe Wong) is hired to get her back.

When his first attempt to infiltrate the cult fails, Fong recruits a whole bunch of various fighters (including a boxer, wrestler, female bodybuilder and gang switchblader) to raid the cult’s headquarters and save the girl.  Of course, this works with a maximum of generally bloodless violence.  For some reason, however, Karma escapes, perhaps for a sequel.  Actually, it seems more like she is just forgotten.

In addition to the same problems as Killpoint, Low Blow also has its share of stereotyping, most notably the “driving-while-Asian” one, with Fong being seemingly incapable of parking his car without hitting something.  Interestingly, Fong has a major behind-the-scenes role behind this one (writing and producing), so any stereotyping must have been okay with him.  Quality: 3/10, Fun 3/10.


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