TRAINED TO KILL is a conventional revenge melodrama distinguished only by some gratuitous violence, as ultra-butch martial artists defend themselves against a return-to-Vietnam backdrop.
Ed Cooper (Chuck Connors) rescues his Cambodian love child Samnaug (Glen Eaton) from sniper-infested rice paddies and, back in the US, introduces Sam to his caring wife Martha (Arlene Golonka); supportive son Matt (Frank Zagarino); and Matt's girlfriend Jessie (Lisa Aliff). But the happy
homecoming is short-lived. Ed is unprepared for the re-emergence of Ace Duran (Henry Silva), an implacable foe whose enmity dates back to Ed's days of battling the Khmer Rouge. Duran springs his old comrades Felix Brenner (Marshall Teague) and Walter Majyk (Robert Z'Dar) from the brig, then
launches a revenge scheme that involves stealing a gift given to the Cooper family by Sam's late mother. Unbeknownst to Sam, the decorative box in question conceals the Red Diamond, a gem worth $5 million. The mercenaries--led by Duran's favorite assassin, Loc Syn (Harold Diamond)--invade the
Cooper home, knock Sam cold, machine-gun Martha, torture and set fire to Ed, and steal the loot.
Mounted on motorbikes, Matt and Sam take off on a search for vengeance that involves several violent showdowns. The heroes win round one, at a deserted warehouse, by escaping Felix's clutches through judicious use of plastic explosives. Round two, set at a strip bar, nearly goes to the evil
soldiers of fortune, but Ed's war buddy George (Ron O'Neal) and Jessie create diversions that allow the good guys to scramble to safety. After killing Walter when he tries to run them down with his car, the brothers train hard for round three under the tutelage of George, before he gets his throat
slashed by Loc Syn.
Duran kidnaps Jessie and uses her to lure the boys to his fortress, where they find her tied to an elaborate burning structure. As Matt inches Loc Syn toward the fires, Sam slices him from behind, and the pumped-up sadist staggers into the blaze. Felix is dispatched by his own boss, who then
attempts to escape in his helicopter. The brothers give the freed Jessie the honor of destroying Duran's chopper with a bazooka, and the last member of the gang is eliminated.
After taking considerable pains to establish that the Cooper family are people anyone would welcome as neighbors, this nasty film takes glee in bumping off Ma and Pa Cooper in a particularly vicious manner. Although this graphic maliciousness is supposed to double our sympathy for the fighting
Cooper Brothers, it doesn't, because the tormentors are played in a manner as eye-poppingly overemphatic as silent movie serial menaces. How can we take the vengeance mission seriously when the boys seem to be up against the Three Sadistic Stooges?
On the plus side, the fight scenes are consistently rousing, and there's a particularly spectacular stunt dive into a gaming table. As is the case in so many martial arts pictures, the film is undermined by the sequences in which amateur martial artists are trained by a mystical master. When
George trains the Cooper boys in body and soul, the movie becomes an homage to Pat Morita. (Graphic violence, extreme profanity, nudity.)
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