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One-Armed Executioner
(1981)

Director: Bobby A. Suarez
Cast:
Franco Guerrero, Jody Kay, Pete Cooper


Looking with a casual or a deeper look at myself, I figure that I have a pretty good life. I have friends and family, my own apartment, money in the bank, and a popular web site, among many other positive traits. But at the same time, I will freely admit that my life is not perfect. For example, in my environment, I am stuck being in a country where filmmakers make one lousy and unwatchable movie after another. But when it comes strictly to myself, I admit that I have traits that some people might consider to be flaws. For example, ever since I was about five years old, I've had to wear glasses, because I became near-sighted. And the particular kind of near-sightedness that I possess requires me to wear a particularly strong pair of prescription glasses. Another problem I have is that my posture is not very strong. I have tried things from exercises to braces to strengthen my spine, all to no avail. My doctor has told me that what I have is a natural condition some people have that cannot be fixed. And my doctor has also told me that there is nothing I can do about the third body flaw that I have. For months now, I have had both noticable slight numbness and pain in my right leg when I go for a walk. It's not as bad as it once was, but it still persists and refuses to completely go away, even with an exercise regimen. My doctor arranged for me to get a CAT scan, but it uncovered nothing serious, so my doctor has concluded that it's a pinched nerve, and I simply have to tough it out until my body manages to completely correct itself.

These and other body flaws fortunately have not disrupted my life too much, and I have managed to learn to live around having them, enough that I actually don't think about them too much anymore. However, there is something related to this that I must admit that I sometimes think about very much, even though it is something that has a low chance of actually happening to me. What I think about almost to the point of obsession sometimes is having a severe or complete limitation to one of my senses or body parts. I'm talking about stuff like losing my vision completely, losing my hearing partially or completely, or losing one or more of my limbs. When I think about, such a situation might not be so terrible if had been born with one of those proposed conditions - I would have no other personal experience, and by now I would be used to it as much as my troublesome right leg. But what if right now I was sudden struck with one of those disabilities? Well, maybe I would go through what experts call the five stages of grief, which as you may know are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. But I don't know that for sure. I am pretty sure, for example, that personally losing a leg would be much easier than losing an arm, since I depend on having both arms for a lot in my life, and I could probably get an artificial leg to replace my lost leg. So I think that my reaction to my sudden disability would heavily depend on not only what particular disability I had, but the available resources I would have to try to ease some of my burden.

Sometimes I wonder if there would be enough good resources for me to help me with the adjustment to my new situation. Certainly, I know that there are a lot of people with significant disabilities that have managed to overcome them and be quite successful. For example, I once read in One-Armed ExecutionerReader's Digest the true story of a man who was blind at birth, but managed all the same to enter medical school and eventually became a doctor. But I must admit that the idea of someone with a big disability managing to be a great fighter sounds more exciting than if the person entered the medical profession. For example, the movie Blind Fury involved a blind man becoming an expert swordsman. I liked that movie, so when I came across One-Armed Executioner, I was pumped to see a variation of that formula. The events of One-Armed Executioner center around a Filipino man named Ramon Ortega (Franco Guerrero, Warriors Of The Apocalypse). Ramon is happily married to his new bride Ann (Jody Kay), and has a pretty good occupation working for Interpol. Returning to work from his honeymoon, Ramon's superiors put him on the case where another Interpol agent was killed. It turns out that the murder was arranged by a big drug gangster named Edwards (Nigel Hogge, Wheels Of Fire), and Edwards does not like Ramon's poking around in the case. So Edwards orders his top goon Jason (Pete Cooper, Warriors Of The Apocalypse) to stop Ramon, which he does by killing Ann in front of Ramon's eyes, and immediately after chopping off one of Ramon's arms. Ramon survives, but the losing of his wife and shortly after his job sends him into a deep pit of despair. But eventually, Ramon's good friend Wo Chen re-enters his life, and starts to train him in various fighting and survival techniques that make Ramon a one-man one-armed arm-y. After his training is complete, Ramon starts on the path for revenge, but will he be able to hand-le the complete challenge ahead?

I think you probably know that in a movie like this, stuff like character development wouldn't have been an extremely high priority for the filmmakers or even the audience the movie was intended for. All the same, I do think in a movie like this you have to make sure that the hero is someone you can root for, and the bad guys are people that are so despicable that you want to see the hero knock them off. Otherwise, it would be a very boring movie. Unfortunately, One-Armed Executioner doesn't do an adequate job for the most part on either extreme end. The character of Wo Chen comes off the best among the protagonists, showing intelligence and a determined teaching style that gives him a lot of color despite being off-screen for long periods. As for the hero Ramon, we learn that he's an Interpol agent and has just got married to his wife Ann - and that's about it. (We learn even less about his wife.) I will say that under the limited circumstances, actor Franco Guerrero all the same does throw himself into the role. He puts in some spark in his dialogue sequences whether he is drunk or in revenge mode. And while it couldn't have been easy to hide his left arm for most of the movie while getting involved in shootouts and hand to hand combat, he almost makes it look easy to do. As for the other protagonists that play a part in this story, the writing for them is pretty pathetic. Ramon at the start has a partner named Sanchez, but this partner gets almost nothing to do or say. The Interpol boss that both men work under just has a few brief scenes, and we never really get the feeling that he does important work, instead just pretty much letting his men go out and figure out on their own as to what to do or say.

The bad guys are a disappointment as well. The drug kingpin Edwards only has about a couple of (very brief) scenes before Ramon has his arm chopped off, and only makes a couple more (very brief) sequences before the action-filled climax. He doesn't exude much evil as a result, so I didn't know how I should feel about him. His chief henchman Jason does have some evil charisma to him that makes you watch closely when he's onscreen, but at the end you'll realize he should have played a much bigger part in the story than what he was given. It's made worse that when Ramon has his final confrontation with Jason; there isn't really much struggle or payoff with Ramon's revenge. It should have been more action-packed. As for the rest of the action in the movie, I guess it is okay... at its best. The action is somewhat higher scale than usual at times for a Filipino movie of this era, such as a speedboat/helicopter chase, martial arts fights, as well as explosions and a few bloody squibs (including some eye-catching forehead wounds). But even with the movie's better action moments, there is often a kind of a feeling of tiredness and routine. There were a few moments where the action and mayhem were presented in a more "tasteful" manner than you might expect, partly due to Filipino censors cutting some mayhem in two scenes just before the movie's release, but also as if a censor was around on the set on certain days. (That may also explain why there's no nudity or sex sequences at any point.) It may also be possible that director Bobby A. Suaraz (Warriors Of The Apocalypse) was pressured to shoot the movie quickly and as economically as possible, and therefore couldn't make much of the action have more punch. To his credit, Suaraz does keep things moving along pretty well, so that when a problem in the movie does come up, we in the audience don't dwell on it too long so we can think about what immediately happens next. Also, Suaraz does manage to overcome the limited budget to make the entire enterprise (not just the action sequences) look somewhat more expensive than most other actioners coming out of the Philippines at this time, from the cinematography to the rest of the production values.

The best part of the movie that Suaraz directs is the lengthy training sequence where Ramon learns in a variety of ways how to be an accomplished warrior with just one arm. The various techniques that Ramon learns look very plausible, so it's very interesting to see him overcome his handicap eventually. Speaking of handicaps, it's apparent that Suaraz was at times held back by a personal handicap, that being the often-weak script he co-wrote. I already mentioned the weak characters, but I didn't earlier mention their weak dialogue. The dialogue many times sounds plain or watered-down, with "damn" and "hell" being just about the strongest words that are said. ("You stupid jerks!" is what the kingpin says at his most heated moment.) Also, it often takes a long time for characters to have their names be firmly identified, which does lead to some confusion before that happens. And inevitably, there are some pretty laughable things the characters do, from Interpol agents not identifying themselves before starting to shoot at criminals in the act, or later why the bad guys think that Ramon would have a key piece of evidence in his home instead of it being in Interpol headquarters. Despite these and other problems I've said One-Armed Executioner has, it isn't a bad movie. It has a kind of amiable tone and feel, and does pass the time in a not-painful manner on a slow day, though certainly there are a lot of better action movies you could watch if you wanted to pass the time in a more exciting fashion. You'll not be bored, though you'll still probably be thinking throughout that the movie that it should have been a lot better than the actual end results. All the same, I will always have a soft spot for a movie where a man who has just had his arm chopped off has his boss tell him, "In case you have some ideas of any personal revenge, get this straight - hands off!"

(Posted March 14, 2024)

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See also: Blind Fury, Eye Of The Eagle 3, Warriors Of The Apocalypse

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