Saturday, April 19, 2014

Cinemasochism: REVOLT (1986)

I’ve said it on here before, but it is worth repeating. Nothing is better than being a Video Junkie and having friends with the same habits.  Just when you think you have seen it all, someone will throw a film at you that you’ve never heard of.  Case in point: REVOLT! Just over a week ago my buddy Richard sent me a message asking if I had seen this ‘80s action film streaming exclusively on Netflix.  Seen it?  I’d never even heard of it.  He said it was crazy (always a good sign) and later said, “I might need to revisit it, just to remind myself of what I saw.”  If you can’t trust your friends, who can you trust? I look it up and see it was directed by one J. Shaybany and written by someone named Shield.  Yes, this person is credited solely as Shield.  Sold!

The film opens with a nearly 7 minute segment about the dangers of drugs with some narration that sounds like it was culled from a 1950s educational short.  Shocking revelations include that drug dealers like to sell where young people converge (Bryan Singer’s pad?) and that “they couldn’t care less about you.”  All of this is a preamble for our story proper that takes place in an unnamed small town.  Local dope kingpin Mr. Macintosh is having trouble with his drug car driver Curtis, who is refusing to drive over a shipment from Mexico and getting a beating for his insubordination.  Macintosh’s right hand man Lee suggests they use George, whose “brother and sister run that Persian restaurant.” I’m not sure why that fact is mentioned (unless they specifically want relatives of restaurant owners), but George happily accepts and really, really wants to prove he can do a good job.

Meanwhile, Curtis, who is being led to his “retirement” in the woods, escapes his captors but gets shot in the process. When he goes to the hospital, the doctor is none other than the Iranian father-in-law of Steve Brown (Rand Martin), husband to the doc’s daughter Mina and George’s brother. Are you still with me?  Curtis tells the doctor that George is in trouble and the doc calls Steve, who in turn calls the Sheriff Dukes.  Are you really still with me?  Anyway, Dukes somehow knows the exact road George and Lee are barreling down (not to mention the time they will arrive) and gives chase.  Steve also shows up just in time for a pursuit through the woods.  In the chaos, Lee shows his true colors and shoots new hire George dead.  Naturally, Steve sees this go down.  At the funeral (where the doctor tells a priest “the children these days just don’t seem to know what this drug scene is doing to their lives”), Steve is upfront with the sheriff and tells him he will seek his revenge against Mr. Macintosh.  The Sheriff is like, “Eh.”

Somehow our lead crook gets wind of this plan for vengeance and decides to send some of his goons to harass Steve and his family at the post-funeral gathering at their restaurant. Jeez, news travels fast in this town.  Lead thug Tom (if there is a more evil bad guy name, I can’t think of one) assails them with threats like, “What the hell is going on here? This is America, not Iran. Can I get a menu?” before punching out the comic sidekick cook.


After Steve subdues him in a dry river bed behind the restaurant (?), Tom admits that Macintosh sent him.  Steve speeds on over to his ranch (oddly, Tom beat him back there and changed shirts), beats up a few bodyguards and then says, “I may not be able to get all you sons a bitches, but I’m going to bring you down…hard.” Yeah, that’ll show him. Steve somehow gets it into his head that the only way to bring Macintosh down is to have Curtis testify against him. Curtis is in hiding with his pregnant girlfriend Nancy but apparently a bartender named Tiny knows his location.  Both baddie Tom and hero Steve make it to Tiny’s within minutes of each other, resulting a big ol’ brawl in the alley behind the bar.  The Sheriff shows up to arrest Macintosh’s men, but warns Steve, “I’ll arrest you as I would anyone else for breaking the law, disturbing the peace and breaking the law.”  As if the feuding stakes couldn’t get any higher, Macintosh is suddenly incensed by the Iranian hostage crisis and this leads to – I kid you not – Steve’s son Jeremy being picked on at school and run over and killed by a car!  With only ten minutes left on the running time, I guess it is time to REVOLT as Steve and new BFF Curtis, whose girlfriend was also killed, head to the ranch with guns a blazing.


Running a scant 72 minutes, REVOLT is the kind of brain dead action cinema we love to see here at Video Junkie.  It has the perfect blend of cheapness, bad dialogue, overwrought drama and explosions.  Here is a perfect sampling with some dialogue when Uncle George drops Jeremy off at school.


Another great example is the final showdown when Macintosh sees the good guys coming.  He shouts at his two henchmen, “Lee, get your gun. You, get your gun.”  Because having him say, “Get your guns” is just too complex.  Of course, this is from a director who has the drug kingpin give the town a church (!) and still has his wife working at the local grade school.  What?  Director Shaybany is just as cheap when it comes to his onscreen action as his script.  For the finale, he has Macintosh grab a random car rather than the Mercedes he drove up in.  Why?  We ain’t throwing no Mercedes off a cliff, son.  Also, for some odd reason, Macintosh gets into the car by himself, but when he is shown being chased on the highway he magically has his wife and son with him.  Drama! Even better, when the car goes off the cliff in a spectacular explosion, the young boy is thrown from the car and is safe.  Well, except for now being an orphan.  Sheibany doesn't have time for the after, just the right now.  Oh wait, Steve lost his son so he can now just adopt this kid.  Problem solved.

REVOLT is initially a very had film to pin down in terms of when it was actually shot. Shaybany doesn’t have time for credits or that nonsense.  It just ends with “THE END” and that’s it.  No names, no dates, no nothing!  Honestly, the fashions and minutia are all over the place.  One minute it reads early ‘80s, the next a dude is wearing a ‘70s outfit that would make Porter Wagoner stop in his tracks and gawk. There is a lengthy scene that shows news footage of the Iranian hostage crisis so it has to have been after November 1979.  Eagle-eyed Tom (our VJ leader, not the main henchman) spotted a Q-105 bumper sticker, which is apparently standard ‘70s SoCal.  However, several people sport Members Only jackets, which were introduced in the US in 1980 but became big in 1983.  Variety’s lone listing for the film is a mention in March 1985. The establishing of it being shot in the early ‘80s was finally revealed when I spotted a kid with a little league 1983-84 jacket on and with this simple nameless henchman’s t-shirt (prepare yourself for a level of geekiness previously unseen on this blog).


In the same mold as Amir Shervan (HOLLYWOOD COP, SAMURAI COP), director Jamshid Sheibani (billed here as J. Shaybany) was born in Iran and came to the United States to make movies. Believe it or not, Sheibani’s earliest listing in the US copyright database is a song from the Cary Grant film DREAM WIFE (1953) that he co-wrote.  According to his obituary, he returned to his native Iran and began making a name for himself as a singer and in their cinema in the 1960s/70s as a producer and director. Variety listed Sheibani as being a recipient of a grant from the Ministry of Culture in May 1976 and 1978.  His Iranian work (as far as the IMDb is concerned) ceased in 1976, so we can only assume something happened (the Iranian Revolution, maybe?) that sent him back to the United States.  We’re thankful for it, whatever it was. REVOLT is a trash classic that should be honored.

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