Schlock Value: The Executioner, Part II (1984)
Hey, everybody! Since Raw Force was such a big hit, I figured I’d keep digging through the Grindhouse Experience box set for some more schlocky ‘80s action. This week, I took a look at The Executioner, Part II from 1984. I know you may be thinking, “Part II? What about part I?” Well, there’s a funny story about that. You see, there is no Part I. It doesn’t exist. In 1980, there was a film called The Exterminator, which was a solid little B-movie about a Vietnam veteran who turns vigilante after he witnesses the murder of his best friend on the mean streets of New York City. Now, that film did get a sequel in 1984 (The Exterminator 2), but before its release, 21st Century Distribution Corporation put out the similarly titled The Executioner, Part II as a ploy to trick moviegoers into seeing their film instead.
Produced by Renee Harmon (Lady Street Fighter) and helmed by her longtime friend/collaborator James Bryan (Don’t Go in the Woods, Escape to Passion and The Dirtiest Game), The Executioner, Part II shamelessly borrows the plot of The Exterminator wholesale: a Vietnam vet turns vigilante while his buddy, an L.A. cop, is determined to track him down. As is the case with most of this sort of fare, the one sheet is pretty spectacular, featuring a buff soldier towering over the title, flamethrower in one hand while pulling the pin out of a hand grenade with his teeth! The poster also has mass carnage behind him involving lots of gunfire and an exploding helicopter beneath the tagline: “Beware rapists, killers & muggers! He’s back to get you…” Hell, yeah. Let’s bring the carnage.
Right out of the gate, the film begins with a chaotic bit of action in the Vietnamese jungle. US soldiers Roger (Christopher Mitchum) and Mike are under enemy fire, but they are promptly rescued by a helicopter. It’s worth noting here that the scene is so chaotic it’s almost impossible to discern just what the hell is going on. Plus, the helicopter isn’t even a military helicopter. Anyway, I digress. We jump to present day Los Angeles, where crime is high and drugs are plentiful. It’s a Reagan-era nightmare. A woman is being assaulted on a rooftop by a group of men, but before they get too far, they’re interrupted by a masked man in black combat gear who rescues the woman and beats the ever-living hell out of her assailants. He even drops a live grenade into one dude’s pants (this is his trademark move). Finally, he declares, “I’m your judge, I’m your jury, I’m your executioner!”.
Now, crime, evidently, has been dropping lately, thanks to this masked vigilante known as The Executioner, and LA residents are generally okay with that, much to the dismay of the local law enforcement as well as the criminal enterprises. Roger, now a police lieutenant, is on the case, and for some reason, teams up with TV news reporter Celia Amherst (Renee Harmon) to track him down. Mike, who now suffers from intense PTSD, works as a mechanic, but is also The Executioner on the side. This is really only a secret to Roger. Meanwhile, in the dark, sleazy corners of the city, crime boss Antonio Casallis, known on the street as “The Tattoo Man,” is busy running drug and prostitution rackets (in addition to making some crooked deals with the police commissioner). His right hand man, Pete, works for Cassalis as a pimp and drug pusher. While Roger is out hunting down The Executioner, his young daughter Laura starts to get mixed up in the underground drug and prostitution scene. Once Pete found out she was a virgin, he was determined to get her to work for him, knowing it would curry some favor with the big boss man. So, he lures her in by way of her crazy friend (and his employee) Kitty, who spends most of the movie stoned out of her goddamn mind.
Much of the film is made up of poorly choreographed fight sequences between Roger or The Executioner and groups of criminals, the latter usually resorting to the old grenade in the pants trick (always cutting to the same stock explosion footage), while Laura descends further down the rabbit hole of drugs and sex. At some point in his investigation, Roger somehow thinks to match up The Executioner’s fingerprints with those of his buddy, Mike. Once he realizes the intense headaches and flashbacks Mike has been suffering from have motivated him to go out and kill criminals, he decides to give his friend a few hours to pull himself together, rather than arrest him. Meanwhile, Casalis has Laura and the TV news reporter held hostage. Unable to resist his own impulses, Mike heads out to dole out some punishment one last time, and hopefully save his friend’s daughter.
Although this may sound like a blast, the film is, in actuality, a tidal wave of incoherent, incompetent nonsense. The editing is so haphazard, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of what’s happening, the camerawork is shoddy at best, and the overdubbed sound is so out of sync, it’s like watching a bad kung fu movie, except everyone is speaking English. In addition to the same stock explosion used each time The Executioner stuffs a grenade down someone’s pants, there are even some actors who are recycled throughout the film as entirely different characters, only adding to the confusion. Supposedly, the budget for The Executioner, Part II was so low, the film was shot only on weekends when equipment was cheaper to rent. Having seen it, I can honestly say I'm not surprised in the least.
The actors, to their credit, really do try to make the best of the bad material. Christopher Mitchum is serviceable as Roger, but Antoine John Mottet and Frisco Estes (Mike and Mr. Casallas, respectively) are the real stars here, devouring the scenery every time they appear. Renee Harmon, unfortunately, is the weak link, portraying Celia Amherst with such a thick accent, it’s inconceivable that she’d ever be a successful TV news reporter anywhere in the United States. But this is an action movie, so who cares about the acting or the story, right? Well, just about all of the action sequences are over-the-top and ludicrous, and the actors are clearly doing their best (even the cinematographer tries to work the angles), but aside from a hilarious set piece where a man is impaled by a samurai sword and stuck to a sofa and continues to pursue his victim with the sofa stuck to his back, it’s all mostly bland, generic, street brawling.
Unfortunately, despite all of its potential, The Executioner, Part II is really just a boring, confusing mess with only a handful of entertaining moments. There are just too many other, better films like this too say this one is worthy of your time, however, if you’re still feeling compelled, you can find it in the Grindhouse Experience box set, or on blu-ray as part of a double feature with Frozen Scream (courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome).