Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Dalton Trebeck: The Jummy Films

The Jummy years, in the urban crime trilogy: Bullet In My Brother's Gut, Swimming From Nicaragua and Burn My Hated Demon's Heart, were great for Dalton Trebeck. He was a stunning athlete during this time, matched by the visual imagination of producer/director Jummy "Sphinx-boy" Rainer. Let's go straight for the films shall we.

Bullet In My Brother's Gut is a simple revenge tale. Sean Santiago's brother is brutally shot to death by the mob in the first scene. He was seeing a gangster's innocent daughter. He pays for this with his life, has his body cut up and spread and buried through-out the city. Dalton is a cop in another city who comes back home. With the help of his rage-filled mother, he kidnaps the innocent daughter, thus making the gangsters panicked and worried about their bosses and then targets the gangsters, finding body parts of his brother bit by bit. After he has beaten down an important gangster they have a choice. Body part or their own death lasting days. He kills them anyway but gets the body parts, starting with the head. He talks to his brother's head throughout the film, takes it on raids. He talks to his brother's head while talking to the innocent young woman the brother loved, just to see what she really thought of him. Then he goes back to killing, avoiding traps set by gangsters, eventually getting the entire body (the gut area with the bullet is the last part found) so as to have a funeral. By this point there's only a few top gangsters left, and minimal henchmen. Their enemies sit-back and wait for them to die. The innocent young woman is also. So in front of an entire church congregation, Dalton takes out some vicious gangsters, brutally murdering them in a church. The cops arrive, take the bodies, cover it up. They respect Dalton. Everyone in church wants the gangsters dead so no-one will speak. Dalton returns to his own city to establish justice. At the end we find that the innocent young woman is pregnant. She is left unsure of her future.

Swimming From Nicaragua is of course about drugs. It takes place in LA, never getting near Nicaragua. Dalton is undercover, looking for a kingpin connect to prove in court. He is set-up as a kingpin in the first ten minutes by the real kingpin, who has found out his undercover status and murdered the other supervising agents, framing Dalton, suggesting a rogue agent. That's all the set-up we need as Dalton has to take take down this beast while avoiding the cops (who want to take down Dalton as the drug kingpin themselves) and his own people, who are hungry for revenge. It's a chase movie through LA, as Dalton meets and beats, tortures bank mangers, flunkies, corrupt cops, avoiding killing the good cops and his own people no matter what they do. But he can maim them. A bus station is trashed en masse halfway through, a few hotels are totaled, there's a motorbike chase with cops all over the place, trying to catch Dalton. The film never stops and on recollection there isn't really a through plot, as Dalton is simply always on the run, trying to find the kingpin's location through beating on thugs at pace before cops or crooks raid wherever he is at (he never gets more than a minute to beat a guy for information before something else happens). He does keep sending his agency clues on the real agency and how he was set-up. Finally he catches up with the kingpin, beats a confession out of him, as well as drug connects. Then he throws the scum into the plane engines to get diced. Dalton's agency finds the proof to clear him. The film takes place over one night. The epilogue is Godfather-inspired, as various South American drug kingpins are taken out.

Burn My Hated Demon's Heart is Sean Santiago's return. He is in his home turf, Detroit, and is hunting a bank robbing gang in the first brutal section, that ends on a bank robbery gone wrong after a long hunting sequence. Turns out, as he finally takes them down, these guys have an in with corrupt bankers, who are hiding losses through robberies and stolen papers, who in some cases forged more high-level robberies from the information stolen by the robbers, that only these bankers can take advantage of once they have the information officially reported stolen. The rest of the film is him and his group of borderline cops taking down the bankers, terrorising them, attempting to get confessions, messing with them and their families. The bankers of course, hire other nuts to target these cops and a war breaks out between cops and various types of crooks, before the cops lose a few guys and start massacring bankers, figuring the thugs won't fight unless they are paid. So they hunt the bankers in brutal ways. The film ends with a raid of cops on a flea-bitten hotel, where the remaining bankers have fled, protected by their goons, the cops finally taking out all the scum, losing a few of their own on the way. The film is fun, works as a Dirty Dozen-type story, as the cops around Dalton all have quirks, as do the various bankers. It's the funniest, most well-loved Dalton Trebeck film. It's the one with all the funny lines and character touches. Having cops killing bankers doesn't hurt either. Also interesting is that the innocent young woman and her daughter stay with Dalton from the previous Sean Santiago story, has to be protected throughout the story. It works surprisingly well, gives a human dimension to the threat. At the end of the film Dalton is taken to hospital, injured, which leads to his next film.

Head Rush is the breakout studio film. Its a Sean Santiago film. He's having his wounds taken care of when the hospital is sieged, he having to get his niece and innocent young woman to safety and then start hitting back. There are cops outside but most of the experienced ones are in hospital. All surviving cops from the last film are brutally murdered by the villains at the start, leaving very weak police presence outside. We never find out the reason for the siege until late and we simply watch Dalton, without gun, use drugs and tactics slowly against the villains, always slow and injured, which adds always to his plight. Its a post-Die Hard film but without many explosions, is more character based, as Dalton tries to work out the reasons for the attack, decipher the lies of the failing villains while staying fast, avoiding letting anyone get near his loved ones, protect the people inside, wonder about the out for the villains. Its all about atmosphere, with Dalton always about his surrogate family. So there's a reason given at the end for the attack but its difficult to remember what it is as its cut down and made to feel vague. The film is about a nightmare situation. It was his break-out smash hit film. The script was longer, had more of the cops at the beginning before they are killed, making that action more shocking. But it's played quicker and is still horrifying. Dalton sees more work by the villains, giving them more character, weaknesses, seeming trapped themselves but that gets cut. the explanation at the end is more specifically odd, as if there can be no real explanation. It feels like mass madness. everything cut was to make the film more visual, to avoid repeating story elements, Jummy really on a roll by now, very confident in his visuals.

It led to a big budget Spine, Jummy Rainer's only film that he didn't write. It's still a lot of fun, is essentially another Die Hard riff, this time at NASA, terrorists trying to put up a satellite that will attack targets at will, as well as take out anything that attempts to stop it. Dalton plays an assistant to the guy in charge of NASA security. He has to track and kill the terrorists through the various launch tubes, rigging's, launch areas and control centre. Most of the people have been killed, NASA protected by Spine, a land-based version of the killer satellite, that can keep the army out. So Dalton has to avoid been seen at any time by this thing, as well as terrorists. Jummy rewrote the script, added elements of family outside, people grieving for their loved-ones, gave Dalton a back-story but that is spare in the final film, at the producers insistence. It does lose a little character by not having these elements, feels a little cold if very controlled visually, very exciting with momentum. Of course two-thirds in, all hell breaks loose and the shuttle takes off, Dalton inside. He manages to destroy the satellite Spine, being brutally beaten while doing it, kill the terrorists, almost dead by then, finally crash the space shuttle into land-based spine, bailing out at the last second with a handy parachute. Jummy wanted him to die, shot it but it was never used. the film was a hit, not as big as Head Rush, nor was it as personal. But it was fun. There are rumours of a longer cut on DVD sometime soon. Was a shame that Jummy went out with his weakest film in narrative and character, there being no real supporting acting of note.

So that's the Jummy years. Up soon the post-Jummy wilderness.

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