• Strike Commando 2 (Severin Films) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Severin Films
    Released on: June 22nd, 2021.
    Director: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragrasso
    Cast: Brent Huff, Mary Stavin, Richard Harris, Vic Diaz, Peter Holmes, Mel Davidson
    Year: 1988
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    Strike Commando 2 – Movie Review:

    Strike Commando 2, directed by Bruno Mattei and an uncredited Claudio Fragrasso, finds Michael Ransom (Brent Huff, replacing Reb Brown) and company in the midst of a firefight. He gets injured and Major Vic Jenkins (Richard Harrison) saves his life. Fast forward a while and Ransom is living a civilian life but when Jenkins gets kidnapped by a drug cartel run by the notorious Huan To (Vic Diaz), he insists on rescuing him. To will hand Jenkins over for ten million dollars’ worth of diamonds, and so Ransom is given the gems and heads into the jungle to save the man who once saved him.

    He winds up at a bar run by beer swigging tough gal Rosanna (Mary Stavin) where he meets a KGB agent Kramet (Mel Davidson) meant to get the diamonds in exchange for Jenkins. It doesn’t go well and before you know it, a small army of ninjas has attacked, the bartender is dead and Rosanna’s watering hole has been blown up (for reasons never explained she was storing dynamite behind the bar!). Upset that her bar has been blown up, she forms a de facto partnership with Ransom where they’ll work together to free Jenkins and keep the diamonds, splitting the loot 50/50… but of course, that won’t be easy.

    First things first, this second film, while reasonably goofy, isn’t nearly as bonkers as the first Strike Commando, and much of that has to do with Reb Brown being replaced with Brent Huff. While Huff might be a ‘better’ actor in terms of how he handles legitimately dramatic content, when compared to Brown’s take on Michael Ransom, this is a much more subdued character. We do still get a bit of grunting and some occasional yelling but nothing like what Brown delivers. That said, Huff handles things well enough, doing a decent job in the action scenes and really going for it when it’s time to unload that .50 caliber machine gun into… an empty room full of jars? Anyway, he’s fine. He’s just not Reb Brown. And that isn’t his fault.

    The rest of the cast are pretty fun. Mary Stavin plays the brassy, saucy Rosanna with plenty of enthusiasm, maybe a little too much enthusiasm, but regardless she’s amusing to watch here. At times the interplay between she and Huff is reminiscent of something like Romancing The Stone, which is weird, because it shouldn’t be. Mel Davidson is kind of great as the sadistic KGB agent and Vic Diaz, of course, steals the few scenes that he’s in. It’s a shame that he doesn’t have a bigger role than he does here, because anytime you add Vic Diaz to your movie it’s instantly better. And then there’s Richard Harris, a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and storied actor who wound up taking lesser roles as he got older and, somewhat infamously, kept drinking. He doesn’t seem too sloshed here, but the man had a tolerance so who knows. Either way, he brings a sense of nobility and classy bad attitude to his role as Jenkins. While this certainly isn’t the role he’d probably want to be remembered for, he seems to be having a good time with the material.

    Mattei and Fragrasso keep things moving at a pretty decent pace. The score is weirdly in appropriate in many scenes, sometimes feeling like something Danny Elfman might have composed for Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure mixed with the theme from Knight Rider, and not at all what you’d expect from an Italian war movie made in The Philippines. Oh, and unlike the first movie, there are real helicopters in this one rather than stock footage helicopters, and that counts for something.

    This disc also includes both the extended cut (1:36:08) and the theatrical cut (1:30:18) of the film.

    Strike Commando 2 – Blu-ray Review:

    Strike Commando 2 is presented on a 50GB disc with the transfer of the extended cut given 29.9.8GBs of space on the disc while the theatrical cut gets 28.GBs (there’s some seamless branching going on here). The AVC encoded 1080p high definition image is framed at 1.85.1 widescreen and is taken from a 2k scan of the original 35mm negative. Despite a few vertical scratches and a scene where a hair clearly got caught in the gate, the picture quality here is quite good. Colors are bright and bold without looking boosted and there’s very little print damage. Noise reduction and edge enhancement aren’t an issue here and compression artifacts are scarce, though noticeable in scenes with heavy smoke. Otherwise, yeah, this looks good.

    Audio options are provided for both cuts in English and Italian language 24-bit LPCM 2.0 tracks with optional subtitles provided that translate the English audio and not the Italian track. There is some noticeable sibilance in the English track that is hard to miss, but otherwise it sounds just fine.

    First up, as far as the extra features go, is Guerrilla Zone, a new interview with co-director Claudio Fragasso that lasts seventeen-minutes. He speaks here about how the film was rushed into production after the first movie was finished, wanting a bankable name for the movie (hence Harris being cast in the film), what it was like working with the hard-drinking Harris and Huff, working with Mattei on the film, shooting in The Philippines and more.

    Up next is Michael Ransom Strikes Back, a new interview with actor Brent Huff. Here, over fifteen-minutes, he talks about how after starring in Gwendoline some doors opened up for him leading to landing some roles in Italian and European movies, his thoughts on the part he played, following in Reb Brown’s footsteps, what it was like on set, getting along with Harris and Stavin, getting seriously ill and winding up in the hospital, the stunts on the film and a few other topics.

    Additionally, the disc includes a trailer as well as menus and chapter selection options.

    Strike Commando 2 - The Final Word:

    Strike Commando 2 doesn’t reach the same levels of awesome as the first film, but it definitely has its moments even if it is all over the place in terms of tone. Severin’s Blu-ray is a strong release, presenting the film in nice shape and with some interesting interviews providing some welcome insight into its history.

    Click on the images below for full sized Strike Commando 2 Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Matt H.'s Avatar
      Matt H. -
      Haha, I just watched this last night for the first time. For me, it's pretty much "boring" Mattei, but I did love all of the stuff that rips off RAIDERS. It can't touch the original, though. No Disneyland speech.