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Overkill
(1996)
 

Director:Dean Ferrandini                        
Cast:
Aaron Norris, Michael Nouri, Pamela Dickerson


After years of working behind the scenes of his big brother's movies and TV show in a variety of roles (including being the director or stunt coordinator), Aaron Norris finally got the chance to step in front of the camera and show off his own prowess in the martial arts. I'm sure the question all readers are thinking of now is, "Well, how does he stand up to his brother Chuck when it comes to fighting, but especially acting? After all, no one could possibly be a worse actor than Chuck Norris!" Well, I'll answer that right away before getting more into the movie.

You can see the family resemblance in Aaron's features if you look a little closely. He looks shaggy (longer uncombed hair and stubble), but in two or three scenes when he's in the dark, you'd almost swear that it is Chuck Norris you are seeing. Okay, okay, I'll now report on his acting skills. Somehow, I don't think many people will be surprised when I inform them that Aaron is a terrible actor. Wisely, he isn't given that much dialogue, perhaps following in his brother's footsteps in saying as little dialogue as possible. When he does speak, he usually speaks in a certain kind of monotone that will sound familiar to many viewers. His facial expressions and limited body movement makes it seem like his character is pouting or brooding. I guess I should be fair, and note that he does smile once in a while, and does make other occasional facial movements. That makes him immediately a better than his brother, even if he also didn't occasionally put a little color in his voice, indicating that sometimes he tries to act.

But I realize that the potential renter for this movie isn't really concerned about the acting, but wants to know if Aaron's good in action. From what I saw of him in this movie, Aaron does seem to have at least a respectable amount of skill in the martial arts, with several scenes showing him kicking high and/or making his moves very quickly. Unfortunately, not only do most of the martial arts moves shown here look like elementary moves beginners would learn (sometimes just generic punching), the fight direction here is of the standard "one or two, then cut" - in other words, only giving Aaron a chance to make one or two moves before there's an edit to the action continuing from another angle. With the fight scenes edited this way, then then look like anyone could have taken his place and looked just as convincing. Given a few hours, even I could have successfully be filmed punching and kicking any one of the fights Aaron did here. If it was a Jackie Chan movie (or any Hong Kong movie), I wouldn't even try. The lesson to be learned here? The more time and effort put into staging a fight, the more chance it will succeed.

What's worse is the strange fact that there aren't as many fights as you'd think, even when the movie is given the opportunity to stage a fight. Take the opening scene, when cop Jack Hazard (Norris) accompanies his fellow officers on a midnight police raid, bursting into some anonymous condo where a party is going on. Perhaps because the screen for the next minute or two is dimly lit, with blaring music and people running around in a blur and shouting, Hazard does far, far more shooting than kicking. The next few scenes are action free and run slowly, especially with their great familiarity; Hazard is chewed out by his superior and told to take a vacation, which he does so by flying to some generic South American country carrying nothing more than a small gym bag. At his hotel, some nerdy loser who sees his cop badge keeps pestering him for help for some unidentified matter, but the near-mute Hazard ignores him. No doubt you action fans have just done some math; letssee... Generic South American setting + Meeting some mysterious guy in trouble = PRISON! When the bad guys come for the panicky guy, Hazard gets caught up in the mess and ends up in a fortress prison with the loser. Can you guess the answer to the next question - South American prison + Vast expanse of jungle next to it = ? If you guessed, "Oh, no!!!! Not yet another rip-off of Richard Connell's classic short story The Most Dangerous Game!!!!!!", then you are right! (I now know why the title of the movie is Overkill.)

The bad guy in this rendition is played by Michael Nouri, an odd choice. By the way he looks and acts, I don't know why the producers didn't just hire Elliot Gould, who these days would probably be a lot cheaper. Nouri gives a very boring performance through most of the movie, except in the final quarter, when his character unexplainably becomes insane. When Nouri starts screaming and ranting, it provides a few good unintended giggles. Otherwise, our eyes glaze over when he makes an appearance, for his character has no personality and absolutely no background, so we are given nothing by him to hold on to. (Norris' character also suffers from having no personal characteristics.) There's nothing much to hold onto during the big chase either. It is always clear that nothing bad is going to happen to Hazard, who doesn't seem the least bit frightened that his life is in danger. Even with the nerd (named Lloyd), it's clear he won't even be temporarily captured and tortured. Together, Hazard and Lloyd have no chemistry, comic or otherwise, leading to endless sequences where this wimp blubbers and/or spouts off something that's supposed to be amusing, leaving Hazard not the only person pissed off by what he says. Hazard spends most of the time just running and sneaking around, but he's given an opportunity twice in the movie to fashion traps from branches and boulders that not only could never work in real life, but would have to have been built by several people working at once in order to have them completely constructed in just a few minutes.

During the long slog, there's a subplot about a mysterious tribe hiding in this jungle, (an obvious attempt to stroke our social conscious) which brings up the environment and the rights of indigenous people, but it is so poorly developed, it should have been completely cut out of the movie; it would have had no consequence to the rest of the story. About the only thing positive to say about the movie are the well-chosen Mexican locations; the jungle looks lush and green, and we do get the feeling we are in South America from the moment Hazard gets off the plane. If you are reading this review, Aaron, let me give you some unsolicited advice: If you don't know how to do your job, whatever it might be, properly on any movie, at least surround yourself by people who do.

Check for availability on Amazon (VHS)

See also: Timebomb, T.N.T., Trackdown

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