Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Firecracker (1981)

Firecracker (AKA Naked Fist) is a 1981 production from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures. It was shot in the Philippines with Cirio H. Santiago directing (and co-writing they script and acting as executive producer). This is a martial arts action movie and on the whole it delivers the goods.

Susanne Carter (Jillian Kesner) arrives in the Philippine to look for her sister Bonie, a reporter who has gone missing. The trip quickly lets her to The Arena, a kind of extreme martial arts night club. And the fights are definitely extreme, usually ending with the loser ready to be carted off to the hospital. And on special nights there’s an extra added attraction, fights to the death. The Arena is run by Erik (Ken Metcalfe) and we have no doubts that he’s a bad guy.

The star attraction is a young American fighter named Chuck (Darby Hinton). Susanne has been warned that Chuck is seriously dangerous and to keep away from him but it’s pretty obvious as soon as she meets him that she’s hot for him.

As it happens Susanne is a martial arts expert herself, and she’s pretty dangerous as well. Obviously there will be fireworks between these two.

The smart thing for Susanne to do would be to leave things to the police and that’s exactly what they advise her to do. Naturally she takes no notice.

Erik and his crew are into narcotics dealing as well as martial arts and there’s a nasty power struggle going on (which involves some large-scale running gun battles).

Susanne keeps looking for clues to her sister’s disappearance and gets attacked by gangs of thugs seemingly every few minutes. Jillian Kesner apparently really was trained in karate and it shows. She approaches the fight scenes with gusto and her moves look convincing. She’s also getting more and more attracted to Chuck. She just loves those bad boys.

We can guess what the climax is going to entail, which is OK because we’re looking forward to it.

It has to be said that Firecracker hits the ground running. Within the first few minutes there’s a karate fight to the death and Susanne, in her underwear, gets attacked by two goons whom she despatches in the first of her many many fight scenes. From this point on the action doesn’t let up.

And the fight scenes are pretty darned good.

For an 80s Roger Corman flick there’s not as much T&A as you might expect and you have to wait a long time for it. When it does arrive it’s done quite well and it has a sleazy perverse edge to it. One of the highlights is the fight scene in which a thug takes a swipe at Susanne with a rather nasty blade. She survives unhurt but the blade neatly slices through her bra strap (she’s already lost her dress in the course of the fight). If you’re going to show boobies, and in a Roger Corman exploitation film you obviously do have to, you might as well do it with a certain amount of style.

There’s also a very kinky sex scene in which Susanne has her clothing and then her underwear removed, very slowly, by a couple of very sharp knives. In this scene Jillian Kesner finally does some acting, conveying Susanne’s emotional state quite effectively. She’s very turned on but just a bit afraid, although whether she’s afraid of him or afraid of her own lust is hard to say. Given a certain piece of information which is known to the viewer but not to Susanne it’s actually a surprisingly powerful and erotically perverse scene.

Unfortunately the acting in general is stupendously awful. Having her underwear sliced off seems to be the only thing that awakens Miss Kesner’s limited acting talents. The other cast members are just awful.

But this is an exploitation movie so who the heck cares about the wooden acting? There’s an abundance of action, some nice location shooting and a fair bit of perversity. Added to which is the fact that when Miss Kesner finally does get naked she looks remarkably attractive.

Firecracker is packaged with T.N.T. Jackson and Too Hot To Handle in Shout! Factory’s Lethal Ladies Collection Volume 1 DVD set. The transfer is pretty good, with just a very few moments of print damage.

Firecracker isn’t going to give you any insights into the human condition but it will entertain you. You can’t complain about that. Highly recommended.

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