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Eye of the Tiger (1986)

Director: Richard C. Sarafian
Starring: Gary Busey, Yaphet Kotto. William Smith, Seymour Cassel
Rated R  Running time: 92 minutes
Released by MGM

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Vietnam vet Buck Matthews (Gary Busey) has just been released from prison after serving time for a crime he didn't commit. All he wants to do is return to his hometown and lead a quiet, peaceful life with his wife and young daughter. But things don't work out that way, since the entire town is under the control of the corrupt sheriff (Seymour Cassel) and a drug dealing, motorcycle riding gang led by semi-mowhawked biker/drug dealer named Blade (William Smith).

Good guy Busey quickly gets himself on the gang's doodoo list when he interrupts a rape-in-progress perpetrated by Blade's mentally deficient brother. Next thing you know, motorcycles are crashing through Buck's living room window, his daughter is traumatized, and his wife is dead. Buck does what any ex-con/'Nam vet would do in a similar kind of situation: he teams up with his best buddy (Yaphet Kotto - who is sporting a very weird hairdo in this), gets a monster truck fully loaded with rockets and machine guns, and goes to get some justice.

Yaphet Kotto and his hair
It's kind of strange that someone decided to name Eye of the Tiger after a song that was a hit three or four years earlier in Rocky III. Was it still popular in 1986? I don't remember, but someone at the studio thought it was. Not only is it used as the title, the song is played several times through the course of the movie.

Other than that little quirk, it's a pretty standard riff on the action movie template of the 80's. While  not as outrageous as some of its brethren (particularly Cannon Film's output), there's plenty of craziness on display. The gang drags the wife's coffin around with a motorcycle. There's a decapitation ala She-Devils on Wheel. Yaphet Kotto flys a biplane while tossing dynamite and hand grenades at the bikers.  And Gary Busey interrogates one hospitalized thug with a gob of Vaseline and a stick of dynamite. I'll let you use your imagination with that one.

I think anyone who grew up on 80's action will find something to love here. There's a slew of familiar faces (Busey, Kotto,  Cassel, a very over-the-top William Smith), preposterous situations, and copious amounts of ridiculous action. The film does begin to meander a bit during the second act, but regains it's composure in a satisfying, if completely retarded, finale in which Busey and Kotto rain hell on the evil biker gang. EYE OF THE TIGER is dumb, loud, and smothered in cheese, but it's a hell of a lot of fun.

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