• Payback Time (Blind Fury / Silent Rage / White Line Fever)

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: May 16th, 2017.
    Director: Phillip Noyce/Michael Miller/Jonathan Kaplan
    Cast: Rutger Hauer, Terry O’Quinn, Brandon Call, Meg Foster, Sho Kosugi, Chuck Norris, William Finley, Ron Silver, Toni Kalem, Jan Michael Vincent, L.Q. Jones, Kay Lenz, Slim Pickens, Martin kove, Dick Miller
    Year: 1989/1982/1975
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movies:

    Mill Creek Entertainment offers up a triple dose of hard hitting action films from the Sony/Columbia Tri-Star vaults on Blu-ray for the first time.

    Blind Fury:

    Australian director Phillip Noyce (who broke through with Dead Calm then rose to the top with Patriot Games) helms this Rutger Hauer starring action movie. The film is, at its core, a remake of an early Zatoichi film, the long running samurai series made famous by Shintaro Katsu and semi-recently revitalized (some may say bastardized… but I digress!) in the land of the rising sun by Takashi Kitano.

    Hauer plays Nick Parker, a man who served his country in Vietnam and was blinded during a fire fight. Some local villagers take him in and help him recover from his wounds, but his sight is gone for good. Luckily, those very same villagers also teach Parker how to use a sword and soon he's mastered the techniques which they've instructed him in.

    Parker, no longer missing in action, eventually finds his way back to America. We catch up with him when he's decided to go out and visit an old war buddy named Frank (Terry O'Quinn of Harsh Realm and The X-Files). Nick shows up but finds that Frank has moved off to Reno. While in town though, Parker meets up with Frank's wife Lynn (Meg Foster who earlier starred alongside Hauer in Sam Peckinpah's The Osterman Weekend) and son, Billy (Brandon Call). They've found themselves in some hot water as a hired goon named Slag (Tex Cobb of Ernest Goes To Jail) has come calling for Frank. It seems he owes Slag’s employer, a casino owner in Reno, a big chunk of coin for his gambling debts. When Frank turns up AWOL, he decides to kidnap Billy and hold him hostage so that he can force Frank into making him some fancy narcotics that he can in turn use to pay off his gambling debt. Lynn, sadly, is killed in the fight that ensues.

    Nick vows to protect Billy no matter what, but Slag and the rest of his cronies are going to do everything in their power to grab the kid and exact this evil plan. Parker fights off an army of mullet clad thugs and eventually shows down with Sho Kosugi (Revenge Of The Ninja), dodging bullets and kicking ass in no small quantity along the way.

    While the story is a little farfetched (though no more so than many other action films, really) Hauer does a commendable job in the lead and is reasonably convincing as a blind man. Like its Japanese predecessors, there is some humor interjected into the storyline that is handled well without becoming overbearing or taking over the action sequences. The scene where Parker has to drive a van and ends up doing so down the wrong way of a one-way street is just one example. If Rutger Hauer isn't really known for his comedic timing or slapstick sensibilities, he does a good job with the physical comedy in this film.

    Hauer is likeable in the lead – his character never asks for our sympathy despite his disability, and he proves that his training and his prowess with his caned sword make him more than a match for even the best trained mullet-thug. It's a blast watching him tear through the bad guys and make it look so easy – this is also a testament to the solid direction during the action scenes. The pacing is quick, and while a lot of the time child actors can really mess up an action movie with the 'sap' factor they inevitably bring with them, Brandon Call doesn't do too bad a job in his role. You wind up wanting Parker to make sure he got the job done and make sure that the little guy got out of the evil Slag's clutches safely. Throw in fine supporting work from Meg Foster, Terry O’Quinn and yes, Sho Kosugi (who really has a cameo here more than a proper supporting role) and this one remains a lot of fun. The Reno locations add some nice color to the proceedings as well, and you’ve got to love the fight choreography and stunt work on display here.

    Silent Rage:

    "Science created him. Now Chuck Norris must destroy him."

    The second film begins at a suburban home where a man named John Kirby (Brian Libby), fed up with his wife and kids, calls his doctor – he’s cracking up, he can’t take it anymore. Cops are called and the doctor heads over as fast as he can but it’s too late, John takes out his axe and murders his wife. Ace sheriff Dan Stevens (Chuck Norris) takes Kirby down with some help from his crew, leaving the man near dead… but not quite dead.

    Kirby’s doctor, Tom Halman (Ron Silver) along with two of his associates at the unnamed experimental medical center where he works – Phillip Spires (Steven Keats) and Paul Vaughn (William Finely) – operate, but can’t save him in time. Once his heart stops beating, however, Spires decides that it’s time to inject Kirby with an experimental serum that they’ve been working on, one that will allow his tissue to regenerate almost immediately. At first it doesn’t seem like it worked, but after it has been given enough time to do its thing, voila! The only catch? Kirby wasn’t right in the head to start with, and this serum has done further damage to his already fragile mind.

    Stevens leaves the hospital with some help from Halman’s sister, Alison (Toni Kalem), an ex-flame only too keen to reignite what they once had together. What neither of them know is that Kirby is still alive – a lesson they learn the hard way when Alison returns to the home she shares with her brother and sister in law to find them the victims of the maniac’s handiwork. With a seemingly unstoppable killing machine murdering everyone he comes into contact with, Stevens and his portly deputy Charlie (Stephen Furst) will have to do everything they can to keep Alison safe and stop Kirby before he kills again…

    If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to see Chuck Norris (who produced through his own Topkick Productions company) square off against Michael Myers, this is the movie for you. Somewhat reminiscent of Halloween (or more specifically Halloween II given how much of this film takes place in and around a hospital), Silent Rage gives us a kinda-sorta scientific explanation for how and why Kirby becomes a Myers-esque killing machine, but otherwise follows a lot of the slasher tropes that Halloween and other early slasher pictures laid down in the years prior. As such, it’s a fairly predictable movie, but don’t let that lead you into thinking it isn’t a fun way to kill an hour and forty minutes.

    The action scenes here are pretty solid, highlighted by the final fight of course but before then a great sequence in which Chuck takes on a bar full of biker trash, with some help from Furst, an actor almost impossible to not associate with his role as Dorfman in Animal House (he’s here mostly for comic relief if you couldn’t figure that out). Furst’s comic release, through no fault of his own (blame the script) is pretty bad, however – at the biker bar when he’s told to radio for help he instead describes the breasts of the biker woman, and at one point he does a really terrible De Niro/Taxi Driver ‘Are you talkin’ to me?’ bit in front of a mirror.

    Also worth mentioning is the fairly strong nudity here, at least strong by Chuck Norris movie standards. Not only do those aforementioned biker babes seem to prefer chugging their Coors without impeding shirts, but Chuck gets pretty Toni Kalem (who made her feature film debut in Family Honor of all places but who probably remains best known for The Wanderers) in the sack for some quality naked time not once, but twice! On top of that, the movie also features some pretty great kill scenes and murder set pieces. While this is hardly a gore fest, it’s definitely bloody enough to qualify as much as a horror picture as it does an action film. As to Norris himself? His performance here is on par with… pretty much every other performance he’s ever given. He doesn’t have a lot of range but the movie plays to his strengths and he handles himself in the action scenes well, spin kicking and drop kicking and punching the snot out of all sorts of bad guys.

    Toss in some fun supporting work from the great William Finely of The Phantom Of The Paradise and an almost silent but genuinely impressive turn from Libby as the killer? Yeah, Silent Rage kicks all kinds of ass.

    White Line Fever:

    Directed and co-written by Jonathan Kaplan hot on the heels of the success of Truck Turner a year prior, 1975’s White Line Fever stars Jan-Michael Vincent as a man named Carrol Jo Hummer. He’s just returned home from serving his country overseas and the first thing he’s going to do now that he’s back? Slap a ring on the finger of his pretty lady friend, Jerri Kane (Kay Lenz), of course! They get themselves a nice little house and take out a loan so that Carrol Jo can fulfill his dream of driving a big rig – that’s right, he gets himself a truck, dubs it ‘the Blue Mule’ and sets out to enjoy life as an owner/operator.

    Everything is going just fine for Carrol Jo until he shows up at the loading dock of a local warehouse to pick up his first load. While he’s in the office talking shop, a bunch of goons led by Clem (Martin Kove) try to stash some untaxed cigarettes and slots machines in the back of his trailer. C.J. catches them doing this and – NO – he’s not cool, he plays things straight. He talks to the foreman, Duane Haller (Slim Pickens) about it, but this is the way it is. C.J. leaves in a huff, orders the guys to unpack his trailer and finds that they’ve replaced the load with… cow manure. A quick skirmish finds Clem laying in the poop and C.J. off to find work somewhere else. Only it doesn’t work out that way. Duane has made some calls to higher ups like Buck (L.Q. Jones) and no nobody in the business will hire the poor guy – all because he tried to do the right thing.

    As time goes on, C.J. starts to do things his own way. It starts with a surprise appearance at the warehouse, shotgun in hand, to force Duane and Buck into giving him a job. It works, but it puts him in a bad spot. He teams up with an older black dude named Pops (Sam Laws) for the haul but the bad guys have got trouble waiting for them around every corner. It doesn’t help that the local cops are on the take too. When Jerri Kane gets pregnant and the Hummer’s find themselves in a cash crunch, things go from bad to worse – the powers that be are going to set C.J. up, they don’t want him spreading his ideas around and getting the drivers organized. But Carol Jo Hummer isn’t the type of man to just lie down and take it – he’s a working man who’s had enough!

    A genuinely entertaining mix of action, drama, romance and big ass trucks, White Line Fever is a bit deeper than you might expect, but probably not by much. The story is fairly cliché ridden, but it works. We feel for the Hummers, they seem like good people just trying to earn an honest living. The movie is at its best when Vincent is kicking the shit out of people, but in the quieter scenes he shares with Lenz the movie still holds out attention easily enough.

    Some decent stunt work is featured in the film, especially in its surprisingly dark conclusion. Trucks drive through stuff, and into stuff, and there are quite a few brawls and even some gun play here and there. The movie also benefits from a pretty fun cast. Vincent is just fine the in the lead, fairly charismatic here and handling himself well throughout. He shows good chemistry with Lenz, who manages to craft a genuinely sympathetic character here. The supporting cast is great – not only does Slim Pickens get to play a dastardly snake the grass type but we get Peckinpah regular L.Q. Jones playing the bad guy with an evil glint in his eye. Sam Laws (who also played a character named Pops in the aforementioned Truck Turner) is a blast as Hummer’s comrade in arms while Martin Kove and an underused but still appreciated Dick Miller are a lot of fun to watch, both men playing truckers too.


    Mill Creek presents all three features on a single 50GB Blu-ray disc (thankfully they opted not to cram them onto a 25GB disc), each in MPEG-2 encoded 1080p high definition. All three features are framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and exhibit similar qualities. The images are reasonably grainy but never distractingly so, though some compression artifacts can be spotted here and there (though they are usually minor – the ending of White Line Fever being an exception, you can see it in that last screen cap below). Colors look fairly good, never too bright but rarely faded, while detail is solid in each film, though it never approaches reference quality. Black levels are good, there’s fairly nice texture and depth to each film and skin tones look just fine. There’s no evidence of any noise reduction or edge enhancement. Honestly, these could look better had they been given restorations or had some minor cleanup work done, but for the most part they look just fine. Any print damage that shows up is minor, just small white specks, the source material used for these transfers was obviously in pretty nice condition.

    Al three films are presented in English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks. Optional English subtitles are provided. Obviously lossless audio would have been ideal here but the Dolby Digital tracks are at least free of any problems even if they fail to take advantage of the format. Dialogue remains clean, clear and easy to follow and the levels are properly balanced. Additionally there are no audible problems with any hiss or distortion to report.

    There are no extra features on this disc, just menus and chapter stops.

    The Final Word:

    Mill Creek Entertainment’s Payback Time Triple Feature offers up bonafide action movie classics in pretty nice shape with serviceable audio. There are no extra features here but this disc offers up plenty of bang for your buck and each one of these three films is absolutely worth seeing.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Yep, I'm placing this one in my Amazon basket. Thanks for the review and the caps, Ian.
    1. Nabonga's Avatar
      Nabonga -
      Just watched White Line Fever and Silent Rage back to back. I'd never seen either before and they were both total blasts. WLF could've been a little more sleazy though imo but it was solid entertainment (it's too bad JMV crashed and burned SO hard since he was pretty bad ass). I'll save Blind Fury for tomorrow night. I've seen it before so I was mainly itching to watch the other films first. For the price point this is quite an excellent release! Very much recommended.