Flight to Danger (1995)
This is a direct-to-video karate/action film, shot on a limited budget and staring exactly zero people you have ever heard of before or since. It might have been made in a single weekend and rushed off to the bottom shelf of skeevy VHS rental stores everywhere just in time for Christmas. But still, anytime you have hot girls punching dudes with goatees, it's worth 90 minutes of my time.
Our...ahem, "movie" opens at a Southern California karate school, owned and operated by Sensei Robn. Yes, that's the way he spells it, without the "i", and, no, I don't know what the hell his parents were thinking. [Editor Pam: Spelling aside, what straight adult man calls himself "Robin?"] It's 1995 in California so of course he has his straight hair in a long flowing ponytail which makes him look like Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (ok, guilty, I had the same haircut in 1995...). He might be the only person associated with this movie with even a rudimentary knowledge of martial arts, so it's a good thing he's the teacher.
Sensei Robn talks to his casting agent.
Sensei Robn runs an all-girl karate school, and he's currently training them to compete in the upcoming "World Open Cup International Challenge" in Paris, France. These kung fu women will be the stars of our movie, though we really only get to know a few of them. The girls are, for all intents and purposes, interchangeable and it's hard to tell them apart at times (especially the blondes as they all look alike to me). While they're all indeed attractive, they're not any more so than any of the billions of other hot, leggy 20somethings walking around Los Angeles on any given day (it's California in the summer, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a pretty girl).
Some of the karate girls.
We get ten minutes of these girls sparring with each other to earn spots on the Paris team. It isn't a surprise that none of them seem to have even the slightest idea of how to fu-fight, as they were plainly hired for their perky bodies and marginal ability to memorize and speak lines on camera. Clearly, Sensei Robn did give them all some quick lessons on how to strike stupid ninja poses and go "Huuaw!!!" a lot, but it's really just sexy girls slapping at each other and trying not to get hurt.
Sidebar here for a second as a creepy, oily Corporate Guy comes to see Sensei Robn with an offer of free uniforms for the team, but only if they bring back a box from his Paris office for him. Not having ever seen any action/spy movies in his entire life, Sensei Robn readily agrees (dumdumdum!).
Corporate Guy offers new duds.
For some reason we veer seriously off-target now, following two of the girls to a domestic abuse workshop where they bare their most intimate secrets of abusive boyfriends and too-friendly uncles to some counselors. As this has absolutely no bearing on absolutely anything that happens in the rest of the film, I absolutely believe that the director was trying to work out some personal issues on camera.
Anyway, we now see one of the karate girls and some random brunette hottie named Trudy getting ready for a fun night on the town. The camera lovingly smothers them as they strip down to their undies and change into skanky party outfits while shaking their butts to a groovy tune. While they both have killer bodies (especially that Trudy girl, growl), it's strictly a PG-13 scene, which leaves you both frustrated and strangely bored at the same time. I'm all for pandering to the 16-year old boys in your audience (or 39-year old men who are watching this dreck many years later...), but you have to deliver more than this (I can see better on Showtime any given Tuesday afternoon).
The girls are off to a party held at an "abstract symbolist" art gallery (the same set as the karate school, just with the props moved around). A bunch of vacuous miniskirted bimbos and bathrobe-wearing hipsters with long Lord of the Rings elvish hair are busy dancing in a tight circle to some shitty electronica music. Oh god, there's enough polyester and parachute pants and Aquanet hairspray in the room to have a critical '90s overload! And when did white people forget how to dance?
I will say, however, that I was very surprised to see a young Michelle Obama at this party, shaking her money-maker on the dance floor in a pair of Daisy Dukes. I always thought she had a law career before her husband went into politics, but it's clear to me now that she was an actress in rotten exploitation movies (I wonder if Glenn Beck is aware of this?).
While the other girls party, another karate girl (named Marcy, write it down) chooses to go see her boyfriend Nick at his apartment. Nick, whose long, overly-styled shoulder-length hair makes him look like Rachel from Friends, is the kind of guy who keeps a lava lamp, a guitar, and a samurai sword next to his futon (you know That Guy, don't lie to me). They do some Tai Chi Foreplay (just made that up!) and have some sensual massage before gettin' it on (not that we actually see anything). Afterwards, he serenades her with his wicked guitar skills, because, you know, all women dig that.
Hope he's not singing "Under the Bridge".
The next morning a freshly-showered Marcy and a still-shirtless Nick sit at a table and talk (it looks like this "apartment" set is an empty hotel room or even an abandoned house with just a few props brought in). They giggle over child-proof aspirin bottles and fringy purses, and it seems like both actors are just winging it without a script (actually, in most scenes in this movie people are clearly improv-ing lines, and it shows). She's now off to catch a plane.
At the table.
The karate team's trip to exotic Paris is over and done with quickly, represented solely by a five-second stock footage clip of an airliner landing, and the rest of the movie is set back in ho-hum Los Angeles. So much for a "flight to danger", eh? This reminds me of the equally miserable Death Run to Istanbul, where they tease us with an intercontinental journey before yanking the fun-rug out from under us.
Wait, they flew into Tom Bradley? Who still does that?
Marcy goes to talk with Corporate Guy about some sponsorship deal. They chat about the Paris meet (though they never say if they won), and Marcy brags about how she met Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Bill "Superfoot" Wallace there (showoff). Corporate Guy only wants to know which one of the girls has his box. When he realizes it's not Marcy, he pulls a gun on her and demands she tell him who has "his property".
Marcy in danger.
Ok, we're going to leave Marcy for a while, but we'll be back to her later. Two of the other karate chicks, Claudia and Alex, go to some office to see some guy named Richard (who is he again?). While Alex mills around in the lobby, Claudia walks in on two thugs (NotKyleMacLachlan from Desperate Housewives and NotAdamRodriguez from CSI: Miami) roughing up this Richard dude in his office. They're looking for "a box" and when Richard won't squeal, NotKyleMacLachlan pulls out this big cordless power drill (!) and drills a hole in this hand (!). Don't worry, you see nothing bloody at all, do you really think they could afford special effects or even a 24ounce bottle of Heinz katsup for fake blood?
The hitmen hassle Richard.
Richard eventually fights through the pain (yawn) to say that one of the karate girls brought the box back from Paris and they still have it. And in fact, Claudia does have the box, having picked it up in Paris as instructed by Sensei Robn for the Corporate Guy (she's actually here to give it to Richard). Having got what they wanted, NotAdamRodriguez shoots Richard in the head. Well, he pulls out a prop gun, points it at Richard's head, Richard then falls down and the thug puts the gun away. No "bang", no recoil, no nothing, it's like they filmed the action scenes as such and were planning (really, guys...) on going back and adding in sound effects in post, but never got that far (or realized at the end that they blew the budget on miniskirts and thongs for the girls).
Anyway, Claudia bolts, but ends up riding the elevator down to the lobby with the two thugs (maybe the only suspenseful scene in the entire movie). They recognize her eventually and give chase to her and Alex, who run out into the street and flag down a random passing Volvo wagon. They con the driver, a frizzy-haired guy named Steve, into driving them to his apartment to use his phone (pre-cellphone days, remember).
Meanwhile, having lost Claudia and Alex for the moment, the hitman are now killing off the other karate team girls to find the box. They catch one out jogging (Lisa, not that it matters), and she's unable to escape. NotAdamRodriguez and NotKyleMcLachlan have now been joined by a third hitman, WhiteLieutenantWorf, and they slap her around a bit (in the middle of a busy side street, by the way). When they don't get the answer they want, WhiteLieutenantWorf shoots her in the head. Watch as the actress falls off-camera after the "bang" cue, but she doesn't fall far enough and remains half in-frame, still squatting down and looking at the camera crew (this sort of thing happens a lot here, making me wonder if they even had an editor or bothered to watch the whole movie after they filmed it).
The hitmen then catch another of the karate chicks (Eva, a nondescript brunette with bad skin), though she doesn't have a clue about what they are talking about. NotKyleMcLachlan kills her with a knife anyway, just because he's a bad man. She had to go, she was getting annoying.
Eva about to croak.
Claudia and Alex open the box now, to find it contains a bunch of 3.5inch floppy disks (ha!). They want to go downtown to the Santa Monica mall for some reason (nothing in this movie makes a lick of sense), and they have Steve drive them down there. Steve is more than willing, as in his universe two hot girls jump in his car and mess up his life all the time. On the street, the girls are chased by the three hitmen again, but lose them quickly. Watch how passerbys stare at the camera and point, that's the price you pay for guerrilla public filmmaking (and when you can't afford to give people ten bucks to act like they don't notice a camera crew chasing two girls down the street).
Claudia and Alex on the street corner (where they should be...).
So Alex leaves for a bit and Claudia goes back to Steve's apartment. And......we all saw this next scene coming. Claudia purrs, "Do you mind if I take a shower?" before also asking of Steve, "Can you unzip me?" While she's behind the mouldy vinyl, Steve is busy cleaning up his apartment, shoveling out the bachelor trash, because all single guys live in filth (true!). When Claudia gets out of the tub, we catch a glimpse of her boobies as she puts on a tank top (sans bra). The full-frontal actually surprised me, as absolutely everything else in Flight to Danger is pretty much PG-13, but they just earned an R for these two seconds of boob (Beast of Yucca Flats, anyone?).
And not even very nice boobs, either.
The hitmen have tracked Claudia to Steve's place and break in using that age-old credit card lock-pick trick. Claudia uses a frying pan and a badly-edited flying jump-kick to escape with Steve. Giving me a smile, Steve looks around and says, "I have to start reading more Susan Sontag." I do believe that is the only time that Susan Sontag has been name-checked in a movie, though I'm pretty sure she wouldn't be too happy to know that.
Waiting for Claudia.
Ok, so Claudia, Alex and Steve go to Richard's office to use his computer (the only "office" set they could afford, though it seems from the lack of sunlight coming through the windows that they had to film after-hours). Steve puts in a disk, taps the keyboard five times and instantly announces that he's discovered the inner-workings of the crime syndicate's overseas money laundering operations.
Awesome clunky Mac II.
Off now to the Mafia Boss's house (well, his back porch) where he berates his three worthless hitmen for losing his box of floppy disks to a bunch of girls. Taking matters into his own hands, he and his guys get into their crappy Dodge Dynasty sedan and drive down to where they know the girls are (somehow). As is typical of these kinds of low-budget movies, the evil crime boss and his minions are ultimately just easily-knocked-over flimsy cardboard cut-outs, just here so the girls can have someone to kick and gouge at.
The Boss (nice silk shirt).
Claudia really likes Steve a lot, even though they just met an hour ago, and they're already picking out china patterns and wearing matching track suits. However, Steve makes the mistake of saying outloud "What else could happen to me?", so it's no surprise that at that moment the hitmen barge in and shoot him.
Claudia runs up onto the roof, hotly pursued, and there kicks WhiteLieutenantWorf into an "electric fence" (a regular fence, but with a hand-drawn sign on it). He shakes like a marlin on a line for a few seconds to simulate being electrocuted, and then lies down and dies (words cannot describe how lame this is). Claudia next fights NotAdamRodriguez, who is chasing her around the roof (in one shot we actually see a crewman holding a cable as the camera pans, just horrible stuff). Claudia is having trouble running, probably because her jeans are three sizes too small, her pumps have four-inch heels, and she has to hold her bouncing boobs down with one hand as she runs. Claudia sprays a can of freon in NotAdamRodriguez's eyes (ouch!) and he's down.
Her Aerosol Fu is strong.
She then reaches into her pocket and pulls out a length of rope and hogties him up (wha...she was carrying around rope for just this eventuality?). Her tying him up, by the way, is filmed real-time, so it takes like five minutes for her to do it right and you can tell the "unconscious" guy was helping a lot. The sweet science of editing cuts is one of the hardest things for a cheapass filmmaker to master.
Tying up NotAdamRodriguez.
Claudia runs back to the mortally wounded Steve and professes her undying love for him as he bleeds out. "I'm here Steve!" she shouts, but he's a goner. Apparently, good guys are really hard to find in Los Angeles, because Claudia fell in love pretty quickly by any standards and seems here like she just lost her life-partner of 20 years.
She never even knew his last name.
Now it's just down to the Mafia Boss and NotKyleMcLachlan, who have cornered Alex in the office. She holds them off by threatening to "hit this one button" and send all of the Mafia Boss's shady financial records to the FBI (uh...ok). Claudia bursts in and everyone starts kung fu fightin'. Alex stabs NotKyleMcLachlan in the arm with a three-inch screwdriver and he instantly dies. Claudia throws a letter opener (or maybe a ballpoint pen, hard to tell) at the Mafia Boss and he also instantly dies. Dang, who knew killing people was so easy?
Claudia needs a brush and some detangler spray.
Meanwhile, a while back, Marcy (remember her?) escaped Corporate Guy (remember him?) using her expert karate skills (after distracting him with her sexy legs) and has gone back to Nick's apartment to wait for him. We see that Nick (how can you forget his hair?) drives a red Corvette convertible (of course he does) with one of those blocky oldschool carphones which seemed so cool back in 1995 but now just makes me laugh. He says he'll be right over as soon as he has his chest hair waxed and his tips frosted.
Amusingly ironic flier there, don't you think?
So eventually Nick, Sensei Robn and some other girl show up and they and Marcy pointlessly explain to us everything we just saw for the last 55 minutes (why explain all this, we just saw it, all of this is just padding out the run-time). Unsurprisingly, all this is in one single take, and Marcy blows her lines at least twice, but they kept the camera rolling (film stock is usually one of the biggest budget-breakers for any independent film). They find out that Claudia and Alex somehow diverted the Mafia Boss's fortune into their own bank accounts and are now off spending it on themselves, as well as giving the karate school a nice chunk. Suddenly they forget all about their dead friends and hug a lot as Marcy tries to earn an Oscar with crocodile tears.
Why are we seeing these people?
Our stinger is Claudia and Alex lounging at a European spa in their teensy weensy bikinis, complaining that they have so much money to spend there's just not enough hours in the day or Porches on the dealership lot. Ok, can I just go now?
Let's just look at pretty girls in bikinis and forget this whole movie happened, ok?
Written in April 2010 by Nathan Decker and edited by Pam Burda.
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