Written by: Mark Buntzman & William Sachs (screenplay), James Glickenhaus (characters)
Directed by: Mark Buntzman
Starring: Robert Ginty, Mario Van Peebles, and Deborah Geffner
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
ďYou want to clean out the streets? I am the streets!"
James Glickenhausís The Exterminator was one of the most popular and notorious early 80s grindhouse flicks, so Golan and Globus naturally saw fit to resurrect it a few years later and give it the Cannon treatment, which in this case means an moronic sequel that dumbs down the originalís subtext. And when your original film involves a deranged Vietnam vet blowtorching scumbags to death, itís not that far to the bottom of the barrel, anyway. Rest assured, though, the Cannon group blasts their way there in a hurry with Exterminator 2, a film thatís soaked in so much 80s action excess that it plays like an unwitting parody of its predecessor.
Sometime after the events of The Exterminator, John Eastland (Robert Ginty) is still at large and incinerating thugs on a nightly basis. His latest bust-up seems pretty routine, as he torches a bunch of punks who shot and killed the elderly owners of a convenience store; however, among the charred corpses is the brother of New Yorkís most bizarre and ruthless gang leader, X (Mario Van Peebles). Enraged, X wages a war on both the city and Eastland himself, who attempts to juggle his vigilante lifestyle with a suddenly budding social life that includes a trucker pal (Frankie Faison) and a girlfriend (Deborah Geffner).
Exterminator 2 joins the list of sequels that leave you wondering if anyone involved even saw the original; while the first Exterminator had its fair share of oafish and unintentional humor, it also captured a dark, authentic grunginess in its marriage of Vietnam unrest and urban paranoia. It was First Blood done in a hateful, nihilistic fashion. In comparison, part 2 is completely broad and tone deaf. Itís scored by an incessant and often incongruous stock 80s action soundtrack, and its tone often severely undercuts its events, making it the overblown, rah-rah version of The Exterminator (much in the same way the 80s Rambo sequels didnít get their progenitor). Letís put it this way: the filmís big, inciting incident (the gangís assault of Eastlandís girlfriend) takes place during an extended break-dancing sequence. The only thing more bizarre than that is the fact that it came under the watch of Eastland and director Mark Buntzman, two guys who definitely were around for the original (Buntzman was its producer), so youíd think thereíd be some quality control here.
Thereís not a whole lot of that to go around, though. Far from another Cannon extravaganza, Exterminator 2 is a cheap, aimless effort that hardly bothers to even engage in trashy exploitation. For a movie that hardly features much of a plot, it manages to feel ridiculously contrived due to the prominence of a garbage truck that figures into the plot much more than it should. The thing is like the Swiss-army knife of vehicles: not only is it a handy plot device, but it also serves as an instrument of torture and the Exterminatorís version of the Batmobile. At any rate, the movie tries to do some big stuff, like blow up helicopters, but itís well beyond the budgetís means, so youíd think the film would be better served eschewing the big action stuff for something a little smaller, like the gory, pseudo-slashery approach of the original (oddly, thereís hardly any of that at all outside of a few smoked corpses).
Instead, the filmís more intimate side focuses on Eastlandís personal life, which only makes things even more bizarre since he no longer seems to be all that tortured; despite his apparent homelessness and joblessness, heís got his girl and his trucker buddy, and seems to be a pretty normal guy. I can only assume he likes to blowtorch guys because heís a full-fledged sociopath now. X and his thugs eventually give him more motivation when the movie turns into a half-hearted Death Wish retread that finds Eastland and the trucker busting up drug deals and whatnot, but itís wildly removed from The Exterminator. In fact, Ginty spends a lot of time outside of his recognizable Exterminator get-up, so itís kind of like watching Bruce Wayne operate instead of Batman. John Eastland is no Bruce Wayne, either, since heís a total schlub who looks better suited as a used car salesman rather than a flame-throwing psychopath.
At least Van Peebles provides some spark as X, a grandiose mobster with a flair for the theatric. With his post-apocalyptic getup (which includes tires for shoulder pads) and his affected sense of grandeur, heís a cross between The Lord Humungous and Cyrus from the Warriors. Heís one of those types that takes the thug life super seriously: he holds meetings by torchlight and always makes sure to leave a calling card by spray-painting the letter X on his targets. Everything about X hits on a weird, cock-eyed savagery that the rest of the movie is missing. Giving The Exterminator a personal vendetta and a more memorable foe is totally valid, and Van Peebles crafts a villain that deserves a movie smart enough not to stretch beyond its means.
Exterminator 2 is too threadbare, too silly, and certainly too dumb to qualify, though. Those familiar with the Cannon canon are likely aware that the studio infamously turned Death Wish into a gonzo farce with Death Wish 3, and Exterminator 2 is similar. The big difference is that it isnít really gonzo enough, so it doesnít even measure up to that infamous sequel. Back when Synapse gave the original a deluxe Blu-ray treatment, Iíd hoped that theyíd do the same for part 2; instead, itís Shout Factory doing the honors, albeit in less impressive fashion since Exterminator 2 is part of an action DVD four pack that also includes Cyclone, Alienator, and Eye of the Tiger. To Shoutís credit, the film is remastered quite well and the disc includes a commentary with Buntzman and Van Peebles. The set is also affordably priced (itís less than $10 at most retailers), so itís difficult for fans to resist. I obviously wouldnít begrudge anyoneís curiosity, but The Exterminator 2 is likely to disappoint those who revere the original. In the shadow of such a genuinely sleazy trek down 42nd street, this follow-up is tame despite its over-the-top sensibilities that simply reek of an inferiority complex. Rent it!
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