Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Strip for Action (1996)

AKA Hot Ticket 
AKA Hard Run 
Directed by Lev Spiro
Starring Maria Ford, Nikki Fritz
Rated R
USA


“What are you doing out here in that get-up?” 

Made midway through Roger Corman’s 90’s strippersploitation cycle by Lev Spiro – who cut his teeth on Emmanuelle softcore romps before graduating to upper-tier TV series like Weeds and Ugly Betty, Strip for Action (AKA Hot Ticket, another nonsensical title) attempts to merge the nutcase-vs-strippers antics of Stripteaser with an outdoor adventure, complete with campfire songs and white water rafting.

So, a comedy then?

Not if you ask star Maria Ford, who plays out the absurd hijinks with a stiff upper lip and a blood-freezing glare. I guess we better take this one seriously. Although that’s a little hard to do, since Maria has her top off less than two-minutes into the movie, during an opening credits striptease.


It’s a good night at Club Capone, but it looks like trouble is brewing in the alley. A couple thugs – calculating mastermind Halleck (Emile Levisetti) and  long-haired psycho Jones (Kevin Alber) put on pantyhose masks and start unloading a suitcase full of guns. One of the club’s many security goons interrupts them, so they shoot him right in the neck.


So then the crooks go in there to rob the joint – they’re in cahoots with one of the employees, some clown named Frank (Kevin Walker, in his last acting role)  – but somebody flinches, and they pretty much shoot everybody, except for a couple of people, including Kim (Ford), who was fucking her boyfriend Vic (Kevin Contreras) - the club’s manager - in the basement during the massacre. Vic and Kim and Uncle Stu (Bob McFarland, who also quit acting a few months after making this) – he owns the joint, and may or may not also be Kim’s uncle – all end up in the clutches of the bad guys, who have to wait until 6AM, then the timed safe opens up, to get their dough.


So it’s gonna be a weird night. Eventually they get the dough and take Kim and another stripper, Crystal (Nikki Fritz), hostage. Vic manages to get away and zooms off for help, but they catch up with him. Halleck plans on killing him, but Kim talks him out of it, because Vic is a pilot, and they need somebody to fly their plane. There’s a plane involved now. They all pile into one of those tiny propeller planes and go zooming off to Nevada. Unfortunately Jones, who is flying the plane, is dying of blood loss from a gunshot wound, so that’s not good. Also, Halleck keeps provoking everybody, and in a very exciting scene, just about everybody in the plane ends up either holding a gun or getting shot at. Kim even has the gun for a few minutes.


Unfortunately, she doesn’t have it in her to shoot the fucker. Also, all this gunplay inside the plane can’t end well, and eventually Jones get shot dead. The plane spirals out of control and crashes into a river! Luckily, everyone survives. Except Vic, maybe. He’s not around.


Even after a near-death experience, Halleck is still a dick. He gets into a tussle with cousin Frank, and while they roll around on the ground, the two wet strippers fuckin’ take off, man. Sadly, Crystal doesn’t like getting bossed around by Kim, so she gets caught almost immediately, and Halleck threatens to shoot her unless Kim comes back. She really shouldn’t care – Crystal obviously hates her – but she feels bad, so she goes back.


But hey, here’s some good news – Vic’s not dead! Hooray! More on him later. In the meantime, everybody has to climb a bunch of rocks, which is good, because Crystal is wearing a short cheerleader skirt, so we get to see her underwear as she climbs. Halleck notices too, and he starts to fall for her ample charms.


Also, Frank – who had a fling with Kim before Vic showed up – thinks that this might be the perfect time to pick up where they left off. Inappropriate, Frank! Anyway, Vic’s been hurling rocks at Kim from atop a mountain this whole time, so now she knows he’s still alive. So that makes her feel better.


Franks swears he saw a highway around there somewhere, so they continue to wander around, but there’s pretty much nothing but trees and rocks as far as the eyes can see. It starts to get dark, so they decide to make camp for the night. Halleck starts a fire and they drink some whiskey and Crystal suddenly develops Stockholm syndrome.


Then she does a striptease, and she and Halleck go off to fuck in the woods. And then they spoon and have a nice snooze. While all this is going on, Vic gets the chance to sneak up on them.


He almost gets the chance to bash Halleck’s brains in with a rock, but then he steps on a twig and wakes him up. Kim distracts him by yelling at him while Vic scampers away.


The next morning, they come across a couple dudes in a raft. Crystal acts as a decoy so they can get their boat. Kim tries to warn them, but it’s too late. Halleck offs 'em and absconds their raft.


And then…gratuitous white water rafting!
And then…Halleck kills a hiker!


And then…Frank and Crystal get it. But you knew that was gonna happen eventually.
And then…Vic shows back up and kicks Halleck’s ass, takes the money and his girl, and heads off into the sunset. The end.


Or is it?

Of course, it is not! Well, mostly it is. You know how it goes.


Strip for Action’s biggest problem is that its tone is uneven. The opening stripclub massacre is like something out of Reservoir Dogs – albeit with none of that film’s style or substance – and then it quickly switches to a Grizzly Adams-esque outdoor adventure with a smattering of pitch-black comedy, as the two bickering dancers attempt to outrun their witless captors. Still, it’s all fun to watch, especially the fumbling attempts at thrills and spills, like the hack rafting sequence, where the girls are told to lie down so that it won’t look weird in wide shots when there’s only two people in the boat. Also, it’s hard not to like Emile Levisetti’s portrayal of the completely non-threatening arch-fiend Halleck. Even after murdering a dozen people, he still seems more more like a douche-y insurance agent than a ruthless criminal mastermind. Nikki Fritz’s snotty, back-stabbing stripper is another highlight, as is all of Maria Ford’s nostril-flaring and teeth-gritting. It’s no Angel of Destruction or Stripteaser, but fans of boobs, blood, and ridiculous Z-movie premises will definitely want to check this dopey little low-budget killer-thriller out.


Plus, you know, Maria Ford is in it.

- Ken McIntyre

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