RIOT ON 42nd ST. (1987).
Blunt, inept and overflowing with seedy melodrama, skin and action, they certainly don't make films like this anymore! In fact, they can't, now that NYC's 42nd Street has been scrubbed-clean and castrated in order to appeal to tourist pinheads. Leave it to writer-director Tim Kincaid -- best known for '70s manly-porn such as EL PASO WRECKING CORP. (as Joe Gage) and '80s horror-slop like BREEDERS -- to capture one last blast of Deuce-lensed exploitation, just before the area succumbed to its death throes. Early on, a cabbie calls 42nd Street "the shithole of the world," and promises, "You want scum, you came to the right place." You'd almost think he was referring to this schlock gem as well. The extended intro alone will have Times Square nostalgists cheering, as Kincaid hits us with a montage of $1.99 triple-bill marquees, shops like "Super-Fly Boutique", a mugged Asian tourist, stoned punks passing out on the curb, and a cop getting kneed in the cojones by a hooker -- who's then whisked away by a rolling-skating pimp who looks like he stepped out of The Village People's "YMCA" video! Yow! John Patrick Hayden stars as Glen Barnes, who returns to his 42nd Street turf after a manslaughter hitch in prison. His goal is to reopen his family's grindhouse theatre and adjoining nightclub, only to ignite a power struggle between the local criminal factions. You see, unlike the other scumbags, who whore out their strippers to the clientele, Glen wants to run a respectable dive -- just after-hours gambling, exotic dancing and Frank Stallone tribute bands. In retaliation, prime competitor Farrell (Michael Speero) sends heavily-armed goons into Glen's joint on opening night and massacres everyone in sight! Including Glen's elderly pop! And you know what that means -- it's revenge time, with a massive street rumble and outrageous blood-spatter FX. On the side of law and order, Kate Collins co-stars as Michelle Owens, a sultry policewoman who's also Glen's ex-squeeze and urges him to go clean, and in an annoying subplot, she also helps out a Black street urchin who's always underfoot. Meanwhile, Jeff "How'd I get stuck in this shit?" Fahey appears in a handful of uneventful scenes as Owens' partner, a wimpy li'l turd who tries to persuade Michelle to dump Glen. Also look for BREEDERS-star Frances Raines as Farrell's abused moll, and '80s WWF-alumnus Carl Fury as a sadistic, muscle-bound henchman who chops a guy's head clean off and leaves him in a dumpster. No question, this features some of the most wooden, catatonic performances in recent memory -- which only makes you wonder, were they all embarrassed or merely hung over? RIOT is a delightfully stupid chunk of trash, without any socially redeeming qualities and aimed at true grindhouse fanatics. You know who you are.
© 2005 by Steven Puchalski.