Armstrong (1998)

Joe Lara and Frank Zagarino star in a decent but imperfect Nu-Image DTV action film from Menahem Golan. Hollywood DVD UK R0 DVD.

The Film

Rod Armstrong (Frank Zagarino) was a US Navy SEAL, now working as a trainer in Moscow. He is visited by his old boss Robert Zorkin (Charles Napier) who wants to get Armstrong on board for a secret mission to investigate the sale of nuclear missiles by the Russian Mafia from an old Soviet base. When Zorkin shows up dead, his wife Susan joins with Armstrong and a Russian military contact to track down the man responsible, known only as Ponytail (Joe Lara), who will kill to get hold of the evidence against him...

Written by the director, Menahem Golan (also behind Chuck Norris vehicle Delta Force (1986)), Armstrong follows a pretty typical Nu-Image, straight to video, action film formula with plenty of gunfights, some gratuitous nudity and a functional but hardly elaborate plot. Unfortunately, things never quite 'gel' in the same way as many of their better titles - Susan is introduced as the only woman ever to pass the SEAL selection course, which suggests we might be getting a female co-lead, yet she seems completely unable to look after herself, continually having to be rescued and falling for plenty of obvious traps.

Even the usual highlight chase scenes are rather mixed up, a key sequence in the middle of the film sees Susan running from Mafia goons through a crowded shopping complex, yet they seem to be able to find and catch up with her endlessly, even when she has clearly lost them - first they are first trying to kill her, then decide not to, then decide to let her go, making the whole sequence disjointed and utterly pointless. Pacing is at least quite strong even if the film lacks some of the more explosive action of other genre entries and the film builds up to a dramatic, if rather nonsensical, climax.

Behind the camera Menahem Golan cannot lift the film above its 'DTV actioner shot in Bulgaria' roots but it does at least look solid, the action scenes and explosive effects are done well and the film avoids the over-editing and excessive CGI of most post-2000s straight to video productions.

Reprising their roles after Warhead (1996) Joe Lara and Frank Zagarino make for a good lead pairing, with Joe Lara ever the slick looking villain and Zagarino filling the blond-haired all-American hero part well. Kimberley Kates is believably cast as Susan and looks like she could look after herself, she is definitely a sport - spending the entire chase scene running in nothing but a wet shirt - it is a pity the script lets her down. Veteran actor Charles Napier makes a short but always welcome appearance as a doomed contact.

With a flawed plotline and not as many action scenes as many of their other titles, Armstrong comes across as one of the weaker Nu-Image action films (certainly not as enjoyable as Warhead (1996)) particularly disappointing when the presence of experienced action director Menahem Golan promises a lot more, but the enjoyable pairing of Zagarino and Lara along with some solid direction means that it remains entertaining and there are many worse ways to pass 90 minutes.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Frank Zagarino - a frequent DTV action star, he also appeared in Cyborg Cop III (1995)
Directed by anyone interesting? Menahem Golan - an exploitation veteran as director and producer, he helmed Over the Top (1987) with Sylvester Stallone and produced films like Missing in Action (1984) and Bloodsport (1988)
Any gore or violence ? Some bloody deaths.
Any sex or nudity? A few short female topless and nude shots, a lengthy chase sequence with the heroine in a sheer, wet top.
Who is it for? Fans of low budget actioners should enjoy this, although it is not the genre's best by far.

Visuals Original aspect ratio - 1.33:1 fullscreen. Colour
Good colours and detail in the print, plenty of grain as normal for this sort of film.
Shot for video premiere so the academy ratio is correct.
Audio English stereo - sounds fine.
A few lines of dialogue in Russian are translated by on-print English language subtitles
Subtitles None
Extras The disc includes:
  • Trailers for Crocodile, Octopus and Spiders
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Available in the US from Allumination.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Titles and credits are in English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 23rd March 2012.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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