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Eye Of The Eagle 3
(a.k.a. Last Stand At Lang Mei)
(1989)

Director: Cirio H. Santiago 
Cast:
Steve Kanaly, Peter Nelson, Joonee Gamboa


Years and years ago, in the now distant 1980s, I once heard this raspy-voiced woman lamenting about the lack of something in her life. She complained, "Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the gods? Where's the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds? Isn't there a white knight upon a fiery steed? Late at night I toss and turn and I dream of what I need." Even though I was still somewhat young when I first hear that woman's lament, I instantly knew the answers to those questions of hers. (Though before I would have answered her, I would have first told her that this song of hers sounded way overblown, and the music video to her song was even more overblown.) The answer I would have given to that woman is that all the heroes nowadays are to be found in B movies. That's one thing that the makers of B movies like to put in their movies - heroes of a sort that are to be admired. These heroes more often than not make the audience wish that they could be like these cinematic heroes. And why not - just look at the attributes B movie heroes typically have. They are usually handsome, or at the very least have rugged good looks. They are usually very smart, knowing how to battle whatever opposing force there is at every turn in the plot. They usually believe in doing the right thing and sticking to their guns no matter how the chips start to fall. And if the situation requires them to engage in combat, these heroes are usually ready to battle, whether the situation requires combat with arms and munitions, or down and dirty with hand-to-hand combat.

Yes sir, when it comes to depicting a hero in B movies, the writers, directors, and actors associated with these particular kinds of movies love to depict their hero as flawless or nearly flawless. That is, almost all of the time. There's one kind of B movie hero where more often than not, writers, directors, and actors like to depict as having some series flaws. And that's when the movie in question depicts a hero who is fighting in the Vietnam War, or happens to be a Vietnam veteran. Way back when I reviewed the movie The Ballad Of Andy Crocker, which concerned itself with a veteran of the Vietnam war, I first complained about the typical portrayal of a Vietnam soldier in motion pictures, and I tried to come up with theories as to why so many movies depict the Vietnam soldier or veteran in a negative light. It still bothers me all this time later. Vietnam soldiers are often shown to be outgunned and unable to handle the enemy on the battlefield, even though common sense dictates that the American government would never put poorly trained soldiers lacking adequate firepower on the front lines. And while statistics show Vietnam veterans in real life generally have more positive lives than what's portrayed in movies, you wouldn't know it from the movies. While the Vietnam veteran characters in movies might be heroes, they are often shown to be poverty-stricken, suffering from nightmares, often showing to be mentally disturbed in some aspect, and generally portrayed to be a "loser" of some kind or another.

Needless to say, I am sick of seeing these inaccurate and unfair stereotypes in movies. I've been seeing them less during recent years, though that is certainly due to the fact that Vietnam vets alive today would be considered too old to be B movie heroes. For a long time now, I have been Eye Of The Eagle 3looking for Vietnam-themed movies that portray American soldiers in a heroic light, but it sure hasn't been easy. I had to search long and hard for such a movie to review here, and that's where Eye Of The Eagle 3 comes in. I actually saw it when I was in Korea years ago. My roommate was a war movie fan, and he rented it one day, and the two of us saw it together and liked it. Though when I returned home, I couldn't find it anywhere for years until recently, when I stumbled upon a copy in a thrift store. In case you are wondering, I did manage to see the first Eye Of The Eagle a while back (didn't like it.) I have yet to see Eye Of The Eagle 2 (though I have a copy in my possession), but reportedly the only connection the movies have with each other are Vietnam War settings. Eye Of The Eagle 3 starts off by focusing on a platoon of American soldiers lead by one Major Verdun  (Kanaly, Dallas). After a successful raid on a train carrying supplies for the North Vietnamese, Verdun and his troops are ordered to move to a nearby abandoned base named Lang Mei, with Verdun subsequently ordered back to headquarters while his troops secure the base. However, not long after Verdun has reached headquarters, the report that he killed a fellow soldier who turned on him is not taken well by his superiors, and he is locked up in military prison. He is replaced by one Captain Wheeler (Nelson, Die Hard 2), who is pretty green when it comes to taking action on the battlefield. When Wheeler reaches Lang Mei, he is determined that he and his new troops, without any outside help, will hold Lang Mei - whatever the cost may be. Back at headquarters, the imprisoned Verdun struggles to get word on the status of his former troops, while a North Vietnamese Colonel by the name of Minh Van Po (Gamboa, Enter The Ninja) is determined to destroy the American troops at Lang Mei.

In the past I have seen several other movies by the prolific Filipino movie director Cirio H. Santiago (including The Muthers), but I have to admit that unlike many other fans of B movies, I was not impressed with what I saw. But every dog has his day, and I have to admit that with Eye Of The Eagle 3, Santiago managed at last to make a pretty entertaining movie. That's not to say that the movie is without problems, however. He was saddled with a screenplay that had a number of weaknesses to it, and one of those weaknesses has to do with the characters in the movie. The North Vietnamese characters - the movie's villains - are not given any real depth to make them real characters. The vast majority of them are just interchangeable ground troops, only there to get blasted into little pieces. There are a couple of characters seeking refuge in the Lang Mei base who are secretly working for the enemy commander and get a few lines of dialogue, but they end up not much better than the faceless ground troops. In fact, they have the additional problem of being characters who are so obviously spies before we get the "surprise" revelation that we in the audience get impatient and start wishing for the movie to get rid of these predictable characters and get onto something more interesting or exciting. As for the character of Minh Van Po, the leader of the enemy, he only has about five or six lines of dialogue at most in the entire movie. Because of this, it's hard for us in the audience to build enough enthusiasm around seeing him get his just desserts. Even the movie seems to think this, for his last scene comes across more like a whimper than a bang.

As for the good guys, their treatment ends up not that much better than the enemy they face. The American soldiers include an African-American as well as a Native American, but the extent to their fleshing out is limited to the African-American playing a card game to try and get out of work, and the Native American having a vision out of nowhere. Oh, and there is one Caucasian soldier with the name of "Kowalski", something which I have observed in countless other war movies and no doubt you have as well. The characters of Verdun and Wheeler do manage to get an ample amount of dialogue and get some genuine personality to their characters, but these two characters end up suffering from the same problem seemingly every character in the movie that has dialogue. And that problem is with the incredibly poor quality of the acting by the people playing these roles. I don't know if the problem was due to the actors simply being untalented, or if the production was a strain on the actors and their performances suffered as a result, or if director Santiago was uninterested in coaxing better acting from his cast. Whatever the reason(s) might be, the acting is uniformly unimpressive. Some performers (like Kanaly) act in an extremely broad manner that, while occasionally funny (Frederick Bailey, as Kowalski, makes some extremely funny facial expressions during the climax), mostly end up embarrassing themselves and annoying the audience. Other actors (like Gamboa) perform like they are simply reading the script out loud, with no apparent effort to put any color in their tone of voice.

As you can see, the script for Eye Of The Eagle 3 has a good deal of problems, and the performers also disappoint in their roles for the most part. Yet despite these limitations, director Santiago manages to make the movie very entertaining. That is, if you sit down to watch the movie with the right attitude. Both times I watched the movie, my main desire was to see a lot of good action sequences, and that's what I got. For starters, the movie has a huge body count; I lost track as to how many people get killed, but it has to be at least one hundred people. But it's not just the high body count that makes the movie so entertaining. Countless people during the course of the movie are killed in various ways, mostly machine-gunned into bloody pieces, but also blown up, set on fire, and even shot with arrows. Variety is the spice of life, and this movie has more than one kind of seasoning. But it's not just the variety of action with the high body count that makes the movie so much fun, it's also with the energy and excitement Santiago puts in every action sequence. Whenever the action starts, Santiago immediately goes full speed ahead; you immediately get pulled in, and you are hooked. Even if things don't always make sense during the action (like when one ignited dynamite charge results in multiple explosions), the energy and excitement that result don't make you think very hard. The movie is like a roller coaster ride - it's not intellectually stimulating, but it's a fun and thrilling experience that you'll remember fondly. Especially if, for once, you want to see a Vietnam movie where the Americans are clear-cut heroes. So if you're not in the mood for something that is heavy on the mind, Eye Of The Eagle 3 will do very nicely.

(Posted August 23, 2014)

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See also: Force 10 From Navarone, The Inglorious Bastards, Salt In The Wound

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