Director: Charlie Wiener
Writers: Michael McNamara
Cast: Martin McNamara, Michael McNamara, B. Bob, Sheryl Foster, Heidi Romano, Curtis Bush, Ed Tyson, Charles Ambrose
PLOT THICKENERThere's a memorable scene in the 1993 action vehicle Back in Action that finds Billy Blanks's hero character fighting off an identical pair of mustachioed, Zubaz pants-wearing goofs of athletic build and below-average height. "Who ARE those dudes?!" I recall blurting out within the safety of my own stupid brain. It was only a few hours later that I discovered that these particular dudes were Michael (Mick) and Martin McNamara, Canada's own "Twin Dragons." (Ha! Take that, Jackie!) Not only had the twins made a successful living as martial arts instructors in their native country and promoted kickboxing matches all over the world, but they produced three of their own films where they were the stars. 1990's Dragon Hunt, a quasi-sequel-ish follow-up to their debut in 1986's Twin Dragon Encounter, promised double the action, double the facial hair, and approximately eight times the vanity as their first film.
In what one can only assume is an autobiographical tale, the McNamara brothers play twin Canadian kickboxing instructors named Martin and Mick. A twisted creep with a metal hand by the name of Jake (Bob) leads his private army -- er, the People's Private Army -- in framing the twins in a cruise boat hijacking. This act is not entirely without cause, as we observe via flashback that Jake is a previously vanquished adversary who lost his hand in a prior encounter of the Twin Dragon variety. If that's not bad enough, Jake contracts two attractive ladies -- played by Sheryl Foster and Heidi Romano, respectively -- to court the twins and lure them to a secluded island under the guise of a getaway vacation. Before long, the twins are captured by Jake and forced to act as prey in his own twisted version of a most dangerous game. His gang has used every method available to them, up to and including placing ads in "all the mercenary, hunting, and martial arts magazines" in order to find the best hunters, killers, and poachers in the world to hunt the twins down for a $250,000 (CAD) prize. Jake's mercenaries include expert trappers, whiteboy ninjas, a "beastmaster" in a cowboy hat (Tyson) who owns a furry dog, and a lot of guys with terrible haircuts. The only arbitrary rule: no guns allowed. (Until the climax). Can the twins survive in the Canadian wilderness with the deck stacked against them? Will Jake get his ultimate revenge? Can the cast and crew manage only one restroom among them (per co-star Curtis Bush)?
Let’s get this out of the way: the heroes McNamara are total jerks in this film. At the start of their vacation with their lady friends, one twin snaps a girl’s bra strap while another twin mimes humping the back of the other girl’s head. While driving a boat, one twin pours a perfectly good beer all over one of the gals while she's sitting down and minding her business. The first fatal strike they make against Jake’s army is killing the Beastmaster’s dog instead of the goons for hire. Later in the film, they chase an enemy through the woods while taunting him about his weight. Maybe skull-humping, body-shaming dog murderers are celebrated as heroes in some parts of the world, but not in my house.
As the ruthless gang leader, Jake, B. Bob is both the best and worst thing about the film. His visual look strikes the right balance between loud-mouthed 1980s wrestling manager and walk-on extra in an Italian post-apocalyptic b-movie. His gruff, stilted dialogue ("trained assassins -- ruthless, fanatical, I LIKE THEM") is frequently hilarious and his incessant screaming is appropriate to match the campy tone of the film. However, his constant reliance on reciting fight songs and modified nursery rhymes is grating and not especially funny. If you thought the songs in City Dragon were an insult to the musical form, Jake's improvisations might be regarded as a cultural war crime. A certain segment of the viewing population will be entertained by these segments, and I want nothing more than for these people to fall victim to violent spasms of diarrhea while sitting in traffic.
The action builds in intensity and scale the way it should in genre action films -- Dragon Hunt gets this part mostly right. The rustic trap setting (a la First Blood) becomes more elaborate, the kills get more gruesome, and the firepower becomes louder and more frequent. The major misstep amidst all of this, though, is having two martial artists as stars and not featuring them in more than a couple of fights. Who do we have to blame for this oversight? The star martial artists themselves. One scene finds a twin battling a crossbow-wielding Curtis Bush -- the only other verifiable martial artist in the film, by my estimation -- but it's short-lived and a bit bland. The climax sees the twins deploying every weapon in their arsenal, punches and kicks included, but the fight is dogged by slo-mo and lacks any interesting exchanges or combinations. Instead of going with relative strengths -- actual fighting -- the McNamara twins oddly chose the more "Eighties!" option of traps and guns. This was the film's biggest weakness and a baffling decision when you consider the personnel.
VERDICTDragon Hunt is the second in three self-made McNamara films, and regardless of what you think of them from a quality perspective, you have to admire the gusto of the twins' effort. At the the end of the day, though, this story is derivative, the acting ranges from stiff to goofy, and the action isn't executed well enough to counteract the missteps in other areas. An odd, occasionally entertaining curiosity.
AVAILABILITYThe only official copies never made it beyond VHS, so eBay and Amazon are your best bet. Occasional do-gooders have uploaded it to YouTube.
2.5 / 7