Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Wooden acting and inept helming undermine this blatant, low-budget rip-off of the classic Steve McQueen police thriller "Bullitt" with 1965 International middleweight Karate champion Tonny Tulleners, who defeated "Walker, Texas Ranger" star Chuck Norris, in the lead role as a tough-as-nails government agent on the trail of an international terrorist. Everybody goes through the motions in this convention white-knuckled epic.

Writer & director William Riead, a former CBS-TV White House news reporter and Hollywood documentary filmmaker who produced over 15 "Making of" movie shorts for Columbia Pictures, directed this derivative actioneer with distinction about an elite Defense Intelligence Agent. Picturesque takes place in Spain, Hawaii, and the U.S and the hero's sporty Porsche add little to the half-baked histrionics in this 98-minute Crown International release.

Several seasoned Hollywood veterans such as Don Murray of "Advise & Consent," perennial western character actor John Anderson, "Time Tunnel" co-star Robert Colbert, and "Wilderness Family" star Robert Logan, flesh out a cast of unknown thespians. Interestingly, the real-life Billy Hayes whose exploits provided the basis for Alan Parker's controversial "The Midnight Express," is cast as a paid assassin.

Although Riead distinguished himself as a newsman, he sorely lacked the talent to be an auteur of any merit. He cannot stage an action scene, even with the services of a legendary stunt coordinator like the late Dar Robinson, and he makes top-flight actors like Murray appear as if they were appearing for the first time on camera. Only Robert Logan manages to acquit himself as the hero's right-hand man without looking like a neophyte. Indeed, Riead is no Peter Yates and nothing about "Scorpion" generates a modicum of either suspense or excitement. Incredibly, the fight scenes with karate expert Tonny Tulleners look half-hearted. This may explain why Tulleners never starred in another picture.

Top D.I.A. Steve Woods (Tonny Tulleners) with the code name 'Scorpion' is called on to thwart terrorists that have hijacked a flight. Woods masquerades as an ordinary policeman who the terrorists allow to board the jetliner to assure the authorities that nobody has been harmed. No sooner has Woods gotten onto the aircraft than he surprises the antagonists with his karate expertise, renders three guys harmless, and puts a bullet through a female hijacker at the end of the aisle who is armed with a submachine. The story hits the newspapers the next day and Steve is surprised himself when his identity is revealed in the story.

Consequently, our redoubtable hero finds himself reassigned to provide protection for one of the terrorists on the plane, Faued (TV actor Adam Ageli), that has agreed to betray his cause and turn informant for a headline grabbing attorney, Gifford Leese (Don Murray), who cuts a deal with him. Woods, his childhood pal Phil Keller (Allen Williams of "The Onion Field"), and Gordon Thomas (Robert Logan) take round-the-clock shifts guarding the informant. Repeatedly, Phil warns Faued to stay away from the windows. Without warning, Faued pulls the curtains back and two assassins burst into the room, mow down Phil in a blaze of machine gun fire, and then riddle Faued. Faued takes several shots in the stomach, but the bulletproof vest that he has on saves his life.

Initially, Leese wants Steve off the case, but Steve resolves to find Phil's killer and ignores Leese. At the hospital, the two assassins show up again and Steve tangles with them and captures one while blond Wolfgang Stoltz (Billy Hayes) escapes. Sadly, after this failed assassin attempt, Faued dies. Steve conceals Faued's death in hopes that he can lure the remaining hit-man to take another chance on rubbing the turn-coat terrorist out. Predictably, Leese is infuriated and pleads with Steve's superiors to take him off the case.

Steve discovers to Leese's chagrin that the Faued that Leese had set up in the safe-house was impostor. The real Faued (John Lazar of "Deathstalker 2") is on his way to take a cruise when Steve and Gordon confront him. Faued flees, commandeers a launch, and Steve appropriates a helicopter and a minor chase ensues.

"Scorpion" (* out of ****) steals virtually everything from "Bullitt" except for the careening car chase on San Francisco hilltops. The scene where Steve pursues an African-American assassin into the underground garage parking lot even has the scene where a laundry bag plunges from a chute and freaks out our hero. Steve spends most of his time when he isn't on the case on his boat at a marina and his fellow agents have to buzz him to get past the gate. This is similar to Steve McQueen's two-story townhouse where he has to throw a lever half-way down the staircase to unlock his door for his partner to visit him. Mind you, the low-budget probably prohibited Riead from staging a car chase.

Karate champion Tonny Tulleners resembles a young Kevin Costner with his football jacket and his mustache. Tulleners is clearly no actor and Riead doesn't really give the guy the chance to emote in this formulaic fodder. The opening scene in Spain serves as our introduction to Steve Woods. Again, Riead orchestrates the action with no finesse and the hero lacks charisma. Skip this abysmal nonsense unless you want to see how closely Riead sticks to basic premise of "Bullitt."

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