REVIEW: Catch the Heat (1987)

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1987, Trans World Entertainmemt/M’Amsel Tea Entertainment/Negocios Cinematograficos S.A.

Director:
Joel Silberg
Producer:
Don Van Atta
Writer:
Stirling Silliphant
Cinematography:
Nissim Nitcho
Editing:
Christopher Holmes
Darren Holmes

Cast:
Tiana Alexander (Checkers Goldberg)
David Dukes (Waldo Tarr)
Rod Steiger (Jason Hannibal)
Brian Thompson (Danny Boy)
Jorge Martinez (Raul De Villa)
John Hancock (Ike)
Brian Libby (Brody)
Professor Toru Tanaka (Dozu)

This 80’s action was made as perhaps to become a launching pad for Vietnamese-born Tiana Alexandra, who was actually a student of Bruce Lee. However, had it not been for Alexandra, this film would have been just a mindless shoot-em-up despite the villain appearance of Hollywood legend Rod Steiger.

Checkers Goldberg is a secret agent who uses her martial arts to take down local drug dealer Danny Boy. Danny Boy has been selling China White, a mix of heroin and Fentanyl, and when Goldberg gets assistance from longtime partner Waldo Tarr, they finally get a name of the man responsible for supplying the drugs. To find the supplier, Tarr heads to Buenos Aires, where he teams up with local cop Raul de Villa.

The man in question is Jason Hannibal, a talent agent who uses his chance to find new talent as a cover to send the drugs to the United States. Tarr asks Goldberg to come to Buenos Aires undercover as Cinderella Pu, a dancer who fuses martial arts with modern dance. That way, she can infiltrate Hannibal’s organization. But what will happen when Hannibal’s driver remembers Goldberg from an incident three years ago?

Directed by Joel Silberg, the director of Breakin’ and later, Lambada, this film was meant to launch Tiana Alexandra as an action heroine. Her husband, the late Stirling Silliphant, was responsible for the screenplay and served as one of the executive producers. For those unfamiliar with Alexandra, she was a Vietnamese-born actress who trained in martial arts under Bruce Lee himself. In fact, it was Lee who introduced her to her husband.

As for the film, Alexandra does pretty well as the marvelously-named “Checkers Goldberg”. There might be an issue though with her undercover work as there seems to be an Asian stereotype of women, yet it is when Checkers shows her real identity that she is a tough one to deal with. To complement her martial arts skills, David Dukes’ Waldo seems like a goofy type who really shows his loyalty to his partner and in a shocking move in one scene, confesses something even she never expected.

Now onto the villains. Rod Steiger, a Hollywood legend, does well as the mastermind Jason Hannibal, a talent agent/drug kingpin or sorts. His henchmen include the “Professor” Toru Tanaka and Brian Libby. Libby is best known for his role of the unstoppable serial killer Chuck Norris faced in Silent Rage. Libby gets the better of the fistacuffs against Alexandra but the burlier Tanaka does use his strength to his advantage.

Alan Amiel was both the stunt coordinator and martial arts choreographer. Having worked with Sho Kosugi on a number of occasions, he uses that experience to make Alexandra look okay in the film’s fight scenes. If there were no shootouts, it is Alexandra fighting. The only issue is that Alexandra doesn’t really get a chance to showcase her skills against a worthy opponent. The closest is an extra guard who poses as if he is a karate expert and tha is pretty sad considering that Alexandra looks like she can throw down for an 80’s action star.

Catch the Heat may have notoriety as Tiana Alexandra’s only lead role as an action star. However, with a lack of worthy opposition, it sort of falls a bit flat despite her chemistry with the late David Dukes and the presence of Rod Steiger as the lead villain. Possibly worth a rental for only hardcore 80’s B-movie fans.

WFG RATING: C

DVD

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