• L.A. Wars (Vinegar Syndrome) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
    Released on: May 22nd, 2020.
    Director: Tony Kandah, Martin Morris
    Cast: Vince Murdocco, Mary E. Zilba, A.J. Stephans, Johnn Venokur, Rodrigo Obregón, David Jean Thomas
    Year: 1994
    Purchase From Vinegar Syndrome

    L.A. Wars – Movie Review:

    What do you need to know about the obscure mid-nineties action picture that is L.A. Wars? It was co-directed by a man who cut his teeth working for PM Entertainment and it involves a few people who were regular cast and crew members in the films of the late, great Andy Sidaris. If that appeals to you, read on. If that doesn't appeal to you, leave this site and never come back.

    When this film opens, a woman wearing a low cut dress and Doc Marin boots named Rosa (Kerri Kasem) and her boyfriend Miguel (Butch Tonisala) blow up a car. It’s a hit! They’re in the employ of Raul Guzman (Rodrigo Obregón), a Central American man moving in to take over Los Angele’s drug trade its current kingpin, Carlo Giovani (A.J. Stephans). When Giovani finds out what happens, he sends his enforcer, Vinnie Scoletti (Johnny Venokur), out to get revenge and Guzman’s nephew is killed in the process (while in the throes of passion with a woman in a blond wig). This sets off a war. An L.A. war.

    Jake Quinn (played by kickboxer Vince Murdocco) used to be a cop on the edge, but after he shot a child molester who was about to whip a twelve year old girl, he was fired. Now he’s a bartender on the edge. He’s walking down the street one day, past a guy in a Pink Floyd shirt and a bikini shop, just as he sees a pretty blonde woman attacked by armed assailants! Jake leaps into action, kills all the bad guys and saves her sweet ass, completely unaware that the woman in question is Carla Giovani (Mary Zilba), the Mafioso’s daughter. When Giovani brings Jake to his mansion to thank him, Jake asks for a job and is slowly but surely brought into the mobsters inner circle, much to the dismay of Vinnie, who sees the way that Jake and Carla look at one another. What no one on Giovani’s side realizes is that Jake’s been brought back into the fold by Capt. Roark (as David Jean Thomas) so that he can get insider information and help the L.A.P.D. stop this brutal war, this L.A. war, before it gets even badder, boobier and bloodier!

    L.A. Wars is an absolute blast from start to finish. It was clearly made with modest funds and it is absolutely one of the most cliché-ridden action pictures you are ever going to see, but man oh man is it ever a whole lot of ridiculous fun. Try taking a drink every time someone says ‘I do things my way!’ or ‘Fuck you!’ and you’ll be shitfaced by the half-hour mark. But it leaves you satisfied, like a good action movie does, hitting all the checking off all the marks along the way. Gratuitous nudity? Check! Gratuitous nudity AND bad nineties boob jobs, the kind with breasts that look so rock hard they could kill you? Check! A cop/bartender on the edge? Check! Bloody squib effects? A whole lot of checks! What about an angry commanding officer who yells at our cop on the edge? Check! Bad Italian stereotypes? Oh yeah, check that off. Bad south or central American stereotypes? Ummm…. Check! A bad ass chick in a tight-fitting dress who kicks ass? Yep… check. Kickboxing? Check, check and check! Uzis? Shotgun blasts? Guys doing lines in a bathroom? Mullets? Exploding cars? A District Attorney that cause nothing but problems? A scene where a police badge gets slammed on a desk? You’d better believe that’d be eight more checks right there, boss.

    Vince Murdocco, who has acted alongside Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson in Ring Of Fire, Ring Of Fire II and Night Hunter (you know when an actor hangs out with Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson his kickboxing skills are unfuckwithable) is a lot of fun in the lead. No, he’s not the best actor on the planet but he’s likeable in a goofy sort of way and he plays the part well, particularly during the action scenes. Mary Zilba as the love interest is also fine, and plenty fun to look at while Johnny Venokur’s increasingly manic turn as ‘Vinnie’ is something to behold, as he attempts to channel something akin to Al Pacino or Joe Pesci or… I dunno, think about all the guys who have played crazy mobsters over the years because that’s what he’s going for here. A.J. Stephans has the perfect poofy white hair to play a mob boss while Rodrigo Obregón, immortalized in no less than eight Andy Sidaris films, as equally fun to watch as his foil.

    L.A. Wars rules. Also I was full of bourbon when I wrote this.

    L.A. Wars – Blu-ray Review:

    L.A. Wars comes to Blu-ray from Vinegar Syndrome in AVC encoded 1080p high definition ‘newly scanned and restored from 16mm archival elements’ which means this looks less than perfect. The transfer is framed at 1.33.1 fullframe and while it’s pretty grainy, understandable given the elements used, it’s still a very respectable offering even if it isn’t reference quality. Some mild damage can be spotted throughout the movie, small scratches and the like, but color reproduction is quite good and skin tones look nice. The transfer is given plenty of breaking room, taking up just over 27GBs of space on the dual layered disc, and there are no problems with any noise reduction, compression artifacts or edge enhancement.

    The main audio option on the disc is an English language 24-bit DTS-HD Mono track. Sound quality is pretty good, even if there is a bit of sibilance throughout much of the film. Dialogue stays easy to understand and to follow and the levels are balanced well enough. Optional subtitles are provided in English only. An English Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track is also provided.

    Starting A War interviews producer/co-writer/co-director Tony Kandah for seventeen-minutes about his roots growing up in Jerusalem, seeing The Sound Of Music on his first trip to a movie theater at four years old and being hooked on movies ever since. He then talks about being exposed to movies from all over the world and from all genres, before then getting a start working for PM Entertainment and starting at the very bottom before moving up. This led to getting work as a production manager, doing five films in eight months and then going on to do his own action movie which was the genesis of L.A. Wars and then end of his stint at PM Entertainment. He then details writing the script in nine days, hooking up with the backers and distributors, dealing with the different cast and crew members, his thoughts on directing action, how his connections from PM came in handy, what it was like on set and lots more. This guy is crazy enthusiastic and you can’t help but love him.

    In Shoot First we get to sit down with cinematographer Mark Morris for twenty-three-minutes. In this piece he speaks about his career leading up to L.A. Wars after working on some Andy Sidaris pictures, cutting his teeth on ‘car chase and action films,’ how he hooked up with Kandah and company to work on L.A. Wars and what he and Morris were like as directors, bringing on fellow Sidaris veteran Michael Haight to edit the picture, limitations that he ran into on set while trying to get proper coverage for the action set pieces, his thoughts on working with the cast and Murdocco in particular, stunt work featured in the picture, getting the needed pickup shots and more. Morris comes across as really likeable here and he tells some great stories.

    The first of two audio interviews on the disc gets Vince Murdocco to talk for twenty-two-minuets with Vinegar Syndrome’s Brad Henderson (who is clearly a fan as he brought the film to VS in the first place). They talk about Henderson’s love of Murdocco’s filmography, how he got the role after working for PM Entertainment, how important his relationship with Tony Kandah was to getting the picture made and his casting in the lead role, using firearms on the set and some of the stunt work needed for the movie, his experience as a kickboxer, a few other features that he’s worked on over the years, how he wound up starring in Flesh Gordon Meets The Cosmic Cheerleaders, being able to showcase his martial arts skills in some of his supporting and starring roles over the years the film’s release history and more.

    In the second interview, actor Rodrigo Obregón speaks for nineteen-minutes, again with Henderson essentially moderating. The audio quality here is a bit rough, but the content is interesting. They talk about his role in L.A. Wars but also about his ‘legacy’ in Andy Sidaris films, how he met and started to work with Sidaris in the first place, what those films were like to work on, his background and how he got into acting in the first place and a lot of travelling that he did, how he wound up in the states, doing a western in Russian, how he wound up in New York City, and of course, his experiences working on L.A. Wars and how he feels about the film and the quality of the action in the feature.

    Additionally the disc includes a still gallery, a trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection.

    NOTE: This release is part of the new Vinegar Syndrome Archive line, and it comes packaged a double-sided poster included inside the keepcase alongside the disc. We also get some cool reversible cover sleeve art as well. Like all VSA releases, this one is ONLY be available on the Vinegar Syndrome website and at participating brick and mortar retailers. This release is limited to 4,000 copies.

    L.A. Wars - The Final Word:

    L.A. Wars is a total blast from start to finish, a movie full of non-stop action and all the right clichés that go along with it. A game cast does a fine job and the directing team keeps things going at a very tight pace. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray release offers the film up in a respectable presentation and a surprisingly strong set of extra features as well. Highly recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized L.A. Wars Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. funkvader's Avatar
      funkvader -
      This looks like fun.
      Also, I need some of the PM Entertainment films on blu-ray. They had really good stunt work.