05 July 2009

Behind Enemy Lines

Behind Enemy Lines
a.k.a. – Killer Instinct
Philippines - 1988
Director – Cirio H. Santiago
Media Home Entertainment, 1988, VHS
Run time – 1 hour, 23 min.

No, this is not the gung-ho Owen Wilson Gene Hackman vehicle of 2001. I liked that movie when I saw it in the dollar theatre because I knew nothing about the Yugoslav wars, but both of those things have changed.
This Behind Enemy Lines is all about the ‘Nam and is the product of Filipino ‘Namsploitation garbage-grinder Cirio H. Santiago, one of Roger Corman’s protégés in the days when he was farming production out overseas. Just in time too, thanks to Chuck Norris The ‘Nam was a popular product in the States and the Philippines was cheap and full of people who looked to Average dumb Americans sufficiently “oriental” to suspend disbelief. You’ve got to do a lot of that with Santiago.

Somewhere in “North” Vietnam an American patrol led by Robert Patrick is searching for a POW camp but they are caught just as they find it. The sun rises over the same rickety sets and cast of extras as ‘Nam Angels and finds our “hero” and his surviving boys stuck in tiger-cages and watched over by a sadistic Russian who Patrick will undoubtedly fight one-on-one by the end of the film. But for now Patrick escapes and gets back to base where he yells all his lines and recruits some more guys to go back and have another chaotic and ultimately boring firefight that seems to indicate the merciful end of the film.

No such luck. Patrick is wounded and the team flies to Thailand to regroup. A bearded guy shows up to cast an authoritative pall over next several assaults on the shantytown POW camp. The first of these multiple, yes, multiple raids takes place while Patrick is recovering from his wounds with the help of a pacifist American nurse who doesn’t have a warlike bone in her body, until now.

Sufficiently reassured of his manliness Patrick suits up for yet another daring daytime raid to get the Russian, god bless the broad daylight frontal assault. For a movie with such terrible dubbing we can hear every crunching clattering step these assholes make. The subsequent boom-fest and chase scene do indeed end with the long awaited Cold War analogue between Patrick and the Russian, ended in 30 seconds flat by Patrick’s vein-bulging hatred of all things living.
This is confirmed after the battle when he coldly guns down his nurse girlfriend.

It’s remarkable how in every one of his ‘Namsploitation junkers Santiago manages to take the fun parts -like the goofy borderline racist heroics- and drag them out into utter mindless boredom, or blast through ‘em in a few short seconds. I’ll admit, this is an improvement over Caged Fury, but with the awesome insanity of Future Hunters already long gone, and 'Nam Angels just over the horizon, Behind Enemy Lines shows that improvement is a contextual term.

There are at least six other films that go by this name including the David Carradine vehicle I reviewed under the title P.O.W. The Escape, and some other Nam P.O.W. thing that came out in the 90's. Like I said, blame it all on Chuck Norris.

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