I’ve been watching a lot of shitty movies lately. An unhealthy dose of action movies and horror movies of a less than stellar nature is probably more accurate. Slowly but surely I’ve come to realize that if the sentiment of a “hero is defined by their villains” is true (which I firmly believe), then the inverse is just as important. For every Billy Drago and Bruce Payne, there has to be a force of equal of greater value (I believe that’s science, but I was an English and Film major). Now let’s face it, Chuck Norris can’t be everywhere (I know, I know, blasphemy). And when Norris is tied up with terrorists, and Bronson, Eastwood, Van Damme, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger are in Vietnam or on the mean streets of gang ridden NYC or Los Angeles, someone has to be around to answer the call of justice.
It might be the hero’s sidekick that gets thrusted into the spotlight. Occasionally it’s a random athlete who wants to try their hand at saving America. And every now and then it’s the hero’s less astute relative, usually a brother or son, who wants to stand up for the red, white, and blue – or just win an underground karate tournament. Regardless of the circumstance the best thing about action movies is that SOMEONE is there to kick the shit out of anti-American interests.
To keep a similar theme with my Definitive Guide to Obscure Action Movie Villains, I’m forming another crack team of recruits in line with The Expendables. This time, it’s the lesser known heroes of genre cinema. A group I’d like to call The Indispensables (patent pending).
1. Steve James
AS SEEN IN: Street Hunter, The Exterminator, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, Delta Force, American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt
NOTABLE NEMESIS: John Leguizamo, Hechtar Ubarry, Mark Margolis
WHO IS HE? In the annals of action stars, Steve James always shined the brightest to me. A stuntman turned sidekick to the likes of Chuck Norris, Christopher Walken, and Michael Dudikoff, Steve James finally got his own vehicle (Street Hunter) to prove he was far more than a co-pilot. Beyond the standard action flick, Steve James had Hollywood success in such films as I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Ghostbusters, and Weekend At Bernies 2. His breakout role will always be McBain…and considering I CANNOT stop mentioning it, here it is in its entirety.
Described by friend William Friedkin as “One of the most nicest, toughest and professional actors I’ve ever worked with”, Steve James’ catalog of films includes some of the greatest action films and moments of all time. His last works were the Fox pilot for the action/sci-fi show M.A.N.T.I.S as well as a role in the Don Wilson action spectacular Bloodfist 5.
BEST QUOTE: “Yes, sir, we should kick some ass.”
BEST MOMENT: Giving a 4 minute speech to a disenfranchised street tough in one continuous take (Street Hunter).
STATUS: Sadly, Steve James passed away in 1994.
2. Martin Kove
AS SEEN IN: Steele Justice, Rambo: First Blood Part 2
NOTABLE NEMESIS: Soon-Tek Oh, Al Leong
WHO IS HE? Martin Kove, for all intents and purposes, is more a villain than a hero. Known most famously as evil karate master John Kreese in The Karate Kid, Kove has a dicey reputation in which he’s squared off against many of cinema’s greatest heroes (and Jan Michael Vincent). The primary exception to this rule is Steele Justice. One of the most formulaic and AMAZING action films of all time, Kove shines as a Vietnam vet turned cop who squares off against Asian terrorists. Plausible, right?
To be perfectly fair, Kove has a lengthy reputation of playing a hero on television, including Cagney And Lacey, so his appearance on this list has a little more credibility than one starring role and portraying a quasi-hero in Rambo: First Blood Part 2.
IMDB FUN FACT: “After Harry shoots the truck with the bazooka, the shot from the front shows him with the protective face mask up, yet the following shot from the back shows him with the protective mask down and him raising it to the upwards position shown in the previous shot.”
BEST MOMENT: There’s a part in Steele Justice where Kove is taking a bath and his partner thinks it’s acceptable to sit on the edge of the tub and talk police stuff.
STATUS: Alive and working.
3. Michael Dudikoff
AS SEEN IN: American Ninja, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, American Ninja 4:The Annihilation, Cyber Jack
NOTABLE NEMESIS: Tadashi Yamashita
WHO IS HE? Chances are you know the answer to this question if you, like me, grew up on shitty action movies on VHS; Michael Dudikoff IS The American Ninja. Strong-jawed and not graced with acting chops, Dudikoff spent most of the ’80s and ’90s kicking the hell out of random bad guys and gals, usually of an Asian ethnicity.
Dudikoff is of course known for the three best American Ninja movies (there are five total) but his catalog is far deeper than that. Sci-fi, action – well that’s really it – but Dudikoff does the shit out of those two genres.
BEST QUOTE: “Jackson, I don’t want to fight, I hate crowds, and I don’t need money.”
STATUS: Alive and kicking…see what I did there?
4. David Bradley
AS SEEN IN: American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt, American Ninja 4: Annihilation, American Ninja 5, Cyborg Cop, American Samurai
NOTABLE NEMESIS: John Rhys Davies, Mark Dacascos
WHO IS HE? Oh boy. David Bradley is probably best known as Michael Dudikoff’s sidekick in American Ninja 4. To be fair, he WAS the American Ninja in American Ninja 3 AND American Ninja 5…still with me? Bradley rose from sidekick to solo act within the series but that wasn’t enough. Eventually he’d have two breakout roles in the bowels of the genre. The first, Cyborg Cop (basically Robocop if it were made for the price of a cup of coffee), is probably the most prolific. Bradley’s first voyage into the sci-fi genre would open the doors wide for two more sequel – each making substantially less sense than its predecessor.
Bradley’s most important film is of course American Samurai. It’s basically the exact plot of all 5 American Ninja movies rolled into one except the term “samurai” replaces “ninja.” It’s quite amazing.
BEST MOMENT: Realistically, anytime he shares the screen with John Rhys Davies magic happens.
STATUS: Alive, although no film appearances since 1997. You can probably get him to be in your movie for a VHS copy of American Ninja 2 or a black and white photo of a rainbow.
5. Mike Norris & Chad McQueen
(pictured with Don “Patrick’s Brother” Swayze)
AS SEEN IN: Death Ring, The Octagon, Delta Force 3, Martial Law, Night Force, Martial Law, Bullet II
NOTABLE NEMESIS: Billy Drago
WHO ARE THEY? Mike Norris is the son of action mega-god Chuck Norris (so he’s grandfathered in). Chad McQueen is “Dutch” from The Karate Kid. Individually these two boast master classes in shitty movies. But with their powers combined they make Death Ring; a Surviving The Game knockoff featuring numerous celebrity’s brothers and Billy Drago as the bad guy. Is Death Ring good enough alone to earn both of these guys a spot on the list? Hell yes.
Both Norris and McQueen have run the gauntlet of action flicks. They’ve portrayed cops, Vietnam vets, martial arts masters who refuse to fight until they’re pushed too far, and boyfriends/husbands our for revenge after something sleazy happens to their lady. In other words, Mike is doing his daddy proud (and has actually played a younger Chuck in a few movies) and Chad is no slouch himself.
BEST MOMENT(S): Death Ring. You have to watch fucking Death Ring.
STATUS: Both men are alive and still working; Norris as of 2012 and McQueen as of 2002.
6. Don “The Dragon” Wilson
AS SEEN IN: Blood Fist 1 – 8, Night Hunter
NOTABLE NEMESIS: Joe Mari Avellana, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper
No list of random action heroes can be complete without a mention of Don “The Dragon” Wilson. The closest person on this list to a perennial solo hero, Don Wilson is also the only member of the club to boast a film franchise that stretched for 8 movies! Blood Fist, an obscure Enter The Ninja wannabe has seven sequels which star Don Wilson. Now here’s where it gets confusing. Wilson plays different characters in nearly all eight movies. To be accurate, he portrays eight different characters in total, playing one character in the first two movies, two characters in the eighth movie, and different characters in the rest of the sequels…and he’s always the lead.
While Blood Fist is quite possibly the best octology of all time, Wilson didn’t stop there. He played all sorts of roles over the years (usually slight variations of the same character or characters from the Blood Fist series) including a standout performance opposite Roddy Piper in the anti-terrorist bonanza known as Terminal Rush.
BEST MOMENT: Impossible to say. I’d have to lean on the fact that he plays eight fucking different characters within the same movie franchise. Can we talk about this for a minute?
STATUS: Alive and working as 2014 (and if there is a god, doing pre-production on Blood Fist 9).