Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Day of the Panther (1988)

The phrase 'Australian Martial Arts movie' is not one that engenders high expectations, but this film was directed by trash-meister Brian Trenchard-Smith, who was also responsible for the gloriously tacky Turkey Shoot. So as bad as the film was likely to be - and it's pretty bad - I at least had hopes it wouldn't be boring.

Trenchard-Smith fulfilled those hopes quite admirably. After kicking things off with a delightfully lame 'mystic ceremony' of the Panther Kung Fu sect, he launches straight into the first martial arts sequence, and thereafter inserts only the bare minimum of talky stuff needed to justify the next bout of punchy-kicky antics. This is a director who knows the movie he's being paid to make, and delivers it.

The plot, such as it is, is your standard 'they killed my partner' revenge story. In a nice change of pace, we actually have an extended action sequence involving the partner who dies, establishing her as a pretty tough and resourceful fighter, who is eventually overcome because she has to face the big bad while already wounded and exhausted by his minions. More films should give this kind of attention to the hero's dead friend: too often the audience is given no reason to care about the dead person than that the protagonist does. Not so here. The one weakness of this scene, honestly, is that it's a more interesting and varied fight than any of the ones that come later.

This film lacks the craziness that makes the final twenty minutes of American Ninja such a wonderful example of 80s camp, but that lack aside, it's actually a much better put together film. Fun trashy nonsense, packed with the pastel suits you'd expect of the period.

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