Writer: Deddy Armand
Cast: Chris Mitchum, Mike Abbott, Ida Iasha, Dicky Zulkarnaen, Zainal Abidin, Siska Widowati, Nizar Zulmi, Ivonne Elisabeth, Andre Mathias, Gino Makasutji, Syarief Friant
Running Time: 88 min.
By Paul Bramhall
It’s an age old dilemma – how does one carve out a successful career for one’s self in Hollywood, when one of your family members is an A-list star? It’s a question no doubt such names as Eric Roberts and Frank Stallone would have plenty of input on, however one name who did for a time appear to have cracked the formula, was Chris Mitchum. The second son of legendary actor Robert Mitchum, well known for his roles in the likes of Cape Fear and The Yakuza, Chris looked to be following in his father’s footsteps, with starring roles in the likes of Howard Hawks’ Rio Lobo, and featuring alongside John Wayne in Big Jake.
However it was his association with John Wayne which inadvertently set his career off-course. Known for sharing the same conservative outlook politically, along with similar controversial views on the Vietnam War, Mitchum quickly fell out of favor with the Hollywood studios, and by the mid-70’s the offers of work had all but dried up. As a result, he turned his attention to appearing in productions in Europe and South East Asia, and although arguably it was never his intention, Mitchum found himself re-born as a B-movie action star. Most frequently working in Indonesia and the Philippines, his filmography quickly filled up with titles such as One Armed Executioner, American Commandos, and American Hunter.
One such movie was Final Score, an Indonesian action flick which paired him with the same director as American Hunter – the man simply known as Arizal. Having begun his career in the film industry working as an artistic assistant for the Walt Disney studio, upon returning to his native Jakarta, Arizal quickly found his niche creating explosive action movies. Cranking out such titles as The Stabilizer, Ferocious Female Freedom Fighters (both of which got released on DVD by Troma Entertainment), and Double Crosser, Arizal quickly gained a reputation for his no holds barred style of filmmaking, and his name came to become synonymous with Indonesian action cinema.
For many, the concept of Indonesia even having an action movie scene in the 80’s could well be one that induces blank expressions, and rightfully so considering their lack of exposure, but it was a scene that was very much alive and kicking. Such titles as Lady Terminator (which far from being a play on words, is exactly what you hope it’ll be), Virgins from Hell, and the countless Barry Prima starring swordplay flicks, contributed to a local film industry which embraced its own wackiness, aiming for a go-for-broke style of action mayhem. Lest we forget a certain Billy Chong as well, who by the end of the 80’s had also returned to his motherland, working on several local martial arts flicks under his birth name of Willy Dozan. All this of course, more than thirty years before The Raid would put Indonesia back on the action cinema map.
Final Score in many ways could be considered Arizal’s finest moment, and is a superlative slice of Indonesian action. Mitchum plays a decorated Vietnam War veteran, as was the case with almost every role Caucasian actors would play in these Indonesian and Filipino action flicks. He lives with his Indonesian wife and son in Jakarta, and for those wondering why he’s living in Indonesia and not America, thankfully this question happens to be addressed by his son, who asks the exact same thing. Mitchum calmly replies, “Well, because we love it here, it’s a beautiful country and a peaceful place to live.” Promote tourism in Indonesia checkbox – ticked! They may indeed love it, but it doesn’t stop both his wife and son being brutally murdered while he’s out shopping for his son’s birthday present (which ironically enough, sees him pick a toy machine gun).
The man behind the hit is a ruthless business rival played by British actor Mike Abbott. While he may have started in the Indonesian film industry (like Mitchum, he’d team up with Arizal again for American Hunter), Abbott soon after moved to Hong Kong, where he must hold the record for featuring in the highest number of Godfrey Ho movies with the word ‘ninja’ in the title, often alongside Richard Harrison. Bionic Ninja, Ninja Operation 7, Death Code: Ninja, Rage of Ninja, Ninja Knight Brothers of Blood, and Ninja Empire all feature healthy doses of Abbott in action. He did manage to feature in more respectable HK productions, namely the likes of A Better Tomorrow 2, City Hunter, and A Purple Storm, but once you’ve seen Final Score, it’ll most likely be the role you remember him for.
In a runtime which clocks in at less than 90 minutes, Mitchum’s family is slain in the first 15, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he spends the remaining hour plus simply going around massacring anyone who has the slightest connection to it. He even has a list of people he’s going to kill on a piece of paper, not so much a ‘to-do’ list, as a ‘to-kill’ list if you will, and whenever he offs one of the names on it, he happily flicks out his biro pen and crosses it off. Such a simplistic plot should get old pretty quickly, but Arizal has Mitchum rampaging around Jakarta with such a degree of violent reckless abandon, that it’s never anything less than pure entertainment.
Early on he intercepts a car stacked to the brim with weapons that was on its way to a deal, and Mitchum has no hesitation in arming himself to the teeth with everything available in his newly acquired wheels. From then on, the thumping synthesiser soundtrack is frequently accompanied by the sounds of glorious machine gun fire and explosions. Bad guys get shot in the crotch, have red hot pokers thrust up places where the sun don’t shine, and are blown to pieces at regular intervals. Just as Death Wish could well be considered the template for Final Score, all be it Arizal’s piece ramps things up to 100, so the likes of Final Score could be considered the template for the likes of Taken. Mitchum maintains his take-no-prisoners attitude throughout, and there’s something cathartic about watching him relentlessly mow down all those involved in his families death.
Perhaps the aspect that most stands out most about Final Score, is how likely all of the stuntmen involved made it to the end of the production alive. There are some insane stunts on display, mostly involving vehicle chases, which make you wonder how they could have survived it. At one point during a car chase, a bad guy has half his body outstretched from the passenger window, firing a machine gun at Mitchum’s car in front. In the same shot that we see him shooting in, the car careens off the road, and flips over into a ditch out of sight. How on earth did he survive? In another, Mitchum is surrounded in a house, and two bad guys are standing side by side in the driveway shooting the place up. A secretary who Mitchum becomes friendly with comes to his rescue, suddenly appearing in her car, and she drives full speed into the back of the two bad guys. One of them literally flies head over heels from the impact!
Indeed the vehicle chases in Final Score are so entertaining, they were copied and pasted into Italian director Umberto Lenzi’s 1990 Euro-action movie Cop Target 4 years later. There’s plenty more in Final Score to recommend, from the hilarious dubbing (at one point a group of bad guys find their car trapped on a railway track as an oncoming train approaches, and just before the impact they yell in unison, “You son of a biiiiiiitch!”), to the bewilderment inducing plot points, such as when Mitchum decides half way through his rampage that he’s over his families death, and decides to get it on with the secretary who’s been helping him out. Throw in a motorbike kitted out with rocket launchers, more explosions than you can shake a stick at, an assault on a warehouse that’ll most definitely bring to mind a scene in The Raid 2, and Final Score is a glorious hark back to how action movies used to be, and more importantly, should be.
Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 8.5/10