Mission Terminate | aka Return of the Kickfighter (1987) Review

"Mission Terminate" Dutch VHS Cover

“Mission Terminate” Dutch VHS Cover

AKA: Revenge of the Kickfighter
Director: Anthony Maharaj
Writer: Joe Mari Avellana
Cast: Richard Norton, Bruce Le (Huang Kin Long), Rex Cutter, Judy Greene, George E. Mahlberg, Nick Nicholson, Henry Strzalkowski, Dick Wei, Franco Guerrero
Running Time: 90 min.

By Paul Bramhall

My journey that found me watching Mission Terminate was somewhat of an interesting one. Back in 2008, I’d stumbled across an old Tai Seng DVD of a movie called Ninja vs. Bruce Lee. The movie starred one of the many Bruce Lee clones which the studios churned out after Bruce Lee’s death in an attempt to make a quick buck, renaming any actor who had even the faintest likeness of Lee to sound like they could pass for the real deal. This particular movie starred Bruce Le (see what they did there?), however it was the cover of the DVD which had my attention, as it featured a shirtless Le brandishing a ridiculously big machine gun and sporting an expression which meant business (click here to view the DVD cover).

It looked like B-movie gold, a Bruce Lee clone made out to be a kind of Asian Rambo, what could go wrong!? Much to my disdain, the scene off the cover of the DVD appeared nowhere in the movie, so I angrily set about making enquires to find out exactly what it was that I should be looking for. Thankfully some very knowledgeable people confirmed the image was from Mission Terminate, and proceeded to wish me luck at attempting to track it down. After a couple of initial enquiries which turned out to be fruitless, thanks to a combination of such factors like, well, having a life, I gave up my search. Skip forward 6 years later, and thanks to some kind soul having a much better memory than me, I finally found myself in possession of Mission Terminate, under the retitle of Return of the Kickfighter, and prepared myself for the unknown.

Thankfully Mission Terminate is indeed B-movie gold. Directed by Anthony Maharaj, whose filmography contains such other gems as Innocent Adultery, it is in fact filmed entirely in the Philippines, passing for Vietnam, and is everything you’d expect from a mid-80’s Filipino B-movie production. The Philippines had a whole host of American B-movie directors making action and exploitation cheapies there during the 80’s, thanks to the low cost crews and filming locations, so much so that the Filipino action B-movie almost became a genre unto itself.

Mission Terminate does the genre proud, announcing its intentions from the very first piece of dialogue, which takes place between two soldiers and goes as follows: Lieutenant – “I knew we’d get those motherf*ckers!” Marine – “Yeah, bet those suckers never figured we’d trail them back to their mothers wombs!” If only every movie had opening lines like this.

The plot concerns a unit of US marines operating in the Vietnam war during 1970, with the movie opening on a raid in a village. After massacring the villagers, the marines steal the villages gold, much to the objection of their Vietnamese translator and guide, played by Le. Skip forward past the credits sequence; it’s now 15 years later, and members of the unit are getting murdered one by one. This leads to the former head of the group, now a high ranking military officer, announcing that the only person who is up to the job of finding out the identity of the killer is an Aussie, Major Brad Cooper, played by Richard Norton.

Norton is the real deal when it comes to martial arts, and has gone one on one with the best of them, including Jackie Chan in the finale of City Hunter, and Sammo Hung in Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars. Here he’s given a rare lead role as the good guy, and most probably due to him not being able to do an American accent; the colonel explains to some disgruntled marines that “he was only raised in Australia, he’s American, ALL AMERICAN!” Sadly much more than his accent, it’s the fact that Norton sports a rat tail haircut which gives him away as an Australian, an epidemic that still seems to be an acceptable form of antipodean style even in the 21st century.

As mentioned Norton is the main character of the movie, with Bruce Le playing a significant supporting role. Another stalwart from Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung’s movies comes in the form of legendary kicker Dick Wei, who plays Bruce Le’s murderous sworn brother, and is the guy who’s killing off the marines in revenge for their slaughter of the village. It’s Wei’s appearance which indicates that perhaps the plot was just kind of made up on the fly. I mean, his killings of the marines are justified considering what they did, and the colonel is trying to manipulate Norton to find Wei and kill him only because he doesn’t want the stolen gold to be discovered. However it then suddenly turns out that Wei really is a bad guy, and that he’s working as a trainer at a hidden terrorist camp of ski-mask wearing ninjas hidden in a nearby mountain.

It turns out his revenge mission is just a sideline to his full time job as terrorist trainer. The camp seems to be being run by a Middle Eastern terrorist group, indicated only by a guided tour the head of the camp gives to some headscarf wearing gentlemen. Yes the movie contains a whole scene dedicated to a guided tour of the terrorists in training, one of the highlights being that they’re so evil that during combat training they have to use real ammo. If you get shot, it’s because you’re not evil enough and deserve to die, that’s their reasoning, not mine.

Overall Mission Terminate is a lot of fun, mainly because it’s a parody of action movies without being a parody. It displays a level of incompetence which is somehow forgivable thanks mainly to the constant onslaught of hilariously bad lines, and their delivery, and frequent shootouts which never seem to be more than a few minutes away. Le has clearly had his lines dubbed into English by a local Filipino, and as a result everything he says makes him sound like a constipated Mexican. This is particularly hilarious in his exchanges with the Aussie accented Norton.

By the time the finale rolls around, it’s Norton and Le, backed up by some good guy marines led by Franco Guerrero, himself a Filipino B-movie legend (check out One Armed Executioner!), against Wei and his camp of ninja terrorists. Amusingly before the showdown starts, the head of the camp pulls all the ninjas into a room and tells them that finally he can reveal their purpose, which is to hold a nuclear power plant to ransom. You can’t help but feel that what actually happened is behind the scenes the following conversation took place: Producer – “Ok we’re going to film the finale next… does the audience actually know what the terrorists are training for yet?” Director – “Hmmm. Did we overlook that detail!? (Flicks through script) It appears we did. Damn.”

Once the impromptu terrorist team meeting is over though, the bullets and explosions come thick and fast, with of course some obligatory fists and feet thrown in as well just for good measure. Le and Norton both face off again Wei in a couple of very brief scuffles, but the fun is mainly in watching the endlessly regenerating ninjas get mowed down in hails of bullets. In truth it’s probably the same five guys playing the whole army of ninjas, and it becomes quite fun to see if you can identify if you’re watching the same guy from the previous scene – there’s the guy who always dies by falling down in what can only be described as real time slow motion; the guy who always dies by waving his arms around frantically, even if he’s already laying on the ground; and the guy who always yells at the top of his voice whenever he’s been shot.

If you’re a fan of action B-movies, Mission Terminate does the job, made in an era when the macho action movie was still played 100% straight with no winks to the audience, it’s all the more entertaining for it. Now if only Sylvester Stallone would realize the same thing.

Paul Bramhall’s Rating: 7/10

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2 Responses to Mission Terminate | aka Return of the Kickfighter (1987) Review

  1. Phil G says:

    Love this review as I forgot all about this film, I used to watch everything as a kid and anything with Richard Norton in, stirred up some memories, thank you 😉

  2. ShaOW!linDude says:

    Sounds like some cheesy fun. Don’t think I’ve ever come across this and I try to keep my eyes open for anything Norton does. Kind of disappointed to learn the end fights are kind of brief. Dick Wei and Richard Norton? Man, that should’ve been a boss throwdown.

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