Wild Maneuvers (1985)

Before gaining fame on the international circuit, Arnold Vosloo starred in this South African film that melds Stripes and The Road Warrior.

Boetie van Tonder is a soldier in the South African Army Reserves. However, he and his friends love to cause some mischief and they start by stealing a tank and heading to a party for the elite. The reason is that Boetie has learned his ex-girlfriend Eliza is there and he is trying to win her back. When the group returns, they find themselves in hot water just as they are assigned to do a military maneuver. To make matters worse, the mission is being led by Captain Schuster, who is Eliza’s current boyfriend; and Commandant Davel.  

As Eliza and her news crew arrive to the camp to see the maneuver come into play, another group has arrived to get in on the mission. However, this brand of soldiers is made up a rogue team of ex-mercenaries led by The Horror, a former soldier who had served under Davel, and seeks revenge on him by setting fire to the camp the night before the maneuver. When the Horror kidnaps Cpt. Schuster after Boetie and his team take the Horror’s “brains” Prester John, Davel orders Boetie of all people to lead a rescue mission to save White and put an end to the Horror’s reign of terror.

He may be known as Imhotep in the 1999 adaptation of The Mummy and its 2001 sequel. He may be known for replacing Liam Neeson as Dr. Peyton Westlake in two back-to-back sequels to Darkman. However, in the early 1980’s, Arnold Vosloo was a star in his native South Africa. And it’s films like this that helped Vosloo’s repuation as a bankable star in South Africa.

The film, a sequel to the 1984 film Boetie Gaan Border Toe! (Boetie Goes to the Border), has Vosloo returning to his role of military troublemaker Boetie van Tonder. The film’s opening and most of the first half seems like it could pass as a Stripes ripoff with Vosloo leading the way as the John Winger of the crew. And this is all in an attempt to win his girlfriend, played by Janie du Plessis, back. The antics are pretty funny such as a tank going through the window of an elaborate house during a party and a fellow soldier whose forced to sleep in the middle of the road due to his snoring. And that soldier is played by comic relief Greg Latter, who would later make his name in the world of martial arts films as a sly henchman character. See Kickboxer 5: The Redemption to see what we’re talking about.

The second half is where it’s mostly action but does have its fair share of comic antics. The action comes in the form of the rogue team, led by the Horror. Played by Paul Slabolepszy, the character looks like the love child of The Road Warrior villain Wez with Blade Runner villain Roy Batty. Sporting gear like Wez, there is a scene where the Horror would give a bit of a dialogue about how much he loves what he did to the camp and even gives a 4th wall break in the midst of things. The action itself has some tropes, such as a certain martial arts trope with a showoff fighter getting knocked out after one hit. However, the shocking thing comes in a dangerous fire stunt where two guys running on a bridge are on fire and land in the water. It makes one fear the worse, but thankfully they are okay, but to watch it was jaw-dropping.

Wild Maneuvers is a fun 80’s gem from South Africa that’s both funny and action-packed when needed. Arnold Vosloo is great to watch and it now makes me want to see the first film of this 2-film series.

WFG RATING: B

A Parc Productions film. Director: Regardt van den Burgh. Producer: Philo Pieterse. Writer: Johann Potgieter; based on characters created by Johan Coetzee and Cor Nortje. Cinematography: Desmond Burmeister. Editing: Valma Muir.

Cast: Arnold Vosloo, Janie du Plessis, Ian Roberts, Paul Slabolepszy, Frank Opperman, Anton Dekker, Kerneels Coertzen, Tracey Morris, Miriam Munitz, Jurgen Hellberg, Greg Latter, Nick Lorentz.

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