In a roundabout way, PRIMARY TARGET is reminiscent of the famous horror film FRANKENSTEIN in that its creators have pieced together the remains of a number of action films to concoct a monstrous Vietnam adventure movie. The cinematic graveyard that has been robbed here includes the
desiccated corpses of MISSING IN ACTION; RAMBO; COMMANDO; and BAT 21, to name but a few. However, the derivative action genre elements in PRIMARY TARGET stubbornly refuse to come to life. Ugly American government official Karlson (John Ericson) calls upon a trio of spirited misfits when his spouse
is kidnaped by a renegade soldier, Sturges (Chip Lucia), who is allegedly looking for loot to finance his drug trafficking. Our heroes are rock solid Cromwell (John Calvin), once married to a Cambodian who was murdered by the Viet Cong; steadfast marksman Lewis (Henry Strzkowski), who, we realize
immediately, is doomed to sacrifice his life for his buddies because he's not as attractive as they are; and Rosi (Joey Aresco), a madcap womanizer who is jailed--though later sprung by his friends--when he's caught with a Vietnamese official's lover. When Karlson offers them amnesty for their
misdemeanors, lots of cash, and a chance to relive their Vietnam glory days, the three leap at the chance to rescue the abducted American woman and to stop Sturges, their former war buddy, from collecting the ransom. With the assistance of Pao (Miki Kim), a feisty refugee who serves as a jungle
guide, Cromwell, Lewis, and Rosi manage to make their way through the dense foliage, to prevail over river pirates, and to arrive at the compound where Mrs. Karlson (Colleen Casey) is being held. A few surprises are in store for them but not for action buffs, who will have figured out the plot in
the first scene. The film intends to dupe us into believing Mrs. Karlson is actually a Jezebel who's betrayed her hubby and Uncle Sam in order to fatten the wallet of her lover, Sturges. Seeing through this transparent plot device, the audience will not be knocked for a loop when the falsely
accused adulteress/traitor reveals that it is her husband who is the real drug runner. Yes, the kidnaping has been faked, but it was engineered to provide Sturges with the wherewithal to fight communist oppression. It is also no surprise that the selfless Lewis is wounded and dies; nor is it any
surprise that Cromwell finally puts two and two together and realizes that Sturges and Mrs. Karlson are fighting on the side of the angels. Moreover, viewers will hardly be stunned when the helicopter that is supposed to pick up our heroes has room only for Mrs. Karlson, whose evil husband never
had any intention of paying the soldiers of fortune. However, Karlson has messed with the wrong mercenaries. After besieging Karlson's home and slaying all of his bodyguards, Cromwell and Rosi collect their salaries (most of which they donate to Sturges' struggle for a free Cambodia). When Karlson
tries to shoot Sturges, Mrs. Karlson blows her husband away. Reunited with Pao, Cromwell learns to love again; Rosi is free to tour Vietnamese hot spots; and the war in Vietnam goes on and on.
In films like this, Vietnam is reduced to one of those recreational "warrior weekends" that allow macho types to test their mettle. In this contrived tale, the bullets are supposed to be real, but the conflicts are so phony that you can't buy either the pumped-up excitement or the characters'
interaction. No premise is too far-fetched for action movie hucksters to use as an excuse to re-open the war in Vietnam. Confusing the political issues and reducing moral dilemmas to confrontations between good guys and bad guys, PRIMARY TARGET lacks conviction, energy, and even visceral action.
Burdened with the sort of intrusive score that is de rigueur for the genre, this movie has little to recommend it. Fans of 50s cinema will note, however, that former matinee idol Ericson has made a graceful transition to character roles. Calvin also fills out his hero fatigues with sufficient
leading-man swagger, but aside from the assured performances of these two actors, this dull film tests one's patience. Plodding and predictable, PRIMARY TARGET leaves viewers with the impression that they've already suffered through the film before. (Violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1990
- Rating: R
- Review: In a roundabout way, PRIMARY TARGET is reminiscent of the famous horror film FRANKENSTEIN in that its creators have pieced together the remains of a number of action films to concoct a monstrous Vietnam adventure movie. The cinematic graveyard that has bee… (more)