PRIVATE WARS is a standard but reliably lively film from the prolific video stable of Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi.
Crass, powerful businessman Alexander Winters (Stuart Whitman) wants to depopulate and raze LA's Jackson Heights neighborhood so he can build a high-rise office complex. He engineers local gang activity to harass the citizenry, while long-time cohort Police Chief Carpenter (Michael Champion)
co-ordinates police inactivity. The violence culminates in the murder of store-owner Ben (Brian Patrick Clark), and his sister Ronnie (Holly Floria), prompting community leader Mo Williams (Dan Tullis Jr.) to hire mercenary Jack Manning (Steve Railsback) to help them fight back. Once a tough cop
railroaded off the force by Carpenter, Manning is now an alcoholic private investigator specializing in sleazy divorce work. He cleans himself up, falls in love with Ronnie, and begins to rout Winters's young toughs. The neighborhood comes back to life, enraging Winters, who bribes Mendoza
(Michael Delano) to set up Mo in a fatal ambush. He also brings in a pair of black-robed ninja warriors to aid his chief henchman Obata (James Lew). Leading a well-armed force, who are met by the now blood-lusting neighborhood's firepower, Obata and the two ninja are killed by Manning and a pair
of his tough friends, Eddie (Vincent Murdocco) and Falco (John Salvitti). In the finale, Manning faces off against the now deranged Winters, who is killed by Carpenter, who--horrified by the killings--rediscovers his conscience, and reconciles with Manning.
PRIVATE WARS, with a screenplay by director John Weidner (MAXIMUM FORCE) and Ken Lamplugh, mines the familiar 1970s citizens' vigilante genre. There's a bit more comedy on display here than usual, including, most amusingly, the community's auditions for their hired gun: applicants range from
paramilitary fascists to out-and-out psychos to a wimpy accountant who's seen too many Rambo movies. The script often falls back on cliche and interestingly, l990s political correctness filters down to the video shelves: not only the neighborhood under attack but also Winters's gangs are evenly
mixed racially. Weidner's direction is strictly standard, and the film's pacing meanders a bit before he cranks up the violence in the last reels, which feature some good fight sequences. As usual for the Pepin/Merhi releases, PRIVATE WARS is technically adroit, with good-looking design by Greg
Martin and cinematography, much of it crisply night-for-night, by Garret Griffin; the acting is more than passable, although Weidner allows star Steve Railsback to overdo his only faintly comic drunk-degenerate period. Craggy-faced veteran Stuart Whitman makes a fine villain, ultimately not too
bright but convincingly mean to the end. (Graphic violence, sexual situations, profanity.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: PRIVATE WARS is a standard but reliably lively film from the prolific video stable of Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi. Crass, powerful businessman Alexander Winters (Stuart Whitman) wants to depopulate and raze LA's Jackson Heights neighborhood so he can… (more)