Review: Guns (1990) and Do or Die (1991)
Mill Creek Entertainment has delivered two more Andy Sidaris films on Blu-ray! This time, we're treated to 1990's Guns and 1991's Do or Die, both newly-restored and featuring all the hallmarks of the director's low-brow masterpieces!
By the arrival of the 1990s, the Malibu Bay Films playbook had settled into a proven formula. Andy and Arlene Sidaris would take a cast of good-looking people that often featured martial artists and bodybuilders for the male roles and Playboy Playmates for the female roles, place them in beautiful and/or exotic locations like Hawaii, have these attractive people chase and shoot at each other, never forgetting to remove articles of clothing every ten minutes or so. It's not a complicated formula, but it's one that earned Andy Sidaris a ton of love from those who saw these movies on VHS or late-night cable programming during their adolescence. These are cult films with enough positive word-of-mouth that they're now also sought after and appreciated by a whole new generation.
They face off against an arms dealer named the Jack of Diamonds, played with maximum camp by Erik Estrada (CHiPs), who is apparently well-aware of the movie that he's in. In his introduction to the film on the Blu-ray, Andy Sidaris tells us that this was Estrada's first ever starring bad guy role; the actor definitely seems to relish the opportunity to delight in being bad, as there's a twinkle in his eye every time he's on screen doing something evil. Another CHiPs star, Bruce Penhall, also appears, and seems to be having just as much fun as Estrada. Danny Trejo even plays one of Estrada's henchmen!
For 1991's Do or Die, the action moves away from familiar locations entirely and ends up being set almost completely in the bayous of Louisiana during the fall or early winter, giving us something we haven't seen before in this series of films. Our L.E.T.H.A.L. duo of Donna Speir and Roberta Vasquez returns, as does Cynthia Brimhall, Bruce Penhall, and Erik Estrada (complete with a motorcycle chase that serves as a CHiPs reunion), though this time Estrada is playing a different character who's on the side of the angels. Rounding out the cast of this film is Pat Morita, aka Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid and its sequels. Just as Estrada seemed to be having a blast being evil in Guns, Morita also seems to enjoy being bad, though his performance is full of the same quiet subtlety and mystery that he brought to Miyagi. Morita's villain is a world away from Estrada's. He's quiet, calculating.
Both Guns and Do or Die feel thinner and not as surprising as some of the films that had come previously, but a lot of that seems to stem from the fact that we're becoming more familiar with his bag of tricks. Plot was never the reason to watch these movies; we enjoy them because they're fun and allow us to have fun with them. They invite us into their world so that we can experience them genuinely, not ironically. To watch Sidaris movies ironically would be to ignore that they're done by a master in complete control of his stories. I can almost hear Sidaris asking us "Wow, isn't this cool?" Beginning with his days in sports television production, he knew how to give the audience what they wanted and keep them coming back for more. His movies--filled with crazy chases in cars, boats, motorcycles, and helicopters, Playmates, body builders, massive martial arts men, ninjas, cross-dressers, and destination locales--may not be strong on structure or plot, but they have a charm that's all their own.
The Blu-rays are also loaded with features, all carried over from DVD editions from the early 2000s that were created when Andy Sidaris was still alive. Just as with the four previous films, each disc features a film introduction by Sidaris, an audio commentary by Andy and Arlene Sidaris, and behind the scenes footage narrated by the filmmakers. Mill Creek Entertainment has included digital copies that can be redeemed via their proprietary digital service MovieSpree.