Strike Commando 2Overview -
Exploitation icon Bruno Mattei returns to the jungle with the wacky yet explosive Strike Commando 2. Sgt. Michael Ransom returns to bloody action in this in-name-only sequel. Sent by the CIA to rescue his old squad leader Vic Jenkins, Ransom is up against a group of heroin-producing ninjas funded by the KGB. Starring Brent Huff and Richard Harris the film borrows from nearly every action/adventure/war film you’ve ever seen. Severin Films Blu-ray offers a solid A/V package with an impressive 2k scan, a serviceable Mono audio track, and two cuts of the film. Recommended.
Director Bruno Mattei and screenwriters Claudio Fragasso & Rossella Drudi return to the Philippine jungles with a higher budget, bigger action and Richard Harris (yes, that Richard Harris) for a crowd-pleaser that shamelessly borrows from APOCALYPSE NOW, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, RAMBO and beyond. This time, Sgt Mike Ransom (Brent Huff of GWENDOLINE fame) battles the KGB, rogue CIA agents, an army of ninjas, a tough bar owner (Miss World 1977 Mary Stavin) and "all the stuntman craziness and explosions you can cram into 90 minutes" (DTV Connoisseur). Mel Davidson (ROBOWAR) and Vic Diaz (THE BIG BIRD CAGE) co-star in this slow-motion machine-gun of Mattei mayhem that's "just as insane as its predecessor" (Good Efficient Butchery).
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
“We can’t answer anymore. We’re dead.”
Sgt. Michael Ransom is back in action this time played by Brent Huff of Gwendoline fame. In his years since the war Ransom has been living the sweet ex-pat life in Asia complete with a crappy apartment and plenty of PTSD nightmares to keep him busy. When Ransom’s old commanding officer Major Vic Jenkins (Richard Harris) is kidnapped by a heroin smuggling group of ninjas led by Huan To (Vic Diaz) the CIA sends him on the rescue mission with $10 million in diamonds. Along the way Ransom is aided by a hard drinking badass bar owner named Rosanna (Mary Stavin). Armed to the teeth Ransom will let nothing stand in his way of the mission.
Surprisingly, Strike Commando 2 isn’t the non-stop explosive juggernaut like its predecessor. This time around Mattei favors an adventure film framework coupled with bits of wackiness, and thankfully an explosive third act to ensure audiences aren’t disappointed. Using obvious elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Romancing the Stone, and Apocalypse Now (among other 80’s action films) Mattei starts off with a solid “drug lord kidnapping” storyline but becomes bored quickly. The film is mostly lighthearted as Ransom and Rosanna bounce through the jungle offing bad guys and engaging in romantic quips. We get plenty of fight scenes and shootouts but something is lacking here. The sequences are too measured and lacking the guttural screams of a madman out for blood. Thankfully when the third act rolls around Mattei gives us what we crave: explosive destruction and mayhem!
Where Strike Commando 2 excels is in the surprisingly exciting stunt work. There are many insanely great moments here including a truck chase, a ninja brawl, and the explosive dissemination of a jungle compound. Brent Huff looks confident enough performing the crazy stunt work, though by today’s standards he would obviously need a stunt man. Hand-to-hand combat sequences are damn good, especially a final muddy brawl between Ransom and the KGB agent Kramet.
Performances are memorable with plenty of interesting choices from the entire cast. Brent Huff plays the action beats well but lacks the unhinged intensity that Reb Brown offered in the first film which was the expectation for sure. I like him here because he is able to balance the lighthearted moments and cartoonish hijinks while selling the limited emotional stakes confidently. Huff is having a blast camping it up and chewing scenery as a Wish.com Indiana Jones.
Mary Stavin’s Rosanna is a bit aimless and bewildering until she’s handed some real firepower. Her sleepy demeanor is then instantly transformed into a deadly warrior hell-bent on mayhem and blood. I love it! However, I can’t knock the ex-Bond Girl and Swedish Miss World 1977 too much. The actress can take a punch and carry herself quite well in physically demanding scenes. Mel Davidson is the MVP here as Kramet the KGB operative. His character combines Toht and Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark complete with a piano wire hidden up his sleeve and a group of ninjas at his disposal. Brilliant!
The casting of Hollywood legend Richard Harris is an interesting choice on paper. While he could’ve walked through the scenes just to collect his paycheck, Harris is actually quite good here hamming it up as the kidnapped Major. It’s easy to see that both Huff and Harris know exactly the kind of movie they’re making and put in the quality of performance to sell it to the end.
Strike Commando 2 is a cheesy 80’s action film doused in exploitation mayhem with a generous side of hijinks. Bruno Mattei’s follow-up to his mostly successful Strike Commando veers off the course of bloody vengeance and into adventure territory with successful results. I had a great time turning off my brain and enjoying another Mike Ransom adventure.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Strike Commando 2 arrives on Region A Blu-ray thanks to Severin Films. Housed in a black keepcase, the BD-50 disc loads the Severin Films logo before landing on the Main Menu screen. Typical navigation options flank the menu screen with scenes from the film playing behind.
Strike Commando 2 arrives on Bu-ray thanks to Severin Films in a new 2k scan of the original negative. The 1080p 1.85:1 image is good here with even skin tones, primaries that pop nicely and earth tones from jungle landscapes appearing warm and rich. Fine detail is present within facial features and costuming. Grain field looks mostly stable and black levels hold steady. Dirt specks, and some errant hairs are visible at times though nothing that detracts from the experience. With persistent use of stock footage there are dips in quality as the action ramps up in both cuts of the film. Thankfully audiences hellbent on seeing Mike Ransom tear through the jungle won’t bat an eye if a Huey helicopter appears out of focus.
Strike Commando 2 blasts onto Blu-ray with an LPCM 2.0 Mono track in English or Italian. Both tracks offer similar experiences though I would opt for the English track as most of the main cast are native English speaking actors. Dialogue is mostly clear without hiss or pop detected. Scenes in the Extended Cut not offered in the Theatrical Cut present a slightly compromised audio quality. These scenes are brief and the audio discrepancy doesn’t distract from the overall presentation of the film. Scoring and effects tracks are balanced well within the mix offering plenty of explosive mayhem to enjoy.
Severin keeps the features slim but offers two featurettes and an Extended Cut of the Film. I recommend checking out the Brent Huff interview segment after the film.
- Extended Cut of the Film (HD 1:36:00)
- Theatrical Cut of the Film (HD; 1:30:00)
- Guerrilla Zone: Interview with Claudio Fragasso (HD 16:42) Continuing on an interview that began on the Strike Commando Blu-ray, Fragasso speaks at length about drinking with Richard Harris, co-directing the film, and working with the local Philippino crew. In Italian with English subtitles.
- Michael Ransom Strikes Back: Interview with Actor Brent Huff (HD 14:29) A candid conversation with the actor as he recounts his experiences making the film.
- Trailer (HD 2:40)
Strike Commando 2 is an exploitation ripoff masterclass that offers plenty of bang for the buck. Mattei’s war/adventure remix of famous Hollywood films works insanely well as a quirky actioner but it doesn’t have quite the body count or blood lust that made the first film a success. Go in with relaxed expectations and allow the wackiness and amazing stunt work to reel you into this entertaining romp.
Severin Films Blu-ray offers a solid A/V package with an impressive 2k scan paired with a serviceable Mono audio track. Fans of the film will enjoy the two interview segments on the disc which provide amusing stories about the production. Recommended for fans.
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