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Joe Bob Briggs

The Official Home of America's Drive-In Movie Critic Extraordinaire

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R.I.C.C.O (2002)

There’s a guy named Rico in the movie “R.I.C.C.O.,” except it’s not his real name, and there’s a reason he calls himself Rico, because he’s daring the government to bust him under the RICO statute, except that statute is spelled RICO not RICCO, and when we finally find out what “R.I.C.C.O.” really means, it turns out to be Regional Covert Crime Organization, except that would be spelled RCCO or, at best, RECCO.

Welcome to Detroit filmmaking, where one of the good guys is a loanshark who sells money for two weeks at 100 percent interest and the love interest is a stripper in the skankiest club this side of Tijuana. This is low-budget blaxploitation in the “Shaft” tradition, with Walter Harris as a small-time criminal defense attorney whose life takes a wrong turn the day he gets lost in a warehouse district and notices two guys unloading a bound man from the trunk of their car. (Shortly thereafter, we watch the man executed with a battery cable in an attempt to duplicate the “Reservoir Dogs” ear-hacking torture.)

Pretty soon our dapper counselor is running from two donut- chomping hitmen, playing Strip Trivial Pursuit with the hot honey he rescued from a kidnapping, then going to his cool cousin J.T., who takes a break from shaking down lowlife deadbeats to loan his bro some firearms and give him some advice about the contract that’s been put out on him by Mr. Big, otherwise known, of course, as Rico or R.I.C.C.O. or Reco.

There’s a whole lot of cell-phoning in this movie, which is one of my pet peeves, since every time a cell phone goes off, it sounds like your cell phone is going off, besides which it’s one of the lamest ways to advance the plot since those scenes in screwball comedies where the maid explains why her master is not home yet.

At any rate, if you make a gangster movie in Detroit, you’re bound to be compared to “Action Jackson,” which in my opinion is one of the greatest exploitation flicks ever made, and the producing/writing/directing team of Marcus Canty and Shawn Woodard obviously didn’t have the budget for enough car chases or, for that matter, heroin needles to get the job done. There’s a certain charm to watching scenes that are supposedly set in a diner, where folding tables have been set up along a brick wall, or a topless club that has one dancer and one table, but it only goes so far. The movie also starts out with voiceover narration that is abandoned about halfway through, and the big revelatory final scene depends on someone having a laptop computer available in the warehouse where the gangsters have gone to torture and kill the entire cast–but first let’s check this mysterious computer disk!

They don’t call em exploitation flicks for nothing, do they? I liked it in spite of myself.

Let’s take a look at those drive-in totals. We have:

Fifteen dead bodies. No breasts. Four gunbattles, including one shootout in the dense forests of urban Detroit. Dead-cop- robbing. Battery-cable torture. Three motor vehicle chases. Whiskey-bottle head-smashing. Jelly-donut mugging. Gratuitous Witch Doctor dance, with voodoo dust. Gratuitous romantic flashback. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Sophia Taylor, as the squealing stripper with a heart of lead; Cedric Demps, as the kind loanshark who says “She ain’t no good for ya”; and Walter Harris, as the naive young lawyer who learns to kill (not really).

Two stars. Joe Bob says check it out.


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Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)

Last week I was in New York City again, doing research on geek liberals, and I went down to 42nd Street and Times Square to check for slime and found out there’s a full-scale Communist Assault going on, with three of the finest exploitation moviehouses in American about to be condemned, closed up, rebuilt by guys that wear goat beards and wire-rim glasses, and given to gay symphony organizations to make 300 bad PBS specials a year.


The lead Communist is Tony Randall, who came up with this plan where the city of New York is taking away the theaters from their rightful owners, including the one that’s been showin “Three Giant Kung Fu Hits” for the last 10 years.  The city says they’re condemned, but they don’t tear em down.  They give em to lesbian ballet companies to put on shows called Asphalt: A Retrospective.

This kinda thing couldn’t have happened in the golden days of The Deuce.  On the day that MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY premiered, they had to bring in mounted police to control the line that went around the block.  If you’d walked up to those people and said, “Hey, Mayor Koch says you shouldn’t be watchin this stuff.  You need to be attending plays about Vietnam veterans that yell at their mothers all the time and then commit suicide”–if you’d told those people that, I’ll tell you what would of happened.  You would of had some Bernhard Goetz Treatment on every wheelchair-basketball theater company in New York.

But they have been having these hearings for several months now, where Tony Randall comes and talks about the “cultural zone” he’s gonna create where the great 42nd Street theaters used to be, and where Mary Tyler Moore comes and talks about how she just loves Times Square and how she’d like to go on taking people’s money forever for the Broadway shows she puts on about middle-aged women whining at one another, and usually the New York subscribers to the Joe Bob Briggs newsletter show up and sit on the back row and try to get the chairman of the committee to listen to their statistical comparisons of (a) how many people go to those theaters to see SLAVE GIRLS FROM BEYOND INFINITY and (b) how many people would go to those theaters to see an Iranian acrobatic troupe perform the love theme from DAS BOOT.  You see, the numbers are on our side.

Anyhow, the owners of all the great theaters on The Duece have found a way to fox Tony the Wimp and his tutti-frutti friends.  Since all the old Times Square theaters were built by George M. Cohan and Flo Ziegfeld, the owners have been applying for “historic building” status.  This means that, from now on, the city can’t mess with em.  Koch did get three of em already, though, which means we’re gonna have the “cultural zone” side-by–side right next to the drive-in zone and so we’ll have a chance to see just exactly which form of entertainment the American public really wants.  We got the movies waitin.  Bring on your best North Korean Hand-Puppet Street Mime Midge Music.  We’ll win.

Speaking of zombies on Broadway, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II came out a few days back and had James Karen and Thom Matthews robbing a cemetery in one of the first scenes–even though the already got turned into brain-eating zombies in Part One.  You know, it’s this kind of stuff that makes you not trust the movies anymore, like they hired the guys and then said, “Whoops!  You know what?  The story doesn’t make sense!” but then decided, “Oh well, nobody’ll notice.”  We noticed.  These guys can’t get zombified.  They already got zombified.  It’s like casting John Wayne and Liberace in a 1988 movie.  It wouldn’t be a pretty sight, would it?

Anyhow, what happened is that evidently three or four cans of teh secret zombie gas survived the nuclear explosion at the end of Part One, and now some Bozo Army truck drivers bounce a can of it into a suburb where some little kids open it up and watch it seep into the cemetery, where zombies claw their way up through the dirt and start demanding brain salads.  The only people that can stop the world from being taken over are a 12-year-old, his aerobic-leotard sister, and, of course, a cable TV installer.  Their plan–lure the zombies to an electric power plant by leaving a trail of cow brains, then hose em down, hit the juice, and barbecue em from the gizzards out.

The question you got to ask yourself in any good zombie movie, though, is, “What kills the zombies?”  In NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, the only thing that’ll kill em is a gunshot to the brain.  In THE EVIL DEAD, you got to have total dismemberment–arms, legs, head, everything.  And I only got one thing to say about these latest zombies–total dismemberment doesn’t work.  You ever try to kill a snake with a hatchet?  That’s what it’s like.

Zombie-rama.  No breasts. (New disturbing trend in horror flicks.)  16 dead bodies.  27 undead bodies.  Head-hacking.  Heads roll.  Hands roll.  Fingers roll. Zombie aerobics..  Multiple brain eating.  Spike through zombie heart.  Shotgun to the zombie face.  First recorded instance of someone’s face being punched out—literally.  Gratuitous aerobics.  Gratuitous pet-eating.  Screwdriver through the ear Fu.  Screwdriver to the throat Fu.  Drive-In Academy Award nomination for Suzanne Snyder, for excellent whining, right up until the moment her brains are chewed up by her boyfriend, and for saying “Joey, I’m not into dead guys”; Philip Bruns, as Doc Mandel, for diagnosing two zombies as having “chronic intractable rigor mortis”; Thor Van Lingen, as Bill the child zombie, for saying “You told, you told, now you die like me”; and Marsha Dietlein, as the Jamie Lee Curtis Survivor, for saying “they’re ugly and they’re dirty and they’re dumb and I don’t even care if the are dead, they’re not touching me.”

Three stars.  Joe Bob says check it out.

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Immortal Combat (1994)

Listen up, hon.

Whoops! I called you HON.

I do this a lot.

I say “hon” so much to women that I probably qualify for some kind of Clarence Thomas scholarship to Bob Roberts University.

Actually, I have to say, I’ve never had a single woman get mad at me for callin’ her “hon,” and I’ve said it to THOUSANDS.

What’s the deal here? Shouldn’t I have at least 37 lawsuits filed against me by now? Shouldn’t I at least get sent to Vassar Sensitivity Training or something?

How can I say “hon” with impunity?

Now I admit, I’ve never tried it out on a 300-pound lesbian bodybuilder, but if I ever MET a 300-pound lesbian bodybuilder, I’m SURE that at some point in the conversation I WOULD call her “hon.”

I can’t help it. I’ve done it all my life. It’s a family thing. It’s a Texas thing. I’ve never been around people who DIDN’T call one another “hon.”

But it’s one of those words that’s being PHASED OUT.

By the time I’m 70, there will be people who will be absolutely APPALLED that I still say “hon.” I mean, there are people who are appalled NOW, but they’re not numerous enough yet. When I’m 70, I’ll be an example of What’s Wrong With This Country. It’s all those Old Guys Who Still Say “Hon.”

The closest I ever got to real trouble is one time when I called Linda Blair “hon” on TV. She acted a little surprised, then CALLED ME “HON” RIGHT BACK!

I think the whole “hon” thing is overrated, myself.

“Hon” is not a putdown, hon.

“Hon” is an American tradition of saying to a woman, “I like you. YOU’RE OKAY.” Just like you say “bud” when you talk to a guy.

Am I the only person who knows these things?

This one I am NOT givin up. The only person I won’t be calling “hon” is an actress I sometimes work with. And the only reason I don’t call HER “hon” is that her name . . . is Honey.

After all, she might get offended. She might think I was SHORTENING HER NAME.

And speaking of women you don’t wanna mess with, Meg Foster is back, she of the cold green eyes and the attitude, scariest woman in the movies. How many movies has she made where she controls an army on a remote island where she’s plotting to take over the world? This time it’s the old story of the ancient Mayan secret of chasing men through the woods until an incredible amount of adrenalin is shooting through their bodies, killing them, injecting them with cortisone and stuffing a plant down their throats, and turning them into unkillable warriors. By the time the movie starts, Meg has already gathered up an army of these Mayan Steroid Monsters, but what she doesn’t count on is Rowdy Roddy Piper and doing body slams on em.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but Piper is the ONLY ex-pro wrestler who can actually act–as Hulk Hogan has proven time after time–and this time he plays a cop who teams up with a grief-stricken Japanese samurai patrolman who accidentally shot his wife to death but lived to fire again, and once he gets to Meg Foster’s island, he teams up with fearless reporter Kim Morgan Greene, who wears a lot of expensive short skirts and stands around the jungle while stuff blows up.

Unfortunately, Meg has captured the most notorious serial killer in history, killed him, shot him up with Mayan steroids, and turned him loose.

Fortunately, he looks like a pro wrestler.

Yes. That’s right. The final scene is just like Wrestlemania VI, but with a lot more full-body impalements and exploding character actors.

Thirty dead bodies. Two breasts. Neck-snapping. Killer Chippendale dancer. Head-butting. Throwing stars to the forehead. Dart to the head. Throat-ripping. Flaming Mayan (it’s not a cocktail). Fifteen Kung Fu scenes. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Meg Foster, as the cold-blooded mad archeologist, for saying “When I close my eyes all men are the same”; Roddy Piper, as the goofball cop, for saying “There is no jurisdiction when it comes to a killer, Captain”; Kim Morgan Greene, as the frigid reporter, for saying “In the future, I’d appreciate you staying out of my business”; Woon, as the ultimate Mayan kung-fu filler, for being named Woon; and Sonny “J.J.” Chiba, as the Japanese samurai cop, for speaking no English but not letting that stop him from doing long scenes of English dialogue, including the line “I love you, but I am a warrior.”

Three stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.



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Rescue Me (1992)

I’ve been reading this best-seller called “Secrets of Seduction: How To Be the Best Lover Your Woman Ever Had,” which right away gets depressing, because it implies that, if you’re reading the book, you already HAVE a woman. Don’t they realize that only LONELY GUYS read books like this?

Anyhow, it’s by this woman named Brenda Venus, which I don’t know about you, but the name sounds like somebody who works with a snake in the Trocadero Lounge in Reno.

But she describes herself as an “actress/dancer/model”–a triple threat–who lives in Beverly Hills and was once “a close friend and confidante of Henry Miller in his later years.” If you know what she means, and I think you do.

Okay. I read the whole dang thing. And here’s my observation about ALL books like this, but especially THIS one.

First of all, it’s too dang much to remember. How can you keep 150 rules in your head? And even if you could, they’re all OPPOSITES.

On one page she tells us dunderhead guys to ALWAYS be perfectly groomed, because there’s nothing that’s more of a turn-off to a woman than a stinkmeister. She says buy those little electric doohickeys that you stick in your nose and ears. She goes into armpits, shaving, hair, cologne–the whole nine yards.

And then, 50 pages later, she says NEVER BE TOO CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE. There’s nothing that’s more of a turn-off to a woman than a guy looking in the mirror and caring what he looks like.

Well, WHICH IS IT, honey?

Another thing she says is, “Never ask permission.” Women don’t like mealy-mouthed weenies mooning around em, waiting for a signal to start kissing.

And then, 50 pages later, she says, “Never do anything until you’re absolutely certain it’s what a woman wants.” But don’t ASK for this information. In other words, you’re supposed to pick it up from her musky scent or something.

To which I say, what if you’re just stupid? What if you go sniff sniff sniff, look into her eyes, and CHOOSE THE WRONG DANG THING? What do you do? Say “Oh, sorry, I thought you were asking me to ravish you. In retrospect, I can see that was the signal to take you out for a ravioli dinner.”

And the book is FULL of this stuff. Send gifts, but don’t send too many gifts. Send flowers, but don’t KEEP sending flowers. Always compliment her outfit, but NEVER say anything you don’t mean. (What if her outfit sucks?) Whenever you’re having dinner, always give her your complete undivided attention, but never STARE at her. (Now I’ll be a basket case: “Whoops! Better change eye position here. She might think I’m STARING.”) Always “act like it’s the first time,” but “be in control.” (Evidently it’s been YEARS since this woman had a “first time.” “Control” is not a word you normally associate with “first time.”)

And my favorite–if she screams at you, it’s because of a hundred things you’ve ALREADY done leading up to the time she screams at you. My question: Why didn’t you scream on the first 99 instead of waiting to nuke me?

In other words, way too complicated for me. If I REALLY started thinking about this stuff, it would be a full-time job.

That’s the point, isn’t it?

A full-time job.

Brenda, you sneaky rascal you.

And speaking of women who know how to wrap you into a pretzel without you ever figuring it out, Ami Dolenz is the star of “Rescue Me,” and this little gal (what is she? four-foot-seven?) is making a whole new B-movie career out of playing the smart-mouth little rich-girl bitch princess. In this flick she’s a cheerleader Prairie Queen at a Nebraska high school who drives the yearbook photographer and school nerd Stephen Dorff crazy every time he sees her. In fact, he starts following her around, taking her picture all the time, until he accidentally gets photos of her being kidnapped by a couple of Beavis-and-Butthead crooks, and pretty soon he’s driving cross-country on a motorcycle with grizzled Vietnam vet Michael Dudikoff, stopping at whorehouses to Grow Up, exchanging a whole lot of gunfire, and basically doing the “Thelma & Louise” thing but without any women along to SCREW IT UP.

The great thing about watching MEN in a road picture is that you know they might do many things, but they would NEVER drive into the Grand Canyon.

It’s a really decent one–kind of an action/adventure/comedy/teen nookie/road movie with a few crying scenes tossed in.

Three dead bodies. One chemistry-lab fire. Four shootouts. One motor vehicle chase, with crash. Gratuitous pep rally. Gratuitous Dee Wallace-Stone. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Ami Dolenz, as the kidnapped cheerleader, for saying “My father will pay a lot for me–he owns the bank” and “So what kind of car do you drive?”; Michael Dudikoff, in one of his best performances, as the Nam vet who says “Now you kissed a girl, kid–the rest is all downhill”; Peter DeLuise, as the dimwit kidnapper who explains why he has an unconscious woman over his shoulder by saying “She just got Rolfed”; Kimberly Kates, as the hooker with a heart of lust, who says “I like watching a man eat good”; and Stephen Dorff, as the yearbook photographer who says “I know exactly who I am! I’m the geek who’s gotten straight A’s since the third grade who still can’t get a girl to kiss him!”

Four stars.

Joe Bob says check it out.


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Joe Bob Briggs is a film critic, writer and comic performer. He has appeared on The Tonight Show , Larry King Live and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” amongst others.

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